Wednesday , March 29 2023

Commissioner Zagers commended on performance finance department

Island Council members publicly commended the Commissioner of Finance Bruce Zagers and his team on Monday for the timely delivery of the approved multi-year budget proposal and for addressing an array of matters falling under his portfolio. This writes The Daily Herald. Briefing on the recent Caribbean Netherlands (CN) week in The Hague, Zagers answered several questions about the water study relaying that the ministry understands that quantity is a greater challenge than quality. The focus is narrowed on improving the reverse osmosis desalination facilities on Saba.
The “goat buy-back program” is to be funded by Ministry of Economic Affairs money allocated for nature conservation – not the local budget. Zagers confirmed that a sweeper truck has been secured by the Dutch government for use at the airport and it will possibly be used for road-sweeping. With regards to the Captain’s Quarters land parcel sale, the executive received the third appraisal last week from David Morrison Associates and is consulting with the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT to ensure all legal requirements are met. Zagers also noted the executive initiated an inquiry in acquiring the land adjacent to the Johan Cruyff court to build bleachers. Answering repetitive questions about the island subsidies, the commissioner said the finance department is coordinating the collection of disbursement data from all entities in the various areas and the commissioner does not object to the island council meeting with all the individual boards. With regards to the boards overseeing the Sunny Valley Youth Centre and Juliana’s Sports field, the commissioner voiced frustration with the many failed administrative formulas attempted over the years and emphasized the need for change. Following legal advice, the island government will “steer away” from the short-term “no work, no pay” contracts as these lead to sick-leave implications. Zagers answered the questions on the taxation of civil servant annual vacation bonuses stressing that such taxation “is out of our control,” and that attempts to avoid such taxation would be illegal. With regards to the level of civil servant wage scales, he refuted concerns noting that Saba’s wage scales are higher than those of counterparts on St. Maarten. He added that “in reality out of the US $ 10 million local budget, 47 per cent goes towards local salaries.” He pledged to look into the feasibility of a food stamps program for those in need of assistance. While the executive can ask for updates on the merger of hospital and old age home, it cannot interfere. Zagers’ role is limited to establishing a review workgroup that might increase accountability in the services of the Health Insurance Office (ZVK) and those of Colombian health insurer Coomeva. Forwarding inquiries Zagers was informed by ZVK that the daily allowance is the same for Saba, Bonaire and Statia and that accompanying persons are insured but must obtain referral from the local doctor. With regards to the long postponed draft Island Development Plan, the executive
could not give a time-frame for delivering a polished version. Zagers took note of Councilman Wilson’s request for the use of solar powered street lights on the Well’s Bay road and suggested financial planning for poll purchases to be phased over several years. He responded that the Public Works Department does have plans for public roads safety and retention walls.

Windward Islands artists exhibit at Zwolle museum
Anwers to questions of Island Council