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SZV SELECTS ARCHITECTS FOR THE DESIGN OF OWN OFFICE BUILDING IN CAYHILL

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The new office building of SZV will be designed by Independent Consulting Engineers (ICE), in collaboration with Caribbean Engineering & Consulting Company and Arka - Architecture, Development and Design. ICE won the competitive bidding with five participants, which was issued by SZV for the architectural design of the office building and parking spaces that will be located on Government land in Cayhill, next to the Raoul Illidge Sports Complex.

SZV currently pays rent for its office spaces in Philipsburg and aims to see a significant cost saving by having its own building. The design of the office building will be centered around efficiency, sustainability and wellness; incorporating “green” design principles, state-of-the-art technology, a hurricane resistant structure and will be better accessible for all, especially clients and visitors with special needs. SZV employees can look forward to an office where they are able to serve clients with ease, be it virtually or by appointment. Flexible working spaces and “wellness” areas will be included, as a means to further stimulate balanced and healthy lifestyle options for employees and the community.

“We’re building a ‘smart’ place for us to work, develop our country’s health care systems and stimulate a healthier lifestyle for our community. I would really love to see that we create a space where not only the administrative work is carried out, but that we can offer our community members spaces where they can share and get better access to prevention and patient resources, network, and stimulate a mindset for wellness to support the care options that are already in place. At this moment, I would like to express my gratitude to Minister Irion for being involved at the beginning of this process, Minister Doran for his help and assistance throughout the process and Minister Ottley for supporting this important development, a good example of ongoing collaboration. ” – Mr. Glen A. Carty, Director SZV

The next steps for the architectural design process will commence with the selected bidder. These include; the functional requirements list, the design of the office building, the bidding process for construction and the construction itself. The current projection for when the new building will be move-in ready is the second quarter of 2024.

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MP Buncamper questions the operations of SOG

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - During Friday’s meeting regarding the management of government owned buildings under the management of SOG (Stichting Overheids Gebouwen) independent Member of Parliament MP Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper posed several questions to the minister of general affairs, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs, regarding the conditions and lack of repairs of several government owned building, the MP said in a press statement on Monday.

The press statement said: “MP Buncamper’s first focus was on the festival village, where between 8 to 12 booths that were damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 are still not repaired. The MP questioned the loss in revenue due to these unusable booths.

“MP Buncamper also queried the outstanding amount of over 2 million US Dollars owed to a local security company for services rendered. The MP wanted to know how long these amounts have been outstanding and when the security company started rendering security services at the festival village.

“The MP said that we can not blame the lack of payment on the pandemic. MP Buncamper questioned who signed the contract with the security company on behalf of SOG, the financial limit to which the board members may commit the SOG to and to whom the SOG board is accountable. The accountants report was also questioned, seeing the critical financial position of the SOG.

“MP Buncamper asked how much funds were collected from the insurance, and by whom, after Hurricane Irma damaged the center in 2017 and how the funds were spent. If no insurance funds were collected, the MP questioned, why not? MP Buncamper then turned his focus to the Fire and Ambulance department building, where the current damages that date back to 2017 affect the inside doors, leakages, the fencing, the air conditioning units, the garage doors, the generator switch, the sinking driveways that can damage the fire trucks.

“The MP questioned why no repairs to these damages have been done and the costs to carry out these repairs. The MP enquired if the funds were to do the repairs were available. MP Buncamper inquired if the building was insured and if APS has applied late payment penalties for non-payment of the loan. Have the loans from APS and OPNA for the construction of the Fire and Ambulance department building been repaid, or is there still an outstanding amount. The MP noted that if the loan was a 15 years loan, it should be repaid in full by 2022, and queried if this is correct. The MP also queried if the loan that was taken in 2007 for school repairs has been repaid.

“In regards to the Simpson Bay fish market, MP Buncamper asked if any repairs to the building were needed and if all the spaces in the market were operational.

“MP Buncamper noted that the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) submitted a proposal to take over the management and operations of the Festival Village and questioned why is government not giving a listening ear to the SCDF.

“The MP questioned if any of the SOG board members have the knowledge to exploit and operate the Festival Village. MP Buncamper went on to question who the SOG board members are, how long have they been on the board and which of them are supervisory board members, and which are the executive members?

“In regards to the outstanding rent from tenants, the MP enquired how many tenants have outstanding rent and how much the outstandings amount to. The MP also enquired as to how much outstanding rent had to written off. The MP wanted to know how much rent is due to be collected monthly, broken down per building,” the MPs press statement on Monday concludes.

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Minister Ottley and Ballast Nedam Intl’ signs SOS agreement for first job fair on December 18

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Friday December 3rd, the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Omar Ottley and Ballast Nedam International’s representative Jeroen Hanneveld signed the Scope of Service agreement (SOS) for the Princess Juliana International Airport reconstruction project. This SOS stems from Minister Ottley’s incidental work instruction.

On September 30th, 2021, Minister Ottley signed off on a work instruction that strengthens the relationship between large scale project owners/contractors and the Department of labour affairs.  The SOS ensures that investors and/or contractors utilizes the local resources to its capacity before sourcing foreign assistance. The SOS also aims to strengthen our skilled resources by identifying our country’s weak areas and offering training programs and financial investments that will turn those weaknesses into our strengths.  

In this SOS, Ballest Nedam has agreed full heartedly to support our local community. The contractor has already been communicating with the local government, NIPA and over 13 local sub-contractors.

Ballast Nedam International in collaboration with the Ministry of VSA and the Princess Juliana Airport, will also be hosting a job fair for skilled residents and local sub-contractors in the relevant fields, which is scheduled to be held on Saturday December 18th 2021.

"I am happy to see the fruition of my incidental work instruction. We just hosted a job fair for the General Hospital with over 100 participants and now we will have the honor of hosting another job fair for the airport reconstruction project,” said Ottley.

The goal is to not only put our people first but to strengthen our resources with the proper training and opportunities.

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SXM Airport forecasts increase in traffic. Three New Charters Start Service from Dec.5th

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - Management of the Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company (PJIAE N.V.) is undergoing the immediate execution of strategic and operational methods to facilitate an increased number of flights this upcoming high season. Generally, the high season is from the period of December through March.

While the schedules of the commercial and private air traffic continue to increase, Management of PJIAE N.V. is working diligently to implement measures to accommodate the additions of charter flights to contribute to the continuance of the homeporting at Port St. Maarten.

In addition to the scheduled traffic, ITA Airways, Condor, and Air Caraibes have confirmed charter flights into St. Maarten starting December 5, 2021, through March 2022.

PJIAE N.V. anticipates approximately 500,000 passenger movements on more than 3,400 flights, with an exclusion of the commuter airlines and private jets. PJIAE will close 2021 at about 56% travelers compared to 2019, and a high season of around 85% compared to the same period in 2018 – 2019.

The Airport’s Operations and Commercial teams have aligned with stakeholders, such as Customs, Immigration, and transportation to prepare for the added traffic to the already demanding commercial flight schedule.

“With the Terminal Building space constraints and the commencement of the Airport Terminal Reconstruction Project, we are facing capacity management challenges, and all possible measures have been implemented to mitigate the expected congestion. Additionally, PJIAE is also erecting a canopy at the Arrivals area, and adding more Check-In counters, notwithstanding the facilitating of other building adjustments, to ensure a seamless season,” clarified the Airport Chief, Brian Mingo.

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Sister Basilia Center spreads awareness on international day for persons with disabilities

SINT MAARTEN (ST. JOHN’S ESTATE) - Today is the international day for people with disabilities. Thus, this whole week, the Sister Basilia Center (SBC) has dedicated itself to spreading awareness about this topic to Sint Maarten by organizing several activities with and for their clients and stakeholders. 

People with disabilities (one billion people) are among the most excluded groups in our society and are among the hardest hit in this pandemic in terms of fatalities worldwide. This is perhaps even more relevant on St. Maarten, where the topic doesn't get enough attention, and the societal participation of people with disabilities is not yet where it should be. This is unfortunate because it doesn't show the many unique qualities people with disabilities have and their valuable role in our society.

As with most stigmatized issues, the root lies in a lack of knowledge about disabilities themselves, but also about how common they are. Did you know that an estimated 46% of persons aged 60 years and over have disabilities? And that one in every five women is likely to experience disability at some point in her life while one in every ten children has a disability?

On Monday, the Sister Basilia Center was visited by students from MPC, who were given a tour around the facility, and played several games where they experienced how it is to live and play when you have a disability. On Tuesday, a group of SBC clients took on the road with a motorcade through town and around the Pondfill. With flutes, drums, shakers, and a big banner, they let everybody know what we are celebrating this week. Wednesday, the clients had a water activity fun day at Kimsha Beach, with the help of Excellence Learning Academy students and Kayaks provided by TriSports. Today, on international day for persons with disabilities, they enjoy a fun day in the sun and a Zumba class with their parents or caregivers. 

Mimi Hodge, SBC Department Manager, says:" I'm pleased with how the week went. The clients loved it and had a great time, as it is something completely different from what they're used to. But besides doing something fun and different for our clients, I'm happy that we've been able to spread some awareness about disabilities on St. Maarten. This is really needed as we see that there isn't enough attention for persons with disabilities." 

The MPC and ELA students were, for example, really impressed with how people function every day if they can't see or don't have complete motor control. We can see that the awareness is slowly growing as more persons and organizations offer to help, support or assist our clients with several things. However, we are not there yet, and we won't stop until persons with disabilities on Sint Maarten have the same opportunities as anyone else!

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Sint Maarten hosts Trust Fund Steering Committee from Dec.01-03

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) are hosting a visit of the Steering Committee of the Sint Maarten Recovery and Resilience Trust Fund, from Wednesday, December 1, to Friday, December 3, 2021.

Following the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria in 2017, the Netherlands allocated approximately 470 million Euros to help Sint Maarten rebuild and increase its resilience to future natural disasters. The Trust Fund is financed by the Government of the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank, and implemented by the NRPB on behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten.

The Steering Committee is the Trust Fund’s decision-making body. Comprising one representative each from Sint Maarten, the Netherlands, and the World Bank, the Steering Committee evaluates project proposals and decides on their goals, objectives, and allocated financing. The Steering Committee is made up of Lilia Burunciuc (World Bank, Director for the Caribbean), Marcel Gumbs (Sint Maarten), and Frans Weekers (The Netherlands).

During its visit to Sint Maarten, the Steering Committee will be informed by the NRPB about the status and progress of existing and forthcoming projects. This serves to prepare the Steering Committee for its next official decision-making meeting, which is scheduled for January 2022.

As of December 2021, there are eight projects under implementation for a total envelope of up to US $400 million. These projects are the Airport Terminal Reconstruction Project, the Emergency Recovery Project (ERP-1), the Emergency Debris Management Project (EDMP), the Emergency Income Support and Training Project (EISTP), the Enterprise Support Project (ESP), the Hospital Resiliency and Preparedness Project, the Resources for Community Resilience Project (R4CR), and the Child Resilience and Protection Project.

There are three projects in preparation for a total envelope of up to $50 million. These projects are the Fostering Resilient Learning Project (FRLP), the Digital Government Transformation Project (DGTP) and the Mental Health Project. On the request of the Steering Committee, the World bank and the NRPB are also preparing a proposal for a potential housing project of up to $20 million.

“As the project implementation unit of the Government of Sint Maarten, the NRPB is working diligently to help our country be better prepared for all future disasters. While work sometimes takes longer than we all hope, I am happy to see the significant results that we have achieved so far,” said NRPB Director Claret Connor.

“All of the projects implemented through the Trust Fund ultimately benefit the country and its people. There are still potential projects that need to be discussed and deliberated by the Steering Committee, and Government will do everything to facilitate the Trust Fund projects as we collectively continue to build a better Sint Maarten for all,” added Prime Minister Jacobs.

For more information about the NRPB and the Trust Fund projects, please visit the NRPB website at www.nrpbsxm.org.

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Cruise Lines hesitant with the situation on French Saint-Martin

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Due to a recent situation where barricades were once again erected and set on fire early Monday morning thereby blocking the main road in the residential district of Sandy Ground on French Saint Martin, cruise lines who will have ships in port on Wednesday, December 1, has decided to caution free roam passengers and restrict curated tours due to the uncertainty of the free and unhampered flow throughout the Northern part of the island.

Gendarmes on Monday morning cleared the erected barricades.

One of the key protocols of the cruise industry is safety and security of cruise passengers while visiting a destination. The measure taken by one cruise line should be seen from this perspective.

Ministry TEATT is hoping that these isolated events on the Northern side of the island can be resolved as soon as possible ensuring that the destination continues to offer a holistic product to cruise guests and things will return back to business as usual where guests are able to experience our destination freely as one island and can enjoy the Friendly Island.

The tourism offices of both sides of the island will continue to work together and keep stakeholders updated.

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Chris: Discussion of TOT increase, and VAT addition unconscionable. Says businesses would never survive

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - According to Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel, any discussion about a raise in Turn-Over-Tax (Tot) combined with the implementation of a VAT (Value Added Tax) is unconscionable and does not realistically consider the private sector and consumers of St. Maarten. Implementation of either, he stressed, would also effect the public sector as the ripple effects will affect government’s bottom line negatively.

Emmanuel said government should instead finally tackle its waste and creatively develop ways to generate funds without further burdening the population. If the government is unable to think creatively, he said, the country is filled with educated creative thinkers, “host an economic forum and get your best together to find solutions,” he said.

The MP said he does not understand why looking at such things as gasoline excise taxes (which he has proposed) and/or increased tourism taxes are such taboo subjects. “Especially with new or increased tourism fees you get some people spreading gloom that the tourists will stop coming. Travellers the world over are very accustomed to tourism fees being increased and applied, especially now in the pandemic era. We boast of the high season yet we are afraid to actually do something to make the high season actually benefit the regular person. Instead, we talk about burdening them with destructive taxes,” Emmanuel said.

He said any discussion about increasing TOT shows disconnect with what is happening on the ground. Small businesses, he pointed out, have such small profit margins or are in such debt, many are staying in business out of pride or under less-than-ideal situations.

“Even if profit tax is reduced, what happens to the sole proprietor that doesn’t pay profit tax? An increase in TOT will bury them. A reduction in profit tax isn’t enough to balance what will be lost by an increase in TOT. The trouble with turnover tax is that you pay tax even if your company is losing money. It’s a terrible tax in a country where small and medium enterprises are the back bone and failure to go after the million-dollar tax dodgers seems to systematic and habitual,” the MP said.

Emmanuel said the talk of a VAT is again being whispered in the halls of government. As he has stated previously, the burden of the VAT falls disproportionately on the poor since the poor are likely to spend more of their income than the relatively well-to-do person.

“It has also been proven that revenue from value-added taxes are frequently lower than expected because they are difficult and costly to administer and collect. The fact that a VAT is also administered along every stage of the supply chain (it has to be calculated at every stage), means that again prices will raise beyond control,” Emmanuel said.

The disclosed that in due time he will present some revenue generating ideas once they are worked out but once again called for the staging of a serious economic summit/forum.

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Xtratight, SLS lab collaborate on testing for “Fyah Under Yuh Foot”. Testing on Thursday and Friday

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - St. Maartens top event organizers Xtratight Entertainment is preparing to host its first event after a two-year absence while the country was dealing with COVID-19 pandemic and have collaborated with St. Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS) to facilitate testing and establish a safe environment for its fans.

“Fyah Under Yuh Foot” will be held on December 4 at the Tropicana Ball Room. Known as a “big people party”, the event is one of Xtratight’s signature events, with the uber popular “Night of the Hit Makers” concert for Carnival also under its umbrella.

Director of Xtratight Bertaux “Mr. Rude” Fleming explained that “Keeping in line with the Covid-19 guidelines and our efforts to insure safety for all its patrons, Xtratight Entertainment has partnered with the national laboratory of St Maarten SLS for its Covid testing procedure. SLS is the only accredited lab on the island which means it’s the only lab that is recognized by international standards, this alone gives all reasons for us to collaborate with SLS besides being our own. We remain Pro Local,” he stressed.

The testing protocol for this event is straightforward and eliminates hassle: Tickets for Fyah Under Yuh Foot went on sale from Thursday November 18th, the price is $50,- and includes a free Antigen Test for all patrons. Limited tickets are available and NO tickets will be sold at the door. All visitors must present a negative antigen test to enter and only SLS antigen tests are accepted. Testing dates and times for persons attending Fyah Under Yuh Foot are Thursday December 2nd from 6pm - 9pm and Saturday December 4th from 12:30pm to 3pm, testing on both days will take place at SLS main office in Cayhill.

“We were never in a rush to come back online as most of our fans are part of the vulnerable group and safety always comes first with us. Based on the development and the decrease in numbers, not to mention the high demand for a big people party we have decided to host the event. As a fan-driven organization we always aim to please, so patrons can expect a night filled with fun and dancing straight through the night,” Fleming said.

With Heineken as a partner, the Djs for the night are Dj Blackboy, Mr. Rude and Dj Fabulous and doors open at 9:00PM. For more information contact: 543-9872, 522-9872 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Travel restrictions in effect for South Africa and new entry requirements for the Netherlands

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA), Omar Ottley hereby informs the public that effective Monday November 29th, travel restrictions from South Africa will go into effect and new entry requirements for the Netherlands to follow.

Minister Ottley announced that he sent a request to restrict flights and passengers arriving or traveling from South Africa within a 14-day period. This decision was based on the new COVID-19 variant which could show immune evasion and enhanced transmissibility.

The new variant has been causing a surge in cases in many countries including the Netherlands. “In discussions with Dutch representatives, I was informed that the major hospitalization increase in the Netherlands was due to this new variant,” said Minister Ottley, adding, “This information motivated me to alter the entry requirements for travelers from the Netherlands.”

As of Monday December 6th, 2021, fully vaccinated travelers from the Netherlands will be required to upload proof of a negative 48 hr PCR test before traveling to St. Maarten or a 24-hour antigen nasal swab test will also be accepted from vaccinated travelers only.

Unvaccinated travelers are required to submit a negative 48 hr PCR test before traveling to St. Maarten. At the moment our active cases, hospitalization and deaths in St. Maarten has decreased significantly and it is our duty to remain proactive and do our best to mitigate the spread of the Mu variant.

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