ORANJESTAD- The Central Dialogue on St. Eustatius (CDS), in which Government and social partners on the island are represented, warns against what it calls ‘counter-productive policies’ on a Federal Government Level.
According to CDS, the policies in question, when combined with the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, will undoubtedly result in further economic stress for citizens instead of poverty alleviation and improvements in standard of living.
CDS points to the fact that the global pandemic has had devastating effects on the economic gains of the past years and as shown in the latest economic statistics published by CBS, has resulted in major economic downturn for the already fragile island economies.
“It is from this backdrop that CDS expresses its concern regarding the latest policy positions as established on Federal Government level which, in addition to the economic downturn as a result of the global pandemic, will undoubtedly result in further economic stresses for the most vulnerable Islands”, according to an official statement from the Dialogue.
CDS, among others, points to the lowering of the tax ceiling which recently went into effect to the surprise of all stakeholders on the Island, combined with the ending of subsidy for internet services, 300 % plus increase in cost of annual registration at the Chamber of Commerce
St. Eustatius and Saba for all businesses and NGOs, and the increases of cost of electricity and water as of January 1st, 2022, all contribute to result in a reduction in spending power amongst consumers with the resulting overall negative economic consequences.
CDS states that, when looking at all these measures, they are concerned that the federal government may not be acting in unison in its approach toward the achieving of poverty alleviation and improvement of the standard of living of its citizens in the islands through the stimulation of sustainable economic development.
“The Island economies are at a critical crossroad. As we attempt to rebuild our economy in the face of the new realities and uncertainties of an ongoing pandemic careful consideration must be given to the enactment of legislation and policies with social economic impact on the island”, writes CDS.
In this regard, the CDS has recommended in a recent letter to Mrs. Alexandra van Huffelen, State Secretary of Kingdom Affairs, that an inventory be done of already enacted and planned policies so that a study can project the potential impact of these policy decisions on the island economy.
This, according to the Dialogue, would allow counter measures to be adapted where possible to mitigate negative social economic impact. The CDS has also recommended that the Ministry of Internal Affairs appeals to the parliament to put on hold the implementation of further legislation or polices with potential negative economic impact on the island until the aforementioned inventory is complete.
The CDS further recommends the revival of consultation protocols/legislation, which ensure that stakeholders on the Islands are consulted in a timely manner on amendments to policy and legislation with consequences for the Island.
The CDS remarks that they recognize that the Ministry of Internal affairs is not exclusively responsible for maintaining the lines of communication between the Island and various federal government agencies. “However, considering the unique position and relationship of the State Secretary of Kingdom Affairs with the Islands, the CDS appeals to Mrs. Alexandra van Huffelen to actively coordinate and/or facilitate these efforts where possible, in her capacity of State Secretary of Kingdom Affairs”
CDS closes in stating that the creation of sustainable economic development is the collective responsibility of all stakeholders. “The CDS looks forward to being a partner in this effort and hereby reconfirms its commitment and support”, according to the letter signed by the chairperson of Central Dialogue on St. Eustatius, Jamilla-Bennett-Lijfrock.