No solution around the corner for Saba, Statia banking issues

There does not seem to be a quick solu­tion to the issue of banking services in St. Eustatius and Saba. The problems are being addressed in a Task Force and in the agree­ments that the Netherlands made with the public enti­ties St. Eustatius and Saba.

Dutch State Secretary for Kingdom Relations and Digitisation Alexandra van Huffelen recognised that there are problems for both residents and entre­preneurs in St. Eustatius and Saba where it concerns banking services, from making payments to getting loans and mortgages.

Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Par­liament Joba van den Berg and Inge van Dijk, both of the Christian Democratic Party CDA, on September 22, submitted a series of questions to seek clarity on especially the lacking bank­ing services in Saba and the effects thereof on residents, the business sector and the economy. After sending a note of delay to the Second Chamber late October, Van Huffelen, also on behalf of Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag, sent the response to the written questions to Parliament. She explained that to improve access to banking services and fi­nancing products, agree­ments were made between the public entities Saba and St. Eustatius and the in­volved Dutch ministries.

A Task Force was launched in The Hague on Septem­ber 14 in the presence of government representatives of Saba and St. Eusta­tius which will look into the bottlenecks that affect the two islands, including bank­ing services.

According to Van Huffel­en, this Task Force is work­ing on identifying and removing the bottlenecks of banking services and is also addressing the improv­ing of banking services in a broader sense.

The state secretary ex­plained that from Novem­ber 1-10, the Dutch Cen­tral Bank DNB visited the Caribbean Netherlands, as well as Curacao and St. Maarten, to talk with the public entities, banks, Chambers of Commerce and community organisa­tions about the bottlenecks in the banking services and to arrive at solutions.

The Work Group Pay­ment Traffic Caribbean Netherlands of the DNB has regular contact with the banking association and so­cial partners about banking transactions in the Carib­bean Netherlands, stated Van Huffelen.

The DNB also keeps finan­cial supervision on a num­ber of financial institutions in the Caribbean Nether­lands. The only legally es­tablished bank in the Ca­ribbean Netherlands, the Maduro & Curiel’s Bank (MCB), is under prudential supervision of the Dutch Central Bank.

The other banks that op­erate in the Caribbean Netherlands are not legally established there and have their capital elsewhere. As such, the DNB does not carry out prudential su­pervision on these banks. However, all banks doing business in the Caribbean Netherlands are under in­tegrity supervision of the DNB. The supervision of the DNB does not include the ATM machines.

Responding to questions of Members of Parliament (MPs) Van den Berg and Van Dijk about the fact that the public entity Saba pays for the ATM in The Bottom, the state secretary explained that this decision was taken when the Saba branch of the Windward Islands Bank (WIB) closed in 2017.

Due to the closure of this branch, only one ATM would remain in Saba. “In order to secure the physi­cal presence and the acces­sibility of ATMs in Saba, the public entity decided to maintain the ATM. The amount that Saba pays is related to the costs of the availability and the func­tioning of the ATM,” Van Huffelen stated.

The ATM in The Bottom is regularly supplied via a flight from St. Maarten to Saba. “The WIB at the time calculated that the costs of keeping the ATM open would be around US $100,000 on an annual ba­sis.”

The Daily Herald.

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