Transfer of tasks to Saba a step closer

On the insis­tence of the Second Cham­ber of the Dutch Parliament, State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Rela­tions Raymond Knops will look into the possibilities of transferring the authority of issuing work permits to the Public Entity Saba.

This commitment was made during a debate of the Sec­ond Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations with the State Secretary on Thursday. The transfer of tasks to the Saba Government was one of the topics discussed during that meeting, along with the St. Maarten Reconstruct ion Trust Fund and the Dutch intervention in St. Eustatius.

Saba Commissioners Rolando Wilson (left) and Bruce Zagers (right) with Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops during the latter’s first visit to Saba in late November last year. (File photo, courtesy of the Saba Government)

Member of Parliament (MP) Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) brought up the matter of transferring tasks to Saba. “We repeatedly say that Saba is doing well and we make promises that Saba should be rewarded for having things in order. Parliament keeps say­ing that Saba should be able to assume more responsibil­ity. Yet, the Saba delegation gets a no in the meetings with the Ministries in The Hague every time,” he said.

MP Joba van den Berg of the Christian Democratic Party CDA concurred. “Good be­haviour should be reward­ed,” she said. The State Sec­retary agreed that Saba is do­ing very well. “Saba is a true example of how to do things the right way,” he said.

However, the area that the Saba Government wants to get more authority over, the issuing of work permits, is regulated by national law and not easily transferred to the level of an island govern­ment, explained Knops. He said Saba was already grant­ed more budgetary autono­my, for example, to combat poverty.

Van Raak promptly asked whether Saba would be granted the liberty to make decisions on work permits; yes or no. Chairman of the Committee for Kingdom Relations Alexander Pech­told interjected and said the matter of transferring the au­thority of work permits was important for Saba. “Saba is asking us for a chance to show that it can handle this responsibility. We need to seriously look at that,” said Pechtold.

The State Secretary said he supported Saba’s plea, but he was hesitant to make a prom­ise. He said decisions regard­ing work permits were not his to make, but by law rested with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour SZW. MP Andre Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party suggested adapting the national legislation that regulates the issuing of work permits, enabling the island government to assume re­sponsibility of this policy matter by law. “We have to use all options,” he said.

The State Secretary prom­ised to take up the issue re­garding the participation of the Saba Government in the granting of work permits with State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labour Tamara van Ark and to report back to the Second Chamber be­fore June 1,2018.

The Saba Government has been lobbying to assume the responsibility of issuing work permits for several years. According to Commissioner Bruce Zagers, having this re­sponsibility would mean that decisions about Saba would be made on Saba, thereby ensuring a much faster and less bureaucratic process. The back office in Bonaire can serve as a control mecha­nism.

Commissioner Zagers ex­plained the issue: “For us the ability to issue work per­mits is important because right now the bureaucratic process is an administrative nightmare for our schools and those in the private sec­tor. The system right now, whether it is a new request or a renewal, takes too long before permission is granted. With a small society, limited resources and a very frag­ile economy, being able to accommodate schools and businesses when they sud­denly need to replace or in­crease their number of staff is important for their contin­ued services.

“When a work permit is not granted fast enough for a new teacher, it often means that our students go without a teacher for months. The same can be said for restau­rants who may need to hire a new chef,” Zagers told The Daily Herald.

The Commissioner said that, naturally, the granting of permits has to be done in a responsible manner. “However, at the same time, when we see a system that isn’t working and doesn’t support the growth of our society, something should be done to make significant im­provements — and not just on paper but also in practice,” said Zagers, who noted that the Saba Government has proven for years that it acts responsibly and is stable. “We are more than willing and able to take on a shared responsibility with the grant­ing of work permits so that the local government can have a more instrumental role in supporting the private sector. I hope that these talks will actually lead to a result which the Saba Government has been lobbying for now for several years,” said the Commissioner.

The Saba Government would also like to see the Departments of Social Affairs of the Saba Government and the Dutch Government to­gether in one building. “We believe that this will improve the results,” said Zagers.

After this step of having the two departments in one building, Saba would like to work towards a situation where the tasks of the Dutch Government Department of Social Affairs are transferred to the local government. That would give Saba the re­sponsibility for executing the social security policy, includ­ing social welfare.

The Daily Herald.

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