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Economy expands in 3rd Q 2019. Economic performance diverges in monetary union

SINT MAARTEN/CURACAO - Economic performance continued to diverge in the monetary union between Curaçao and Sint Maarten during the third quarter of 2019, according to estimates of the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten (CBCS).

“Real GDP in Curaçao fell by 2.1% in the third quarter of 2019 compared to a contraction of 1.7% in the third quarter of 2018. By contrast, Sint Maarten’s economic growth rebounded to 5.6% following a deep contraction of 4.7% in 2018’s third quarter,” stated interim CBCS president Dr. José Jardim in the CBCS’s third Quarterly Bulletin of 2019.

Meanwhile, consumer price inflation in Curaçao slowed from 3.1% in the third quarter of 2018 to 2.8% in the third quarter of 2019, while in Sint Maarten average consumer prices remained practically unchanged in the July-September period of 2019 with an inflation rate of 0.1%, Dr. Jardim added.

“A review by sector shows that the manufacturing, construction, wholesale and retail trade, and transport, storage, and communication sectors contributed primarily to 2019’s third-quarter economic contraction in Curaçao. Real output dropped in the manufacturing sector due mainly to lower production activities at the Isla refinery stemming primarily from a lack of crude oil,” Dr. Jardim explained.

“The construction sector posted negative results due to the completion of several major projects in the tourism sector and a drop in maintenance work at the Isla refinery. Meanwhile, real value added shrank in the wholesale and retail trade sector on the back of the drop in domestic demand, moderated by an increase in tourism spending and more re-exports by the free-zone companies,” he continued.

“The poor performance of the transport, storage, and communication sector was caused by a decline in both airport-related and harbor activities. Real value added also contracted in the utilities sector as reflected by a decrease in water production moderated by an increase in electricity production.

“By contrast, activities in the restaurants and hotels and financial intermediation sectors developed positively in the third quarter of 2019. Real value added expanded in the restaurants and hotels sector, although at a slower pace than in 2018, reflecting weakened growth in stay-over tourism combined with a decline in cruise tourism. The financial intermediation sector performed well, reflected by an increase in net interest income and fees and other income of the local domestic banks,” Dr. Jardim explained regarding Curaçao’s economic performance in the third quarter of 2019.

As for Sint Maarten’s economic performance in the third quarter of 2019, Dr. Jardim stated “that real output growth in the manufacturing sector was sustained by increased yacht repair and services activities. Growth in the restaurants and hotels sector was driven by a sharp increase in stay-over tourism, moderated by a decline in cruise tourism.

The growth in stay-over tourism was supported by increased hotel room inventory and the partial restoration of the Princess Juliana International Airport. The disappointing performance of cruise tourism was in line with the decline in the number of cruise ships that visited Philipsburg.

In the wholesale and retail trade sector, real value added went up supported by the increase in domestic demand and more tourism spending. Meanwhile, the gain in the real estate, renting, and business activities sector, particularly the timeshare industry, was in line with the sharp increase in stay-over tourism, notably from North America.” He added that the utilities and financial intermediation sectors also contributed positively to real GDP growth during the third quarter of 2019.

“The expansion in the utilities sector was driven by a sharp increase in the production of both water and electricity. Meanwhile, real value-added growth in the financial intermediation sector was consistent with the increase in net interest income and fees and other income of the local commercial banks,” Dr. Jardim pointed out.

He explained further that growth in the construction sector remained flat as the increase in new construction projects was offset by the winding down of repair and reconstruction activities following the hurricanes in 2017.

“The transport, storage, and communication sector, however, recorded a contraction due to a decline in harbor activities as reflected by a drop in the number of ships piloted into the harbor, notably freighters and cruise ships, and a decline in container movements. By contrast, airport-related activities rose as reflected by an increase in passenger traffic in line with the rise in stay-over arrivals,” Dr. Jardim concluded.

The complete text of the Report of the President and the Bank’s third Quarterly Bulletin of 2019 can be viewed on the Bank’s: https://www.centralbank.cw/publications/annual-reports-quarterlybulletins/2019

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Police cautions community to be alert due to an increase in armed robberies of scooters and Robberies committed using a scooter

SINT MAARTEN (ST. PETERS) - The Special Unit Robbery is investigating an armed robbery with a firearm that took place on Grapefruit road in St. Peters, police said on Friday in a statement.

On the scene, the police patrol learned that five men all dressed in dark clothing, one of the men armed with a handgun, approached a scooter rider who was parked on the side of road.

Under the threat of the weapon they forced the rider to hand over his scooter.

After robbing the young victim of his scooter, the suspects fled all in different directions.

The police force is asking the community of Sint Maarten to be vigilant, since there is a slight increase in armed robberies of scooters owners and robberies being done with scooters over the last few weeks, police said on Friday.

We are urging the community to come forward with information concerning these crimes. Only together we can stop these types of combat crimes, the police stated in their Friday police report.

The detectives investigating this armed robbery case is asking anyone who has information about this robbery to contact the Sint Maarten Police Force, at +1 721- 542 22 22 ext. 204 or 205 or the anonymous tip line on 9300 (free of charge).

You can also visit the website at www.policesxm.sx to report crime anonymously via the tip contact form, or you can leave a Private Message via their Facebook page (Police Force of Sint Maarten - Korps Politie Sint Maarten) if you know or suspect something. (KPSM)

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SHTA launches business survey to assess economic impact Covid19

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In order to assess the economic damage for country St Maarten in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic, the Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) over the past 24 hours launched a business survey.

The assessment is meant to make as accurate as possible an estimate of economic damage done by the pandemic. Contributions are welcomed from both member and non-member companies, as the association sees any contribution as help to our collective economic wellbeing and national interest.

In conjunction with the other business associations, the SHTA has directly started working on assessing what the economic fallout could be over both a 3- and 6-month timeframe.  It welcomes additional associations like those of tour and taxi operators, (para)medical associations and others to join and fill out this enquiry. 

The survey (website address: shta.com/survey-covid19) is accessible for any business that has not yet contributed to the research. Submissions are anonymous and will be only used in amalgamated settings per (broad) sector.  

Together, SHTA and its fellow associations represent 70% of the employed in the private sector. The associations stress the more accurate the analysis will be, the better the country will be able to prepare befitting solutions.

The SHTA and its partner associations call on members and non-members to share the link with all their business contacts.  The research will be updated daily, and results will be shared by the shta.com/survey-covid19 web page as well as Facebook https://www.facebook.com/262644475130/posts/10163825683675131/?d=n.

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Prime Minister Jacobs receives COVID-19 update from Prefet Feucher

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – The Prime Minister Hon. Silveria Jacobs chair of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on Monday, March 23, met with Prefet of Saint-Barthelemy and Saint-Martin Sylvie Feucher, as part of their weekly COVID-19 consultations.

Jacobs was informed about the latest COVID-19 preparedness and response actions taking place on French Saint-Martin, and the Prefet also received an update about Sint Maarten’s preparedness, response and mitigation measures. 

“The cooperation of working together to synchronize our islands (Sint Maarten/Saint-Martin) fight against the coronavirus disease COVID-19, has been an on-going effort since it was declared by the World Health Organization as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

“This cooperation continues on a daily basis as part of our joint preparedness, response and mitigation measures where various entities exchange information of on-going developments, and this is essential in preventing community transmission on the island.

“As Prime Minister, I would like to assure the general public that the Governments of both sides of the island have taken measures to protect public health and safety, and will continue to work together to get through this global crisis,” Prime Minister Hon. Silveria Jacobs said on Wednesday.

The Prefet said that the French side is still in a position with local resources to deal with COVID-19, and the tracing of persons is being carried out when necessary. Both the Prefet and the Prime Minister agreed to maintain open communication where it concerns the confirmation of new COVID-19 positive cases.

Both Governments will work towards establishing a protocol of cooperation that would lead to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).  The Sint Maarten Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunications would also be included when formulating the MOU.

Representatives of the Police Forces from Sint Maarten and Saint-Martin will be meeting to discuss current COVID-19 procedures that have been implemented.

The Republic of France is at a Level 3 (the highest level), but Saint Martin is at Level 2.  The current measures will continue to be evaluated and adjusted as needed. 

Restrictions on French Saint-Martin will continue for a two-week period. Regarding air travel, restricted charter flights are allowed as well as cargo.

Air Antilles airline is providing limited essential air travel service between Saint-Martin (Grand Case), St. Barths and Guadeloupe for the following reasons: urgent health related matters (dialysis, urgent surgeries, chemotherapy treatment); an essential family member can accompany the patient; and professional travel for crisis management officials. 

A similar arrangement is in place with our national airline Winair with respect to limited services between Sint Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius and Curacao (emergency medical evacuations, health professionals and technical assistants).

Stay Safe, Stay at Home, Wash Hands Frequently for 20 seconds; Don’t Touch Your Face; maintain Social Distancing of up to six feet; Avoid Groups of People; Don’t Share Items between Each Other such as cell phones etc.; Practice Respiratory Hygiene if you Cough (in your elbow), Sneeze in a tissue and throw it in the bin; & Stay Healthy!

Listen to the Government Radio station – 107.9FM - for official information, and news updates or visit the Government website: www.sintmaartengov.org/coronavirus or and Facebook Page: Facebook.com/SXMGOV  

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SZV LAUNCHES DEDICATED WEBPAGE ON WWW.SZV.SX FOR ADJUSTED SZV PROCEDURES

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the operations of Social & Health Insurances SZV has made an advanced transition to online services as a response to contribute to the public health and safety of residents. SZV has been able to implement temporary measures to remove the need of customers having to visit SZV offices and make services flexible to maintain access to health care and other benefits.

To support the exchange of transparent information to customers and the public, today, SZV has launched a dedicated COVID-19 web page on www.szv.sx providing an overview of all the adjusted procedures of SZV as per March 17. The COVID-19 web page can be found on the main menu of www.szv.sx or by clicking here: https://www.szv.sx/info/covid-19/.

“These are unprecedented times. We are placing the health and safety of our customers and staff as high priority, while adjusting to new effective ways of working to secure access to health insurance for our customers in the midst of this global crisis.

For now, you may not be able to physically visit us, but we are ‘open online’ and working for you. I encourage everyone to visit the web page for updated SZV procedures, send us a message on Facebook or call us during opening hours. Stay safe, continue to practice preventative measures and follow government guidelines.” – Director of SZV, Glen A. Carty.

On the SZV COVID-19 web page (https://www.szv.sx/info/covid-19/), customers can contact SZV, find information on adjusted procedures such as doctor control, medical insurance status, first time applications for medical insurance, prescription authorizations, declarations and payments of premiums by employers, AOV pension and more. The web page will be updated on a regular basis, continue to check for the latest updates.

While SZV’s offices may be closed for visitors and customers, operations continue in the background offering online, drop-off box and phone services Monday – Friday 7:30am – 2:00pm daily. When original documents are required for a service, customers can submit these in the designated Drop-Off boxes at the SZV offices. These are checked on a daily basis and confirmations are e-mailed or called in by SZV staff to the customers.

SZV would like to thank its dedicated staff and stakeholders such as health care service providers, banks and government departments, which have made it possible to fast track the implementation of many online procedures. SZV would also like to thank its customers for making good use of the online and phone services. Updates on adjusted procedures will continue to be communicated via the website of SZV www.szv.sx, SZV Facebook page and press release to local media.

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The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance Responds to Impacts of Covid19 on Dutch Caribbean Protected Areas. To Feature Dutch Caribbean Animals and Wildlife During Lockdown Phase

SINT MAARTEN/BONAIRE - The Board and Secretariat of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) are taking measures to ensure the continuity of conservation and park management in the Dutch Caribbean amidst the international health crisis caused by the Novel Coronavirus Covid19 Pandemic.

“As the world is hunkering down to stop the spread of the pandemic, we are already anticipating a significant financial strain to non-governmental organizations that are tasked with protected area and conservation management on all six islands of the Dutch Caribbean. This will be an additional challenge for organizations who protect vital protected areas and species with very little resources,” commented DCNA Interim-director Tadzio Bervoets.

“Considering this we are already exploring ways in which we can ensure the continuity in terms of capacity support for the protected area management organizations on Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, St. Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten. As parks see a drop in visitors and as Governments tighten their belts amidst the current and forecasted economic slowdown we must ensure that our crucial natural resources, and their associated goods and services, are maintained and managed and adequate environmental protection is put in place,” continued Bervoets.

 Additionally, as millions of people remain at home while in quarantine, DCNA will be increasing its online presence, highlighting the unique species and natural areas which make the Dutch Caribbean the biodiversity hotspot in the Kingdom.

“Using our online presence, we will be highlighting the species and areas which makes the Dutch Caribbean one of the most biodiverse areas on earth. We will also be showcasing the work the Protected Area Organizations; FPNA on Aruba, STINAPA on Bonaire, CARMABI on Curacao, the Saba Conservation Foundation on Saba, STENAPA on St. Eustatius and the Nature Foundation on Sint Maarten are doing in order to conserve our critical natural resources.

“In these unusual times it is important that we recognize the important role our nature plays in ensuring national well-being and economic resiliency. We therefore ask the population to follow DCNA on Facebook and DCNANature on Instagram for updates and highlights of nature conservation in the Dutch Caribbean,” concluded Bervoets.

The Board and Staff of DCNA is urging everyone to maintain social distancing and self-quarantining protocols, follow the official instructions and recommendations and to practice sound hygiene protocols. If persons are allowed to venture out for a walk, they are urged to do so in nature responsibly, acknowledging that spending time in nature is beneficial for health and well-being.

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K1 Britannia Volunteers to Become Foster Youth Mentors

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - K1 Britannia Foundation in collaboration with The Foundation Judicial Institutes St. Maarten (SJIS) recently completed its Mentors Training which qualifies adults to become certified mentors to foster children and teenagers on the island. Over the years, K1 and SJIS have completed multiple mentors training and this was the first for 2020.

Seventeen K1 Britannia volunteers who signed up to assist or mentor foster children completed the course and were very keen and engaged in discussions on the well-being of these disadvantaged youth. “Foster children come from all type of vulnerable backgrounds, they could have been abandoned, neglected, or abused. Mentors play a valuable role in the actions that need to be taken to get the children to become productive citizens of society,” elaborated Cynthia Filemon, Acting Director of SJIS.

The 6 session training which was given by psychologist Aisheline Maduro dealt with the foster care system on St. Maarten, self-image & self-worth, social development, types of abuse, various forms of communication and life in foster care. The information and tools given during the training ranged from informative, shocking, sad, useful and thought provoking. A participant shared some feedback stating, “the training was very in depth, exploring all aspects of life, emotions, etc. which contribute to how we react and interact socially. It showed how past experiences can affect how you handle current situations in particular how it influences your thoughts, behaviors and perspective on certain topics.”

Malaika Richards, K1 Program Manager and participants had the opportunity to learn and observe the potential mentors throughout the training.  She saw participants actively wanting to change to be a better person for themselves but also to be the best mentor that they can be for their mentee.
She stated, “having gained vital information, applying it through role plays, interactive discussions, and self-assessment questionnaires, the volunteers are excited to be paired with a foster child or teenager and start their mentor/mentee journey.”

The sessions brought various persons from all walks of life together for a common goal of being a role model and touching one foster child or teenager’s life for the better. “We have children in our foster care system that need mentors. This group was an excellent group, very mature, excited about the program and about learning. All in all, I think this training went really great and I’m hoping for some wonderfulness coming out of it,” added Mentors Training Instructor, Aisheline Maduro.

“The Mentors Training was made possible through sponsorship by The Foundation Judicial Institutes St. Maarten, VNP – Dutch Representation Office in St. Maarten, Foresee Foundation (NPOWER), St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF), and the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset. We are grateful that they believed in the importance of the program and the need to get persons in the community trained to be able to mentor foster children and teenagers who need that one on one time, love and attention.” Stated Vice-President, Priya Thirumur.

“The next steps are screening and matching, and from there the beautiful journey begins where they actually open up to each other, where the life of that child and the mentor start to intertwine, change and grow on this journey together,” stated Yasmine Essed, Mentorship Program Manager. One of the participants shared their feelings towards the next steps saying “I’m feeling excited, excited to meet who I will be mentoring , excited to motivate, to be kind and to try my utmost best to make a difference.”

Based on demand, the K1 Britannia Foundation will host another Mentors training in 2020 for persons 21 years and older who are interested in assisting or mentoring foster youth. All are encouraged to sign up as a volunteer online at https://k1britanniafoundation.org/get-involved/volunteering to participate in making a difference in the lives of youth and other areas on the island. 

For more information about the K1 Britannia Foundation, visit www.k1britanniafoundation.org , www.facebook.com/K1SXM or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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New Business Measures as of Monday

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – The Prime Minister of Sint Maarten hereby announces that, after consultation with French counterparts, it was agreed to synchronize measures as much as possible in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

Therefore, the following measures have been implemented in relation to business closures, which will go into effect on Monday, March 23, 2020.

Businesses that are allowed to remain open to the public:

The attachment to the Ministerial Regulation entitled ‘Regeling opening en sluitingstijden dienstverlenende bedrijven ter bestrijding van het coronavirus’ has been adjusted to allow only the following types of businesses to be open to the public until further notice.

These businesses are:

o       Hotels and guest houses, including on-site amenities;

o       Yachting agents;

o       Emergency, Paramedic & Medical laboratory services;

o       Medical practitioners & Dental clinics (for emergencies services);

o       Pharmacies & Pharmaceutical suppliers.

o       Gas stations and Suppliers of fuel (ULG, Diesel etc.) & LPG Distributors (cooking gas);

o       Banks;

o       Insurance companies, limited to back office administration and online/ mobile services;

o       Hardware stores;

o       Shipping & Cargo companies;

o       Grocery stores;

o       Restaurants and food vendors (take-out and delivery services only);

o       Bakeries (take-out and delivery services only);

o       Essential Gov’t services, incl. telecommunication, judicial, utilities and postal services.

o       Notarial services

o       Funeral services

o       Media outlets

o       Cleaning services and garbage collection

o       Laundry services

o       Public transportation operators;

o       Construction of Social Projects may also continue

All other businesses must be closed to the public but may offer online/mobile ordering and delivery services to clients.

Business closing hours:

Contrary to what was announced earlier this weekend, stricter measures have now been enforced. Businesses that are allowed to open in connection with the aforementioned published Ministerial Regulation may only do so until 6.00 pm daily.

The Ministerial Regulation, which will be published on Monday provides the following clarity:

  1. All businesses must be closed on Sundays and holidays, with the exception of pharmacies, retailers of cooking gas, gas stations and hotels/ guesthouses, incl. on-site amenities catered to guests only.
  1. Businesses that are allowed to open, must be closed by 6.00 pm on all other days (Mon-Sat), with the exception of hotels/ guesthouses, which may maintain their regular operating hours.

The above-mentioned operating hours also applies to businesses with permits to open for extended hours or 24 hours.

The above measures are in reference to businesses opening to the public! Work that has to be performed beyond closing hours may continue. This includes but is not limited to night-time employees of news outlets, emergency service operators, SMMC personnel and Cargo workers.

Restocking of supplies after closing is also permissible as long as the business is not open to the public.

Beach Activities

Beaches will remain open and accessible to the public; however, no beach parties/ gatherings are allowed. Beach parties/ gatherings are considered gatherings of more than five (5) persons in one group. Furthermore, the renting of chairs, umbrellas, water sports equipment and the provision of other beach activities is prohibited until further notice.

For more information on this and other measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on Sint Maarten, please visit www.sintmaartengov.org.

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Costa Favolosa Cruise Vessel arrives for Fuel and Food Provisioning

PORT ST. MAARTEN – The Costa Favolosa cruise ship arrived on Saturday morning March 21 in port only for fuel bunkering and food provisioning (container). There are no cruise passengers onboard the vessel and the crew are restricted to the vessel.

The cruise ship is allowed to dock at Port St. Maarten by the Government of St. Maarten based on humanitarian grounds once the vessels maritime health declaration meets the public health screening requirements of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, Department of Collective Prevention Services protocols.

Once the vessel completes its bunkering and provisioning operations, it will depart St. Maarten.

Costa Cruises is one of several cruise companies that have suspended their global cruise itinerary operations due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Costa Cruises says its global operations have been halted until April 3.

The Costa Crociere Group is Italy’s biggest tour operator. Part of the Carnival Corporation & plc Group, with a fleet of 103 ships (over 11.5 million passengers in 2016), the Costa Crociere Group is parent company of the Costa Cruise Lines and AIDA Cruises brands.

With 27 ships in service for an overall capacity of around 76,000 guests, the Group is headquartered in Genoa and operates at global level, mainly on routes in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Baltic Sea, the Caribbean, North and Central America, South America, the Arab Emirates, the Indian Ocean, the Far East and Africa.

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TelEm Group giving new COVID-19 instructions to technicians in the field

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - TelEm Group is putting strict safety measures in place for Outside Plant (OSP) and Technical staff who are coming into contact with customers and members of the public each day to make new installations and effect repairs.

The company will be issuing a safety checklist that all company technicians and subcontractors working in the field are expected to follow each time they enter a home or business to carry out a telecommunication installation or repair.

According to TelEm Group CEO, Mr. Kendall Dupersoy, the safety of persons working in the field is “paramount” and has his personal attention. The safety of homeowners visited by the same technicians also has his attention.

“On Thursday I instructed the Management Team to put a Checklist together that all technicians will be expected to follow outlining all the steps they have to follow to protect themselves from becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus, and to assure customers in the homes they visit, that safety protocols are being followed to protect them also,” said Mr. Dupersoy.

The CEO says the new checklist will outline what the technicians are expected to wear and the sanitation procedures they are expected to follow, including washing of hands, use of disinfecting sprays and wipes and distancing themselves from persons in the homes.

“At this time, with more and more residents working from home, it is vital for the economy for us to provide the connections that are needed to ensure a work from home strategy is properly supported technically,” said Mr. Dupersoy.

He says this means having to send technicians and engineers to make the necessary connections and also requires their entry into homes and offices.

“Understandably some persons are nervous about letting anyone from the outside into their home for fear of infection, however, this is a perfect opportunity, while persons are at home to join them to our State-0f-the-Art Fiber Network, where we have additional capacity and reliability of service,” said the TelEm Group CEO.

Mr. Dupersoay said he will be asking homeowners and businesses to monitor the work of the installers/technicians and confirm that they have accomplished all that is listed on the Checklist so that managers can maintain strict quality control.

“Anyone who does not follow the strict guidelines to the letter will be reprimanded and/or removed from any further involvement in the project until further notice,” said Mr. Dupersoy.

The TelEm Group CEO also informs that technicians will be making visits to homes by appointment ONLY. Customers and homeowners are therefore requested to confirm the ID for visiting technicians and contractors at all times.

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