photo: Saba top view

THE HAGUE – Saba has been waiting five years on a ‘gift’ from the Hague, to be able to issue its own worker’s permits, but the Dutch government doesn’t want to give them that power. The SP wants the government to make this possible before Christmas.

Officials on Saba would like construction workers to come to the island but for years their plans have been foiled by bureaucracy at the ministries in the Hague. “Fix it, state secretary!”, sneers SP-MP Ronald van Raak towards state secretary Raymond Knops (Kingdom Relations).

But state secretary Knops, speaking on behalf of the government, says that, at the moment, they aren’t ready to give Saba that kind of responsibility. He promises that ‘practical solutions’ are being worked on so that worker’s permits can be issued more easily.

“I don’t know how many officials, at three different ministries, are working on adapting Dutch rules for Saba. But we never asked for that!” says Van Raak. “All we asked for was to let Saba arrange its own worker’s permits.”

Will the Hague keep its promises?
Other MP’s visibly agree with Van Raak’s concerns as he shares them with the state secretary. The fear of MP’s is that progress on Saba – with barely 2000 inhabitants – is being held back by the Hague.

“If we are holding back economic development on Saba because we can’t arrange worker’s permits, then we have bigger problems”, says VVD-MP André Bosman. “Can we create a pilot program for these obvious issues?”

What makes the situation a bit more humiliating is the promise that the Hague has been making for years that the Caribbean municipalities would be ‘rewarded’ for good behavior. That they would be able to perform more tasks themselves.

‘Prime minister Rutte and all ministers accountable’
“I’m giving the state secretary and the government one more chance”, Van Raak says in the debate with Knops. “Otherwise we’ll invite the entire cabinet to the first meeting after the recess. We’ll have a debate about this till the wee hours of the night, until the worker’s permits on Saba are sorted out.”

If the SP were to consider such a move, they would need the support of a majority in Parliament to call all the ministers of the Rutte III cabinet to Parliament.