Henk Kamp congratulates Saba on progress during the past 2 years

Caretaker Minister of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW), Henk Kamp, in a meeting with the Executive Council of Saba on Monday May 7th congratulated the island government for what he noted is considerable progress in several areas during the past 2 years. The Minister is currently on a weeklong working visit to the islands of the Dutch Caribbean of which Saba is the first stop. On Sunday May 6th Kamp and his delegation were welcomed by Island Governor Jonathan Johnson upon their arrival on Saba.


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Immediately upon his arrival the Minister made several stops along the way to his hotel. These included a stop at the Cove Bay and the Under the Hill housing development project where 10 new low-income homes are being constructed. Later that same afternoon addition stops were made the Fort Bay Harbour where a first phase was completed in July 2011 and the land fill. On Monday May 7th, shortly before conferring with the Executive Council the minister received the grand tour of the recently renovated government administration building in The Bottom, of which he was greatly impressed.

The Executive Council of Saba in their frank and open discussions with Minister Kamp highlighted a number of areas they remain concerned about. These included the amount of the free allowance (Vrije Uitkering), the sum needed on an annual basis by the government to be able to execute its core tasks, the level of the old age pension and the onderstand and the "double taxation" caused by the general consumption tax (ABB). The Minister said that while he understands the concerns of the Saba government, he asked that the local authorities take a look at the total picture and the considerable investment the Dutch Government is making in the islands in many areas. He went on to state that it would be irresponsible for the Dutch Government to increase the level of the old age pension, the minimum wage and the welfare allowance (onderstand) to that of the European part of the Netherlands.

While Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire are an integral part of the Netherlands, the reality is that these islands are positioned in the Caribbean region. To make huge shifts in these areas would also have a negative impact with the result that an imbalance is created with serious economic consequences for both government and the private sector. The Minister promised to have other areas of concern worked out between island and the related ministries in The Hague with the Bureau of the Representative of the Dutch Central Government playing a coordinating role.

Two areas of major concern for Minister Kamp are related to the poverty in the Dutch Caribbean and afterschool care for the young children and the youth. The Minister explained that he recently commissioned a study about poverty in the Caribbean Netherlands which would be used as a basis going forward. "Owing to the fact that policy related to poverty lies with the local authorities I would like to see the island government take the lead in identifying what types of programmes can be introduced to help individuals who are not functioning within society and families at risk for which funding will be made available. They will be required to come with proposals for the development and implementation of various projects. I would like to see a hands on approach. I would further like to see these activities coordinated with the input of the islands", remarked Kamp

The Social Affairs and Employment Minister wanted to know what types of programmes are being put in place to help with afterschool school care of young children and the youth. The Executive Council explained that locally there are a number of organizations involved in afterschool care programmes and that government is trying to ensure there is coordination of all efforts for maximum results. The council further explained that government has provided a building and transportation for a private afterschool initiative recently started. Within short a sports coordinator will be introduced to help coordinate afterschool sport programmes and also to better supervise and coordinate the use at the Johan Cruyff Sport field which has multiple users.

Kamp also met with Chairman of the Central Committee, Island Council member Rolando Wilson, members of the Island Council, Island Secretary Menno van der Velde, the Police and Marechaussee. He further visited the Saba Comprehensive School, and the "Werkmeester" who functions as a supervisor for young people who have been in contact with the law and those who may be at risk thereof.

Kamp and delegation continues on to St. Eustatius on Tuesday May 8th and will depart for Bonaire on May 10th. He is scheduled to return to the Netherlands on May 12th.