Commissioner Bruce Zagers and Island Secretary Tim Muller recently met with several Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament during their visit to The Hague.
Among the Members that Zagers and Muller met with was Chairperson of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations Mariëlle Paul. The meeting was of an introductory nature since Paul, who is a member of the liberal democratic VVD party, took up her new position as Committee Chairperson some three weeks ago.
The other two Members of Parliament (MPs) with whom the Saba delegation met were Joba van den Berg of the Christian Democratic Party CDA and Jorien Wuite of the Democratic Party D66. Zagers qualified the talks as very positive, open and informative.
The individual meetings provided the opportunity to give an update on the developments on Saba, talk about the good relations with the Netherlands and the challenges that the island in general and the Public Entity Saba in particular faced.
Zagers explained that even though things were much better since Saba became part of the Netherlands in 2010, there were still multiple challenges in areas like poverty alleviation, the free allowance, the government’s financial situation, the high cost of living, the high cost of doing business and connectivity.
Saba has been the only island in the Dutch Caribbean with positive audit statements since 2014, but the strong financial management did not necessarily translate into the needed funding or a higher free allowance. Saba has been striving for an increase in the free allowance for several years now because the amount that it receives is insufficient to cover the government’s operations and the costs of for example maintenance of infrastructural facilities. With a new Dutch government in place and additional funding allocated for the Caribbean Netherlands, Saba hopes that its financial issues and the matter of the low free allowance will be addressed.
In addition to the structural deficit, Saba is facing a financial gap in the execution of some projects: the construction of the new harbor at Black Rocks and new school buildings. Additional funding is also needed to accomplish the goal of 100 percent renewable energy in order to mitigate the high electricity prices. These financial gaps are being discussed during the visit of the Saba delegation to The Hague.
Another pressing issue that Zagers brought up in the talks not only with the MPs but also with the involved ministries is the banking situation on Saba. Banking services are considered poor and expensive. This issue is hampering the island’s economic development and is highly frustrating for entrepreneurs and residents. The banking situation is an issue that needs to be solved through The Hague.