The Hague – The Hague is positively responding to the so-called Saba Package, the multi-annual agenda-setting document of the Public Entity Saba to further develop the island. A Saba delegation is currently in The Hague for meetings with the various Dutch ministries.
Saba Commissioner of General Affairs Bruce Zagers and Island Secretary Tim Muller had the opportunity to share and further discuss the Saba Package during a meeting of the Caribbean Netherlands Steering Group in The Hague on Wednesday, December 12. It was the first time that Saba participated in this meeting, or an elected politician from the Caribbean Netherlands for that matter.
“There is broad support for the Saba Package. It was well-received in the Caribbean Netherlands Steering Group,” said Commissioner Zagers on Thursday. “Everyone was open to our practical, hands-on approach which creates a win-win situation for all parties involved and gives meaning to the More for More style of the Dutch Government. We are taking the initiative to work together in the best interest of Saba and its people.”
Zagers said the Public Entity Saba would continue the dialogue on the Saba Package with the Dutch Government in the coming period and also during the work visit of State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops to Saba on January 7 and 8, together with State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labor Tamara van Ark and Minister of Infrastructure and Environment Cora van Nieuwenhuizen. The goal is to have a signed agreement early next year.
Saba and the Dutch ministries have been working well together for some time. The results speak for themselves. The Public Entity Saba wants to make new strides in this cooperation which benefits the island and its people. The Saba Package is a joint, multi-annual approach that will be beneficial to Saba’s development and by extent the Saba population.
The Saba Package contains a number of areas that, in the opinion of the Public Entity Saba, require additional attention. In the area of social development these include the eradication of poverty and having good social facilities. In the area of economic development, Saba aims to realize a lower cost of living and a lower cost of doing business, to create impulses for the local economy and by making consolidated investments in the physical domain.
Saba is further looking for support to solve a number of issues regarding public order and safety. In the area of good governance, Saba is aspiring a different division of tasks and the transfer of a number of tasks from the Dutch Government to the Public Entity Saba. Saba also wants to continue its already initiated efforts for an even more service-minded and stronger governmental organization and robust government finances.
Saba Commissioner of Social Housing Rolando Wilson, also part of the four-member delegation that visits The Hague this week, had some good news to share as well after a meeting that he had with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK. The rental subsidy agreement is being wrapped up. Under this agreement, Saba’s social housing foundation Own Your Own Home will receive a rental subsidy which enables the foundation to lower the rent of the social homes’ tenants.
A meeting with the Ministry of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports VWS yielded concrete results in terms of the commitment of this ministry to make structural finance available in 2019 for public health on Saba. The Social Support Law (“Wet Maatschappelijke Ondersteuning” WMO) will be implemented on Saba gradually. As part of this, the ministry will take over the funding from the Public Entity Saba to carry out the Meals on Wheels program for people in need. This will create room in Saba’s budget.
Commissioner Wilson was happy to receive at the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality LNV the Royal Decree with the formal decision to allot 1 million euros for the new agricultural and hydroponic farm that will be constructed at the Rendez-Vous near Windwardside. The land has just been purchased for this purpose. The 1 million euro funding comes from the Regional Envelop of the Dutch Government. On Friday, December 14, the Saba delegation will visit several agricultural and hydroponic farms in the Westland of the Netherlands.
Commissioner Zagers and advisor Piet Gerritsen on Thursday, December 13, had a meeting with the new Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber Jan Paternotte. A second meeting took place that same day with Member of the Second Chamber Joba van den Berg of the Christian Democratic Party CDA. On Tuesday, December 11, Zagers and Gerritsen met with Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the First Chamber Ruard Ganzevoort and Member of the First Chamber Meta Meijer of the Socialist Party (SP).
Zagers said that these meetings were all very positive. Topics that were discussed included the Saba Package, the eradication of poverty, the connectivity with St. Maarten, the high prices for electricity and telecommunication, the high cost of living on Saba, the free allowance, the division of tasks and the issue of structural subsidy versus incidental subsidy. “It was nice to touch base with them and to share views,” said Zagers. A delegation of the First and Second Chamber will visit Saba in January 2019.