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Police warns about circulating misinformation – fake news

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Police Force of Sint Maarten KPSM warns the public about sharing/distributing unverified information via social media and other avenues. This warning comes after a voice note made by a so far unknown man claiming that cops had fatally shot a man in a barbershop.

This voice note is misinformation or as it is commonly referred to “fake news”. There is no indication in the voice note that it was even from Sint Maarten as it only made the false claim of police having shot someone. The source of the voice note is being looking into by police.

The malicious voice notes, therefore, has a harmful effect on the relationship with the community of Sint Maarten.

KPSM has heavily invested in community-oriented policing and considers residents as integral partners in keeping the country safe. Without a strong relationship with the community, the police force as a whole and individual officers will not get information needed to keep the community safe. (KPSM)

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International Family Day 2022

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Family is the foundation and bedrock of human civilization. What affects the family has a trickling effect on society and the reverse is true, be negative or positive. Given the importance of family, the United Nations saw the need to put focus on highlighting and bringing about awareness on issues affecting families and championing family focus in policy development. As such, the international day of the family was enacted by the General Assembly on May 15th, 1993 and celebrated the following year. Each year a different family-focused theme is selected.

This year’s theme put forward by the United Nations is “Families and Urbanization”. The theme seeks to raise awareness on the importance of sustainable family friendly and family oriented urban policies. Urbanization is one of the most important megatrends shaping our world and the life and wellbeing of families worldwide.

Culturally on Sint Maarten it has been the norm for every succeeding generation to take care of the other, however given our spate of development and the absence family focus policy development and decision making there is an urgent need for safe and affordable housing, green spaces and play grounds for families and their children to spend time in the outdoors, social care, protection and support for the elderly just to name a few.

There is also a need for open and honest discussions as it relates to family life on Sint Maarten, the effects of COVID-19 (economic, psychological and physical) on the family, work & family balance, working hours for parents, and the list goes on.

As we celebrate and highlight family day 2022 it is also incumbent on us as Community Development, Family & Humanitarian Affairs in advocating for families to share some tips and encourage families to, find meaningful ways to spend time with each other.

As a family:

  1. Have a disconnect day – disconnect from devices, television, and social media and spend quality time together
  2. Go out in nature – explore your surroundings, community, and island. There is so much to see and do on our beautiful island and you don’t always need to have money.
  3. Play games as a family – this helps with negotiation skills, tolerance, patience, learning that there is a winner & a looser
  4. Share positive words with each other such as “you are a blessing” “you mean so much to this family”
  5. Do physical activities together
  6. Connect with your older & other family members by visiting them – helps our children know who they are related to
  7. Prepare & share a meal together – research shows a family meal time has great benefits. For instance it is a time to bond, share experiences, learn about each other. Just to mention a few.
  8. Read as a family
  9. Share family photos and stories, a fantastic way for children to learn about their family (ancestry)

This list is non-exhausted, there are many more things I am sure you can think of to do with your family. Life has become very difficult and hectic for us all we often complain there isn’t enough hours in the day. Nevertheless, just setting aside one day in the week to spend quality time with our love one goes a long way. With that, on behalf half of Community Development, Family and Humanitarian Affairs Happy Family Day.

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Sarah Foresees no Quick Solution for the High Cost of Fuel

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot Williams said in a press statement on Sunday that she foresees no quick solution by the Council of Ministers (COM) for the high cost of fuel, “…due to the nonchalant attitude they have for the TEATT ministry.”

“It is regrettable that information regarding the Minister of TEATT’s absence from office is not provided, not even to parliament. This has lead to all kinds of unnecessary speculations”, the MP explains. 

“Just recently, I happen to learn that the minister is out on doctor’s advice and that his leave has now been extended. I can only but assume that the minister is really unable to perform his duties, as he was conspicuously absent from the hyped-up signing ceremony with Royal Caribbean Group.”

“I sympathize very much with our minister of TEATT, Roger Lawrence, and I totally respect the privacy to which I believe he too is entitled,” MP Wescot said in her prepared statement.

MP Wescot went on to say that her issue is with the council of ministers,  that nonchalantly runs away from its collective responsibility and leaves urgent matters such as the promised reduction in fuel cost for the consumers hanging in the air.

“In the meantime a very hesitant Minister of Finance has dashed all hopes of any speedy resolve to this matter with the statement that firstly a solution must be found for the loss in government revenue that any reduction for the consumer will bring with it. As if we could not figure that out ourselves.

“I advise the minister to liaise with his colleague of Curacao, who AHEAD of the necessary change of law, has announced reductions in the different fuel cost build-ups, to benefit the Curacao consumer.

“Curacao too is bound by CFT regulations. So how is it that they can find prompt solutions to benefit the community at large? Here we are dancing around it and to use an old adage ‘while the grass is growing, the horse is starving’. “

“Another unaddressed matter by the COM within the purview of the TEATT Ministry is the dismissal of M. Hyman from the airport. The Prime Minister has recused herself from this particular case, which warranted or not, should however not leave this matter in limbo.

“Parliament too is left awaiting the follow up, which was in the hands of minister Lawrence, who is not in office presently. What about his replacement in the COM, can no one pick up this file,” MP Wescot asks rhetorically.

“Members of this Council of Ministers seem in a happy-go lucky mood while there are so many burning issues, such as the amendments to the budget 2022; GEBE, PJIA, health coverage, tax reform and hurricane preparedness, to name a few.

“We have to thank our lucky stars that despite this all, the island in general is crawling out of the pandemic slump, but not because there is a plan to guide this recovery. To the contrary, this council of ministers and the governing coalition seem to be doing the exact things that contradict any vision of sustainable development,” MP Sarah Wescot Williams concludes.

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Signed MOU Careers in Cruising Initiative Creates Expansion of Sint Maarten’s Job Market

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On May 11, the Government of St. Maarten and Royal Caribbean Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding at Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise & Port Facility signifying the beginning of a partnership that will create an expansion of St. Maarten’s job market within the cruising industry.

This has been a joint initiative of the Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson together with the Honorable Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor Omar Ottley, whereby job seekers will now gain access to lucrative careers on board the cruise lines of Royal Caribbean Group, from line entry to executive level positions.

Present at the ceremony were the Council of Ministers, Members of Parliament, the Ministries of Justice and the NESC (National Employment Service Center), together with Management of Labor Affairs. Royal Caribbean Group was duly represented by Ms. Wendy McDonald, Regional Vice President government relations (Caribbean), and Management of Port St. Maarten.

This initiative began in 2021, while preparations were ongoing for the launch of St. Maarten’s homeporting venture. During this period, Minister Richardson seized an opportunity to explore the possibilities of St. Maarten providing employment for persons to work on board cruise lines.

The then Minister of TEATT and now current Member of Parliament Ludmila de Weever formally introduced Minister Richardson to Royal Caribbean Group Vice President, Mr. Joshua Carroll. Through discussions with Mr. Carroll, he indicated that this was in alignment with the plans of Royal Caribbean Group to increase the number of crew from the Caribbean.

Minister Richardson and Minister Ottley, both expressed their enthusiasm and showed their support for this project. From here, formal discussions between the Government of St. Maarten and Royal Caribbean began, as well as a legal review to explore the possibilities of having this project become a reality for the people of St. Maarten to work on board Royal Caribbean Group vessels.

Minister Ottley stated, "This is a historic moment for Sint Maarten, and its people. As Minister of Labor, I can confidently say that today marks a milestone within our labor market. I would first like to thank the Division Head of Labor Affairs and Social Services, Mrs. Dros Richardson, the NESC team that worked tirelessly on this project, my colleagues of the Council of Ministers, and the entire Royal Caribbean Group team for their input, support, and assistance.

“This initiative falls in line with the set goals of the Ministry of VSA, one of which is to create job opportunities for the people of Sint Maarten in order to increase our spending power and re-boost our economy. The people of Sint Maarten will benefit greatly from the opportunities afforded by this initiative, as it will provide safe, enjoyable, and rewarding careers for them with up to one thousand (1,000) job opportunities within the cruise industry. Sint Maarten, I encourage you to take advantage of the possibilities!"

Minister Richardson expressed, “I am happy that this dream has come to fruition for the people of St. Maarten. Based on the extensive categories of employment, my hope is that many within our population will embrace this great opportunity of expansion in our job market. History has been made with this initiative whereby the Government can now afford its people the opportunity to sail around the world, develop their skills and earn an income while representing St. Maarten.

“I take this time to thank my colleague Minister Ottley for recognizing this great opportunity for St. Maarten, and Division Head of Labor Affairs and Social Services, Mrs. Dros-Richardson and her National Employment Service Center Team for their professionalism, enthusiasm, attention to detail, thought process, support, and overall genuine approach to bringing this to May 11, 2022. I also take this time to thank the Department of Legal Affairs, MP Ludmila de Weever, Royal Caribbean Group Vice Presidents Mr. Joshua Carroll and Mr. Russell Benford, Attorney Ms. Peggy Ann Brandon and Port St. Maarten for all their support and assistance. Today, we can proudly say that the people of St. Maarten are now afforded an opportunity to gain access to lucrative careers in the cruise industry. Congratulations St. Maarten!” stated Minister Richardson.

Wendy McDonald stated, “Helping create economic opportunity and providing options for the people of St. Maarten to support their families is one of the best ways Royal Caribbean Group can show up as a destination partner as we collectively rebound from the loss of tourism,” said McDonald. “We look forward to successful job recruitment events that lead to fulfilling careers and provide us with teammates who help us create vacation memories that last a lifetime.”

Moving forward, the Government of St. Maarten will facilitate the first cruise industry job fair, which will be hosted by the National Employment Service Center (NESC) within the Ministry of VSA and Royal Caribbean Group’s Human Resources department.

The general public is encouraged to stay informed for more information on the application procedure that will be forthcoming.

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SSSD hosting “Applying for a U.S. Student Visa or Canadian Study Permit” Workshop on May 24

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Applying for a U.S. Student Visa or Canadian Study Permit is a very important step in preparing to further studies in the USA or Canada since it ties into immigration matters. If any mistakes are made during the application process, then it could cause the application to be delayed or declined (which is unfavorable, since students need to ensure that they start their classes on time).

To help facilitate the process, the Student Support Services Division (SSSD) of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs is inviting students to attend the workshop entitled, “Applying for a U.S. Student Visa or Canadian Permit” on May 24, 2022. This free workshop will be held from 7:00 P.M. – 8:30 P.M. at the University of St. Martin.

Students will be informed of the step-by-step process of applying for either the U.S. Student Visa or the Canadian Study Permit. The information covered will be from the time a student receives their acceptance to the school, to registering for the visa or study permit, up until they arrive in the country of study. Students can still attend this free session even if they have not yet received the acceptance letter or I-20 form from a school.

Students are encouraged to contact the career guidance counselors at SSSD to reserve a seat. Participants are encouraged to bring their own writing materials to the workshops, and they are encouraged to be on time. For more information, please call Ms. Richardson or Mr. Chance at 543-1235.

The Student Support Services Division is located in the Gatspy’s Building, across from the Police Station and next to the Windward Island Bank (WIB) in Philipsburg. SSSD provides many services to students including psychological services, counseling services, speech language pathology services, social work services, educational diagnostic services, career services, and parental workshops.

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Aviation and Tourism Implications for the Caribbean

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY – By Professor Gavin Eccles) - Aviation and Tourism are often referred to as being, ‘two-sides-of-the-same-coin’, meaning that they may differ in their vision, but one is not without the other. Back in 2019, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, there were roughly 1.4 billion tourists, of which, around half travelled by aviation. Without good connectivity, can destinations really have tourism?

The pandemic threw-back the philosophy of domestic tourists, and new holiday experiences were coined - ‘stay-home and ‘staycations’. The United States and China witnessed a massive surge in domestic tourism, and, during 2020, the fastest growing airport in the world was Bozeman International airport in Montana. The reason being, tourists were fleeing to the national park, and, not cities, and, an airport close to the Yosemite National Park, which, was having a few flights a day, all of a sudden was with slot restrictions.

Domestic tourism is not going to go away, but, as countries re-open, and, we learned to live with Covid-19, aviation and tourism is strongly back on the agenda. In Europe as an example, capacity traffic from northern Europe to southern Europe is actually above pre-covid levels. The strength of the low-cost airline recovery and rebuild of carriers such as Ryanair, EasyJet and Wizz Air is seeing unprecedented demand for tourists to fly south for much-missed holidays on the beaches of Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

Is tourism really back?

Airline capacity is one part of the jigsaw. Putting planes back in the sky has been easy but, having staff to fulfil all these routes, and, airport personnel to manage all this ‘new traffic’, is another story. One needs to support demand generation also. Getting load-factors on planes back to pre-covid levels of 80% (90% of the low-cost carriers) is the challenge now for the tourism boards. Re-building the vision and storytelling of ‘why visit?’. And, with all crises, one can also say, we have opportunities. New source markets for destinations can now be considered, as, the challenge we have all faced is that, going back to what we used to do is not in our minds.

Key time for tourism boards to look at who was visiting pre-covid

With which airlines, from which cites, in which periods of the year, etc? And, as some countries are not open for outbound travel, China, and, with the war in Ukraine, Russia outbound, what may be alternatives. The likes of Thailand, Vietnam and the Maldives were very heavily dependent on Chinese and Russian tourists. Looking back pre-covid is not a solution. And, for the rest, let’s use this pause to re-set, and, re-look at who we want to our destinations. From which markets? Then study connectivity, and, can the tourist reach us? From which cities, and, with which carriers? With this at hand, it is time for the tourism board to take the place at the table with airlines and airports and build route connection business cases. To really put to the supply that we need to work together to drive such potential, and, how we can support the efforts both financially with incentives and campaigns, to, institutional support to the carrier that we are working in partnership for tourism and route development.

Airlines and tour operators have changed their business models

What else we have witnessed with the pandemic is how airlines and tour operators have changed their business models. Pre-covid, aviation was very much focused on corporate/business travel, and, looking at how to make high prices and yield with the front-end of the aircraft. As business travel is not rebounding so quickly (as we continue the Teams and Zoom philosophy), many airlines are really developing their leisure proposition. Take Lufthansa as an example. During the pandemic they have launched a new leisure airline, that is focused on both short-haul and long-haul destinations. Eurowings Discover is the new name, operating Airbus A330 aircraft on long-haul routes (Barbados and Montego Bay in the Caribbean are being served) which have been learnt from the parent (Lufthansa). This allows Eurowings to now position to the travel trade in Germany that we have a leisure arm of Lufthansa available, that, can deliver your holiday needs. Fly Lufthansa for business to New York, and, Eurowings Discover to your holiday destination. What this has really proved is that the traditional airlines are picking-up on the new leisure travel trends, and, not sitting back hoping that corporate travel will return.

Dynamic-Packaging

For tour operators, that, for many years had followed very much a fully integrated vision; whereby we own the travel agency, the aircraft, and, the hotel that you stay-in. In essence, the strategy had been to acquire all areas of the tourism chain, from booking to sleeping. However, as the pandemic has hit the revenues, such a vision has been challenged, and, we are seeing many big tour operator groups selling their assets, and, working with what we now call, ‘Dynamic-Packaging’. Rather than owning the supply chain, let’s just own the customer. And, by owning the customer, they come to our channel to book a holiday, that, may now include a Eurowings Discover flight (where we have signed a volume-contract on seats), rather than having all the costs, and losses, of owning our own airline. In conclusion, this new dynamic model gives the operator more flexibility to work with airlines and tourism boards to develop new and exciting projects, and, can help with challenges such as seasonality.

Bringing this back to the Caribbean.

How can the destinations work a closer relationship with their airports, and, to instigate new discussion and conversation with airlines. How can changes in the supply work in favour of the destinations. During the forthcoming CARIBAVIA Conference in St. Maarten, a focus on pushing for the creation of air service organisations that allow for the islands to draw together the tourism boards, the airports, as well as the hotel and attractions companies to really debate and discuss three key questions:

  1. Which source markets do we believe can help build our tourism offer in the next 5 years?
  2. From these markets, which cities/regions do we believe can sustain our offer?
  3. To whom do we then need to talk to (airlines and tour operators), that can work with us to deliver our tourist levels?

Returning to the opening discussion, tourism and aviation are really the same side of the coin. Behold those that think differently….

About

Gavin Eccles is a Professor of Aviation and Tourism at the Universidade Lusofona in Lisbon, Portugal with a 25-year experience in marketing and strategic management in the airline, airport, hotel and tourism sectors. He has been consultant to Tourism Authorities in Barbados, UK, Portugal, India, and China. He has assisted British Airways, EasyJet, Hainan Airlines, Jet2, Eurowings, American Airlines, United Airlines, Tui Travel, Thomas Cook, Der Touristik, Meridien and Marriott Hotels.

At the CARIBAVIA Conference, June 14-16 on St.Maarten, he will present a keynote titled “Aviation and Tourism: Cases and Best Practice And Implications for the Caribbean”, as well as a workshop “Bringing Tourism Boards & Airports Closer Together”. (www.caribavia.org).

 

 

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Opportunity: EPIC Youth Ambassadors

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) is looking for young persons between 14 and 21 years to become EPIC Youth Ambassadors as part of their new litter data collection project.

“Why do we litter? – Sint Maarten” is a new project Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) will be executing during 2022. The project includes over a dozen neighbourhood cleanup events and will focus on collecting data on the littering habits of Sint Maarten residents.

As part of this project, EPIC is seeking to involve six motivated young people between the ages of 14 and 21 to help conduct cleanups and collect data. The selected persons will receive several workshops on environmental topics, data collection, and the opportunity to be certified in First Aid and CPR.

Those selected should be able to assist with at least five of the cleanups conducted as part of this project in 2022. Cleanups will be organised on weekends to not interfere with school hours. Once the project is completed, the student ambassadors will receive a certificate of recognition by EPIC and a token of appreciation in return for their time and efforts.

EPIC hopes that this opportunity provides capacity building and support for students interested in environmental work on the island.

Interested persons can email EPIC at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Those interested will be asked to fill out an application form. The deadline to apply is May 29, 2022. As spots are limited, students will be selected based on their motivation and concern for the environment.

EPIC Sint Maarten is a non-profit organisation founded in 2007 with the mission of protecting the Caribbean environment through research and community-based action in Sint Maarten. This project, “Why do you litter – Sint Maarten”, is funded by the Government of the Netherlands under the Sint Maarten Trustfund, implemented by Resources for Community Resilience (R4CR), administered by VNGI, and overseen by The WorldBank. For more information about EPIC’s work visit: www.epicislands.org.

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200+ TURNOUT FOR “WALK TO PREVENT IMMOBILITY”

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Social & Health Insurances SZV sponsored the "Walk to Prevent Immobility" walk-a-thon hosted by Sint Maarten Police Pensioners and Retirees Association (SPFPRA). As the national health insurance of Sint Maarten, SZV's collaboration with the association is in line with its objectives of leading the way for the community in making better health choices. There were over 200 community members that took part in the walk, with the youngest being seven years old.  

The walk took place on Saturday, May 7th and started at 5 am with an approximate distance of 7km. The health-conscious participants received an SZV filled goodie bag, a complimentary event t-shirt and a light breakfast. Mr. Edward Jacobs, President of the SPFPRA, stated, "The association is thankful for the sponsorship and the assistance provided by SZV to facilitate this event. We aim to see more pensioners and citizens become more active and live healthier lifestyles."  

Mr. Glen Carty, Director of SZV, stated, "The walk-a-thon was refreshing. It was wonderful to see the turnout from the community for this event. SZV wants to engage in more wellness initiatives and looks forward to finding budget-friendly ways to get more organizations to collaborate and create more ways to help citizens switch to healthier life choices." 

The board of SPFPRA and management of SZV would like to thank all the participants, volunteers, supporters, and other donors who contributed to this event. Proceeds from the event will be going towards SPFPRA membership activities throughout the year.  

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Job Seekers invited to attend Ministry VROMI & Finance Job Mixer on Thursday to learn about Opportunities

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Ministry of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Planning, and Infrastructure (Ministry of VROMI), and the Ministry of Finance, will be hosting a Job Mixer on Thursday, May 12 from 1:00PM to 5:00PM at the Government Administration Building.

The event will focus on highlighting the Ministries’ current vacancies, objectives, collaborative opportunities, and showcase some of the projects that the Ministries have accomplished or are currently working on.

The underlying concept is to attract skilled and enthusiastic professionals and allow them an opportunity to apply for vacancies and learn from other informed experts.

The Minister of VROMI Hon. Egbert Doran and the Minister of Finance Hon. Ardwell Irion will be addressing those in attendance about new opportunities and career advancement options within the government organization.

The Job Mixer will take place in Room 1 at the Government Building. There will be signs directing you to the room.

Persons attending the Job Mixer should walk with their resume.

The Job Mixer is being supported by the Management teams and key personnel of both ministries as well as the Department of Personnel and Organization.

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Opposition to demand minimum wage rise in spring budget talks

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Opposition parties GroenLinks and Labour have said they need to secure major concessions from the government before they can support its spring budget plans.

The coalition needs the support of at least one opposition group in the Senate, where it is six seats short of a majority. GroenLinks and Labour (PvdA), who have 14 senators between them, agreed a 15-point joint policy plan in December covering issues such as climate, the labour market and inequality.

Labour’s new parliamentary leader, Attje Kuiken, said the revised budget package ‘can and must be much more social,’ while her GroenLinks counterpart Jesse Klaver warned: ‘We won’t be content with minor changes.’

The two are due to meet prime minister Mark Rutte and finance minister Sigrid Kaag on Wednesday to discuss the spring budget statement, which must be finalised by June 1.

Rutte has said that the need to secure opposition support, the worsening economic picture and high inflation have made the exercise unusually difficult this year. The parties’ bottom line is expected to be an increase of the minimum wage to around €14 an hour, stronger measures to reduce energy consumption and plans to close the wealth gap.

They are also likely to call for the state pension and welfare support to continue to rise in step with the minimum wage. Those demands come on top of the need to find extra billions to help low-income families pay their rising energy bills, fund extra defence spending in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and repay savings taxes that were ruled illegal by the Supreme Court last year.

(DutchNews)

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