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2020 draft budget submitted to CFT on January 22

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The 2020 draft Budget has been submitted to the Board of Financial Supervision (CFT) on January 22, 2020, according to a press release from the cabinet of the Minister of Finance.

“According to article 11, section 1 of the Kingdom Act Financial Supervision Curacao and Sint Maarten, the CFT will render its advice in regards to the draft budget to the Council of Ministers within 14 days after January 22, 2020. 

“The Council of Ministers will address the advice on the draft budget rendered by the CFT and, once approved, submit the draft budget to the Council of Advice, who will give its advice the draft budget within 6 weeks. 

“However, Government may request the Council of Advice to handle the advice with urgency and provide their response within two weeks. 

“Upon receipt of the Council of Advice’s response, Government will address the advice in the called “Nader Rapport” (Further Report) indicating the parts of the advice taken and those not taken and explaining why and why not. 

“The draft Budget together with the Further Report are approved by the Council of Ministers and submitted to Parliament through the Governor. Parliament will in the end receive the draft budget, along with the advices from the CFT and the Council of Advice, for approval.”

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First meeting between Carnival Foundation and Police in preps for Carnival 2020

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) and members of Sint Maarten Police Force held their first preparation meeting for the upcoming carnival season.

During the meeting that was held at the Philipsburg police station, the participants took a look back at what went well in 2019 and what could be improved on for Carnival 2020.

The members of the SCDF indicated in principle what their plans are for Carnival 2020.

Members of the SCDF were quizzed by the members of the police force about any new activities or events that may have an impact on the operational part of the police during Carnival 51.

Both parties went over details for the upcoming Carnival season and to ensure that all are on the same page in terms of regulations and safety procedures. (KPSM)

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Saba Bank has the deepest and largest marine sinkholes in the world

SINT MAARTEN/BONAIRE - From 5 to 20 December 2019, the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) and Wageningen Marine Research organized an expedition to the Saba Bank, close to the Dutch island of Saba in the Caribbean region. Experts on board the research vessel Pelagia gathered data to acquire more knowledge about the sinkholes and the hundreds of recently discovered strange calcareous algae turrets.

Saba Bank has the deepest and largest marine sinkholes in the world

In 2018, during the NICO research expedition at the Luymes Bank and part of the Saba Bank, the current expedition leaders Fleur van Duyl (NIOZ) and Erik Meesters (Wageningen Marine Research) discovered more than 20 enormous holes ranging from 10 to 375 metres in depth and with diameters varying between 70 to 1100 metres. The floor of the Saba Bank consists of a limestone deposition one to two kilometres thick. When the bank lay above water during the ice ages and the sea level was 120 m lower than it is now, flowing freshwater dissolved the limestone and created large holes. This first led to the formation of caves, which subsequently collapsed. These sinkholes that developed on land were subsequently submerged after the last ice age (20,000 years ago), when the sea level rose again.

A well-known marine sinkhole is the “Great Blue Hole” off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean Sea. This hole is visible from space because it lies close to the surface and it looks like a sort of dark eye in a light blue sea. China claims the deepest described sinkhole, the “Dragon Hole” in the South China Sea, with a depth of 308 metres. However, the floor of the deepest sinkhole on the Saba Bank is certainly 375 metres deep and is therefore deeper and larger than the “Dragon Hole”. So far, no other area has been found with so many sinkholes - more than 20 - at such a short distance from each other.

Knowledge about the Saba Bank still far from complete

From a scientific perspective, little is known about the ecological functioning of the Saba Bank. And there are even many blanks on the map. “During the NICO expedition in 2018, we discovered a unique and spectacular biological community in one of the sinkholes on the Saba Bank at a depth of about 110 metres”, says expedition leader Fleur van Duyl from NIOZ. “On the seafloor we found hundreds of calciferous algae turrets with diameters of 40 to 60 cm. These pink-purple turrets consist of layers of crustose calcareous algae and reminded us of the Chinese terracotta army.”

According to Erik Meesters, expedition leader of Wageningen Marine Research, these calcareous algae probably grow very slowly at that depth because there is very little light. “They might be able to tell us more about the history of the Saba Bank and the conditions under which the sinkholes were formed.” What made this year’s expedition so special for Meesters is that they did not know what they would find; “Most of the sinkholes on the Saba Bank have not yet been visited by anybody and that makes it particularly exciting.”

First findings

The researchers extensively explored all 21 sinkholes on the Saba Bank. The aim was to find out more about the nature of the calcareous algae turrets and the environmental factors that influence their growth. How does the exchange of water between the sinkholes and the flowing water above work, and which biological communities and nutrients such as bacteria are present? The collected data is taken back to the Universities where it will be analyzed. This will provide insights into why these turrets occur at some sinkholes but not others.

The research vessel dropped a wide range of measurement equipment and cameras to a depth of many tens of metres. These were used to collect various data about the water column, and took samples of water and seafloor life, including an effort to bring several turrets to the surface. The researchers also placed anchors with measurement equipment in the sinkholes which allowed seven days of monitoring during the expedition. All collected data is now being analyzed and the researchers are eager to find out more about the secrets of the sinkholes.

Sinkhole seems to seep gas

The Saba Bank revealed a surprise. Via the Saba Conservation Foundation, the researchers got coordinates of a purported hotspring (found by fishermen) in one of the sinkholes. At ca 280m depth a plume was detected with the multibeam, maybe a methane seep? The CTD profiles showed an amazing steep gradient in among others oxygen in the sinkhole.

Saba Bank

The Saba Bank, several kilometres to the south of the island of Saba, covers more than 2400 km2 and is therefore the largest protected nature area in the Netherlands. The bank,lies completely underwater and is important from both a biological and economic perspective. The submarine mountain rises from the seafloor at a depth of 1000 metres to on average 30 to 40 metres below the sea surface. Large parts of the edges of the bank consist of extensive, healthy coral reefs. This region in the Caribbean Netherlands is also part of the shark and sea mammal nature reserve Yarari designated by the Dutch state. The importance of the biodiversity of the Caribbean Netherlands is internationally recognised by a designation of the Saba Bank as an Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Area (EBSA) under the Biodiversity Treaty.

saba Matthew Humphreys NIOZ

Researchers watching live footage from the bottom of the first Saba Bank sinkholes. Credit: Matthew Humphreys (NIOZ)- copyrights reserved

saba NIOZ 2

Images from the bottom at 100m depth with the CCA pillars, still standing. Credit: NIOZ - copyrights reserved

saba NIOZ

The edge of a sinkhole in the plateau at app. 85m (right). Credit: NIOZ - copyrights reserved

 

 

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Police announces Carnival 2020 Vehicle Inspection Schedule

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In an effort to inform the general public in a timely manner please see below for the Carnival 2020 Vehicle Inspection information of the Sint Maarten Police Force.

Please be advised that this is mandatory for all vehicles wishing to take part in Carnival 2020. Pay keen attention to the dates listed below as late applications will not be accepted.

Vehicle inspection dates: Saturdays, Feb.22, 29, Mar. 28, April 11.  Vehicle inspections will be done between 12.00pm and 5.00pm on the Ring Road across from Bluepoint.

Documents needed for vehicle inspections are as follows:

- A copy of the valid insurance document for the vehicle;

- Copy: valid inspection document;

- Copy: valid road tax document;

- Copy: valid drivers license for the driver for (Heavy Equipment CAtegory C+E - two drivers needed), Busses Category D, For all other vehicles Category B.

Vehicles with tinted front windows will not be inspected. Tint must be removed before the vehicle can be inspected.

(KPSM)

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Consideration to increase license fee has no bearing on country Minister Irion says

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - During the course of this week Minister of Finance, the honorable Ardwell Irion met with members of the supervisory board of the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten (CBCS) Dennis Richardson, and with the board of the CBCS, according to a press release from the cabinet of the minister of finance.

“During these meetings, an update was provided on the latest developments with the emphasis on the solvency of the Giro Bank and actions taken by the CBCS, and the proposal of the increase of the license fee for Curacao in connection herewith.

“It must be emphatically stated that St. Maarten is not considering to increase its license fees. This is a measure being considered for Curacao by the government of Curacao. To be clear, the 1% license fee currently charged on foreign exchange transactions by commercial banks to clients, is collected by St. Maarten and by Curacao and is deposited directly into the treasury of the respective countries.

“What is paid on St. Maarten is received by the government of St. Maarten and the same goes for Curacao.

“Discussions were held on the performance of the economies of both countries and the concerns that are foreseen. While St. Maarten’s economy grew in 2019 by 5.5% and is expected to grow in 2020 by 3%, the growth is primarily the result of insurance payouts and personal funds that have been used for rebuilding.

“St. Maarten is running the risk of losing market-share as key areas have not recovered fast enough, thus allowing competitors to capture market-share. This could had been mitigated if more projects had been executed, be it through commercial bank funding or the Trust Fund.

“Minister of Finance of St. Maarten has requested the CBCS to finance a conference on Blockchain and digital currency as well as carryout awareness campaigns for the community of St. Maarten on financial education, which includes banking in general.”

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Council of Ministers has Introductory Meeting with Integrity Chamber

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Council of Ministers met with the newly-established Integrity Chamber of Sint Maarten for an introductory meeting on Thursday, January 16. Present were the three current members Mrs. Rian Vogels, President, Mr. Rafael Boasman, member, and Mr. Hans Lodder, member as well as the Director of the Secretariat of the Integrity Chamber, Ms. Charna Pompier.

While Mr. Boasman and Mr. Lodder have been appointed by Sint Maarten since the beginning of 2019, Mrs. Vogels, a former senior judge with years of judicial background has been appointed as its first President in December of 2019 via Kingdom decree upon binding recommendation of the two Sint Maarten members and has recently assumed office as of January 2020.

Discussed in the meeting were, among others, the structure of the Integrity Chamber along with its core tasks, which include advising on integrity matters, both solicited and unsolicited, conducting investigations into suspected integrity violations and to continuously create awareness about integrity in the community.

No criminal or personal investigations are conducted by this independent body; however, investigations regarding integrity concerns can be requested by Parliament, Government and the general public.

Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs stated, “The Integrity Chamber has the cooperation of the Council of Ministers, along with further assistance, for the finalization of the Integrity Chamber, the training and (re)assignment of the so-called ‘vertrouwenspersonen’ or ‘confidant’ for each ministry and public relations assistance where necessary.”

The implementation of the Integrity Chamber of St. Maarten was the result of an agreement between St. Maarten and the Netherlands to establish an independent administrative body which, independently of the St. Maarten government or its entities, advises or presents proposals regarding policy to enhance integrity and ultimately improve confidence in government and in the country overall.

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Pilot Renovation Social Housing Statia completed

SINT EUSTATIUS - Friday, January 17th, marked the completion of the renovation pilot of the social housing on St. Eustatius. Since October 2019 a lot of effort has been put into renovating one of the social houses in Golden Rock as a trial project.

The Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK), Woonlinie and the Public Entity of St. Eustatius have been working closely together to complete this project successfully after a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in June 2019.

The pilot should give insight into how to move forward with the rest of the social houses that have to be renovated. The aim of this project is to improve the living conditions of the tenants of these homes managed by Statia Housing Foundation (SHF).

Woonlinie has therefore renovated the pilot project house with two local contractors. The focus has been put on replacing all electrical, upgrading the kitchen, bathroom, all floors, doors and windows and the dwelling has been painted.

A complete new gate and fencing were also installed. Following a successful evaluation, where all the parties are satisfied, this venture will continue and all of the remaining 94 houses of SHF will be renovated.

Woonlinie and SHF are inviting all tenants and the general public of St. Eustatius to see what this renovation might entail for the remaining properties. An open house will be held from Wednesday January 22nd until Wednesday January 29ᵗʰ between 10:00 am and 12:00 noon and between 16:00 pm and 18:00 pm on weekdays and between 10:00 am and 12:00 noon on weekends. (Statia GIS)

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MP Duncan Requests Information on Government’s Plans for Developing Local MSMEs

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Member of Parliament (MP) Solange Ludmila Duncan recently submitted a number of questions to the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT), respectively, regarding their ministries’ plans for the development of locally-owned micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

With a significant growth in small businesses and entrepreneurship on St. Maarten over the last 2 years, the MP is curious to know Government’s plan to stimulate local industries. She also looks forward to a collaboration between the Ministry of Finance and TEATT in the coming months.

“As a former senior policy advisor for Government,  I am well aware of the need for more cohesion and joint collaboration on fiscal and economic policy and I believe these two ministries in particular need to work more closely together to effectively address economic issues on St. Maarten,” stated the MP.

MP Duncan suggests the establishment of a standing inter-ministerial committee between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of TEATT tasked with a number of objectives including policy alignment to ensure coherence on joint concerns pertaining to MSMEs and entrepreneurs such as taxes and business license fees.

MP Duncan believes that it is extremely important to create such an environment that local entrepreneurs and business owners receive relief when needed and more importantly the tools and support necessary to allow them to thrive and succeed on St. Maarten. The MP also wants Government to pay keen attention to the needs of women business owners in particular. “St. Maarten’s women have always been progressive; as leaders in the community and in business but we need to ensure that they are empowered.”  

The MP sees a need for improved cooperation and partnership between Government and the private sector to stimulate local investment and business development through various types of projects. “Our banks and other commercial organizations need to play a role as well in the development of MSMEs and entrepreneurship on St. Maarten. It’s a win-win for the economy and our people when all sectors get involved behind a common purpose; economic development.”

MP Duncan is working on a small business development law that aims to encourage, strengthen and protect local MSME’s as an approach to economic diversification and empowerment and looks forward to working with Government and the private sector on initiatives that will accomplish such.

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Director-General Ministry I&W visits Saba, impressed by progress

SABA - Director-General Mobility of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W) Kees van der Burg visited Saba from Wednesday, January 15 to Friday, January 17, together with a delegation of his ministry and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations (BZK).

The visit of Van der Burg and his delegation started at the Juancho Yrausquin Airport where Commissioner Bruce Zagers and Airport Manager Maegan Hassell provided an explanation of the completed airport renovation project, which was largely financed through the Ministry of I&W. They toured the building and inspected the resurfaced runway.

The delegation made a next stop at the cistern project and the water pipeline system in the Windwardside as a part of which a filling station will be opened in the near future. The delegation stopped to look at the new drinking water bottling plant at St. John’s which is under construction and should be ready before this summer. Commissioner Zagers gave an explanation at the landfill location about the recycling facility and the processing of recyclables. The air-burner was viewed. Many infrastructure-related projects, including water and waste management, on Saba are funded through the Ministry of I&W.

Harbor project

The Ministry is also involved in the funding of the multi-million project to construct a new Saba harbor. Initially, the plans focused on the location of the existing harbor at Fort Bay. The plans have now shifted to the Black Rocks area where the conditions are more favorable to construct a new harbor.

On Thursday morning, Harbor Project manager Ton van der Plas gave a presentation to Van der Burg and his delegation, with Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, Commissioner Zagers and Island Secretary Tim Muller in attendance. A survey and feasibility study of the alternative location were completed and approved in the later part of 2019. A soil investigation and design work need to be done before the project can go to tendering.

After the meeting with the Executive Council, the delegation, accompanied by Commissioner Zagers and Harbor Master Travis Johnson visited both the Fort Bay harbor and the location of the proposed new harbor in the Black Rocks area. In the afternoon, the delegation met with the Island Council. The delegation climbed Mt. Scenery later that afternoon. They left for St. Eustatius on Friday morning.

First visit

This was the first visit of Van der Burg, who holds the Caribbean Netherlands portfolio at the Ministry of I&W, to Saba since his appointment as Director-General of the I&W Ministry on September 1, 2019. He said he found it important to visit Saba soon after his appointment.

“It is important to speak with the people here and to see things with my own eyes. It also makes sense considering that in the coming period some important decisions will be taken by the Dutch Government pertaining to the Caribbean Netherlands,” Van der Burg said, who noted that every island is different and that this required an individual approach.

Enormous progress

Van der Burg said that he was struck by “enormous progress” that has been made on Saba by the people. “In the open talks that I had with the Executive Council and the Island Council, several concerns were expressed, which I will take back to the Netherlands.”

He said that he would be returning periodically to Saba. About his climb to the top of Mt. Scenery and the island in general, he said: “It is a jewel in the Dutch Kingdom. An island of true beauty and deserving of its name, the Unspoiled Queen.”

Other persons in the delegation were Deputy Director Water of the Ministry of I&W Marjan van Giezen, Caribbean Netherlands Coordinator Anneke Tjalma of I&W Ministry and Director Kingdom Relations of the BZK Ministry Dirk-Jan Bonnet.

Delegation at Blacks Rocks 01The delegation looked at the proposed location of the new harbor in the Black Rocks area on Thursday.

DG IenW with Zagers Johnson and Bonnet at Fort BayDirector-General of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management Kees van der Burg (second from left) with Commissioner Bruce Zagers (right), Harbor Master Travis Johnson (second from right) and Director Kingdom Relations of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Dirk-Jan Bonnet at the Fort Bay harbor on Thursday.

 

 

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Jetair to start scheduled service on the St. Maarten-Curacao route February 2

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - Jetair has received its permit from the Sint Maarten authorities to start two weekly flights to and from Curaçao, the airline said on Thursday in a press statement.

“The 1st commercial flight will take place on February 2nd. The flights are operated with a Fokker 70 aircraft with a capacity of 80 seats. From Curacao the flight departs on Wednesday and on Sunday at 16:50 local time and arrives in Sint Maarten at 18:30 and leaves Sint Maarten again at 19:15 and arrives in Curacao at 20:55.

“Ticket price is ANG 718,-/ USD 399,- for a roundtrip. This amount is including all taxes, ANG 133,- / USD 74,- airport taxes and surcharges levied on both Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Passengers are entitled to bring a hand luggage of max. 08 KGs. and a checked-in suitcase of max. 23 KGs.

“Passengers can book a ticket online via the website www.jetaircaribbean.com, or via our ticket office in Curaçao located on the Schout Bij Nacht Doormanweg 79 from Monday to Friday between 08:00 to 17:30, or in Sint Maarten at Juliana Airport Handlers located at the airport daily between 09:00-16:00. We hope to see you on board one of our flights. Let us brighten your day,” the media statement concludes.

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