Saba, St. Eustatius to put Region Deals to good use

Both Saba and St. Eustatius will be putting the substantial financial stimulus from the so-called Region Deals to good use. On Saba, the five million euros will be put towards a state-of-the-art auditorium in St. John’s. St. Eustatius will use the ten million euros to restore cultural heritage and boost tour­ism.

In total, 22 Dutch regions will receive funds to improve social security, quality of life and sense of community. The Netherlands has allocated a total of 384.6 mil­lion euros to this end.

Island Commissioners Bruce Zagers, Ruben Merkman and Arlene Spanner-Schmidt discussed their plans during an online King­dom Council of Ministers press conference with Caretaker State Secretary of Kingdom Relations Alexandra van Huffelen and the Caribbean media.

Van Huffelen spoke about the benefits of the Region Deals be­fore giving the floor to the island representatives. “This is some­thing I am very happy about be­cause lots of work has been done by both Saba and Statia, together with us at Kingdom Relations in order to make sure that we could give subsidies to very important projects. I believe it’s happy tidings,” she said.

Saba Island Commissioner Zagers explained that Saba has been working on an en­tire school master plan that will create a campus feeling around the school buildings in the village of St. Johns. This plan will be executed in various phases: a new gym and technical class­rooms are expected in 2025 and new classrooms for both the primary and sec­ondary school will be built shortly after.

Part of this master plan is a state-of-the-art audito­rium, which is the primary investment of the financial stimulus.

“On Saba, we lack a dedi­cated location that can be used to enhance culture — a location for assemblies, lec­tures, award ceremonies, theatre performances and so forth,” Zagers said.

“We not only see this as an opportunity to bring cohe­sion between primary and secondary school because of the shared facilities that this centre will offer, but more importantly, this cre­ates a meaningful invest­ment for the community of St. John’s and will bring people together on the rest of the island.”

“The project is not just about another building that will be used as part of the school, we see this as an am­bitious initiative that aims to increase the well-being of Sabans as a whole with a project focused on edu­cation, development op­portunities, inspiring public spaces, social cohesion and cultural development. It’s also about rejuvenating the village of St. John’s by cre­ating an atmosphere that residents will be proud of,” Zagers concluded.

St. Eustatius Island Commissioners Spanner-Schmidt and Merkman also outlined the projects they plan to use their first-ever Region Deal for. Although St. Eustatius did not receive the full amount requested—approximately 80% — Span­ner-Schmidt said it is still “a huge amount and we’re thankful for that.”

“It is a remarkable achieve­ment for Statia as the deal concentrates on natural and cultural heritage and health, a recognition of the importance of the island’s culture and community,” said Merkman.

“The goal of the Region Deal is to strengthen Sta­tia’s socio-economic posi­tion while simultaneously using the extra attention that the island will receive for Statia Day 2026 as a cat­alyst and a benchmark for investments on the island in the areas of heritage, culture, health, nature and tourism,” he added.

One of those investments is the restoration of the bo­tanical gardens by enhanc­ing the landscape and the architecture and creating picnic spots. The island will also focus on restoring the Madam Theatre and other important locations as part of the commemoration of slavery past.

Merkman said that con­crete efforts are being made to catalogue, con­serve and restore historical objects linked to transat­lantic slavery. This project includes the possible estab­lishment of a research cen­tre, where multiple knowl­edge institutions that focus on the history of slavery can collaborate; and the erec­tion of a commemorative monument.

Statia will also use the money to boost tourism and marketing. “By invest­ing these funds in this sec­tor and enhancing our tour­ism product. This will help us to beautify the diversity of our destination, as well as attract more visitors and generate more revenue for our local economy,” said Spanner-Schmidt.

“The Region Deal is ex­pected to encourage poten­tial external financiers to participate in the long-term socio-economic develop­ment of the island. This in turn is expected to boost the island by improving health and social cohesion among the people,” said Merkman.

“The success of these ef­forts will lead to greater prosperity for Statians as it will offer unique cultural and natural experiences for visitors that come to our is­land,” he concluded.

According to Van Huffel­en, the next step is making the plans more concrete. Of course, her ministry will help, she said. Additionally, the state secretary hopes that more foundations will want to provide extra finan­cial support. She expects the projects to be signed by the summer, after which the money will be wired and the projects can be realised.

The Daily Herald.

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One comment

  1. The plan to use the funds for creating a dedi­cated location that can be used to enhance culture — a location for assemblies, lec­tures, award ceremonies, theatre performances and so forth, is precisely what the funds are meant for.

    But targeting St. Johns as the suitable location for such a place may not be such a great idea. There is only limited space and certainly not for visiting cars from Windwardside and The Bottom that need parking space. But it makes sense to concentrate on developing the educational activities there.

    Windwardside has its Eugenius Center for social activities. The Bottom does not have anything comparable. Parking possibilities are much more generous and it still has many options for the community to grow.

    I wonder what the views of the Island Council are on the proposal of the Executive Council.

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