Despite the rocky start of the new year, Saba Commissioner of General Affairs Bruce Zagers looks at the future with much optimism. The local economy is recovering, ongoing initiatives continue to be enhanced and several important projects will start this year.
“We saw how quickly our economy and private sector were able to take steps towards recovery with the return of tourism. This shows that our product, the Unspoiled Queen is still relevant in the eyes of the traveler and well-sought after. The recent surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the world has definitely slowed travel globally, but I am confident that this will rebound as it has done in the past. We also saw our medical school drastically increase its on-island student population, which has filled apartments and rejuvenated on-island commerce,” stated Zagers in his 2022 outlook message.
The Commissioner announced a further enhancement of several ongoing initiatives and the start of several important projects. “As we continue to roll out our Saba Splash product, considerable efforts will continue to be made to ensure that the availability of affordable, quality drinking water, becomes more attainable for every household and business. Ongoing initiatives such as the hydroponics farm should soon start to deliver tangible results, while we must continue to promote and support traditional farming techniques and responsible animal husbandry. This will reduce our dependency on imports while providing a source of fresh and healthy food.”
Efforts in waste management will also continue to improve, while significant progress should soon start to be realized with the enforcement of the single-use plastic ban. Creating a mobility plan, which focuses on public transportation, will become a priority as there is a considerable strain on Saba’s infrastructure, especially the availability of parking places.
The tendering for the new harbor should start this year. “The road to the new harbor location has been under construction now for several months. This will be the biggest project in Saba’s history, and it will have considerable positive spinoffs during the construction phase for our economy while creating many business and employment opportunities in the short and long term.”
After many delays, progress is being made for the school housing project. All the relevant stakeholders are involved and a start should be realized in the first half of this year. Efforts are ongoing to create a bypass road that will reduce traffic while increasing the availability of parking around the schools. This bypass road will especially be useful during the construction phase of the school buildings, stated Zagers.
As Saba’s economy started to take steps towards recovery, Zagers expressed concerns about how global inflation is impacting the already high cost of living and the cost of doing business on the island. “Not only does this impact prices in the stores and utilities, but it will also negatively impact planned projects such as the harbor and the new school buildings.”
According to Zagers, creative solutions, with support from the Netherlands, will be needed to help to curb these sharp increases which are severely impacting Saba’s ability to live and operate sustainably. “Further promoting a strong relationship between the private sector and its representatives with the local government will be vital in achieving tangible results.
Saba’s ability to further progress will be greatly influenced by the new Dutch government. “For Saba, some of the most important developments will be how the poverty situation gets addressed, what measures will be put in place to help reduce the high cost of living, and how the ‘vrije uitkering’ (free allowance) will be adjusted, as the local government can no longer properly execute its legal obligations without a considerable increase,” stated Zagers.
“We have entered a new year under circumstances that are not ideal. However, as resilient people, we will pass through this as we have done with any other challenge we have been confronted with in the past. Having a positive mindset, a ‘can do’ mentality and by supporting each other, what may seem impossible will become achievable. Our collective efforts will determine how we continue to progress and develop, especially now through adversity. Let 2022 be the year where we take the next steps to do more as a community for the betterment of our people and our island,” Zagers concluded his message.