Today and yesterday the annual trade mission is held in Eindhoven. St. Eustatius is represented by Koos Sneek, commissioner of finance, and also by members of the Chamber of Commerce of Statia and Saba and by members of Statia’s business Association, Steba. Winston Fleming, chairman of Steba mentioned that during the trade mission Steba is doing match making and has over 18 appointments.
More information about this trade mission: www.interexpo.biz
This morning Mr. Carlyle Tearr, president of the Chamber of Commerce of St. Eustatius and Saba held the following presentation.
“Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be among you to discuss some of the ramifications of the current constitutional system on Statia and Saba.
Some of these issues you may have heard during the course of this congress, however I will give a short version of our perspective on these matters.
The Chamber of Commerce is recognized as the backbone of the economic development of the community and as president of the Chamber of Commerce of St. Eustatius and Saba, I am in the distinct position to observe and assess the current economicgrowths and declines with the local communities.
The economic potential of both the islands of Statia and Saba are astronomical and the possibilities are endless.
The Chamber of Commerce Statia and Saba was established in Nov of 2010, one month after the implementation of our new constitutional system commonly referred to as 10-10-10.
The chairman at the time, the current Statia Island Commissioner Mr. Koos Sneek, was very adamant on voicing the concerns on behalf of the business community. The year of 2012, has proven to be not much different. The current board of directors is faced with the same task of echoing the effects of 10 10 10.
The theme of this congress relates in many aspects to the reality of the backlash of the new constitutional system, a system that proved to be very challenging during the course of 2011 and 2012. The business community and private individuals alike branded this new system as both unfriendly and unrelenting in the community’s demise.
Opinions were and are being voiced with great effort. Dissatisfaction has been demonstrated in various forms to the Dutch Representatives who frequently visited both Statia and Saba.
Saba, for example, has had their first ever demonstration in the history of that island.
Despite these many visits, changes within the new system have not been forthcoming, at a satisfactory pace. We applaud the fact that it seems that instead of dumping their grandiose ideas on our little islands, the politicians and policy makers of the Dutch Mainland are slowly but surely starting to listen to us.
When we consider the size of the both islands Statia and Saba with combined inhabitants of less than 6000, one has to ask themselves, what sort of economy would be able to be sustained based on the size of the population.
These two islands are dependent on every product stemming from food, supplies and hardware to be imported.
With the new tax system in place, business owners and individuals alike are faced with ABB charges when importing products from overseas. As a result spending power has declined to a low that was never experienced before on both islands, and would be deemed unacceptable by any Dutch standard!
From 10-10-10 to present day the loss of spending power is still being felt, despite the recent agreement between the Dutch ministry and the government of both islands.
The agreement is said to have the guarantee of improving the fiscal system and removing some bottlenecks that our communities are faced with and at the same time would increase the spending power among the people.
Some benefits of this agreement would include ABB exemption on basic food products, reduction of excise taxes; incur a tax friendly rate for property tax with and a 50% rate reduction for hotel development.
Realistically we realize there will be some improvements stemming from this agreement; however there is still the real factor of an economy that requires much improvement and in- depth attention. While we applaud the efforts on the part of those responsible for this agreement, there is still much to be done in terms of economic growth on both islands. The collection of ABB taxes on both islands is much of a concern where a majority feels that at least 50% of this revenue should be reversed back to each islands.
This would play a major role of relieving the local government of their financial burdens where future developments can be realized at a much faster pace.
Yesterday, former minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin mentioned the coming down of fences within Europe, there is free movement of persons. In the Dutch Caribbean we see the absolute opposite. Not only was the Netherlands Antilles dismantled, as at the same time countries in other parts of the world came together, but fences were put up between the countries within the Kingdom (St. Maarten and Curacao) on the one hand and the BES (Bonaire, Statia and Saba) on the other hand! No longer are we, as small islands, able to tap into the expertise personnel of our brothers St. Maarten and Curacao, we now have to wait 3 months to get their work permit approved!
The airports and harbors are two major economic pillars that are yet to be utilized to their fullest capacities. Hotel development,restaurants, infrastructure, island beautification especially on Statia are areas that require major funding for development and sustainability.
Based on these factors we can foresee a future of creating business in the Dutch Caribbean.
The task will be challenging for our governments, though it is possible with proper planning and stimulation in reference to the aforementioned reversal of 50% ABB taxes to the local governments.
With all the necessary improvements realized, the chances of foreign investments would be encouraged and increased by a great deal.
The Chamber of Commerce of Statia and Saba recognizes the many possibilities for development on both islands and based on this we believe our business community needs to be prepared to face those challenges in order to execute these projects and ultimately benefit from the rewards of successful businesses.
The local business community has the capabilities as well as having expressed the desire for help in moving from people with businesses to full-fledged entrepreneurs. For this the reason entrepreneurship training sessions among other training courses have been and will be continued to be introduced among the community as part of the development program with assistance from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and other relevant foundations on both islands.
As a new, fresh, Chamber of Commerce on the islands, it is our task to make sure enough information is available to all entrepreneurs, not only to start a business, but to experience a healthy growth of that business.
Stimulation of this, however, is mainly dependant on the grants and subsidies that are available for such a starting entrepreneur. Areas are still being developed where we as a Chamber hopefully can fill that void in the very near future and work towards “Duurzaam zaken doen in een nieuw Koninkrijk der Nederlanden”.
Thank you very much for your attention.”
Source: StatiaNews, November 29