“We must have realistic expectations”. That was the message of Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk at the informal opening of the Caribbean Netherlands Week in The Hague on Monday. The Daily Herald writes this. “This will be an important Caribbean Netherlands Week since it will determine the course of the next two to three years,” said Plasterk. Not only will decisions be taken on the modus operandi and objectives of the 2015 constitutional evaluation, but also a number of specific issues will be dealt with such as combating of poverty, children’s rights and economic development. These issues are interrelated and will come together in the Multi-Annual Programme that has been prepared in draft form and which has been provided to the delegations of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba for consultation. Plasterk said he hoped that concrete agreements could be achieved on the Multi-Annual Programme so it can go into effect early 2015. The minister said the programme means clarity for the islands in regard to the direction where they are headed. “It is the path to the dot on the horizon,” he said.
Statia Commissioner Carlyle Tearr was less enthusiastic about the way the Dutch Government has been handling the Multi- Annual Programme. On Saturday he already told The Daily Herald that he wanted no more plans, but concrete action and commitment of the Dutch Government for projects to get Statia’s economy moving. On Monday, at the reception held at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, Tearr explained that the Multi-Annual Programme more or less contained the same development plans “on a different approach” that the islands had drawn up in 2012/2013. Tearr said the Statia delegation, which includes
Island Governor Gerald Berkel and Commissioner Reginald Zaandam, would seek commitment from minister Plasterk that the Multi-Annual Programme would be executed as is, after the necessary adjustments have been made. “We don’t change after that. We want action.”
The evaluation in 2015 of the constitutional status of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, which are Dutch public entities since October 10, 2010, is an important theme this week. Saba Commissioner Chris Johnson and his colleague Tearr agreed that more emphasis needed to be put on the result of the evaluation. “We want total respect for the outcome. We want that commitment from the Dutch Government,” Johnson said, although he agreed with minister Plasterk that parties needed to be realistic in their expectations.
“You don’t want the situation where you have a completed evaluation and no follow-up is done,” said Tearr who was less optimistic in his expectations about this week. St. Eustatius and Saba also want to get commitment from the Netherlands that they will be able to secure interest-free loans to finance various infrastructural projects on the islands. For Saba it concerns two projects, the road to the harbour and the Windwardside parking lot. St. Eustatius wants to construct a new government administration building which has been in the planning for some time.
Also important for Saba and St. Eustatius is the meeting with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment to discuss the waste management project on their respective island. The islands want to work out details on recycling and processing of garbage, as well as the possibilities to ship waste off the island. “We hope to get that signed this week,” said Commissioner Tearr.
The Saba delegation, which also includes Commissioner Bruce Zagers, hopes to achieve concrete results at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment to upgrade the drinking water facilities on their island. Commissioner Johnson said he would give Economic Affairs an update on the figures and plans of the new Saba Electrical Company.
Plasterk referred to the Caribbean Netherlands Week in his speech as a “mixture of wishes, idealism and realism.” “We have to find a way between dream and deed,” he said. The Multi-Annual Programme could serve as an objective to work towards. The minister said the programme created perspective and was an important steering instrument. Being in the Kingdom together means that the partners carry a joint responsibility to create a good future and perspectives for the people, he said.
Today, Tuesday, the Executive Councils of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will meet with the Permanent Committee of both the First and the second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament in two separate meetings. On the agenda is, among other things, the backlog in the execution of the islands’ development plans, the proposed changes to the Voting Law, economic development and, specifically for the Windward Islands, Winair.