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The First Chamber Holds Meeting with Saba Officials



On Sunday, February 11, 2024, the First Chamber arrived on Saba with a delegation of 17 members. The purpose of the visit was aimed at getting an understanding of the many issues that the population of   the island faces but also to gain insight into what could be done from their perspective to advance the concerns of the community. A presentation was organized to provide an in-depth explanation of some important topics which took place on Monday, February 12th. The presentation covered topics such as Tourism & Connectivity, Economic Development, Education & Public Health, and Government Finances.


This roundtable discussion was attended by the First Chamber delegation under the leadership of Paul Rosenmöller, Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, Head of Finance and Acting Island Secretary Maureen van der Kaap-Hassell, Island Council Members, Commissioners Bruce Zagers, and Eviton Heyliger. The event was moderated by Jordan Every.


Tourism & Connectivity


Product Development Coordinator, Mrs. Alexis Wildgoose-Charles, provided a comprehensive presentation on the tourism master plan for 2023–2028, highlighting its integral role in Saba's economic landscape. The primary focus of the master plan is to boost visitor numbers, enhance their experience, and position the island as an attractive destination. Saba intends to achieve these goals through targeted marketing, strategic partnerships, and digital outreach, with an emphasis on adapting to evolving travel preferences. The plan also includes active participation in international events, a commitment to authenticity and sustainability, and a focus on captivating travelers seeking adventurous experiences. To maintain and expand its visitor base, Saba plans to enhance existing attractions, create new immersive activities, and foster authentic interactions for tourists. Discussions during the presentation also revolved around strategies to elevate visitor experiences and optimize affordable transportation networks. Overall, Saba's tourism master plan for 2023–2028 reflects a thoughtful and proactive approach to stimulating tourism development, acknowledging the changing landscape, and aligning with the island's commitment to authenticity and sustainability.


Economics


The discussion on economic matters, led by Policy Advisor for Economic Affairs Mrs. Courtney Hassell, underscores the necessity of addressing banking challenges and mitigating the cost of living for residents. In addition to this crucial point, other key areas were highlighted. Ensuring reliable access to affordable and nutritious food is important for the well-being of residents. This entails encouraging, supporting, and promoting local agriculture, implementing food assistance programs, and backing sustainable farming practices to further increase food security. Furthermore, Hassell covered the objective for Saba Electric Company to attain a renewable energy goal of 89% through the installation of an additional solar park. This initiative will further underscore Saba’s commitment to sustainable development and future. The black rock harbor project was also a topic of discussion. This endeavor establishes an opportunity for self-sustainability, enhancing tourism, and further contributing to Saba’s economic growth. Infrastructure development to support recreational boating, alongside the provision of amenities and attractions, will be pivotal in attracting tourists and generating revenue. These initiatives collectively signify a comprehensive approach to economic development, encompassing both sustainability and growth.


Education


Head of Community Development Mrs. Rosalyn Johnson led the session dedicated to community development, highlighting ongoing efforts and the future for the expansion of essential infrastructure, notably the Sacred Heart School and Saba Comprehensive School buildings. These endeavors align with the government's steadfast commitment to nurturing a thriving community and providing access to quality education and facilities for all residents. Johnson mentioned the outstanding aid provided from BES4Kids and how their efforts have made a considerable contribution towards the educations system on the island. There was also a discussion about the financial concerns which have recently impacted the schools and the impact it will have on the quality of education.


Public Health and Sports


In the sphere of public health and sports, Head of Public Health and Sports Mr. Menno Baker delivered a presentation focusing on promoting healthy lifestyles habits and addressing prevalent local challenges such as combatting communicable and non-communicable diseases, lowering alcohol consumption and drug use, and the need for creating smoke-free locations on the island. Acknowledging the importance of protective measures, discussions centered on initiatives aimed at promoting healthier lifestyles from childhood.



Throughout the deliberations, both the First Chamber delegation, Executive Council and Island Council members demonstrated a shared dedication to addressing the pressing needs and aspirations of Saba’s inhabitants. As the session ended, the First Chamber reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the development agenda of Saba and looks forward to continued collaboration in pursuit of a brighter, more inclusive future for all residents.


Subsequently, the First Chamber undertook a visit to the Social Housing projects phase 2, during which they engaged in discussions with Commissioner Eviton Heyliger, Van Boekel Executor Dewnath Shamkoemar and ZEA Consultancy Zoubeir Elatmani , working along with the Infrastructural & Spatial Development Department followed by a comprehensive tour of the facility. The visit ended at The Spot, an after-school venue catering to youngsters. Here, they were accompanied by Community Outreach Coordinator Kemaul Lee and Youth Leader Jaden Robinson, who provided a guided tour, allowing the delegation to witness the array of recreational and educational activities available to the youth of Saba.

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