On Thursday, The Island Council of Saba discussed and adopted the Public Entity’s standpoint on the constitutional evaluation. The standpoint is a reaction to the report that was released by the Committee Spies on October 12.
The document is the result of consultations with a large number of stakeholders in Saba, including the Advisory Committee which was installed by Island Governor Jonathan Johnson.
The standpoint will serve as the starting point for all discussions of the Executive Council (EC) about the constitutional evaluation with the national government and other stakeholders, it was stated Friday.
The Evaluation Committee, chaired by former Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Liesbeth Spies, released its findings in a report entitled “Five Years Connected; Bonaire, St. Eustatius, Saba and European Netherlands.”
The standpoint as adopted by the Island Council is the official standpoint of the Island Government in light of the evaluation report. It will serve as a basis for all negotiations of the members of the EC throughout the reaction process to the evaluation report and reflects the concerns and ideas of Saba representatives.
The 21-page document starts with an introduction of the history of the constitutional status, followed by a list of concerns per policy field, and concludes with a general standpoint of the Island Government pertaining to the three fields the evaluation is focusing on: Legislative framework, administrative framework and the consequences for the population.
Where the consequences for the population are concerned, the Island Government is of the opinion that the level of provisions and the cost-of-living needs to be the number one priority for the coming years.
In the past five years many improvements have been realized, but, as the evaluation reports concludes as well, poverty and the cost-of-living have increased.
“Targets have to be set for the level of old age pension AOV, minimum wage, social security (onderstand), and other allowances. The acceptable level of provisions for the Netherlands and the poverty line need to be translated into numbers,” it is stated in the standpoint.
The evaluation reports conclude that the new tax system has created a big burden for the Saba population. The evaluation reports describe many of the flaws in the system.
The standpoint is that an independent evaluation of the tax system is needed to establish a structure that is more consumer- friendly and fitting into the Saba state of affairs.
The Island Government agrees with the evaluation committee that the administrative framework that was created after October 10, 2010, has many flaws. “The position of the National Representative does not work, the voice of the islands is not being heard in The Hague, and the Island Governments do not have the funds and autonomy to serve the population properly,” it was stated.
According to the island government, the position of National Government Representative should be abolished, as most of his tasks could be transferred to the Island Governor.
The evaluation reports conclude that the position of the Governor needs strengthening, and that extra responsibilities for good governance would strengthen his position.
The standpoint recommends the introduction of an Advisory Council for Bonaire, Saba and Statia to safeguard the interests of the islands in The Hague. The Advisory Council should consist of “authoritative individuals with an affinity for the islands.”
The capacity of the public entities has to be strengthened. The evaluation reports conclude that the national government in The Hague does not transfer responsibilities to local government because it has a lack in professional capacity.
The reports also show that the national government has limited knowledge of the islands. “Local government is eager to take over responsibilities, but does not have the means,” it was stated.
That the input of the islands on legislation has been minimal is a conclusion shared by the evaluation committee and the island government. “The mandatory consultations were disregarded and only via an intensive lobby it was possible for the islands to have a minimal input on new legislation. The Advisory Council needs to get an important role in advising on new legislation for Saba and the other islands,” is Saba’s standpoint on this matter it was noted.
The Daily Herald.