Dutch State Secretary for Kingdom Relations and Digitalization Alexandra van Huffelen said at the end of her working visit to Saba on Wednesday, April 19 that it was a “very good visit” with meetings about the challenges that the Saba people face, and to discuss the priorities and the plans.
The first meeting of the State Secretary and her delegation was with the new Executive Council. “We talked a lot about the priorities, the things that we want to solve together. We talked about poverty, healthcare, the problems that people on the island are facing, such as banking issues, housing, the very high prices for food. On all these issues we want to work together,” she said.
The State Secretary said that the Public Entity Saba and the Dutch Government together would be drafting a “very concrete plan of action” to enable the new Executive Council to work as effectively as possible, together with The Hague, and to solve pressing issues that the Saba people face.
With the new Island Council, Van Huffelen discussed subjects such as poverty, new legislation that will govern the relations between the Dutch Government and the Public Entity Saba, the cost of living, the cost of doing business and to reduce these costs.
As the State Secretary responsible for digitalization, Van Huffelen had a roundtable meeting with entrepreneurs and other stakeholders to talk about digitalization, how digitalization affects daily life and doing business, also with government.
“That was a real good meeting too. We talked how we can make sure that internet is fast and accessible to everyone, which is a prerequisite before you start working on digitalization. But we also talked about the importance of education in working on digitalization, not only for children, but also for older people. We talked about the digital way in which you can work with government.”
Digitalization is a big process to which the State Secretary said she is committed. “The digital transition is here; we see it all around us. There are three things that I find important. The first one is that people can actually participate in the digital world. Also, I want people to trust the digital world. And thirdly, that people have control over their own data. To achieve that it is important that we come with a concrete plan of action, one that will also work here.”
The State Secretary paid a house visit on Thursday afternoon to childcare worker Verionica Smith, who lives in one of the social housing homes in St. John’s with her four children. The State Secretary, who has visited people at home in the past, said she found it crucial to talk with persons to hear their stories and concerns.
“It is worrisome that there are people with a fulltime job who cannot live off their income, because the cost of living is so high and their income is not high enough,” she said. That is why the Dutch Government keeps working on raising people’s income and reducing the cost of for example electricity, internet and daycare. The Dutch Government plans to introduce a social minimum, the minimum amount that people need to sustain themselves. An advice on the height of the social minimum will come from an independent committee, headed by former Bonaire Island Governor Glenn Thodé.
The State Secretary also had a meeting with the microfinancing organization Qredits and some of the Saba clients, and she met Notary Marcia Bouterse. Van Huffelen and her delegation left for St. Eustatius on Wednesday evening on the Makana Ferry.