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SMDF Hands Over Homes to Seniors

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - It was a great day in St. Peters as the St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) and the Dutch Ministry of Kingdom and Interior Relations (BZK) officially presented two newly constructed and renovated homes to Ernest Roumou and Esther Kivilier respectively.

On hand for the handovers were Robert-Jan der Wilde of the Office of the Dutch Representative in Philipsburg, SMDF Managing Director Keith Franca and Chairlady of SMDF’s Supervisory Board Richelda Emmanuel. At the small handover ceremony, the representatives of both organizations welcomed the two seniors to their new accommodations.

For St. Peters stalwart, Ernest ‘Sugarboy’ Roumou, it was a day to enter a brand-new home after 11 months of temporary living. Hurricane Irma’s winds completed destroyed the home and left nothing but foundation and rubble where a house once stood. The destruction sent the 85-year-old to the Festival Village, the Little League Stadium and later the Transitional Residential Facility.

Receiving his newly constructed concrete home, Roumou was visibly emotional. As the appreciative senior took in the day, he quietly thanked those responsible for his new home. Citing his many years of championing St. Peters, Chairlady of SMDF’s Supervisory Board Richelda Emmanuel thanked Roumou for his unwavering dedication to calling out for positive change in his community.

Similarly, SMDF Managing Director Keith Franca shared that it was a proud moment for the project to handover a new home to a person that had resided in the same home as long as Roumou did.

Just around the corner from Roumou, Esther Kivilier was settling in nicely to her newly renovated home. One of St. Peter’s oldest residents, Kivilier was all smiles as she welcomed her visitors.

The 94-year old who was brought to SMDF’s attention by the Department of Community Affairs, had been living in her home for decades and was in need of renovation assistance. Through SMDF’s Elderly Project, she was able to have her house adjusted to her needs.

On behalf of the Dutch Government, Robert-Jan der Wilde welcomed the seniors to their homes. “We hope that your homes will be a place of comfort, where you can feel safe and without worry,” said de Wilde.

In his remarks to the small group, Franca reiterated SMDF’s dedication to supporting seniors and thanked the Government of the Netherlands for making the funds available for the project. Additionally, he also extended thanks to the Joseph Dollison, the Technical Supervisor of the Housing component of the Elderly Project as well as the two contractors responsible for the projects Main Road Construction and Roland Arrindell.

Thus far, SMDF has completed works to 40 homes, including 7 new concrete homes. In the coming two months, the Fund will be executing works to 28 homes. Of these 28 homes, 6 will be new fully concrete structures.

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COCI Seeks Public Discussion about the reduction of commercial interest rates

PHILIPSBURG – The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) is seeking a public discussion with respect to the reduction of interest rates. COCI prepared a ‘White Paper’ for discussion and sent it to various stakeholders as unsolicited advice.

Stanley Lint, President of the Board of COCI, said it was an important issue and the premise to the ‘White Paper’ was after the passing of hurricane Irma, where local financial institutions offered their clients certain breaks such as zero interest rate grace periods on loan and mortgage facilities; bridging financing, and unsecured loans at a concessionary term rate of four per cent for business and personal loan clients; due to the devastation caused by Irma. The financial institutions foresaw the challenges that their clientele would experience in the weeks and months thereafter.

“As Chamber of Commerce and Industry, we believe it is our duty to provide ‘Thought Leadership’ for the benefit of the development of the economy and society of Sint Maarten,” Lint pointed out.

He further adds that this is a first initiative, “…for which we hope we will receive broad-based support from society at large, and the relevant socio-economic stakeholders and their representatives in particular.

“It is intended to create public awareness and start a healthy debate about ways to stimulate and guide the sustainable post-Irma economic development of Sint Maarten in the broadest sense of the word.”

Lint adds that the paper in no way is meant to be exhaustive, complete, or conclusive, and is merely intended as a starting point for a dialogue which will hopefully lead to concrete actions and results on the short-term, and a win-win situation for all stakeholders in the medium to long term.

COCI has taken note of the relief measures that commercial banks implemented and wishes to explore the possibility of further stimulating the sustainable economic development of Sint Maarten by having commercial interest rates reduced across the board for a certain period of time.

Sections covered in the ‘White Paper’ are: Introduction and background; The Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten (History, Role, structure and functioning); Monetary and foreign exchange policy; Sint Maarten’s economic development: monetary proposals, policies, and initiatives 2010-2017; The potential effects of the reserve requirement instrument; Interest rate reductions in a Caribbean context; and Request/proposal to the CBCS.

“The COCI aims to achieve this by first of all having consultations about this initiative with all relevant stakeholders. These consultations are required to ensure a responsible, well-prepared, and broad-based approach that will be beneficial to all parties involved in the long term.

“The consultations will include the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten (CBCS) in its capacity of financial supervisory and regulatory authority of the current monetary union between Curacao and Sint Maarten,” according to the introduction of the ‘White Paper.’

The ‘White Paper’ further states in its conclusion, “The COCI is aware of the many local and international parameters and circumstances that need to be taken into account and weighed by the CBCS when it comes to applying monetary policy instruments, like the reserve requirement percentage.

“As indicated and taking the contents of this paper and the underlying sources into account, the COCI believes that adding a temporary (indirect) reduction of the interest rates on Sint Maarten to its policy mix should be urgently considered and researched by the CBCS and the commercial banks.

“Ad indicated, the objective should be mitigating the effects of hurricane Irma and giving an additional impulse to the economic development of the island and potentially the monetary union of Curacao and Sint Maarten in general.”

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BIP SXM attends C.O.C.I business orientation

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Chamber of Commerce Sint Maarten (Chamber) has started an initiative for newly registered businesses called the ‘business orientation’. With this project Chamber aims to assist entrepreneurs with basic know how’s for doing business on Sint Maarten. 

The Director of Chamber, Mr. Baker, states: “At Chamber we want to do our part in building a sustainable future for Sint Maarten. The only way we can achieve that is by ensuring that businesses continue to operate past their startup phase. It usually takes 3 to 5 years to make a business profitable.

“Not knowing all the basic rules for registering a business on Sint Maarten can lead to non-compliance, not only at the tax administration but also at the USZV, the economic license department and the labour office etc, and shut down of one’s business during the first years of operating.

“The objective of the business orientation is to direct entrepreneurs to the relevant offices in order to finalize the ‘proper’ set up of one’s business and thus creating a more solid foundation for success.”

On Monday August 13th, the Bureau for Intellectual Property (the Bureau) attended the business orientation at Chamber in order to gain more insight on the requirements for doing business on Sint Maarten. The Bureau plans to work together with Chamber to inform newly registered businesses about intellectual property rights. 

The Bureau is enthusiastic about the collaboration with Chamber. Although the business orientation mainly focuses on what you have to do as a business owner the Chamber also briefly addresses what you can do in order to create a thriving business. The Bureau's input in the business orientation will be an added value to what you can do with your business. 

The Director of the Bureau, Mrs. Rosen-Sandiford comments: "Besides a business plan, swot analysis and the use of marketing to promote goods and services, entrepreneurs can consider the use of intellectual property as a tool to create (more) wealth.

“One method is the development of one's brand and the subsequent or simultaneous registration of one's trademark. A well-crafted mark is often a decisive tool for the success of any business, especially for a Small & Medium Enterprise (SME) in the market place.''   

Intellectual property services of the Bureau in a broad sense include mainly the registration of national and international trademarks, recordal of ideas, concepts and creations in an i-Envelope, patent registrations via the Patent Bureau in the Netherlands and in general providing information on intellectual property rights, for example copyright.

Both Chamber and the Bureau are excited to add intellectual property rights to the information provided in the business orientation and welcome businesses to attend this orientation free of charge. 

For more information visit us at www.bip.sx and www.chamberofcommerce.sx 

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WEATHER WATCH: Tropical activity could start to increase end of August

SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN – Crown Weather reported on Wednesday that the long-range weather model guidance is indicating that there could be an increase in development chances of severe weather in the tropical Atlantic by or around the end of August.

“The GFS model guidance shows lowering barometric pressures across the eastern Atlantic by the end of next week with two very robust areas of disturbed weather pushing westward during the week of August 27.

“In fact, last night's GFS model showed both of these systems becoming tropical cyclones with one of them impacting the Lesser Antilles around August 30.

“The forecast of lowering barometric pressures materializing over the eastern Atlantic is supported by not only the Canadian and European operational models, but also the GFS ensemble and European ensemble guidance.

“This is the first time that I have seen the GFS model start to forecast a tropical cyclone to develop in the tropical Atlantic since Beryl back in early July.

“I think that this is a signal that a pattern change towards a more active period in tropical development is about to happen. This has the support of the background atmosphere state in which the Madden Julian Oscillation will turn favorable for tropical development around late August,” according to Crown Weather on Wednesday.

SOUALIGA NEWSDAY REPORT WEATHER WATCH

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Fourteen new employees at P-Direkt

BONAIRE - P-Direkt Bonaire welcomed fourteen new colleagues on 1 August 2018. The new colleagues will follow an employee contact center training through the vocational guidance course (BBL).

The MBO 3 work and study trajectory lasts two years and is offered by Scholengemeenschap Bonaire (SGB).

P-Direkt provides HR services to the national government. With the work and study route, P-Direkt wants to further strengthen the quality of its services.

P-Direkt wishes the new employees and course participants the best of luck during their learning trajectory. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

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Nature Foundation Researching Pollution Related Algae Bloom in Simpson Bay Lagoon

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY LAGOON) - The St. Maarten Nature Foundation has been monitoring an algal bloom within sections of the Simpson Bay Lagoon over the past few weeks.

Boaters in the area have been complaining to the Nature Foundation of algae clogging the intakes of their vessel engines and a few isolated fish die-offs have been occurring due to the presence of the algae.

During two research dives in the Lagoon it was established that the probable identity of the algae is likely Ulveria oxysperma and Ulva Linza, both species are indicative of an increase in pollution levels and a decrease in water quality for the wider Simpson Bay Lagoon. 

Based on the probable identification of the species, water quality was tested in order to determine the possible cause of the algal bloom and a correlation to water quality. “We are a bit concerned that we have seen an increase in algae in the Lagoon, which is related to a drop-in water quality and in increase in pollution levels.

“Our preliminary results have shown that indeed there was a drop-in water quality with an increase in temperature related to us entering the hottest part of the year. We are also trying to determine whether or not the current algae bloom is related to the effects of the hundreds of boats and other types of infrastructure being sunk or damaged after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“This is definitely possible considering the type of stress the Simpson Bay Lagoon has been undergoing as an ecosystem and we expected for some time now for the environment in the Lagoon to react to that huge environmental stress.

“For the time being we will keep an eye on the situation and hopefully the bloom will dissipate in a few weeks,” commented Tadzio Bervoets of the Nature Foundation.

algae 2

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Minister of Finance Geerlings addresses Parliamentary Committee

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – On Tuesday Minister of Finance Perry Geerlings made a presentation to the Committee of Finance of the House of Parliament.  His statement to the House is as follows:

“Honourable Mr Chairman, honourable members of the Committee of Finance, The honourable people of Sint Maarten, good afternoon!  

“I am honoured to appear before you today, to discuss an essential item on the agenda of this committee, namely the effects of Hurricane IRMA on the General Pension Fund of Sint Maarten, APS, and the fast-track approach, adopted by APS after IRMA, to contribute towards the revitalization of the economy of Sint Maarten, as pursued by the Government.  

“Mr Chairman, depending on which source one follows, it has been estimated that IRMA caused over US$ 1.8 to 2 billion dollars in economic damage on Sint Maarten. Consequently, even with a Trust Fund sponsored by the Netherlands, in the amount of 550 million euros to finance the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, as well as the damage pay-outs by insurance companies and investments made by citizens and local corporations, one thing is sure, we still have an enormous financial shortfall of several hundred million US Dollars for the reconstruction of the Sint Maarten's economy and infrastructure over the next few years.   

“Given the fragile situation of Sint Maarten's economy, we must applaud those investors that believe in Sint Maarten and the resilience of our economy, especially the local institutions. That is why, as a former member of this house, I was very much encouraged last October, when I learnt that APS would embark on a fast-track project implementation program, to contribute to the reconstruction of Sint Maarten in the coming years.  

“By putting its shoulders under the reconstruction of the economy of Sint Maarten, through a speedier process for third-party project approval and the shortening of the duration of projects it undertakes, and because of its capital base, APS can play an essential role in stimulating the economy of Sint Maarten.    

“Not only will there be an acceleration of project implementation, but this would also have a positive effect on various economic sectors and the labour market in Sint Maarten in the post-IRMA period. These measures will, in turn, be favourable for the future financial position of the Government, because of the collection of wage and profit taxes connected to the increased economic activities. As a result, the Government’s deficit, which grew post-IRMA, will decrease over time.  

“However, fast-tracking has to consider the external and internal limitations imposed upon the Fund. In fast-tracking their projects, the APS is, for instance, dependent on the ability of the Government, to issue the necessary building and other permits on time. Furthermore, as future recipients of pension payable by the APS, we all want to ensure that, as a Pension Fund, the APS continues to adhere to the applicable Good Governance principles and standards, in safeguarding the pension entitlements of its members.   

“Therefore, even when projects are expedited, because of Sint Maarten's current situation post-IRMA, APS must continue to have due regard for the long-term interest of the participants of the fund, when making its investments. When I became Minister of Finance, I quickly visited APS to be informed of the state of affairs within the Fund, how it fared post-IRMA, and what contributions it was making since IRMA, given its promise to fast-track its large projects to help in the reconstruction of Sint Maarten's economy.  

“I was delighted to hear from the APS, that they have identified, and are very much ‘in control’ of the challenges to the Fund, which are mainly of an external nature.  These challenges include the outstanding arrears of the Government to the APS, and the ongoing discussion on the division of assets with the pension fund in Curaçao, as well as the need for pension reform in Sint Maarten, due to the consequences of an ageing population. Addressing these challenges will protect the future financial position of the Fund. 

“Despite these challenges, Management and the Board of APS have demonstrated that they are committed to the fast-track implementation strategy, with due consideration of the Fund’s primary responsibilities and interests. I was particularly happy to learn that APS was considering the implementation of a new Sint Maarten Investment Bank, which could become a game changer through the attraction or facilitation of the necessary funds to accelerate the economic development of Sint Maarten into a regional powerhouse in the years to come.   

“Mr. Chairman, APS' commitment to implement the necessary projects, especially their focus on different economic areas varying from the construction sector, to housing, to the tourism sector, and the healthcare sector, gives me additional hope, that we have people and institutions on this island, that are willing and able to take on the challenge of revitalizing the economy of Sint Maarten, in a sustainable way.   

“That is why, I readily accepted the invitation from the Secretary-General on your behalf, to join you and your members here today, together with the representatives of APS, to present the members of your esteemed committee with the necessary information on the projects thus far undertaken by APS and their contribution to the further development of Sint Maarten.  

“Mr Chairman, may I suggest that the representatives of APS make a presentation on the way the Fund has fared since IRMA occurred, and share information on which projects they have been pursuing to actively contribute to the reconstruction of the economy of Sint Maarten? After the APS presentation, I am at the members’ disposal to consider any questions they may have for the representatives of APS or myself.  Thank you, Mr Chairman!”

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Nature Foundation First to Launch Online Marine Park Tag System

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - Since 1997, the St. Maarten Nature Foundation, together with other islands of the Dutch Caribbean, has been the worldwide example for charging an environmental user fee to users of the National Marine Parks.

However, the current dive tag system has issues keeping up with the demand. Production costs, administration, risk management, and logistics are becoming more and more costly and time consuming. 

To overcome the issues described above of the actual “over the counter” divers tag payment method and to profit from new trends in how tourists use Internet to plan their vacations, the St. Maarten Nature Foundation has been working with Reef Support BV to develop an online payment system. The Nature Foundation is proudly the first to launch this new online system for marine park tags. 

“The online system will allow visiting divers and other Marine Park users to prepay their tags before arrival to their dive shop. With this system we hope to reduce the efforts of making “over the counter” sales of our Marine Park Diver tags.

“We expect not only to increase St. Maarten Nature Foundation revenue but also to save much of the valuable time of dive operators, whilst we provide our visitors with a modern, fast, and easy way to pay their tags” says Tadzio Bervoets manager of the Nature Foundation. 

“The new system generates a unique Tag for each user that is received by the buyer via e-mail. Upon arrival in your Dive Shop, operators can check for validity through a print version, in the diver phone or by simply login into the system and scanning the QR code of the tag.

“After an initial marketing effort, dive operators won’t need to sell tags over the counter anymore and it will take only 3 seconds to check validity of customer’s tags” stated Ramón de León Founder and Director of Reef Support. 

 “The help of the dive operators was instrumental in the past to make our Divers Tag a success, we are asking once again for the assistance of the dive operators to introduce this new system, which can only succeed with their help to spread the link of the payment page.

“Dive operators are asked to incorporate the link into their websites, bookings systems, and email communications with their customers. As we are trying to reduce our single-use plastics on the island, we are very happy to move to an electronical alternative to substitute the plastic Marine Park Tag” stated Nature Foundation’s Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.  

The Internet based payment system is up and running and ready to be used, St Maarten Marine Park Tags can now be purchased directly online via www.sintmaarten.reefsupport.org

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Young United Women Book Club: The Importance of Reading

ST. MARTIN (MARIGOT) - The Young United Women Book Club (YUWBC) in a press release stressed the importance of Reading and at the same time wished the students, teachers and parents a successful School Year 2018/2019.

“We all know the first weeks of school with our students can truly set the stage for the entire year.  When we read, we learn new things. And when we read together, we learn things not just about the book, but also about the people with whom we read.

“When we all get on the same page, we make better collaborators and problem solvers because we understand our world a little bit better. We become a community of engaged, educated, and empathetic individuals.

“And we have the opportunity to make better families, better communities, and a better world.  It is important that reading is encouraged among children at an early age. This is significant because there are numerous benefits that children can dilate from reading.

“Aside from mushrooming qualities and senses, children will be able to develop their Vocabulary and Spelling skills. We at the Young United Women Book Club wishes the Teachers, Students & Parents a successful school year as we read our way to the top!

“The more that you read, the more things you will know, the more that you learn, the more places you will go- Dr. Suess,” the YUWBC press release concludes.

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Boat owners advised to review hurricane season preparatory plans

GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – Boat owners are being advised by the Office of Disaster Management (ODM) to review their hurricane preparatory plans, so they can be ready to take action in the event of a storm/hurricane threat to the country during the upcoming peak months of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season.

The 2018 hurricane season has already seen four systems form. The Office of Disaster Management hereby advises mariners to ask themselves, “How have you prepared yourself for the hurricane season?”

ODM is requesting mariners to make special preparations to stay with friends or in a hotel and not to remain on their vessel during the passing of a hurricane while moored in the Simpson Bay Lagoon or Oyster Pond.

Considerations to remain in port during hurricane passage must include an evaluation of the amount of protection afforded by the port.  The direction from which the strongest winds are forecast to blow along with the potential for storm surge must be factored in when deciding whether to seek haven pier side or at anchorage.

ODM is also calling on the marine community and service providers who have a direct relationship with mariners to also remind their clients about seeking safe shelter/mooring in the event of a storm/hurricane strike upon the country.

ODM says, ‘Remember It Only Takes One to Make It a Bad Season.’

yacht 3480913 960 720

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