Oranjestad/The Bottom- Entrepreneurs in Saba and Statia are feeling the full brunt of the COVID-19 crisis and, in some cases, fear for the very survival of their businesses.
A group of entrepreneurs from both islands have come together to compile a letter for Statia’s Government Commissioner Marnix van Rij and Island Governor of Saba, Jonathan Johnson.
The entrepreneurs point out a number of issues which -even under more normal conditions- puts them on a disadvantage to their European counter parts, such as more expensive financing, lack of connectivity and certain limitations in local labor laws. The group also feels that the situation of entrepreneurs in St. Eustatius and Saba cannot be compared to Bonaire, which has an economy of a scale which cannot be compared to the ones of the 2 smaller islands.
While the entrepreneurs state in their letter they are grateful for the economic support provided so far, it is simply not enough to keep their businesses going without tourists coming to the island. They therefor call out on local governments to provide additional support to businesses, or to discuss more support with their Dutch counter parts and Dutch ministries.
“Currently, several companies that are directly or indirectly dependent on the connectivity of the islands of Saba and St. Eustatius face major financial challenges and are rapidly heading for bankruptcy”, according to their entrepreneurs in their letter.
The business owners point to the fact that after hurricanes Irma and Maria an economic support package was put in place, specifically for Saba and St. Eustatius. Under this package business owners were able to claim part of the annual turnover as a contribution to loss of turnover. An amount of about 2.4 million US dollars was involved with said fund.
“Such an amount has meant that -to our knowledge- no business or job has been lost due to the effects of Hurricanes Irma and Marie. With this letter we ask you for a comparable additional package of financial aid, taking into account the current aid packages that entrepreneurs on St. Eustatius and Saba can already qualify for”, according to the letter to Van Rij and Johnson.