The Daily Herald writes that shortly after the newly elected Chamber of Commerce and Industry of St. Eustatius and Saba took office at the beginning of the year, the National Ombudsman recalled a complaint they had received from information and support foundation Informatie, Voorlichting and Ondersteuning (IVO). IVO President Brenda van Putten had filed a complaint on January 2, 2012, about the size of the annual fee IVO has to pay for registration in the Commercial Registry, which is kept by the Chamber of Commerce. Van Putten is of the opinion that since her foundation has no real income it is unjust to charge it with an annual fee of US $160. Van Putten criticized the Chamber for not lowering the fee to a more affordable level.
According to the Commercial Registry Law Handelsregisterwet 2009 BES the annual minimum fee for foundations is $55.87, with a maximum of $251.40. The mandatory annual fee for NGOs is a subject of debate since the establishment of the Chamber of Commerce in 2010.
In a response letter to the Ombudsman and Van Putten, which was sent on January 28, the Chamber explained that the fee structure is used as stipulated in the law. The fee structure consists of some 13 different scales. The net value decides the scale for businesses. Usually, foundations do not have a net value. In these cases the law stipulates that foundations are in scale 4. The Chamber has some flexibility in deciding which amount is to be charged for each scale, Commerce Chamber Chairman Koos Sneek explained. “The guideline hereby is that the Chamber is responsible for generating sufficient funds to have a balanced budget,” said Sneek. He also pointed out that apart from some nominal fees levied for excerpts, for example, they are the only other source of income of the Chamber. “Since there has to be a logical increase of the amount in each scale, based upon the amount of net value of a company, for scale 4 the amount of $160 has been established. And unfortunately this amount will then also have to be charged to foundations,” said Sneek. “The law does not allow the Chamber to deviate from this system and establish a lower amount for foundations. To give room to the Chamber to lower the amount the law needs to be changed. This is ultimately the responsibility of Parliament. The Chamber fully understands that Mrs. Van Putten wants this to be done as soon as possible, but the law-making process usually takes a while,” the Chamber Chairman said. “The Chamber, with the assistance of the Chamber of Commerce of the Netherlands, is busy evaluating the law and also the fee structure as it is now is part of this evaluation.”
In its letter, the Chamber advised Van Putten to also take up the matter with government representatives to have it included in the constitutional evaluation of 2015. “It is unfortunate that no timely reactions have been forthcoming on subsequent complaint letters by Mrs. Van Putten and the inquiry by the Ombudsman. For this the Chamber apologizes,” Sneek stated. In response to a letter from the Chamber of Commerce the National Ombudsman said the Chamber’s reply was sufficient. The Ombudsman has now closed the case, according to the Chamber of Commerce.