Saba five years later: better infra, but plenty of concernsPOSTED: 10/7/15 5:25 PM
THE BOTTOM – After five years as a Dutch public entity Saba sees progress, like the improvement of the infrastructure and the prospect of a water distribution network. Matters like pensions, cost of living and taxes remain a sore point, Hazel Durand reports on Caribisch Netwerk.
The Saba United People Labor Unions Association and the island government set up a committee in May to examine the new salary structure for civil servants that was introduced in October 2014. Civil servants are concerned about the influence of this structure on their productivity for the long and the short term.
According to union-director Ludwina Charles the island government has not reacted yet. The minimum wage in Saba is $5.09 per hour. Senior citizens are frustrated about their pensions because it is below the poverty line. “My pension is $800. How do I pay my bills with that?” says Thaddeus Durand who recently retired.
The Island Council brought up the double taxes Sabans pay in Saba and St. Maarten in July in the Netherlands. International law prohibits double taxation, so according to the island government it is up to the Finance Ministry to find a solution.
The Island Council proposes to the Netherlands to abolish the import tax in Saba until a solution has been reached with St. Maarten. Minister Ronald Plasterk (Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations) says however in a letter to the Second Chamber that “double taxation only exists when an entrepreneur or a private citizen from Statia or Saba buys other goods than the primary necessities of life from an entrepreneur in St. Maarten who does not claim the export exemption and insofar as the value exceeds the travelers exemption of $500. If the entrepreneur does not charge the exemption to the buyer, there is no double taxation,” Plasterk says, a solution from the Netherlands does not seem to be forthcoming.
The infrastructural improvements in Saba are evident. What stands out are the improvements of the roads, the construction of a new parking lot and beautification of Saba’s busiest village Windward side, the construction of a new electrical installation and a new recycling company and improvements at the airport, based on international regulations.
At the end of September, a budget has been approved for 2016 that is just $156,000 above the 2015 budget. According to the island government there will be more attention for cooperation with the Dutch government to execute the multi-annual Caribbean-Dutch program and development plan. A number of projects have already started in 2014 and will be ready between 2015 and 2019.
The largest project is the construction of a water distribution network. By the end of this year, or at the beginning of next year the construction begins from the port, Fort Bay, until the capital, The Bottom. The population finds the price of drinking water high; at the end of august the price went down by 2 cent per gallon. The island government introduces an emergency subsidy during the dry period and for low-income households there are special aid funds.
At the beginning of the new school year there was good news for the secondary school when all students from the final class of the Saba Comprehensive School passed their exams. The school was regularly at the center of controversy due to a shortage of teachers and problems within the school board. Education in Saba seems to be back on track now. That is important because by 2016 education in the BES-islands has to meet Dutch standards.