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Minister Carola Schouten (second right) visiting social workplace “The Garden” in Saba with Commissioner Rolando Wilson (right).

SABA–Dutch Vice-Prime Minister and Minister for Poverty Policy, Participation and Pensions Carola Schouten had a successful visit to Saba on Monday, May 9. She visited many places, took note of Saba’s beauty, but also acknowledged the island’s challenges and the people’s struggles.

Schouten arrived in Saba late Sunday afternoon. In a meeting with the Executive Council on Monday, she and her delegation talked about social allowances, a higher minimum wage, the excessive cost of living, poverty and the lack of affordable housing. These same topics came up in a subsequent meeting with the Island Council. Council Members Vito Charles and Esmeralda Johnson explained how poverty affects people and what it does with families.

“Some 65 per cent of the people in the Caribbean Netherlands live in poverty. That is unacceptable Things were supposed to get better since 2010. There have been improvements, but people expected the standard of living to go up and that did not happen,” said Charles.

“Many children don’t have both parents at home. That impacts not only their daily life but also their opportunities in life. The causes of poverty really need to be addressed, and not just the symptoms,” said Johnson.

To hear a personal story about how difficult it is to make ends meet, Schouten visited the home of Sonia Cornet at Under the Hill. She listened attentively to Cornet’s financial hardships, having to work several jobs to pay the bills and sustain her family. At the home of Wycliffe Rawlins, she heard about the challenges senior citizens with small pensions have in Saba.

Schouten made a short stop at the renovated John Cruyff Court, went inside Queen Wilhelmina Library for an introduction by library head Tiffany Zagers and spent a few minutes with two children doing their homework with the help of volunteer Billy Jean Rodriquez.

At the Laura Linzey day-care centre, Schouten was received by manager Tessa Alexander, BES(t)4Kids coordinator Rosa Johnson and project coordinator Esther van Woudenberg.

Schouten was informed about the many improvements that have been made at the day-care with the support of BES(t)4Kids, and the plans to build new childcare facilities. She and Commissioner of Social Affairs Rolando Wilson performed a symbolic ground-breaking of the temporary housing for the day-care.

The last part of the programme was a meeting with the Saba Business Association (SBA). Gerard Geenty and Jarno Knijff talked about the general struggles of the local businesses. They addressed matters such as the high cost of doing business; the increased energy price; the price of transportation, which has gone up a lot; the adverse effect on businesses of further raises of the minimum wage; and the poor banking services.

Before boarding the Makana ferry to St. Eustatius, Schouten and her delegation visited the location of the new harbour project at Black Rocks.

This was Schouten’s second visit to Saba, but her first in her capacity as minister for Poverty Policy, Participation and Pensions. In September 2019, she came to Saba as Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

Bron: Daily Herald

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