Dutch parliamentarians get direct feedback from Sabans

cynthia+ortega+tweede+kamer-610donderdag 19 januari 2012 16:07

Most members of the delegation of the First and Second Chamber of Dutch Parliament were pleased with the direct feedback received from Saba residents during their visit.

It was the first visit to Saba for Party for Freedom PVV Senator Peter van Dijk. He said Saba was “a very beautiful island, with everything well-kept. It is a big difference compared with the other islands. Everything is well-painted with nice gardens. Must be that people take pride in this.

“It is very important to speak with the people and this is what we were here for, not just to speak with the governor or commissioners, which was interesting, but not our main goal. For me and my party the most important issue is to get direct feedback from the people.”

Also for the first time in Saba, Socialist Party Member of Parliament (MP) Ronald van Raak confessed of having learned a lot. “It is important to understand we can’t do it here the Dutch way, the civil servant way or having one set of rules and hoping that problems are solved…Flexibility is very important to see why so many things go wrong here with healthcare, taxes and education. When we speak with the minister we have to make it clear that when we govern these islands we need a different mentality to do so.”

Asked about how his perception changed following his visit, he explained that it is one thing to see figures on paper and read assessments but after visiting he now has “a feeling of the islands, each so different from Holland. When we try to govern from The Hague with the same views held in The Netherlands we make big mistakes that cost a lot of money spent on a lot of civil servants that do not solve the problems of the people. There are much cheaper, more effective means to support the people.” In regard to the tax structure Van Raak said, “We have taxes to be able to serve the people but if it costs several times over to collect them we need to make other kinds of arrangements.”

Van Raak deemed the levying of turnover tax by St. Maarten on goods destined for Saba to be illegal. “St. Maarten cannot do that. We will go into the inter-parliamentary conference to discuss why they have this tax, which is not in the agreement.”

Christian Democrat CDA Senator Sophie van Bijsterveld said the transition process is complex and prone to obstacles. “We are here to get a feel of these obstacles and to see what we can do as MPs to improve things.

ChristenUnie MP Cynthia Ortega-Martijn had also visited the island last year. “I see improvements here in the hospital, compared with five months ago. I found high prices, mostly for basic goods like bread and milk [in the supermarket] and we have to do something about that. We have to do something about the tax system. During the last debate I had with State Secretary Frans Weekers, he came with some adjustments but those are not enough. Inflation correction is not enough. Still, the pensions are too low for the cost of living on the island.”

I am glad there are visible improvements within these five months but I hope there will be more fundamental changes because we have to see if this is a sustainable tax system for this island.”

Overgenomen met toestemming van The Daily Herald

Cynthia Ortega
Tweede Kamer

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