Saba’s leading Windward Islands People’s Movement (WIPM) party submitted an open letter to the visiting members of the Dutch Parliament Second Chamber delegation prior to the inter-parliamentary talks in Curaçao. This reports the Daily Herald.
The letter outlines the island’s main concerns with regard to the electricity law, foreigners’ voting rights, the constitutional arrangement evaluation process and social affairs. Underlying continuity in working through all transitional hurdles the letter reads that “Saba has proven to be an island of stability, an island of transparency, and as the governing party who has held the full majority since 1999, which is 15 years continuously, we have no secrets and nothing to hide.”
The letter argues that Saba and Statia are not prepared to implement the electricity law, having repeatedly alerted the national government to the local limitations. WIPM members remind that government delegations including the Prime Minister “have said that they would hold off any new laws until after the evaluation.” They ask why this law is not being held back. “In this law there is also a provision for a subsidy to regulate the difference of the grid cost between the Netherlands and the islands. With or without the law we need the subsidy.” Saba’s leaders warn that the proposal presented by Ministry of Economic Affairs and discussed in consultation was modified by the Ministry of Finance with regard to the subsidy format. The new proposal reduces the subsidy yearly adding annual evaluations. “We would like to know why the law does not reflect the original intention of reducing the grid cost of Saba, Statia and Bonaire to equal that of the Netherlands,” states the letter.
WIPM members recommend to freeze the implementation of this law until after the evaluation is completed and to “set the subsidy at the amount first discussed.” With regards to resident foreign nationals’ voting rights, WIPM leaders question how much of an influence this could have in the First Chamber selection, and if the remote possibility is worth disenfranchising them. Defending the minority’s voting rights in local elections they state that “These same people are tax payers who are making valuable contributions to our islands. Our recommendation would be to add this to the items for the evaluation. We have not been properly involved in this process and this clarity is needed.”
With regard to the constitutional arrangement evaluation process, Saba’s leaders argue it “should be based on reviewing all of the original agreements,” focusing on “the four pillars and the fact that government services should be provided at an acceptable Netherlands level.” They request that both the islands and national government be equal evaluation partners and that “the evaluation should be binding.” This aspect should ensure that the findings would be “honoured by all ministries and not just a select few.” The WIPM leaders are expressing discontent with the follow-through on State Secretary Jetta Klijnsma’s visit to Saba this year when the island government was backed by the local business community to raise the minimum wage to a level that reflects economic reality. Saba’s government lobbied for at least 60 per cent increase and after consultations with employers all agreed to request an increase of 20 per cent.
The letter reminds that “the State Secretary came to Saba, met with the employers, and thanked them for being willing to help carry the burden by raising the minimum wage.” Realizing that the agreement implies an increase in all levels of social assistance by 20 per cent, the national government failed to acknowledge the decision citing lack of statistics. Even though all the businesses who would be affected agreed to the proposal the minimum wage was raised by only 6.1 per cent, not the 20 per cent that the island proposed as the absolute minimum.