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Soualiga News Today (3458)

General Audit Chamber Informs Parliament about the 2013 Financial Statements of Government

PHILIPSBURG – The General Audit Chamber issued their report to Parliament on the 2013 Financial Statements of Sint Maarten today, Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014.  The National Financial Accounting Ordinance (NGAO) requires that we publish a report on our findings within a period of one and a half months after receipt of the copy of the report from the auditor (SOAB). SOAB has one and a half months to complete their audit. The Financial Statements were presented to us on September 3rd, 2014, in a letter from the Minister of Finance dated August 27th, 2014. We have complied with the legally stipulated period for submission.

Our report represents the financial compliance audit of the financial statements and the operations of the ministries of government of Sint Maarten of fiscal year 2013. As part of this audit, we evaluated whether the information contained in the financial statements about the finances and policy at the ministries was conducted in compliance with regulations and whether the financial statements are a fair and accurate reflection of such.

In our report on the 2011 and 2012 Financial Statements, we pointed out that government needed to comply with the legally stipulated time frames for submission. In the case of the financial statements, these should be drafted no later than September 1st following the year to which they relate. For the 2013 Financial Statements, government has complied.

Moreover, in our reporting on the 2012 Financial Statements, we indicated that there were a number of items in the financial statements that we found objectionable. We further stated that if improvement was not noted, we would consider issuing a formal objection in accordance with our legal authority. Based on our audit of the 2013 Financial Statements, we conclude that six (6) of the ten (10) items we listed as objectionable were (partially) solved. As such, a slight improvement is evident over the previous year.

Most errors and uncertainties -­ in our opinion -­ are easy to correct. As such, it is reasonable to expect the financial statements to be drafted free of errors and uncertainties within a reasonable period of time. We have made recommendations to the Minister of Finance in this regard.

As part of our audit of the 2013 Financial Statements, we reviewed the issuance of subsidies in terms of compliance with legal requirements. We found that minsters hardly, if ever, check, whether the granting of subsidies occurs in accordance with the General Subsidy regulation. It is our opinion, that ministers should adequately inform Parliament about the effective use of subsidies to recipients by requiring the institutions to periodically provide reports on their respective activities, costs, achievements and results.

As in previous reports on the financial statements of government, we find that the annual report of the Minister of Finance, provides insufficient information to Parliament regarding the effectiveness of public expenditures. Based on our overall findings, we are of the opinion that the 2013 Financial Statements of Sint Maarten do not meet the requirements and standards as required by the NGAO. Hence, we are of the opinion that the SOAB is justified in issuing a negative opinion of the 2013 Financial Statements of Sint Maarten.

We have requested the Minister to provide within six months, a realistic plan with which to ensure that the deficiencies we have identified in terms of the financial management, are resolved within a few years. The minister in his formal response has agreed, albeit with three considerations, to produce such a report. Details regarding the minister’s response is included in its entirety in our report.

In the coming year, we will continue to monitor progress on the improvements to the financial management of government.

The report on the 2013 Financial Statements of Sint Maarten is available in both English and Dutch on the website of the General Audit Chamber (www.arsxm.org). (General Audit Chamber)

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Lions Christmas Bingo on December 6th at the Festival Village

FESTIVAL VILLAGE - This year the Lions Club of St. Maarten will continue its tradition of the Festival Village where the club will host the 2014 Christmas Bingo Spectacular on Saturday December 6th. This year's Lions Bingo is powered by Telem Group of Companies. 

Taking into account the increase in demand by the general public to partake in this major fundraising activity, where proceeds are used to fund numerous community projects on the island, the decision was taken to move to a larger Festival Village venue last year to accommodate the increase of participants over the past years. 

St. Maarten Lion Club President Lion Sunil Khatnani stated: “Preparations for the Annual Lions Christmas Bingo Spectacular are well underway, bingo tickets can be purchased from any of our Lion members, at the Lions Civic Centre in Sucker Garden and on the Saturday December 6th from 10am to 2pm and from 6pm at the Festival Village”.  

Fundraising Committee Associate Chairman Lion Oralie Boirad stated: “The price per ticket has remained the same: $10.- or ANG 20.- and it entitles you to one bingo card. There will be numerous chances to win prizes, including: overloaded Christmas baskets, dinner vouchers for two at participating restaurants, travel vouchers to nearby destinations and a grand prize of Santa Bag which is cash money.

For all those who enjoy hearing Lion Wally Havertong and Lion Chantal Schaminee sound-off the numbers while asking if anybody bingo, we encourage you to purchase your tickets in advance and arrive on time as we are slated to begin at 8pm sharp at the Festival Village. We also have a special guest caller who will be calling games as well. Tents with lighting will be available in case of rain and the Ebony Youth Steel Orchestra will entertain the audience from 7pm-8pm”.

The Lions Club of St. Maarten admits that this is one of the most loved signature projects that the club holds on annual basis. The Lions Bingo is not only a fun game for the entire family and close friends, it also offers opportunities to win prizes which are in tune with what a winner would need during the Christmas Season, and even more so, it is the most dear project to the club because the proceeds are used to touch so many in our community that require assistance throughout the Lionistic year. 

The community at large is welcome and the club is in full gear to ensure that this event is enjoyed by all. (Lion’s Club)

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Minister Richardson annuls recent changes to casino policy. Status quo remains

PHILIPSBURG – Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Hon. Ted Richardson announced on Wednesday that he has annulled changes made to the Casino Policy where four additional casino’s would have been allowed to operate in the country. 

The annulment means that the Casino Policy that has governed the sector in the past years remains as is – status quo.

“In light of the multiple misinterpretations and misconception of the entire issue surrounding the amendment of the Casino Policy, intended to primarily increase Government income, I have taken the decision to permanently annul the entire process and keep the state of the industry as is.

“Any other review of the present Casino Policy will be left to the discretion of the next Minister of TEATT and to the upcoming Council of Ministers.

“The intention from the onset was timed to be in accordance with the Gaming Control Board, that has been signed and on its way to the different departments and advisory institutions for review and ratification.

“It must be clearly noted though that the intended amendment, that is now annulled, was never officially published, as it never went to the Council of Ministers for approval nor to the Cabinet of the Governor for approval and signature,” Minister Hon. Ted Richardson said on Wednesday. (Dept. of Communication)

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Major Clean up at Philipsburg Police Headquarters of Scooters and Motorbikes. Pick-up day is December 18

PHILIPSBURG - The Sint Maarten Police Force is getting ready for a major clean up at the Philipsburg headquarters on December 18th 2014.

In the past, several scooters and motorbikes were taken out of circulation, because there was something wrong with them: for instance, they had no insurance, or a technical problem. Some of them were collected by their owners afterwards, but others, about 45 of them have remained at the police station for months or, in some cases, even years. The police are unaware who the goods belong to, because they weren’t formally confiscated. Their owners just didn’t come to pick them up.

The Police Force of Sint Maarten wants to return those scooters/motorbikes to their rightful owners, because the police force is lacking space in their courtyard. A 'viewing day' is going to be organized at the police station in Philipsburg.

On December 18th 2014 between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. you can collect your own scooter or motorbike.

If you know your bike or scooter is present at the police station, you can take it home with you, if you can show the following documents to one of our employees:

-      proof of your identity (a driver’s license, identity card or passport)

-      proof that you are the owner of the scooter/motorbike

We’re police: we need proof
You have to prove to us that you are the owner. If you do so, your motorbike/scooter will be returned to you. If you can't, the aforementioned will not be given to you.

After December 18th, all scooters/motorbikes which the owner did not show up to claim ownership and collect, and remains at the courtyard of the police station, will be destroyed. (Police Force Sint Maarten)

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Rotarians Prepare Food Hampers for Holiday Meals

COLE BAY - Members of the Rotary Club of St. Maarten  and Learning Unlimited and Milton Peters College EarlyAct and InterAct Clubs gathered at Prime Distributers in Cole Bay to make and stuff an upwards of 200 Food Hampers for those in need during the Holiday season.  An assembly line of volunteers put flour, rice, cereals, canned vegetables, and many other food items necessary for a great holiday feast together in hampers and staged them for delivery to those in need before the holidays.  About 20 Rotarians and another 20 EarlyAct/InterAct members participated in the preparation.

“It was a lot of fun putting together these baskets,” said Club President Danny Ramchandani.  “Seeing everyone taking time out of their busy schedules to help make a difference to those who might not be able to fully enjoy a holiday meal is such a great feeling.  We had started a campaign earlier in the year of ‘No Child Goes to Bed Hungry Tonight’ and these food baskets fall into this mission.” He continued to say.  “On behalf of the Rotary Club of St. Maarten, I would like to wish everyone a joyous and safe holiday season.”

For more information about the Rotary Club of St. Maarten, please contact the Rotary Club of St. Maarten Press Officer at:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website www.rotarysxm.org.

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About the Rotary Club of St. Maarten:

The Rotary Club of St. Maarten was chartered on March 17, 1972 as result of a September 1970 meeting to form a club on the island.  Since its formation, the Rotary Club of St. Maarten has grown in membership and has assisted in the formation of new clubs in the District, including Anguilla (1978), St. Martin Nord (1988), St. Martin Mid-Isle (1997) and St. Martin Sunrise (2004).  For more information, visit the club website at www.rotarysxm.org.

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Disaster Coordinator Richardson says we have much to be thankful this hurricane season

GREAT BAY – Disaster Coordinator Fire Commander Clive Richardson, is thankful that once again the nation has been spared the full onslaught of a major hurricane for the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season.

The six-month 2014 season came to an end on Sunday, November 30.

Storm activity for the season was slightly below normal.  The National Hurricane Center had forecasted eight to 13 named storms, three to six hurricanes and one to two major hurricanes. 

It turned out to be eight named storms, six that became hurricanes and two of those became major hurricanes, namely Edouard and Gonzalo.

“Our country experienced Hurricane Gonzalo as a strong category 1 hurricane on October 13.  It caused damages mainly in the marine sector and to some infrastructure throughout the country, as well as to foliage.  There was also one loss of life.

“Today, our country has bounced back very quickly and nature has taken care of itself.  The marine sector continues to clean up and probably several more months will be needed to have this completed.

“Hurricane Gonzalo after it passed our country became a major category 4 hurricane out in the open Atlantic ocean.  We were very fortunate that this happened after it had passed our island; otherwise we would not have been so fortunate.  The passing of hurricane Gonzalo showed weaknesses and there were lessons to be learnt with respect to how we prepare for hurricanes as well.

“The country did not experience a storm/hurricane in a very long time, and hence we must as a society never become complacent because it only takes one to make it a bad hurricane season.  The lessons learnt this season will result in the disaster management system doing things differently for the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. 

“I would like to thank the people of our island nation for taking the necessary preparations during the past season when it was advised to do so. 

“I would like to thank the island’s disaster management team and emergency support functions for their role played in preparing the country and taking the necessary actions required during two weather related events in October and November.

“In conclusion, we have much to be thankful and for the next season we will need to reflect and plan accordingly,” Disaster Coordinator Clive Richardson told the Department of Communication (DCOMM) on Monday. (Dept. of Communication)

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Port St. Maarten is protecting the National Economic Interests of the Country, the People and that of its Shareholder

POINT BLANCHE - Port St. Maarten must protect its interests on behalf of the country, the people, the shareholder and agreements with stakeholders and financial institutions.

With the on-going litigation, Port St. Maarten Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Mingo thought it prudent to inform the people of Sint Maarten with respect to the viewpoint of the port on this particular matter.

“Port St. Maarten will not stop any plans from any local or foreign developer.  We believe in sustainable development, but one must respect the concessions that have been given to Port St. Maarten on 11 July, 2007 where all waters in Great Bay were designated a concession area except for private harbour facilities that already existed at that time.  We are all stakeholders and we must work together in a sustainable manner.

“Port St. Maarten generates one third of the national economy of the country and this translates into millions in foreign exchange earnings to taxi drivers, tour companies, water taxis, jewelry stores, casino’s, restaurants and bars and many more other types of businesses on the island, and employing thousands of St. Maarten people.  I have a responsibility towards my shareholder which is the Government of St. Maarten, to ensure that the national interests of the economy are protected because it would have consequences if the concession given by Government is allowed to be chipped away by third parties.

“I respect the plans by Dock Maarten, but at the same time, you have to respect the concession that Port St. Maarten received from the Government of St. Maarten.  Dock Maarten has to work within the confines of the concession and still be able to carry out its plans but on a different scale where it does not infringe upon the national economic interests of the people and Government of St. Maarten.  Port St. Maarten asked to review the plans of Dock Maarten on several occasions but this never happened.

“Port St. Maarten is a group of companies that have to stay ahead of the game in the interests of the people of the country and the shareholder.  Dock Maarten’s dredging of the bay could have serious consequences with respect to waves in this particular area of Great Bay area, which is in the concession area of Port St. Maarten.  You have to take into consideration the existing water taxi movements back and forth, yachts maneuvering in Great Bay and around cruise ships within the maritime channels, the security and safety aspects come into play, which are all within the concession area of the port. 

“Dock Maarten seemingly wants to cater to Giga yachts which is considered a small cruise ship, and this means you are competing against the concession holder which is Port St. Maarten. The ports master plan entails the extension of the cruise pier and home porting program of small cruise ships which all serve the general interests of the population of Sint Maarten.   

“Our innovativeness and forward outlook has made Port St. Maarten one of the major ports in the Caribbean and one of the top five cruise destinations.  This is a result of the hard work and dedication of the staff, the supervisory board and the shareholder,” Port St. Maarten CEO Mark Mingo pointed out.

Cruise tourism contributions to St. Maarten as a destination is very prominent.  In 2013 the destination received over 1.7 million cruise passengers.

According to the Business Research & Economic Advisors (BREA) 2012 study, Economic Contribution of Cruise Tourism to the Destination Economies, the average expenditure per passenger in St. Maarten was $185.40, which benefitted numerous industries through purchases of goods that included food and beverage at restaurants and bars, clothing, shore excursions, ground transportation, local crafts and souvenirs, watches and jewelry, perfumes and cosmetics, electronics, entertainment/night clubs/casinos, retail purchases of liquor, and telephone and internet. 

The same study showed that the average expenditure per crew in St. Maarten was $135.50 on similar products and services. Plus it revealed the direct and indirect employment generated by the cruise industry, totaling 8,123 jobs and $159.8 million in employee wages. 

“Port St. Maarten has taken note of statements made in the court injunction hearing of November 28 and will defend itself and investment partners.  I was very much surprised by certain statements made, however as mentioned before, as Chief Executive Officer, I at all times must defend the rights of Port St. Maarten and its partners,” CEO Mark Mingo said on Sunday.

Mingo says the court injunction was started based on the following.  The Concession of Port St. Maarten was given in July 2007, and it gives the Harbour exclusive rights, and this is part and parcel of all the agreements that Port St. Maarten has with its partners.  This gives guarantees to the financiers and government and stakeholders. The concession is not "free." There is also a concession fee which needs to be paid for those rights that have been given to Port St. Maarten.

“Certain statements were made about a wolf and sheep, I will not dignify or comment further on that since that is for the person who made the statement.  Port St. Maarten has always championed a clean environment for the country, and this goes back from detailed studies of the construction of the port facilities over the last 14 years, to the introduction of clean technology, to the acquisition of the Lagoon Authority (SLAC), to the improvement in the lagoon environment, green harbour alternative energy projects, replanting of mangroves and partnering with Nature Foundation to further enhance our environment in and near the water. Port St. Maarten’s track record speaks for itself. 

“What also surprises Port St. Maarten is how the Master Plan is being ridiculed.  It is being developed in conjunction with CH2MHill a well renowned engineering company with much experience in this field which entails defining solutions to the flood water run off of the Ponds and the parking and traffic challenges in and around the Philipsburg area.  As noted before, Port St. Maarten and its subsidiaries are solutions oriented and driven.  

“I have been listening to many parties and stakeholders, and we must do something to the one road traffic connection to the Port and Point Blanche. The dynamics have changed between the aforementioned areas where over 20 % of cruise passengers are walking to Philipsburg.  The Master Plan has always included moving the current walkway to the waterside for both safety and esthetical reasons for the visiting guests. 

“When we talk about Port St. Maarten, we live up to our part of the concession and have been doing so since July 2007, making payments of Naf.5.2 million along with other taxes to the treasury of the country.  Port St. Maarten pays its taxes and contributes back to the national economic development of the country and at the same time being a socially responsible corporate citizen of the St. Maarten landscape. Port St. Maarten has paid over Naf.35 million in government concession fees alone since 2007.

“I have taken note that the owners of Dock Maarten are from St. Maarten, but so are many families who don't have any income or are struggling in the Down Street area.  You cannot have ad-hoc development, but must carefully make sure it all compliments each other, and that’s called sustainable development, and I will defend this approach over and over again.

“Port St. Maarten also looks at economic development activity spread to the less developed areas.  Everything is interconnected and you have to also develop the other areas, and we have and continue to do so.  We have invested US$2 million in the Down Street cruise ancillary project which is slated to open in January 2015 as a cultural heritage development. 

“Despite all the continuous opinions and statements made by certain private sector partners over the months, Port St. Maarten has a clear strategy and will lead as written in its strategic plan and we will continue to execute according to the national economic interests of the country, its people and the shareholder representative, the Government.  I will await the court’s decision on December 5th and we will take it from that point forward,” CEO Mark Mingo concluded on Sunday.

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Skyway Airways Fuselage and Other Wreckage Retrieved from Ocean Floor

SIMPSON BAY - Part of the wreckage of Skyway Airways SH36 fuselage has been retrieved from the ocean floor off the coast of Sint Maarten.  Salvagers were awaiting good weather in order to carry out this operation. The barge with a crane on-board could be observed late last week heading towards the crash site.  Several pieces of aircraft debris and a large section of the fuselage were brought up and put on the deck of the barge late last week and over the weekend according to eyewitness reports.

The barge with the aircraft fuselage sits on a barge in the Simpson Bay Lagoon in the vicinity of the office of the Department of Civil Aviation & Shipping and Maritime Affairs.  Investigators will secure the fuselage and carefully inspect the pieces (aircraft wheel, engine) and parts that have been retrieved from the ocean floor in order to determine why the plane crashed on October 29th.

The Department of Civil Aviation announced early November the next phase of the Skyway aviation investigation would be to retrieve the plane wreckage that sits on the ocean floor off the coast in 75 feet of water after it was located on November 9th.  The search and recovery phase came to an end on November 10 after the remains of the co-pilot were found.  Divers found some remains, clothing, a wrist watch, and a job identification card and the family of the pilot have verified that these items belonged to the deceased. 

On Wednesday, October 29that 6:39 pm a Short SH36 aircraft operated by Skyway Airways departed from Princess Juliana International Airport en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Shortly after take-off, during the initial climb and at 200 feet of altitude, Princess Juliana International Airport Air Traffic Control Tower lost contact with the aircraft and it could no longer be perceived on the radar. Based on the information gathered we now know that the aircraft crashed into the waters just of the coast of Sint Maarten. Only two pilots were on-board the plane upon departure.

The Sint Maarten Civil Aviation Authority (SMCAA) investigation into the cause of the accident continues and the authority is working with investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

The accident occurred in the Territory of Sint Maarten and therefore the Sint Maarten Civil Aviation Authority (SMCAA) is leading the investigation. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) ANNEX 13 Accident Investigation provides guidance on the role of the different States with regards to an aircraft accident investigation. The State of Registry for the aircraft; the State of which the accident occurred and the State of Manufacturer all has a role to play in conducting the investigation. The aircraft, Short SH36 was manufactured in the United Kingdom as such the AAIB will assist with respect to this area of the investigation. The aircraft was registered in the United States of America and Skyway is a US FAA part 135 certified cargo operator as such the NTSB  and FAA involvement is also required.

SOUALIGA NEWSDAY REPORT

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UPDATED/NEW: Appointment of President of Parliament to take place on Monday. MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson expected to become new Chairperson of the House

PHILIPSBURG - At the House of Parliament on Monday, December 1st, just before 11.00AM, Member of Parliament Hon. Dr. Lloyd Richardson of the United People's (UP) Party was appointed by seven votes in favour as President of the Parliament of Sint Maarten.

ARCHIVED - PHILIPSBURG – A fourth agenda point has been added for the Plenary session of the House that is scheduled on December 1st, the appointment of the President of Parliament.  Member of Parliament Hon. Dr. Lloyd Richardson for the United People’s (UP) party Soualiga Newsday understands from political insiders is expected to be appointed as the next president.

The Plenary public session is set for Monday at 10.00am in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelmina Straat #1 in Philipsburg.

The first agenda point is incoming documents. The second agenda point is an advice regarding the installation and composition of the Permanent and Ad Hoc Committees of Parliament.

The third agenda point is an advice regarding the installation and composition of the Committees of the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).

Members of the public are invited to the House of Parliament to attend parliamentary deliberations.

The House of Parliament is located across from the Court House in Philipsburg.

The parliamentary session will be carried live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 120, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1, the audio via the Internet www.pearlfmradio.com, and also via www.sxmparliament.org.  

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Local fuel prices should further decline in coming weeks

PHILIPSBURG – Motorists and consumers will continue to see their fuel related bills decline further in the coming months as the Organization of Petroleum Producing Countries (OPEC) announced on November 27th, 2014 that it was leaving oil production levels unchanged leaving crude oil prices to further drop below US$70 per barrel.  If OPEC had decided to agree to cut oil production, it would have forced oil prices up leading to a higher fuel clause for electricity and higher prices at the gas pump.  One can expect Government to lower prices in the coming weeks.

Lower oil prices are also good for tourism.  Cruise companies no doubt welcome this as it will mean they will have to spend less on fuel and the same can be said for airlines.

At the 166th Meeting of the Conference of OPEC held in Vienna, Austria, the delegates reviewed the oil market outlook, as presented by the Secretary General, in particular supply/demand projections for the first, second, third and fourth quarters of 2015, with emphasis on the first half of the New Year.

The Conference also considered forecasts for the world economic outlook and noted that the global economic recovery was continuing, albeit very slowly and unevenly spread, with growth forecast at 3.2 per cent for 2014 and 3.6 per cent for 2015.

Recording its concern over the rapid decline in oil prices in recent months, the Conference concurred that stable oil prices – at a level which did not affect global economic growth but which, at the same time, allowed producers to receive a decent income and to invest to meet future demand – were vital for world economic wellbeing.  Accordingly, in the interest of restoring market equilibrium, the Conference decided to maintain the production level of 30 million barrels per day, as was agreed in December 2011.  As always, in taking this decision, Member Countries confirmed their readiness to respond to developments which could have an adverse impact on the maintenance of an orderly and balanced oil market.

Agreeing on the need to be vigilant given the uncertainties and risks associated with future developments in the world economy, the Conference directed the Secretariat to continue its close monitoring of developments in supply and demand, as well as non-fundamental factors such as speculative activity, keeping Member Countries fully briefed on developments.  

SOUALIGA NEWSDAY REPORT

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