Included were many warm words. Also from this position my great thanks for this. This farewell is the first farewell that takes place. On Statia I will bid farewell this coming Wednesday and on Bonaire on Thursday April 24th.
I am coming to this beautiful island already since 2006. Then still in a position to support the islands on the route to 10-10-10. Before that I was asked by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom relations (BZK), because I served for 8 years as Commissioner in municipality of The Hague and had the local expertise about how local government works and could contribute to the discussion regarding the tasks and responsibilities for the new constitutional relationships. Eventually this led to the present construction and work method which we are now following in the year 2014.
It is clear that not everything runs smoothly. However, also in the European part of The Netherlands and the European Union the cooperation among various levels of government is often rough. But, the balance remains positive for me. The glass in this regard is half full and NOT half empty. I will come back to this point later on in my speech.
We are now 3,5 years underway, 3 of which I have been the Kingdom Representative. The point of departure at the beginning on 10-10-10 was to realize improvements to a number of essential parts. These matters are measured in the perception study under my responsibility. This research is held each year. We have done this now for three years and from this it is apparent that the population of the islands in the areas of health, safety and education have indicated that the situation now is better than on 10-10-10. I further need to give Saba a big compliment.
Also the finances were a point of focus at the beginning. In my recent talks with the CFT (Commission for Financial Supervision) we have found that the islands are 'in financial control'. But for Saba more applies. There is even an approved audit report for the Public Entity of Saba. This was the reason for a front page article in the Financieel Dagblad A newspaper which in any case is leading within the financial world in the Netherlands.
Naturally, we are not there yet. In a number of areas there are challenges and needs among the population of Saba. In the aforementioned areas much more progress can be made. For example in the organization of health care or in the feeling of safety on the island. Also combatting poverty and improving the purchasing power are of great importance for the poorest and weakest on the island. Only with targeted and specific measures from the Central Government and the Public Entity of Saba is it possible to support these people so that they too can enjoy an acceptable minimum existence.
In addition, there are challenges in the necessary adaptation of all kinds of facilities on the islands. I have tried in the interest of the islands to indicate that this should happen more on the basis of the demand of the islands instead of on the basis of offer and the available civil servants of the Central Government. Frankly speaking this cannot always rely on support within the Ministry. I know, however, that if the islands could apply more pressure that other choices and priorities can be made.
Further there is naturally more to be done regarding what in the Netherlands is called " Kingdom coordination" (Rijkscoordinatie). Reports were written and on the basis thereof a Cabinet position was formulated. This means that in the relationship between the Kingdom Representative, the RCN, the Ministries and the Public Entities a lot is going to change. I have the expectation that with this the cooperation among the different parties in and on the Caribbean Netherlands improves. For this is it however necessary that also our work method is adjusted. We have noticed in recent times that the challenges are big.
The distance between the European and Caribbean parts of the Netherlands is big. I realize that also the distance between Bonaire and Saba is big. I should know because, contrary to what is written in the reports, I have spent a considerable amount of time in the Windward Islands. Saba has in the framework of the evaluation rightfully pleaded for attention to the differences per island and more space for an island specific approach. A point of concern which still remains is that the Public Entities and the Central Government have to find each other better mainly at the administrative level.
I would like to make use of the opportunity to thank the people of the islands. Here on Saba, the people, the business community and the civil servants for a good time. I admire the manner in which Sabans take pride in their island, the nature and the history. On moments like that the true beauty of Saba and mainly the people come to light.
In closing I would like to thank the people of the RCN (Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland) here on Saba for all the good care throughout the past three years. And not to forget, Koen van Laar and Alida Francis for their relentless commitment to advise and assist me.
I wish everyone a fantastic and especially healthy future. You deserve it!