Yesterday, NTR-Caribisch Netwerk reported that the last few months, several hotels in Saba had to close their doors because of the deteriorating economy and high property tax system introduced in October 10, 2010. Hotel owners that are still in operation, fear that they too may have to close in case the temporary tax exemptions are lifted.
“I do not know how I can keep my hotel and restaurant open. Sometimes I earn less than I have to pay. In such situations I have to borrow or pay in installments, but that cannot last very long. “says Wolfgang Tooten. He is the hotel manager of Scouts Place, one of the oldest hotels on Saba. Although the number of hotels on Saba is decreasing, the occupancy rate still remains low. “Visiting Saba has become very expensive and tourists stay away.”
In 2011 the former Dutch State Secretary for Finance Frans Weekers introduced temporary tax exemptions, that lead to reduced property taxes reduced and some food were exempted from the import tax of six percent. Those temporary exemptions were extended at the end of 2012 by two years. However, at the end of this year it will stop and then we may have to pay the full amount. “It can not be the objective of the Second Chamber to worsen our economy leading to more people without a job,” adds Tooten added. “There is no labor market here,” he says.
The Saba Business Association (SBA) is now urging the extension of the exemptions for another two years. Because the economy of Saba experiences heavy weather and several companies have to close down or cut back, the SBA intends to organize an economic summit.
According to Tooten. it is also a major issue, that employers have to pay significant social contributions. “Small business owners have to pay every three months 18.4 percent in social insurance premiums, even if things are not going well.” This is now the case. The Sabans themselves cannot afford the local restaurants because the prices have been adjusted to tourists. These stayaway because Saba has become more expensive due to taxes and duties. “Consumer prices are going up,” said Tooten. “While we want to offer fair prices to attract more customers. ”
The SBA is planning the Economic Summit when the current Secretary of State, Eric Wiebes, will be visiting the island so that he can meet with the affected parties and listen to their experiences and concerns. The SBA has already voiced its concerns in a letter, which will also be sent to the Second Chamber. “The local businesses have the impression that Dutch politicians do not pay attention to Saba,” said Tooten.
Contribution of Hazel Durand