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CIBC FIRSTCARIBBEAN CONTINUES TO DEMONSTRATE COMMITMENT TO REGION

BARBADOS - CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank continues to demonstrate its commitment to the region as it prepares for a future of banking in which the needs of its ever-growing and sophisticated clientele are increasingly met.

The bank has, over recent years, been concentrating on the continuous development and expansion of its Retail, Wealth and Business Banking Services through innovations and investment in its infrastructure, processes and staff.

In a wide-ranging interview recently, Mark St. Hill, the bank's Managing Director, Retail, Business and International Banking spoke about key improvements the bank was instituting as well as their benefits to the bank's customers.

Mr. St. Hill said that CIBC FirstCaribbean's business banking segment was recording  encouraging growth with the increase in entrepreneurial activity around the region. He added that the bank had listened to what its business banking clients had been saying about challenges they have been experiencing with accessing capital and had analysed the types of barriers that had cropped up over the years to these customers qualifying for financing. These include the level of record keeping by some entrepreneurs and the quality of business plans presented. "Coming out of this we created a number of products and services such as the Bizline Visa Business Credit Card and the Merchant Services Overdraft and we've developed some tools and provided assistance in helping our clients present their applications for financing – in other words, we have positioned ourselves as being more of a financial advisor for our clients," Mr. St. Hill explained.

Upskilled to better advise clients

In order to achieve this, the bank's Business Banking Officers were exposed to a specially tailored business banking training module created by the Canadian Securities Institute. "We've up-skilled ourselves to (better) interpret the information received from clients when they complete the business planning guide we recently created -  and by extension we are able to advise them better," the Managing Director, Retail, Business and International Banking noted.   

With regard to Platinum Banking, Mr. St. Hill said that this offering, which was rebranded and re-launched, was also experiencing continued growth. "It's a Relationship Management offer for the busy professionals or executives and has been working tremendously well. In certain markets - including Barbados, The Cayman Islands and the Bahamas - it's driving over 50% of our sales. It's also growing in Antigua and other markets and we're about to launch it in Curacao, a market with a large number of professionals."

Facilitating clients' needs for credit

In the area of Retail Banking, the CIBC FirstCaribbean senior executive explained that through its regional network of Mortgage and Loan Centres, specialised staff were facilitating their clients' need for credit. "We know that the way we grow our businesses, increase our wealth, educate our families and improve our lifestyles is through access to credit. To meet this need we've developed an approach that is relationship-centred so that we're here for our clients when they need us," Mr. St. Hill explained.  He added that a year after their roll out, the response to the Mortgage and Loan Centres was "very good" in key locations - especially Barbados and Antigua and in the Financial Year 2014 the bank had helped nearly 7,000 Retail Banking clients to "achieve their dreams" through access to credit to purchase land; build, buy or refurbish homes; educate themselves or their children; enjoy a family vacation; purchase a car; or grow their businesses.

With regard to the processes and technology supporting the bank's ability to facilitate its clients' credit needs, Mr. St. Hill noted that during the year a new risk management credit system was put in place. "We're starting to see improved results. One of the key benefits of this platform is that it will allow us to create more tailored solutions for our clients."

With a significant number of the bank's employees providing retail and business banking services, Mr. St. Hill noted that they are obviously key to the bank's commitment to deepen relationships with, and add value to, its clients. "We've seen good success and have surpassed year-on-year expectations in terms of convenience products – bank accounts, deposit accounts, internet banking sign ups, our e-channels, and our credit cards - because our employees are talking to our clients. Other initiatives to help that include special programmes like our new 'Talk to Me Tuesdays' where we've brought our staff from behind the counters into our lobbies and they would rub shoulders directly with our clients to talk with them and understand their needs. I applaud and thank our staff."

One of the more competitive banks

In the future, CIBC FirstCaribbean wants to see an increase in the number of staff become involved in direct sales and reach out proactively to clients. Based on its continuous improvements and expansion of Retail Banking services, the bank is confident that it will meet the evolving needs of current and potential clients. "We're one of the more competitive banks when it comes to to pricing and focusing on the major channels through which our clients' needs are met. We're emphasising the centrality of developing relationships with clients who use our key products and services," Mr. St. Hill said.

Further infrastructural expansion is taking place across the region. The bank has been looking at new locations in the region. In Jamaica a new branch model, designed to increase the number of clients, will be piloted in Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth, this year before being rolled out to other locations.  A new branch will also be commissioned in Montego Bay, also in Jamaica.

Future of banking – meeting needs of sophisticated client

Emphasizing the bank's commitment and continued investment in the region, Mr. St. Hill described the long-term vision. "The future of banking in the Caribbean is meeting the needs of an ever-more-sophisticated client through the channels by which they access our services. The majority of this new client demographic does not come into our banking halls on a regular basis, so the future involves creating an improved relationship management model through innovations such as our Business Banking and Platinum Banking services, Mortgage and Loan Centres, and call centres. At Warrens in Barbados for example, a number of our clients don't go past the ABMs into the Banking Hall – they transact all their business right there at the ABM or online, so we're designing our branches to be responsive to the needs of our clients.

Mr. St. Hill, who has over 25 years of experience with CIBC FirstCaribbean, concluded: "The continuous investment we are making is preparing us for the future of banking, so while we've invested in new infrastructure we've also de-commissioned old infrastructure because we have to take a commercial view of how we position ourselves. The vision is to have a model that is sustainable, and that will continue to please our clients and shareholders - that's where we're going."

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TelEm Group informs customers of internet interruptions from Midnight Friday to correct slow internet problem

POND ISLAND – TelEm Group will be carrying out important upgrades of the company’s internet infrastructure Friday evening to cope with a flood in customer demand for additional bandwidth and faster internet.

The upgrades will begin promptly at midnight, Friday and will continue into the early hours of the morning until 4:00 am when work is scheduled for completion.

As a result of the upgrades there will be no internet service during the hours stated above.

“Customers will have noticed during the past week that their connections to the internet have been much slower than usual, mainly because of congestion,” said Manager, Engineering and Planning, Mr. Jed Carty.

He said the upgrades are necessary to accommodate the growing number of new devices that are being used by customers that require greater internet speeds and additional bandwidth.

 “Following the upgrades we expect customers to once again enjoy the fast and reliable internet service they have become used to,” said Mr. Carty.

He said the early morning hours was chosen to carry up the necessary capacity upgrades so that there would be the least impact on residential and business clients.

 “This is an important upgrade that has to be done right away and we apologize to all our customers for any inconvenience caused,” added Mr. Carty. (TelEm)

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19-Year old Robbery suspect arrested along with girlfriend

PHILIPSBURG - On Monday January 19th a 19-year old man was arrested at his home on Bush road by police suspected of his involvement in a January 9th 2015 armed robbery.

A warrant for his arrest was issued by the Public Prosecutors office. The arrest took place without any incident. On that same day a search of his home was carried out.  During this search a young lady, who is the girlfriend of the suspect was in the house.

She was caught as she tried to hide a bag belonging to the suspect in one of the bedrooms. When this bag was searched a 9 millimeter pistol was found.

The weapon in question was confiscated for further investigation and the female was arrested on the spot.

She was taken to the Philipsburg Police Station where she remains in custody for further investigation. (Police Force Sint Maarten)

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OSPP Leader Lenny Priest: IS THERE SUCH A THING OF BEING OVER QUALIFIED!

PHILIPSBURG – Leader of the One St. Maarten People’s Party (OSPP) Lenny Priest said on Tuesday in a press release that for years many young people that go abroad to further their studies has indicated that they will not be returning to St. Maarten upon their completion of their studies.

“This has been a torn in my side for I could not understand why anybody upon receiving a scholarship from their government would even think about not returning to serve their country.

“Every year our government provides an opportunity for many of our young people with scholarships to be able to further their studies locally or abroad. The OSPP has stated on numerous occasions that we believe that the names of those students, as well as their pictures and the area of studies should be published.

“By having this policy it would place additional pressure on our students and their parents to succeed. It would also provide the general public with information about our students and their areas of studies; after all in most cases we are footing the bills as tax payers.      

“Our Honorable Prime Minister had stated in one of his first address to the nation in which he talked about the counterpart policy that will be introduced. One of the main reasons as was stated is to put our people back to work. My opinion has been and still is that the government has all the tools to determine who will work legally on the island.

“It is the government that issues work permits and therefore a counterpart policy would be counterproductive and it would hurt our economy. There should be a better working relationship between the Labor, Education and Justice Departments to better protect the job market for our people.     

“However, for years I have heard many young people indicating that they will not return to St. Maarten upon completing their studies. In my opinion I believed it had to do with them acquiring more experience, greater possibilities to move up the ladder and last but not the least better pays checks abroad.

“But that doesn’t seem to be the case. All indications are that many of them feel that when returning to St. Maarten and if they applied for a job they would be labeled overqualified or under qualified in their own country. Over qualified, because the employer already has someone in mind to hire and under qualified because of the rigorous requirements set forth by the employer.      

“But this brings us to a very important area, the appointment of ministers after the 2014 election. Each party that contested the 2014 election was allowed to carry 23 persons on the list. They placed the best qualified persons at the time on their list. What is very strange that after the election in 2014 all of the candidates on the UP list are either over or under qualified! We draw our conclusion based on the facts that only one candidate to date has been appointed in the Gumbs cabinet.

“All the other ministers were not on the list during the last election and there are two ministries still vacant at this moment.  What does this tell us? It tells us that the UP leadership has no confidence in the other candidates regardless to their experience or educational back ground.

“Perhaps since it is the UP government and they are proposing the counterpart policy they should demonstrate to the public how this counterpart proposal will work. They should start by placing Iris Arrindell as a counterpart for Minister Hassink of Finance; Veronica Jansen as a counterpart for Prime Minister Gumbs of VRomi; Terry Peterson for Minister Dennis Richardson for Justice; Dr. Rhoda Arrindell as counterpart to Minister Rita Gumbs of Education; Jules James for Minister Richardson for Social Affairs & Labour; Gracita Arindell as counterpart for Prime Minister Gumbs.

“All of those candidates after four years should be qualified to govern the next time around or do they have to be part of the inner circle. It is no wonder many of our young people abroad are very skeptical about returning to St. Maarten after completing their studies.

“If the leadership of UP can do this to their fellow candidates what wouldn’t they do to them our future leaders who are not affiliated to the party,” OSPP Leader Lenny Priest said on Tuesday. (OSPP Party)      

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24-Year Old Nevisian Suspect in murder case arrested by Detectives

PHILIPSBURG - In connection with ongoing August 16th 2014 “Rooftop Bar and Grill” murder investigation in which the victim by name of Junior Adolphe BERTIN-MAURICA was shot to death, a person has been arrested.

Detectives arrested a 24 year old male on Saturday January 17th. The suspect who was born on the island of Nevis and remains in custody for further investigation. (Police Force Sint Maarten) 

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BTP SXM Addresses Fraud Allegations

PHILIPSBURG - The Supervisory Board of the Bureau Telecommunications and Post (BTPSXM), after prior consultation with the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications Hon. Claret Connor (Ministry TEATT), has decided on this press release as it is evident that crucial available information within Government is not made available to all or considered which leads to the continued unfounded allegation of fraud at the BTPSXM.

In an effort to address these unfounded allegations once and for all the Supervisory Board of BTPSXM wishes to inform all that the laws applicable to the functioning of BTP SXM are followed.

Neither this Supervisory Board nor Management of the BTPSXM ever took a decision to purchase a building. Based on the law such decisions are taken by the Minister of TEATT, not the Supervisory Board or Management.

Two previous Ministers of TEATT, with full knowledge and support of the Council of Ministers (COM) took the decision to purchase the building in which the BTPSXM is housed and several Government departments were intended to be housed.

The financial institution which financed the purchase based on the instructions of Government executed a due diligence, required appraisal reports from an appraiser of its approved listing, and confirmation letters from Government to undertake the financing for the purchase.

Given the information on file with the Government, the investigative report findings by the SOAB on this matter, it is beyond belief to this Supervisory Board that entities within Government or linked to Government still express in public allegations of fraud.

It is due time that the SOAB report, appraisal reports and advices are shared with all so that a complete and proper understanding may be obtained and not one based on malicious mêlée or a suggestive integrity report.

The Integrity report references also must be addressed as here too the Government clearly did not provide documentation it had to its availability to the Integrity committee, yet choose to send this committee to the Supervisory Board for the documentation, knowing that the Supervisory Board is not authorized to release the requested information.

This Supervisory Board rightfully redirected the investigators to the Government for their request on release of documents on the BTPSXM. This Supervisory Board whilst willing to work and cooperate in every way possible will not violate the law to please any entity or person.

The Supervisory Board hopes that the Government will duly share all information on this matter with all pertinent entities so the BTPSXM may focus on its task execution instead of the constant burdens of investigation upon investigation.

There needs to be an end to unfounded allegation of fraud in this case as names and reputations of persons are unnecessarily tarnished simply because of a refusal to read available information, address allegations after investigative reports findings fail to support the fraud allegation and to take responsibility for decisions taken. (BTP SXM Supervisory Board of Directors)

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DP: It gets better by the day... Faction Leader Wescot-Williams delves into Bureau Telecommunication and Post ‘Outburst’

PHILIPSBURG – Democratic Party (DP) Faction Leader Member of Parliament (MP) Hon. Sarah Wescot-Williams in a press release on Sunday, January 18, 2014, says that Parliament has been asked in an indirect way to give the Government of St. Maarten some time to get its feet wet, but that events in rapid succession are demanding Parliament's attention, and government is being called upon to respond with equal urgency.

“How else can one explain the sudden outburst by the Bureau Telecommunication and Post (BTP) in the press of Saturday, January 17th? To understand the anomaly of this and put this matter in perspective, we need to understand the organization of the institution BTP.

“This institution is created by law to execute a public task. There is a special BTP law that sets out BTP's organization, its structure, and its obligations. The BTP is considered an independent organization. The only interference by government or a minister is what is afforded the minister in the same BTP law. At least that is how it is supposed to be!
However, the minister(s) is/are politically responsible for the institution towards Parliament.

“Yet, BTP comes out swinging at "government" and makes it abundantly clear that they do so with the blessings of the TEATT (ed Minister of Tourism, Economy, Transport and Telecommunciations) Minister, the Honourable Claret Conner.  The Minister of Finance of St. Maarten has in the past not concealed his concern with respect to this organization, as it is of significance for the budget of the country, and not only the Minister of Finance.

“Now the government (read the Minister of Finance) is publicly being admonished by the BTP to make information public to stem the flow of allegations of wrongdoings (?), again, with the blessings of his colleague minister. Could these two ministers not have corroborated internally?

“The way BTP has sought to defend its purchase of a building in Philipsburg, in my opinion truly leaves the Minister of Finance no other choice but to make public the report to which BTP refers in its statement.  It also leaves the Minister of Finance no choice but to explain to Parliament and the people of St. Maarten how the hierarchy structure of BTP functions.

“I eagerly await the Finance Minister's reaction to this sudden outburst by BTP.
And maybe something from his colleague minister as well?,” DP Parliamentary Faction Leader MP Hon. Sarah Wescot-Williams said on Sunday. (DP Faction) 

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Greenzones promises to help local foundations. Information evening planned for January 20

BELAIR — International charity organisation Greenzones is in the process of setting up its online platform to benefit St. Maarten. An information meeting will be held in which Greenzones will explain to local charities and foundations how they can help. The presentation will take place on January 20 at the Belair Community Centre, from 6:30 pm.

Greenzones is an initiative that connects charities and causes to companies and professionals in their region that can provide the help that they need, free of charge.  

Its volunteers have more than two decades of experience in humanitarian and social initiatives.

The organisation recognises the growing need to unify the non-profit and for-profit worlds to collectively impact and improve the world in a much greater and more efficient way than either could do on their own.

The Greenzones founders and advisory team consists of a diverse multinational group of individuals and industry leaders in both the non-profit and for-profit worlds driven by both passion and purpose. 

Greenzones champions causes and individuals that are making a difference, giving their efforts of love regional and international recognition and support. 

The organisation provides a central database for all charities and causes and their specific needs in the Caribbean, to encourage volunteering and easy access for professionals and companies with a social mission to connect and help with those needs. 

This makes it easier for charities to achieve their goals without having to expend so much time and energy finding funding. 

The platform encourages in-kind giving from people and companies, and facilitates the connections between the need and the giver. There are no commissions, 100% of the donation and gift goes directly to the charity.

Sharon Tanaka, together with Priya Thirumur from K1 Britannia Foundation, are responsible for introducing the platform to St. Maarten, after they saw the need for it here. They believe Greenzones will be able to make a difference for charities and foundations on the island.

“We want to help you to achieve your goal of making a difference in whatever area you’re focusing on, through connecting you to those who can provide what you need,” said Tanaka. 

“That way, you can focus on making a difference rather than having to expend so much time and energy finding funding. Whether your charity or cause is big or small, well established or a new start up, Greenzones is here to help you,” she added.

Tanaka and Thirumur invite all charities, causes and foundations, as well as anyone who wants to make a difference, to attend their presentation on Tuesday, January 20 to learn more about how Greenzones can help them, and how to join this free online platform.  

The information session will be held at the Belair Community Centre from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. Refreshments will be served. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visitwww.greenzones.org

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Permanent Committee of Kingdom Affairs and Inter-parliamentary Relations to Meet about IPKO on Friday

PHILIPSBURG – ThePermanent Committee of Kingdom Affairs and Inter-parliamentary Relations of Parliament will meet in session on January 16th.

The Permanent Committee of Kingdom Affairs and Inter-parliamentary Relations Central Committee meeting is set for Friday at 10.00am in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelmina Straat #1 in Philipsburg.

The agenda for the meeting is a debriefing related to the recently concluded Inter-parliamentary Kingdom Consultationthat took place in Aruba last week.

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.

The parliamentary session will be carried live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 120, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1, the audio via the Internet www.pearlfmradio.com, and also via www.sxmparliament.org

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Those with Outstanding Traffic Fines Could go to Jail

PHILIPSBURG - In addition, the police department has been busy with many traffic controls and will soon receive a list of names of those persons who did not settle their outstanding fines at the Receivers Office. 

All these persons should take this information into consideration. Those persons, whose names are registered on the list for outstanding fines, will be dealt with in accordance with the law, one of which is being incarcerated under orders of the Public Prosecutor.  (Police Force Sint Maarten)

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