WEDNESDAY, 06 MARCH 2013
THE HAGUE–The Parliaments of the Dutch Kingdom will request their governments to look into introducing one identification ID card for all six Dutch Caribbean islands, setting up a separate line for Kingdom residents at the airports and facilitating a freer movement of fishermen between the islands.
The Parliaments of The Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten discussed the movement of persons and goods in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom during the Inter-Parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom IPOK on Tuesday afternoon.
Member of St. Maarten’s Parliament Patrick Illidge (independent) gave a short presentation of the findings of the work group that looked at this issue during the previous IPOK meeting in St. Maarten in January, 2012. The work group called on the governments in the Kingdom to jointly look into possibilities to take away restrictions of the movement of persons and goods.
The discussion on Tuesday focused on the ID card, the free movement of persons among the Dutch Caribbean islands, the immigration cards that have to be filled in when travelling between the islands, the immigration lines at the airports, the bureaucratic regulations that fishermen face when they want to fish at a neighbouring island and the taxation of goods that are imported into St. Eustatius and Saba. These points will be included in the list of agreements that the parliaments will sign at the end of IPOK on Friday.
Member of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Frank van Kappen of the liberal democratic VVD party suggested introducing one identical ID card which makes it possible to freely travel between the six islands. The ID card would be for all residents, including those that do not have a Dutch passport. A passport remains necessary to travel to The Netherlands. “I think that free movement of persons between the islands can serve as an important contribution to the economies,” said Van Kappen.
Travelling between the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles with an ID card was possible until a few years ago. Aruba forms an exception and has stricter regulations which require a passport.
All delegations supported the introduction of one ID card. Independent Member of Aruba’s Parliament Booshi Wever warned that people whose residency permit has expired could still travel with their ID card. Patrick Illidge said that this problem could easily be solved by putting a chip in the ID card so authorities can check the person’s legal status.
The parliaments agreed to ask their governments to reduce the administrative handlings in travelling between the islands. This included the immigration cards that have to be filled out and a separate immigration line for residents of the Dutch Kingdom at the islands’ airports, which would reduce the waiting time.
The Curaçao delegation brought up the issue of restrictions on the free movement of fishermen between the islands. Fishermen have to clear immigration for both themselves and their vessels before they can fish at a neighbouring island. Member of Curaçao’s Parliament Helmin Wiels (PS) pointed out that an age-old tradition has been broken by bureaucratic regulations with a result that fishermen cannot assist each other anymore with a big catch.
The delegations agreed that they would ask their governments to come up with a solution for the fishermen. President of St. Maarten’s Parliament Rodolphe Samuel urged to include the Windward Islands in this solution.
The issue of taxes on goods that are imported into St. Eustatius and Saba via St. Maarten was discussed on the request of the Dutch delegation. According to The Netherlands, St. Maarten should eliminate the levying of Turn-over Tax (ToT) on these goods since it leads to double taxation for the people of St. Eustatius and Saba as a general sales tax ABB is also levied on goods entering the two islands.
Patrick Illidge explained that no taxes were levied on goods that were shipped via St. Maarten’s harbour, but only if a resident from St. Eustatius or Saba bought products that were in the stores in St. Maarten. “When you buy something in Front Street they pay ToT, just like every other visitor,” he said.
Member of the Second Chamber André Bosman (VVD) said the levying of taxes in St. Maarten on goods for St. Eustatius and Saba was a point of concern. Rodolphe Samuel remarked that it was not a matter of double taxation. He explained that the ToT was included in the price of products and that this tax was not specified on the receipt.
Samuel said that the ABB in St. Eustatius and Saba was not introduced by St. Maarten. He noted that a small technical committee was being established to look into this matter and that St. Maarten preferred to let this committee handle this issue.