Saba chose not to mark the two-year anniversary of Saba’s transition into the new constitutional status as a public entity of The Netherlands. Service Caribbean Netherlands (RCN) marked the day instead as “Appreciation Day” for its workers and it will be celebrated next week with the visit of RCN Director, Sybren van Dam.
With the island’s executive council on an official visit to The Hague, and the central committee left without a registrar, the island government chose not to mark the day either. Acting Lt. Governor Franklin Wilson confirmed that no event had been planned for the occasion. The historical moment appears not to elicit much interest within the public, with few responding to the question of what the constitutional change meant for them personally. “There is nothing to be celebrated yet, the way the transition was conducted was very poor and the population is still suffering,” Wolfgang Tooten said. His wife, Barbara Tooten doubted that the date is marked in The Netherlands. “If you want to know what happened since 10-10-10, it all comes down to the moment when you are standing by the cashier belt at the supermarket. We are paying freight, import tax, and service tax, and much higher social premiums and this and that and prices are constantly rising,” she said.
Saba’s historian Will Johnson was asked to put things in perspective and reflect on what the transition meant for him and the island as a whole. In his response, Johnson recalled his role as Senator in the Netherlands Antilles and his vote at the time to dissolve that state. “I chose for the short and long-term interest of Saba, rather than for myself, losing 32 months’ salary and benefits of NAf. 13,000 per month. Just calculate that and see if I made a sacrifice or not for Saba to get its new status. My vote in Parliament was crucial to get a two-third majority to change the Statute. Without that, the constitutional talks would have collapsed, no country status for anyone, and I would have gone on receiving the lucrative salary and benefits until 2014,” Johnson said. He talked about the level of taxation under the Netherlands Antilles and compared it with his taxes this year. He openly declared he was taxed US $62,000 for 2010 under the Antillean tax system and received tax assessment for 2011 under the Dutch tax system and with around the same income as 2010, will have to pay US $39,000. He challenged those decrying the new system to make their taxes public, adding that businesses have an even lesser tax burden with most import taxes passed on to the consumers.
While in some regards there is inequality between continental European Dutch and Caribbean Dutch, such as the Old Age Pension, “there are many positive things taking place,” Johnson said. He questioned scepticism pointing to the high level of construction on the island which indicates money is readily available. He also compared the ability of current commissioners to secure funding with past challenges. Johnson pointed out that “complaints about the health care system have calmed down,” but added his preference, that Cuba should also be available as destination for health care services.
Johnson qualified his response bolstering the positive impact of the transition with some pointed remarks about “unwelcome flotsam drifting in to the island from Holland.” While he expressed his support for help backed by expertise, Johnson is not enthralled with some Dutch civil servants. He also addressed the issue of labour migration on the island and how prosperity is linked to such openness. On this aspect he decried the attitudes of some Dutch government representatives as giving the impression that the island is in a “colonial status.” Hinting to rough edges in the governance-sharing arrangement, he remarked on the Dutch neglect of the island for most of its history and the autonomy enjoyed by Saba in the past. While the day is not marked on Saba as elsewhere, Johnson holds no regrets on the change of status, only the “hope that one day again Saba will enjoy the independence and the working spirit which our island enjoyed throughout the centuries.”
Source: “The Daily Herald” 2012-10-11