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Day Two Forged Ahead With the Caribbean Disaster Management Forum at the Helm

SINT MAARTEN/TRINIDAD & TOBAGO - Trends in technology, media and communications; Staying connected during a disaster; and Cloud technology were some of the titles of the sessions on day two of CANTO's 34th Annual General Meeting.

The technology trend segment highlighted digitalization as a way of life and focused on Fibre to the Home (FTTH) as the way forward.  Fixed wireless was also listed as a cost effective alternative.   

The Caribbean Disaster Forum on the other hand focused on Business Continuity Planning in the Telecommunications Sector.  The presenters on the forum included Dr. Cletus Bertin (CARILEC); Heather Wallen - Bryan (FLOW), Mandela Christian (CDEMA); Shernon Osepa, Internet Society; Consultants Aggrey Marsh and James Richardson.   

Mandela Christian highlighted the Regional Response Mechanism (RRM) of CDEMA which is an evolving set of arrangements for the coordination of disaster response among CDEMA's Participating States (PS), Regional and International agencies. 

In 2017, CANTO partnered with CDEMA to support the operations of the RRM in response to the impact of major category Hurricanes Irma and Maria on CDEMA's Participating States.  CANTO members volunteered technicians who formed part of the Rapid Needs Assessment Teams (RNAT) and supported the assessment of the telecommunications sector in the impacted states.

The second day climaxed with two highly charged segments on regional data centers using cloud content; and emerging trends in convergence, content,& customer analytics.

On Tuesday, there will be more sessions on spectrum, the FCC's decision on the Open Internet and a visit to TSTT's data center. The event will conclude with the Association's AGM proceedings.

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The way I see it....

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - Is this what the former Prime Minister Mr. William Marlin resorted to?

I have mentioned this before on the Facebook post of a candidate on the NA, where I asked what was the added value in this so-called 'scandal video'?

It is certainly old news that back in October 2014, I a member of the Democratic Party tendered my resignation, and seeing that this is/ was my prerogative, I gave full disclosure to my Leader and board of my reasons and stood firm of my decision.

This is not even news worthy, further more to belittle oneself by forwarding this 'scandal video' to your contacts on whatsapp gives me pause.

So much happened since then, I not only reapplied to become a member of the Democratic Party, but postulated myself, and became the party's President, in addition to running  as the Anchor, the #18 candidate in the September 26, 2016 Parliamentary Election.

My suggestion to you Mr. Marlin is to focus on the important issues to campaign on. Take stock/ responsibility for your actions or lack thereof as Prime Minister of St. Maarten post Hurricane Irma.

  1. A Commander in charge in times of crisis does not go in hiding.
  2. A Commander makes sure that shelters are identified before a hurricane and not blame the Red Cross a non-profit organization, for not having the shelters opened, post Hurricane Irma.
  3. A Commander realises the need of funding, for the people of St. Maarten especially after seeing the devastation caused by the worst natural disaster and accept offers, not at the 11th hour when he realised his time was up.
  4. A Commander does not go on radio and say it was difficult for anyone to reach him by phone because of the amount of steel in his house. But even when the olive branch was extended you felt the need to thump your chest like King Tut and say no need for a broad based government. When it was time to put egos, pride and self-enrichment aside for the greater good of this Country.
  5. A Commander should have told his "big bad wolf" to respect a woman like Sarah. It isn't for nothing that NA/USP felt the need to have DP join as coalition partners. Is it that neither William nor Frans trusted each other to be in the coalition alone? I mean you had 8. But things quickly went sour when among other things the quote 10 minus 2 = 8 was echoed. If it's one thing you should know by now about Sarah is you can't manage her!!!

Seeing that A Commander turn 'video producer' sending out 'Scandal video', perhaps the next episode should be on the Oyster pond / Captain Oliver's Border Scandal.

M. Gumbs

#taughtbetterofyou

#beneathyourpaygrade

#thankSarahforallowingyoutobePM

COMMENTARY: The comments expressed here are the sole responsibility of the author.

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Trinidad & Tobago Drafts Five Year ICT Plan Says Minister of Public Utilities

SINT MAARTEN/TRINIDAD & TOBAGO - "...We in Trinidad and Tobago are currently drafting a five-year National ICT Plan:" stated the Minister of Public Utilities, Hon. Robert Le Hunte at the opening ceremony of CANTO's 34th AGM & Mini Expo. 

Minister Le Hunte who was the featured speaker, went on to say that, "That plan, which is currently in its consultative phase, declares a bold vision of a future, transformed through ICT and characterized by empowered people, competitive businesses, and transformational government. 

That vision is of course, in keeping with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals mapped out in our Vision 2030 and outlined by the United Nation's Sustainable Development Agenda. And as such, the National ICT Plan signals our intent to use ICT as a catalyst, as we work towards those goals".

Le Hunte explained that the Ministry of Public Utilities has implemented many initiatives to the benefit of the stakeholders. He also cited the recent signing of an MoU with iGovTT which facilitates the adoption of TSTT's e-Tender Software as a Service (SaaS) procurement portal for government projects. 

He believes that this will improve the transparency of the bidding process and remove some of the barriers to inclusion that would have previously existed.

The Minister joined speakers, Julian Wilkins, Chairman of CANTO; Teresa Wankin Secretary General of CANTO; Rochelle Cameron, Vice Chair of CANTO; and Charles Carter, EVP Legal & Regulatory and Corporate Secretary, TSTT.  Hon Curtis Richardson, Minister of Infrastructure, Communications, Utilities, Housing, Agriculture, Fisheries and Information Technology of Anguilla was also present.

The Association, in collaboration with founding member and Operator, Telecommunications Services of Trinidad & Tobago (TSTT) host over 150 delegates at the 34th Annual General Meeting & Mini Expo from February 4 - 6, 2018.

Today, delegates can expect to hear presentations on Trends in Technology; Media and Communications; Staying Connected During a Disaster; Cloud Technology Cybersecurity; and a forum on Caribbean Disaster Risk Management.

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Fly-in-something in the Caribbean

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - How about Fly-In Banking; like a drive-in fast food operation? No, it’s no joke. In the Caribbean? Probably not, but that is not the point. One has to look at the principles of the concept and explore if one could do a ‘fly-in’ something that might fit a particular destination in a region. Bottom line, it’s all about economic development of a region. Follow-me!    

Developing airport business requires some creative thinking especially when it comes to private and business aviation. No one is flying to an airport because of the airport. Passengers are coming for the destination and in the Caribbean for instance especially for the ‘Tourism Product’.

How do you get aircraft passengers to come and do business; ‘Tourism d’Affaires’, as the French say? Just visiting conferences for creating awareness and networking is not enough of a marketing effort. At least it was not enough for me. I was in charge of business aviation development. My line of thinking was more about a sustainable development.

I observed that a well-known foreign business man would frequently arrive at ‘my’ airport on his private jet and met with a financial expert for a good hour in the airport’s restaurant and then boarded his jet and left again.  Hmm? Could one turn that in some kind of concept? The airport was located in a country well-known for international banking and finance.

The idea was born: fly-in finance services. Why not? A service-concept enabling foreign persons and companies to have quick access to financial services by flying to an airport and using the services of the financial institutions on the airport premises or in nearby branches. Fly-In Banking would be a marketing innovation, in airport business development and promotion, but also in the Private and Investment banking industry.

I did some research. In the sixties, in Rio Vista, Texas, there was the ‘Cow Pasture Bank’. The banker owned a grass airstrip behind the bank building. He created a unique financial institution by offering a fly-in feature. Clients would fly their planes in from their farms to do their banking.

Mind that in Texas distances are far; the farms are so big that the farmers would also have a grass strip and their own small private airplane. The banker commented that in addition: “We financed a lot of airplanes. It was an easy way to let people fly in and we would look at the airplane and that sort of thing and decide if we wanted to finance it.”

Of course, ‘my’ airport didn’t have a bank. The closest branches of major international brand banks were 15 minutes away. Yet, we had a building where we could rent out space and make meeting rooms available to advisors from the financial institutions, who could come to meet their clients on our premises. My vision was, that if we were successful, we could even initiate a cluster development with additional facilities and offices of service providers from financial industry segments. Good for airport expansion and good for the local community.

So instead of chasing aircraft owners and operators, as one might have expected me to do, I went after bankers. On a local level, the concept was well received. Why wasn’t it realized? The headquarters of the banks that were located in the two cities with a major international airport, didn’t want to lose any business to their branches. Does the word ‘commission’ ring a bell? They believed that the branches could attract the cross-border road traffic, but the HQ’s wanted to keep the flying jetset for themselves.    

By accident, it went in international aviation magazine as: “fly-in banking to attract more well-heeled travelers” and “just trying to make things as easy and comfortable as possible for them,” and “facilitating meetings with representatives from major banks in the airport’s new business center and arranging limousine transportation to nearby branch offices”.

The journalist who published the information may have been just a bit too excited about the new service, by publishing it prematurely before the program was actually realized. Bad PR? No. Because in the same article he also mentioned that: “Business aviation movements at the airport during the first half of this year are up by 94 percent over the same period last year, because more executive travelers have discovered…, etc.”

Why write this column about something that failed? It didn’t fail, it just didn’t work due to an unforeseen circumstance. Now, one could come up with a series of quotations of some of the most famous successful people saying that progress is based on trial and failure. The essence of such quotes is that one has to come up with new ideas and eventually one of them will succeed. If one doesn’t try anything new or different, then nothing happens. 

Question is, where should it all start? My concept started as an initiative of an airport business developer. Should the idea have come up in a bank? A government economic development authority, maybe? What about a Chamber of Commerce or a Tourism Office? I’m in favor of brain storming meetings with competent participants from various organizations and including some independent open-minded intellectual individuals.

When does that happen here in the region and where? And if it was done, where are the tangible results? No results? Maybe change the participants or just make them try harder. What may help is gathering the persons in a room, give them food and water, lock the door and don’t open it anymore until there is a result. Cruel thought? No way, you just couldn’t see the amused grin on my face.

This is about progress for a territory and helping its community. When it comes to tourism product or business development, or even the economic development of a whole region, fresh and especially unique concepts are needed. Concepts that outdo the competition. Think about Fly-In-Something and where that may applicable, or about something else that is original.

By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert     

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Will the Fourth Industrial Revolution be a revolution for women?

SINT MAARTEN/SWITZERLAND - Even if you don’t follow the news closely, you have probably heard of Carrie Gracie, a senior journalist at the BBC who resigned because of what she regards as a “secretive and illegal” pay culture. Then there was Oprah’s remarkable speech at the Golden Globe Awards where she spoke out against sexual assault and the “brutally powerful men” whose “time is up”.

In 2014, the Gender Gap Report issued by the WEF predicted that the world would reach gender parity by 2095. But today, that forecast has worsened, with the gap anticipated to close as late as 2133. That’s 117 years from now, multiple generations away. As a mother of three daughters who will change the world and the impatient optimist that I am, I feel frustrated that none of my children or grandchildren will live to see gender parity.

For the very first time, the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos will be chaired by an all-female panel working under the theme, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”.

The agenda includes topics that have never been part of the Forum before, including “Gender, Power and Stopping Sexual Harassment” and “How Do We Stop Sexual Harassment?”

Private sector partners have organised dozens of side events, such as “Women Leaders Dinner – The Next Wave of Change”, “Fast Forward to Equal; the Myths Holding Women Back”, and several others. The issues women are dealing with, from sexual harassment to unfair pay, contribute to this fractured world.

It is critical to consider the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the gender gap. How will the accelerating pace of technological change affect what roles women can play in the economy, politics, and society? One question that stands out for me is how and whether the Fourth Industrial Revolution will worsen inequality, particularly for women.

This is why we must start fostering a culture of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education for girls. Our work at Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) is focused on encouraging young people and women to use technology and entrepreneurship to create economic opportunities; and inspiring girls to pursue careers that are more secure and less likely to be automated.

Industries like manufacturing and construction, businesses that are mostly male-dominated, are likely to be the most affected by automation. Meanwhile, industries resistant to automation like psychology, medicine and nursing will become more competitive.

The tools women need to navigate these changes are there. Worldwide, women generally have more degrees than men. They have more post-graduate degrees than men, more PhDs than men, and more law degrees that men. We are still behind on MBAs but we’re getting there.

Skills that women bring to the table, once called “soft skills”, are now recognised as profitable and important: the ability to understand what is going on based on someone’s body language; emotional intelligence; the ability to build consensus; to mentor people; and more.

Everyone benefits when companies have a diverse workforce, where women are given fair opportunities and paid a wage similar to that of their male counterparts.

Research conducted at the University of Michigan indicates that if you have a mixed group of men and women solving a complicated business problem, that group will always come up with a better solution than a group of men, even if the men are individually more qualified than members of the mixed group on average.

Today, women control about 80% of consumer purchases. A few years ago, Ford conducted a survey on what men and women wanted from their cars. Men looked at the exterior of the car, the horsepower, the engine speed and power, and the driver’s seat.

Women tended to look at the interior, the passenger seat, and the trunk. Ford realised that women were buying more cars than men, so they recessed the door handles because they realised women have longer fingernails than men. When Ford is worried about women’s manicures that gives women a certain amount of clout. As women, we have power; we just have to use it; and we have to believe in it.

Companies are losing talented women in their thirties because that’s when many have children and face the “kids versus career” decision. Many choose kids. The Fourth Industrial Revolution could work in favour of these women in the short term.

As household work is further automated, it may relieve part of the dual burden of being both a caregiver and a breadwinner. At the same time, changes in the nature of work – such as an increase in opportunities for remote working – make it easier for both parents to better combine work and family.

Several global studies show that companies that employ more senior women outperform their competitors in every major profitability metric. Who doesn’t want that? When we present executive committees with the data, it’s not about political correctness or diversity; it’s about the bottom line. These companies are improving their productivity and profitability by cultivating and keeping female talent.

For many companies, that means adjusting the way they work. For women, it means asking that work schedules be adjusted. The primary reason women don’t get flexible working hours is because we don’t ask for flexible working hours.

Confidence is an integral part of success. Research from Columbia University stresses that while men tend to overestimate their abilities by approximately 30%, women tend to routinely underestimate their own skills. What we need to do is bring the perception of how good we are in line with how good we actually are.

Women need to be authentic and honest. When we do that, we can ask for those flexible hours, or that job promotion, or more control of our schedules, or more pay. Women ask for pay raises four times less than men do, and when we do it, we ask for a third less. We can change that, but we first need to realise that we are valuable.

Women tend to think that if we put our heads down, play by the rules and work hard, our natural talents will be rewarded. Someone will tap us on the shoulder and say, “here’s a key to the C-suite.”

Instead, we see the men around us get promoted. We know they are less competent, but they have the confidence. When it comes to success, confidence matters as much as competence. Confidence is what turns thoughts into action.

So how does this fit into creating a shared future in a fractured world?

Most jobs created between now and 2020 will have a technology component, and it is important that women understand the skills they will need to excel in them. This is an opportunity for women to create new career paths and differentiate themselves.

The new digital landscape will also provide female entrepreneurs with the flexibility to start businesses with a relatively small amount of investment, and to sell their products and services across the globe. Last August, eBay announced that it will have products from vendors across six African countries on its platform, an opportunity that didn’t exist before.

It isn’t easy to map out the exact skill sets that will be needed, especially in industries that haven’t been created yet, but we can assume that demand will increase for highly skilled labour. Women will need skills that enable them to work within technological systems and to fill gaps created by advancing technology.

Demand may also grow for jobs that machines cannot perform, jobs that rely on intrinsic human traits and abilities such as empathy, compassion and cross-team collaboration, skills often attributed to women.

There is the continued risk that jobs that are currently dominated by women will remain undervalued, even if they’re not impacted by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. That would further widen the gender gap and increase overall inequality, making it more difficult for women to leverage their talents in the workforce of the future.

Overcoming this challenge requires collaboration and participation by all sectors, including the government, the private sector, and civil society.

Written by:

Njideka Harry, CEO, Youth for Technology Foundation

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We can sustainably feed the world

SINT MAARTEN/SWITZERLAND - In the first half of the twentieth century, a ballooning population was threatening global food security. We responded to this threat in the decades after the Second World War, during a period we now refer to as the Green Revolution.

This period was defined by the adoption and sweeping use of four agricultural technologies: plant breeding, synthetic fertilizers, crop chemicals and, beginning in the mid-90s, genetically modified traits. Alongside these technologies came changes to the supply chain: we began to treat many crops like commodities and, with the expanded use of grain elevators and railways, were able to store and transport harvests in bulk.

Agricultural output increased and a global food crisis was avoided, but it came at a cost. There was a proliferation of unsustainable practices in agriculture, and a wedge was driven between farmers and end-consumers, who became increasingly isolated from one another in this commoditized supply chain.

In our quest to produce enough calories for the growing population, we made a fundamental trade-off in regard to consumer and environmental health.

More farmers entered the commodity market, producing generally non-perishable, storable and transportable crops, which were assumed to meet generic commodity quality standards (standard weight, damage, contamination, etc). In a commodity grain market, farmers sell their crops at elevators, where they receive payments based on quantity produced (the market price per bushel). Their crops are then blended with other farmers’ crops, without regard to source, seed or the process by which they were grown. This system provides little incentive to farmers to invest in process or quality, as they are paid primarily for quantity. The result is an overall decrease in the quality of our food and the sustainability of our agricultural management practices.

Today, though, microbial and digital technologies have emerged that have the potential to free us from these trade-offs. Seed treatments developed from plant microbes, for example, have demonstrated the ability to increase yields under stressful growing conditions, such as drought, nitrogen limitation or pest infestation. While in many ways acting like their synthetic chemical counterparts, these products are discovered in nature and re-introduced to crops where they are most needed. In time, microbial products have the potential to replace the bulk of synthetic fertilizers and chemical insecticides used today.

Digital technologies have the potential to revolutionize decision-making both on the farm and by the consumer. Between planting and harvesting a crop, farmers have to make dozens of decisions. Which crop should they plant? What seed should they use? What is the right planting density? Planting depth? Today, though, farmers rarely have enough information to make data-based decisions. Precision agriculture, based around the adoption of software and data tools on the farm, has the potential to optimize nearly every decision that a farmer makes. Digital tools can also help connect consumers more meaningfully to farmers, fostering understanding and support for the production methods they use.

Taken together, microbial and digital technologies have the potential to raise crop yields by over 50% in the next two decades. Such increases in productivity will allow for farmers to meet demand from a growing population, freeing us from the need to increase yields at any cost. When this happens, farmers will be able to differentiate their products by quality and method. Crop production will move from a paradigm of commoditization to one of specialization. In this paradigm, farmers are incentivized not only to increase yields, but also to deliver the types of sustainable and healthy crops that consumers value.

Although this vision may seem farfetched for the entrenched commodity agriculture industry, there is already evidence that it can work. The vertically integrated supply chains used in the coffee and cocoa sectors, for example, demonstrate the establishment of specialized markets that benefit both farmers and consumers.

Thirty years ago, there were only a few coffee brands available on store shelves. Now, we can purchase a variety of speciality coffee types grown by farmers in places like Ethiopia, Brazil and Indonesia – and many people are willing to pay a premium for specific flavors and other characteristics that they want. The yearly retail value of the US speciality coffee market stands at around $27 billion. This is good for coffee connoisseurs and it is really good for coffee farmers, many of whom have established profitable operations in microclimates where beans with distinctive flavors are produced. Engaged in speciality markets, small coffee producers often receive a significantly higher proportion of the total profit generated along the supply chain.

Similarly, demand for speciality cacao-based products (differentiated by features such as flavour, origin and organic or fair trade practices) has grown significantly. In the United States, for example, the amount of organic chocolate sold annually rose by 25 percent a year between 2002 and 2005. Globally, the market for organic and fair trade cocoa products is estimated to have grown by 65 perfect since 2002. Like in coffee, smallholder cacao farmers in South America, Central America and Africa are well-positioned to increase their margins.

Today, buyers and end-consumers are increasingly willing to pay for high-quality, sustainably produced and identity-preserved food. We see this with the local food movement, the rise of the organic and fair trade markets and the diversification of dietary preferences. If we accept that new technologies will allow for enough food, we can move away from the basic and limiting question of “How will we feed ourselves?” and are liberated to address a much more interesting question: “What will the future of agriculture look like?”

We see a future where speciality markets achieved in products such as coffee and cacao are also achieved in a wide range of crops, including those that we most associate with industrial agriculture: grains. In this future, global farmers are profitable and rural communities are reinvigorated. Consumers have access to the kinds of foods that are important to them, whether they are looking for nutrition, flavour or cleaner means of production. Water-friendly, sustainably sourced, pesticide-free and reduced-fertilizer crops will have made their way into the market – and on a large scale. These types of crops will no longer represent a market only accessible to a fraction of consumers. Instead, they will define the food landscape, becoming the rule rather than the exception.

We envision a future where agricultural practices are fundamentally aligned with consumer preferences – a future where we can sustainably feed the world, with no tradeoffs required.

Written by:

David Perry, President and Chief Executive Officer, Indigo Agriculture Inc.

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Without young people, Global Goals will not be achieved, UN forum told

INTERNATIONAL, 30 January 2018 – Today's young people are more connected, dynamic and engaged than ever and the Global Goals can’t happen without them, speakers told an annual United Nations forum, where young leaders called on the Organization keep its promise to ‘leave no one behind’ on the road to creating a prosperous world for everyone on a clean planet.

The first day of the 2018 Youth Forum, convened by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), got off to a rollicking start with young people from every corner of the world leading discussions with ministers and high-level government officials, UN agencies and other international organizations.

One of the highlights of today’s events was the dialogue between Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.

The conversation revolved around the Forum theme, ‘the role of youth in building sustainable and resilient urban and rural communities’ and how youth can engage in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by UN Member States in 2015.

Ms. Mohammed said that the Agenda 2030 was “shaped with youth” and young people were “the loudest voice” in the ground-breaking My World survey, in which almost 10 million made their voices heard during the UN system-wide discussions on the landmark17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

She encouraged youth to “make noise” for their voices to be heard.

Stressing that the importance of youth engagement by Member States in their national plans to implement the SDGs, Ms. Wickramanayake said: “We talk about leaving no one behind but if we don’t keep up with that phase, young people will leave the UN behind.”

In a keynote address, Salina Abraham, President of the International Forestry Students’ Association, said: “Sustainable development is not having to leave your home, family and culture behind to provide your children with an adequate life. It’s not having to conceal your language or culture in an attempt to conform, only to never truly be accepted.

“Sustainable development is having the security, access, resources and tools to create new opportunities wherever you choose to call home,” she said.

For her part, ECOSOC President Marie Chatardová said that young people imbue urban and rural communities with energy, creativity, and innovation.

“Your drive for innovation and consumption choices are crucial to our goals of increasing the eco-efficiency, minimizing waste and pollution, and of promoting access to and the sustainable use of all resources,” she said.

“You are a key partner in efforts to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, and resilient, and to build a global coalition to reverse land degradation and protect biodiversity,” she added.

“We are here to listen to your voices. Our landmark frameworks – including the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction – already recognize you as the key partners in efforts to build a better future,” she stressed.

Also addressing the Forum was General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák, who stressed that “if we neglect young people, we will not achieve a single SDG.”

He highlighted the role of youth in innovations that help reverse the trends that are harming the planet as well as in preventing conflict and building peace.

“I want to conclude with a blunt truth: our international system simply was not set up for young people. If you look at photographs of the signing of the UN Charter, you will not see any young men or young women. That is why, for years, young people were not seen – and were not heard – in the conference rooms, like this one,” he said.

“Young people can no longer be dismissed as the rebel fighters; the terrorists; the disenfranchised. They are the innovators, the solution-finders; the social and environmental entrepreneurs,” he added.

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Super blue moon will be visible from NL, if the weather holds up

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – If the weather conditions are right, people in the Netherlands will be able to witness a blue moon combined with the super moon phenomenon on Wednesday evening.

Moons are called blue, not because of their colour, but when there are two full moons in the same month. A super moon is a moon which passes as close as possible to the earth, making it 14% brighter than normal.

Weather bureau Weerplaza says there is a good chance that the moon will be visible from the Netherlands on Wednesday evening because rain and cloud during the day will move into Germany as night falls.

The best weather for moon spotting will be in the south and central parts of the country. In much of the rest of the world, the full moon will also glow red, making it a super blue blood moon, because it will pass through earth’s shadow in an eclipse.

NASA has a live link to the ‘super blue blood moon’ from January 31. The next blue moon in the Netherlands will be on March 31 but it will be 2037 before there are two blue moons in the same year again. (DutchNews)

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Wealth tourism development in the Caribbean

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - “We want more private and business aircraft coming to our airport.” – “You’re right,” I responded. “We’re looking for a mover-and-shaker to do it” – “Good thing,” I replied. “We were thinking of you!” – “Who me?”. That was the essence of being invited to an airport board meeting. While driving home, it went through my mind: how on earth am I going to do this? As their PR associate, I had a good sense of the airport’s strengths and weaknesses.

I had often suggested that General Aviation deserved more attention, because it’s more lucrative. Two ground staff members can handle a private jet from passenger and luggage handling to refueling. The landing and handling fees are excellent. A commercial airliner needs far more staff and attention, from ticket counter to the stairs for embarking and all the additional tra-ra around the handling of aircraft and passengers.  

How did I change 60% scheduled commercial flights against 40% business aviation, into 60% bizav versus 40% scheduled, without losing business of the latter segment? Sales pitches and PR don’t do the trick. Forget 101 college marketing. I decided to visit the operation center of the business aviation operator that had the largest fleet of aircraft (140) headquartered in Portugal. In detail, they explained their operations and when airport issues popped up. If I could take care of that, would they come more often? Yes! So, I worked on it. The airport went successfully through three evaluations and it became their preferred airport in the region ‘from their perspective’.

I visited some of the major companies in Houston, Texas that handle international trip planning for business jet operators.  Again, wanting to know what hurdles they face, and finding out what they knew about our airport. We learned from each other. They received a better insight of our destination ‘from their perspective’.

Why mentioning ‘from their perspective’ in both cases? Because their clients make the decision where to go, but the service providers ‘from their perspective’ will discretely advise them what may be best on how to get there. What’s my point?  Solving problems is essential! Not ‘hot air’ promotion, nor sales pitches. In aviation development; there is no such a thing as opening a can of airplanes.

I should point out that the airport for which I handled the aviation development was located in Switzerland. Who followed the international news this past week, may be aware of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Thousands of the world's richest and most powerful people from 70 countries were attending the event. There were more than 1,000 private jet flights over the five days.

Davos doesn’t have an airport. The closest airport is Samedan, at an elevation of 1,707 mtr/ 5,600 ft Europe’s highest airport but has no scheduled flights. It’s one of the world’s most challenging airports due to its difficult mountain topography, the winds, and the thinness of the air at this altitude. For the event, the airspace over Swiss’ Davos and the adjacent Austrian territory is virtually closed by the air forces. Exceptions are made for helicopter flights directly to Davos to bring in the ‘crème-de-la-crème’.

Where do their jets fly to? Option #1. Zurich International Airport and used by the highest ranking political officials who need extra protection and official Swiss government reception. It takes a 1 ½-hour-plus limousine ride to Davos. Option #2? ‘My’ regional airport. Only 1 ¼-hour-or-less drive because of a non saturated route.  

A ‘low-key’ airport and less extra policing or security needed. No air traffic slots. The ‘140-aircraft company’ decided that we’d be their preferred airport. I told the airport director that he had to move out and make his office available. The company used it for its aircraft dispatcher to handle their flights for three nearby airports including Zurich International, and in addition, two of their own customer service agents, a ground transportation coordinator, and a chief-pilot to handle crew arrangements.

What’s the point for the Caribbean? You don’t need a major airport to attract and bring in a certain clientele. You need a smooth functioning airport that is well equipped, and mediocracy is not an option. A 5,000 ft / 1,500 mtr runway is often enough.

Monaco, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, doesn’t have an airport. No space for it; just like some of the Caribbean islands. They do have plenty of funding to build it, unlike most of the Caribbean islands. They don’t even want an airport; they have a good heliport. Where do the rich-and-famous’ jets land? Nice, a major international airport that is relatively nearby. Nice is not keen on it, since it has too many scheduled commercial flights. Cannes is not far away and specializes in private and business aviation. Ground transportation to Monaco on congested roads takes too long though. Helicopter service to Monaco make sense.

Another hint for the Caribbean. You may not have roads and time-taking ground transportation, instead you have water between the territories and a ferry ride is time-taking. Helicopter service may be an alternative to accommodate this clientele. Plus, the costs of a helipad are a fraction of developing or extending a runway. Some islands don’t even have a helicopter on location. The configuration of a passenger helicopter can be changed in 10 minutes, have a hoist attached, and be ready for rescue operations.

Why would you like to have this clientele and what is the sense of this wealth tourism? They are spending ten times as much per person than the average mass-tourism visitor. US$ 900 plus for a hotel night is not uncommon, neither is a US$ 20,000 plus week’s villa rent. It is not just the positive economic impact. Since this clientele does not accept mediocracy, the island is forced to upgrade its infrastructure and facilities which may improve the overall standard of living of its community. This clientele is also willing to pay higher wages or charges for services. If they like the destination they’re loyal and return; often more than once a year. Every passenger arriving on a private jet is a potential investor in the region. Think about it. Success breeds success or…, it may at least rub off.    

By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

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Man arrested police for verbal threat on Sunday morning on the Boardwalk

PHILIPSBURG - On Sunday January 28th at approximately 11.05 a.m. a young man with initials R.R.S. (17) was arrested by the police bike patrol in the vicinity of Hard Rock Café on the Board Walk.

While the officers were preparing to get on their bike to continue their patrol the young man in question verbally threatened one of the officers using profanity by telling him what he will do to him when he is not in his uniform for what they had done to his mother.

The officers then recognized this young man as the son of the lady that was also arrested on the Board Walk while resisting her arrest for an offence she had committed.

The officers went on to arrest the young man for the threat he made towards them. While placing the suspect in handcuffs he started resisting heavily causing the officers to use the necessary force to break his resistance.

After the suspect was placed in handcuffs he continued to verbally threaten the officers what he is going to do them for what they did to his mother. The suspect was taken to the Philipsburg Police Station where he was lead in front of the acting prosecutor who will decide how this case will be handled.

The Police Department is taking this opportunity to state that the police force is here to serve and protect the entire community of Sint Maarten and all its visitors. We carry out our duty to the best of our ability to guaranty safety and security for everyone and will continue to do so, the Police Force said in a statement on Sunday.

The statement continues, At the same time the police are tasked with maintaining law and order and will not accept or allow anyone under any circumstance to threaten any of its officers in any form, or to resist their arrest without facing the consequences of their actions. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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