SABA:--- The Executive Council looks back at a good working visit to the Netherlands. From May 22 to June 1, Commissioners Bruce Zagers and Eviton Heyliger visited a number of ministries and entities and spoke with several members of the Second Chamber and members of the Dutch Government about Saba’s challenges, needs, and its development.
Plans were presented and discussed to build a new high school campus which includes, academic classrooms, technical classrooms, a new gym, and an auditorium. Also plans to construct the Giles Quarter Road by-pass road connecting the new harbor area to the existing Giles Quarter Road and plans to expand the Government Administration Building. Also discussed were ongoing projects like the Black Rocks Harbor, the Kadaster and land registry, and investments in water management and sustainable energy amongst others.
Multiple meetings took place with several ministries about the Black Rocks Harbor Project, a very large and vital project for Saba. Pending the issuing of a necessary permit, approval was given to go to tender. “Receiving permission to start tendering is an important milestone for this much-anticipated project. However, there is still some attention that is needed to attain the required permit which is a requirement. Collectively, with the relevant ministries and Rijkswaterstaat, we are busy finalizing this process,” stated Commissioner Zagers. All tender documents have been prepared by engineering consultancy Witteveen en Bos.
Matters that consistently have the attention of the Saba government were discussed as well, including the Saba Package, connectivity and airlift, social housing, healthcare and medical referrals, agriculture and self-reliance, telecommunications, the cost of living and doing business, banking, poverty alleviation, education, sports, and culture.
Saba’s challenges with capacity building were brought up in almost every meeting. Capacity is an issue at almost every level on the island and structural solutions are needed. The Netherlands has expressed willingness to support Saba in addressing this.
General developments on Saba and the challenges that the island and its people face were discussed in the meetings with Members of the Second Chamber Joba van den Berg of the CDA party, Jorien Wuite of the D66 party, and Attje Kuiken of the PvdA party, who was joined by PvdA Senator Jeroen Recourt. A meeting also took place with State Secretary for Kingdom Relations and Digitization Alexandra van Huffelen to discuss current developments, work that is being done to deal with the challenges, and the issue of capacity building. With Minister for Poverty Policy, Participation, and Pensions Carola Schouten, Commissioners Zagers and Heyliger talked about poverty alleviation initiatives.
For Commissioner Heyliger, this was his first official work visit to the Netherlands since his appointment. He said he was able to meet with the ministries that fall under his portfolios, namely the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW), the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (SZW), the Department of Social Housing and Spatial Planning within the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations (BZK), the Ministry of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sport (VWS) and the Kadaster.
Heyliger found the working visit very useful. “I was impressed by the reception that we received as a delegation and by the offer that assistance will be given when needed upon request. I look forward to having a good working relationship with the ministries and the civil servants that will be working with me as commissioner for the general population of Saba,” he said.
The meetings in The Hague are important for Saba. They serve to discuss vital issues for the Saba people, to get support for projects, and to strengthen the relations with the ministries and various entities in the Netherlands.
Good working relationship
“It is important to maintain a good working relationship with the various ministries. Having close communication and being able to openly express initiatives and challenges are far more efficient when being done in person rather than through a computer screen. Each visit is different and as such the outcomes are also different. This visit was more of an introduction for our new Commissioner, but also to create the opportunity to outline the various developments, initiatives, and ongoing challenges for the coming period,” said Zagers.
Island Governor Jonathan Johnson joined the program in the first week since he had to return to Saba on time for the elections of the Electoral College on May 30. Apart from the Commissioners and Island Governor, the delegation that visited the Netherlands from May 22 to June 1 consisted of Head of Finance Maureen Hassell-van der Kaap, Senior Policy Advisor Nicole Johnson, Head of the Planning Bureau Zoubeir Elatmani, Program Manager Nature and Environment Policy Plan Sarah van der Horn and Project Manager of Black Rocks Harbor Project Mario Prak. The delegation attended the meetings in various compositions, depending on the type and subject of the meetings.