Saba Commissioner Bruce Zagers (left) and Member of the Second Chamber Ronald van Raak.
THE HAGUE–Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) on Tuesday made a passionate appeal to finalise the transfer of the authority of issuing work permits from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour SZW to the public entity Saba.
Van Raak, who wore a pin with the Saba flag during the handling of the draft 2020 budget of Kingdom Relations, heavily criticised the Dutch government, in particular the Ministry of SZW, for stalling the transfer of the authority of work permits to Saba, while the little island has proven that it is capable of assuming more tasks.
“I am very angry with the Dutch government, because in January 2015, almost five years ago, we agreed during the Saba Summit that Saba can do more things on its own. Why? Because Saba can better govern itself than be governed by the men from the 10 ministry towers here in The Hague,” stated Van Raak.
“Case in point: the work permits. Every year when we come to Saba, I feel deeply ashamed because it has not been arranged. I have no words. We hit the emergency brakes. We invited three state secretaries to discuss the work permits in Saba. ‘Yes,’ said the state secretary, ‘it will be taken care of.’ Who is this man or woman in the ministry tower that obstructs this? I want to have a name and a running number. Why is it not happening?”
Van Raak mentioned a specific current case: the construction of 20 social homes as part of the Under the Hill project, where he said a construction stop has occurred as a result of the ministry’s inaction in the procedure of issuing work permits. “Every two weeks, the construction workers need to fly back to St. Maarten, where they live. Very expensive: US $200 for a short flight. Every two weeks the workers have to fly up and down. This is insane!”
The Member of Parliament (MP) asked why State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops, who attended Tuesday’s debate, had not fixed this as yet. “Who is the boss in this Kingdom? Is that the Parliament? Is it the three state secretaries or a man or a woman in the ministry tower who says ‘no’? Fix this, State Secretary, or do we have to invite the entire government to Parliament?”
Van Raak warned that if the Saba work permit issue was not solved before Christmas, he would call for a meeting with the entire government. He pointed out that since 2015, the entire Second Chamber had repeated that Saba should be able to issue its own work permits, which would considerably shorten the now-lengthy exercise through the Ministry of SZW.
Colleagues in the plenary debate drummed on their tables to demonstrate their support after Van Raak’s passionate plea.
MP André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party said he shared Van Raak’s disappointment. “This has ended up in the Dutch jungle of regulations and legal affairs.”
Bosman advocated a pilot, a simple solution for the issue. He remarked that Saba Commissioner Bruce Zagers had visited him last week. The Commissioner’s message: Saba is constructing, but is in dire need of construction workers.
“‘We are not getting them in,’ he said. I share those concerns. If there are no people available in Saba, we are actually killing economic development because Saba is unable to get these people to the island,” said Bosman.