Soualiga Today (2)
Menu

Soualiga News Today (4227)

COM gives greenlight for Carnival 2021 under agreed upon parameters

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Council of Ministers (COM) is convinced that the agreed upon public health protocols to be implemented by the Sint Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) will ensure public safety. As such, SCDF has been granted the greenlight to proceed with planning and execution of Carnival 2021 on St. Maarten. This decision was taken during a Council of Ministers meeting on January 14, after taking into consideration the plans for a safe Carnival 2021, given by representatives of SDCF.

This decision was taken with the understanding that should St. Maarten’s COVID-19 situation worsen in regards to the spread of the virus and medical capacity, cancellation of Carnival 2021 can still take place. As such, the infection rate will continue to be monitored as well as the capacity of the health sector to handle any possible outbreak.

The planning and execution of Carnival 2021, will continue with strict COVID-19 protocols to ensure that all the COVID-19 health protocols are upheld during all the events and aftermath of events including all approved parades. As, such the highly anticipated Jouvert Morning parade, including jump ups in general will not be allowed to take place as these events pose the largest health risk in terms of COVID-19 contamination and spread.

In order to monitor the adherence of the COVID-19 health protocols put in place, SCDF will be required to submit daily updates to the Ministers of VSA and TEATT. There will be a limitation of persons attending events at the Festival Village. In the interim, SCDF will embark on an intense information and awareness campaign which will begin soon.

Government has concerns regarding the hosting of large events, however, it is expected that the infection level of the COVID-19 virus will be different during the months of March and April as a result of more intense testing which remains ongoing and the administration of vaccines expected mid-February.

In the event St. Maarten’s medical capacity may become overburdened due to a significant rise in the number of COVID-19 active cases, which may lead to a cancellation of Carnival 2021, the Government of St. Maarten will not be held responsible for any loss of income, investments or otherwise.

Read more...

West Tech Shipping Extends Gratitude to Customers for Toy Drive Donations

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - West Tech Shipping is expressing a heartfelt “Thank You” to its employees and customers who partnered with the shipping company for its Christmas Toy Drive.

The Toy Drive which was themed “Getting Christmas To You” saw at least one Children’s Home in each of West Tech’s six territories, receive toys and games for the Christmas Season.

Facilitators of the homes were grateful for the donations and are welcoming donations from other corporate citizens.

“We were not expecting many donations for 2020 due to the current situation with COVID and with people limiting their spending. I am happy that West Tech and its customers remembered the children and made such an important gesture.” One Children’s Home Facilitator expresses.

“We are very grateful for these donations. We cannot do everything on our own and donations from companies, organizations and even individuals go a long way in helping. Thank you, West Tech, your employees and customers.” Another Facilitator comments.

West Tech Shipping says it believes in giving back to the community in whatever little way that it can. Apart from the Christmas Toy Drive, West Tech Saint Lucia’s employees donated food and other necessities to underserved families on the island. The Company’s Regional Marketing Manager states that giving back has always been at the core of West Tech’s values.

“The number of donations received from both our employees and customers were very heartwarming. Once we added the donations to West Tech’s contribution, we were able to comfortably reach our goal of “giving the gift of a smile to children for the season.”

“We are very grateful for the contributions from our employees and customers. One customer in St. Maarten donated an entire box of toys. To receive these donations, when everyone has been affected by the pandemic, speaks volumes.” Expresses West Tech’s Regional Marketing Manager- Delia Louis

West Tech says it looks forward to many similar partnerships with customers and other stakeholders. At the same time, the regional shipping company would like to encourage corporate entities to continue to support community development no matter how small, as every little goes a long way, especially now.

WEST SKN Donation

St. Kitts & Nevis

WEST SVG Donation

St. Vincent

WEST Regional Marketing Manager SLU Donation

St. Lucia

WEST GND Donation

Grenada

 

Past Community Activities

West Tech has partnered with Rotary/Rotaract Club to donate Back To School supplies to underprivileged students; the Buddy Bench programme to fight bullying in schools; the Dunnottar School to provide employment experience to a disabled student, the Make It Happen Foundation on prisoner rehabilitation, the Salvation Army through volunteer time, made donations to local charitable causes and supported sporting, cultural and social events through sponsorships. West Tech Shipping continues to work with local colleges to provide annual internship and employment opportunities for students.

 

About West Tech Shipping

West Tech Shipping is the leading, regional courier and logistics company. West Tech customers enjoy fast, easy and affordable air shipments (Monday to Friday), and one weekly sea freight package shipment, from the United States into the Caribbean region.

Simply order your items anywhere online, or West Tech orders for you, and you can receive your packages in as little as two business days, once the packages reach our US warehouse.

The shipping service can also be utilised to receive packages from friends and relatives in the US, or if you are travelling and do not wish to pay extra charges for flight luggage.

West Tech offers tracking and shipment notification services, as well as, the option to pay online or via our mobile app, using your personal West Tech account. West Tech customers also benefit from “Shippy” points on their orders, which can be used to pay for shipping and handling fees.

West Tech Shipping provides six convenient locations across the region, in Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Maarten, Grenada, Barbados and Saint Vincent.

Read more...

SMMC gives tour of ACF to State Secretary Knops

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) gave a tour of its Auxiliary Care Facility (ACF) to Dutch State Secretary Raymond Knops and his delegation on Thursday January 7th.

Before touring the ACF, the State Secretary and his delegation were given a presentation regarding the construction of the various COVID-19 facilities since the start of the pandemic and how these evolved over time: from the emergency erection of the ICU Tent and the Mobile Medical Pavilion to the transfer of the ICU Tent to the gym hall of the Asha Stevens Hillside Christian School at the start of the 2020 hurricane season while simultaneously constructing the current ACF.

Also discussed was the construction of the St. Maarten General Hospital (SMGH) as the design upgrade to become Cat 5+ hurricane resistant was made possible by a grant from the St. Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund, funded by The Netherlands and managed by The World Bank.

The financial impact on SMMC in 2020 due to SMMC having to downscale non-emergency care on two separate occasions as a result of the local COVID surges was also highlighted. Lastly, parties were satisfied with the cooperation agreement made since the start of the pandemic with other hospitals within the Dutch Caribbean in coordination with the Dutch Ministry of Health (VWS) aimed at leveraging each other’s areas of strength.

The ACF was created by welding special medically outfitted containers (Hospitainers), donated by the Dutch Ministry of Health, and shipping containers together and securely anchoring them to a solid concrete foundation. The ACF is located across from SMMC and features sixteen (16) beds of which six (6) are ICU and ten (10) are medium care.

The ACF project was made possible in part by the funds of Trust Fund, funded by The Netherlands and managed by The World Bank. SMMC extends its gratitude to its employees, the Government of St. Maarten, the Dutch Ministry of Health, the World Bank and the AMI team for all of their contributions towards the health and wellbeing of the people of St. Maarten.

SMMC COVID Facilities timeline

 

 

 

Read more...

St. Maarten government representatives meet with State Secretary Knops

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On Thursday, January 7th, Prime Minister & Minister of General Affairs Silveria Jacobs, Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion, Minister of Justice Anna Richardson, Minister of VROMI Egbert Doran, and their support staff met with State Secretary of Interior & Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops and his delegation in a series of meetings at the Government Administration Building to update and follow-up on agreements made prior to the end of 2020. The Dutch delegation consisted of Dutch Representative Chris Johnson, Country Director-General of Kingdom Relations Saskia de Reuver and Acting Program Manager for St. Maarten Sanne Kouwenhoven who are appointed to the Temporary Working Organization (TWO) of BZK awaiting the establishment of the Caribbean Organization for Reforms and Development (COHO).
Both delegations were able to convey their support and eagerness to begin this process while emphasizing the long and challenging road ahead to realize the ambitious Country Reform package. The Ministers specifically took the opportunity to highlight areas of importance for which work and collaboration are immediately needed as well as to outline their hopes and intentions for the many projects that can be implemented under the umbrella of the Country Packages. During the working visit, State Secretary Knops and his delegation were also introduced to government’s newly implemented and approved structure for the discussions regarding the Country Package. The structure consisting of a Monitoring Committee and Secretaries General Platform/Consultation was explained giving an indication of communication lines with counterparts in the TWO established by the Dutch. 
“The government of St. Maarten, including Ministers, Secretaries General, Department Heads and civil servants, will all play a major role in the planning and execution of the reforms ensuring that the subsequent programs and projects have the interest of St. Maarten and its people first and foremost and have our input from the beginning,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs. As such, the St. Maarten government representatives will commence meetings on a technical level scheduled for today, Friday with the Dutch TWO and will continue Monday and Tuesday to deal with the most urgent matters with upcoming deadlines.
During the first meeting, Prime Minister Jacobs and Minister of Finance Irion were able to provide State Secretary Knops and his delegation with an update on meeting the conditions for the second and third tranches of liquidity support. Furthermore, the reconstruction via the Trust Fund was discussed along with progress and challenges. Prime Minister Jacobs also highlighted gratitude to the Dutch Government for the areas of collaboration in the matters related to public health and the COVID-19 response, as well as challenges that still exist in relation to needed personnel and the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination strategy of the Kingdom and St. Maarten. These topics will be further elaborated on in the technical meetings to be held in the coming days.
The State Secretary Knops provided an update on the status of the COHO draft legislation law, upon the query of the Prime Minister, which is still at the Kingdom Council of State and confirmed that St. Maarten’s questions were added to those of the other Caribbean Kingdom partners. The timeline moving forward was also briefly discussed, including the trajectory for the draft law to be handled in all the Parliaments in the Kingdom after the Council of State has rendered their advice. Throughout the negotiation process, Prime Minister Jacobs has sent all documents pertaining to St. Maarten’s Country Reform package to Parliament and has also kept the members of Parliament updated on a regular basis about the conditions agreed upon for the second and third tranches of liquidity support. 
In subsequent meetings held, the Minister of VROMI Doran highlighted several matters in relation to the Trust Fund’s Emergency Debris Management Project (EDMP). Solid waste management, challenges at the Landfill, as well as the challenges being faced with the resettlement of residents living near the landfill were among the issues discussed. Challenges experienced with the World Bank regulations and the necessity of awaiting their input and approval to be able to proceed in areas needing immediate attention requires real collaborative efforts on all sides to get this project moving, seeing the three years that have already elapsed.
In the meeting related to pending Justice matters, Minister of Justice Richardson discussed matters in relation to the working relationship with UNOPS which is the organization proposed to build and manage the new prison. Minister Richardson also discussed the collaboration of our law enforcement and immigration matters and there was agreement that much of the follow up would be done in the upcoming Kingdom Ministerial consultation in the JVO meetings.
“This marks a new beginning for the Netherlands and St. Maarten as we embark together on this mutual agreement. The government of St. Maarten identifies and acknowledges the opportunity to make St. Maarten resilient through structural reforms. As such, we are developing our implementation strategy for the package of reforms which is to be complementary to the projects and initiatives already in place via the Trust Fund and World Bank,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.
Read more...

De Jonge brings forward date to Jan.06 of first vaccine as hospitals make own plans

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Health minister Hugo de Jonge has brought forward the start of the Netherlands’ Covid vaccination programme after hospitals said they would start immunising acute care staff earlier than the scheduled date of January 8.

Amsterdam’s UMC hospital said it would start vaccinating staff working with coronavirus patients as soon as it received the first batch of 5,000 Pfizer vaccines. De Jonge informed parliament by letter that the Hart voor Brabant health authority in Veghel would begin on Wednesday.

The health minister is expected to come in for criticism from MPs when they debate the cabinet’s vaccination plan on Tuesday. Originally Hart voor Brabant was one of three health board regions, together with Utrecht and Rotterdam, that were scheduled to begin vaccinating frontline healthcare workers from January 8, three days before the rest of the country.

‘Symbolic’

The Netherlands is the last country in the European Union to begin immunising its population against Covid-19. Last month De Jonge dismissed calls to bring forward the programme, telling MPs it would be ‘irresponsible’ and other countries were starting earlier for ‘symbolic’ reasons.

De Jonge has already adjusted the vaccination plan several times to bring forward vaccines for people working in hospitals and nursing homes, as well as family doctors, in response to appeals from professional bodies.

A spokesman for the UMC hospital told Het Parool organising vaccines for its own personnel was ‘not a difficult task’. It will prioritise people working on the coronavirus ward, in intensive care and in the accident and emergency department.

‘We give our staff flu jabs every year. That’s slightly different but we don’t have to do a lot extra. The only thing we are dependent on is when the vaccine comes.’ The UMC is also responsible for distributing Covid-19 vaccines to other hospitals in the province of Noord-Holland.

Community role

Teachers, police officers and community wardens have also called for early vaccinations because their jobs expose them to large numbers of people.

A spokesman for teaching unions AOb told ANP news agency: ‘We realise we’re not in the first group and that healthcare should go first, but if we want to get things fully back on track soon, we should make sure teaching staff are vaccinated as quickly as possible.’

Unions representing the police and community enforcement officers said their members should receive the vaccine as soon as possible given their status as ‘vital’ professions. Ruud Kruin, chair of the association of community wardens’ union, said: ‘They have a lot of contact with other people which means they are at greater risk of being infected with coronavirus.’

On Saturday health minister Hugo de Jonge agreed to reserve the first 30,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine for ambulance crews, accident and emergency staff and those working on Covid wards and in intensive care. Family doctors have also been added to the priority list.

(DutchNews)

Read more...

Mc Donald's to focus on Eco friendly utensils

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Local McDonald's franchise announced that all their locations on island plan to be more Earth-friendly and use renewable, recyclable, or certified materials in all of its packaging, straws, cups, containers, and utensils.

The transition has already started to eco-friendly and biodegradable alternatives for items used for guest packaging. The franchise world-wide is totally moving away from plastic and will work towards a plan for a market-wide change over the coming months.

On Monday, Mc Donald's Managing Director Michel Lepine added, "The island restaurants have been working over the past months with suppliers to implement this sustainable solution. According to the statement, McDonald’s plans to give customers wooden cutlery which includes spoons, stirrers, knives, and forks instead of plastic ones.

"People are used to getting straws at the window however workers are trained to only give a plastic straw if requested to. We are now moving towards a more friendly compostable straws made of wood pulp which does not stay on the earth for many years before it disappears," added Lepine.

The restaurant chain added that they are committed to working towards finding sustainable solutions across the board. This is in line with McDonald’s global vision of building a responsible business.

Read more...

National Economy Shrinks by 25+ Per cent due to COVID-19 Pandemic

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten (CBCS) in its “Economic Developments in 2020 and Outlook for 2021” report, says that based on the Bank’s estimates, Sint Maarten’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrank by 26.8% in 2020, following an increase of 8.2% in 2019.

The report says that the significant decline in 2020 is the result of the stringent measures the government of Sint Maarten took to curb a local spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, particularly a border closure of 3 months and a 24-hours curfew that lasted for approximately 5 weeks. The containment measures weighed heavily on economic activity in Sint Maarten, particularly the tourism sector which is the country’s main economic pillar.

Meanwhile, inflation rose from 0.4% in 2019 to an estimated 1.2% in 2020 due mainly to higher food prices reflecting global supply disruptions but moderated by a decline in international oil prices. The dramatic economic contraction in 2020 was underpinned primarily by a marked decline in net foreign demand.

Exports dropped significantly, reflecting mainly lower foreign exchange earnings from tourism and transportation services on the back of the containment measures, border closure, and deep recession in Sint Maarten’s main source markets. Foreign exchange earnings from businesses that cater to the tourism sector, including time-shares and rentals, also shrank.

The decline in net foreign demand was moderated by lower imports due to a drop in consumer spending and lower tourism spending. In addition, domestic demand shrank on the back of significantly lower private consumption as the containment measures related to COVID-19, notably the total lockdown in the second quarter of 2020, restricted mobility and the provision of most goods and services.

In addition, the worsened situation on the labor market because of the corona crisis and the labor compensation cuts in both the public and private sectors affected private consumption. However, the financial support that the government provided to the most affected groups in society amid the crisis moderated the drop in private consumption.

Furthermore, public consumption decreased due to lower spending on wages & salaries. By contrast, private and public investment rose modestly. The increase in private investment reflected primarily the reconstruction of the airport, that gathered speed following the settlement of the insurance claim. In addition, the moderate gain in public investment was driven mainly by the construction of the new hospital.

An analysis of the production side of GDP shows that the measures to curb an outbreak of COVID-19 took a severe toll on private sector activities during the first half of 2020. Except the utilities sector, real value added dropped sharply in all sectors of the economy during the January – June period of 2020. By contrast, the contribution of the public sector to GDP was positive reflecting primarily the financial support that the government extended to the most affected groups in society amid the corona crisis.

Significantly lower proceeds from taxes on goods and services, notably turnover tax, and a decline in the disbursements on public wages & salaries dampened, however, the positive contribution of the public sector. Real value added collapsed in the restaurants & hotels sector as the sector was actually shut down during the second quarter of 2020. The development in the sector can mainly be ascribed to the preventive measures, in particular the border closure, that the government put in place as of mid-March to contain a local spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

In January and February, stayover tourism performed well but this situation changed after the border closure as stay-over arrivals and cruise visitors dropped almost to zero. However, after the closing of nonessential businesses and other restrictions on restaurant services that came into effect in March 2020, restaurants were allowed to reopen for pickup, delivery and drive-thru services to the local public as of mid-May, which slightly moderated the deep contraction in the restaurants & hotels sector.

Real output shrank in the construction sector due mainly to the suspension of nonessential business activities during April and May 2020. However, after approximately five weeks, construction activities gradually resumed. The suspension of nonessential business activities, the border closure, and the lockdown also hit the wholesale & retail trade and the real estate, renting, and business activities sectors significantly. In the wholesale & retail trade sector, real value added shrank in line with the sharp decline in domestic demand and tourism spending.

Meanwhile, the negative outcome in the real estate, renting & business activities sector was consistent with the sharp drop in the number of stay-over visitors. Likewise, the transport, storage, & communication sector posted dramatic negative results as the border closure severely affected activities at the airport and harbor of Sint Maarten.

Activities at the airport came practically to a standstill following the border closure as total passenger traffic and commercial landings fell dramatically. Furthermore, air transportation services provided by the domestic carrier Winair dropped significantly. Meanwhile, the deep contraction at the harbor reflected a drop in the number of ships piloted into the port, i.e., freighters, tankers and cruise ships, and a decline in container movements.

The manufacturing sector also experienced a severe contraction as yacht repair activities came to a standstill amid the global pandemic. The development in the yacht repair sector was consistent with a dramatic decline in the number of yachts that visited the port of Sint Maarten in the first half of 2020. Activities in the financial intermediation sector also fell significantly as interest income of the domestic commercial banks dropped at a faster pace than interest expenses.

The development in net interest income can largely be ascribed to the moratorium policies that many commercial banks introduced amid the corona crisis, temporarily easing loan terms and conditions for impacted borrowers. In addition, fees & other income declined in the first half of 2020 mainly because of fewer bank transactions during the lockdown.

Finally, real output rose in the utilities sector, albeit at a slower pace compared to the first half of 2019. This development reflects an increase in the production of electricity only, while water production remained at the same level. As the demand for water and electricity is relatively inelastic, the utilities sector was the only sector that contributed positively to GDP.

The fiscal position of Sint Maarten deteriorated considerably during the first three quarters of 2020 compared to the same period of 2019, as the current budget deficit rose by NAf.110.4 million reaching NAf.132.9 million. This significant deterioration in the fiscal position can largely be ascribed to the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis and government support measures for the most affected groups society. The deterioration of the fiscal position was caused by an increase of NAf.59.6 million in government expenditures combined with an decline of NAf.50.8 million in revenues. Expenditures went up due mainly to COVID-19-related expenses (NAf.58.6 million), including payroll support to businesses, income support for sole proprietors, vendor license holders, bus and independent taxi and tour drivers, and unemployment support.

A decline in wages & salaries of NAf.8.0 million, primarily caused by vacancies that were not yet filled, combined with fewer patients sent abroad for medical treatment, mitigated the increase in expenditures The drop in revenues was largely the result of the impact of the COVID-19 containment measures on economic activity and reflected lower proceeds from taxes (NAf.42.6 million), licenses (NAf.8.7 million), and concession & fees (NAf.5.6 million). Tax proceeds dropped in every category with the drop in turnover tax (NAf.23.4 million), wage tax (NAf.5.4 million), and property transfer tax (NAf.4.4 million) being the most pronounced.

According to the latest projections,11 the government of Sint Maarten expects a deficit on the current budget of NAf.223.7 million in 2020 following the NAf.34.5 million deficit registered in 2019. 12 This drastic deterioration is caused by a decline of NAf.96.9 million in revenues combined with an increase of NAf.92.3 million in expenditures.

The main causes of the projected decline in revenues are a decline in tax proceeds of NAf.74.2 million combined with a drop of NAf.11.6 million and NAf.10.5 million in concessions & fees and licenses, respectively. Expenditures increase due to more COVID-19 related expenses (NAf.85.6 million), outlays on goods & services (NAf.7.9 million), and social security spending (NAf.6.9 million). The total public debt of Sint Maarten increased by NAf.98.3 million up to the end of September 2020 compared to the end of December 2019.

This increase was the result of a rise in the foreign debt component because of the receipt of liquidity support from the Dutch government. In April, Sint Maarten received NAf.50.2 million that was not yet disbursed in 2019 related to Hurricane Irma. NAf.44.0 million of this amount was transferred on a net basis because the Dutch government deducted NAf.6.2 million for expenditures made to temporarily house (11 Source: the Financiële Concernrapportage/Uitvoeringsrapportage, derde kwartaal 2020 of the government of Sint Maarten. 12 Source: the Financiële Concernrapportage/Uitvoeringsrapportage, derde kwartaal 2020 of the government of Sint Maarten.) detainees from Sint Maarten in Dutch prisons after Hurricane Irma.

In May 2020, Sint Maarten received a first tranche of NAf.44.1 million of liquidity support related to the corona crisis. A second tranche of NAf.19.4 million was received in August 2020. The liquidity support was provided in the form of 2-year interest-free bullet loans. By contrast, the domestic debt component declined by NAf.14.0 million mainly because the government reduced its arrears towards the social security bank, SZV, and the public pension fund, APS.

The increase in total public debt combined with the drop in GDP caused the debt-to-GDP ratio to rise from 33.5% at the end of December 2019 to 50.4% at the end of September 2020. The debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to increase further to 54.0% by the end of 2020 caused by the third tranche of liquidity support of NAf.61.2 million that the government of Sint Maarten received from the Netherlands. 13

Outlook 2021

Sint Maarten’s real GDP is projected to grow by 3.6% in 2021 driven by an increase in net foreign demand moderated by a decline in domestic demand. The projection reflects a conservative outlook for tourism, notably from Sint Maarten’s main market, the United States. Although the US economy is projected to recover, the country is currently going through a deep public health crisis that could affect stay-over tourism in 2021.

In particular, the new US administration could implement more stringent measures including restrictions on nonessential travel and cruise vacations in the first months of 2021, which is the high season for the tourism industry in Sint Maarten. The outlook also includes uncertainties regarding the funding of public investments and continuation of liquidity support from the Netherlands amid the corona crisis. The projected increase in net foreign demand is the result of an increase in exports, moderated by higher imports.

The gain in exports reflects primarily a gradual recovery of tourism. Despite the projected increase in 2021, foreign exchange earnings from tourism activities still will be 40% below the pre-corona crisis level.14 The projected higher import bill is caused primarily by more tourism spending. Meanwhile, domestic demand will put a drag on growth in 2021 due to lower private and public consumption.

Consumer spending will drop due to lower disposable income caused by higher inflation combined with the 12.5% cut in labor compensation in the (semi) government sector. The drop in public consumption reflects primarily an anticipated further decline in the outlays on wages & salaries. Private and public investment growth will accelerate in 2021 as construction projects such as the reconstruction of the airport and the new hospital, which were delayed in 2020 due to the containment measures, will gather speed.

Meanwhile, inflation is expected to increase to 1.8% in 2021, in line with the forecasted rise in the inflation rate in the United States, Sint Maarten’s main trading partner.15 The magnitude of Sint Maarten’s economic recovery in 2021 depends largely on the pace of global economic recovery once the coronavirus measures are relaxed. In particular, the pace of recovery in the United States and Europe will be crucial for the economy of Sint Maarten.

If the United States and Europe recover at a faster pace than anticipated, tourism demand also will increase more rapidly resulting in a faster recovery of Sint Maarten’s economy in the second half of 2021. The tourism industry also would benefit from the quick availability of a vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus, which could reduce the fear of travelling. A downward risk to the outlook is the escalation of government measures to prevent a revival of the spread of the coronavirus (i.e., second wave), which again would reduce economic activity.

(13 An agreement was reached between Sint Maarten and the Netherlands on December 22, 2020. 14 Level of foreign exchange earnings from tourism in 2019. 15 IMF World Economic Outlook, October 2020.)

Read more...

UPDATED: Vacation Safe in St. Maarten with the SXM Protection Plan

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - As of January 11, 2021, St. Maarten will roll out the SXM Protection Plan, a mandatory health coverage for its visitors that is very affordable and assures the tourist a relaxing and safe vacation, the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau (STB) said in a statement on Saturday. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Maarten wants to ensure that all visitors are properly protected and have an advanced protection in case they test positive while vacationing on our friendly island.

A visitor who tests positive for COVID-19 in St. Maarten, will have very few, if any, out-of-pocket expenses, giving the visitors a peace of mind in case they test positive, and if they cannot be assisted in St. Maarten, the SXM Protection Plan covers also medical evacuation costs. The overall maximum limit for all benefits together, except Medical Evacuation, is $50,000. Emergency medical evacuation to the nearest qualified hospital to prevent loss of life, is up to a maximum limit of $20,000, provided the patient cannot be treated locally in St. Maarten.

In case of hospitalization, the expenses to treat severe COVID-19 symptoms includes specialist fees, diagnostic x-rays, lab expenses and nursing costs. Costs of specialized transportation of a Covid-19 infected person. It also covers a maximum sublimit of $125 per day, max. 14 days, in case of a positive Covid-19 test result. Intensive Care Unit charges for treatment of a critical ailment caused by COVID-19. Costs of doctor consults. Max. 4 medically necessary Covid-19 tests as outpatient with a sublimit of $75 per test.

Tests are only covered with referral from the St. Maarten Government Health Department. Emergency medical evacuation to the nearest qualified hospital to prevent loss of life. Preventive government mandated quarantines for fellow travelers and those who tested negative are NOT COVERED.

The insurance is required for all foreign nationals with the exception of residents, visitors who arrive, leave the same day, crewmembers and transit/transfer passengers who do not need to recheck their luggage.

The St. Maarten Visitors Protection Plan sold and processed via the mandatory online health form on www.stmaartenentry.com

For detailed information on the St. Maarten Visitors Protection Plan please visit www.sxmprotectionplan.com

About St. Maarten: St. Maarten is the smallest island in the world to be shared by two nations – Netherlands and France – creating a destination with European charm and Caribbean flair. Located at the northern end of the Lesser Antilles, the islands 37 square miles has 37 breathtaking beaches and is home to many historical and family-oriented attractions. Direct air service is available to Princess Juliana International Airport from major U.S. and Canada, South America, Europe, and the Caribbean gateways.

See link: https://we.tl/t-sYxYPrLDUb

Read more...

Governor: A Clarion Call to overcome and rebuild a stronger Sint Maarten

SINT MAARTEN (HARBOUR VIEW) – His Excellency Governor Eugene Holiday released his New Year’s Message on January 1, 2021. His national address reads as follows:

My fellow Sint Maarteners,

Wherever you are, Marie-Louise and I bring you warm greetings from our capital city Philipsburg on this New Year’s Day.

As the New Year 2021 begins, let us thank God for bringing us this far. Let us thank him for watching over our country and ask him for his continued guidance going forward.

We are living through an extra-ordinary global health and economic crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has presented us, with a serious and urgent challenge; the challenge to overcome and rebuild A Stronger Sint Maarten. Our challenge is as such a clarion call to secure our future wellbeing.

My fellow Sint Maarteners,

Looking back, 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of Sint Maarten’s journey as a country within the Kingdom of Netherlands. A Sint Maarten journey rooted in our pursuit to improve our wellbeing as a people. In my speech to commemorate the anniversary I stated that the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, coupled with the impact of hurricane Irma in 2017, have wiped out years of socio-economic gains in terms of economic growth and employment.

2020 is as a result best characterized as a year of unprecedented disruption to our lives:

  1. The virus has affected the health of over 1400 persons and taken too many lives;
  2. It has placed a heavy strain on our health care workers and disrupted access to primary care;
  3. It has disrupted the education of our children;
  4. The required guidelines, such as social distancing, to contain its spread are affecting our social interactions, our traditions, and our way of life;
  5. It has resulted in a major fallout in international travel causing our tourism based economy to shrink by almost 25% and businesses to cut back or close;
  6. It has as a result caused many among us to take pay cuts, to lose jobs and to seek assistance from government or food banks;
  7. It has caused the existing budget deficits to increase further, resulting in government having to cut expenses and borrow money from the Netherlands;
  8. And the response to these challenges has resulted in tensions between social partners and caused further strain in our relations with the Netherlands.

More than ever, we were reminded of how much we depend on each other. On how much our actions influence one another. The coronavirus is therefore clarion call for the world as a whole and for us a people.

As we begin this new year, we are all aware that the disruption to our lives is not over. In addition to social distancing, many among us are struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile the liquidity of many businesses as well as government have dwindled and dried up. We as such face an uphill climb in the year ahead. Difficult as that climb may be, I am convinced that we will make it to the top.

As we continue to respond to our clarion call, I encourage you to reflect on one of my favorite gospel songs: “we shall overcome”. I encourage you to do so because I am confident that we, like generation of Sint Maarteners before us, will find inspiration in the driving force and promise of the words: “we shall overcome”.

During the past year we have seen that driving force at work through our men and women on the frontline. Courageous men and women who continue to risk their own lives to protect our life and livelihood. Courageous health care professionals, law enforcement officers, firefighters, other frontline employees, and volunteers, who remind us every day that the protection of our wellbeing and our country is our common purpose. Throughout the year I was inspired by their sense of responsibility and duty. I therefore thank each of you for your invaluable service to the people of Sint Maarten and for answering our clarion call.

Going about our daily lives, I see most of you, as good citizens, looking out for each other, practicing social distancing, and wearing masks. I therefore salute you for doing your share in responding to our clarion call.

Reflecting on the past year I trust that we will learn from our good and not so good experiences; and that we will continue to build and improve on the progress we have made thus far. As we continue our journey this year, let us therefore as one people rally to answer our clarion call:

  1. Let us build on the knowledge that we are better prepared to contain the spread of the coronavirus;
  2. Let us draw from the positive results of the cooperation between health care professionals and organizations at home and within the Kingdom;
  3. Let us build on the lessons learned in the process of securing financing to provide liquidity to households, businesses, and government services.

At this critical moment in our journey I encourage you, as individuals, corporations, civil society, and government, to join forces to recalibrate our social economic development. This with an emphasis on public and private sector initiatives:

  1. To strengthen the financial resilience of our country;
  2. To upgrade existing safety net for the vulnerable among us;
  3. To expand investments in public health and health care;
  4. To allocate resources to develop and retain our scarce human capital;
  5. To foster investments in the upgrading of our tourism infrastructure and in new types of jobs and businesses such as in the digital economy; and
  6. To secure investments to upgrade our critical infrastructure such as telecommunications, water and electricity, the airport, and the harbor to support and facilitate future growth.

A socio-economic recalibration aimed at rebuilding a sustainable economic base, securing our place in the rapidly evolving digital economy, and restoring Sint Maarten’s position as a premier tourist destination and regional commercial center.

To achieve this we, all of us, must come together and work together today, tomorrow and each day thereafter. We can do so with the knowledge and resolve that we have climbed difficult hills before, and we overcame together. I therefore believe that “we shall overcome” this challenge stronger together again. This by walking hand in hand at home and by constructive cooperation with Kingdom and international partners. And for that I am, as always, counting on my trust in the boundless strength and resilience of “We the People of Sint Maarten”.

My fellow Sint Maarteners,

In closing, as the New Year 2021 begins, let us once again thank God for bringing us this far and ask him for his continued guidance. Thus, as we look back on a year of unprecedented disruption, and forward with hope to the next and beyond, let us individually and collectively take up our responsibility to answer our clarion call to overcome and rebuild a stronger Sint Maarten, for ourselves and future generations. As your Governor I hereby pledge to continue to work with government and other stakeholders towards the answering of our clarion call for the rebuilding of our beloved country, St. Maarten.

With that pledge, I hereby on behalf of Marie-Louise and myself, wish you a year of health, happiness, and growth.

Thank you, God bless you, and May God bless Sint Maarten and protect its coast.

The Governor of Sint Maarten

drs. Eugene B. Holiday

Read more...

Ring in 2021 with the Great Bay Fireworks Display

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Preparations are well underway to ring in the New Year 2021, and it will be all happening in Great Bay with a firework display at midnight on Thursday, December 31. This is however dependent on weather conditions at that time.

The firework display is a collaborative effort by the Government of St. Maarten, Entrepreneur Sir Bobby Velasquez, and Port St. Maarten.

Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation, and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Ludmila De Weever said on Wednesday: “2020 has been a very difficult year for St. Maarten families and the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I express empathy and solidarity with all those affected and impacted.

“At the same time, Ministry TEATT along with stakeholders have been diligently charting the course of renewed economic activity in order to keep the economy, the engine of our country moving forward in these uncharted waters.

“Visitors have been returning to our shores via our airport during the past months since our re-opening. Mega yachts and private jets have returned for the tourism season, and at the start of the New Year, we will see two considerable hotel properties who were closed since Irma re-opening for guests.

“I am very confident that we will see the resumption of cruise tourism to our country in 2021. Let us go into the New Year with resolve and confidence that better times are ahead. Please continue to adhere to the public health measures as promoted continuously by our public health authorities.

“The Government has collaborated with Sir Bobby Velasquez and Port St. Maarten to ring in the New Year. Thank you, St. Maarten, for your resilience throughout this very trying and difficult 2020, but I can assure you that we will continue to navigate these unprecedented times together, and I would like to wish each one of you, your families, and our communities good health in 2021.”

Entrepreneur Sir Bobby Velasquez said on Wednesday: “Let us go out of 2020 with a big bang and ring in 2021 full of promise and hope. 2020 has been an exceedingly difficult year for everyone. Let us keep safe and healthy and look towards rebuilding our economy for a brighter St. Maarten for everyone in 2021. Happy New Year St. Maarten.”

The firework display will take place onshore. The display is contingent on favorable weather conditions. The Meteorological Department of St. Maarten (MDS) has already indicated that the possibility exists for inclement weather due to the strengthening of an Atlantic high-pressure ridge that will impact local weather conditions.  

For those who will be coming out with family and friends for a fun filled New Year’s Eve, you are strongly advised to continue to adhere to the public health guidelines that have been advised/recommended by Collective Prevention Services (CPS) in connection with COVID-19 such as wearing a mask, and social distancing. Masks should be worn over your nose and mouth and should be properly secured under your chin.

Continue to practice washing your hands frequently with water and soap for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 per cent alcohol content; cover coughs and sneezes by using your elbow.

Port St. Maarten Management wishes everyone a safe and healthy 2021.

Read more...
Subscribe to this RSS feed

Soualiga Radio