Bonaire moving forward - economy & development | Interview with Wietze Koopman

Xp Bonaire IslandLife Feature Story


Covid19 crisis


With over 75% of the economy depending on tourism, of course the worldwide Covid 19 pandemic hit Bonaire with full force and the island came to a standstill. Even though more than a year in, the vaccination numbers seem to be sufficient and most of our focus countries seem to stabilize as well, the way to the “new normal” is a slow one.


We hear noises about the cruise ships getting ready again, but nothing concrete yet. The covid test measures to cross our borders are still problematic and the new reestablished flights are often delayed and make a visit to Bonaire problematic.

Nonetheless, most businesses on Bonaire seem to survive these trying times. A few new established businesses, who had no time to build their network, didn’t make it and left the island, but overall, the subsidies for business and individuals alike helped to let most survive.


“For the first time, Bonaire was included in the Dutch subsidy flow, that is very positive and needed for the survival of our economy.” Wietze states. “Even those who are unemployed or lost their business are able to receive aid”.


All residents and local businesses enjoy subsidies on the water and electricity bill and internet until the end of the year, 2021, and businesses, for sure, will get subsidies until the fall, with a possible expansion period. “To apply for the subsidies, the administrative obligations were kept to a minimum, to ensure a smooth and quick procedure. Some businesses took advantage of the slow time and renovated their businesses, worked on concept adjustments or reinvented themselves completely,“ was Wietze’s experience.


Many are focusing on the future and have hope for better times, but does the pandemic have any long-term effects and make the situation worse?

In Wietze’s opinion, the pandemic didn’t change the situation on the island much. “The most urgent problems are not created by the pandemic. The main problems existed for a long time and will, after the pandemic, when ‘normality’ returns.”


What are the most important problems on the island?


In Wietze’s opinion we have three major problems that need to be solved:

Poverty, infrastructure and unity.


Poverty

More than 50% of the island’s work force lives under the social minimum. The minimum loan needs to go up massively to fight the ever-growing problem. Step by step is the way to make this possible.


Infrastructure

For many years we are fighting for the restoration of our road system with the result that the roads are getting worse, sometimes by the day. Since we rely on cars to move around the island, because we don’t have public transportation and our cars need constant repair due to the poor road quality, it is often impossible for people to afford a car.

The governmental discussions back and forth between Bonaire and the Netherlands have been without any positive results so far.


Unity

To have any chance against an all-powerful motherland, “it is of the outmost importance to unite forces and stand as one in the fight for our needs as a small island. Political power play and selfish reasoning should make place for unity, “ is the solution to the main problems we are facing in Wietze’s opinion.



Unkobon

Wietze Koopman, to most known as coordinator at the consumer association, Unkobon, became a resident on Bonaire in 2003.


While he had a successful career in the European Netherlands as a civil servant in policy positions at the Ministry of Finance and as a manager at the tax office, on Bonaire he chose for scuba diving as his new profession and stay away from any governmental involvement. As an ‘immigrant’, he didn’t believe it was his place.


When it became clear in 2009, that Bonaire would become a special municipality of the Netherlands and slowly the new regulations and tax plans came our way, it was obvious to Wietze that the divide between poor and rich would become even bigger and that it was important to unite. He felt personally responsible to protect and fight for the rights of Bonaire and its people, which had become his home, against a much more powerful and larger motherland.


In 2010 Bonaire officially became part of the Netherlands and the US$ was chosen as the new currency on the island and consumer prices started to rise. Some of us might remember that frequently the prices were doubled. In 2012 the association, Unkobon, was founded. An association that stands up for the interests of all consumers became urgently necessary.


Unkobon is/was involved in

- rental price regulation

- research social minimum

- connection costs WEB

- gasoline prices

- supermarket price comparison


Momentarily, Unkobon is active in

- Cash money refunds due to covid cancelled flights

- Supermarket price comparison: now working on maximum prices

- 2018-2021 road construction action. Proposal to make The Netherlands responsible for the 250 Mill $ project (as early as 2018).


“To see our voices heard in The Netherlands we need to work together and find it in ourselves to make the common need a priority over our personal, career and political gain. Unity in solving the main issues is necessary” Wietze urges.


To support the association, Unkobon, go to:

unkobon.org

or visit the Facebook page :

unkobon






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