THE BOTTOM- The Saba Business Association is strongly against the fare hike for the Chamber of Commerce (CoC) fares recently announced. This is stated in a press release sent out by SBA on Friday evening.
SBA refers to the fact that on December 22, 2021, a fee increase was announced by the Chamber of Commerce, to be implemented on January 1, 2022. “The SBA has taken note of this announcement and the backlash that ensued regarding the increase of fees. Letting businesses know 1 week in advance, during the Christmas Holidays that the fees will be increased, is unacceptable in itself”.
SBA also points out that a 200 – 400 % rate increase is substantial and questionable. “Especially since it comes at a time when the economies are in a recovering phase, as the financial loss suffered because of the pandemic still weighs heavily on the shoulders of many entrepreneurs”.
The release, sent out by SBA president Alida Heilbron, furthermore points to the fact that according to information made public, these fees were implemented by the Ministry of Economic Affairs in The Netherlands. “Curiously, the same Ministry that is subsidizing the Chambers of Commerce in The Netherlands. Supposedly, this law was prepared after internet consultations with stakeholders. Who were the stakeholders? It could not have been any institution, political or private, on the islands, as we all are in the same boat – the boat that we are trying hard to keep afloat in spite of the financial challenges we have been facing. And on Saba and Statia we have been facing these challenges since the passing of hurricanes Irma and Maria!”, according to the statement.
According to SBA, the Statia Saba Chamber of Commerce has announced that they advised against the increase, but that advice that obviously fell on deaf ears.
“There are so many questions surrounding this hike in fees, especially since we know that the annual fees have been abolished in the Netherlands years ago and registering your business there will cost you a mere 51 Euro’s – a one-time fee! Then also take into consideration that the cost of living on the islands is higher than it is in The Netherlands. And it needs to be mentioned that the fees implemented for the BES islands are now the highest on the islands that make up the former Netherlands Antilles”.
The SBA says they seriously question what the increase is based on. “The website of the Chamber of Commerce is outdated, the latest information is from 2016! The office of the Chamber is often closed on Saba, there are no activities organized for businesses by the Chamber on the islands of Saba and Statia. Basically, the Statia Saba Chamber only takes care of the registry! Obviously, no funds are spent for any activities that Chambers of Commerce organize elsewhere. The question then remains: what does the CoC spend its current income on? And on what will it spend the huge increase in income resulting from these inflated fees?”
SBA concludes that they are hopeful that the Chamber is addressing this issue directly to the Ministry as was promised by board member of the CoC and Island Council Member Mr. Hemmie van Xanten, as the SBA vehemently opposes this unsubstantiated hike in fees.