SABA (THE BOTTOM) —The Saba Business Association (SBA) had a meeting with Dutch State Secretary of Kingdom Relations and Digitization Alexandra van Huffelen during her visit to Saba last week. Many topics were on the agenda, and most were addressed during the short 45-minute meeting which was held at the Tourist Bureau in Windwardside.
The SBA told the State Secretary and her delegation that it shared the view of the Saba Government for Saba to be resilient, self-sufficient and sustainable. In this view, the bottlenecks that the SBA addressed are all connected, and a solution is imperative to guarantee a sound business environment on our small island, the SBA stated in a press release.
The banking situation was addressed as this is first and foremost a thorn in the eye of many businesses and the situation seems to be deteriorating. According to the SBA, it is unacceptable that Saba only has one bank, which is not conducive to do business. It is hard to send and receive funds, the banking costs are very high, the service is poor, and it takes very long to open a bank account, the SBA pointed out.
“We feel that we are a century behind with the banking services that we have now,” said SBA President Alida Heilbron. “We are stuck in the 90’ies in a competitive, digital world,” said SBA Secretary Jarno Knijff.
The SBA asked what the follow-up is being given to the ‘Overview of Saba’s Banking Situation,’ a document written last July by Matthijs Malkus who at the time worked for the Public Entity Saba as a policy advisor. Unfortunately, Mrs. van Huffelen was not aware of such a document and was promised that it would be forwarded to her, stated the SBA. This document described the current challenges and included some solutions for both the short and the long term. Since this issue was also a topic at the meeting with the Island Council Members, the SBA is hopeful that finally serious attention will be given to the ongoing deteriorating situation where banking on Saba is concerned. It is certainly hampering doing business on Saba.
The issues with the Immigration and Naturalization Department IND and the unit of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor SZW were touched on as the tedious and lengthy processes at these departments not only hamper establishing a business on Saba, but certainly have a negative effect on the continuation of existing businesses on Saba. The SBA feels that such organizations should have a more human customer-based approach with less bureaucracy and paperwork involved. “There are so many rules and regulations that are keeping us from doing business. We need things to become easier to do business, also to get investors. It’s detrimental to our economy and it deters people from coming to Saba to work and to invest,” said Heilbron.
The SBA addressed the matter of the absence of a specific postal code for Saba. Having a postal code per island in the Dutch Caribbean would help a lot in improving this irregular and tedious service. The postal service should be reliable, consistent, and affordable, the SBA pointed out.
Regarding a proper internet service, the SBA made clear that this is not only a service that it just wants to have, but that this is a much-needed service on the island. Other services such as electricity too should be qualitatively good, reliable and certainly affordable. “Many steps were made in the area of sustainable energy, but the electricity price is still very high,” said Knijff.
The SBA further mentioned the high cost of living, the high price and limited liability of the internet, the high airfares and the high cost of food. The SBA said it looked forward to a follow-up regarding all points brought forward.