The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament wants to know why the cost of tickets between the Windward Islands is so high and is pressing for measures so people can pay a more reasonable price to fly between St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba.
The Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations this week sought clarity from Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, Raymond Knops, about the high ticket prices, which run up to US $240 for a return trip between the Windward Islands. The committee also asked about the Bonaire route.
“What possibilities do you see to reduce the extreme prices for transport between Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, among other things, by allowing multiple airlines to carry Out flights?” the Committee asked, as part of a larger list of questions.
Members of Parliament (MPs) Attje Kuiken of the Labour Party PvdA and Andre Rosman of the liberal democratic VVD party decided to add some pressure by submitting additional written questions to Knops and to Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Cora van Nicuwenhuizen, on Tuesday.
Referring to media reports, Kuiken and Bosman asked why no concrete measures have been taken up to now following the report of the so-called Connectivity Expert Group which assessed the boat and air connections between the Windward Islands and between Bonaire and Curacao.
The Expert Group provided advice to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management I&W, on ways to improve connectivity and to lower the ticket prices. It is now up to the I&W Ministry and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK to take a decision. So far, this has not happened, and the prices remain high and the connectivity unimproved. “Can you explain why up to now no concrete measures have been taken based on the advice? Do you understand our chagrin that things have to take so long before actual action is taken?” asked Kuiken and Bosman. Are you aware of the (adverse) economic and social implications of the absence of affordable tickets and other matters that could improve the connectivity for the people of the islands? If so, why are no concrete measures forthcoming? And, if not, why not?”
Kuiken and Bosman asked in what other manner the ministers were willing to compensate the islands’ residents for the expenses they have to incur to visit family, a doctor and hospital, or for education and work purposes. “If not, why not? And if so, what concrete measures are you going to take, when? When are you finally going to take action to improve the current situation?”
The Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations in its set of questions sent to Minister Knops also asked about the cost of telephone and Internet in thc Caribbean Netherlands. “The Dutch government has informed the Parliament earlier that Internet, data traffic and telephony can be considered a basic necessity, and that if these services are ceased or become undependable, it can result in social unrest and economic damage.”
The committee asked Knops whether the government agreed that Internet, data traffic and telephony in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba were very expensive and therefore available in a limited manner. “Can you explain what the last status is of the intention to reduce this cost? What results have been booked in the meantime?”
The committee wanted to know whether there had been follow-up to the promise of State Secretary of Economic Affairs and Climate Mona Keijzer that it would be interesting to talk with the authorities on the islands about the concessions that have been issued to the (local) telecommunications companies. “Have these talks been held, and if so, what arc the results?”
The Daily Hearald