WHY WE SHOULD BE WATCHING OUT FOR OUR SABAN ECONOMY.
The last 3,5 months have been an unreal time for all of us. The world has changed in a profound manner, which have left a lot of us wondering how the future will look. As a community we have dealt with the immediate health threat of Covid19 and emerged unscathed. At least from a physical health perspective.
In a lot of parts of the world people have been moving on to address the economic challenges that are a result of this pandemic. On Saba this discussion is also taking place. It is in times like these that we get confronted with our economic dependence on the outside world.
The Saban economy is founded on only three small pillars: our medical university, tourism and some fishing and agriculture. All other businesses cater to either one of these sectors or to the public sector. Either directly or indirectly. Every activity on Saba which is not funded through one of these sectors – either directly or indirectly through taxes generated from these sectors – is basically funded by money from the central Dutch government.
Since halfway March Saba has been closed for tourists and the fast majority of the medical students have left the island. And no significant change is expected for another couple of months. Businesses, employees and independent entrepreneurs are currently surviving on savings and some compensation from the Dutch government for their loss of income and/or their fixed business expenses. Basically our island is currently completely funded by the Dutch government.
The bottom line is that currently practically all economic activity is dependent on the public sector which is financed by the Dutch government. At the school they teach the children of the nurse, the government employee, the construction worker and the cashier. At the hospital they care for the teacher, the government employee, the construction worker and the supermarket staff. But all the construction worker can build is the school, the hospital, the government office and the supermarket, which sells its products to government workers. In the end it is just public money coming from The Hague being pumped around on the island, which is obviously unsustainable.
State Secretary Knops in his letter on June 19 states that “it is crucial for the Caribbean Netherlands to get tourism (…) going”. He also calls for “diversification of the economy (…) by creating other employment”. In these uncertain times nobody has a fail proof plan to revitalize the economy. But just wait until we can pick up where we left off in March is not enough of a plan. Saban people are proud of their independent nature and together we should find ways to create an economy again. Let us remember Winston Churchill’s words “never let a good crisis go to waste” and call upon our island government to use this time to come up with plans to not just revive our economy, but to also expand and diversify it!
Owner and General Manager of El Momo Cottages