Emotions run high during evaluation meet-and-greets

In the ongoing investigation into the positive and negative changes Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba endured after October 10, 2010, Evaluation Committee members Frans Weekers and Fred Soons returned to Saba, writes The Daily Herald.

This time, the Evaluation Committee arranged a meet-and-greet on Wednesday evening at Island Flavor restaurant in The Bottom and at Eugenius Johnson Centre on Thursday evening. Both meetings were wellattended and emotions ran high at certain points. Complaints, such as the high cost of living and double taxation, were on everyone’s minds.

Evaluation Committee members Frans Weekers (standing at left) and Fred Soons talking with attendants at Eugenius Johnson Centre in Windwardside.
Evaluation Committee members Frans Weekers (standing at left) and Fred Soons talking with attendants at Eugenius Johnson Centre in Windwardside.

One attendant mentioned the Dutch Government didn’t learn from the transition from the guilder to the euro in 2001. After this transition the prices of many commodities went up significantly, and the same thing happened here on Saba, according to this attendant.

During the double-taxation debate, Weekers agreed that taxation on St. Maarten and again on Saba was wrong. “That’s unfair,” Weekers said. He also mentioned that many people forget that people everywhere in Europe and around the world suffer the same consequences of a backwards economy and that this is not unique to Saba.

Taxation on second homes for home owners was also discussed. Former State Secretary of Finance Weekers recommended filing an official complaint if homes are overvalued.

They were tired, but satisfied, Weekers and Soons said after the debate. During their two-day visit they also talked with several people on the streets. “The people are very open and willing to talk to us. We noticed many worries amongst the population and that’s exactly why we are here,” Soons said. Weekers called it “a hell of a job. Time is very limited.”

The final rapport is due to come out in October. According to Soons, big surprises will not come to light as many of the complaints are already known. “We take a ‘photo’ of the current situation on the islands. We do not recommend. We only report on what we see and hear.”

Weekers emphasized that the Evaluation Committee is independent and that it is initiated by the Dutch government, as well as the three islands. In November 2014, the Evaluation Committee visited the Caribbean Netherlands for the first time. After that time, other institutions have assisted the Evaluation Committee with their investigation on three issues. The first issue is legislation on the islands, more specifically which laws have remained from the days of the former Netherlands Antilles and the implementation of new laws. University of Groningen will look into this subject and give its findings by the end of July.

The other issues are local governing and the impact of the changes since 10-10- 10 on the population. The Socio-Cultural Planning Bureau in the Netherlands is looking into the latter subject and will also present its findings by the end of July. A survey by the Planning Bureau was held in Bonaire, Statia and Saba in April.

Weekers and Soons visited Statia on Monday and Tuesday. Committee members Glenn Thodé and Luc Verhey are currently visiting Bonaire.

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One comment

  1. In my opinion they should have focus groups and have meetings that way as the panel was clearly overwhelmed with the array of issues we presented. Of course we talk about the same thing every time a delegation is here but people, please keep talking. It is discouraging to have the feeling that no one listens or that no changes are being made but if we stop talking, we give them the carte blanche and they will be able to implement whatever they feel that would be good for us. Many mistakes have been made and to correct it is a slow process, but I am sure that if we keep talking (and take actions), together we can make changes. We have the power to force the legislators to make changes, correct errors and not mess with our future here on Saba, but if we don’t express it, they will not know it. I’m saying this because there were only a handful of people at the Eugenius Johnson Center, I certainly hoped that they would have pulled a bigger crowd. Don’t let anyone decide our future!

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