Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops visited Saba on Wednesday, November 4 and Thursday, November 5. He met with government officials, the Saba Business Association, went to the site of the new harbor project, and he pledged additional financial support to Saba for a total amount of US $1.5 million.
While on the island, Knops signed two documents in which he committed to make additional financial support available in the short term. It concerns funding to alleviate Saba’s precarious financial situation, to strengthen financial management and the government apparatus, to compensate Saba’s largely diminished tax revenues, the additional policy measures in the COVID-19 emergency packages, compensation for the Second Chamber elections and to extend the Legal Desk Saba pilot.
Knops said in an audio address to the Saba people that he was proud of the work that the Saba Government has been doing on behalf of the people during this time of crisis. “I am proud of the work they do, with your support, with our support. We do it together. That is the reason why again we are giving additional financial support, because the government lacks income and needs money to support the businesses and the people,” he said. (Audio address at the bottom of this article.)
The State Secretary said he was impressed by the resilience of the Saba people and how they deal with the pandemic. “We will do our utmost as Dutch Government to support you and your government in dealing with this crisis. We provide income support, support for the businesses. We will continue with this. Being here, reminds me of home, a place where people help each other, support each other. Together, we will overcome the problems that we face.”
Knops assured the people that The Hague was paying keen attention to Saba, to the people’s wellbeing and the island’s future. He said he was glad to have met with members of the Executive and Island Council, and with representatives of the Saba Businesses Association (SBA) to discuss pressing issues. He also met with the Red Cross and the government social worker to talk about the providing of food parcels for needy persons during the COVID-19 crisis.
About his visit to the site of the new harbor project, Knops said that the new harbor, once constructed, will contribute to Saba’s economic development, and also help to bring down the cost of living. “My efforts will continue to engage all members of the Dutch cabinet to do the right things, to diminish the cost of living and to work on the social minimum, which we try to increase in the next phase. I know that for some of you, things are very tough, but please know that our thoughts are here with you and that we will help you, also in the uncertain times ahead. “
Knops said that unfortunately, he was unable to meet with the Saba people in person due to the safety restrictions, but he promised to do so next time. Island Governor Jonathan Johnson assured the people in the same audio message that all safety measures and protocols were strictly observed during the visit of the State secretary and his small delegation. The delegation did a COVID-19 test upon arrival and they all tested negative.
“I’m glad that the State Secretary came. We took all necessary safety measures. It was good that he got to see the harbor project site and that he met with some of the people’s representatives, the SBA, the Red Cross and the government social worker. We are very thankful for the financial support. As you all know, Saba has a deficit and we have to deal with our liquidity situation. It is good to have the support of the Dutch Government.”
The State Secretary and his delegation left Saba at midday Thursday to fly back to the Netherlands via St. Eustatius and Curaçao.