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Saturday, January 21, 2006 

Saba delegation to hold bilateral talks in Holland

by Wil Johnson, Gedeputeerde van Constitutionele Zaken Saba, via Antillenhuis

Posted: Jan 12, 2006 12:25 UTC

THE BOTTOM - Between January 16thand 23rd, a Saba delegation consisting of the department head of Finance & Economic Affairs, Mr. Xavier Blackman, the head of the Planning Bureau, Mr. Robert Zagers, and the Island Secretary, Mr. Menno van der Velde, will be in The Netherlands for a series of meetings.

The purpose of the visit is two-fold.The first and main purpose is to discuss the acute financial problems of the island territory and to explore ways of creating an interim phase from now until July 2007 during which the guaranties as laid down in article 43 of the Kingdom Charter will be lived up to.

Saba is willing to work along the lines of the agreements on constitutional change that were reached since its population voted to enter into a direct relationship with The Netherlands in November 2004.

However, if the island is not able to constructively participate in the process of constitutional change due to the lack of resources, the whole exercise will be futile as far as Saba is concerned. If the Netherlands wants Saba and the other islands to live up to higher standards, this will have to be translated into investments in many areas on the islands, and on Saba in particular.

During the meeting with the Dutch Ministry of Kingdom Relations (BZK) other matters pertaining to the future financial relationship between Saba en The Netherlands, like supervision and economic development will be discussed as well.The second purpose of the visit is to obtain knowledge on and insight into the structure of the municipal financing system in The Netherlands.

Seeing that Saba's future relationship with the Netherlands will be shaped along the lines of those between municipalities in The Netherlands and the Dutch National Government, it is important for Saba to start preparing for the upcoming changes at an early stage. De Vereniging Nederlandse Gemeenten (VNG, Dutch Association of Municipalities) has offered Saba assistance and advice in this area, and the course of the year exchange and other programs will be initiated between the two entities.

The delegation is expected to return to the island on January 26. During the following week, an evaluation of the visit will be carried out and a presentation of the progress of the constitutional process so far will be given to the Central Committee of the Island Council. Based on these deliberations, the Island Government will decide on action points on the short and medium term for a number of areas.

During his process, the islands of Bonaire and St. Eustatius will be kept informed on Saba's progress, seeing that these islands, together with Saba have signed a declaration of intent with The Netherlands, and are in a comparable situation.

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