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Sunlight at sea: The Dutch to build first floating solar farm

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A Dutch consortium is to build the first offshore floating solar energy farm in the world, which the partners say could produce more power than land-based solar farms.

Six groups are involved in the project which will take three years and is co-financed by the Dutch government’s Enterprise Agency. The solar farm will be placed 15 kilometres off the Dutch coast at Scheveningen.

A floating energy farm fitted with solar panels could be a solution for places where there are no means to generate clean energy on land, project initiator Oceans of Energy said on its website Oceans of Energy and the University of Utrecht are together investigating the viability of electricity production at sea which is expected to yield 15% more power than a land-based facility.

According to the firm’s CEO Allard van Hoeken, solar farms at sea pose major challenges which can be conquered by putting together the experience and knowledge of Dutch knowledge institutions and offshore industry companies.

If the project is successful, solar power could potentially provide three quarters of the country’s energy needs, programme director of the solar power division of TKI Urban Energy Wijnand van Hooff said.

‘Projects like these are necessary to explore both the commercial and energetic potential of applications such as these,’ he said. The Netherlands is currently cutting down on gas extraction in the province of Groningen due to earthquakes and is phasing out the use of domestic low calorie gas in homes.

The government hopes that by 2050 all homes should have have switched to an alternative source of energy. (DutchNews)

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Dutch Parliament unanimously approves state intervention into St. Eustatius

THE NETHERLANDS/ST. EUSTATIUS - A law providing for administrative intervention in St. Eustatius was adopted today by the House of Representatives and the Senate. On Wednesday morning the State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Raymond Knops, will fly to the island to explain the decision to government officials, the island council and the public.

Under the new law, the island council will be dissolved and the island commissioners and acting governor will be relieved of their duties. On Wednesday a government commissioner will be appointed to oversee the administration of St. Eustatius.        

The intervention was prompted by a report issued yesterday by a specially appointed Committee of Wise Men, which determined that the administration is in gross neglect of its duties. The administrative situation has had a major impact on the daily life of the people in St. Eustatius.

Earlier measures aimed at improving the situation did not have the desired effect. ‘This is the most far-reaching measure at our disposal, but now that everything else has failed, it’s the only option remaining. The people of St. Eustatius deserve better,’ said the state secretary.

On Wednesday the state secretary will brief the members of the island executive and the island council. Then he will address the island’s people at a town hall meeting, where he will also introduce the new government commissioner and his deputy, and speak with the press. Afterwards he will travel on to St. Maarten to take stock of the island’s reconstruction efforts after hurricane Irma. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

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St. Maarten Guyanese Association Meeting Wednesday

CUL DE SAC - The St. Maarten Guyanese Association (SMGA) will be resuming its weekly meetings on Wednesday, February 7 at 7:30pm and is encouraging all nationals of Guyana to attend. The meeting will be held at its 158 B Back Street location in Philipsburg.

The SMGA will use the occasion to present the 2017 financial report and its calendar of events for this year. Members would also be invited to give their input as it relates to the association's participation in 2018 Carnival, the visiting artistes and troupes, as well as the next election.

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Dynamic Duo Jansen and Joost de Jong to participate in ART HEALS 2018 starting Feb.8

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - National Institute of Arts (NIA) is proud to announce for ART HEALS 2018, the dynamic duo of Dirkjan Jansen de Jong and Joost de Jong, better known as DJ and Joost.  The two dedicated and committed artist have committed significant portions of their lives to bringing and offering relief through their art. 

Their self-less act of volunteerism, has taken them to tsunami ravaged India, and raising funds for victim of Japan after the earth quake in 2011. Now their commitment to giving back, returns them to St.Maarten.

Five years ago, DJ and Joost returned to the Netherlands after a very productive three years in St. Maarten where they worked as musical theatre teachers at Motiance Dance School Foundation with classes in Saba, Statia and St.Maarten. 

Five years ago in February, their last project  was the staging of a production entitled “Blown Away”  now here they are  five years later back in St.Maarten in February  “Blown” back to our shores by the winds of changes that swept through the Caribbean called IRMA.

DJ and Joost are here with a mission. The two performing artists, now turned vegan chef and holistic wellness coach are here to offer St.Maarten their hearts, their talents, and their cooking skills.

Combining their love for musical theatre, and their love for healthy meals, DJ and Joost, will be collaborating with the National institute of Arts ART HEALS program to contribute to the recovery process of St.Maarten to help build back a stronger SXM.

Starting February 8 the DJ and Joost will kick of their philanthropic journey to SXM with a musical theatre workshop, open the community, free to all who wish to participate.  This they will combine with offering and serving free vegan meals to the seniors and offering to families still living in Hurricane Shelters… the meals will be available at the National Institute of Arts located at the john Larmonie Center.

The high light of their time in St.Maarten will be the staging a musical Revue and Fundraising event at the Holland house on February 17.  To benefit Animal Defenders and the National Institute of Arts ART HEALS program.

Classes and meals are available to all Free of charge and can be had at the National institute of arts for more details please visit or Facebook page or call NIA 1-721-543-0600.

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First-time buyers squeezed in tight Dutch housing market

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The amount spent by first-time buyers in the Netherlands shrank to a record low last year, with just 23% of the total spend on new mortgages going to people investing in their first home.

People moving home accounted for 56% of the total spending on new mortgages and home owners switching to a new mortgage accounted for the rest, according to research by IG&H and quoted by Nu.nl.

The total amount in new mortgage loans reached €101bn last year, a rise of 25% on 2016, IG&H said. Meanwhile, the shortage of homes in the Netherlands is set to reach 235,000 by 2020, according to a report by property advisory group Capital Value and ABF Research.

The current shortage totals 205,000 homes and is dominated by rental properties costing between €710 and €1,000 a month, the report said. In particular, young people who have low-paid jobs and temporary contracts are finding it hard to buy and are being squeezed by the shortage of homes for rent.

Elderly people are also hard hit by the shortage of suitable homes. One reason for the shortfall in new properties is the lack of capacity in the construction sector to build them, and a lack of affordable land, the report states.

In total, it says, domestic and foreign investors are willing to put €7bn into housing this year. (DutchNews)

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‘How to get a job’ final test scrapped from integration exams

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A shortage of examiners has forced the government to scrap the final test from the controversial ‘how to get a job’ section of the integration exams, social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees has told parliament.

The waiting list to take the test – which involves two examiners – has gone up to 15 weeks and Koolmees says removing the test requirement will allow people to ‘start on follow-up education or get a job as quickly as possible’.

Candidates will instead have to prove they have had at least 64 hours of lessons in the subject and carry out the set tasks in the course, such as writing application letters for job at a supermarket and preparing a CV.

‘People who think they need less than 64 hours of education will still be able to take the end exam on request,’ the social affairs ministry said. The minister is also looking at whether the entire section can be scrapped for people who already have a job, which will need parliamentary backing, and at other measures to make the tests more labour-market relevant.

The integration or inburgering exams consist of six parts: writing, reading, comprehension, speaking, knowledge of Dutch society and knowledge of the labour market.

New arrivals in the Netherlands who have to go through the inburgering process have three years to pass. People who have passed the NTI or NT2 Dutch language tests don’t have to take the knowledge of society and knowledge of the labour market exams. (DutchNews)

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Parents may face instant fines for taking kids out of school for a holiday

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Parents who take their children out of school to go on foreign holidays or skiing breaks could soon face on-the-spot fines of up to €100 a day, the AD said on Friday.

The public prosecution department is considering giving school attendance officers the power to issue fines to parents directly, rather than wait for the offence to be first studied by justice ministry officials.

Cases involving several days ‘illegal’ holiday, tacked on to the end of regular holidays, are complicated to protest and cost more than they bring in in terms of fines, the department says.

And simplifying the procedures would raise more money which local authorities can put back into education. In the 2015-16 school year, the latest for which figures are available, officials dealt with over 6,000 reports of ‘luxury absenteeism’.

Most parents get a warning for their first offence and are summoned to appear before magistrates if caught for a second time. The department plans to start trials of the new system in a couple of council areas as soon as possible, the AD said. (DutchNews)

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Relatives will have a say in organ donation in ‘yes unless’ donor register

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Relatives who really do not want their family member to donate their organs after death will still have the final say if the Netherlands switches to a ‘yes unless’ donor register, the bill’s backer Pia Dijkstra said on Friday.

Dijkstra, an MP for the Liberal Democratic Party, was told earlier this week by senators to go into more detail about the role of relatives in her plan which is currently on the table in the upper house of parliament.

Relatives will have priority if they have very major objections, even if the deceased had expressly backed donation, Dijkstra said. If the draft bill goes on to become law, everyone in the Netherlands will be considered a donor unless they specifically request to be taken off the list.

The vote on the draft legislation will take place on February 13 and it is still doubtful about whether or not it will win majority support in the 75-seat upper house of parliament.

Senators from the CDA, PvdA and GroenLinks had said they were concerned about the role of relatives, and suggested that they should be given a veto. This, Dijkstra said, is going too far.

However, ‘in case of relatives having major psychological issues [with a decision], a doctor will opt to let the relatives’ objections prevail,’ Dijkstra said. (DutchNews)

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Minister will slash Dutch natural gas production, but at what cost?

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Economic affairs minister Erik Wiebes said on Thursday afternoon that he will follow the mining inspectorate’s advice to slash Groningen gas production ‘as soon as possible’.

‘We have to go back to 12 billion cubic metres and that is almost half,’ he said. ‘It will be an enormous social challenge.’ Wiebes said he would brief parliament at the end of March on how the plans to achieve the cutbacks.

On Thursday morning, the state mining inspectorate said the extraction of natural gas from under Groningen province should be massively scaled back to reduce the risk of more earthquakes.

Under current agreements, 21.6 billion cubic metres can be pumped from under the province this year, but that should be slashed to 12 billion cubic metres, the inspectorate said.

Earthquakes

In addition, the inspectors say no more gas may be pumped from the fields around Loppersum, which was hit last month by an earthquake which registered 3.4 on the Richter scale.

The cutbacks will have a considerable impact on the treasury which earns an estimated €150m from each billion cubic metres of gas. Wiebes said earlier that he would not take the impact on the state’s finances into account when deciding how to proceed.

The Groningen field is one of the world’s largest gas fields with an estimated 2,800 billion cubic metres and has so far generated some €290bn for the treasury, much of which has been spent on infrastructure.

There will also be an impact on seven million Dutch households, large companies and in the Netherlands surrounding countries which have come to rely on the low calorie gas from Groningen.

Last month, Wiebes wrote to 200 of the biggest Dutch firms telling them they had to stop using Groningen gas within four years. Parliament has also passed a motion which would no longer make it a requirement to connect new homes to the gas grid.

Farmers

Meanwhile, a group of some 50 farmers were banned from driving their tractors into The Hague on Thursday to take part in a protest outside parliament in support of their campaign for damages.

The farmers want guarantees that they will be compensated for the damage to their land and want to be sure that Shell and ExxonMobile, who jointly own gas company NAM, will take responsibility. But they were stopped from entering the cities with the tractors because of the risk to public safety. (DutchNews)

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Minister to get tough on foreign funding of Dutch political parties

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren is planning to put new restrictions on foreign donations for Dutch political parties in an effort to ‘prevent unwanted influence on Dutch democracy’.

The minister was reacting to a report drawn up by a parliamentary committee investigating political funding. It recommended a total ban on foreign donations. Ollongren said in a briefing on Thursday that she planned to come up with new proposals after the summer break.

The new coalition agreement includes a commitment to prevent foreign influence being exerted on political, social and religious institutions in return for cash. Earlier research has showed that the anti-immigration PVV is the main recipient of foreign money.

In the two years up to February 2017, it received a total of €130,280.38 in four payments from the David Horowitz Freedom Center in California. The committee has also recommended changing the rules which restrict state support for political parties to those with at least 1,000 paying members.

The PVV, which only has one member (Wilders himself) is excluded from state support because of this, and has become more reliant on foreign cash. Instead parties should get state support based on the number of MPs and senators they have, the committee says.

The current donations registry lists all donations of over €4,500. The committee also recommends reducing the threshold to €2,500. (DutchNews)

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