Multi-Annual Programme to aid Statia’s development

THE HAGUE–A six million euros investment to upgrade the roads, support to improve the harbour management, almost half a million to strengthen the local economy, more focus on agriculture, improvement of waste management, a structural approach to eradicate poverty, and the use of funds from the division of the assets of the Netherlands Antilles Social Insurance Bank SVB has been made.

These are some of the concrete agreements of the Multi-Annual Programme St. Eustatius 2016 to 2018 which the St. Eustatius Executive Council and the Dutch Government signed on February 1, 2016. Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk, who signed on behalf of the Dutch Government, sent the nine-page document to the Dutch Parliament last week.

The programme is divided in three main themes: economic development, eradication of poverty and children’s rights. There is also a chapter on the strengthening of the government administration. The effective execution of the programme is directly related to the Plan of Approach aimed at strengthening Statia’s administration and its finances.

The main themes are subdivided in chapters such as basic infrastructure, telecommunication, drinking water, physical infrastructure/transport, entrepreneurship, investment climate, stimulation of trade, banks, tourism, food production, nature/environment/waste management, structural approach poverty, investing in the social domain, employment/education, the social system and the housing market.

In some areas concrete agreements and even amounts are mentioned, while in some other areas the governments express the intention to cooperate and explore possibilities. Some of the commitments are directly related to Statia, while others are applicable to the Caribbean Netherlands in general. The Netherlands also has similar Multi-Annual Programmes signed with the other two public entities, Bonaire and Saba.

In the Multi-Annual Programme, the Netherlands and Statia committed to invest in the further development of the island. The objective is a joint and integrated approach in which the made-to-measure local aspect is leading.

The Statia and Dutch Governments want to broaden the economic basis, get the basic infrastructure in order, improve the investment climate and facilitate entrepreneurship. Part of that objective is dependable, clean energy with electricity and water prices that are more or less equal to the tariffs in the Netherlands. Investment in sustainable energy, including a second solar park, continues.

Internet will be improved and cheaper, free WiFi will be looked into, as will the possibilities to include the telecom infrastructure in the project to laying electricity cables underground, and a continued subsidization of the transport of water. Statia has asked The Hague to financially contribute to the expansion of the capacity of the water plant, the execution of large maintenance and to expand the water distribution network.

Better roads

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment has the intention to make a one-time six million euro impulse available to construct, manage and maintain for the Statia roads. Statia will file a request for the reassessment of the 2014 roads master plans.

The Dutch Government together with Statia will look at the possibilities for more frequent and cheaper air and sea transportation, with focus on those that can ill-afford the increasing tariffs, possibly through a voucher system. The Dutch Government will assess whether the number of flights and ticket prices can be reduced.

A ferry service between Statia, Saba and St. Maarten will be evaluated. The execution of the airport master plan which started last year will continue, including the construction of a Flight Information Service (FIS) tower. The Hague will make expertise available for the further development of the harbour company.

The assistance for the Chamber of Commerce of Statia (and Saba) will be continued, while efforts will be made to facilitate credit for local entrepreneurs. A list of financing instruments will be drawn up, and there will be extra coaching and guiding for starting entrepreneurs. The BZK Ministry will reserve two times an amount of 225,000 euros to support the local economy.

A study of the cost of doing business will be carried out in the first half of this year, of which the results will be shared with potential investors and included in the social-economic policy development. Oranjestad and The Hague will actively attract and facilitate new investors and business activities.

Stimulation Fund

Statia has asked to set up a stimulation fund to attract private investors. A potential project is the restoration of the Historical Core near Fort Oranje. The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency NFIA and the PUM initiative of retired Dutch Government managers and experts will assist. Statia will be involved more in regional trade missions.

The fact that Statia only has one commercial bank was deemed undesirable, and as such the Dutch Government will try to get banks in the Windward Islands, and also Dutch banks to open a branch on the island.

The Dutch Government and Statia will work together to preserve Statia’s heritage, especially Lower Town and the Historical Core, and to make these locations more accessible for tourists. The Dutch Government has been asked to help think along about ways to stimulate tourism.

The Dutch Government will continue to assist in stimulating the agricultural and fisheries sector, while the agricultural logistics will be improved, possibly with the British islands. Waste management will be further improved and environmental measures at the private sector stimulated.

Poverty eradication

The extent of the problems relating to poverty was acknowledged in the Multi-Annual Programme which is mostly caused by low incomes and high prices. “The direct tackling of the most urgent needs tops the agenda. The agreements regarding eradication of poverty focus on the reduction of the prices of basic necessities, the improving of the connection between education and the labour market, and the possible improvements in the social system. Poverty will be structurally eradicated,” it was noted.

It is the intention that financial means from the division of assets of the former Netherlands Antilles Social Insurance Bank SVB which are assigned to the Netherlands will be made entirely available for the Caribbean Netherlands’ plans in the social domain and to combat poverty.

Employment for local people will be a focal point, and investments in infrastructure and new projects in the area of agriculture, fisheries, waste management and renovation works, will be tied to creating additional local employment.

The renovation of the Gwendoline van Putten School will be looked at. The Dutch and Statia Government will make an effort to create affordable and durable social housing. New social housing projects and maintenance will be further discussed.

The Dutch Government, in consultation with St. Eustatius, will continue to work on the improvement of children’s rights. Three million euros have been reserved for the Caribbean Netherlands until 2017, in addition to a financial contribution to improve day care facilities. Funds have been reserved for the We Can YOUNG Campaign to tackle domestic violence. The BZK Ministry has funds available to improve the housing situation of children and families.

Source: The Daily Herald Multi-Annual Programme to aid Statia’s development