The financial component of the Multi-Annual Programme of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to tackle poverty and to promote economic development and children’s rights might become a source of discussion in the talks between the islands and the Dutch Government this week, writes The Daily Herald.
St. Eustatius Commissioner of Constitutional Affairs Reginald Zaandam says he will demand clarity. The latest version of the Multi-Annual Programme, which parties will discuss during the so-called Caribbean Netherlands Week, contains a paragraph that says the focus will be on “priority themes and incidental financing.” Zaandam will be objecting to this rephrasing if it entails a downgrading of the financial component for the execution of the Multi- Annual Programme.
The matter will be discussed in a meeting with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK this Thursday. Zaandam is joined by his colleague Commissioner of Finance Astrid McKenzie-Tatem at this Caribbean Netherlands Week. According to Zaandam, the Dutch Government had assured in June 2014 that the finances for the Multi- Annual Programme would be secured until 2016. In the meantime, the islands had drafted local development plans that would be incorporated in the overall Multi-Annual Plan. “In the intermediate report which we received later in 2014, it was said that priorities needed to be set. Now, in the latest version, it is stated that the focus will be on priority themes and incidental financing. If that is indeed the case, it means that the security of overall financing is gone, and that is unacceptable for us,” said Zaandam.
“The Netherlands has agreed to the three pillars: economic development, poverty eradication and children’s rights. They have committed to the financing up to and including 2016. And now they are trying to get away with priority themes and incidental financing. So where is the big plan of June 2014?” said Zaandam during an interview at a reception at the BZK Ministry on Monday on the occasion of the start of the Caribbean Netherlands Week.
This is not the first time Zaandam has brought up the issue of funding for economic development and the eradication of poverty. In June 2014, he said he would go back home on the first plane if the Netherlands did not commit to make the necessary funds available for the islands. It was then that the concept of a Multi-Annual Programme with accompanying financing was presented.
Saba Commissioner of Finance Bruce Zagers said that for Saba the social economic development and eradication of poverty were very important issues in this week’s meetings in The Hague as well. Zagers and colleague Commissioner of Constitutional Affairs Chris Johnson represent Saba at the Caribbean Netherlands Week. However, Zagers was less critical of the latest version of the Multi-Annual Programme than Zaandam. “Saba can find itself in the plan,” he said. His only complaint was that “it would have been nice if more of our development plan had been included.”
According to Zagers, not every Caribbean Netherlands island has the same priorities and issues when it comes to (social) economic development. He said that whereas, for example, the backlog in infrastructural and road maintenance was a major topic for Bonaire and St. Eustatius, for Saba it was much more important to get the harbour project approved. “We very much depend on that harbour,” he said. But, added Zagers, “In the end, the islands all want the same, which is to make things better for our people.” He said that, naturally, funding was essential; otherwise, it “made no sense” to prepare projects that benefitted the islands and their people.
The Saba delegation will try to obtain clarity on the status of Fort Bay Road to the harbour project. “The request for an interest-free loan is still pending. We hope to get feedback on that this week.” Zagers said he was happy that talks on Monday had produced the first tangible result: the approval of funding to execute Saba’s action plan to improve children’s rights. The islands will receive three million euros in total. From this money, Saba will appoint a project manager who will work with the action plan.
Commissioner Zaandam said he hoped to obtain clarity on the subsidies for the water distribution network and sustainable energy. Initially, the Dutch Government was to subsidise the construction of a four-megawatt solar park on St. Eustatius, which would reduce the dependence on fossil energy and aid in reducing the losses of Statia’s electricity company STUCO. The solar park plan was adapted later to two megawatts and to build in phases. Adaptation of this plan will result in (greater) losses than anticipated for STUCO, losses that St. Eustatius will have to carry. “We have to talk about how we will solve this,” said Zaandam, who was hopeful that the installation of the solar park behind the Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries LVV would start in the third quarter of 2015.