CDA wants clarity on poor banking services in Saba

Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament of the Christian Democratic Party CDA Joba van den Berg and Inge van Dijk are seeking answers from Dutch government about the deficient banking ser­vice for Saba consumers.

The Members of Par­liament (MPs) this week submitted 13 written ques­tions to State Secretary of Kingdom Relations and Digitisation Alexandra van Huffelen and Minister of Finance Sigrid Kaag about the Saba banking situation, an issue that residents and the local government have been complaining about for a long time.

Van den Berg and Van Dijk enquired not only about the lacking banking services for residents, but also about the high banking costs for entrepreneurs, the fact that Sabans can barely secure a mortgage to buy a house and the absence of a mortgage guarantee.

“We understand that en­trepreneurs have to pay the bank about 6% of the amount when clients pay with their bank card. Is that correct? Can you indicate why you find that reason­able? What do you think about entrepreneurs having to pay the bank if they want to deposit cash?”

The MPs wanted to know why the Dutch system was not possible, whereby cus­tomers pay with their bank card at businesses and can get some additional cash. “What costs are involved for businesses in the Neth­erlands?”

They pointed out that the public entity Saba has to pay Windward Islands Bank US $100,000 per year for the ATM in The Bot­tom. “Is that a reasonable amount?” The MPs wanted to know whether the ATM machines and the bank branches in the Caribbean Netherlands resorted un­der the supervision of the Dutch Central Bank.

About the accessibility, or rather the lack of it, of mortgages, the MPs asked: ‘Are you aware that Saba residents have very limited access to an (affordable) mortgage? If so, what are you going to do so people in Saba can secure a mort­gage at an acceptable inter­est rate?”

The mortgage guarantee cannot be attained in Saba. ‘Are you aware that the mortgage guarantee avail­able in Bonaire, and shortly also in St. Eustatius, is not available in Saba because the only bank in the Carib­bean Netherlands that of­fers this, the MCB Bank, does not have a branch in Saba? If so, what can be done so people in Saba can also get a mortgage guaran­tee?”

The MPs asked if the re­ports were true that the Postal Savings Bank (Post Spaar Bank (PSB)) from St. Maarten was no longer allowed to offer mortgages in Saba. “If so, what is the reason?” A number of Sa­bans were able to get a mortgage at the PSB in the past, but at this time no new mortgages may be offered.

More in general for all three Caribbean Nether­lands, Van den Berg and Van Dijk wanted to know why it was not possible for residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to open an account at a Dutch bank like ING, ABN AMRO or RABO. “They are Dutch residents, are they not?” They pointed out that the mission of the Dutch Cen­tral Bank specifically men­tioned easy and safe money transfers. “Does that also count for the Caribbean Netherlands?”

The MPs further asked the state secretary and the minister whether they had taken note of the Septem­ber 2021 motion of Saba’s Island Council about the deficient banking services and the urgent letter of the Saba Business Association to the Central Bank of Cu­racao and St. Maarten to address the matter.

The Daily Herald.

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