photo: Esther Henry

THE BOTTOM – The business community of Saba and St. Eustatius will receive a 2.6 million euro relief fund from the Ministry of Economic Affairs in the Netherlands. That payment will be given twice due to the negative affects to the businesses after hurricane Irma. Companies who are not within the hospitality industry will not receive funds until further notice, due to the priority of the high season.

Applications for the funding will soon be distributed and evaluations will be judged by the Dutch government. The local Chamber of Commerce Board Member Hermanus van Xanten gave the business community of Saba information about the relief fund on Tuesday.

The two payments will be made for the periods of September throughout December and January to April. How much money goes to the businesses, is not yet known.

Van Xanten attended the COSME EU conference in the Nederlands, where various topics and speakers come together to pinpoint supportive results for businesses globally. A special topic was the relief decisions for the Dutch islands in the burden of September 6, Hurricane Irma. In attendance were the Dutch Parliament and members of the committee of Kingdom Relations, business associations and investors.

Interviews were conducted with the Minister of Economic Affairs, explaining the structure and purpose of the Chamber of Commerce, plus discussing the possible funding provided to businesses for their losses.

The tourism sector is important to the economy of the island with excluding approximately, 19 non-hospitality businesses. The Owner of The Voice of Saba reacted: “As a company who is not a direct part of the hospitality industry, we still are somewhat involved and we should get something as well. Being that we are the only radio station on the island, tourists listen to our advertisements and other items on our programs. ”

Poor support from local government
The Executive or Island council plays an important role in turning obstacles into solutions for the businesses. Based on the constitutional change, concerns from the business community to the government in the past were difficult to address.

Demanding issues such as the algemene bestedingsbelasting (ABB), (General Spending Tax) was attacked and re-evaluated due to the aggressive push from the business community. “In addition, poor communication between local government and the Chamber of Commerce now found an increase due to the hurricane season. An opportunity to address all issues are now found easier to communicate and a more positive future is promised”, stated Carlyle Tearr, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce.

Low means of transportation between islands and poor marketing strategies remain troublesome to business owners, as well as the zoning plan. “Patience is needed to get more help. An idea of using the Big B vessel to bring day trippers from cruise ship tourists into Saba can help us”, suggested a local business owner.

Another priority in attendance of the COSME EU conference was to promote the island. Van Xanten represented Saba as “ready to receive as many tourists as possible.” During the networking sessions, companies were given proposals to support this theme, with pending, Dutch household appliances company Blokker. Blokker was interested to assist Saba and St. Eustatius in displaying traditional and digital marketing ads within shops, to build more awareness within the Netherlands.