Should the Saba delegation attending the so-called BES Week in The Hague be able to secure a meeting with Minister of Finance Jan Kees de Jager or with State Secretary Frans Weekers, Commissioners Chris Johnson and Bruce Zagers intend to discuss the tax structure and needed modifications, based on insights provided by the 2011 tax revenues. They hope to raise the issue of the property tax, on which the island government was to be consulted and involved in the valuation of properties. The commissioners’ point is that the 2011 revenue figures, indicating an excess of tax revenue compared with the old structure, warrant a new approach. They will ask for an exemption from property tax for all companies with a value less than US $2 million. On the exemption of General Spending Tax ABB for imports by individuals to US $500, the commissioners intend to emphasise that the exemption does not apply to imports by individuals who do not travel with the goods themselves, and they will seek an exemption regardless of whether or not residents travel with the goods.
They also hope to discuss the ABB exemption for basic goods and will propose that products such as milk, fruits and vegetables and the transport service of such goods be also exempted.
The commissioners hope to address the still pressing issue of double taxation imposed by St. Maarten and they will request that until an acceptable resolution is found the ABB rate for all goods and services be reduced, and a uniform tariff for all ABB products and services be applied.
The topics with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation will focus on Saba’s need to secure a reliable and affordable energy supply. The GEBE challenge will be discussed based on the recommendations in the SEO Economic Research report, including the relocation and renovation of the power plant and the partial replacement of diesel generators by windmills. Aspects related to economic development and investment incentives are to be addressed with the same ministry.
Talks with the Ministry of Security and Justice seek to solve mistakes inherited from the former Immigration Department of the Netherlands Antilles in the issuing of residence permits and situations that put people’s permanent residence permits in jeopardy. The commissioners will lobby for a grace period in which those persons are given the opportunity to address any inconsistency without facing consequences for actions which were not of their own doing.
The Executive Council also wants to discuss the BES Safety Act, which requires drafted emergency and contingency plans on which the ministry had offered assistance, yet those plans have not finalized. The commissioners hope that preparation plans be completed and a provision made for earmarked funds to start training staff under the supervision of the Island Secretary.
Discussion points with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport involve the still inadequately addressed issue of the medications list, the availability of specialist doctors when patients are referred to Guadeloupe and Colombia, and a consideration for the lower purchasing power. The issue of unavailable additional health insurance is also to be highlighted.
Source: “The Daily Herald” 2012-03-13