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Virtual Central Committee session of Parliament, Bi-weekly briefing with the Prime Minister and Chair of the EOC about an update and discussion on COVID 19

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - The House of Parliament will sit in a Virtual Central Committee session on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. The Committee meeting is scheduled for 14.00 hrs. The Minister of General Affairs and Chair of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will be in attendance. 

The agenda point is:

Biweekly briefing with the Prime Minister and Chair of the EOC: Update and discussion on COVID-19 (Corona Virus) 

Due to measures taken to mitigate the coronavirus (COVID-19), the House of Parliament is currently closed to the general public until further notice.  

The parliamentary session will be held virtually and will be carried out live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 115, via SXM GOV radio FM 107.9, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1 www.pearlfmradio.sx, via the internet www.sxmparliament.org, and Parliament’s Facebook page: Parliament of Sint Maarten

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Urgent Plenary Public session of Parliament regarding Government plans to move forward, Kingdom realities considered, with the financial, economic, and social future of St. Maarten

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - The House of Parliament will sit in an urgent Virtual Plenary Public Session today, May 19, 2020. The Public meeting is scheduled for 15.00 hrs. The Minister of General Affairs will be in attendance. 

The agenda point is:

Discussion concerning how Government plans to move forward, Kingdom realities considered, with the financial, economic and social future of St. Maarten 

Due to measures taken to mitigate the coronavirus (COVID-19), the House of Parliament is currently closed to the general public until further notice.  

The parliamentary session will be held virtually and will be carried out live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 115, via SXM GOV radio FM 107.9, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1 www.pearlfmradio.sx, via the internet www.sxmparliament.org, and Parliament’s Facebook page: Parliament of Sint Maarten

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Poor marks for poor Mark

SAINT KITTS & NEVIS (COMMENTARY – By Joel B. Liburd) - Cynthia Adolores "Vicky" Williams must surely be turning in her grave if she could only see the turmoil she inadvertently unleashed on the people of St Kitts and Nevis. Vicky departed this life on February 28, 2016, after living a simple life in poverty, but making every sacrifice for her four children, leaving behind her daughters Helen, Soroya, and Michelle and son Mark Brantley.

The 73-year-old matriarch possessed "uncommon beauty and grace", "was utterly selfless" and was "slow to anger and often kept her own counsel", according to her children. She cared for her family at their modest home on Hanley's Road, Gingerland, Nevis, in a small wooden structure with a galvanized bath, kitchen, and a toilet erected outdoors. She tried her best to teach her family the morals and values that formed the fabric of our society so many years ago.

Unfortunately, the young Mark Brantley decided to throw it all away and not only became both a lawyer and a politician, but went further to discard and desecrate his mother's God-fearing leanings and lessons. Let's look at some highlights of Mark's transformation.

In 2010, Brantley told Sheena Davis of the St Kitts and Nevis Observer that: "I had a passion for words and for the cut and thrust of debate. I also had a keen sense of right and wrong, and wanted to work hard to help people from a similar background of poverty like myself."

In that same interview, he further noted: "I am proud to hold myself out as an example to all of our youth on the virtues of hard work, honesty, fiscal discipline, and wise choices. What I do have, I believe, is now to be used for the advancement of others..."

When Vance Armory named Brantley as his Tourism Minister, the young lawyer had ideas by the bushel, and his golden tongue caressed the ears of service providers in the industry. But that's all he did, as this first taste of power lay to waste the moral and values his mother taught him. The coral reefs around Nevis started dying. Quarry operations were not being sufficiently regulated. And source water pollutants escaped any type of compliance standards, least of all government.

As far back as 2007, Brantley told Claudia Liburd of SKNVibes.com that he was concerned about price control on his island. He blamed everyone else at the time for the skyrocketing cost of living. Today, Nevisians still pay exorbitant markups for basic staples such as rice, flour, sugar and milk. Some tags in Nevis groceries are two and three times the same item in Basseterre. He went on to advise authorities to provide an opportunistic environment to prevent the creation of "educated beggars"... a scenario that has manifested in our land only in the past five years – under Brantley's Team Unity followership.

How many of our young people today are without jobs? And those who work in underpaid jobs can barely afford to keep Poor Man Hunger from whispering in their ear. But Vicky's son thought it would be best to tax law-abiding workers and give that money to drug dealers, rapists, bandits and murderers.

Brantley's complaint of the Labour Government that "we forget the role of civil society we forget the role of the Church and the Chamber and the Bar Association and all these various associations that make up our country... ...we forget the role of the media", has now become the sentiment of Labour in Opposition. How quickly doth the rich switch!

As Leader of the Opposition in 2012, in trying to push the Integrity in Public Life and Freedom of Information Bills, Brantley bemoaned: "Who can in this day and age, say that they are against integrity in public life?" Back then, Brantley had very public issues with the Social Security Board. He bellowed in the National Assembly and wrote to every media outlet demanding the tabling of the Integrity in Public Life legislation. However, after five years in office and having the ear of the Prime Minister, the boisterous Brantley went darker than the Liamuiga crater at midnight. Lack of integrity, maybe?

On May 13, 2013, Brantley, as Nevis Minister of Health, told nurses at Alexandria Hospital that there was a critical shortage of nurses in the Federation, and that there was even less motivation for young people to enter the field. "I feel that we as a Government need to do more to demonstrate our appreciation and to show to our youngsters that it is a viable profession, that they can be nurses and still be able to own a home, own a car, do the things people want to be able to do and sustain their families," he said at the time. "Whatever service that I can provide; whatever partnership I can provide with the nurses, please, my door is open."

Today, that door remains firmly shut and our healthcare is in shambles. The Hippocratic Oath has been spurned, and the limited healthcare professionals available have been banned from treating their relatives. And, while Team Unity might have done a good job in copying the major CARICOM players in treating with the COVID-19 pandemic, both Eugene Hamilton and Wendy Phipps have been found sorely wanting in exercising the power of a healthcare system. They both are abject failures, and poor leadership and management are to blame.

On the topic of power, Brantley has also stamped his dubious brand on the very troubled experiment with geothermal power.

Writing in Time magazine on February 6, 2012, Joe Jackson investigated allegations of cronyism and mismanagement in plans to build a geothermal power plant. Nevis, which consumes a maximum of 10 megawatts (MW) of energy annually, spends $12 million a year on diesel for its power station. Meanwhile, it emits 44,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in the process, according to the website of Renova Capital.

St. Kitts, which lies two miles northwest of Nevis, uses 46 MW at most each year, at more than quadruple that cost. Drilling at three sites on Nevis has indicated that the geothermal reservoir is capable of producing up to 500 MW of constant base-load power year-round. That led St. Kitts and Nevis to envision one day exporting all that surplus energy to neighbouring islands via high-voltage submarine cables.

In Opposition, Brantley had all the answers at the time: don't give the contract to West Indies Power (WIP); he voiced his preference for a new 10 MW facility and having more informed discussions with the IMF. At the time, Brantley went on the record and said: "The issues are myriad, but we as the official opposition in the country support the idea of geothermal development but demand a more sensible approach with a serious and capable developer." So what happened after Brantley was elevated to government? Nothing. He dropped the issue like a hot piece of yam.

Mark Brantley knew it all at one time, and instead of trying to capitalize on clean, cheap energy for our nation and the OECS, he decides he wants to be the most popular government guy on social media.

Brantley regularly takes to Instagram to show off his designer socks and other sartorial accoutrements, as well as post selfies with rockers like Robert Plant and Roger Daltrey. In fact, Brantley is known to head down to the Double Deuce bar at Plymouth Beach just to get pics with the celebrity crowd. But it was the photo with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family that gave rise to reports that Trudeau's visit to St Kitts was not just a family vacation, but a scouting expedition for information on the island's dark financial underworld.

In 2016, Oliver Bullough wrote in The Guardian an investigative piece naming Nevis as the most secretive offshore haven in the world... a paradise for global money launders. He asserts that this island of less than 15,000 people was more financially corrupt than the revelations coming out of SwissLeaks, the HSBC Files, the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers. He describes Nevis as being "implicated in some of the most sordid financial scams of modern times, from Britain's biggest-ever tax fraud to the fleecing of 620,000 vulnerable Americans in a $220m payday loan scam... ...a bright light needs to be shone on this cockroach...".

Bullough noted: "For instance, who is behind Shi Li Gao Trustees Ltd, the Nevis-incorporated company that owns 13 Brunswick Gardens, a handsome terrace a short walk from Kensington Palace? Some of them are intriguing: for what reason would a Catholic primary school in Liverpool be held via this little Caribbean volcano? And some are decidedly weird: who on earth decided to structure their ownership of a room in a hotel on Llandudno's North Parade through Caribbean Establishment LLC?"

When contacted for comment, Brantley is quoted as saying: "We feel very strongly that people are entitled to some semblance of financial privacy... why shouldn't you be entitled to a secret?"

Secrets seem to be the commodity of choice for Brantley these days, and he seems to be keeping a lot of them for his huffing and puffing leader. For instance, the true source and agenda for PAP monies. Then there are other trivialities like who are the Barbadians pulling Harris' strings. What about the agenda that puts Harris' hate of Douglas higher than the welfare of Federation citizens. That's something Mark's mother would definitely frown upon. It's probably why Brantley wants to hold on to his dirty banking industry, so that Nevis has an income when he decides to cut his losses and run from Harris.

Former Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas tried to restrict Nevis' sordid financial sector, but as the Labour government attempted to reign in crooked lawyers in 1998, Nevis decided to go to a secession referendum, in which 62% of the population opted to walk away from the Federation. That figure fell just short of the two-thirds majority required to leave the partnership, but it was enough to convince Douglas to back off. Brantley has since used that support to further protect and layer the money laundering operations on his island.

Nevis. Gem of the Caribbean. Playground of Mark Brantley, and according to the US State Department, "a desirable location for criminals to conceal proceeds".

Vicky, I'm sorry, but your son, your only son, did not turn out to be the man you envisioned. He let you down and he has let the good folks of Nevis down.

Joel B. Liburd
Communications Consultant, Basseterre/Quebec

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Experts warn of ‘second wave’ of corona without stricter contact tracing

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Experts have called on the government to impose stricter rules on people who test positive for coronavirus when the lockdown rules are relaxed to prevent a second wave of infections.

The public health agency RIVM is aiming to test everybody with symptoms from June 1, the date when secondary schools are due to resume and public spaces such as cinemas and restaurants can take a new maximum of 30 people.

Anyone who tests positive will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days and keep their family doctor updated about their symptoms, but neither measure will be enforced. Epidemiologist Arnold Bosman told Nieuwsuur the lack of obligation was a potential weakness in the system.

‘I don’t have any confidence that this will work well,’ he said. ‘Unless you stick to the severe measures of the lockdown, but that’s exactly what we are not doing. ‘Before March 12, suspected cases had to be reported to the regional health service [GGD].

But that duty to report is no longer in force. Now doctors have to take it upon themselves to confirm an infection.’ Bosman also said the arrangements to follow up on people who have been in contact with Covid-19 patients were inadequate.

‘It’s not a collective measure like the intelligent lockdown: it’s a question now of investigating individuals,’ he said. ‘You can’t reach people in the neighbourhood of an infected person with a letter.

It’s not enough, and you can’t rely on it. What works is phoning them.’ Former doctor and chief public health inspector Wim Schellekens said he feared a second wave of infections if the rules were not tightened.

‘It will be worse than the first because we have a backlog of delayed healthcare,’ he said. ‘I’m not sure doctors and nurses can cope with it. They’re already on their last legs.’

Margreet de Graaf-Siegers, director of GGD Fryslân, who is co-ordinating source and contact research for the association of public health and safety, said a mandatory quarantine was not necessary.

‘We are relying on people’s sense of their own responsibility,’ she said. ‘Those who have been in contact with a person who tests positive will get a letter. That is what the protocol says, and we are keeping to that.’

(DutchNews)

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Wheel and come again!

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY – By Michael Ferrier) - Despite my personal position regarding the current monetary union with Curaçao (I favor dissolving it and officially “dollarizing” the St. Maarten economy; in other words..after 10 years stop wasting more time and energy trying to feed a dead horse), I must commend the management of the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten (CBCS).

In a clearly worded, professional and instructive five-page letter, they responded to the April 21, 2020 letter from the President of Parliament (PoP) of St. Maarten. In it, the CBCS addressed the six urgent action points listed in the PoP’s letter.

The bank’s management clarified inaccuracies and provided proper context to suggestions/demands made by the parliamentarian. I don’t have any way of knowing if the CBCS expected their letter to become publicly available, but their well-crafted document is written in a way that it can be understood by the man or woman on the street (including me).

The content was carefully explained, the language direct and the tone professional. Monetary economics and central bank policy are complex topics for which I often turn to friends and associates who are smarter and certainly better qualified than me, for explanations and/or clarifications. This particular response/letter, however, provides facts and figures that leave no doubt that the CBCS wants their message to be broadly understood.

Without using technical or complicated jargon, the CBCS management explain what they can and cannot do. They named the applicable rules and regulations and provided references for those so inclined to fact-check (it certainly shows that THEY did their fact-checking).

The bank’s message is loud and clear so there can be no question about the truth and the source of their statements; whether it is the PoP’s suggestion that the CBCS tells local banks how to conduct their business (by for instance telling the CBCS to insist that commercial banks fully and unconditionally postpone mortgages), or explaining the mechanism for protecting the value of our local currency (rather than a haphazard issuance of bonds as suggested by the member of Parliament).

The CBCS management also lists the expertise they have provided to government and parliament over the years. So to sum up what I take away from the now public response: The CBCS uses five pages to explain and educate the President of our Parliament about his 6 urgent action points; but according to me there is a deeper message sent here, which in local parlance could be summed up as follows: Mr. President, WHEEL AND COME AGAIN!

Michael J. Ferrier

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VVD leaps ahead thanks to corona effect: Poll of polls

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The latest poll of polls shows coalition party VVD has increased its lead to between 40 to 46 seats, gaining 9 since the start of the coronavirus crisis, broadcaster NOS reports.

The poll of polls (Peilingwijzer) is a combination of four separate opinion polls produced by I&O Research, Ipsos, EenVandaag and Kantar. Poll compiler Tom Louwerse said the VVD’s success should be seen in the context of the public appreciation for the way the cabinet is handling the coronavirus crisis.

I&O Research figures show that 2 out of 3 people are happy with the cabinet’s approach while polls conducted by current affair programme Een Vandaag and Ipsos indicate that three quarters of Dutch voters think Rutte is doing a good job.

‘Traditionally confidence in the cabinet will focus on the biggest coalition party,’ Louwerse told NOS. ‘The VVD was clearly already the biggest party before the crisis and it has only increased its lead.’

That is not to say the party will necessarily benefit come next year’s elections, Louwerse warned. ‘The coronavirus crisis will be followed by an economic crisis the effects of which are already being felt by many, but which is predicted to become worse.

The question is whether that will be laid at the VVD’s door as well.’ The Christian Democrats have not profited from the corona effect to the same extent as the VVD and have lost predicted seats, as has D66.

These parties are currently on 11 to 15 seats and 8 to 10 seats, respectively. ChristenUnie has gone up slightly to 7 seats. Meanwhile, pensioners party 50Plus plunged to between 1 and 3 after Henk Krol stepped down as party leader to form the Partij voor de Toekomst (Party for the future).

(DutchNews)

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Coalition partner D66 slams cabinet’s attitude to EU in times of corona

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch approach to the EU, anchored in the government accord, is too rigid in times of corona and must be abandoned to make way for steps towards a more mutually supportive Europe, D66 parliamentary group leader Rob Jetten has said in an interview with the NRC at the weekend.

Instead of putting the brakes on a more integrated transfer union, as stipulated in the accord, further integration should be encouraged so richer countries can increase support for poorer member states, Jetten said.

It is the first time a coalition partner has openly questioned the government accord so publicly, the paper said Jetten, who has lobbied for a more integrated Europe despite his party’s support for the government accord, pointed out that southern Europe will be hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis and that more financial help for poorer member states would benefit the Dutch economy as well.

‘Unemployment there will rise to an unprecedented level there and it is obvious that this will have an effect on our prosperity too. It would be wise to take steps towards a closer union so Dutch flower growers can continue to sell their wares in Italy,’ he told the paper.

EU tax

The limited European multi-year budget favoured by the Netherlands is not realistic now a huge international recession is imminent, Jetten said. It will take massive investment to pull Europe out of the corona crisis.

In order to finance this, Jetten proposes giving the EU tax raising powers, so big tech companies like Facebook and Google which currently owe hardly any tax at all can be made to pay up.

Controversy about higher contributions by member states would also become a thing of the past, he said. European taxes have never been a popular prospect in the Netherland but, Jetten claimed, more people, including Rutte and Hoekstra, are coming around to the idea, particularly if it is the only option in the face of higher contributions.

Disrespectful

Jetten also said he believed that prime minister Mark Rutte and finance minister Wopke Hoekstra are ‘harming Dutch interests’ by adopting a ‘disrespectful tone’.

Hoekstra has insinuated that southern countries are spendthrifts and Rutte has been, he said, making ‘jolly jokes’ comparing the EU to ‘a party organising committee in search of a party’.

(DutchNews)

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‘The Consistency of the Inconsistency’

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY - By Ricardo Perez) - I believe that we all can agree that there was no road map or magic instruction manual for any government on how to deal with a Pandemic without a vaccine, treatment or cure.
Therefore, many governments worldwide have generated their own action plans; and, unfortunately, many of them contain the following patterns:
- Improvisation
- Lack of stakeholder consultation
- Inconsistent actions
- Lack of common sense
- Actions and reactions
- Selective decision-making
- Lack of systematic testing.
- Unreliable and / or incomplete data
- Decisions based on unreliable and / or incomplete data
- Dismissal of proven best practices
- Overreaching decisions that infringe on the rights of businesses and individuals in the name of public safety
Over the past several weeks, I have been drafting operational guidelines and practices that respond to the final point, above. As a result, I have had the opportunity to research and evaluate the reopening plans of various jurisdictions, including US counties and states, Canadian provinces, New Zealand, Aruba, Curacao, Netherlands and Puerto Rico, among others.
Unfortunately, I am noticing some very disturbing and scary trends in these plans:
- There is an evolution from pre-Pandemic, democratic rule of law toward a dictatorial and, at times, communist tone and action.
- Governments seem to have adopted the power to determine which business or industry survives the closures vs. which ones perish. Who gave them this power?
- The plans appear to embody a perfect excuse to restrain free enterprise and also to limit previously earned and acquired rights. For example why can a business now open ‪Monday to Friday‬ but it must close on the weekends (when previously it was permitted to be open)? Why can one business be open freely and another one is only permitted to be open by appointment? Why are some allowed to do only curbside service, while others are able to be open for full service, when the distinction is simply because they sell different products (e.g. supermarkets vs. hardware stores)?
- Instead of making recommendations to businesses, the tone in some points instead is a strict order with no rhyme nor reason nor medical basis.
We must remain vigilant in order to ensure that the democratic basis of our government is not eroded on the grounds that actions are being taken in the name of public safety. The Pandemic did not grant a license to our leaders to play God, judge and jury all at the same time.
Ricardo Perez
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Business Community Invited to Sign-Up for Webinar on Export-Ready Opportunities

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) and the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) have planned a special webinar for Wednesday, May 20 that aims to inform the general business community but especially those companies that would like to consider export as a new business stream. 

The business community is invited to sign-up and register for the webinar by visiting COCI’s Facebook page and following the instructions.

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made various instruments available to companies in Sint Maarten since January 1, 2018. 

Under RVO, various services, subsidies and other programs are available for trade and investment projects in countries outside the Kingdom. Caribbean Dutch entrepreneurs may use these services and programs under the same conditions as European Dutch companies and in cooperation with local partners. 

The webinar is an opportunity for the Sint Maarten business community, RVO and COCI to provide information about the various instruments and programs that can benefit the country over the mid to long-term.

COCI has requested via direct contact with lead professionals in the various industries relating to Export to be part of this first Webinar and to provide their feedback and testimony of their challenges and successes.

The Netherlands Enterprise Agency is a Dutch government organization which operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy that stimulates entrepreneurs in sustainable, agricultural, innovative and international business. 

It aims to improve opportunities for entrepreneurs by strengthening their position and helping them realize their international ambitions with funding, networking, know-how and compliance with laws and regulations.

If you are an entrepreneur who wishes to venture abroad, participating in the upcoming webinar may be your ticket to learn more what the Netherlands Enterprise Agency can do for you in helping your business fulfil their international ambitions.

Some of the programs that are available are the ‘Starters International Business,’ which helps businesses move into foreign markets; the DHI scheme for demonstration projects, feasibility studies and investment preparation studies, supports enterprises that want to invest in or execute a project in emerging markets and in developing countries.

Doing business in another country in an unfamiliar market can be a daunting task, but RVO can assists groups of businesses through the programme ‘Partners for International Business (PIB)’.

For more information regarding this webinar or the various instruments and programs please visit COCI’s Facebook page or RVO’s website link https://english.rvo.nl/caribbean

Email your questions, statements or remarks to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Webinar details

Date: Wednesday May 20th 2020

Time: 10 AM until 11:30 AM (Local Time)

Register for more information and link: COCI Facebook page, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2066300514066747664

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All eyes on June 1 as head teachers say school reopening has gone well

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The government will decide this week or next if the partial relaxation of coronavirus rules planned for June can go ahead, prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters on Wednesday evening.

‘We hope that things can go ahead as laid out in the road map,’ Rutte said. ‘But it all depends on how the virus is spreading.’ The government has said that cinemas, cafes and restaurants can open on June 1, as long as the 1.5 metre rule is adhered to.

The reopening of primary schools, daycare centres, hair dressing salons and other ‘contact professions’ this week had proceeded smoothly, Rutte said. But he again stressed that public transport use should be restricted to people in essential professions.

And he warned of the lengthy incubation period the virus appears to have. ‘The statistics are heading in the right direction, but there is a time lag,’ he said. ‘You don’t get sick immediately.’

Schools

According to research by school heads association AVS, thousands of pupils did not show up at school in the first days after they reopened, and 90% of schools had at least one missing pupil – often because they had other health issues.

Nevertheless, in the main teachers were happy about how things had gone. Staff members were also absent in around half the schools but just a handful of schools had to take other measures because of the shortage.

‘Teachers have been working very hard in recent months, including during the holidays, and we are proud of the way school heads have organised their teams in these strange times,’ AVS chairwoman Petra van Haren said.

(DutchNews)

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