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Vaccination Saba children on February 1

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - Children on Saba between the age of 5 and 11 will be receiving a COVID-19 vaccination next Tuesday, February 1. The vaccines arrived from the Netherlands on Tuesday, January 25.

Children will receive an age-appropriate dose of the vaccine made by Pfizer/BioNTech. The vaccine is the same as the one that has been given to adults, but children 5-11 years receive one-third of the active ingredients given to adults. The immune response of young children at a lower dose is just as good as the immune response of adolescents and adults to the normal dose.

In total, 140 children between the age 5 and 11 on Saba are eligible to receive the vaccine. Each child was given a letter to take home to their parents. Parents need to return this consent letter to the child’s class teacher by January 27. After receiving the consent letters through the school, the Public Health Department will give each child an appointment time.

The vaccines will be administered on February 1 at Saba Cares. Eight weeks later, the children will receive the second dose. Adults 18+ on Saba have already received two COVID-19 vaccinations and a booster. Adolescents (12-17) received the two regular doses.

With the assistance of the Ministry of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sport (VWS) and the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the vaccines were transported from the Netherlands to St. Maarten on Royal Dutch Airlines KLM and then taken to Saba with Windward Islands Airways International Winair.

Vaccines for children arrive 02

 

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FINSO bank account opened, next pouring SMGH scheduled

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - The next pouring of a subsequent section of the basement floor of the St. Maarten General Hospital (SMGH) is scheduled within the next few days as the new hospital project gathers steam and resumes full construction activities after main contractor FINSO (formerly known as INSO) completes its full transition as a result of its acquisition by new parent company Fincantieri Group as announced in 2021. The opening of a local bank account has been finalized and as such payments to subcontractors can be done locally shortly without any further issues, St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) announced on Wednesday.

As of June 2021, it was announced that FINSO took over the activities of INSO, but it took until mid October before all formalities for taking over the hospital project were finalized. Those formalities had to do with issuing of new performance bonds, providing parent guarantees, incorporating a new local branch office and formally transferring all personnel from INSO to FINSO. In addition, FINSO also optimized and restructured the activities from INSO in Italy into the corporate culture and structure of the Fincantieri Group.

FINSO is a general contractor that aims to work mostly with local subcontractors in all their construction projects. FINSO is responsible for the delivery of a complete new hospital on St. Maarten including all medical equipment, furniture and fixtures. The medical equipment component is a large part of the overall construction budget, but nevertheless it is agreed with FINSO that approximately 49% of the entire construction budget will be spent on the island, which will have a positive effect on the local economy.

After the incorporation of the new local branch, FINSO could start the process of opening a local bank account. Due to increased compliance (KYC - Know Your Customer) protocols that banks are obliged to follow, the opening of a new bank account can become a time-consuming exercise. Furthermore, the Christmas holidays and time necessary to translate FINSO’s corporate documents from Italian to English have added to the incurred delays. However, SMMC has received confirmation from FINSO that the local bank account is now open and FINSO is taking care of transferring the funds to this account, to immediately make outstanding payments to the local subcontractors.

When looking at the activities at the construction site over the past 2 months, one could witness limited ongoing construction activities. FINSO stated that there are multiple reasons for this limited progress but nonetheless, SMMC is urging the contractor on a daily basis to accelerate the activities as much as possible. One of the next milestones is the 4th pour for the basement floor, which is scheduled shortly. With this 4th pour the foundation of the main building is more than halfway.

Following the Job fair in November 2021, FINSO and its subcontractors are in the process of hiring additional skilled labor as the contractor aims to ramp up construction activities from here on out now that all transition formalities have been completed and the main focus can be brought back to resuming all construction activities. FINSO, just like most companies in the world, has challenges getting construction materials to St. Maarten on time due to supply chain challenges (material shortages) and international shipping delays due to a lack of available containers.

After the takeover, FINSO performed a detailed evaluation of the time schedule, work methods, the final design and the availability of local labor and equipment. Based on this evaluation, FINSO is now optimizing their planning and work methods for the project.

With these optimizations, FINSO informed SMMC that by the end of February 2022, the improvements in their approach to run the project will be visible. By then, SMMC will also have a better insight regarding the timeline of the construction project, which has already been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the transfer from INSO to FINSO.

Although SMMC has created temporary provisions to expand its care services at its present location, the new hospital will further improve care services for its patients, bringing quality care close to home, and therefore SMMC anticipates delivery of the project as soon as possible through an optimized work approach by FINSO.

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Police top brass meets Dutch Quarter community representatives

SINT MAARTEN (DUTCH QUARTER) - Chief of Police Mr. C. John together with members of the Police management team met with representatives of the Dutch Quarter community on Wednesday, 26 January 2022. 

The Dutch Quarter representatives shared with police their grievances about the issues plaguing their neighborhood.

A number of agreements was struck between Police and the community representatives during the meeting including the start of more regular contact with the community partners and residence of Dutch Quarter.

The community police officer will also participate more actively in community projects to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.

The police management team thanks the community of Dutch Quarter for its initiative, continued cooperation, and effort in making and keeping their area safe. (KPSM) 

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Prime Minister Jacobs: COVID-19 is still with us. St. Maarten continues to be most resilient

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Prime Minister of St. Maarten Hon. Silveria E. Jacobs in her opening address in the House of Parliament on Wednesday related to the continuation of debating the draft 2022 national budget said COVID-19 is still with us.

“I join with the Minister of VSA in commending all those who have helped us to continue to grapple with the rising active cases. I must say that the Minister and the Ministry of VSA, together with all their stakeholders are doing a wonderful job of ensuring that we as a community are doing what is needed. The protocols are still in place to ensure that we can continue to remain resilient in our economy, now resulting in a steady decline of our active cases.

“We encourage the community to be vigilant as we also see a rise in hospitalizations and have noted four deaths in the past week. As such, government’s deepest condolences go out to the families, friends and loved ones of those whom have passed on due to the virus. Medical services have become more challenging as hospitals take measures to be able to manage. Government encourages persons to get the vaccine and booster as this method has proven to work in reducing serious illness and negative effects caused by the virus. Every life lost is a burden to bare within our society.  

“Despite this fact, we have continued to be most resilient! I hear more and more stories of persons who are making much effort to get healthy, stay healthy, self-medicate, build their immunity, as well as ensure that the protocols are upheld. I noticed that people are no longer afraid to get tested and that helps us to know our status and enables us to take the necessary measures as a family, community and government.

“I commend all the people of St. Maarten. It shows how we have grown as a people as we continue to adapt to whatever circumstances we may find ourselves in. The government apparatus aims to be more flexible and become more of a reflection of all things that make St. Maarten great and resilient. It is my goal to contribute to this transformation,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.

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Emmanuel says airport board must go, challenges Integrity Chamber

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Tuesday called for the Supervisory Board of the Directors (SBOD) of the airport operating company (PJIAE) to be replaced and stressed that accounting firm BDO should be restricted from engaging in any inquiry or investigation into anything at the airport henceforth.

He also challenged the Integrity Chamber to get involved, put government’s money to work, take initiative “and finally do something for once.” The same challenge went out to the Corporate Governance Council and the Corporate Governance Implementation Team Commissioned by the Council of Ministers.

The MP’s statements came on the heels of various questions he posed about corporate governance issues at PJIA as well as possible overspending and misuse of airport funds during the recently held budget debate in Parliament.

He explained that while he awaits those official answers from government, it was brought to his attention that BDO, the same firm that recruited airport CEO Brian Mingo, was contracted to investigate Mingo’s spending practices using the company’s credit cards.

BDO, the MP continued, issued a report with eight recommendations in this regard. “What these recommendations are I am still waiting to get information on from government. But once again this seems to be hidden information because if there are recommendations then there are findings. More than likely these findings should confirm that the CEO mis-used airport money and abused his privileges,” the MP said.

“However, I wouldn’t be surprised if these recommendations were another cover-up to protect the airport CEO considering that BDO is the company that recruited him and his mis-deeds will reflect poorly upon them. I have also been made aware that BDO assisted the airport’s financial department with its internal audit. How is it possible that the Supervisory Board of Directors (SBOD) of the airport, and the holding board, authorized the same firm that recruited the CEO to conduct inquiries into allegations in which he is at the center?” The MP asked.

These actions, Emmanuel said, along with those outlined in the dossier by Michel Hyman that clearly identifies a SBOD that is not neutral and acting against good corporate governance, is enough to trigger a full blown inquiry into the entire airport. He said change must start with the SBOD which has shown in the same dossier its tendency to err on the side of Mingo instead of making neutral decisions based on good corporate governance and what’s best for the airport.

“The trio of BDO, Mingo and a SBOD that supports both is bad for PJIA. The government and its Prime Minister that led the fake charge of implementing good corporate governance at the airport managed to get rid of one man in the person of Dexter Doncher and overlooked all of the other actions by the CEO and SBOD that flies in the face of good corporate governance. But again, they hid pertinent information from Parliament and the public and has the airport in the mess it is in today,” MP Emmanuel said.

“I am also still waiting to hear from government about what kind of investigation or audit the holding board initiated after they heard from Michel Hyman. Was this because of what Hyman told them? If not what is it based on? It is unacceptable that after all this time the people of St. Maarten receive no answers about what is going on at the airport,” Emmanuel said.

He continued: “I have cautioned the Minister of TEATT Roger Lawrence on previous occasions to watch his back with the nastiness and cover-ups involved at the airport. But at the end of the day, he will eventually be held accountable. The Prime Minister already dodged questions in the budget debate and left him to carry the mess she created. If the Minister cannot get the answers he wants from airport management and boards, he needs to step it up and do what he must to get them. If that starts with the board then so be it, but act decisively,” Emmanuel concluded.

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Sint Maarten Tourism Bureau shares insight into ongoing Expedia marketing campaign

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The Sint Maarten Tourism Bureau (STB) together with the French Tourist Office partnered to launch two marketing campaigns with Expedia during 2021, the first one was successfully executed in Spring 2021. The second campaign launched in November 2021 is currently on going throughout Spring 2022.

The current ongoing Expedia marketing campaign continues to perform good resulting in high return on ad spend with a gross booking revenue of close to USD$ 1.0 million thus far.

The cooperative marketing campaign also generated over 2000 room nights since the launch of the campaign in November 2021.

In December 2021, there was a total of 33.879 stayover arrivals, which is an increase of 151% in comparison to December 2020 stayover arrivals.

Majority of travelers turn to OTAs (Online Travel Agent) throughout their purchasing journey for trip inspiration, planning or booking.

The objective of the campaign is to promote the Dutch and French side of the island to the United States market with the aim to inspire, engage and covert travel consumers to book a trip to the destination by leveraging on Expedia’s extensive product portfolio.

The marketing campaign is conducted online and consist of search result banners, homepage native ads and display banner ads on Expedia’s platform.

This is used to maximize traffic to the dedicated destination-landing page, providing travel consumers with the opportunity to book their trip, as well as view inspiring content about places to stay and things to do while on island.

“Expedia continues to be one of the leading OTAs in the United States, and therefore carrying out a marketing campaign with Expedia will allow the destination to reach a broad range of active vacation seekers,” said STB Marketing Director Gianira Arrindell.

“Interest in the destination continues to grow, of which is evident in the high search and booking volume for the destination conducted on Expedia.

“Therefore, it is important that we continue to be at the forefront increasing destination consideration and stimulating last minute and future bookings,” Gianira Arrindell further added.

STB will continue to collaborate with OTAs, tour operators, and airlines in addition to carrying out other marketing activities to further increase destination awareness and stimulate bookings that will result in positive economic value for the destination.

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MP Emmanuel: ‘Gang of liars’ continue to damage integrity of Parliament

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - “Just when you think it could not get any lower in Parliament, the gang of liars running this country somehow managed to set a new low,” said Independent MP Christophe Emmanuel on Friday in a press statement, adding that blatant, cold-hearted lies is the order of the day for the UP/National Alliance coalition, from the Chairperson of Parliament right down.

Emmanuel was reacting to the excuses and back-peddling that was on full-display in Parliament after the Chairlady of Parliament Grisha Marten-Heyliger, admitted that indeed a dossier filled with allegations and complaints from airport COO Michel Hyman about issues at the airport, was delivered to Parliament in June 2020. It was also delivered to the Council of Ministers on the same day.

On Wednesday, the Chairlady stated to Parliament and the public that the dossier was not booked in to Parliament and is therefore not at Parliament. This was followed on Thursday by the Minister of TEATT Roger Lawrence confirming that it was delivered to the Council of Ministers.

On Friday, after Lawrence’s confirmation, the Chairlady of Parliament admitted that the dossier was received by the personal secretary of the former Chairman of Parliament Rolando Brison, “something I know for a fact she already knew from the day before,” MP Emmanuel said. MP Brison in the meantime, has maintained that he did not receive anything. “And we all know based on his track record, that if he says go left, you better go right,” MP Emmanuel said.

According to Emmanuel, this is where the further shaming of Parliament began. The Chairlady then explained to Parliament that the secretary said that she has two ways of handling documents delivered to her office. She either hands it to MP Brison directly or places it on his desk.

“And this is where the Chairlady stopped with the explanation. No indication of whether the secretary actually gave it to the former Chairman Brison or placed it on his desk. So which is it? If he is saying he didn’t get it, then it caught wings or legs from his office desk and walked out? So then by that explanation we can conclude that since June 2020 when his secretary put it on his desk, he obviously never went to work,” Emmanuel said.

“This is unacceptable. Everyone knows this secretary in question is efficient and a consummate professional. Her former boss is now throwing her under the bus, and her current boss (Heyliger-Marten) is not being totally truthful. It is as plain as day to see that there was collusion between the former Chairperson of Parliament and the Prime Minister to hide this dossier.

“And today, the Chairlady of Parliament needed to concoct another lie to protect the leader of her party who has once again managed to embarrass this country with scandal, damage the integrity of Parliament and shame his deserving coalition MP’s,” Emmanuel said. He said he finally understands why the Prime Minister thought that Brison’s “caught on tape” moment was forgivable, because by then they had already colluded on much worse.  

The MP stressed that there is a much bigger picture at play and that the purposeful hiding of the dossier handicapped Parliament when it came to discussions about the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA). He said a local professional, in the person of Michel Hyman, took it upon himself to report what he felt were shady and unlawful practices at PJIA.

“He took these concerns to his bosses which ultimately is the Government of St. Maarten. And what does the government turn and do? They bury it. They hide it. We had two years of debating the airport and we are still debating the airport and its terrible CEO. This dossier could have added context and could have triggered inquiries. All the talk about integrity and corporate governance and Schiphol, all of this took place while the former President of Parliament sat on the dossier, the government hid it, then turn and blatantly lied about it. A gang of liars and enablers are running the government,” Emmanuel said.

He went on to commend Minister Lawrence to take it upon himself and find the dossier after the Prime Minister declined to answer the question in Parliament. “All of a sudden the Prime Minister wasn’t the Shareholder Rep. anymore. It suddenly became Minister Lawrence who wasn’t even there when the dossier was delivered to her government. That should have been a warning to Minister Lawrence, watch your back with these people who have perfected deceit and the habit of burning their own,” the MP said.

He said he is looking forward to findings from Minister Lawrence’s urgent meeting with the airport holding board this weekend, and to see how the media will handle the information in the dossier. “You have to counter lies with the truth, the Chairlady had the opportunity to truthfully inform the people of St. Maarten and Parliament. Instead, they took time to concoct their latest grand lie. So once again, I guess it is left up to me divulge the truth in the coming days,” the MP concluded.  
  

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MP Arrindell seeks clarity regarding visitors to the Island and COVID-19

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Despite several guidelines and protocols put in place to maintain the number of cases at a low rate and conducting economic controls in businesses and buses, the current rate of COVID-19 infections has spiraled and the current rise in the number of hospitalization has spiked throughout the community, mainly due to non-compliance or a blatant disregard to the protocols by businesses and citizens alike, that is very worrisome and has reached a level of concern, Member of Parliament (MP) Akeem Arrindell said on Thursday in a press statement.

“As a consequence, thereof, I have sought clarity on some areas of concern, in specific regarding visitors to our island – by way of air and sea – from the Ministers of VSA and TEATT.

“One of my interests of concern and that of the public are, as to whether or not vaccinated visitors arriving by air to our island are still allowed to enter without proof of testing negative for COVID-19, and if not the type of test that is required for fully vaccinated travelers, also taking returning local residents into consideration. I also brought forward the Travel Insurance Policy and its effectiveness.

“Where the arriving cruise passengers are concerned, the question was to whether or not all cruise passengers and crew are fully vaccinated or are ships cruising with passengers and crew that are not vaccinated.

“Weighing the visitors arriving on our shores via cruise vessel calls and those visitors arriving by air at PJIAE, my curiosity was aroused as to whether there is a difference in rules for both genres of travelers and if there are different requirements for Home Porting Ships vs ships calling to Port for the day.

“In view of the fact that some visitors can arrive by air or seaport without having the valid required documents, such as a negative test or have not submitted the necessary information on the EHAS, although much propaganda has been published worldwide by the government, many are asking the question, especially on social media, as to what happens when such a visitor arrives on the island. Are these folks returned to their country where their flight originated, or is there a fine system in place for on the spot payment and testing?

“There is also much talk about the manner in which positive tested visitors are quarantined in hotels. In such peculiar situations whereby visitors who test positive while on island and unable to return home, are there dedicated quarantine facilities for these persons and if not, if plans are in place to arrange such a facility at our ports of entry for immediate quarantine. As you can see, there are many questions at hand requesting clarity by the general public at large,” MP Akeem. E. Arrindell, independent member of the House concluded on Thursday in his media statement.

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Learn How to Take Care of Your Financial Health & Build Wealth

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - January is generally the month in which many people find themselves with “more month at the end of the money” than any other month. Many have overspent for the Christmas holidays and are left wondering where their next dollar will come from and sometimes find themselves in desperate situations.

Cognizant of this fact, Victorious Living Foundation (VLF), which officially celebrates 20 years this June of empowering, enlightening, reconciling and transforming lives, has resumed its monthly Health & Wellness Education Series which was launched in March 2021. Usually, VLF’s wellness series focuses on nutrition, physical wellness or mental health; however VLF’s visionary, Dr. Erna Mae Francis Cotton indicated that in resuming the series she felt it important to help position all of us to win in 2022, by helping us to focus on our financial health.

This complimentary Master class will be held on January 22nd from 7-8:45 p.m. via Zoom. Participants locally and around the world may register for this complimentary event at https://bit.ly/VLFFinancialHealth to learn from Dawne Williams, MBA, Founder and CEO - DEW Consultancy. Williams, M.B.A., a Financial Services and Service Excellence Professional, is an Independent Consultant in Banking, Financial Services, Management and Service Excellence.

She obtained her professional education from the United Kingdom Chartered Institute of Bankers, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania and University of Wales. Her career in the Financial Services Industry spans 44 years, 25 of which were spent practicing throughout the English-speaking Caribbean.

Dawne Williams is recognized for outstanding and valuable contribution in Economics and Finance in St. Kitts & Nevis; she is the former CEO of the St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla National Bank & CIBC First Caribbean Executive. Williams is the Past President of the Business and Professional Women’s Club of St Kitts and the current Regional Coordinator for the Business and Professional Women’s Clubs of North America and The Caribbean. A friend and an advisor to Victorious Living, she’ll help us to be able to define Financial Management; understand our role in managing our finances; provide tips to successfully manage our finances and create wealth.

Sabina Asadova, CEO of Global Health 2 Wealth Solutions, is a regular contributor and partner of Victorious Living Health & Wellness Education series. Sabina was elected as Head of Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) and President of “Shalom Club” Mashav in Azerbaijan. She will share how to be healthy, support those who need to improve their health while creating wealth through multiple streams of income.

Join Victorious Living’s Master class hosts, Roy Cotton, Jr. and Dr. Erna Mae Francis Cotton and guests on Saturday January 22nd. Register for this complimentary Master class at https://bit.ly/VLFFinancialHealth or call 1-721-524-8731.

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Gordon-Carty: Civil servant exodus due to victimization, hopelessness

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Leader of the United St. Maarten Party (USP) Pamela Gordon-Carty on Wednesday decried the number of civil servants that are leaving government service and placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the National Alliance/UP coalition government. She said the government has created an atmosphere of hopelessness and victimization which is directly contributing to the exodus of public servants.

“While I want to wish the entire population of country St. Maarten a prosperous and health filled new year beginnings, I would also want to express my dissatisfaction with what has been going on in plain sight right here. Lately there's a trend of putting down our own people publicly to the point of humiliating them, ruining their career whether it be political or not,” Gordon-Carty said, adding that public servants are being made a mockery to suit whatever narrative or hidden agendas.

“We are also aware of more planning to follow suit. Who will be the new ones? What's the selection procedure? Are our locals going to have a fair chance? Government is portraying to be for the people but their actions speak to the contrary. The constant selective dismissals, the resignations and victimization of our local people have to stop,” she said.

Gordon-Carty said even in those instances where the court was involved with terminating of civil servants, there could easily have been other individuals that could and maybe should have been held accountable because of improper behavior and undermining of senior civil servants.

“I do not know of any other country that treats its own people with such mockery. It is a disgrace. Individuals that have been in contact with the law and were also convicted are also quick to condemn others as if they never made a mistake in their life time. People we as a nation need to unite. I am not saying we need to condone wrong doings, but we can't be enjoy stepping on our own and let others that have done worse to walk away ‘scotch’ free,” she said.

She continued: “What is the message we are giving out to our younger generation. No one on this earth is perfect so let's stop the facade. Give the nation a chance to prove to the outer world that we stand together as a nation by our actions. This selective choice of making our own people into public spectacles is not acceptable. For me it doesn't matter what political color the individual represents.

“Stop undermining our own. Why are we constantly stepping over our own? To prove a point to who is my question? Who do we want to please? So what are we saying that educated young individuals can't come back home and occupy a decent post in his or her country? Are we saying that if this individual doesn't role with what a selective group wants, then we will slander him/her, beat the individual to a pulp, ridicule him publicly and stand on the side and be part of how they’re bringing down our own? St. Maarten remember together we are stronger divided it's not going to work out,” she concluded.

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