In the letter from Minister Harbers to the Second Chamber of 10 December 2021, it was promised to explore a public service obligation as an alternative instrument for the state participation in Winair in order to guarantee the accessibility of the Caribbean Netherlands. It has been indicated that the Chamber will be informed about the results of that exploration at the end of 2022. The exploration has not yet been completed, but the Chamber is hereby informed about the progress.
The Ministry is preparing an amendment to the BES Aviation Act. This should provide a basis for establishing a public service obligation on poorly operated routes to and from the Caribbean Netherlands. The improved accessibility of areas such as Saba and St Eustatius is vital for the socio-economic development of these areas.
The proposal is expected to be presented to the Chamber in the 4th quarter of 2023. The imposition of a public service obligation requires funding. The possibilities for this will be explored in the coming period. The Chamber will be informed in the second half of 2023 about the outcome of the exploration of this.
The state owns 7.95% of the shares in the airline Winair. This interest was acquired in 2010 to guarantee the accessibility of Saba and St Eustatius. On 10 December 2021, it was indicated that state participation is not the most suitable instrument to safeguard this interest. It has therefore been indicated that the shares in Winair will be divested as soon as an alternative instrument can be used.
As a result, the focus of the central government on shareholding has shifted to three priorities. The first priority is to guarantee the accessibility of Saba and St Eustatius as well as possible until an alternative instrument can do this better. Particular attention is paid to ticket prices, regularity and continuity. The second priority is to ensure that the loan that the government has provided to Winair during the COVID-19 pandemic is repaid on time. The third priority is to prepare the company for an orderly transfer of shares.
Finally, Winair started in October 2022 to repay the loan, which the government provided during the COVID-19 pandemic, in 15 months, including interest charges. This means that the loan will be repaid within the prescribed period.