KRALENDIJK – There is Little concrete hope for cheaper airfares for residents of the three islands of the Caribbean Netherlands to one of the neighbouring islands.
This was revealed in responses from the Minister of Poverty Reduction, Poverty Policy, Participation, and Pensions, Carola Schouten, and State Secretary Van Huffelen of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, during a press conference on Friday afternoon.
The Cabinet has stated that, in addition to significant increases in the Statutory Minimum Wage (SMW) and benefits, it is also working to lower costs for citizens. In this context, a budget is also being made available for the establishment of a Public Transport System on Bonaire.
“We know that the prices of airline tickets for traveling to neighboring islands are a concern for many residents,” said Schouten. However, neither Schouten nor Van Huffelen could report anything concrete about efforts to actually achieve lower airfare prices.
Hundreds of dollars
Residents of Bonaire must pay over $200 for a round-trip flight to nearby Curaçao. For residents of St. Eustatius and Saba, the cost is over $300 for a round trip to the 15-minute-distant St. Maarten, a figure that is over 50% higher. For nearly two years, residents of St. Eustatius and Saba have been able to use a ferry service between the Windward Islands and nearby St. Kitts. Although relatively many people on the two smallest BES islands use the Makana ferry, it remains to be seen how the occupancy rate will be affected when the subsidy, which was promised for the first two years, expires.
A report from the Hartman Commission, led by former KLM CEO Peter Hartman, a few years ago recommended subsidizing a limited number of airline tickets per year for island residents of the islands. However, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management has never seriously addressed the issue or the commission’s recommendations.