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Dutch government representative Stolte supports infrastructure investments in BES-islands

SATURDAY, 11 JANUARY 2014

THE HAGUE–National Government Representative for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba Wilbert Stolte supports more investments in the islands’ infrastructure. In his third progress report, which was published on Friday, he called on The Hague to lend a financial hand.

In his report, Stolte sketches a picture of a backlog in investments in the islands’ infrastructure. “Every visitor experiences the serious backlogs, especially when one drives on the roads in Bonaire and St. Eustatius. The system of facilities overall is by far not on a for the Netherlands acceptable level as was agreed upon when the islands became part of the Dutch Constellation,” he wrote.

“The three public entities, together with the Dutch Government, are faced with the challenge to make the next steps in their development now that the four main pillars, education, public health, social security and safety, have their fundament,” Stolte stated in his report, which Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk forwarded to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Friday.

Economic growth and an increase of employment are often a solution, just as in the European part of the Netherlands, the representative stated. “Studies have shown that there are sufficient possibilities on the islands, despite their small scale. Tourism and agriculture provide major opportunities.”

The Executive Councils have drawn up development plans, but these depend on financing of the Dutch Government, because the islands cannot borrow on the capital market in order to make investments in capital goods.

The fact that almost no follow-up steps could be taken during the recent Caribbean Netherlands week in October in The Hague was “somewhat disappointing and frustrating” for the local government representatives, according to Stolte.

“The representatives of the islands want to make progress with the development of their island. They want to show their people that the decision to become part of the Netherlands was a good one,” he stated.

The European and the Caribbean part of the Netherlands face complete different challenges, noted the representative. The Hague has to take a step down due to cost-saving measures, whereas the Caribbean Netherlands wants to step up to the plate by investing in better roads, harbours, the social infrastructure, tourism and district development. “It is clear that the two parties have not crossed each other on those stairs where it comes to development,” he stated.

According to Stolte, the question is opportune as to whether the islands should suffer because of the cost-saving measures of the Dutch Government or that the possibility should be offered to the islands to generate more income on the long run, so they have more chance at standing on their own feet. He said the investments concerned a “modest” amount in comparison to the total Dutch budget.

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment I&M in The Hague shared the concerns of the National Government Representative and the island governments where it came to the bad state of the roads.

The Ministry noted in Stolte’s report that the islands were responsible for the construction and maintenance of their road net. However, the backlog in maintaining the roads in especially Bonaire and St. Eustatius was of such a magnitude that the islands were unable to tackle this problem on their own. “This remains a serious point of concern.”

The Dutch Government buildings department (Rijksgebouwendienst) has actively assisted Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to execute projects on the islands. A team of six persons, stationed in Bonaire and St. Eustatius, have been assisting with large renovation or construction of government buildings, such as judicial facilities, tax offices, schools and police stations. Government buildings in a bad state of repairs are being renovated.

The Dutch Government buildings department in 2013 worked on, among others, the renovation and construction of various schools in Bonaire and St. Eustatius, the renovation of P.L. Granger Auditorium in Saba, the renovation of the Social Insurance Bank SVB building for Social Affairs and the Health Care Insurance Office ZVK in Bonaire, the renovation of the police cells in St. Eustatius and Saba and of the police station in Kralendijk, Bonaire, as well as the construction of a new fire station in Rincón, Bonaire.

The department will work this year on the expansion and renovation of the police station in The Bottom, the construction of a new fire station and penitentiary facility in Bonaire, the renovation of the Island Governor’s mansion in Bonaire, the renovation of Golden Rock School in St. Eustatius and San Bernardo School in Bonaire, and the construction of a day care and kindergarten facility in Saba, along with Papa Cornes and Watapana schools in Bonaire.

The 24-page progress report of the National Government Representative included an overview of the work that the various Dutch ministries have done on and on behalf of the islands. The entire report can be downloaded via the Website of the National Government Service Caribbean Netherlands RCN: www.rijksdienstcn.com.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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