Focussing on connecting sustainable business initiatives, the 18th trade mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean region visited Saba Saturday, writes The Daily Herald. InterExpo Caribbean brought together over 20 speakers to promote business matchmaking initiatives between business leaders on both sides of the Kingdom’s Atlantic shores. Visits to St. Eustatius and Saba were specifically designed to increase the exposure of local authorities and businesses to alternative private sector solutions for their challenges.
Saba appeared not to have honoured the trade mission with official Island Government representation, despite the presence on St. Maarten of governors, prime ministers and other high-level officials of all other islands concerned. Most noticed was the absence of the director of Saba Electricity Company at the meetings. The mission, sponsored by St. Maarten’s GEBE, gathered the directors of most Dutch Caribbean utility electricity companies focussing on sustainable business through partnership. Only Saba businessman Wolfgang Tooten participated as Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce of Saba and St. Eustatius and as Saba Business Association President. He used the occasion to lobby with St. Maarten parliamentarians on wavering import duties imposed on transiting Saba-bound goods. They explained to him that this issue is a bargaining chip in negotiations with the Dutch government.
Tooten, Commerce Chamber secretary Kelly Johnson and Tourism Director Glenn Holm welcomed the trade mission. Holm organised an island tour for the visiting business leaders. Island Governor Jonathan Johnson formally welcomed the trade mission at Breadline Plaza, where a breakfast buffet was offered by Bizzy Bee Bakery. Johnson spoke of Saba University School of Medicine being “one of the pillars of the local economy together with tourism” and of the architectural and cultural specificities of the island. The Governor was officially introduced to the Honorary Consul of the German Republic to the Dutch Caribbean Karel Frielink; Curaçao-based lawyer, Frielink was on his first visit to Saba and Statia.
Frielink was aware of Saba’s attempts to promote its niche eco-tourism product in the German market. He intends to initiate efforts to “intensify trade and tourism relations between Germany and the Caribbean islands. My aim on this first visit is to get acquainted with the people here and their interest in Germany, as well as my role as an intermediary,” he said.
Alderman of the Dutch city Breda Selçuk Akinci said he had cooperated with the Bonaire government for the past eight years, and with the island governments of Saba and Statia for past three years on developing environmental policy. This includes consultations on renewable-energy policy, water management, sanitation and filtration and recycling. Among alternative-energy solutions he proposed Archimedes windmills, small units that can be mounted on individual household roofs. Asked about the feasibility of such an investment for the small-scale, cash-tight businesses on Saba, Akinci said that while there might not be a tax incentive for such, an investment a return on investment is expected in four to five years. Improving water-management systems on Saba is also an area where Akinci believes Breda could assist.
A model for joint utilities management is Utilities Aruba, represented by Managing Director Franklin Hoevertsz. He explained that Aruba had been “investing in more efficient ways of producing drinking water and electricity with an eye on developing more renewable, sustainable energy alternatives.” Hoevertsz stresses that investment in “unpredictable intermittent” energy sources, such as solar or wind, needs to be balanced with traditional energy production capacity to maintain a stable affordable grid. “It is a balancing act. Unlike continental territories we, as an island, cannot switch to the neighbouring country’s grid. This is the kind of self-sustainable experience we have that Saba can gain from. As islands, grid interconnectivity is not an option for us.”