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Former ABN Amro chief Gerrit Zalm to lead next stage in coalition talks

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Former finance minister and ABN Amro chief Gerrit Zalm is taking over the role of chief negotiator in the ongoing efforts to form a new Dutch coalition government, sources have told the Telegraaf.

Four parties – the Liberals (VVD), Christian Democrats (CDA), D66 and the Christian Union (CU) – will sit round the negotiating table on Wednesday to start working out the details.

Rutte’s VVD party is said to favour Zalm as Tjeenk Willink’s replacement for the detailed negotiations. (DutchNews)

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Central Committee sits on Monday to decide on delegation for Curaçao Flag day

PHILIPSBURG – The Central Committee will meet in a session on June 26.

The Central Committee meeting has been set for Monday, June 26, 2017 at 14.00 hrs in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelminastraat #1 in Philipsburg.

The agenda point is:

Approval composition delegation and provisions Members of Parliament to participate in Flag Day Curaçao on July 2, 2017.  

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.

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Fewer children in the Netherlands vaccinated for the third year in a row

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of babies and children in the Netherlands being given the standard childhood vaccinations has fallen by 0.5% for the third year in a row, health minister Edith Schippers has told MPs.

Schippers said she has commissioned the public health institute RIVM to investigate the cause of the decline. The drop in the vaccination rate means the risk of an outbreak of measles in the Netherlands has increased, the RIVM says.

The World Health Organisation says a vaccination rate of 95% is needed to eradicate measles and the Netherlands dipped under that figure last year. The number of 13-year-old girls being vaccinated against the HPV virus which can cause cervical cancer has also plummeted from 61% to 53%.

The RIVM says this may be due to reports that some girls developed extreme fatigue after the injection. No link has so far been established, the RIVM says. Schippers has also asked the RIVM to investigate the ‘best way to remove unfounded fears about vaccinations and their side effects’. (DutchNews)

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Cft: "New Curaçao government may combine budgetary balance with economic stimulus"

SINT MAARTEN/CURACAO - During its visit to Curaçao, the Board of financial supervision for Curaçao and Sint Maarten (Cft) indicated that the new government is facing the challenge of having to combine budgetary balance with the need to promote economic growth. For several years now Curaçao has complied with the standard of a balanced budget, but up till now the 2017 budget execution is lagging behind compared to the forecast.

The new government will need to take the necessary steps to prevent a budget deficit over 2017. The challenges are the insufficient tax revenues, keeping the social funds balanced and the strengthening of the financial management. In addition, extra attention is requested for the risks associated with specific projects such as the financial situation of Insel Air.

Hopes are that potential investments in the refinery and the construction of the second megapier can give an important boost to the economy and thus to government revenues. In addition, the economy can be enhanced with the improvement of the investment conditions and the quality of education.

Probably balanced 2016 budget

The expenditures over the full year of 2016 were higher, whilst on the other hand the revenues remained below the expectations as reflected in the fourth progress report of same year. This was revealed in the first progress report of 2017. These final figures of 2016 show a provisional deficit of ANG 30.8 million (0.5% GDP).

Curaçao however expects dividend income from government companies, which will balance out the budgetary year 2016. Cft emphasizes the importance of a structural dividend policy for public companies, which takes into account the financial position of the companies while leaving sufficient room for necessary investments. Cft furthermore warns for a policy that relies on incidental revenue in order to offset the budget.

Execution 2017 budget under pressure

The balance of expenses and revenues over the first quarter is ANG 41.3 million lower than was previously expected. The revenue of, in particular, the wage tax is unsatisfactory. Also the premium income of the SVB is lower than foreseen. The swing fund, which is utilized to counterbalance setbacks in the social funds, threatens to drop below the legal minimum. In contrast, government expenditure is higher than was forecast.

The Cft chairman: “The new government should take the necessary steps to diverge an imminent deficit by the end of 2017”. Furthermore, Cft advises the new government to actively keep an eye on the transition to the HNO and to deploy a renewed business case based on the evaluation report. In addition, the budget should take into account a situation in which Insel Air cannot repay the loan granted to it. Finally, the Cft addresses the liquidity position and the resilience capital, which should both be strengthened.

Improvement financial management

An important challenge remains the strengthening of the financial management. The objective of obtaining an qualified auditors’ report shortly is ambitious and will require a great deal of governmental attention.

Cft applauds the government's intent to strengthen the financial functions of the ministries with financial controllers and internal auditors. The Cft requests the government to ensure that the initiated strengthening process of the tax office will not stagnate. In addition, Cft urges for the annual accounts of 2014 and 2015 to be adopted soon and to optimize the accountability process in its entirety.

Last visit current chairman

Besides discussing the results for the first quarter, this visit also about bidding farewell to current chairman Age Bakker as of July 1, 2017, and making acquaintance with the coming president Raymond Gradus. The departing chairman looks back on a successful cooperation with Curaçao.

Age Bakker about his period with the Cft: "In recent years Curaçao has taken solid steps towards achieving sustainable public finances, thereby largely complying with statutory standards. I am pleased that the new government has indicated that it will continue giving priority to sustainable public finances. Cft shall see to it." As usual during the visits of the Board to Curaçao, meetings were held with the Governor, the Minister of Finance, the Council of Ministers and the financial committee of Parliament. 

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NL fares well on EU innovative list, but Europe trails Asia, US

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands is the fifth most innovative country in Europe, surpassing Germany for the first time, according to a list published by the European Commission on Tuesday.

The top six countries on the Commission’s list are at least 20% more innovative than the European average, the Financieele Dagblad said on Wednesday.

Switzerland tops the list with a score 64.6% higher than the European average, followed by Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands which registered a score 29.5% above the European average.

The Commission’s study also revealed that Europe is less innovative than Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the US. China is quickly catching up. All these countries spend more on innovation than the Netherlands, the paper noted. (DutchNews)

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Schools close early as temperature soars in the south

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Schools in Limburg, Brabant and Gelderland have been stopping lessons early or giving lessons outside as teachers and pupils in the south of the country struggle to cope with the tropical temperatures.

One school in Maastricht sent all its pupils’ home at 13.30 hours as the temperature soared in classrooms on the upper floors. ‘It became impossible,’ head teacher Janny de Vries told local broadcaster 1Limburg.

‘Pupils were complaining of headaches and dizziness.’ By contrast, the Pieter Breughelschool in Arnhem moved lessons into the nearby woods, where the shade kept things cool.

Others have introduced a special ‘tropical timetable’, with lessons starting earlier in the morning so that pupils can go home before it gets too hot in class. Civil servants in Maastricht have also been allowed to go home early as the temperature reached upwards of 35 degrees in some parts of the council complex, 1Limburg said.

The national meteorological service KNMI on Monday issued yellow alert warnings and says it expects the tropical temperatures to remain in the south and east of the country until Thursday. From Friday it will be cooler with some rain, the KNMI says. (DutchNews)

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Pressure mounts on reluctant Labour to join Dutch coalition talks

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Labour party leader Lodewijk Asscher is coming under increasing pressure to get involved in the ongoing coalition talks but has again said that the party ‘is not available’ to join in.

Three core parties – the VVD, CDA and D66 – need a fourth party to ensure majority support in parliament. GroenLinks has twice pulled out of the negotiations, citing disagreements on refugees and migration and D66 has refused to talk to the small Christian party ChristenUnie.

The SP and PVV have also been ruled out as potential partners. That leaves the Labour party, whose support collapsed at the March 15 general election and which now has just nine seats in parliament.

However, Asscher told the AD at the weekend: ‘I too think we need a cabinet. But we want to serve the country as MPs. We are absolutely not going to join the VVD, CDA and D66.’

Last week coalition negotiator Herman Tjeenk Willink said that all the party leaders had told him they wanted a majority government but that for this to happen, some of them will have to show they are willing to compromise.

And according to a poll by television programme EenVandaag, a majority of Labour voters want Asscher to take a seat at the negotiating table. Now a number of Labour mayors and local government officials have also joined in.

‘It is in the national interest that we have a strong cabinet,’ Best mayor Anton van Aert says in Monday’s Volkskrant. ‘GroenLinks cannot join the talks for a third time. Then the Labour party has to take responsibility.’ (DutchNews)

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VVD, D66 and CDA coalition talks set to continue next Tuesday

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Talks on forming a new coalition government will continue next Tuesday when chief negotiator Herman Tjeenk Willink will again meet the leaders of the VVD, CDA and D66.

Tjenk Willink told a news conference on Thursday he is still committed to putting together a majority coalition. Between them, the three parties control 71 of the 150 seats in parliament, so a fourth partner has to be found.

GroenLinks has dropped out of the negotiations, leaving Tjeenk Willink with a choice of the Labour party, the Socialists or small Christian party ChristenUnie.

However, D66 has said it does not want to work with ChristenUnie, the Socialists won’t work with the VVD and Labour says it cannot be in government after its disastrous losses in the March 15 general election.

Tjeenk Willink said on Thursday that if the parties are adamant they want a majority government then they must be prepared to make compromises. ‘They cannot have it both ways,’ he said. (DutchNews)

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GroenLinks leader defends decision to break off Dutch cabinet talks

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver has defended his decision to break off talks on forming a new government for a second time, saying immigration was not the only stumbling block.

New talks between the VVD, CDA, D66 and GroenLinks broke down on Monday, with the other party leaders accusing Klaver of refusing to compromise and leaving negotiators without a clear way forward.

In an interview with the Volkskrant, Klaver said that climate change and socio-economic policy were also areas in which he saw little room for negotiation. ‘For example, early on in the talks, we discussed being more flexible about the banking bonus rules so that post-Brexit banks might come here.

That is exactly what we do not want,’ he said. ‘You want to make people feel happier with their lot again and the first thing you do is give bankers more generous bonuses? We don’t want that sort of banking boys and girls.’

Climate change had not been discussed in detail, but Klaver said he did not see any signs that the Paris agreement would be reached. Asked by the Volkskrant how anyone could be expected to form a coalition if they won’t deviate from their principles, Klaver said an agreement on returning economic migrants to Africa is doable.

‘But the other parties wanted to send everyone back and make them apply for asylum in Africa,’ he said. ‘They would not budge an inch.’ The plans were written down by chief negotiator Herman Tjeenk Willink on paper, he said.

‘But we are talking about how things work out in practice. The EU has deemed Turkey as safe country, one where refugees can be sent back… but refugee children are being forced to work. They can’t go to school as agreed.

Refugees from Syria have been shot at. A country is not safe just because you say so on paper.’ (DutchNews)

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Kidz at Sea Wins in Annual SMYC Keelboat Series

SIMPSON BAY - Kidz at Sea Foundation wins 1st and 3rd place in annual St. Maarten Yacht Club (SMYC) Keelboat Series with Purple Heart and MoonDance.

Purple Heart was constructed by Milton Peters College (MPC) students and was finalized in 2016.

Students and instructors look back at a very successful season for the Kidz at Sea Program and are looking forward to finalizing the sailing certifications in the coming weeks.

kidz at sea inside

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