Standing Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber visited Saba

On May 5th, the Standing Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Tweede Kamer (Second Chamber) arrived on Saba. The delegation consisted of Wieke Paulusma (Acting Chair of the Committee; D66), Peter van Haasen (PVV), Raoul White (GL-PvDA), Ingrid Michon-Derkzen (VVD), Faith Bruyning (NSC) and Eva Meijers.

The purpose of the visit was to gain comprehensive insights into the island’s progress across key sectors, including economic development, healthcare, education, and the environment. An in-depth presentation by various departments was given on May 6th, in order to share updates and challenges faced on these important topics. The presentation was also attended by Island Governor Jonathon Johnson, Island Secretary Bram Streppel, Commissioner Bruce Zagers, Commissioner Eviton Heyliger and Island Council Members. The event was moderated by Jordan Every.

Economic Affairs

Mrs. Courtney Hassell, Policy Advisor, presented on a range of matters in the sphere of economics. Highlighting research done by CBS that declared Saba as the most expensive BES island, Hassell shared the need for various programs and subsidies to reduce the cost of living and for more research into what drives the high costs on Saba. The latter is especially important so that decisions on how to reduce the cost of living are based on factual information and concrete research. Promoting self-sufficiency and less reliance on imports, through the existence of the hydroponics farm, backyard farming initiatives and various subsidies, remains important in reducing the cost of living. Hassell also mentioned the problems associated with banking (such as one physical bank on island, only 2 ATMs and high interest rates). More accurate data, and less bureaucracy, were also discussed as an economic development plan would be necessary in order for Saba to have a more well-defined vision for the years to come.


Lack of data was also a concern for Head of Tourism, Malinda Hassell, as she described the challenges in assessing up-to-date visitor data as maritime statistics (e.g. for ferries and yachts) have not been included in past data collection reports by CBS and therefore have not shown an accurate overall picture of Saba’s Tourism statistics. CBS however has informed that this is currently being collected and will be reflected in the future. As part of the Tourism Master Plan, there is an implementation strategy per year, which is suggested with priority areas, with the goal of increasing Tourism’s current contribution to the economy from 24% to 35% by 2028 and monetizing from the areas that are being underleveraged. Collaboration among partners, stakeholders, and other regional tourism boards also remains important.

As part of Saba’s tourism development, there will also be the addition of 30 rooms added to the room inventory in 2025, with the renovation of Scout’s Place which will also include additional facilities. Supporting nature as a pillar of Saba’s tourism, reforestation efforts are ongoing and discussions on a revised nature fee are also taking place. Other points highlighted were the challenges the island faces that affects tourism development, such as connectivity and cost of travel, climate change and weather impacts, banking (cash base), cost of doing business, and financial resources to effectively promote the island. Overall, Hassell stated that the department strives for a more strategic, sustainable, and community-oriented approach to tourism development.


Head of Finance, Maureen Hassell-Vander Kaap expressed her gratitude on behalf of the Public Entity Saba to the European Netherlands for the recent increase to the free allowance. While this increase allowance will have its benefits such as salary harmonization with RCN, allowing for increases in the social minimum, future wage indexation according to the GDP system, and assisting in island tasks and maintenance based on the Ideeversa research of costs prior to 2022, Hassell-Vander Kaap, shared that there is still inadequate funding to meet the current needs of the island and to fully execute all island tasks structurally. Gaps exist for costs that are currently covered via incidental funding or not covered at all. Some examples are staffing, training and development, maintenance, digitalization, and various large-scale projects that currently have insufficient budgets, all of which affect long-term financial security and the growth of PES. Continued cooperation is needed, along with positive discussions to secure additional funding for the continuity of new initiatives not considered in the increase of the free allowance. This will empower Saba to carry out island tasks adequately, structurally, and as independently as possible, and work towards the aim of having a financially robust administration.


Justin Simmons-de Jong, project manager for the Policy and Project Bureau, shared the ambition of the PES to develop a climate plan for Saba to better prepare it for the impacts of climate change. This plan will be developed based on the climate agenda for all 6 Dutch Caribbean islands, which was developed earlier this year together with the Ministries of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Kingdom Relations, the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom relations and representatives of the respective island governments. The agenda lays out various priorities that will help accelerate the transition to a resilient and sustainable future for these islands, including Saba. The climate agenda was formalized last month during the Vierlandenoverleg.

Despite the islands of the Dutch Caribbean contributing very little to climate change, they will be impacted significantly by it. According to the climate scenarios of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), Saba and its residents will experience in the future an increase in regular wind speeds, an increase in temperature with higher possibility of heatwaves, longer droughts, more intense and shorter periods of rainfall, rising sea level, and stronger and wetter hurricanes. Simmons-de Jong also talked about the steps already taken by the Public Entity and other organizations on the island to help improve Saba’s self-sufficiency, which has inadvertently helped to already prepare Saba for the impacts of climate change. These include the building of greywater cisterns, a Reverse Osmosis (RO) water plant with a grid and two filling stations, Saba Splash drinking water, a reforestation project, erosion control, and a hydroponics project to improve food security. The Nature and Environment Policy Plan, which focuses on the protection of the natural environment, will also work in tandem with the climate plan for Saba. Additional issues raised were the need for connection with regional and international networks to share knowledge and assistance on accessing specific climate funding.

Infrastructure & Spatial Planning

Zelda Meeuwsen, Head of Infrastructure & Spatial Planning, explained the need for a new, upgraded, hurricane-proof harbor and the decision for its location at Black Rocks. The goal will be to have upwards of thirty boats able to dock, including the local fleet of fishing, diving, and recreational vessels, the ferries, and visiting yachts. Challenges for the construction of the harbor include the remote location, the lack of locally available heavy equipment and materials, and the weather and sea conditions. While cost estimates indicate that additional funding may be needed, the exact budget deficit will only be clear after the tender submission date of May 20th. Concerns surrounding the safety of Fort Bay Road and falling rocks were also addressed, as Meeuwsen shared ideas for both the short-term repairs and long-term measures and explained the complexity of the problem using drone footage.

Healthcare and Sports

Head of Public Health and Sports, Menno Bakker, shared information on communicable and non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes and hypertension), lowering alcohol consumption and substance abuse, and issues surrounding cigarette smoking, especially in public places. Programs focusing on education and movement are offered for a range of age groups, starting in daycare, with biannual assessments in schools to examine the mobility and health of students, and free adult fitness classes being offered throughout the week. Various campaigns are also in progress such as Fight the Bite, focused on quelling the spread of Dengue. In addition, Bakker discussed youth healthcare, vaccine-preventable diseases the high uptake of these vaccines on Saba, and the rising cost of healthy food in the grocery and its impacts on the community.


The master plans for the new school housing were presented by Rosalyn Johnson, Head of Community Development and Culture, showing the proposed centralized site for a technical school and enrichment center amongst other buildings, which is currently in the design phase. Upgrades to the Sacred Heart School were also made last year with an additional floor, allowing housing for the kindergarten students downstairs and Grade 6 students upstairs. The Bes(t) 4 Kids (B4K) program was also praised as monumental steps have been taken in childcare, with 90% of staff having received training up to MBO Level 3, as well as the continued strengthening of management and administration. Education and care provided to students with special needs through Expertise Center Education Care (EC2) were also discussed.

Local Ventures and Future Developments

During the afternoon, the delegation visited Saba Greens, a store that was recently opened by Saba Reach Foundation, where local vegetables and handcrafted items are sold, and the Hydroponics Farm. A visit to the site of the new harbor and the proposed site of the new solar park was also undertaken, guided by Zelda Meeuwsen and Courtney Hassell. The delegation gave a special thanks to civil servants for their presentations and for the progress made. The delegation left on May 6th and will travel to Sint Eustatius and St. Maarten for the rest of their working visit.


Special social relief for unexpected large expenses
Police report of Friday, May 3 rd until Monday, May 6

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