Updated: Sep 30
SABA - The Island Council on Wednesday, September 27, adopted two motions of Councilwoman Elsa Peterson and Councilman Vito Charles. Peterson’s motion seeks to amend the housing and tuition allowance policy for Saba students. Charles’ motion calls for establishing a minimum internet speed on Saba.
Peterson and Charles presented their motions at the start of the meeting during which the second amendment to the 2023 budget was approved. Both motions were carried with the support of the three Island Council Members present at the meeting, Peterson, Charles and Saskia Matthew.
Peterson’s motion addressed the amount that Saba students abroad receive from the local housing and tuition allowance policy. This amount is no longer adequate with the increased tuition fees and costs of living. The current housing and tuition allowance policy of the Public Entity Saba for Saba students, put in place in 2013, is no longer effective in addressing the evolving financial challenges that students face studying in the region and beyond. Also, the eligibility criteria are outdated.
Peterson’s motion instructs the Executive Council to start the process to evaluate the current allowance amounts of the local policy to ensure that they are sufficient to cover rising costs of studying abroad, including tuition, housing and other living expenses. The local policy is to assist students who don’t qualify for study financing of the Dutch Government.
The motion also instructs the Executive Council to reevaluate the eligibility criteria for the allowance to ensure that they align with the current needs of Saba students, to reach out to the students to collect data about the effectiveness of the policy and to provide information on allowance availability, eligibility and application deadlines.
According to Peterson, amending the local policy can significantly enhance the overall educational experience for students and remove some of the financial and emotional burdens. “It is crucial that we prioritize the welfare and success of our students, as they are the future of our community.” Adjusting the amounts will help students and parents in these trying times where people are having trouble making ends meet.
Charles’ motion instructed the Executive Council to engage in discussions with the Dutch Government and other stakeholders about the speed of internet on Saba and to, together with the National Government, establish a minimum standard for internet speed on the island. This minimum standard should also be at an affordable rate.
In his motion, Charles pointed out that, unlike in the Netherlands, there is no established minimum standard for internet speeds, while as an island with limited resources, it is dependent on contact with the rest of the world. To access information and knowledge in a dependable way, faster internet speeds are necessary.
It was further mentioned in the motion that the current internet speeds at the current prices do not reflect the value expected by residents, and that due to the small size of the population, it would be difficult to achieve internet speeds at prices that are possible on other, bigger islands. Regulatory intervention and government support will be needed to achieve a minimum standard for internet speed.
“The fact that we are a much smaller market doesn’t absolve the Dutch Government from its duty to provide a speedy internet at a reasonable price,” said Charles. “Internet is vital for a small island for its contact with the rest of the world. We should not settle for less,” said Peterson.
During Wednesday’s meeting, the WIPM Governing Program 2023-2027 was submitted. Charles encouraged the Island Council to give its comments to the document. “It is important to have a vision so we can move forward together,” he said.