Caribisch Netwerk reports that the Secretary-General of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Richard van Zwol and Secretary General of Finance, Manon Leijten, are making a working visit to Saba for an assessment of the economy on the island.
The president of the Saba Business Association (SBA), Wolfgang Tooten, calls the visit “the first good sign”. He hopes that he will be invited to meet with them. Some time ago the SBA had already discussed the economic problems of Saba with the new Kingdom Representative, Gilbert Isabella. In addition, they had send a letter on this subject to the Second Chamber. “It is an illusion that Saba can finance itself so funds from the Netherlands will be required,” Tooten said. “When the Hague understands this, it will be logical that the collected tax money stays on the island, so that the community can stimulate its own economy,” says Tooten. “This would also reduces the cost for the Netherlands. The business community and residents of Saba hope that the Dutch government will come forward with logical solutions. ”
In 2012, the former State Secretary for Finance, Frans Weekers, introduced temporary tax exemptions, i.e., the property taxes were 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. It could very well be that, at the end of this year, the exemptions will stop and Saba might have to pay full price.
“Tax levies are necessary,” said Tooten, “but this must be done realistically and not just on the basis of a principle. The underlying thought is, that people contribute to the government and, in return, get improved living conditions. However, the local conditions must be considered. ”
The SBA insists on the extension of the reduction in property tax. “It’s a small part of the Dutch budget but a big boost to local economy. This would stimulate new investments in Saba. There are many areas where Saba needs more investments and new businesses are certainly welcome. Investors are ready to jump onboard. They are just waiting for a signal from The Hague, “said Tooten.
The Association has been asked by the Island Council to join their “E team” (Economic Team). Tooten is of the opinion, that many tasks have been taken away from the Island Council as a consequence of the constitutional reform of 10-10 -10. “The Island Council is sufficiently capable to pick up additional tasks and perform these better than a ministry that is7,000 kilometers away, so that decisions can be made much faster. As an example, Saba could take over the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour. Reduce the present bureaucracy and show that you are willing to boost the islands economic progress. ”
Funds from the European Development Fund (EDF) are available for Saba. The local Chamber of Commerce and other stakeholders are working to propose projects for such funds. “The Dutch CBI (Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries) also has experts and funds that can help Saba” suggests Tooten. “The Netherlands only need to pick up the ball and cooperate with the islands.”