Dutch to help tourism firms on storm-hit Caribbean isles

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The Dutch government Thursday unveiled a 2.48-million-euro (US$3-million) plan to compensate tourism businesses on two Caribbean islands, left reeling after last year’s hurricane.

“I saw with my own eyes the devastating effect that Hurricane Irma had” on the islands of Saba and Sint Eustatius, deputy interior minister Raymond Knops said.

Under the scheme, businesses which relied entirely on tourism such as hotels, restaurants and bars, taxi services and even diving schools, could claim up to 25 per cent of their expected annual turnover in compensation.

“The tourism sector is an important provider of jobs and income for many families,” Knops said in a statement, referring to the islands which are part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands.

The scheme would help affected companies “to bridge this difficult period during reconstruction”.

The Dutch government announced in November that some 67 million euros will be given to the two small islands to help with reconstruction.

Power lines were downed, trees uprooted and buildings torn apart when Irma whipped across the islands, including Saint Martin, as a rare Category Five storm in September.

According to figures from the national statistics body, some 11,000 tourists visit St Eustatius annually, while 9,000 visitors travel to Saba. Both islands are popular diving spots.

Eligible companies must lodge a claim by April 25 for the period from September 2017 to February 2018. They must also provide turnover figures from 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Plans to help the Dutch part of Saint Martin — known as Sint Maarten — have bogged down amid a row over the disbursement of some 550 million euros in aid which forced the resignation of the territory’s prime minister.

Elections for a new Sint Maarten government are now due to be held in late February

Source: Jamaica Observer

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