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Are We Ready? – Part Two

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - In most IT textbooks new topics are often introduced with case studies. As a matter of fact, when I was introduced to Business Continuity Planning it was through a case study discussing the effects of Super Storm Sandy on the northeastern coast of the United States. While Hurricane Irma was far more powerful than Super Storm Sandy and the effects were much worse, this was not only because of the strength of the hurricane but also due to a lack of adequate business continuity plans.

The extensive and destructive force of Irma left the local governments and businesses on both sides of the island overwhelmed by the loss of electrical power, cellular phone service, internet access, transportation and even running water. Losing telecommunication, in particular, had a domino effect on the island which crippled governance and isolated the population.

Military personnel and local law enforcement officers who have come to rely on modern telecommunications were unable to coordinate their efforts to maintain order and enforce the curfew. This led to widespread looting and chaos along with delays in scheduling evacuations and requesting much-needed aid. On a larger scale, a lack of communication from official channels (government) also led to miscommunication and misinformation. Cooperation between the French and Dutch side was hampered. Meanwhile, false articles and photos spread through social media causing panic and damaging the island’s image and tourism brand.

This is just a small sample of what stemmed from the loss of telecommunications. However, a great deal of the impact could have been alleviated with proper business continuity planning by government and telecom providers on both sides of the island. Business continuity can be defined as the ability of an organization to maintain its operations and services in the face of a disruptive event. This event could be as basic as an electrical outage or as catastrophic as a Category 5 hurricane.

Business Continuity Planning encompasses three main tenants namely Resiliency, Recovery and Contingency. Companies need to make sure their systems are resilient, this is usually done through fault tolerance and redundancy (removing single points of failure) which helps them keep going if any issues are encountered. Recovery is the ability to actually get the system back online in the event that it’s not resilient enough to skip over an issue or disaster. Recovery is achieved through back-ups, fault tolerance, failovers, etc. Contingency deals with your alternatives if you cannot bring that system back online. This usually means having more than one pre-established location so that operations can continue if the primary location sustains significant damage.

Business Continuity Planning begins with a Business Impact Analysis to understand the impact of the disaster on each area of the business and identify critical systems and components. Through the Business Impact Analysis, a cost is also assigned to each area of the business which helps determine how much it would cost to bring that area of the business back online in the event of a disaster.

The Business Impact Analysis also lays the groundwork for Risk Assessment and Risk Management. These are self-explanatory but it is important to understand this is a continuous process. It is important to periodically review and see if there are risks that were not noticed before or if advances in technology can provide better solutions at alleviating risks.

Companies like Amazon and eBay when assessing risk look at how much investing in a resilient network would cost, usually a few hundred thousand dollars vs. how it much it would cost to purchase and install new parts. Along with how much money they would lose if their site was down. For reference, in 2013 Amazon lost $66,240 per minute of downtime. Similarly, some investing in the Caribbean tourism industry have a similar way of thinking. Bird of Paradise Villas in Anguilla is built to sustain 200 mph winds. As a result, they suffered minimal damages from Hurricane Irma and resumed operations the following day.

At this point it should be obvious, having a resilient organization means recovery will be quicker, easier and more affordable. Imagine if this type of resiliency was implemented at the airports, utility companies and by our telecom providers as it is in larger countries. Our recovery efforts would move along much faster. In the long run, it is cheaper to invest in resilient architecture. The airport is a good example, the cost to construct the airport was 117 million dollars and post-Irma repairs are expected to cost over 100 million dollars. Wouldn’t it have better to build a more resilient airport terminal building to begin with? Keep in mind that over 100 million in material damages does not account for the amount the airport lost every day it remained closed and the residual damage to our tourism-based economy.

Another benefit to Business Continuity Planning is that it can help us make better use of our natural resources. As an example, GEBE currently experiences frequent outages and relies on fossil fuels to service an island dubbed “Sunshine City.” A potential solution for GEBE could be to set up a program to rent and maintain solar panels to residents. This could be done for residents whose houses are built to certain specifications along with government buildings. As a precaution, the solar panels can be retrofitted for easy removal in case of a storm. Implementing these changes would result in a GEBE that is more resilient due to a reduced load and a distributed network while providing an avenue for the company to pivot into renewable energy and use fossil fuels as a backup. After GEBE becomes proficient with solar panel installation and maintenance they could even consider servicing neighboring islands.

Business Continuity Planning is not my idea or a new concept by any means, these are security best practices that are followed by most of the businesses where I have worked, mainly to prevent the loss of customers and damage to their brand. In St. Maarten/St. Martin governments and telecom providers on both sides have better reasons, they have an obligation to the people because their decisions affect the livelihood of the entire population.

Admittedly, this level of foresight and advanced preparation is not common to our leaders, some would even say they are shortsighted. Nevertheless, after Hurricane Irma passed, many politicians praised the resiliency of the people of St. Maarten/St. Martin. I know this might have just been political rhetoric, but in this case, I hope our leaders can adapt and learn resiliency from the people of their own country and put business continuity plans in place before the next hurricane or disaster.

Ramzan Juman

COMMENTARY: The comments are the sole responsibility of the author.


Tax Dept. Caribbean Netherlands to be lenient towards tax payers

SABA/ST. EUSTATIUS - In connection with the recent hurricanes Irma and Maria, which have caused a lot of damage in the Caribbean, the Belastingdienst Caribisch Nederland will exercise leniency when it comes to assessment and objection procedures and the collection of taxes from tax payers affected by the hurricanes on Saba and St. Eustatius.

This leniency concerns affected businesses as well as individuals. Within the boundaries of its legislative and regulatory frameworks, the Belastingdienst will discuss the possibilities of leniency with the affected taxpayers on an individual basis. It concerns a matter of case-by-case customization, since not everyone is affected to the same extent.

Tax payers who believe that they are eligible for an individual arrangement can visit the tax office building on Saba or St. Eustatius or contact the Belastingdienst on Saba via telephone number +599 416 3941 or +599 416 3942 or on St. Eustatius via telephone number +599 318 3325 or +599 318 3326.


Latin America and Caribbean falling off ‘zero hunger’ path towards 2030 – UN report

CARIBBEAN, 12 October 2017 – The total number of persons that suffer from hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean has increased, reversing decades of progress, even as overweight and obesity emerged as a major problem in all countries in the region of the Americas, a United Nations-backed report shows.

“The region has taken a significant step backwards in a fight that it was winning,” Julio Berdegué, Regional Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said Thursday. “We cannot tolerate the current levels of hunger and obesity, as they will paralyze an entire generation.”

Hunger rates have declined in 21 of the 27 countries of the region in recent years, but the absolute number of people suffering from hunger increased, according to the report published by FAO and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

In 2016, some 42.5 million people in the region did not have enough food for their daily caloric needs, a six per cent increase, or 2.4 million additional undernourished people.

“It will be very difficult for the region to reach Sustainable Development Goal 2 on eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030” if this trend does not change, said Mr. Berdegué.

Only a few decades ago, governments of the region joined forces to fight against acute malnutrition, chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency. Today they must also fight against overweight and obesity.

“The region faces a double burden of malnutrition,” said PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne.

Overweight and obesity continue to affect all age groups

Overweight and obesity is a public health problem in all countries of the Americas, affecting all age groups.

Some 7.5 per cent of those under the age of five in South America, or 2.5 million children, suffer from overweight and obesity, as do six per cent of the children in Central America and 6.9 per cent of those in the Caribbean. The rate increases with age, affecting a third of the adolescents and two thirds of the adults in the region, with women being the most affected.

The problem is growing in scale to catch up with the region’s 11 per cent rate of child stunting due to chronic malnutrition.


Government, Businesses & Psychologists Come together to support Employees

POND ISLAND – The Ministry of TEATT, Public Health Department, Representatives of the Business Community and the Association of Psychologists and Allied Professionals has come together to give support in the psychological first aid of companies and organizations in the connection with the passing of hurricanes Irma & Maria.

After a disaster, there are specific risk groups that are more likely to develop (trauma related) psychological complaints such as, first responders and others whose jobs are directly linked to disaster management. The trauma may also affect workers who were in one way or the other affected by the storm and are called upon to return to work.

It is important that employers provide such workers with the possibility to get adequate support to be able to process these experiences or psychological consequences in a satisfactory manner. This approach will contribute to the wellbeing of staff in general and indirectly also to the wellbeing of the companies and organizations.  

The Psychological support will be given based on a stepped care triage method;

Psychological first aid information session

Screening of employees and staff

Follow up of employees/staff at risk

Feedback and consultation session with management

The goal of this initiative is to begin the sessions as soon as possible as to mitigate any possible post traumatic effects of employees/citizens as they are critical to the overall road to recovery of Sint Maarten.


Central Committee to meet Wednesday about Committees and amendment Rules of Order 

PHILIPSBURG – The Central Committee will meet in a session on October 11. 

The Central Committee meeting has been set for Wednesday at 2.00 pm in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelminastraat #1 in Philipsburg.

The agenda points are:
1. Advice regarding the installation and composition of the Permanent and Ad hoc Committees of Parliament
2. Advice regarding the installation and composition of the Committees of the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino)
3. Amendment of article 69 and addition several new articles to the Rules of Order
Members of the public are invited to the House of Parliament to attend parliamentary deliberations.  

The House of Parliament is located across from the Court House in Philipsburg.


CAft: Complying with 2017 and 2018 budgetary norms crucial for achieving sustainable public finance

SINT MAARTEN/ARUBA - The Board of financial supervision Aruba (CAft) considers the compliance with the budgetary norms for 2017 and later years crucial in decreasing the government debt of Aruba and making the public finance sustainable. This is what Raymond Gradus indicated during his first visit to Aruba as CAft chairman.

For 2017 a strict supervision is essential to comply with the projected measures to reduce the financing deficit. Considering the results of the first half year, CAft is concerned about the disappointing income and increasing expenses. In addition, the CAft has insisted during its visit to present the 2018 budget as soon as possible to Parliament, in which the norm of 0.5% GDP surplus stated in the LAft has been taken into account.

 2017 Budget under pressure

Over the first half of the year Aruba has realized a deficit of 1.6% GDP. The surplus of the collective sector excluding the Country shall result in 0.1% GDP for the whole of 2017. This means that the deficit for the Country of Aruba has to decrease from 1.6% GDP to 0.6% GDP in the second half of 2017. The Country of Aruba thus faces the challenge to realize a surplus of 1.0% GDP (approximately AWG 50 million).

Although the mid-year realization of the wage tax and the tax on business turnover (BBO) are higher than the revenues over the first half of 2016 were, they still are lagging behind compared to the budget. Furthermore, a number of cost items show a faster expending pattern than the previous years. The lagging tax revenues are greatly caused by the delayed work activities with regard to the re-opening of the refinery.

The tax revenues that are lagging behind this year also represent a risk for the 2018 budget, considering the fact that Aruba has to achieve a financing surplus of 0.5% GDP in 2018, according to the LAft. Without highly increasing tax revenues, not only in 2017 but particularly in 2018, it will be precarious to comply with said norm.

The CAft has not received the draft 2018 budget from the government. During its visit, the CAft has insisted that the 2018 budget be submitted as soon as possible to Parliament, so that the budget can be adopted in time. This is important, considering the financing schedule.

Importance of durable public finance

Compliance with budgetary norms is important in order to reduce the government debt. The substantial burden of debt lays a great pressure on Aruba’s public finance. Because of the high indebtedness combined with a relatively high interest rate, the annual interest charges represent enormous costs for the Aruban government. It is important for Aruba to reduce both the interest costs and the debt quote.

In that respect, the government bonds that were refinanced in 2017 are a step in the right direction, as these were financed against a lower interest rate. But a further decrease of the debt quote and the lower interest costs associated herewith are a prerequisite to lead the public finance to a structurally sustainable path.

In 2018 a first step needs to be taken towards the realization of a further improvement of the government debt, with a surplus of 0.5% GDP. Also after 2018 a surplus is required to achieve a further improvement of the government debt.

Deficit norm accomplished in 2016

Based on the draft annual accounts the CAft concludes that in 2016, with a deficit of 1.8% GDP, the legal deficit norm of 2.0 GDP was achieved. The draft annual accounts are still at the National Audit Office Aruba for its advice. Next the CAft shall submit its advice on the annual accounts.

These annual accounts have not been audited yet by an accountant. Aruba is engaging in a process to achieve annual accounts audited by an accountant in the future. This process shall have to result in a situation whereby an (unqualified) audit statement can be submitted for the 2020 annual accounts. The CAft emphasizes the importance of having annual statements that have been audited by an accountant.

Visit of CAft with new chairman

The two days visit of the CAft to Aruba was the first headed by the new chairman Mr. Raymond Gradus. The CAft now consists of Raymond Gradus, Robert Croes and Sybilla Dekker.

The new chairman looks back on a fruitful visit to Aruba. The CAft had its regular meetings with the Governor, the outgoing Minister of Finance, the outgoing Council of Ministers and the Parliamentary Committee on Finance, Economic Affairs and Government Organization. In addition, the CAft has visited amongst others the Central Bank of Aruba, the Advisory Council and the Aruba Ports Authority.


Plenary Session of Parliament about (re)appointment of the Ombudsman set for Friday

PHILIPSBURG – The House of Parliament will sit in a plenary public session on October 6, 2017.

The plenary public meeting is scheduled for Friday at 10.00 hrs in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelminastraat #1 in Philipsburg.

The agenda point is Advice regarding the (re)appointment of an Ombudsman.

Members of the public are invited to the House of Parliament to attend parliamentary deliberations. 

The House of Parliament is located across from the Court House in Philipsburg.


New Cft Chairman Gradus: "Curacao Budget 2017 developing inadequately"

SINT MAARTEN/CURACAO - During its visit to Curaçao, the Board of financial supervision Curaçao and Sint Maarten (Cft) indicated that the implementation of the 2017 budget was under great pressure. Revenue enhancing and tax mitigation measures are necessary to prevent a budget deficit in 2017. Challenges are related to lagging tax revenues en social funds premiums and the control of expenses. In addition, the stimulation of the economy is an important challenge

Probable positive closing of 2016 budget

The year 2016 appears to have closed with a positive result on the ordinary service, on account of incidental windfalls. With this, Curaçao presents for the fourth consecutive year a balanced ordinary service. The 2016 annual accounts have not yet been audited by the government accountant and the National Audit Office, so a final conclusion is not yet feasible. Despite disappointing incomes from tax and sale of goods and services, the total income has been higher than the total expenses as a result of a substantial windfall in dividend income. The Cft warns for a policy that relies on incidental revenues as a means to realize a balanced budget, and therefore emphasizes, amongst others, the importance of a structural dividend policy for government corporations.

2017 Budget execution inadequate

The realization figures for the first half of 2017 are of concern. The 2017 budget is under great pressure. The Cft has advised the government to immediately introduce a commitment stop and compliance enhancing measures, in order to balance the budget and keep it that way. The charges, especially grants and transfers, consumption of goods and services and the additional allocation to the swing fund, are higher in the first half of the year compared to the forecast, while income, in particular from taxes, property, goods & services and premiums for the social funds keep lagging far behind the forecast. As a consequence, the forecast is exceeded with a total amount of ANG 77 million as per the end of June. The Cft chairman: "The government must take steps to evade a deficit by the end of 2017".

The liquidity position has fallen below a healthy and sustainable level. The Board advises the government to take appropriate measures as soon as possible to improve the liquidity position. In addition, Cft advises the government to improve the information provision on Hospital Nobo Otrobanda,  considering the possible financial consequences for the budget. This applies not only to the Cft but also to society as a whole. The Board therefore insists on an update of and insight into the business case. Lastly, the Cft also refers to the resilience capacity that needs to be strengthened in order to make it possible to still balance the budget during economically less prosperous times.

Economic growth necessary in coming years

In recent years, the economic growth has stagnated on Curaçao. Calculations show that for 2017 a real economic growth of -1.8% and for 2018 0.3% of GDP can be expected. The economy needs a boost. The government can create a better entrepreneurial climate by eliminating barriers (such as red tape) by investing in ICT, modernizing legislation and effectively implementing efficiency-enhancing measures, in particular in government-owned enterprises in the energy sector. There are also opportunities for economic growth resulting from the possible participation of Guangdong Zhenrong Energy (GZE), the investments in the dry dock enterprise and the second Megapier, where currently significant steps are being taken.

Cft visit with new chairman and member on behalf of Curaçao

The visit to Curaçao on October 4th was the first headed by the new Cft chairman Raymond Gradus. The Board has meanwhile been reinforced with the arrival of the new member on behalf of Curaçao, Mr. Gregory Damoen. The Cft looks back on a fruitful visit to Curacao. Meetings were held with the Governor, the Council of Ministers, the Minister of Finance and the Parliamentary Financial Committee. The Board also met with the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten. In addition, the impact of hurricane Irma on the economies of Curaçao and Sint Maarten was discussed.

The Cft expresses its compassion with all who have been affected by the recent natural calamity. The Cft considers it not fitting at this moment to visit Sint Maarten. "The government's focus is now on providing emergency relief and restoring the public order," the chairman stated. Perhaps the Cft will make a separate visit to Sint Maarten by the end of this year.



SINT MAARTEN/DOMINICA - In the aftermath of the passage of hurricane Maria, the local fire brigade in Dominica has been pressed into service for much of the clean-up and restoration, along with its day-to-day firefighting duties in the capital of Roseau and beyond.

Last week, the brigade issued an urgent appeal when a fire pump, a vital piece of equipment, needed urgent replacement. The loss of the pump meant that the brigade would have been severely hampered in the assistance it could render to communities in dire need of help.

CIBC FirstCaribbean’s Country Head in Dominica Stephen Lander became aware of the urgent need and contacted the bank’s Comtrust Foundation, the charitable arm of the regional bank, for assistance in last Friday. In less than a day, the fire pump was sourced in Barbados, purchased and transported by the Barbados Coast Guard, to Dominica where it was handed over to Jisiah Dupuis the Fire Chief of the Dominica Fire Brigade by Mr. Lander over the weekend. 

The fire chief expressed his gratitude on behalf of the fire brigade and the people of Roseau and the surrounding communities and said the prompt purchase of this pump would assist in the recovery and fire- fighting efforts of his force.  

CIBC FirstCaribbean has committed up to US $100,000 for relief efforts in Dominica, in addition to a previous US$450,000 which the bank and its parent, CIBC, gave to those Caribbean countries affected by Hurricane Irma.

Since the bank started in 2002, it has committed a minimum of US $1M per year for worthy causes across the Caribbean, totalling well in excess of US $20M in the 15 years since.


CBS starts Omnibus survey. Covers health, safety and leisure

SABA/ST. EUSTATIUS/BONAIRE - During the months October and November of this year, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) will conduct the Omnibus survey on Bonaire. Interviewers of CBS will go to the randomly selected persons to administer the questionnaire. The survey will also be conducted on Saba and St. Eustatius, starting January next year.

The Omnibus survey is a sample survey among persons. The survey aims to gain a sight into the living situation of the population on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

It covers topics such as health, living, safety and leisure. For this survey, a total of 1680 persons were randomly selected on Bonaire, 620 on St. Eustatius and 484 on Saba.

To get a better understanding of the living situation on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, CBS would like to kindly ask all selected persons to participate in the survey.

CBS is obligated by law to process the collected information strictly confidential. Therefore, CBS has taken various measures to protect your information.

All our interviewers have a CBS identification badge and must adhere to strict confidentiality rules and noncompliance. Upon request the interviewers must identify themselves, so that everyone can be sure that the interview is being carried out by CBS.

CBS would like to thank all participants for cooperating in this survey.

For further information and questions, please contact our office on Bonaire via +599 7178676 or via email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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