The Island Council passed in a public session Monday morning the 2014- 2017 draft budget and gave its blessing for the acquisition of Hyacinth’s Cottage and Corner Imports Building in Windwardside. This reports The Daily Herald. The council has postponed discussion on the salary increase for political officials until procedural matters are clarified. Chairman Island Governor Jonathan Johnson opened the session noting the absence of Windward Islands People’s Movement (WIPM) councilmen Eviton Heyliger and Carl Buncamper, due to illness. The meeting commenced only after the delayed entrance of opposition Saba Labour Party (SLP) councilman Ishmael Levenston, who predictably lectured the governing party about its inability to secure quorum without him, despite WIPM’s overwhelming majority. Commissioner Chris Johnson countered that it was at Levenston’s request that the meeting on Friday had been delayed when WIPM would have garnered quorum without him. In solidarity with the many Pilipino residents on Saba, WIPM Councilman Rolando Wilson called for a moment of silence for the victims of the typhoon in The Philippines. The agenda was modified to incorporate an unnecessary interpellation requested by the opposition in light of the two rounds of deliberations and answers provided by the Executive Council.
Despite the old-school “politricks” lecturing given by Levenston, he raised no specific objection to approval of the draft 2014-2017 budget. Having already outlined the budget in the central committee meeting, Commissioner Bruce Zagers duly reiterated his detailed presentation of the budget proposal, stressing that the council’s vote is needed if the budget is to be punctually presented to the Dutch government by November 15. Levenston, at times confused about the meeting’s agenda and topics being deliberated, insisted on asking questions that had been repeatedly and extensively answered about subsidies. While he does not oppose funding, he asked for the boards of these communitybased organizations to be brought in for questioning instead of him having to seek and review audited public information on their various funding sources. He would also like stairs to be built at Cove Bay beach and also inquired who Saba Banks belongs to.
Councilman Wilson congratulated the Island Governor on his first newborn baby, Island Registrar Akilah Levenstone on her official appointment and finance Commissioner Zagers’ team for the seventh budget presentation. Wilson called on more to be done in alleviating social challenges. He supports the government subsidies directed at stimulating family planning, the internationally acclaimed “meals on wheels” programme of daily food deliveries for the needy and second-chance education for those seeking to be retrained to fit in the local labour market. He asked for information on the merger of the Public Health and Sanitation Department with the Agriculture Department, for more to be done in addressing the challenge of alcohol distribution to minors and for updates on the postponed renovations of the police station. He decried the fact that no Saban youngsters were accepted by the national armed forces in three years.
WIPM Council member Amelia Nicholson voiced the need to address the return of local youth with no diplomas from the Netherlands. She lobbied for a business environment that incentivizes foreign investments and reduces dependence on The Hague. She proposed establishing a special tax-free allowance for civil servants and suggested a food-stamp distribution system for those in need. She also alleged knowledge of GEBE employee intimidation on job continuity.