The Public Entity Saba must be enabled to handle work permit requests, the Dutch Parliamentarians unilaterally agreed during a meeting with the Executive Council on Saturday, January 12. The transfer of this authority has been pending for too long and needs to happen pronto.
“This same matter came up in a meeting with the Executive Council when we were here last summer. The Dutch Government has promised to fix this, but half a year later this is still not the case. Transferring the task of handling permits is specifically needed for Saba and it needs to materialize,” said delegation leader Jan Paternotte, Chairman of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations.
“Saba for the most part is glad for the direct ties that it has with the Netherlands, but the issue of work permits has to be solved. It is sad that this still hasn’t been arranged, while we were given the impression that it was being solved. As Parliament, we will put pressure on it, and we will keep in touch with the Public Entity Saba on this issue,” said Paternotte.
The Dutch delegation is in full agreement. “Some time ago, we had the Saba Summit where it was agreed that Saba would be assuming more tasks. Everybody agrees that this needs to happen, but for some reason it doesn’t. The issuing of work permits is an example of this. We need to give Saba more trust. Money is being wasted on a system that hampers Saba’s development. It creates a lot of frustration that can easily be prevented,” said Member of the Second Chamber Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP). He wants a debate with the responsible minister and state secretary to make sure that Saba receives the necessary cooperation.
“We all agree, and yet it doesn’t get done,” said Member of the Second Chamber André Bosman of the liberal democratic party (VVD). He said the Dutch Government could always include an evaluation condition of for example two years to see how things go after the authority of work permits is transferred to the Public Entity Saba. “This is important for Saba’s development. Saba knows best what it needs. Currently we have a Dutch solution for a Saba issue. It needs to be solved now,” said Bosman.
Commissioner Bruce Zagers is content with the support of the Parliament for an issue that the Public Entity Saba continuously seeks attention for. “The current system just doesn’t work. It’s unacceptable that the schools and businesses have to wait for months to hire someone for a position of which we know that it is not available on the island. It is not conducive to Saba’s development.”
Zagers said that Saba has the experience of being in charge of work permits from before 2010, when it was still a part of the Netherlands Antilles. He said he wants the current system to be turned into a system that is “based of trust.” Both securing a first-time work permit and the reissuing of a work permit is a big hassle and takes months. The Executive Council also discussed this subject with State Secretary Social Affairs and Labor Tamara van Ark and State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops when they visited Saba last week.
Other topics that were discussed during the meeting of the Parliamentary delegation with the Executive Council and the Island Council included the high cost of living on Saba and the connectivity to the island. Harbor project manager Ton van der Plas gave a presentation about the harbor renovation project.
Cost of living
The high cost of living on Saba and its detrimental effect on families has the attention of the Parliament. “We need to concentrate on bringing the cost of living down,” said delegation leader Paternotte. “Saba recovered well after the hurricanes. Steps are taken to improve things. Now it is important to bring down the cost of living. The Dutch Government should contribute to this, and if necessary bear the full cost,” said André Bosman.
Nevin Özütok of the green left party (GroenLinks) expressed concerns about the poverty that exists ‘behind the front door.’ “The pride of the Saba people is very valuabe, but we cannot allow people to live in a distressing situation where families live in poor conditions generation after generation. It is not acceptable that children grow up in poverty,” said Özütok. Chris van Dam of the Christian Democratic Party CDA agreed. “Somethings needs to happen fast to reduce the extremely high cost of living,” he said.
Members of the Parliamentary delegation praised Saba for its ‘Yes we can mentality.’ “Saba doesn’t get stuck in its problems, but actively seeks solutions,” said delegation leader Paternotte. “Saba solves its own problems before asking for help,” said Ronald van Raak. “People are inventive and seek their own solutions,” said Machiel de Graaf of the Party for Freedom (PVV), who said that he instantly fell in love with Saba during his first visit.
On the way to The Bottom, for separate meetings with the Executive Council and the Island Council the delegation stopped at the sign of the Under the Hill second phase social housing project where Commissioner Rolando Wilson provided information on the project for the construction of 18 new homes which should be ready by mid-2020. Before returning to the airport, the delegation took part in a meet and greet with members of the community at Bizzy B.