In a comment The Daily Herald writes that news of a large research programme for the Dutch Caribbean (see related article) is most welcome. Scientific study is something of which the islands certainly could use a bit more, also to help decision-makers set policy in a more knowledgeable and therefore responsible manner.
With The Hague providing 12.5 million euros for the nine projects involving 19 researchers, the local governments – already facing financial problems in most cases – don’t have to worry about the cost. Moreover, there undoubtedly should be some added benefit from the participation of scientists with ties to the islands such as Gert-Jan Oostindië of the Royal Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, and University of St. Martin (USM) current Dean of Academics Francio Guadeloupe. The latter’s research involves primary schools in St. Maarten and St. Eustatius. Hopefully the outcome will contribute to a better comprehension of some of the underlying problems facing basic education in the Windward Islands.
In addition to Oostindië’s study on political relations with former coloniser the Netherlands, research also is planned into consequences, including tensions resulting from the new status of public entity for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (the BES islands) as the Caribbean Netherlands. Much of the programme targets the environment, which is also important from an economic point of view. There is obviously concern about the impact of tourism on the environment and at the same time the need to conserve the natural beauty of the islands so they remain attractive for visitors who generate practically all their income.
Along with the good work of St. Maarten Nature Foundation and others, these projects should go a long way in enhancing the understanding of the fragile eco-systems and how best to take care of them, while still allowing for the necessary space for doing business and further development. Finding that delicate balance is what sustainability is actually all about.