Category Archives: Opinions

Editorial in Dutch: Evalueren

Stel, je runt een kroeg. Op een gegeven moment besluit je met zijn allen dat alles anders moet. Er komt nieuwe eigenaar, extra personeel, ander kassasysteem, nieuwe leveranciers, nieuwe regels, alles in de hoop dat de kroeg beter gaat lopen.

De plannen liggen al klaar en na een korte voorbereidingstijd, waarin de zwakke plekken (afvalverwerking, opleiding bestaand personeel) alvast wat ondersteuning krijgen, gaat het roer om.

Spannend!

Wat doe je dan aan het eind van iedere avond? Je bespreekt de avond met zijn allen. Wat doe je dan iedere ochtend? Je praat met elkaar of er niets iets te verbeteren valt.

St. Eustatius, is net als de hierboven beschreven kroeg, ook van eigenaar veranderd.

Dat is al bijna 5 jaar geleden. Ze hadden afgesproken om na vijf jaar de nieuwe status te evalueren. Nu, na vier jaar is afgesproken dat het advies van de Raad van State hierover opgevolgd gaat worden.

Ik hoop dat het eiland zich daarop voobereid heeft. We weten wel alvast dat de RCN niet goed functioneerd, dat er niet goed gecommuniceerd wordt en dat de Rijksvertegenwoordiger zijn taak niet goed heeft vervuld. Of taken van die functie veranderd moeten worden heb ik nog niet over gehoord.

Wanneer komt een evaluatierapport van de lokale overheid?

Annemiek

 

 

 

Nederlandse stukje van de editor Annemiek “Niet lullen, maar poetsen!”

Ik lees dat Dhr. Zaandam, die constitutionele zaken in zijn portefeuille heeft en in de commissie die de evaluatie aan het voorbereiden is, op de televisie in het programma “Talking Blues” heeft gezegd dat St. Eustatius te kampen heeft met een “democratic deficit”.

Ik ga ervan uit dat Zaandam hiermee bedoeld dat de mensen op St. Eustatius niet genoeg te stemmen hebben: ze worden niet ten volle gerepresenteerd op de een of andere manier.

De mensen op St. Eustatius kunnen meedoen met de Tweede Kamerverkiezingen, ze stemmen dus mee wat voor centrale regering Nederland krijgt.  De mensen op St. Eustatius kunnen ook meedoen met de lokale verkiezingen, ze doen dat niet tegelijk met de Nederlandse gemeenteraadsverkiezingen, maar tegelijk met de Provinciale verkiezingen in Nederland.

De reden waarom de eilanden tegelijk hun lokale verkiezingen hebben als de provinciale staten in Nederland, weet ik niet.

Ik weet wel dat er een soort democratisch deficit is bij de Provinciale verkiezingen. We zouden recht moeten hebben op een stem bij de Provinciale verkiezingen, maar wij horen niet bij een Provincie.

Het ingewikkelde staatkundige stelsel van Nederland met een Eerste en een Tweede kamer, heeft als regel dat de leden van de Provinciale Staten kiezen voor de Eerste kamerleden. De burgers kiezen die leden van de Provinciale Staten, getrapte verkiezingen.

Bij ons kiezen de commissioners voor de Eerste kamerleden heb ik begrepen. Dat is raar, want wij hebben die commissioners daar niet voor aangewezen, we hebben niet een nieuwe verkiezing gehad.

We missen dus eigenlijk een verkiezing: die van de Provinciale Staten.

Ik zou zeggen: daar zijn twee oplossingen voor. Of we gaan deel uitmaken van een Provincie in Nederland, of we maken onze eigen Provincie.

We hebben wel een bestuurslaag tussen het lokale bestuur en de Nederlandse regering, want we hebben een Rijksvertegenwoordiger.

Ik pleit ervoor dat de volgende Rijksvertegenwoordiger een raad krijgt waar de BES burgers voor kunnen stemmen. Evenredig met het aantal inwoners van de verschillende eilanden. Twee van Saba, twee van Statia en vier van Bonaire. Deze mensen controleren de Rijksvertegenwoordiger. De Rijksvertegenwoordiger krijgt echte Provinciale taken. Zij of hij  heeft het overzicht over de energiemaatschappijen, vliegvelden en havens en is betrokken bij veiligheid.

Als ook mensen die in Nederland wonen op de kieslijsten kunnen staan, zou dat het democratische deficit totaal schoonpoetsen.

Nogmaals, ik ben geen staatkundige, het is maar een idee.

Ik ben ook geen Rotterdammer, anders zou ik zeggen: “Niet lullen, maar poetsen!!”

 

 

 

Statia, nepotism and lack of transparency

By Koos Sneek

Date: February 25 2014

The signals are there that the coalition on Statia, consisting of the UPC party and independent council members Lijfrock and Merkman is sailing in rough water. While there are so many urgent pending matters to deal with, the activities that are coming to light lately mostly seem to have to do with private matters such as bonuses to political cronies, salary advances to elected officials, extensive travel patterns of commissioner Tearr surrounded by a lack of transparency and securing of positions within government of political appointees after the elections to be held in March 2015.

 

To continue, individuals are hired by government on a so-called aankoopbon as such avoiding the requirement in the WOLBES that the Kingdom Representative is to approve the appointments. Taxes are not withheld from the income of these individuals, while it is also unclear if these persons have a properly registered business, a business license, a registration at the tax department and are paying their taxes. Also at no time these jobs are advertised, allowing others to apply, or given out for public bids allowing Statia companies to bid on them. There can be nothing against persons getting jobs, including those who are having the jobs now, or companies getting contracts but government has to follow transparent and open procedures.

 

Rumors are that documents are forged by the executive assistant to one of the commissioners in her own benefit. The commissioner responsible for personnel affairs denies that the executive council has taken certain official decisions on personnel appointments or he is at least not aware of this. Executive council decisions are taken without the underlying documents such as the advice from the personnel department or the responsible director. How can this happen? A very big question mark needs to be placed by the role of the acting island secretary in all of this. This functionary is responsible for the preparation of all documents to be handled by the executive council. Why did she overlook this? Why did she not properly inform the executive council members? Or did she?

 

What is the role of the three council members, who are supporting this government? Are they aware of this wheeling and dealing and are they condoning it? A few coalition meetings are held and we learned that it did not go well. But one can imagine that they are in a jam. Do they have to get rid of a crony who falsifies documents, or reprimand an acting island secretary, who is a family member? Can they risk for the government to fall? What are the alternatives? The DP back in government? This of course needs to be avoided at all cost. Should they seek the support from Franklin, who has already expressed his desire to see Clyde return as commissioner? I doubt most of them see that as a good idea either. And whose head then has to role? Zaandam, Tearr or maybe both?

 

The meetings of the Central Committee are finally open for the public. It can be noticed that now the practice is being used to decide that some matters are discussed in this committee behind closed doors. Recently the agenda point on the IND was discussed behind closed doors. On Thursday February 27 the agenda point on the fiber optic cable will also be dealt with behind closed doors. No explanation as why these matters are so sensitive that they need to be dealt with behind closed doors. What is all this secrecy about? I can remember that I heard the commissioners mention, when they entered government, that transparency was to be their trademark. The case around the fiber optic cable has regularly been in the media, loads of questions are publicly asked in the second chamber and answers are given by the minister, yet our representatives apparently are of the opinion that it is in our own interest to prevent the public to hear what they are discussing about these topics. The subject with the IND was an informative meeting whereby representatives from this service were to answer questions from the members of the island council. Why was there a need for secrecy to decide to discuss this agenda point behind closed doors? What has happened with the professed transparency?

 

To be continued….

 

 

Plasterk onder vuur, lees het ISB rapport

Hieronder een column van de website Joop, van historicus Han van der Horst.

http://www.joop.nl/opinies/detail/artikel/25476_caribisch_nederland_de_volgende_vuurproef_voor_plasterk/

Hij zegt dat hij liever een debat ziet over het voorzieningenniveau op de eilanden, dan over het rapport dat Plasterk sinds november verborgen heeft gehouden.

Daar komt hij op een goed moment mee, want in 2015 wordt de huidige status van de BES eilanden geevalueerd. In 2010 zijn Bonaire, St. Eustatius en Saba van status veranderd. Waren ze eerst deel van het land Nederlandse Antillen, met een centrale overheid op Curacao, sinds 2010 is de centrale overheid in Nederland. Deze nieuwe status is een soort overgang; de centrale overheid (Den Haag) is nu rechtstreeks verantwoordelijk voor onderwijs, veiligheid en gezondheidszorg (en de Tweede Kamer kan de ministers van OCW, veiligheid en justitie en VWS), de eilanden beslissen zelf hoe ze hun economie gaan ontwikkelen. Wel gaat er geld van Nederland naar die eilanden en dat geld is geoormerkt. Han van der Horst zet niet voor niks (tien!) achter “tien” ministeries. Ik had toen de berichtgeving over de nieuwe status begon, niet het idee dat zoveel ministeries zich ermee zouden gaan bemoeien.

In het rapport van het ISB team, dat Plasterk vijf (vijf!) keer heeft laten reviseren, wordt uitgelegd dat dat contact met die minsteries “verticaal” loopt. Op de eilanden weten ze vaak niet wat ambtenaren komen doen, ze hebben een plan gemaakt, zijn ergens mee bezig en het lokale bestuur is niet helemaal op de hoogte wat ze van plan zijn. Ik denk dat ze zoiets bedoelen.

Een belangrijk probleem is “communicatie” en daarom was de aanbeveling om zo snel mogelijk Dhr. Stolte te ontslaan. Stolte zou als vertegenwoordiger van Den Haag ervoor moeten zorgen dat alle partijen op de hoogte zijn van nieuw beleid, dat nieuwe plannen een platform hebben, dat er openheid, transparantie is. Dat lukte hem totaal niet, je leest in het rapport dat men elkaar wantrouwt en dat er soms helemaal NIET gecommuniceerd wordt. Dat betekent dat mensen “maar wat doen”.

Het is een ernstig gebrek aan daadkracht dat de beslissing is genomen dat Stolte pas per 1 mei weg gaat. Men is nu boos op Plasterk en dat is terecht want hij faalt, maar als ik Stolte was en dat rapport had gelezen, zou ik direct mijn ontslag hebben ingediend.

Dat is even de point van dit rapport denk ik.

De evaluatie is in 2015 en volgens het rapport moet bij die evaluatie ook de taken en verantwoordelijkheden van de Rijksvertegenwoordiger onder de loep genomen worden en hier is een ander document waarin uitgelegd wordt waar de evaluatie allemaal nog meer over gaat. Het voorzieningenniveau staat daar ook bij. Het is een belangrijk onderdeel van de evaluatie, vooral voor de kwetsbare groepen in die samenlevingen.

Annemiek

 

 

 

Referendum yes!

(from daily herald march 27)

After I listened to the Island Council meeting of Thursday, March 21, 2013, it took me a couple days to form an opinion on the matter of our constitutional status.

Although I did not agree with some of the statements made by the UPC faction, it dawned on me as to why a referendum will be the only way to go. What caught my attention is the fact that the UPC faction took the time to answer the question as to what will have to be done to make the current status work.

In answering that question they named the following: change the Kingdom Charter to make us equal citizens, amend the Dutch constitution to give us representation in both Houses, and a properly defined status that fits within the Dutch governmental structure.

The sitting coalition and their Executive Council are still of the opinion that Statia should sit and negotiate better conditions for our people, but what they failed to tell the people is what should be negotiated and what it will take to accomplished that. I believe that the public will surely welcome an overview of what this coalition saw as important points to be negotiated with Holland in an effort to make things better for the people of Statia.

Taking the arguments of the UPC in consideration, I am more than convinced that Holland will not do all of that just to please the 15,000 people living in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. They made it clear that they have no problem with a referendum as long as it is realistic and it is in line with the “flavours” that Holland can offer under these circumstances.

Listening to the arguments used by the coalition partners not to vote in favour of the motion, they all are in line with the position of the Executive Council and echoed by the Minister of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relation. The evaluation of 2015 must be seen as the fine-tuning of the current status.

So, since Holland is dead set not to accommodate us in that regard, we will have to decide our own destiny by choosing a different status. Then make use of the international forum and treaties to force Holland to facilitate our freely chosen constitutional status.

Janella Windefelde

Heavy Truths and Big Surprises (by Rueben Merkman)

On Thursday, March 21st a motion was brought in the Statia Island Council for the organizing of referendum before March 2014 by the STEP and UPC parties.  Personally I was caught off guard by this motion, because in the Central Committee there is a gentleman’s agreement that this is an issue that we were not suppose to play politics with.

This motion was rejected by the Coalition, for the following reasons:

 

1. On Sunday, March 17th a town hall meeting pertaining to the constitutional status was organized by coalition leaders Millicent Lijfrock- Marsdin and Reuben Merkman. Approximately 30 persons showed up to the meeting.  Based on the discussion and questions arising out of the meeting it was clear that more information needed to be shared with the public about referenda, the Evaluation in 2015 and the right of self determination.  Also a request was made during the meeting to organize more informative meetings and provide pamphlets for informing the people surrounding these issues.

 

2. The first considerans (a consideration, something taken into account to reach a decision) in the motion reads: “Sint Eustatius in a referendum in 2005, voted overwhelmingly (76.6%) to stay in the Netherlands Antilles.  It has already been establish that currently there are two options open to the people of Statia: public entity or integration.”  As is stated in the considerans, 76.6% of the people rejected these 2 options in the 2005 referendum; does the UPC have secret information that the people of Statia have changed their minds about what status they desire?  Or have the UPC concluded that the path chosen by the Democratic Party in 2010 to become a Public Entity of Holland was the correct one?

 

3. The following considerans in the motion states “St. Eustatius didn’t vote for direct ties with Holland in 2005.”  Direct ties with Holland is the only result possible of a referendum at this time. (Plasterk, 2013 and Saleh, January 2013).  What are you espousing that with a referendum the current status can possibly change to one of indirect ties with Holland.  This considerans contradicts the standpoint (less than a week old) of the UPC as stated in the Island Council.  The UPC council member stated during the island council meeting that the best status for Statia is integration with representation.  This standpoint is again absolutely opposite to what has been championed in the past and doesn’t coincide with the views of the STEP, which is independence.

 

4. Currently the WoLBES and the public entity of Statia don’t have an ordinance for organizing a referendum, moreover a binding one.  This would mean that Island Council would be approving a motion that refers to a law in the WolBES that doesn’t exist.  In the motion reference is made to article 152 in the WolBES, which doesn’t mention one iota about referenda. This article in the WolBES states that the Island Council can make ordinances that it deems necessary.  Therefore the first step is to put a referendum ordinance in place and then utilize the ordinance for organizing of the referendum.  This type of modus operandi is called putting the cart before the horse, which can only move the process backwards.  Additionally the Island Council cannot make laws that will supercede an agreement or law from a higher body, coming out of the “Slotverklaring” it was decided that an evaluation would take place in 2015.  In this agreement there is no mention of a change of status, therefore I question if one can speak of a binding referendum.  (Also see point 3, above)

 

5. There are a number of organizations that are busy with a signature petition drive to present to the island council in the future.  It is very important to let the democratic process take its course, whereby a basis for a referendum would be legitimized.

 

6. The decision of the Senate in The Hague not to anchor the status in the Constitution provides the island with additional time to experience the current system and seek adjustment where necessary. (The Daily Herald, 22-3-2013).  All of this information was provided in the council and notwithstanding the UPC and STEP still persisted with their agenda.  I personally believe it was God’s divine intervention to the council and the people of Statia.  How probable or improbable is it that on the day that the topic of our Constitutional Status is being discussed in the council, that a decision is reached by the Senate that pertains to this self same issue?   This is great victory for the BES islands and for Statia in particular.  It allows us more time to focus on our Evaluation of the status and in 2015 to present a document that reflects the views and wishes people of Statia.

 

7. The UPC faction was charged by the Central Committee in September 2012 with the responsibility to contact Mr. Carlyle Corbin, a renown constitutional lawyer, to advise the island council.  On various occasions, the council has requested from the councilman information pertaining to the services of Mr. Corbin and the councilman has not been able to produce an iota of a proposal.  As chairman of the Central Committee, I have not seen the phantom email that the councilman has sent on various occasions.  Notwithstanding the first opportunity that presents itself to grandstand, the UPC and STEP comes with a motion in the island council. Hereby the UPC and the STEP maliciously excluded the majority of the Island Council members in the preparatory phase of this motion.

 

Because of the 7 abovementioned reasons it was decided not to support the motion brought by the UPC and STEP.  Further there has not been any changed in the position of the coalition members pertaining to referenda for the people of Statia.  The Coalition believes that the process should be carried out in a transparent manner and with dignity and respect for all stakeholders.  This process should be decided on by the entire Council and not by a few persons wanting to make the island council a lawless arena and hold the government hostage.  Foremost the motion doesn’t have a legal basis and contains many half truths and statements that needed to be scrutinize more in-depth.   The DP and the Coalition will not be cajole or rushed into supporting any motion by political parties and organization that we are not comfortable with or that is not transparent, not based on legal grounds and will adversely affect, now and in the future, the very fabric of our way of thinking, our culture and our children.

Whatever the outcome of this process, such outcome should be the result of clear, free and well-informed choice.

OPINION Trix van Bennekom

Below you find a link to a weblog that is in Dutch written by Trix van Bennekom. She is a journalist on Bonaire. She suggests that the three islands Bonaire, Statia and Saba should have a referendum in 2015. In 2015, the current constitutional status of the three island will be evaluated. A referendum could be part of that evaluation. Upto now, it is said that this evaluation will be a “fine-tuning” of the current status. But things could be different now that the First Chamber decided to postpone the vote to lock the islands’ current status in the Dutch constitution.

http://trixvanbennekom.blogspot.nl/2013/03/zelfbeschikking.html?spref=fb

 

 

 

 

 

Political Goals are the motivation for the imposition of ToT, says Rueben Merkman

I would like to voice my opinion pertaining to the ToT that is being levied by SXM on goods sold to Statia. We can safely establish that these goods are not produced in SXM.  This is one of the few instances in the world that one country collects taxes on goods sold to another country.  This form of instruments of commercial industrial policy is rarely used and is outdated.  This type of instrument is used to protect the internal market and/or industries and is a deterrent to free enterprise.  Free or optimum trade thrives when goods can be traded without hindrance by taxes/duties. Generally it is accepted that when goods are sold for resale, remanufacture, transit or export no local taxes are added on.  For example goods bought in Miami, Puert Rico or Holland that are destined for another country are exempt from sale tax. 

In a free market, goods that carry a high price results in a reduction of the amount of goods sold.  This practice can only survive in an environment where SXM has a monopoly position in terms of goods imported to Statia or where it pertains to a basic good.(a good that the people cannot live without).  As we know approximately 95% of the goods imported to Statia comes from St. Maarten.  Therefore we can safely conclude that political goals (balancing SXM budget) are the motivation for the imposition of  ToT on goods sold to Statia. The Dutch government and all stakeholders need to start seeking alternative markets for the purchase of goods.  This is the clearest message that can be send in the interest of free trade and the Statian consumer. It is safe to conclude that their dollars will also be accepted by other wholesalers in the world.  
 
Rueben Merkman, DP island council member St. Eustatius

Aspects concerning the real estate tax (opinion)

Aspects concerning the ‘vastgoedbelasting’ (real estate tax)     February 2013

 

The real estate tax, as the name itself implies, is the tax levied on a plot with a house built on it that is not being used as permanent residency by the owner. In the Netherlands the equivalent of this tax is the ‘onroerend zaak belasting’ (ozb).

 

Real estate tax and ozb are municipality taxes that cover the costs of certain matters in a municipality.

 

To define the real estate tax, one needs a valuation of the plot and the house. Two years ago pictures were taken (from a car) of all the houses on the island. The valuation has been defined based on these pictures, which is not a valid way of assessing a valuation. To define the real estate tax the valuation needs to be done based on the market value. The officials did not inform themselves about the prices that are being paid when property is sold.

Furthermore some contracts of sale contain restrictive conditions, for example a long lease agreement.

 

The risk of estimating the value in this manner is that it will be difficult to negotiate about the  valuation.

In the Netherlands there are small organizations that make such arrangements for costumers on the expenses of a municipality.

 

The average percentage of what has to be paid on the market value of a house in the Netherlands is estimated on 0.1 %.

 

On the island this was 1% and is reduced to 0.8%. That is still 8x as much as in the Netherlands.

 

For example, the levy on a plot in the Netherlands that is 200 euro per year, will cost about 1200 USD per year on the island.

(Not 1600 USD due to an exemption of 50,000 USD on the praised value)

 

To explain this difference, the officials say that one can not compare the real estate tax on the BES-islands with the ozb in the Netherlands due to added components to the tax in the BES.

 

Because the profit tax has been eliminated something else needed to replace it and more means are needed to cover the largely increased costs of health care.

 

Before explaining why these items can not be added to the real estate tax one needs to understand that profit tax and health care are national matters. Real estate tax is a matter of a municipality. Therefore these matters can not be combined.

 

If someone rents out one or more accommodations or uses it in another way for business purposes, then the owner should be charged based on how he benefits. The present real estate tax is not based on how the real estate  is used, but is a fixed amount per year. Therefore a situation of inequality arises.

 

Business people who do not inhabit their houses and make a profit on them,

will most likely accommodate these houses in a private company or a similar structure. In this way they will have to pay less tax on their merits.

 

We notice that of two identical plots, the owner that makes much more profit on his plot will obviously benefit more than his neighbor while both pay the same amount of real estate tax.

 

Pensionados who do not rent out their house while being away will have no benefits from this house. They do have to pay the full real estate tax and therefore have to suffer for the eliminated profit tax of which they do not and did not take part.

 

It would be fair if all house-owners, who would be considered for real estate tax, would be levied according to the Dutch standards. Furthermore the ones who make profit on the rent of their accommodations should be levied in the regular manner and not through this real estate tax.

 

Concerning the excessive increased costs of health care, this of course has nothing to do with the real estate tax.

 

The consequences of the present plans are:

 

The lessors of accommodations will increase the costs to the tenants.

 

Owners of a second home who do not rent out their house and do not make a profit on the house, will be disadvantaged. It is unjust that they will have to pay a tax including components that are not applicable to their situation.

Therefore some of them will want to sell their property and others may not continue maintaining their property anymore. These houses will be neglected and their value will decrease. Then the validation will be even more invalid and the island will be spiraling downwards.

 

The decision to send an assessment to a select group of people instead of everyone at the same time, is a form of legal inequality.

 

Lastly retroactive levying, back to 01-01-2011, must be an error in procedures since no-one has ever been informed in an earlier stage and was therefore not prepared to this unexpected high expense.

 

Hopefully the officials who are responsible for the design and execution of the real estate tax will realize the consequences of certain aspects of this tax and reconsider them.

 

A concerned inhabitant of Statia

Questions for Statia and Edith Schippers

 
DH Tuesday, 26 February 2013 20:46

Dear Editor,

Serious questions should now be asked about the way the health insurance and hospital system is run on the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands. The Dutch Minister of Public Health Edith Schippers has been asked to trim the health insurance package for the islands. It is absolutely time she looked at the costs or more precisely, at the way the treatment system is administered by some of her civil servants.

In the Netherlands, each citizen is required to pay for health insurance. Failure to do so results in fines. No dough, no show! However, on Statia a residence card is all that is needed to get free medical treatment; this philosophy is excellent but expensive. It almost mirrors the national insurance facilities in the United Kingdom (UK) and Canada.

What about the off-island medical treatment in Colombia and Guadeloupe? Whereas I cannot speak for the linguistic mess of the latter, I can add my personal experience of the former.

Medical facilities in Medellin are excellent and internationally recognised for the high quality treatment they provide. Patients that fly out to Medellin are treated by the very best doctors and surgeons as well as afforded almost VIP clinical status as regards nursing facilities and accommodation. Cleanliness is observed in military fashion 24 hours a day. Furthermore, the ratio of medical staff to patients is four to one.

So, why should the minister fix that which is not broken? But, there is something broken. The service provided by the island administration that runs this off-island medical tourism needs vast improvement. For example (and a bit like Columbus before), patients sometimes arrive at hospital not knowing where to go or who will greet and treat them. Their disease and symptoms have not been communicated by the insurance company. The first question the Colombian doctor asks the patient is often, “What is the matter with you?” A waste!

Worse still, MRI scans and x-rays are often not sent by the insurance department or given to the patient to accompany him or her. Such expensive diagnosis tests are, therefore, repeated in Medellin and add to the length of the patient’s stay in the country; moreover, those MRI scans were acquired by patients travelling to St. Maarten beforehand. Travel and overnight stays on St. Maarten for something that will not be used is once again a complete waste of public money.

Once the hospital patient finally departs for Colombia, he will discover that his daily allowance of US$25 will not go far. But, what is far is the distant location of the hotel booked by the insurance department for the overnight stay in Curaçao. A single taxi ride from Curaçao airport to downtown hotel will cost $25 in each direction. This is unacceptable and the misery is made even more evident by the departure tax that the patient has to fork out from his or her purse. This amounts to $60 for all the flights in one direction.

The patient is, therefore, obliged to pay $110 each to get to Medellin. Breakfast at stop-over hotel is not included and if daily allowances are not paid on time as is often the case, hardship results.

Nevertheless, hotels in Medellin are very comfortable but once again, many miles from the hospital. This adds to the cost since a return taxi ride amounts to approximately $30 in rush hour. For the patient and companion, this is not such a problem because one free return taxi ride is provided per day. But, this does not change the fact that the health insurance has to pick up the long distance taxi bill.

The big sting in the tail is the return flight. Once the Colombian doctor has given the “okay” to return to the respective BES Island, it can take another eight days before the patient can leave. This is because the insurance department on Statia is too slow and inefficient.

My experience of this costly delay is not uncommon. Having informed the Statia insurance department that the patient was okay for travel by the doctor at 14:00 of a Thursday, four working days were required to produce the travel booking and that travel booking was for a flight a full week later on Friday of the following week!

One of the reasons for this delay is that only low cost flights are booked (whilst slightly more expensive alternative flights and routes are available). The whole travel side is a disaster and costs the Dutch Ministry of Health many extra days of hotel accommodation and daily allowances through this false economy. More significantly, it also robs the island development of absent personnel who contribute to the economy or running of the island and robs families of loved ones.

Some patients and companions are stranded in Colombia for many months without a logical programme of treatment that allows them to return home when and where necessary. It is a scandal!

I know it is hard on these islands for civil servants to perceive citizens as customers – even though the public pays for their salaries. However, in this case, an immediate and complete review of the system and its workings is required. A quality improvement process is clearly overdue.

By my own calculations, the budget for off-island medical treatment could be reduced by 25 per cent. In reading this letter, the Health Minister, therefore, needs to shake up her own people as well as the budget that provides such lousy services. But, will Edith Schippers take note?

A concerned citizen