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Trade deficit on St Eustatius down in 2018. Saba has largest trade deficit

SABA/ST. EUSTATIUS - In 2018, the trade deficits of Bonaire and Saba rose while the deficit of St Eustatius declined. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on newly released figures.

The Caribbean Netherlands has a structural trade deficit. This means that the value of imported goods exceeds the value of exported goods. Domestic production of goods is relatively low on the islands.

Statia’s trade deficit below 50 million US dollars

In 2018, imports exceeded exports by 47 million US dollars on St Eustatius. This trade deficit was 10 percent down on the previous year but still larger than in 2014. The import value fell by 7 percent to 51 million US dollars, while the export value rose by 59 percent to nearly 4 million US dollars.

Saba: largest trade deficit since 2015

Last year, Saba’s trade deficit amounted to 20 million US dollars. This is one-fifth up on 2017, making it the largest deficit since 2015. It grew partly as a result of work on the island’s infrastructure including airport renovation works . Goods imports amounted to 21 million US dollars and goods exports stood at 0.5 million US dollars.

Salt exports down on Bonaire

In 2018, Bonaire imported 223 million US dollar’s worth of goods, 5 percent up on the previous year. Exports stood at 9 million US dollars, 15 percent less than in 2017, largely due to a decline in the export of salt. The island’s trade deficit grew in each consecutive year as of 2014, to 214 million US dollars in 2018.

Smaller share of fuels in Bonaire’s deficit

Machinery and transport equipment were the largest contributors to Bonaire’s trade deficit, with imports exceeding exports by 57 million US dollars. Food and livestock contributed 41 million US dollars. Virtually all categories saw an increase in deficit compared to 2017. Only mineral fuels saw a decline, from 14 million US dollars in 2017 to 3.5 million US dollars in 2018.

Source

StatLine – Caribbean Netherlands: im- and exports per island

https://opendata.cbs.nl/statline/#/CBS/en/dataset/82658eng

StatLine – Bonaire: imports and exports, SITC

https://opendata.cbs.nl/statline/#/CBS/en/dataset/82659eng

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SXM DOET RECEIVES GENEROUS DONATION FROM SXM FESTIVAL

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The largest volunteer event on St. Maarten has received a generous donation from the electronic music festival known as SXM Festival through a partnership that has been in the works for some weeks. 

SXM Festival, which made its first debut in 2016, is back for the third time in St. Maarten/Martin. SXM DOET is proud to partner with SXM Festival, whose international organizers have made the island their adopted home, helping to rebuild alongside the community with various donations and initiatives. 

The Festival’s contribution of USD $10,000 to the SXM DOET event will directly benefit select organizations who have signed up and registered projects that will be executed by volunteers on March 15th and 16th, the same weekend as SXM Festival. 

The SXM DOET Project Management Team, consisting of Fleur Hermanides, Laura Bijnsdorp and Melanie Choisy are excited about the recent partnership with the world renowned music festival. “Besides the funding we receive from the Oranje Fonds each year, this has been our biggest contribution to date since we started in 2015 and are truly thankful for SXM Festival’s support of our event and island community.”

Considering the two events fall on the same weekend in March, festival goers visiting from around the world have the opportunity to volunteer with hands-on projects alongside local non-profits and residents; forging memorable friendships that are sure to make a profound impact on our society as a whole. 

“SXM DOET is an amazing initiative. Their actions really do make a difference on the island. We felt an immediate connection to this organization as SXM Festival shares the same spirit of bringing the community together and making the island a better place. With both events taking place on the same weekend, the partnership was meant to be! Looking forward to seeing our international community and the local communities connect and make a change!” says Julian Prince, founder of SXM Festival.

Potential volunteers from near and far are encouraged to sign up to their preferred project(s) on the www.sxmdoet.com website. There are currently 120 projects to choose from for persons of all skill sets and ages. 

Some projects for 2019 include: Schools, daycares and afterschool programs that are in need of a new layer of paint, mood-lifting murals, fencing, benches, gardens and more; Playgrounds and sports fields in the various districts that could use your help for much-needed renovations and upgrades; Environmental projects to make recycling bins, clear hiking trails and collect waste for upcycling purposes; Social organizations that need volunteers to chaperone and support vulnerable groups such as foster children, the elderly and differently-abled persons….and so much more!

For more information please contact us at 586-0808 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Minister De Weever: Media Reporting about Prison Far from the Current Reality. Progress being made

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever took note of media reporting regarding the status of the Prison in Point Blanche and was baffled by the recent story that was published based on outdated information.

Information about the progress being made at the Prison was published in the media mid-December under the headline, “Minister inspects repairs at prison.”

At that time urgent repairs were being made to the roof, corridor walls and courtyard walls.  These works including project management and site supervision were being carried out by Independent Consulting Engineers (ICE).

References made to the St. Maarten Progress Committee third-quarter 2018 report and published in a news article mid-February are outdated and based on the observation period by members of the committee from July 2018 – October 2018.  

“I do not dispute the observations made in the Progress Committee third-quarter 2018 report, but much has been achieved since that report and since those site observations were made.  The perception created in the media today is far from the truth of today’s progress.

“There has been much progress since three and a half months ago, and it is very unfortunate how the reporting was done in connection with the hard work, time and effort that has been made by all stakeholders and the contractors over this period,” Minister Cornelius de Weever said on Sunday.

The St. Maarten Progress Committee has since visited the Point Blanche Prison, in December 2018 and again in January 2019.

“Some observations were made by a representative of the committee after visiting in December prior to the January site visit.  At that time, they noted that things were moving forward step by step and saw that we were committed to getting things moving based on the recommendations made in the report.

“I also met with and briefed the Dutch Minister of Justice & Security Grapperhaus as well as Dutch State Secretary Knops during our justice deliberations in Aruba (JVO) that took place in the latter part of January.

“Progress at the Point Blanche Prison has also been published in the media and on our Facebook page amongst other sources.  There should have been balance reporting, but there’s what you read and then there is the truth,” Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever said on Sunday. 

Minister De Weever added that the rebuilding process has been confronted with a number of challenges along the way and the Ministry of Justice has been diligently dealing with them as best it can.

“For example, not all electrical work can be completed at the Point Blanche Prison before renovations have been completed. Government is dependent on external entities to carry out works based on winning the bid for that particular project.

“A Dutch Company was hired to re-install existing camera’s among other technical works.  Even though their invoice was partially pre-paid, the work has not started as yet despite repeatedly requesting a start date.

“There is a transparent process in place for selecting companies to carry out work at the prison, and we have to follow the procedures as dictated by good governance and this plays a role in things not moving fast enough as some would like them too, but we are making steady progress and we will continue on the track embarked upon based on our adjusted improvement plan and the recommendations of the Progress Committee in order to meet our obligations as well as international treaties and conventions,” Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever concluded. 

190128 Detention Center Roof renovations before

Before.

190128 Detention Center Roof renovations after

After.

 

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Seven ships in port on Saturday. Crew arrivals and Homeporting Leading to Beehive of Activity

PORT ST. MAARTEN – There were seven cruise vessels in port on Saturday, marking another busy day for the destination where cruise tourism is concerned.  Three of the vessels in port, namely, Star Flyer, Wind Surf, and Seabourn Odyssey were picking up passengers which is part of the homeporting services that the island offers.

The vessels in port on Saturday were Silver Spirit, Carnival Fascination, Seabourn Odyssey, Koningsdam, Freedom of the Seas, Star Flyer and Wind Surf which represented a combined total in over 16,000 passengers and crew. In terms of passengers, there were close to 12,000 in port on Saturday and over 4,300 crew.

The seven vessels were all moored at the two cruise piers at the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise & Cargo Facility.

There has also been a noticeable increase in demand for cruise ship crew changes.  A group of 50+ crew members from one cruise line flew in to the destination last week to join their vessel.  Port Management says this once more signifies the importance of the destination to the industry. 

Port St. Maarten Management is very pleased with how Fly & Cruise Home porting has taken off for the high 2018-2019 cruise season.  A number of small cruise lines are using Port St. Maarten as their home port of choice in the north eastern Caribbean.

St. Maarten has cemented itself as a homeport destination. It is testament to the appeal of cruising from St. Maarten as cruises out of the destination offer the perfect way to experience the warm hospitality of the Region.

Emphasis has been placed on luxury cruise brands that translate into more spending power of passengers based on their higher disposable income levels.  This also shifts the destination from quantity to quality cruise tourism therefore increasing the destination value due to attracting other high-end brand lines.

Homeporting generates more airlifts in and out of the destination; brings additional business for local service providers; and creates the potential for pre- and post- cruise extension visits.

Statistics show that 20% of the passengers who fly to a destination to take a cruise also take a pre or post vacation stay.  They spend about two days after they arrive on the island before taking their cruise and do the same upon returning from their cruise.

The guests have some time prior to boarding the homeported vessel and also upon their return from their cruise to enjoy the benefits of the destination.  The financial economic gain will trickle down to the following areas: transportation services sector such as taxi’s and car rentals, vessel provisioning from food and beverage wholesalers; passengers arriving and departing through SXM Airport fees and economic activity for businesses there; aircraft fees for SXM Airport; dockage and passenger fees for Port St. Maarten; fueling services; hotels and villa rentals; restaurants and entertainment; duty-free shopping retailers; cruise ship personnel shopping for goods and services while homeported; visiting attractions and amenities available and taking tours/excursions; advertising and marketing of the cruise destination; opportunity created for conversion from cruise passenger becoming a stay-over guest, and other businesses that provide ancillary services to the tourism sector.

With SXM Airport working to bring United States Customs Pre-clearance to the destination, this will be a plus and would stimulate connectivity and attract new businesses as there would be a seamless travel-cruise experience to and from the destination for the traveler.

Port St. Maarten’s strategic long-term sustainable approach calls for an investment in a permanent homeport terminal that can handle vessels carrying 1500+ cruise passengers according to cruise market demand, however this can only materialize through the cooperation with key local stakeholders.

The current terminal building being used is a temporary structure that is air-conditioned and can handle up to 1,000 guests during peak hours; 12-check in desks and a luggage screening machine; bar and restaurant serving drinks and snacks on sale for passengers; VIP section with seating for 50-80 passengers; Wi-Fi; facilities for the disabled; and much more.

The terminal is able to store more than 1200 pieces of luggage and is located nearby the cargo container storage area. 

The permanent facility would be better equipped and structurally secure to withstand hurricanes and meet the growing demands of Fly & Cruise homeporting.  The construction of a permanent facility would be carried out in close consultation with cruise line partners to ensure the design and logistical requirements are in line with new-cruise ship builds with an outlook of 15-20 years from now.

St. Maarten is also seeking to become the lead cruise ship provisioning port.  

Port St. Maarten has provisioned several cruise ships with dry and frozen goods sourced from local food wholesalers, and the operations were carried out in an efficient manner showcasing the port’s ability to adapt based on varied arrival times and still deliver quality service and maintain operational excellence.

Cruise ships carrying 3000-5000+ guests and crew consume large amounts of food everyday over a seven-day cruise.   

Port St. Maarten has developed a strategy to increase volume related to cruise ship provisioning with the objective of becoming the lead cruise ship provisioning sea-port in the near future which would be very beneficial to the local economy protecting employment and also creating additional employment opportunities within the food wholesale sector.  

Packaging from goods and products locally purchased and delivered to the vessels, are disposed of by a third-party port concessionaire who directly works with the cruise lines.

St. Maarten’s international appeal as a cruise destination, along with business services offered in the maritime logistical sector and in the food supply area, are the assets allowing the island to gain from cruise ship provisioning. This would further enhance the port’s operational excellence platform bolstering more business which is key to future growth for the island.

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Long jail terms for insurance scam student flat arsonists

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Three people in their 20s have been jailed for between 14 and 16 years for an arson attack on a block of student flats in Diemen which killed a 27-year-old philosophy student in 2017. 

Simona I, 24, her brother Gilermo, 25 and 27-year-old Rachied V were found guilty of setting the fire in order to con money out of an insurance company. Simona, I lived in the flats and was hoping to make a claim for damages. 

Security footage showed Gilermo I and V entering the block of flats and going into an apartment, after which the hallway filled with smoke. During the hearing I said he is very sorry about what happened. 

‘But I cannot turn back the clock,’ he told the court. The three have also been ordered to pay financial compensation to the victims. One, a journalism student, now suffers from brain damage and may be unable to complete her studies. 

Another has developed serious depression. The body of victim David Swart was only found hours after the fire had been put out.  (DutchNews)

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Police say use of batons against anti-gas demonstrators was wrong

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police in Groningen now say they were wrong to use batons in an effort to move a group of sitting demonstrators protesting about gas extraction last August, but say it was justified in other cases. 

The organisers of protest, Code Rood, said last year five activists were injured when police moved in because they were sitting too close to the fence next to the tanks. Video footage of police repeatedly hitting a sitting woman caused outrage at the time. 

‘The demonstrators were too close to the fence but should have been removed in a different way,’ Friday’s police statement said. In addition, officers had been wrong to use a water spray used to put out fires against the demonstrators. 

It is not part of the official weaponry available to the police and its use was illegal, the statement said. In total, police say, they received 12 formal complaints about their actions during the week-long campaign, focusing on both their presence and the use of violence. 

‘The large police presence by the camp in Leermans and the area around the Farmsum tank park caused discomfort among locals, business owners and demonstrators and this was never the intention,’ the statement said. 

‘The police presence could have been reduced earlier.  Senior officers have had a personal meeting with everyone who complained, and they have all had a written reaction.’(DutchNews)

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Unexpected high number of endemics for the windward Dutch Caribbean Islands

SINT MAARTEN/SABA - On Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and the Saba Bank there are a minimum of 35 animal and plant species that exist nowhere else in the world, so-called endemic species. 

Additionally, 188 species only occur on those islands and the surrounding islands. There are only two endemics recorded in the Netherlands’ mainland, which means that the biodiversity of these islands is very rich.

This study, led by Wageningen Marine Research at the request of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), has shed light on the richness of the biodiversity of the Dutch Caribbean islands. 

Each island has its own unique history with its own special ecosystems and habitats teeming with rare and special life. The remarkable variety of terrestrial and marine habitats, including coral reefs, mangroves and rainforests means that the diversity of species is astonishing. In this spectacular natural world, rare and extraordinary species live that occur nowhere else in the world.

Probably many more endemics present

The researchers’ task was to put together a preliminary checklist of existing endemic animal and plant species of the SSS islands and the Saba Bank. Existing species lists were supplemented with recent discoveries described in reports and publications. 

This newly created checklist of endemics surpassed all expectations and highlights the richness and rarity of the biodiversity of the SSS islands and the Saba Bank. In total, 223 endemics were identified, including 198 animal and 25 plant species. 

The vast majority (162 species) of these endemics are terrestrial and belong to five species groups: beetles, snails, spiders, birds and locusts. Many of the recorded species are endemic to a somewhat larger geographical area (Lesser and Greater Antilles), however 35 species are island endemics, meaning that they are found only on one of the SSS islands or the Saba Bank. 

The island of St. Maarten was found to have the highest number of island endemics (12), however this will have to be re-assessed following the devastation of Hurricane Irma in 2017 and the growing trash dump that causes harmful fires. 

While the checklist of endemics is impressive, it is likely far from exhaustive, as species groups that were not included (e.g. fungi) or considered understudied (e.g. beetles and small mollusks) may yield many more rare species.

Protection needed

The challenge now is to make sure these extraordinary rare species are protected from extinction. This requires knowing which of the 223 endemics listed in the study are currently under threat. 

Despite the heightened vulnerability of endemic species because they only occur in such a small area, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species—largely considered as the worldwide reference on endangered species—has, to date, only assessed a small portion of the world’s endemics. 

Just 42 of the 223 species listed have had their status assessed. Of these, six endemic terrestrial reptiles are currently classified as threatened or near-threatened. It is highly likely that many more endemics are endangered due to the increasing number of invasive species and increase in natural and human induced threats facing these islands.

This study has helped highlight the remarkable biodiversity of the SSS islands and Saba Bank and their astounding number of endemic species. 

All information about the endemics has been described in the report of Bos et al. (2018), which can be found on the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database (www.dcbd.nl) and is searchable through the Dutch Caribbean Species Register (www.dutchcaribbeanspecies.org). What we need now isto make sure that not a single one of these rare species lands on the extinct species list. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

1Statia morning glory by Marjolijn Lopes Cardozo SHAPE DCNA

Statia morning glory (Ipomoea sphenophylla), known only from St. Eustatius and Anguilla. Photo credit: Marjolijn Lopes Cardozo (SHAPE/DCNA)

2red bellied racer

The red-bellied racer snake (Alsophis rufiventris) is only found on Saba and St. Eustatius. It used to be found also on St. Maarten, St. Kitts and Nevis, but is now extinct there. 

Foto credit: A. Debrot (WUR)

3anolisschwartzii

Schwartz’s anole (Anolis schwartzi) is a tree lizard endemic to the St. Kitts Bank, it is only found on the islands of Saba, St. eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis 

Photo credit: A Debrot (WUR)

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Danny Rojer starts March 4 as program manager for Bonaire

BONAIRE - As of March 4th, 2019 Danny, Rojer is officially appointed as program manager for the governmental agreement Bonaire. 

After a selection procedure, by the Public Entity Bonaire and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, he turned out to be the suitable candidate for this job. Now that the formalities around his appointment are completed, he will start working on March 4th. The past few weeks, he prepared for his new position.

Currently Danny Rojer is director Care at Fundashon Mariadal. He has occupied this function since 2015. 

Before that, he held various positions in the healthcare sector in the European Netherlands. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

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Benefit agency fails to re-assess invalidity claims, backlog increasing

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch benefits payment agency UWV is failing to carry out repeat medical checks on tens of thousands of people currently claiming benefits because they are too ill to work, according to research by television current affairs show Nieuwsuur. 

Around 800,000 people are currently claiming some sort of invalidity benefit, according to the national statistics office CBS. In 2016, ministers pledged to ensure the backlog of 25,000 check-ups was dealt with but instead the total has risen to 30,000, Nieuwsuur said. 

This figure does not include a further 180,000 people with health problems which doctors expect to improve. ‘We think they should all be checked but the ministry has decided otherwise,’ Wim van Pelt, chairman of the insurance industry doctor’s association said. 

‘So, these people are not included in the official statistics.’ Current UWV policy means that only people who request a health check or whose employer asks for one are reassessed by a doctor. 

UWV figures do show that 10% of people who are given a new medical check-up lose their rights to invalidity benefit entirely. Social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees told the programme that the current situation is worrying, and that action needs to be taken. 

He has suggested allowing people who are not trained doctors carry out the medical assessments because a shortage of specialised doctors is one reason that the backlog has built up.  (DutchNews)

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Heart attacks less likely to be fatal but more people have heart problems

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of men dying from heart and artery disease has plummeted 70% since 1980, while the drop for women is 61%, the Dutch heart foundation said on Monday. 

Nevertheless, the number of people with chronic heart and artery disease continues to rise and 1.4 million people are now affected, the Hartstichting said. Without action, their number will total 1.9 million by 2030. 

In the 1980s one in every heart attack or stroke was fatal, but now the figure in one in four. In 2017, 20,000 women and 18,000 men died because of a stroke, heart failure or a heart attack. 

The death rate has been cut by new medical techniques, more emphasis on healthy diets and the importance of exercise and the fact that more people are skilled in first aid and know what to do if someone suffers a heart attack, the foundation said.
(DutchNews)

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