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.
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.