blog | werkgroep caraïbische letteren

Saba’s secret?

by Jonathan G.A. Johnson [Island Governor of Saba]

Since becoming a public entity of the Netherlands 10 years ago I have been frequently asked, ‘What is Saba’s Secret?’. I tell them there is no real secret. We do what we are elected or appointed to do in a transparent and goal driven manner. 

Prior to the transition there were many promises made and hopes created. Looking back, we can agree that more time should have been spent on expectation management but it also had to get done. I do believe that the general sentiment on Saba is positive towards the transition and becoming a public entity. Yes, there are areas that need to be worked on but in general things have improved. But at what cost? 


Since Dr. Julia Crane wrote her book Educated to emigrate: the social organization of Saba in 1971 our island has gone through immense change and development. In the eyes of some we have developed too fast at the cost of the social fabric of our island. A similar trend can be seen in our neighboring islands and at a global level. The sacrifices and inconveniences which our forefathers and mothers had to endure are now unfathomable. For those who had to bear those inconveniences and sacrifices they can now appreciate what we have with regards to healthcare and education. Yet the privileges now are at times taken for granted as given.

A lot went on behind the scenes and goes on behind the scenes to make our island move forward. There will always be those who stand by idly criticizing and condemning yet refuse to contribute. Our island faces a natural numbers problem. Although the population remains stable at around 2000 residents the fact is that a quarter of the population is attributed to the Saba University School of Medicine. There are then nationalities represented ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. We have to be realistic and honest with ourselves that Sabans who have roots on our island for generations is decreasing and this shouldn’t be seen as a threat but an opportunity. With Sabans living in the diaspora throughout the world we need to explore how they can contribute ‘from a distance’. 

How will Saba look in 10 years? Looking back 10 years ago we didn’t fathom renewable energy, 24/7 medical airlift and assistance to build back after major hurricanes. What is a given must not be taken for granted. It is good to aspire more but also important to value and be appreciative of what is done. Yes, there are things which need to be further improved and worked on but like life the current constitutional relationship we have is dynamic which needs and requires care and attention. At the end of it all we have to collectively do our best by planning and preparing for the future. The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken us awake that we cannot take our health or our earth for granted. It has been a difficult time for everyone but history has shown that this too shall pass. 

Looking forward I remain an optimist but also a realist. A relationship or bond is only as strong as the time and energy you put into it. The same goes for our island. We have to continuously and attentively do and act in the best interest of our island and her people. 

[From the LinkedIN-paga of the author, October 10, 2020; permission granted.]

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