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Tzu Chi hosts triple celebration on May 21, public invited

CUL DE SAC - The St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation will be hosting its annual Triple Celebration of Mother’s Day, Buddha’s Birthday and the Global Tzu Chi’s 51st Anniversary on Sunday, May 21, and it is inviting persons of all faiths to attend this free educational event.  

The triple celebration will be held at Tzu Chi Foundation located on the L.B. Scott Road near the Jose Lake Ballpark from 4:00pm and attendees are asked to wear white, though other attire is also welcomed.  

The three part event will feature the ceremonial washing of the feet of mothers by children. This will be done in an effort to honor mothers and to promote gratitude and respect for the matriarch of families for all that they do. 

The Tzu Chi anniversary part of the event will feature the presentation of information about Tzu Chi’s work internationally as well as the work of the local arm in St. Maarten. This year the foundation is celebrating 51 years since its formation by Taiwanese founder Master Cheng Yen.  

A traditional ceremony will also be held to mark Buddha’s Birthday.   

A presentation will also be made on the practical use of healthy natural enzymes as Tzu Chi's contribution towards protecting our precious environment. 

At the end of the event, attendees will be treated to a delectable vegetarian buffet and fresh juices. The vegetarian buffet is aimed at promoting the diversity of volunteer members in promoting a healthy alternative and to highlight Buddha's Dharma of non-violence to animals.  

The event is open to the general public and people of all faiths are urged to attend.  

Attendees can RSVP at email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call tel. 586-3019 or 580 1488.


SHTA against Government Plans on Adapting Car Rental, Hotel and Timeshare Occupancy Taxes

PHILIPSBURG – The St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association (SHTA) has taken note of the article published in the Herald regarding increasing car rental, hotel and timeshare occupancy taxes.

The example of Aruba is mentioned and it is stated that “Aruba takes 23.5% from every hotel guest bill”, creating the perception that Country Aruba receives 23.5%, in direct or at least comparable taxes to Occupancy Tax. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth.

Aruba levies 9.5% in occupancy tax with some exceptions for all-inclusive and timeshare properties (in order to fix differences). The big difference between Aruba and St. Maarten is that only about 20% of the Occupancy Tax revenue ends up in government coffers, the bulk goes directly to the Aruba Tourism Authority (ATA) (80%) for marketing.

It is perhaps good to mention that the Aruba hospitality industry agreed to an increase in the Occupancy Tax (from the then level of 5%) upon establishing the ATA. Something SHTA has been fighting for, for many years.

In addition, the hospitality industry is willing to cooperate with such an increase in Occupancy Tax if similar conditions as in Aruba would be created in St. Maarten. The wisdom of going that route is clearly reflected in the performance of Aruba’s tourism product.

There is no way the increase in our occupancy taxes will lead to better performance by our tourism sector. It is doubtful it will result in the additional revenues the Minister of Finance is hoping for. Quite the contrary, the SHTA said.

If we raise our taxes, our competition will most likely benefit, as it will decrease our competitive position. A shift of car rental business to the French side can be expected. Talking about car rental tax, there is currently a system of double taxation as the Turnover Tax does not include an exemption similar to the exemption for revenue over which Occupancy Tax has been paid.

Hotels on SXM pay 5% in occupancy tax. The only major marketing effort done in 2016 was the Expedia/Trip-advisor campaign. Government marketing funds were matched, in side by side campaigns by the participating properties, which goes to show you the industry’s willingness to contribute more (but only under the right circumstances).

More importantly, the marketing effort was successful, yielding many times the tax revenue (in Occupancy, Car Rental, Turnover, Wage and other taxes). That result is significantly better than increasing the Occupancy Tax to 10% (and not spending additional funds on marketing).

The key to increase government revenue is through sensible business practices. This can be achieved by giving private sector stakeholders a leading role in marketing the island, when done properly this will increase revenues and government income.

This would boost our economy. It would increase the pie rather than increasing Governments piece of the same pie. Or, as Winston Churchill said: “A Country trying to tax its way into prosperity is to be compared to a man standing in a bucket trying to lift himself pulling the handle”.

Arbitrarily raising taxes again without properly accounting for expenditure and ensuring investments in sustainability and marketing will only cause an increase in prices, which will lead to a decrease in revenue and economic activity. That is something our economy can ill afford at this time, the SHTA concludes.


Condolence book and memorial service for the late Neville York ON Friday and Saturday

PHILIPSBURG - The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport and the Government of St. Maarten hereby extend sincerest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the late Mr. Neville York. Our heart goes out to you in this time of bereavement, as you accept this terrible loss.

In order to ensure that the general public pays their last respect to Mr. York, a memorial table and condolence book has been placed at the reception area of the New Government Administration Building located on Soualiga Boulevard.

The general public can sign the book as of Friday, May 12th, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport in collaboration with the family of the late Mr. Neville York will host a cultural manifestation/wake on Saturday, May 13th from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. in front of the New Government Administration Building.

The general public who knew and were fond of Mr. York and his work are invited join us to celebrate his life.

For persons wanting to pay a special tribute or performance at the wake or the funeral service should contact Ms. Natasha Serrant at +1 (721) 5201892 no later than Friday, May 12th by 4p.m.

Mr. York, served as the Head of Culture Department and was a cultural icon in his own right, therefore we must ensure that his initiatives in Culture, as well as his musical legacy will surely live on.



PHILIPSBURG - For several weeks now, one seat in parliament has remained obviously empty, Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) Wycliffe Smith said on Thursday.

“When, the President of Parliament, at the beginning of public meetings or of Central Committee meetings, asks if there are any notifications, not one parliamentarian, not even the USP faction leader reports on the absence of MP Silvio Matser. In my opinion, only sickness can justify the continuous absence of a member of parliament.

“Therefore, if MP Matser is sick then the right thing for him or his faction leader to do would be to notify parliament of such and to occasionally offer updates regarding his recovery. I am sure that, with this information, the people would also make sure to include him in their prayers.

“Parliamentarians are directly elected to parliament by the people, to represent all of the people according to article 44 of the constitution. Therefore, the people should be concerned, when someone whom they elected and who accepted the seat does not represent them for an extended period of time.

“If an MP is unable to represent the people then he or she should surrender his or her seat to the next person on the electoral list. This is the ethical thing to do.

“What is most disconcerting is the fact that the first picture on Parliament’s website is a photograph of parliament in session with an empty seat that just springs out at you. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

“This picture, on the website, is telling the people of Sint Maarten that parliament has no clue as to when MP Matser would be present in parliament and not being able to wait any longer for him to show up, parliament has gone ahead and posted the picture with the empty seat.

“Actually, if the current coalition in parliament takes no action on a matter such as this then a parliamentarian can continue to be absent for the entire four years of his or her term, once he or she remains in the country.

“According to article 49 “membership of parliament lapses through an uninterrupted stay outside the country of more than eight months”. One can see, how easy it would be to circumvent this article and remain outside of the country for the greater part of a four year term.

“Besides having membership on two other parliamentary committees, MP Matser is currently also representing the people on the Ad Hoc Committee for the Preparation of the Construction of a New Building for Parliament. He has served on this committee for the last three years. The first year he was a member of the committee and the second year he was appointed vice chairman of the committee.

“Currently he serves as the chairman of this committee. Apparently, this committee, like most of the other parliamentary committees, is only a paper committee? This committee should have already come with plans for a new Parliament Building. The lease on the Parliament building which costs US$ 96.000 per month will expire in September 2017 and government has no other choice but to renew the lease agreement.

“The question is if a new lease agreement will be negotiated or if the old one which included the repairs and renovation of the building will simply be copied and signed again? It would be a good idea, if at the signing of the lease agreement the Ad Hoc Committee for the Preparation of the Construction of a New Building for Parliament could present the plans and budget for the new Parliament Building.

“However, given the prolonged absence of the chairperson MP Matser, one cannot expect much output from the Committee, unless the vice chairperson MP Drs. Rodolphe Samuel takes over in the absence of the MP Matser.

“SMCP is calling on the current coalition in Parliament to look into the matter of the empty seat in parliament and do something about it. We are surprised that the minority or opposition in parliament has not yet raised any questions concerning this matter,” Wycliffe Smith, Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party said on Thursday.


FHSU Interns are Back to Support Seven SXM Entrepreneurs

GREAT BAY – From May 17 – 24, 2017, seven (7) local entrepreneurs will work with international students and faculty of Fort Hays State University (FHSU) in Kansas, as part of the International Knowledge Exchange Program (IKEP).

Due to the success of last year’s program, FHSU has returned to St. Maarten a second year, which has never been done in the history of this program as this program provides support to different countries throughout the region.

This year more than twenty (20) interns and three faculty will be supporting locally based entrepreneurs for a week. These interns have a variety of skill sets including accounting, finance, tourism& hospitality management, agriculture business, marketing, and management.

The interns are divided to groups of three and each group is assigned to an entrepreneur to assist with a business need. One of the key changes in this year’s program is that entrepreneurs benefit from two (2) groups which can help them address two (2) different needs in their business.

Started by the Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Livelihoods (COESL) in 2013, IKEP helps to develop students into global citizens while supporting sustainability of the entrepreneurs throughout the region. Headed by Dr. Marcia Brandon, a premier expert on entrepreneurship development and sustainability in the Caribbean, COESL has a variety of programs throughout the region to stimulate entrepreneurship and transform communities in a dynamic way.

The IKEP is in partnership with the leading entrepreneurial university of the Midwest, Fort Hays State University (FHSU), where FHSU students and faculty travel to an island in the Caribbean and use their knowledge and skill set to meet a business need of a local entrepreneur.

INFOBIZZ is a preferred local of IKEP program and lead coordinator for this program on St. Maarten.  With the aim to develop successful entrepreneurs, INFOBIZZ has hosted a variety of events and programs to help empower entrepreneurs locally, reaching over 1000 entrepreneurs since its launch in 2013.

The University of St. Martin has partnered with INFOBIZZ, to better assist the international interns and provide a program of quality for the entrepreneurs.  USM students are able to provide the interns with an intercultural experience and facilitate with obtaining information and doing research.  The interns will work with the entrepreneur, adding value to the business while experiencing first-hand the challenges that many entrepreneurs face.

Registered entrepreneurs will meet the interns and faculty on May 17 at the opening of this program at the University of St. Martin.  Registration is required to ensure that the entrepreneurs are matched with the groups that can add most value and is done via a simple email registration. Registration for entrepreneurs is $40, which covers administrative costs.  There is no registration free for members of The PWR Network.

Upon completion of the program, the entrepreneurs will receive a Certificate of Completion for this program from Fort Hays State University. 

For more information on INFOBIZZ and support programs for entrepreneurs, please call +1-721-523-1842 or email coordinators at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Dutch Caribbean bat conservation project receives funding

COLE BAY - The IUCN BEST2.0 programme approved a grant of 100,000 euro for an 18-month project aimed at bat conservation and protection on the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten.

The funds will be made available to local nature conservation organisations through the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA), which is a non-governmental regional network in which the nature parks on all six Dutch Caribbean islands co-operate.   

The implementation of this project will be done together with local communities and bat conservation experts. The overall objective is to increase bat populations and awareness on the important role bats play in the islands’ ecosystem.

Bats are key pollinators, particularly of local vegetation including cactus, which are a major feature of the island biodiversity. Three of the target species of bats are endemic to the islands. By enhancing bat population numbers this project will have a significant and positive impact on the long-term sustainability of the flora and fauna of the islands. 

The project aims on increasing bat numbers by increasing the amount of roosting and nesting sites in urban areas of the islands. This will be done by installing bat houses on private and public buildings.

With an extensive education and outreach programme through schools, (social) media and organised events, local communities will be informed about the importance of bats for their island and asked to put a bat house on their house.

Bat houses will be produced by local (technical) schools within a specially designed education programme, hereby involving local communities in bat conservation efforts.  

Mr. Tadzio Bervoets, manager of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, is very enthusiastic: “All of us who work with these important creatures are really excited and appreciative of the IUCN for this important contribution to our local conservation efforts.

Bats are very important for the survival of many of our islands’ flora and therefore for the whole ecosystem. Local bats are awesome and very interesting creatures and I hope this projects’ success will put bat conservation also high on the agendas of other Caribbean islands.” 

The other participating islands share this enthusiasm. In Curacao Ms. Odette Doest, project leader for CARMABI and bat expert, is very happy with this funding: “As veterinarian working on Curacao I frequently encounter issues that are related to the negative image bats have. With this project and its outreach and education programme I hope we can change this perception and get more support for bat conservation on Curacao.” 

More information on this project and DCNA can be found at its website:


STB will meet with Southwest Airlines in Dallas in October

POND ISLAND - St. Maarten is moving ahead with its pursuit of Southwest Airlines for the destination. Minister of Tourism Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher said on Wednesday that the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB), will meet with Southwest Airlines in October in Dallas to finalise discussions on a St. Maarten-Fort Lauderdale route to commence in 2018.

“We have put a lot of time and effort into securing this new airlift and take advantage of Southwest’s expansion into the Caribbean,” the Minister said.

A delegation of island officials including representatives met with Southwest Airlines officials at the annual Routes Americas Conference in Las Vegas in February.

“It bodes well for the country to have an airline like Southwest’s interest; if they choose a destination it’s because they believe it is a healthy and profitable one,” Head of STB Rolando Brison said.

“In my closing remarks for the meeting at Routes, we told the team that they could expect the full commitment from all stakeholders including government, airport, hotels and many others.”


Due to a temporary reduction in Southwest’s fleet in 2017 for maintenance purposes, 2018 is seen as a more realistic start date for the airline.

“Should the current negotiations taking place with the various airlines come to fruition as expected, we can expect additional traffic of up to 63,600 increased stay-over passengers per year, which would be an increase of 12% in stay over passengers compared to previous years' averages. Based on an average visitor expenditure of $120 per day, and 7.7 nights average length of stay,” the Minister said.


USC Hosted Event Informs 250 Young Professionals about Filing Taxes

PHILIPSBURG - Over 250 Young Professionals were informed about filing taxes on (Dutch) St. Maarten via Livestream.

On Saturday 6 May 2017, USC hosted a Young Professionals Tax Workshop in collaboration with our partners Meijburg & Co. Caribbean and KPMG DC&S.

The University of St. Martin collaborated as well by offering the use of its facilities. The workshop, facilitated by Quincy Lont, Tax Manager and Nicole Echobardo, Tax Assistant at Meijburg & Co. Caribbean was geared towards Young Professionals on island in need of information about the tax system on St. Maarten.

"For those of us returning to St. Maarten from Europe and in particular from the Netherlands, we are faced with reverse culture shock. As far as taxes are concerned we are faced with the challenge of moving from a digital automated platform, to a paper-based system.

In addition the tax system in St. Maarten is in sharp contrast to the system in the Netherlands as it applies to establishing sole proprietorship.

These are some of the concerns which prompted us to host this workshop," explained USC Board Member, Melissa Gumbs.

Moving forward, USC will focus on offering more web-based seminars and workshops addressing the relocation concerns of Young Professionals abroad.

To learn more about USC or to volunteer send an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

USC logo


Minister Jacobs wishes all Students much success with upcoming exams

PHILIPSBURG - Minister of Education Silveria Jacobs would like to take the time to wish all secondary school students much success with their upcoming exams, a press release from her Cabinet stated on Tuesday.

Minister Jacobs encourages all students to focus, and put all efforts into working hard as this is the last stretch towards tertiary education and/or entrance into the work field.

“The process to get to this point took several years, but we all know the the last stretch weighs heaviest. So continue to focus, push harder than you ever have, and do not give up. You are almost there. Believe in yourself and trust that your best will see you through. Ensure that you’ve gotten enough rest, have a good breakfast to fuel the brain and drink lots of water.”

The Foundation Based Exit (FBE) exams for the elementary schools will commence next week on Tuesday May 16th up until and including Friday May 19th.

Minister Jacobs encourages all parents and teachers to motivate and encourage all the students to finish with a bang. The education of our students should be our first priority. We must ensure that we are providing conducive environments for maximum success.


Port St. Maarten Strengthening IT Security. Portbase Community System Roll-out in 2019

PORT ST. MAARTEN – On Monday, May 8, Port St. Maarten Management headed by Chief Executive Officer Mark Mingo, met with Portbase Rotterdam and IT Partner representatives to discuss a national port community system that involves data-sharing among stakeholders and third parties.

The overall objective is to have a complete information technology system in place at the port that allows stakeholders to access real-time information about container movements as well as contents thereby improving efficiency.  This initiative is also in line with border security and compliance with international rules and regulations.

IT Partner, an information technology firm in the Netherlands, is experts in automation systems for port and logistics industries.  The company has been in operation since 1999 and has clients that include terminal operators, logistics companies and complete ports, offering tailor-made solutions that fit customer needs.

Port St. Maarten has been working on a number of initiatives that would further improve the operational integrity, efficiency and effectiveness of port operations. The initiatives include an Enterprise Risk Assessment and Portbase Port Community System. For a number of years the port has been using the Global Logistics Service (GLS) cargo tracking software.

The aforementioned are all tied to the strategic approach initiative of the port to ensure long-term sustainability of operations that would lead to further growth in homeporting investments, and expansion to include future preclearance; and growth in cargo shipping and trans-shipment as well as cruise ship provisioning – currently at 35 per cent.

The Port’s proactive approach to implement a more disciplined risk management process in line with its corporate governance policies. Ernst & Young (EY) Advisory Services was contracted in the first quarter of 2016 to carry out the study which was submitted to management in September 2016. EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. 

Destination Sint Maarten is one of the world’s leading cruise destinations.  The cargo operations of Port St. Maarten are rapidly becoming a port of choice for regional transshipment.  Port St. Maarten comprises of 13 companies that are responsible for most of the country’s island maritime activities which can be summarized in four pillars, namely, Cruise, Cargo, Yachting and Real Estate.

Based on the identification and assessment of the Port’s key business risks and taking into account the effectiveness of management and control activities, the Port’s residual risk profile has been developed. The residual risk profile enables the Port to develop its risk response strategy, based on the organization’s risk appetite, in order to effectively manage the risk profile. EY has also carried out a risk assessment with respect to the Information Technology (IT) system of the port.

An Information Technology (IT) strategy a critical enabler of business transformation and growth allowing for advanced business services and innovation which fosters customer-led growth.  

Another very important initiative of the port is, Portbase, a Port Community System, where companies can benefit from a multitude of intelligent services for simple and efficient information exchange, both between companies and between the public and private sector.  Port St. Maarten’s priority is security first, ensuring safe, secure use of Port Community Systems.

Portbase was created by a merger between Rotterdam’s Port infolink (est. 2002) and Amsterdam’s PortNET (est. 2000). The new organisation was set up in 2009 by the Port of Rotterdam Authority and Port of Amsterdam and enjoys wide support amongst the port business community including several law enforcement agencies such as Customs. 

Port St. Maarten Management representatives visited Portbase in the Netherlands mid-2016 to gather information about the system which will be implemented at the port as part of the ports enhanced security measures in 2019.

The Portbase Community system will also allow for increased efficiency where logistics and movement of containers is concerned, thereby increasing the competitiveness of the destination in the area of cargo and transshipment operations.

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