The delegation of the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament after last week’s visit to St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba has sent a list of no fewer than 44 questions on a wide range of topics to Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops.
The written questions the state secretary is asked to answer before August 27 deal with, among other things, the repair of some 55 homes on St. Maarten, assistance for the St. Maarten schools and psychosocial help for the children, air transportation between the Windward Islands, the possibility of ship repair shops in St. Maarten; and for Statia and Saba, electricity prices, poverty and social policy.
The delegation had a particular request: a fact sheet with basic information about Windward Islands Airways International Winair, in which the Netherlands has a minority share because of Statia and Saba. The fact sheet should contain information about the airline’s ownership, key performance indicators, number of employees, the financial position of the past five years, salary level of management, and airport fees.
It was asked whether it was correct that quite regularly flights to Statia and Saba were cancelled to accommodate flights to St. Barths. An overview was requested of the airfares between the Windward Islands on different carriers.
The delegation further sought clarity on the regulations that existed where it concerned the granting of airline concessions on the route St. Maarten-StatiaSaba. This was asked because of reports that a German airline was recently refused a landing permit, while in the past a French and Canadian airline did get permission.
About the high air fares between the Windward Islands, the delegation wanted to know if the state secretary had looked into public transport alternatives such as a ferry. “Are you willing to consider a form of public transport between St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba so residents of the islands can benefit from better and more affordable transport?”
A question was asked about the repair of some 55 homes of vulnerable persons in St. Maarten by the White and Yellow Cross (WYC) for an amount of 600,000 euros. The delegation wanted to know now that many schools in St. Maarten were not entirely repaired after the hurricane, whether the state secretary was willing to provide support as part of the reconstruction.
The state secretary was also asked whether he was willing to financially support psychosocial assistance for children for whom the delegation said there had been too little attention. In light of climate change and the obvious effects thereof in the Dutch Caribbean, it was asked whether the state secretary was prepared to add an “ecological dimension” to the reconstruction mission.
The delegation inquired about the possibility of establishing auxiliary branches of middle vocational education in hospitality on the islands, considering the dependence on tourism, as well as the potential to promote development of local products, agriculture and fisheries.
It was asked whether it could be promoted to have a Dutch ship repair and maintenance company open a branch in St. Maarten, which is building a solid reputation in this field. It was noted that this “economically very lucrative sector” was now almost only in the hands of companies owned by South Africans.
The electricity prices in Statia and Saba are a source of concern and the delegation asked whether the tariffs had been increased again per July 1. An overview of the electricity prices in the Netherlands and on the islands was requested.
The delegation wanted to know if it was possible to include the islands in the social system of utility prices of the Netherlands whereby, for example, a resident of the island lbxel paid the same tariff for water and electricity as those living on the mainland. It was noted that the investments in sustainable energy, for example, the solar parks in Statia and Saba didn’t result in lower prices for the consumer.
The state secretary was asked what actions had been taken to improve the quality of Internet, considering that this is important for education, communication and banking services. The delegation also asked if a rent subsidy could be introduced in Statia and Saba, and whether a service window could be established to assist residents with small legal and notary matters.
According to the delegation, the elderly pension AOW in Statia and Saba is way too low, especially when considering the high cost of living. The state secretary was urged to take action. “Can The Hague specifically check whether something can be done about this terrible poverty?”
The delegation inquired about the transfer of certain tasks to the public entities. “Can Saba’s Executive Council autonomously decide on the granting of work permits? Is it possible to make poverty policy a responsibility of the islands depending on whether they are financially and administratively solid?”
The state secretary’s opinion was asked about holding elections in Statia. It was suggested to hold elections for a so-called political advisory council that can advise the National Government Commissioner.
The Daily Herald.