Saba Commissioner of Social Affairs Rolando Wilson and Island Secretary Tim Muller met with State Secretary Tamara van Ark in The Hague on December 13, 2018 to discuss the Saba Package, a multi-annual agenda-setting development document, and the State Secretary’s visit to Saba next week Monday, January 7 and Tuesday, January 8.
Commissioner Wilson said that the meeting in The Hague was very positive. “State Secretary Tamara van Ark is a very down to earth and warm-hearted person who is truly interested in the development of Saba and its people,” said Wilson.
Topics that were discussed were the investments in Saba’s social domain, poverty eradication, the increase of the minimum wage, the old age pension and child allowance per January 1, 2019, the increase in 2019 of the single mother’s allowance, the reduction of the social premium paid by employers, and the social minimum which as yet has to be established for the three Caribbean Netherlands islands, including Saba.
Commissioner Wilson said he was under the impression that State Secretary Van Ark was aware of the gap that needs to be bridged to eradicate poverty so everyone can have a decent standard of life on Saba. The increase of the minimum wage and the social allowances per January 1, 2019 are a first step, but more needs to be done, said the Commissioner. The State Secretary has indicated that she wants to speak with residents when she visits Saba. As part of her program, she will be paying a number of house visits.
Also discussed in the December 13 meeting with the State Secretary was the BES(t) 4 Kids day care and after school program for children age 0 to 12+. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor SZW is structurally making funds available for the BES(t) 4 Kids program in 2019. The intention is for Wilson to sign a protocol for the BES(t) 4 Kids program with the State Secretary when she visits Saba. Van Ark will visit the day care facility.
The Opportunities for all children (“Kansen voor alle kinderen”) program which finances the different organizations on Saba also came up during the meeting. The Saba delegation proposed to the State Secretary to visit the different organizations that receive funds from “Kansen voor alle kinderen” to visit families that are struggling to make ends meet.
Commissioner Wilson and Island Secretary Muller brought up the matter of the Social Affairs and Labor SZW Office of the national government on Saba. Wilson pointed out that there was too much red tape and cumbersome procedures which led to frustration among the people who have gone to the office for help. Talks are ongoing to combine the SZW Office with the Community Development Office of the Public Entity Saba, creating a one-stop shop which makes it easier for people to get assistance.
“We are hoping that all of the points that we discussed with the State Secretary can get regulated during the course of 2019,” said Wilson. Also visiting Saba on Monday and Tuesday will be State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops and Minister of Infrastructure and Environment Cora van Nieuwenhuizen.