A letter of protest has been sent to the Dutch government by the Executive Council of the public entity St. Eustatius, together with the Chamber of Commerce for Statia and Saba, and the St. Eustatius Business Association STEBA, to complain about the increase in consular tariffs for the Caribbean Netherlands. This reports The Daily Herald. The letter, which was dated December 23, was signed by Island Governor of Statia, Gerald Berkel and his acting island secretary, as well as President of the Chamber of Commerce Koos Sneek and President of STEBA Winston Fleming.
The letter starts off with the undersigned exclaiming surprise at a decision about raising the consular tariffs, which took effect on January 1, and which “increased dramatically.” “We are especially concerned about the significant increase in the tariff for the ‘arbeid in loondienst’ (paid employment), which will have a severe adverse effect on the small businesses on the island,” the letter sets out, before pointing out that the tariff for work permits will be raised by 112 per cent, from US $372 to US $788. The undersigned point out that the raise in tariff may be a final blow to the small business sector in Statia, which is heavily dependent on foreign labour. “We, therefore, urge you to seriously reconsider this decision,” continues the letter.
The justification for the increase in tariff is the fact that the tariffs must be adjusted to the tariffs in the European part of the Netherlands – a reasoning that the undersigned strongly disagree with, since the Dutch government does not always adhere to the same principle when setting other tariffs and allowances for the Caribbean Netherlands.
The undersigned give the example of the AOW allowance, which is much lower in the Caribbean Netherlands than in the European Netherlands, due to the many differences between the two geographical parts of the country. “These same differences must also be taken into account when imposing increases in the tariffs for the labour permits and other tariffs that directly impart the socio-economic development of the island.” The letter sets out some of he differences, and mentions, amongst other things, that it is practically impossible to find qualified personnel for vacancies such as cooks, dive instructors, nurses, construction workers and a range of other qualified personnel, on an island of only 4,000 people, and that there is a bigger necessity to attract workers from abroad.
The significant increase of consular tariffs will, therefore, make it much more expensive for businesses to hire such personnel. “We would like to remind you of the standing agreement on consultation with regard to all changes in legislation that may affect the public entity,” the letter continues. “The abovementioned changes in consular tariffs certainly qualify and given the far reaching consequences, should have undergone consultation with the various stakeholders, both private and public.”