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Schools break the rules with extra tuition fees for smart kids, parents say

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The parents of children who have been classified as ‘extremely intelligent’ are spending hundreds of euros on extra school lessons for their offspring even though school is supposed to be free, the AD reported on Monday.

Schools are only allowed by law to ask parents for a voluntary contribution, but the parents of bright kids are having to pay a small fortune for extra ‘plus classes’, the paper quotes parents lobby group Ouders & Onderwijs as saying.

School inspectors have also urged parents to sound the alarm if they are being asked to pay for extra tuition in school time, which can be as much as €50 a week, the AD said.

Three years ago, the government introduced new rules for primary schools requiring everyone to receive education appropriate to their abilities. This has so far mainly focused on integrating children with learning or behavioural difficulties into normal schools.

Schools say they don’t have enough money to organise special classes for highly intelligent children. ‘Ideally we schools would offer the most appropriate education to every child,’ Annemieke Kooper, spokeswoman for the Dutch schools platform PO-Raad told the paper.

‘But in practice, the available budgets are inadequate and schools have been organising classes for highly intelligent children on their own initiative.’ (DutchNews)

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TelEm Group carrying out maintenance works in Madame Estate area Tuesday

POND ISLAND - TelEm Group technicians will be carrying out important maintenance works to a company cabinet in the Madame Estate area Tuesday this week - as a result, voice and data services to business and residential properties will be interrupted throughout the day.

The technicians will be cleaning and re-strapping the telecommunication cabinet from 8:00 in the morning until approximately 5:00 pm, Tuesday, when the work is scheduled for completion.

The areas immediately affected will be Grenada Road, PC Hooft St., Johan Vermeer Street, Arch Road (in the vicinity of St. Maarten Cable TV) Watling Island Road and a portion of Guadeloupe Road.

Technicians from TelEm Group’s Zone1 are overseeing the works, which the company says will improve telecommunication services in these areas for residents and businesses alike.

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Territory Must Reinvent to Stem Slumping Arrivals. Sint Maarten looked at as a successful cruise port example

SINT MAARTEN/ST. THOMAS - At a town hall last Thursday on the island of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, leading cruise executives said if the U.S.V.I. wants to have soaring cruise passenger numbers and rave reviews like it did in the past, it must refresh and reinvent itself to stand out from other island competitors.

About a 150 concerned members of the V.I. business community turned out for the town hall meeting at Marriott Frenchman’s Reef Hotel. Lead by members Ports of the Virgin Islands – Charlotte Amalie Task Force, a mixture of private sector and government officials, and members of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, which represents 19 cruise lines, the meeting centered on how to improve the cruise passenger experience.

The town hall follows the recent release of a U.S. Virgin Islands Bureau of Economic Research’s report that details the slump in cruise passenger arrivals. By June 2016 there were 1,038,209 passenger arrivals compared to only 873,153 this year – a 16 percent decline across the territory.

On St. Thomas arrivals are down by 14 percent, but on St. Croix the figures are bleaker: There’s been a 69 percent decline with only 24,742 passengers arriving in the first half of the year compared to 80,000 by this time last year.

FCCA President Michele Paige said the cruise industry wants to help the U.S. Virgin Islands improve and flourish. Referring to the drop in passenger arrivals in the territory, Paige said that cruise lines take people where they want to go. In the region, St. Thomas is ranked 11th out of 35 destinations, but is 29th when ranked by satisfaction in purchased tours.

“Tourism is a fickle friend my friends ­– we always have to be on our game,” Paige said.

Cruise ships are constantly adding new activities and entertainment, so passenger expect to see the islands refresh themselves as well, Paige said.

Today passengers and crew-members are spending less money in the territory when they get off the ship, so Paige said that the local tourism industry needs to be more authentic in the items it sells and the stories it tells. She said people want to have experiences and buy things that they can’t get anywhere else.

Carlos Torres de Navarra, vice president of commercial port operations for Carnival Cruise Lines, said the company would be bringing more passengers to the territory in 2018, but that the Virgin Islands has to work on giving people reasons to stay off the ship. Right now, 96 percent of passengers leave the ship, but they’re only spending 55 percent of the available time on the island, which equates to less money.

All three of the cruise industry executives at the meeting said that passengers report less satisfaction with Crown Bay port than they do with the West Indian Company Limited port in Havensight.

“If you’re selling St. Thomas it needs to be a consistent experience across the board,” de Navarra said of the difference between the WICO and Crown Bay ports.

Richard Berry, president of TOPA Equities VI Corporate and a private member of the task force, told attendees that to compete with other islands the Virgin Islands must expand its ports like Sint Maarten and Tortola have both done. To get more ship calls, the Virgin Islands has to be able to accommodate larger ships, he said.

Throughout the town hall, Mapp mentioned a number of infrastructure improvements the government would be undertaking to improve guest experience, including providing water transportation in the harbor, beautifying Crown Bay, improving walking experience along Veteran’s Drive, and finishing the Main Street utilities project. Mapp refrained from discussing the Main Street project at length, since he said more information would be made about its delays next week.

Commissioner of Public Works Gustav James gave updates on the other infrastructure projects. He said that water transportation in the Charlotte Amalie harbor would begin by the end of November and would help reduce congestion from road transportation. Currently Public Works is reviewing proposals for operators, since the service will be run as a public-private partnership.

Frederico Gonzalez-Denton, government relations for Latin America, Caribbean and South Florida for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., said the harbor’s water transportation will be a “game changer,” for improving visitor experience.

Public Works’ Highway Program Manager Jomo McClean said that sidewalks, roads and landscaping would soon be improved between Crown Bay port and the nearby Pueblo supermarket.

Mapp said another focus would be to make it safer for cruise passengers to walk either into town or to nearby Lindbergh Bay from the Crown Bay port. He said the V.I. Police Department had purchased Smart cars and Segways to patrol the areas, what he called economical alternative to typical police cars.

When Veteran’s Drive is widened to be a four-lane road along the waterfront, Mapp said there will be better sidewalks, more shade and new benches to improve the walking experience to town. He added that when the fire station next to the fort is relocated, part of the structure will remain to become a visitor’s center with restrooms.

To make it easier for foreign cruise passengers to clear customs, Mapp said the territory will hire six to eight more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents that will board ships the night before the ship arrives in the territory, so people can be cleared in advance.

Members of the audience asked why ships don’t stay in port longer than around 5 p.m. most days. The cruise executives said it related to time, distance, speed and fuel, which all determine schedule. Paige said that ships would be open to staying overnight, but there has to be demand from their passengers, meaning there must be things for them to do.

The task force consists of members of the private sector that rely directly on the tourism industry, including restaurants, beverage distributors, ground transportation operators and retail stores, as well as representatives from the V.I. Port Authority, WICO, the Department of Tourism, the Department of Property and Procurement, the Department of Public Works, the Office of the Governor and members of the Legislature.

Town Hall attendees

(Kelsey Nowakowski photo)

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Disruptive Digital Economies and the Future of the Digital Economy Engage delegates

SINT MAARTEN/DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Another interesting and informative day of discussion at CANTO 2017. One Panel discussion was: Can Telco's take advantage of the disruptive digital economy (DDE)? The Moderator of the panel was Javier Rua, ICT Legal Council and the panelists included Shernon Osepa, Internet Society (IS), Veena Rawat, GSMA, and Jose Otero, 5GAmericas and Delroy McClean, CWC.
 
In weighing in on what Telcos are doing to survive, Shernon Osepa noted that Telco's should get acquainted with and take advantage of the DDE. If they don't, they die, and emphasized that nothing is wrong with disruptive technologies.
 
Delroy McClean of CWC stated that they encourage their people and conduct internship programs. This he said helps them to understand what their demands are first hand.  He stated that CWC uses the technology to remove barriers as they are encountered in organization and that they embraced models of internal disruption. The panel also discussed the regulatory approach to OTT and the concept of a single ICT space. 
 
In conclusion, the moderator noted that there are lots of opportunity in digital in the  Caribbean. That collaboration among stakeholders is paramount as no collaboration, means no progress. It was noted that in order to take advantage of the disruptive digital economy we should focus on barriers and facilitate harmonization especially in the sub region, and ideally global.   As the region moved forward what the panel determined as necessary was flexibility and long term planning which would include a road map for regulations and spectrum management.
 
The Future of the Digital economy: Is it really digital? This was the title of a presentation done by Renato Osato, Vice President, Customer Business Executive.  
 
Mr. Osato noted that there were 3 forces shaping communications market: digital economy; digital technology; digital customer and that digital technologies: open and scalable technologies have the capacity of enabling business and customer transformation.
 
He pointed to statistics which show that 50% of CSPs new digital services originate from partnerships and investments. In order for new and old businesses to survive he noted that the digital customer has to be catered to and that today's digital customer is more complex. Getting this right he noted would retain customer loyalty and allow companies to achieve higher Net Promoter Score
 
Mr. Soto also discussed some of the challenges hindering digital transformation which included, explosion of new services, complexity of new processes, lack of funding, lack of available skills and a lack of management support.
 
The 33rd Annual Conference and Trade Exhibition, affectionately referred to as CANTO 2017 is the Caribbean's premier telecommunications event for industry professionals, academics and regional governments. The event ran from the 16th -19th July at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana Dominican Republic.
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The Committee of wise men completes visit to St. Eustatius

ST. EUSTATIUS - The Committee of wise men has been on St. Eustatius from July 13th to the 21st. The committee is in the process of examining the administrative situation on St. Eustatius and the relationship between the island and the Netherlands.

Last week the committee spoke with many people on St. Eustatius. She is grateful that so many people have been willing to share their experiences, impressions and feelings.

In the coming period, the commission will hold talks with the Dutch ministries, the Financial Supervisory Board (CFT) and the Kingdom Representative.

Early September, the committee will return to St. Eustatius.

The committee hopes to complete its work before October 1st, 2017. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

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200 Young People to attend Territorial Youth Summit

SOUTH REWARD - St. Maarten will host the first Territorial Youth Summit this year.  The New Testament church of God from St. Martin, Anguilla, the USVI, Antigua, St. Kitts & Nevis and Virgin Gorda will be participating in the 2017 Territorial Youth Summit.

The event will run from July 28 to August 8, 2017. Approximately two hundred youths and chaperons are expected to engage. The Summit is unique because it is a combination of Youth Camp, Youth Convention, and Mission/Service Projects initiative.

Each camper is required to be engaged in one of the five (5) Vacation Bible Schools located throughout the island; work with youth at the Miss Lalie center; and provide entertainment and various types of activities to residents The White and Yellow Cross, The Sister Basilia Day Care Center or the EPHAD Bethany Home on the French St. Martin. 

The primary objective of this initiative is for the recipients (the residents of St. Maarten/St. Martin) to experience the love of God through the youths.

At the same time, the summit participants of the service project will gain awareness, a sense of selflessness, empathy and the desire to engage positively with all people in the community regardless of age, physical or mental ability, gender, culture, socioeconomically status or race. 

The Summit’s committee realizes that safety is a concern for any youth group. Since the majority of these diverse participants are visitors to St. Martin. Special emphasis is given to safety awareness.

To fulfill the need to establish that safe behavior is paramount, we have secured the commitments of the Red Cross, The Fire Department and Korps Politie Sint Maarten to provide presentations as part of our Summit orientation lineup, a press statement from the organizers said. 

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Cable & Wireless Continues to Make Their Mark in the Region

SINT MAARTEN/DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - A Ministerial Breakfast sponsored by Cable and Wireless and featuring a Keynote by, John Reid, CEO, Cable and Wireless Communications kicked off day one of the CANTO 33rd Annual Conference and Trade Exhibition, taking place at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic from the 16th -19th July. This annual conference is the Caribbean's premier telecommunications event for industry professionals, academics and regional governments.

The highlight of Mr. Reid's presentation was his announcement that Cable and Wireless Communications had completed a groundbreaking pre-5G (fifth generation wireless broadband technology) trial in Antigua.

This he said means that Antigua will be the first country in the region with the most advanced pre-5G network, delivering download peak speeds of up to 800 Mbps. Cable and Wireless expects to test a 5G prototype reaching 2 to 5 Gbps peak speeds, which will have a profound positive impact on the island and implications for ICT capabilities for the region.

Mr. Reid also took the opportunity to underscore why C&W was a more resilient organization having benefited from a combination of the rich legacy of C&W, the spirited and entrepreneurial Columbus Communications, and its new parent company Liberty Global with its international reach and expertise.

Highlighting some of the company's achievements in the region, Reid noted that they have undertaken numerous initiatives to improve networks/systems and platforms underpinned by a people agenda as they continue to be a responsible corporate entity and major employer investing in communities.

C&W's network infrastructure in the region is over 150 years - from laying the first transatlantic cable to being the first to bring a 100% digital experience, to investing in local and international content and the channels to access them. Recently, they have deployed fiber network in the Region including smaller islands and larger territories. To date, they have introduced 4G LTE mobile services across 9 markets.

C & W is just one of the major players which delegates have been able to interact with at the Conference as well as via their booth in the exhibition.

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Health City Cayman Islands Offers New Cryo-Procedure for Atrial Fibrillation

SINT MAARTEN/CAYMAN ISLANDS – A leading hospital in the Caribbean is offering another first that could save the lives of heart patients across the Caribbean and the world.

Health City Cayman Islands, the first hospital in the English-speaking Caribbean to use robotic navigation for joint replacements and the first to install two artificial hearts or left ventricle assist devices (LVADs), is now offering cryoablation, a highly effective procedure for patients with atrial fibrillation, a common rhythm disorder of the heart in which people get irregular palpitations, which can lead to breathlessness and strokes.

A growing number of St. Maarten residents are receiving critical care at Health City as part of an agreement between the hospital and SZV Social & Health Insurances, the government-owned national health insurer in St. Maarten, through weekly flights operated by Cayman Airways to provide tertiary healthcare to those who are awaiting treatments unavailable on the island.

“It’s also responsible for a lot of morbidity and lifestyle issues for the patient and the healthcare cost of patients with atrial fibrillation on the community is pretty huge,” said Dr. Ravi Kishore, Chief Interventional Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist of the Joint Commission International-accredited tertiary care facility founded by renowned heart surgeon and humanitarian Dr. Devi Shetty.

Peter Tuckey, originally from England, has lived in Jamaica since 1962, but when his heart developed atrial fibrillation, he tried hospitals in the United States and the Caribbean with little success. He was delighted and relieved to find his cure at Health City Cayman Islands.

It’s just that it’s an excellent facility and I’m so happy that it’s close to Jamaica … I’ll be back to exercising, back to golf and back to a drink or two, so everything’s on the up,” explained Tuckey after a Health City team led by Dr. Kishore treated his fibrillation with the innovative cryoablation procedure.

Health City can help manage atrial fibrillation with medications and radiofrequency ablation, but there are imperfections with those methods. The new technology introduces a deflated cryoballoon into the heart. “Through this balloon we can introduce a liquid, which cools and dilates the balloon, and then freezes whichever structure it is put into,” explained Dr. Kishore.

Doctors introduce the balloon catheter into the groin and thread it into the pulmonary veins, located in the back of the heart, where the impulses that trigger the atrial fibrillation come from, and then inflate the balloon and freeze the vein for about two to three minutes, quickly and effectively destroying the source of the fibrillation.

Dr. Kishore reports that cryoablation is simpler, more effective and has fewer complications than radiofrequency ablation, which burns the affected area with radio waves. Even though they only introduced the cryoablation technique in the past few weeks, his teams have already performed the 60- to 90-minute procedure on five patients, all of whom were discharged within a day. “We found it a very user-friendly technology and the outcomes were fantastic,” Dr. Kishore said.

With Health City now offering this pioneering procedure, patients will be saved long and expensive trips. Health City is possibly the only location in the English-speaking Caribbean performing cryoblation for atrial fibrillation, for which people previously had to travel to the United States or the United Kingdom.

However, there is more than technology behind Health City’s success. Peter Tuckey had not been pleased with his hospital experiences in the United States, where an ablation surgery in Miami in 2014 failed, but he was impressed this time when he and his wife were met at the airport by Health City staffers who drove him to his appointments. He was relieved when staff shuttled his wife to her hotel and to his appointments, which saved him stressing about her “getting a taxi or having to look after herself in a foreign country – it was excellent.”

Backing up the accomplished surgeons, Tuckey recalled, was an efficient and caring staff at the East End, Grand Cayman facility. “All the nurses and all the attending staff were very, very helpful and very accommodating – definitely we would recommend it. I must tell you in Jamaica, where we come from, Health City’s reputation is growing already. It’s becoming quite well known.”

Dr. Kishore is pleased that Health City Cayman Islands has adopted the new cryoablation technique. “This procedure gives a new option for patients suffering from atrial fibrillation by providing a safer and more effective option for long-term recovery.”

Dr. Ravi Kishore Procedure

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Caribbean must strengthen its Internet infrastructure

PHILIPSBURG - The Caribbean will have to strengthen its Internet infrastructure if it is to keep pace with the world’s growing digital economy.

That’s the view held by Bevil Wooding, an Internet Strategist with US-based non-profit Packet Clearing House, an organisation providing operational support and security to critical Internet infrastructure around the world. 

Speaking to an audience of telecoms sector executives and government officials at the Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum in Phillipsburg, St Maarten, Wooding contrasted the high speed of change in the global Internet landscape with the relatively slow pace of Internet infrastructure development in the Caribbean.

He cited he recent Visual Networking Index from technology hardware giant Cisco, which estimates that by 2021, more than one billion new Internet users and 10 billion new devices will more than triple global Internet traffic. Video will account for 82 per cent of all traffic, mobile will represent 20 per cent, and online gaming will be the fastest-growing residential Internet service.  Gamers and other users will enjoy much faster service, as broadband speeds will practically double, from 24.7 Mbps in 2015 to 47.7 Mbps.

But while the rest of the world rushes to cash in on those lucrative markets, Wooding says the Caribbean faces a real risk of being left behind. A major factor, he said, is the persistently slow pace of Internet infrastructure build-out across the region.

“Faster, bolder steps must be taken if the region is to seize the development opportunities that the Internet economy offers. The translation time between talk and action must be dramatically shortened,“ he said.

Telecommunications service providers aren’t the only firms that will need to upgrade their hardware. Government ministries and private companies across the region will also have to invest more heavily and wisely in the technology underlayer that drives modern digital economies as well.

“The cost of infrastructure build-out is too important and the timing too significant to leave to private-sector decision-making alone. Governments and private sector investors will need to form far more fruitful partnerships if the Caribbean is to effectively drive technology-enabled business innovation, social inclusion and economic development,” he said.

He also predicted that the global economy will become increasingly unforgiving to regions with failing and outdated infrastructure, particularly small-island developing states like those in the Caribbean.

“Computer networks, mobile broadband, and Internet-connected services are now an essential feature of the modern digital economy. Neither businesses, governments nor citizens can ignore this reality.  Important decisions about network build-out, human capacity building, and network security are no longer the sole preserve of traditional telecommunications providers. These issues are now the concern and the responsibility of governments, businesses and individuals at every level.” 

Hosted by the Internet Society, Packet Clearing House and the Caribbean Network Operators Group, the Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum brought experts and execs into a common space to discuss Internet infrastructure from a Caribbean perspective on July 5 and 6. (By GERARD BEST)

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Police trainees organize “Fit 4 Justice” Sports event

PHILIPSBURG - As part of their training, the Basic Police Training class for the years 2016-2018 took on the task to organize the first “Fit 4 Justice” Sports event.

The intention is to make this a yearly sports event during which all departments within the Justice Chain would come together in the spirit of “Team Building” to compete against each other in a social and friendly atmosphere in various fitness activities.

This sports event took place on Sunday July 9th at the Walter Plantz Square from 09.00 a.m. until 02.00 p.m. The teams that participated were the Coast Guard, House of Detention (Prison), Customs Department, Immigration Department, Sint Maarten Voluntary Corps (VKS) and the Police Department (KPSM).

The Sint Maarten Fire Department was also invited to take part in this event as a “Special Guest”.

The competitors competed in a running race, swimming, tire-flips, push-ups, sit-ups and tug-of-war. The event was as successful event. The winners were capturing First place the Police Department, second place VKS and Third place the Fire Department.

The event was the closed off with a lunch. Special thanks go out Nagico Insurances, Penha, Printees, Indian Merchant Association, Balerina Jewelers, Kohinoor, General Auto Repairs, Marshal Motors and Allan Bistro for their sponsorship in making this event a success. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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