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Minister Ottley takes next step to improve access to affordable prescription medication

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Omar Ottley has recently signed off on a draft legislation that will allow for measures to be taken by Social & Health Insurances SZV to improve the quality and minimize stock issues of prescribed medication, in addition to reducing the purchasing costs.

Once the draft legislation is officially approved by Parliament, the necessary projects can be implemented later this year by SZV, together with the Pharmacists Association Sint Maarten (PAS) and the Department of Public Health.     

“In comparison to the neighboring islands, and Europe, the cost of pharmaceuticals on Sint Maarten are high. It’s important that we act now to address these issues and I’m happy to have signed off on this draft legislation that will not only improve our access to affordable medication, but also the quality of medication being prescribed. Our entire health care system will benefit from this, including our public health funds.”- Minister of VSA, Mr. Omar Ottley.   

The cost savings will be welcomed by SZV, as the health insurance funds have been negatively affected by the high costs of medications for several years now. Director of SZV, Mr. Glen A. Carty commented; “SZV has been preparing and waiting for some time now to act on these changes but could not do so without Government’s full support. This is one of the many small steps that have been taken to secure quality and affordable health care for our insured and protect our health care funds. On behalf of the project team, I thank the Minister and our partners for bringing us closer to the finish line.”   

The draft legislation will also make way for various SZV projects, such as digital prescriptions and medication tracking. These projects will enable health care providers to keep better records to manage stock, gain transparency in how medication is prescribed, prevent overdose, detect contra-indications, indicate allergy alerts and better guide patients on how to use medications. With these projects, SZV and its partners can better oversee the costs and quality of medications being prescribed and distributed, as part of its role to ensure the sustainability of the health insurance funds.   


PFP Submits Teen Times Request to Parliament Committee for ECYS

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Shortly after receiving a request to pursue curriculum that includes local history from members of Teen Times, PFP Members of Parliament Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson have submitted it to the Committee for Education, Culture, Youth & Sports via a meeting request to the Chairwoman of the Committee, MP Angelique Romou.

The faction provided two agenda points in their meeting request, calling first for a review of pending initiatives or plans regarding the development of a comprehensive St. Maarten history course for secondary schools and secondly, for an update from the Ministry regarding existing and required materials to facilitate such a curriculum.

On June 5, Teen Times members presented their request to Gumbs in person, with the knowledge that it would be channeled properly through Parliament to come to the attention of Government. Gumbs accepted the request with full intentions of getting it to her colleague MPs as soon as possible.

In their letter to Romou, the faction explained that they are bringing this matter to the committee’s attention because they believe that nation building begins with people being aware of where they have come from, the challenges, successes and failures that they have shouldered along the way, and, most importantly to PFP, where they want to go collectively.

“This type of vision can only be accomplished through a full, objective and unbiased educational initiative that we believe should be spearheaded by the Ministry of ECYS,” the faction writes.

“With the discussions that we are having these days,” Gumbs states, “in Parliament, at the hairdresser, in the supermarket, it is important that the most critical force for our future as a country is not ignored or left behind. It is equally important that the knowledge to frame these discussions is made available to them via the one place they spend the most time in: school.”

Peterson confirms that the faction first wants to understand what, if any, initiatives have been brought forward to or by the Ministry of ECYS since 10-10-10, noting that this is a decision that sits firmly in Government’s hands to make and then execute.

“The Committee for ECYS of Parliament can play an instrumental role in highlighting this topic and in monitoring Government’s progress as it undertakes this request,” the faction concluded in its request, and also noted that it understood that the meeting may take place after Parliament’s summer recess.


NV GEBE distances itself from incorrect factual representation by disgruntled Supervisory Board member

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Supervisory Board of Directors and the Management Board of NV GEBE took notice of the contents of a letter by a member of the Supervisory Board of NV GEBE addressed to the Prime Minister of Sint Maarten that circulated in social media and was the subject of an online newspaper article.

NV GEBE fully distances itself from what can only be qualified as deliberate incorrect factual representations of a seemingly disgruntled member of the Supervisory Board.

A member who has been held responsible by all other members of the Supervisory Board on repeated occasions, the last time being June 3rd, 2021, for a long record of serious violations and actions against the best interests of NV GEBE. The confidential records of NV GEBE speak volumes and the proper authorities have been and will again be fully briefed.

The general public can rest assured that both the Management Board and the Supervisory Board of NV GEBE have been working tirelessly in the best interest of NV GEBE to address also what appears to be a systematic undermining by a small group of persons, which includes an employee of NV GEBE with a high function.

In the process of taking the appropriate disciplinary or other measures against these persons, NV GEBE once again regretfully suffers through publications of false statements and innuendos.

The latest containing incorrect accusations about the functioning of the boards of NV GEBE and a legal advisor of the Supervisory Board of NV GEBE. Whilst the general public only sees what is directly or indirectly leaked by or on behalf of this small group of people, the simple reality is that the Sint Maarten Government, as the sole shareholder of NV GEBE, is in possession of several detailed reports, both from the Management and Supervisory Board of NV GEBE, outlining and substantiating these irregularities by, as stated, a small group of people. Further detailed reporting will be forthcoming to the Sint Maarten Government.

The specific involvement of the Supervisory Board in this respect is premised on the simple fact that one of these persons with a high function in the company reports to the Audit Committee of the Supervisory Board of NV GEBE, and the other one is the disgruntled member of the Supervisory Board.

Meanwhile, the Supervisory Board has also sent certain reports, documents and opinions to the Corporate Governance Council and the Integrity Committee. The Corporate Governance Council however received the package with the pertinent information after it rendered its advice on prospective candidates for vacant functions on the Management Board of NV GEBE.

The Corporate Governance Code and certainly the best interest of NV GEBE warrants for the various findings of both the Management Board and the Supervisory Board to be properly considered in the decision-making of the Shareholder of NV GEBE going forward.

NV GEBE hopes that this is done and that all bodies with authority to safeguard Corporate Governance matters will first and foremost be allowed to perform their tasks, without unnecessary victimization and even intimidation. More importantly, that these bodies continue to take the right decisions for NV GEBE, even when they might be – politically – unpopular.

The Management Board and the Supervisory Board of NV GEBE cannot compel the Shareholder of NV GEBE to seriously consider or even at minimum enter into an objective, fact-based dialogue on the merits of the findings and various substantiated recommendations made by the Management and Supervisory Board of NV GEBE. The Management and Supervisory Board of NV GEBE can only continue their best efforts of reporting to the proper authorities, thereby safeguarding privacy and confidentiality of the matters of NV GEBE.

This, in the hope that the internal system of checks and balances within NV GEBE and the Corporate Governance Code will ultimately suffice in resolving cardinal issues of systematic abuse that now appear to go back till 2014. It is either that, or the Shareholder or Public Prosecutor's Office should consider commissioning a corporate investigation into NV GEBE.

Ultimately, the well-being of its stakeholders whereunder the employees of NV GEBE and the entire Sint Maarten community is at stake. That well-being is not served by one liners and politicking, but by objective fact-based decision making, with the best interest of NV GEBE and its stakeholders at heart.

And of course, with proper understanding of and abiding to the Corporate Governance Code and (by) laws.


Malinda Hassell is Saba’s new Tourism Director

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - The Public Entity recently welcomed its new Director of the Saba Tourist Office Malinda Hassell. Hassell, who is of Saba descent, in August will officially succeed Glenn Holm who will go on pension.

Hassell has an extensive 12+ years background involving the intricacies of destination marketing, tourism board processes, developing distribution strategies, and generating market demand for different destinations. A collective history that has positioned her to become the attributed directive asset she is today.

Hassell brings a wealth of experience, having worked at the Tourism Corporation Bonaire (TCB), the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association (AHATA) and the Discover Dominica Authority (DDA). At the TCB, she worked as the Marketing Manager, leading the marketing team, enhancing destination marketing strategies, and strengthening dynamic business relationships.

Her next lateral move consisted of becoming AHATAs Communications Manager, an experience that sharpened her marketing communication skills and understanding of a hotel association and private sector partner dynamics.

Hassell was also the Destination Marketing Manager at Dominica’s tourism authority DDA, overseeing aspects of headquarter marketing, and developing marketing campaign activations including a multifaceted global digital awareness campaign. Along with leading several PR firms within various countries, while adapting to post-covid industry recovery challenges.

“It’s an honor to be appointed Director of Tourism for Saba, the island of my roots. With my knowledge and expertise, I look forward to contributing towards the success of Saba’s sustainable tourism development during a post-covid economic and industry recovery, by developing and achieving the goals and future action plans needed in collaboration with the stakeholders, industry partners, and the Saba Government. The friendly community, the unspoiled queen feeling, gastronomy, and nature (above and below water) make Saba a strong and attractive tourism niche product and brand to be repositioned within the trade, consumer, and media platforms,” said Hassell.

The new tourism director speaks four different languages, English, Dutch, Spanish and Papiamento, and holds a degree in Tourism Marketing and Consultancy from the Breda University of Applied Sciences of the Netherlands.


Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs Father’s Day Message

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Today, Sint Maarten joins the world to celebrate fathers and father figures who are role models for and guardians of their children. Let's take this time to recognize the value of fathers in the household, the community, and in the building of our nation. They are our leaders, and they have an essential job to do in helping to form confident children who believe in their ability to live their dreams.

Honor your dads in any way you can, whether with gifts, cards or words of gratitude and inspiration. The most important gift you can give your fathers today is the endless love and appreciation for what they have done and continue to do to ensure your safety, security and a loving home. 
The father's role in the home is changing; we recognize that a father's presence is just as significant as a mother's, as fathers play a vital role in the development of their children - financially, socially and especially emotionally.

I want to take the time out to recognize those involved fathers who realize that their contribution to the development of their children goes beyond financial and is vital to their children and by extension to our nation - as we endeavor to build a strong nation made up of strong families and individuals.

On behalf of the Council of Ministers, Happy Father's Day to all fathers and father figures both here at home and abroad.


Point Blanche staff join island’s aviation conference this week

SINT MAARTEN (POINT BLANCHE) - Seventy prison workers from Point Blanche Detention Centre participated in this week’s CARBAVIA 2021 – the region’s international aviation meet up - to learn etiquette and the art of handling people, in a unique engagement initiative.

Their involvement was endorsed by Ludmila De Weever, St Maarten’s Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication, who was pleased to formally open the event this week. And welcome some 60 plus delegates to the Island.

Organiser Cdr Bud Slabbaert and team, responsible for the fifth annual edition of the event, which took place at the Simpson Bay Resort on the Island, despite the challenges of the pandemic, was initially surprised to receive interest in participation. However, he responded positively.

“We must be the first event organiser ever to adapt our programme for this unusual audience,” said Cdr Bud. He resiliently changed the schedule for speaker Leif Ytterstad to accommodate some dedicated training sessions for the group. “It turned out to be a great success and we will do it again,” said Bud.

Leif is Head Butler and Trainer in the Sky at Fort Lauderdale, FL. DaVinci Training, one of CARIBAVIA’s long term supporters and sponsors.

His usual environment is training flight attendants who take care of the safety and well-being of clients who travel on private jets, or who serve in the VIP hospitality industry.

Leif highlighted the need to be kind to people who will be in their establishment and care for some time. He dispensed advice on how to keep day to day life simple and sweet - ‘KISS,’ as he calls it.

Leif’s engaging style swiftly brought delegates from the back of the room to the front as he encouraged them to express the issues and feelings, they experience on a day-to-day basis. He highlighted the value of leading by example –listening to fears and plans for outside life – being a listener and showing compassion. There was laughter and warmth as they listened to the Norwegian-born speaker, who adapted his presentation to reflect and appreciate the often intense and challenging environment these workers encounter in their daily lives.

The prison staff also met with international aviation, travel and tourism delegates at CARIBAVIA who had flown in from all over the USA, various parts of the Caribbean and internationally from France and the UK.

They look forward to taking on board many of the ideas DaVinci’s trainer shared with them in a very useful and engaging educational exercise.





Prime Supports NIPA Bartending Curriculum

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - Prime Distributors and NIPA, under the leadership of one of their instructors, Paul Peterson, join efforts to expose premium and diverse wines to the students. As a community it is imperative to understand that these students have dreams and goals and that we need to do whatever we can to assist them in achieving those goals.

“Bartending done right can be a lucrative career, one where you can save money quickly and have opportunities to move into other facets of the industry. If you want to own your own bar or restaurant one day, this can be the stepping stone that you need’, says Prime Distributor & Senior Trade Coordinator, Kenty Lichtenberg.

The idea is to establish tastings and winery discoveries as a regular component for these students, preparing them from the inception of their study journey will help them gain knowledge and with knowledge comes confidence and drive to succeed.

We would like to thank NIPA for reaching out to us and making us part of an important learning process for the students. In addition to this we would like to wish them success and perseverance as they add these new skills to their belt. We would like to encourage the rest of the business community to get involve, in any way that they can. Together we can strengthen our society and our service products in our community.


PFP Submits Contraceptive Coverage Request to VSA Minister

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – On Tuesday, 15 June 2021, the Party for Progress faction submitted a letter to Minister of VSA Omar Ottley, appealing to him to request an advice from the GVS Committee regarding adding contraceptive methods (primarily birth control pills and intra-uterine devices (IUDs)) to the coverage list for health insurers.

In their letter, the faction explained that early this year, they began research into the possibility of amending the national ordinance that governs SZV. The goal, the faction shared, was to identify whether or not contraceptive methods were covered by the insurer and, if not, what was the best way forward with adding contraception to the coverage list.

In their letter to Minister Ottley, the faction states that as medical research has expanded, the use of contraceptives has grown to include treating irregular menstrual cycles, painful cramps, acne and, most importantly to them, endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Both these conditions can hamper a woman’s ability to lead a normal, active and healthy life.

“PCOS, while it affects women of all races and ethnicities, impacts black and brown women in different ways,” Gumbs stated. “Endometriosis is its own beast; many women go undiagnosed or receive an incorrect diagnosis of what can start off as severe pelvic pain and grow into a more serious issue. Both conditions’ symptoms can be managed with access to contraceptive methods such as the birth control pill and IUDs.”

The faction’s letter continued to explain that in Sint Maarten, birth control is an over-the-counter item but in some instances, there is a medical need for it. However, the health insurance provider doesn’t cover the cost. PFP’s research into the national ordinance on Health Insurance revealed that health insurance providers only cover substances considered “medication”; however, contraception is considered an “aiding” substance but not medication. PFP expressed that at this point, it became clear that new or changed legislation was not necessary, since the GVS Committee exists to handle the review, addition and/or removal of substances to the coverage list for health insurance providers.

“The GVS Committee was created in 2018 in accordance with article 20 of the National Decree for the Reimbursement of Costs of Pharmaceuticals,” the faction states. “Its tasks are to review any requests to amend the annex attached to the same decree. That annex includes a list of all medication that is and is not covered by SZV. In our letter, we also included medical information regarding the risks and symptoms of PCOS and endometriosis, the types of contraception commonly recommended to women, as well as data regarding accessibility of contraceptive methods for women in Latin America and the Caribbean, to support him in his request to the GVS Committee.”

It is PFP’s goal that their letter to the Minister of VSA be a first step on the road towards making access to contraception accessible for all women in the country and plan to follow up with their request after Parliament’s annual summer recess.

MP PFP Raeyhon A Peterson


PFP MP Raeyhon A. Peterson


MP Emmanuel says Government bad spending cost civil servant vacation allowance

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Monday said that if the Prime Minister and her government were truly serious about cutting costs, they perhaps could have shown some empathy and act in good conscience and paid civil servants a small percentage of their vacation allowance “instead of telling them they are getting nothing at all.”

The MP was reacting to the Prime Ministers online group call with civil servants on Monday in which she finally brought some clarity to the government workers who have been asking for weeks whether parts or all of their due vacation pay would be paid. Government also owes its workers 50% of this allowance from 2020. The clarity the PM brought, the MP said, was to inform the workers that they will not be getting the allowance at all this year.

The MP said he finds it astonishing that government can so casually announce that civil servants are not getting any percentage of the allowance considering government’s gross bad and over-spending when it is supposedly cutting costs to make ends meet. “I do not believe this government thinks it is speaking to real people, with real problems and real common sense,” the MP said.

He explained that government continues to make its apparatus bigger and more expensive by hiring new workers every week. “You can barely pay the workers you have and are denying them benefits that are due, but every week you are hiring people. Why are you hiring under the current financial crisis? How does this make any sense?” The MP asked, adding that the financial cost for new employees hired since the beginning of 2020 is reportedly in the range of Naf. 360,000 per year.

He went on to re-iterate that government also somehow found an extra two million guilders for garbage contracts for the next five years totaling Naf 6 million for the last nine months of 2021. “So are you saying that garbage is worth more than people? Two million more for garbage, but zero for workers. It’s a shame,” he stressed.

“These are not normal times,” the MP said, further suggesting that management and workers with government issued cellphones should use their office phones and government WIFI while on the job. He reminded that phone usage cost government some Naf. 19 million over the past 5 to 6 years and a serious effort to limit the usage overall could save some Naf. 2 million. He said in times of emergencies such as the aftermath of a hurricane, emergency cell-phone services could be activated.

Additionally, he pointed out that the 34 SUVs, 17 pick-up trucks received from via the Trust Fund also comes with a cost. “The government could have realized that only one school has been repaired and handed over since 2018 and could have said to the NRPB to direct the funds for those vehicles to the schools. But no, government took on extra cost again,” the MP said.

He said those vehicles will have to be insured with the minimum third-party coverage (but probably more comprehensive) which could total Naf 950,000 per year considering the standard coverage for brand new SUV’s and pick-ups. They will also have to be serviced and maintained, fueled to the tune of approximately Naf 50 per week, which amounts to approximately Naf 133,000 per year. Moreover, inspections for the vehicles, road tax, number plates are all services that government actually has to pay for.

The MP also mentioned that Ministers are still travelling first class through Miami to other destinations and to Holland “to talk about nothing and bring home nothing.” Taking these examples alone, the government is spending almost Naf 10 million when it didn’t have to or money that could have gone towards paying at least a percentage of the vacation allowance for civil servants.

“As usual, the Prime Minister and this government shoed no empathy at all and told civil servants that nothing is forthcoming to help them with school fees, school uniforms, hurricane preparedness, insurance, nothing. Not 10%, not 15%, nothing from the allowance. And as expected, when asked by civil servants when they will get their money, the Prime Minister had no answer to provide just like she has no Plan B for the country. At this point is should be painfully clear to everyone that this government is 100% dependent on Dutch aid as a result of its lack of ideas and solutions to solve the country’s problems,” the MP concluded.


MP Duncan: Time for the Development of the Creative Economy

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On June 11th, Member of Parliament (MP) Solange Ludmila Duncan sent a letter to the Prime Minister, Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) and the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (TEATT), requesting a meeting to present a proposal for an inter-ministerial working group on the creative economy.

“St. Maarten has long had a history of creative output through dance, theater, song and literature. We are currently experiencing an explosion of art, photography and soca and hip-hop music. As we work on reviving our economy in a post-pandemic world, I believe that it is time to make a concerted effort in developing our creative and cultural industries,” stated the MP.

2021 has been declared the ‘International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development,’ by the United Nations via resolution A/RES/74/198. MP Duncan’s proposal seeks to establish a permanent working group of policy advisors, legal advisors and project workers across the ministries of General Affairs, ECYS and TEATT tasked with the coordination of cultural and creative projects, synergizing of cross-cutting policies and the creation of the necessary regulatory framework for organizing the creative economy, amongst other things.

“While we continue to cope with the country’s economic vulnerabilities, we should also be focused on sustainable development through new avenues. This island has an abundance of creative and cultural goods and services and with export potential. St. Maarten artists are performing all over the world now, more than ever, our fashion designers are producing brands that should be featured throughout the region and I truly believe that we have the potential to become the street art capital of the eastern Caribbean,” added MP Duncan.

In her letter, the MP acknowledged the success of the Color Me SXM project. “Those beautiful murals throughout Philipsburg are the results of creativity and collaboration. The public-private partnership between artists, the Be the Change Foundation, the Department of Culture and the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau alongside other organizations, proves that there is a need for a structured approach to developing and supporting similar initiatives.”

The MP hopes to make her proposal to Government following the upcoming budget debate as well as fully supporting from Parliament, any and all efforts to increase economic opportunities for citizens and residents.

“Creating an encouraging environment for our artists, creative and cultural small businesses and ‘islandpreneurs’ will boost economic activity, improve social cohesion and strengthen our cultural and national identity. It’s imperative for nation-building. This is why it is so important, especially now, during this time in our history to actively develop our creative economy,’” concluded Duncan.

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