The public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba have made an urgent plea to Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen of the European Commission for financial support during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Caribbean Netherlands sent a letter to Urpilainen on April 22 in which support was expressed for the European Parliament’s resolution adopted on April 17. In this resolution, the European Parliament called on the European Commission to establish an Exceptional Support Fund for the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs).
“We want to request that the Exceptional Support Fund be made accessible to the OCTs. Given our social-economic situation, this is of great urgency,” they said in the letter to the European Commissioner. The three public entities pointed out that they have small scale and vulnerable economies that greatly depend on tourism, a sector that has come to a complete standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The social-economic impact on our economies is immense and we fear that this will be a long-term effect. We foresee that the economic recovery, especially for the tourism sector, will take up to several years,” it was stated in the letter, which was signed by Island Governors Edison Reina of Bonaire and Jonathan Johnson of Saba, and St. Eustatius Government Commissioner Marnix van Rij.
As for the two Windward Islands, it was mentioned that it also had taken two full years for the tourism sector to recover from the September 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria. “The hurricanes were different, because after the cleaning-up tourists could again visit the islands. The impact of the current pandemic on our vulnerable economies will be even larger than it was back then.”
The public entities asked Urpilainen to simplify the funding, monitoring and evaluation process to realise efficient and effective support that can be delivered swiftly without the usual complex system of European Union (EU) funding programmes. “A suggestion is to create a fast-track, simplified process which reduces the number of application forms and documents to a minimum.”
The European Parliament on April 17 adopted a resolution in which it asked the European Committee to dedicate special funding to the OCTs. One of the initiative-takers was Member of the European Parliament Samira Rafaela of the Democrats D66/RENEW Europe. Rafaela, who has Dutch Caribbean roots, said it was important to financially support the Caribbean part of the Kingdom in these exceptionally difficult times.
The Daily Herald.