SABA/THE HAGUE:--- The Saba delegation on Friday, September 16 concluded a successful working visit to the Netherlands with the securing of various commitments that will benefit Saba’s community.
The delegation had meetings at ministries, and with dignitaries and government organizations. A highlight was the establishing of the Task Force that will look at solutions for long-time issues such as banking, connectivity, real estate, and notary services among other things. Commissioner Zagers signed the Task Force document on behalf of the Public Entity Saba. Other signatories were State Secretary of Kingdom Relations and Digitization Alexandra van Huffelen and St. Eustatius Deputy Government Commissioner Claudia Toet.
Saba Package and WolBES, FinBES
During a meeting with State Secretary Van Huffelen, the delegation discussed the evaluation and upcoming changes of the WolBES and FinBES laws which focus on different levels of financial supervision, the function of the Kingdom Representative of the National Government Department for the Caribbean Netherlands RCN, and the future increase of the size of the Island Councils and Executive Councils. A working group will be visiting Saba in October for talks with the Island Council and Executive Council on this future increase.
Also discussed with Van Huffelen was the Saba Package with a focus on digital infrastructure, digitization in government, digital services for the public, and the economic side of digitization. Human capacity was another issue that was discussed as it requires continuous attention to the limitations of a small island. This matter was also discussed with the Association of Dutch Municipalities VNG. Together with the VNG, the Public Entity Saba will look into temporary, short-term assistance until the positions are permanently filled. The Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations (BZK) will support the Public Entity Saba financially with these initiatives.
Next year’s evaluation of the free allowance was discussed in a meeting with representatives of the Ministry of BZK. As of next year, the system of the free allowance will be evaluated every year, in consultation with the islands. The free allowance for Saba will be increased gradually in the coming years as part of the Saba Package 2.0.
The possibility to allocate funding from the Regio Deals of the Dutch Government for Saba’s overall development was also discussed with the Ministry of BZK, as well as the so-called reference points under which the ministries create visions and ambitions for various policy domains that affect the islands.
Investments in poverty eradication, the social domain, public health, healthy lifestyle, and sports projects on Saba were discussed with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (SZW) and the Ministry of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sport (VWS).
The Saba delegation met with representatives of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW) to talk about important future investments that are needed for Saba’s water infrastructure. On the table are Saba’s ambitions are to extend the water pipeline to the new harbor location, increase the capacity on the existing pipeline from Fort Bay up to The Bottom and Windwardside in order to pump up more water faster, to improve the intake for the Reverse Osmosis water plants and to secure more water storage capacity.
The delegation also met with representatives of the Ministry of Economic Affairs as well as the Minister of Climate Rob Jetten. Issues such as telecom, sustainability, and tourism were discussed. Future investments into renewable energy on Saba were the main topic of a meeting with the Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Rob Jetten. These investments are important not only from a point of sustainability but also to make Saba less dependent on fossil fuel, which currently greatly impacts the price of electricity.
According to Commissioner Zagers, the timing of the visit to the Netherlands for strategic discussions was opportune as it was just before Budget Day on the third Tuesday of September, the end of the year memorandum (“Najaarsnota”), and several crucial debates in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament next month. Commissioner Zagers had individual meetings with Members of the Second Chamber Joba van den Berg and Jorien Wuite.
The Saba delegation traveled back to Saba on Sunday, September 18. The delegation consisted of Commissioner Zagers, Island Secretary Tim Muller, Senior Policy Advisor Nicole Johnson, Head of the Public Health Department Jane O’Flynn, and Senior Social Worker of the Community Development Department Lucrecia Paulina.