Dutch government approves additional economic support measures

In response to a joint request from the BES-islands on April 22nd, The Dutch government has approved an additional number of economic support measures.

A pilot with a ferry service to lower prices of travel between the island was granted, as well as the request for additional means for social security. Electricity, water and internet costs will be brought down through subsidies till the end of this year. “The level of cooperation between Saba, Bonaire and Statia, but also the continued constructive talks with our colleagues in The Hague, have allowed these substantial extra measures. This is good news for all three islands and Statia in particular.” says Government Commissioner, Marnix van Rij.

On Friday April 24th a letter was sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament by State Secretary Knops, to announce additional economic support measures. The far-reaching consequences of the Covid 19 pandemic for the small economies of the BES-islands were underlined. In said request, the loss of income due to tourism coming to a standstill, on top of the oil terminal on Statia canceling contacts earlier this year, was described as reason for major concern, as poverty is on the rise.

As a poverty relief measure, the Dutch government will finance locally purchased food packages for persons in need. For Statia, 150.000 Euros will be made available for these packages. Another 1 million Euros will be distributed proportionately, between Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire, for local poverty relief, to be spent at the discretion of the public entities.

In regard to costs of electricity and water, the Dutch Government is prepared to grant a withdrawal from the bill for the sum of the fixed connection tariff, from May 1st till the end of 2020.
In these times of studying and working from home, increasing numbers of residents depend on the internet. The price of internet on all three islands will go down by 25 USD per connection, to decrease living costs and increase accessibility of internet services.

To reduce transport costs and stimulate tourism, an improved ferry service between Saba, Statia and St Maarten will be implemented, as part of a two year pilot. The suggested tourism fund was not approved. Instead the cabinet offers support through expertise in marketing strategy.

The letter of Sate secretary Knops concludes by emphasizing the importance of ongoing dialogue between BES-islands’ governments and the Dutch central government. For both implementation of the approved compensation package and to monitor together, whether the current economic measures will suffice, as the economic consequences of the Covid 19 crisis unfold.