The St. Maarten Government is still uncooperative in certain areas of the relations with St. Eustatius and Saba. Areas include (double) taxation of goods for the two smaller islands, the medical evacuation of patients and the airport taxes.
Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated this in a letter that he sent to the Dutch Parliament on Thursday. The letter, which was released on Friday, dealt with a number of obstacles in the relations between St. Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands islands St. Eustatius and Saba. This writes The Daily Herald
The issues are not new as they had been addressed in a letter that Plasterk sent to former St. Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams in February 2013. Since then progress has only been made in the area of the fibre optic cable. St. Maarten has issued the necessary permit for the landing of this cable, while consultations are still taking place on the actual connection and usage of the cable.
But solutions for three other issues have not materialised: the turnover tax that St. Maarten levies on goods that are exported to St. Eustatius and Saba, the lack of cooperation of St. Maarten authorities to assist with medical evacuation of patients from St. Eustatius and Saba by helicopter, and the airport tax that passengers have to pay when travelling from St. Maarten to the two sister islands.
Plasterk stated that the levying of turnover tax, which results in a double taxation for Saba and St. Eustatius because of other duties that have to be paid there, remained a fact even though he had addressed the issue several times in his dealings with Philipsburg.
The minister clarified that the practice of double taxation was “internationally unusual.” He said that the Dutch Government would continue to address this issue in talks with the St. Maarten Government.
The Dutch Government has also tried to persuade St. Maarten to drop or reduce the airport taxes from tickets of Windward Airways International Winair to St. Eustatius and Saba. So far these efforts have yielded no results.
The Dutch Government owns 7.95 per cent of the Winair shares. This share enables the Netherlands to monitor developments in the airline and to talk with Winair’s management and the St. Maarten Government about the sustainable connection to St. Eustatius and Saba, explained Plasterk.
St. Maarten’s cooperation to have patients of St. Eustatius and Saba evacuated by helicopter “leaves much to be desired,” said Plasterk. That is why the helicopter remains stationed in St. Eustatius in order to guarantee emergency medical evacuations for the people of St. Eustatius and Saba.
However, organising emergency medical evacuations without St. Maarten’s involvement is close to impossible, the minister stated. He spoke of a “procedural obstruction” by St. Maarten which “hindered” the transport of patients from St. Eustatius and Saba hospitalised at the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) to Colombia. “The Dutch Government keeps working on improving the cooperation with St. Maarten,” he stated.
The dependence on St. Maarten has decreased with the arrival of the new Bell 430 medevac helicopter, which is larger, faster, more spacious and better equipped. The old Bölkow 105 helicopter will remain as back-up and will guarantee a 24/7 deployment of emergency medical evacuation.
The hangar for both helicopters is currently being brought by boat to St. Eustatius. No difficulties are expected with the installation of the hangar at the F.D. Roosevelt Airport, stated Plasterk.
In the meantime, it was announced that Dutch Minister of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports Edith Schippers will be travelling to Colombia in early June to visit the medical facilities where a large part of the more complex health care for residents of the Caribbean Netherlands is purchased.
After Colombia, the minister will attend a health care congress in Aruba. At this congress the four countries of the Kingdom, Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands will try to arrive at more coordination and cooperation in the area of health care.