In upcoming meetings with Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Liesbeth Spies, Commissioners Chris Johnson and Bruce Zagers also hope to bring up research conducted by Deloitte on local purchasing power. The report recognizes the limited leverage of the Island Government in raising revenue, while facing huge local inflation. The commissioners seek that no additional revenues be implemented until the purchasing power investigation is complete.
Civil servants are in need of training, but the island government’s budget is too limited. The Executive Council will lobby with the ministries in The Hague to make long-term training programmes available to their counterparts in Saba, as well as internships in The Netherlands.
Johnson and Zagers will also bring to the minister’s attention to the fact that despite repeated requests, Saba residents are yet to receive personal tax liability BSN numbers. The issue is especially pressing for students travelling to study in The Netherlands. These are confronted with the impossibility of registering with a Dutch municipality, and are unable to open bank accounts, seek support for housing and coverage in case of illness or accident. The average waiting period for students is between six to eight weeks, during which they are listed as illegal residents, despite their Dutch citizenship. The commissioners will press for the BSN numbers backlog to be finalized by July 1, when a new group of students is due to travel to The Netherlands.
Since Saba obtained its new status, residents have also been facing problems with placing orders by credit card via the Internet. Such orders are currently impossible, because Saba addresses are not acknowledged in the payment procedures. Therefore, the commissioners suggest that the island be recorded in the international payment systems as a separate entity.
Commissioner Zagers is also expected to raise the Fort Bay Harbour renovations with Minister Spies and with Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment Melanie Schultz van Haegen. Because of the dramatic price increases, the original renovation plans had to be cut back. However, the harbour’s fishing area is still in need of completion and requires an additional one million dollar investment, which cannot be accommodated by the island budget. Zagers will seek ministerial support, possibly through an additional special allowance from the already available funding through the Social- Economic Initiative (SEI).
With the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, the Executive Council also hopes to address the problems of air connectivity and the high prices of transportation between Saba and St. Eustatius, with St. Maarten serving as the hub for all traffic and transportation. The commissioners will lobby for a subsidy on public transportation to achieve “acceptable” pricing.
Source: “The Daily Herald” 2012-03-13