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Soualiga Newsday Latest News (1605)

Minister Wuite takes thank you gifts to Dutch Representative

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - As a follow-up to the digital letter of appreciation sent to Dutch Ministers Ingrid van Engelshoven of Education, Culture and Science and Arie Slob of Primary and Secondary Education and Media, Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Jorien Wuite paid a visit to the Dutch Representative of the Netherlands based in St. Maarten Chris Johnson on April 18th and presented him the official original copy of the letter as well as an overview of all donations received from the Dutch Ministry after hurricane Irma and a listing as to where those items were disseminated. 

Also presented to Mr. Johnson was a collection of thank-you drawings made by students of various primary schools on the island, including an enormous thank you card made by the students of the Methodist Agogic Center Browlia F. Maynard Campus.

During the visit Minister Wuite, along with representatives of the Ministry’s management team, had the opportunity to once again express gratitude for the aid provided by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. 

As stated in the letter Minister Wuite expressed that “The passing of Hurricane Irma and Maria left our country in a state of emergency. In September, we reached out to our international partners and stakeholders, with our urgent request to assist us to rebuild and restructure our beloved island.

“We were able to rely on you, as one of our strong partners in education, through your immediate response to assist us. This display of partnership and support gave us strength in our venture to jump-start the successful re-opening of the schools in October, while furthering the damage assessments in the sectors of education, culture, youth and sport.”

Varying items such as school furniture, various school materials, white boards and digital boards, laptops, printers and first aid kits were just some of the smaller items received in addition to three large pavilion tents complete with technical assistance on erection.

Ministry staff, in close consultation and dialogue with the school boards, ensured that all donations were itemized and delivered based on schools’ specific needs.  As donations continue to be received the Ministry will continue to work diligently to make sure these items are properly cataloged and distributed. Minister Wuite expresses her sincere appreciation for the hard-working staff members that spent hours on the project and commends their dedication.

Minister Wuite was also able to discuss with Mr. Johnson progress made to date with repairs to school and sport facilities on the island as well as share concerns on the extensive amount of work to be done before the peak of the next hurricane season.   

Mr. Johnson thanked the Minister for her visit and reaffirmed the support of the Dutch government in the recovery of the island on a whole and in particular all schools, sports facilities and cultural monuments.

CUTLINE: from left to right, Shermina Powell-Richardson - Acting Secretary General, Minister Wuite, Suzan Afjes - Policy Advisor, Oralie Board - Division of Education Innovations Head, Chris Johnson - Dutch Representative to St. Maarten, Robert-Jan de Wilde - Policy Staff of representation office.

dutch letter 2

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Central Committee Session on Thursday about 2018 National Budget

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The first country budget under the stewardship of Minister of Finance Michael Ferrier post-Hurricane Irma which was recently approved by the Council of Ministers, will be handled in a Central Committee session of the House of Parliament on Thursday, April 26 starting at 10.00AM.

The draft 2018 National Budget is Naf.554 million guilders with income projected to be Naf.303 million and a deficit of Naf.197 million.

Minister Ferrier is hoping that the House of Parliament will approve the draft National Budget by May 1.

SOUALIGA NEWSDAY REPORT

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CUSTOMERS GET MIND-BLOWING DEALS AT MOTORWORLD, CARIBBEAN AUTO & AUDI INVENTORY BLOW-OUT SALE

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - On Saturday, the Motorworld, Caribbean Auto and Audi Inventory Blow-Out Sale brought out hundreds of people with the expectation of getting a good deal on the wide array of vehicles on sale. This expectation was met with a sense satisfaction, as many took advantage of the deals and discounted prices.

"There was such a great turn out. It's always a pleasure to work with customers and see the smiles on their faces once they purchase a vehicle," says Rena Amjad, CEO, Motorworld Group of Companies.

Customers were lined up early, even before the event started, to take advantage of the sales. Some remained throughout the day to enjoy the festive environment as they partied with the purpose of sealing a great deal, while it was still available. Several vehicles were being marked "sold" within minutes after they were put on display.

RBC, Scotiabank, First Caribbean and Windward Islands bank were onsite to provide special auto financing packages. Complimentary food, drinks along with a variety of free giveaways were also provided to customers including, free tickets to Carnival shows for the winners of the Facebook promotions, which are still ongoing.

"It was a massive success! Though we sold out a large part of our inventory, we do have some vehicles left for those who missed it," shared Tariq Amjad, Managing Director, Motorworld Group of Companies.

The Carnival Bachannal sale continues throughout April with discounted prices on new, used and select damaged vehicles.

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A Climate of Change for the Caribbean Internet

SINT MAARTEN/MIAMI - Spring storms with winter qualities clobbered North America this week, threatening Canada with slow-moving storms, and pounding the United States with near-record snowfall in the Midwest, low temperatures in the south and tornadoes further east. You could say change was in the air.
 
And although the unseasonable weather didn't reach as far south as Florida, the climate of change still dominated the atmosphere at the fifteenth regional meeting of the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), held in downtown Miami from April 18 to 20.
 
Network operator groups, or NOGs, are forums where the professionals who design, build, maintain and secure computer networks get together to discuss matters of mutual interest. CaribNOG is a volunteer-based and fast-growing NOG serving the Caribbean region.
 
The group's latest meeting, CaribNOG 15, focused on improving the fundamental nature of the Caribbean Internet by strengthening the resilience of its infrastructure and harmonising the regional policies that determine its governance. Resilience refers to the ability of network to maintain acceptable levels of service in the face of a range of challenges, including cyber-attacks and natural disasters, and even user-errors.

The meeting was held at the Caribbean's de facto gateway to the global Internet. Miami acts as the major hub of hosting and transit services for network traffic from the region. It is also a virtual extension of the Caribbean, acting as the transit point for air and sea cargo entering the region, and as a major destination for migrants of Caribbean background. In 2014, an estimated four million migrants from the Caribbean resided in the United States, with heavy concentrations in Florida, and Miami-Dade County specifically.
 
But while Florida recovered quickly from the impacts of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, Puerto Rico, Dominica, Tortola, BVI and other Caribbean islands are still reeling from the devastation. Now, with less than two months before the official start of the 2018 season, the Caribbean again faces a major threat to its already weakened infrastructure.

Deficiencies in the region’s telecommunications infrastructure and preparedness were exposed with telling effect in 2017, as disaster response agencies struggled to coordinate relief efforts and citizens struggled to get information or communicate in the aftermath of the storms. The CaribNOG community took notice. Network disaster preparedness, risk mitigation, business continuity and recovery planning have taken top priority on the group’s 2018 agenda.
 
“Resilient Caribbean communications infrastructure is foundational to the region’s ability to effectively respond in time of crisis. Strengthening the technical capacity of the engineers and administrators who manage and safeguard networks in the Caribbean is therefore a major priority for CaribNOG,” said Bevil Wooding, a co-Founder of CaribNOG and the Caribbean Liaison at the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), one of five registries that coordinate Internet number resources worldwide.

CaribNOG 15 was co-located with ARIN's public policy and members meeting, called ARIN 41, held from April 15 to 18. On April 19, ARIN launched a Caribbean Forum, with special symposia focused on Public Policy and Justice. The Public Policy group will focus on a coordinated approach to policy that supports development of the internet at the national and regional levels. The Justice group will support collaboration among law enforcement agencies tackling Internet-related incidents in North America and the Caribbean.

“With all the activity taking place at this event, in reality only one thing is happening: the advance of the Caribbean Internet,” said Wooding.

The co-location of CaribNOG 15 with ARIN 41 and the new Caribbean Forum created a lively environment for the discussion of a broad range of issues. One common theme was the need to support what is working and to help fix what is broken.
 
"Sometimes our meetings focus primarily on technical matters, but CaribNOG 15 was different," said Jamaican-born Stephen Lee, Program Director at CaribNOG and CEO of US-based technology services firm, Arkitechs.
 
"The resilience of the Internet in the Caribbean depends on and affects many other aspects of regional development. At CaribNOG 15, we set out to leverage the presence of a diverse range of stakeholders--including policymakers, law enforcement and public sector--to create a special environment for technical discussions about the future of the Caribbean internet.”
 
Melford Nicholas, Minister of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Information Technology for Antigua and Barbuda, and President of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), delivered remarks at the event.
 
"We all share one goal," he said. "The region needs forums like CaribNOG to ensure that we are adequately prepared for the challenges of the digital era."
 
There are already some encouraging signs.  The Internet Society is developing a Disaster Relief Fund as part of its Beyond The Net funding program. This new program will enable Internet Society Chapters in affected regions after a natural disaster to apply for funds for projects that restore Internet connectivity.

The recently formed Commission on Caribbean Communications Resilience is expected to release a report soon that includes specific recommendations for Caribbean governments, regulators and communications ministries to strengthen regional communication network resilience and improve policy, infrastructure, regulation, technologies and systems.

An upcoming Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum is set to bring together regional network operators to explore opportunities for strengthening Caribbean network resilience and Internet Exchange Point expansion.

Not least of all, the broad-based support for CaribNOG 15 also made a telling statement. The meeting was held with the support of ARIN, Arkitechs, CTU, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the Internet Society, the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Registry and Packet Clearing House. 

The worst of this year's hurricane season will have come and gone before the next CaribNOG regional meeting, which is set for November 14 to 16. But ongoing movements give reason to hope that the region will be better prepared for whatever this year's season brings. BY GERARD BEST

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Dutch pensioners live in their own homes for longer

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The percentage of people over the age of 85 who are still living independently at home went up from 65% to 72% between 2012 and 1016, according to research by the Dutch healthcare authority NZa.

The government has been actively encouraging people to stay at home since 2013, and the survey results show this is beginning have an effect, the NZa said.

In particular, the government has introduced new health checks for admittance to a home. Now, almost half of care home residents have some form of dementia, compared with just 25% in 2012.

There are some three million people over the age of 65 living in the Netherlands, but their number is set to grow to 4.5 million – or a quarter of the population – by 2040.

The over-65s currently account for almost half of all spending on healthcare, but most of that goes on the small group who live in residential homes.

Assets

Finance ministry research earlier this month showed that today’s pensioners in the Netherlands have more disposable income than in the past and their assets have increased due to soaring house price.

But even excluding home ownership, pensioners have more assets on average than the rest of the population.

Dutch pensioners are also well off when compared with other countries. Just 2.6% of Dutch pensioners are said to be poor, compared with 8.2% of households in general. (DutchNews)

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SZV INFORMS FULL HOUSE ON EMPLOYER OBLIGATIONS FOR CONSTRUCTION SECTOR

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Social & Health Insurances SZV hosted well over 100 guests at its offices on Tuesday (April 17th) evening for the first of a series of ‘Employer Obligations’ information sessions as part of the SZV compliance awareness campaign launched earlier this month.

The information session was specifically for the construction sector and guests included employers, main contractors, sub-contractors, administrative personnel, lawyers and accountants.

General SZV employer obligations were highlighted such as registration, mutations, declaration and payment. SZV however paid special focus to the explanation of the ‘chain of liability’ law. SZV stressed the importance of companies understanding their obligations and the liability risks of non-compliance to the SZV laws.

“With the post-Irma status of the country, there is an undeniable spike in the construction sector, which is a logical result; however, this spike is not reflected in the administration of SZV. The compliance awareness campaign is not only for the construction sector, but for all employers in all sectors, new and old.

“SZV will be intensifying its controls, and supplement to this, the awareness campaign offers employers the opportunity to gain the necessary information to better understand and adhere to the stipulated procedures. It is also a welcomed opportunity for employers to connect with SZV and come to solutions for those facing difficulties in complying with their obligations,” SZV Management said on Thursday.

The session lasted for an additional hour, ending at 9pm, as guests posed relatable questions regarding the registration requirements of their employees, procedures for mutations and responded critically to the explanation of the ‘chain of liability’ law.

Many sought to better understand how to improve their contracts and negotiations, due to the risk of additional liability to SZV. Representatives of SZV confirmed during the session that a specific follow-up session solely on the topic of the ‘chain of liability’ law would take place in the month of May.

Contractors will also be contacted directly by SZV to schedule individual support sessions with account managers. Those interested were able to schedule their appointments with the SZV Employer Desk directly after the session.

The session was a welcomed opportunity to highlight the Employer Desk services, which was launched last year, including the new online services such as the Online Employer Portal. The portal enables online declaration and payment of SZV premiums.

In addition to online declaration and payment, many employers present expressed the need for online submission of mutations as well. SZV was pleased to announce that this request is well known and currently being worked on. The option to submit mutations online is expected to go into pilot phase later this year within Online Employer Portal, which is accessible via the website of SZV www.szv.sx.

Follow-up workshop sessions for Employers will commence in the month of May and focus on the topics of: Chain of Liability law, Submitting mutations, Declaration of Premiums and Online Employer Portal access and use.

Interested persons will have to register for participation, as these sessions will be hands-on, hosted in small-groups or on an individual basis. SZV encourages attendance of Managing Directors to these sessions as well, as the administrative responsibility and thus liability ultimately falls on these persons. Registration will be possible via the website of SZV and dates will communicated in May.

The presentation slides of Tuesday’s session are now available on the website www.szv.sx. Video footage of the session will be made available on SZV’s YouTube channel on a later date.

Additional requested information such as wage limits and premiums, employer premium payment percentages, declaration forms and requirement lists are also available on the website.

Questions or contact with the Employer Desk can be made via +1721 546-6782, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.szv.sx or SZV’s Facebook Page: SZV Social & Health Insurances.

CUTLINE: Guest taking notes during SZV Employer information session. 

LDX SZV 16

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BirdsCaribbean Questions Export of Endangered Dominican Parrots

SINT MAARTEN/DOMINCA - The bird conservation group BirdsCaribbean released a statement questioning the export of rare parrots from Dominica to Germany. BirdsCaribbean also joined over a dozen international groups asking the United Nations to investigate the export and help return the parrots to their native island.

In March of this year, twelve wild parrots of two rare species were exported to Germany. They were taken from an aviary where they were recovering after Hurricane Maria hit Dominica in September 2017. Both species, the Sisserou and the Jaco, are found only in Dominica. The Sisserou is Dominica’s national bird and it appears on Dominica’s flag. The exports shocked bird experts on Dominica and around the world. 

“We are alarmed by this and we hope to bring these birds back to Dominica,” said BirdsCaribbean Executive Director Lisa Sorenson. “We also want to prevent the future trafficking of rare birds under the pretense of conservation.”

The group that took the parrots, Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots, claimed it was an emergency measure to start a captive breeding program in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Bird experts questioned this reason and the legal basis for the export.

On their website, BirdsCaribbean describes the many problems with the export. Captive breeding programs can help some rare species, but it seems unlikely in this case. Post-Maria, both kinds of parrots are recovering in the wild on Dominica. The aviary birds taken were healthy and expected to be ready for release back into the wild soon.

The number of parrots taken, including just 2 Sisserou parrots, is too few to start a breeding program. This raises questions about the scientific merit of the actions and if there are plans for capturing and exporting more birds in the future. 

The parrots had the care they needed in local facilities on Dominica. It is better to help parrots in their home country with help from outside as needed. Local authorities and the people of Dominica are the ultimate stewards of these species and should be empowered as such.

BirdsCaribbean and others have questions about the legality of the export. Usually, many experts take part in the decision to start a captive breeding program and there are strict rules for the trade of endangered species. This export was a surprise to all. It is also unclear if proper permits were obtained to export the parrots.

The full statement by BirdsCaribbean is on BirdsCaribbean.org

CUTLINE: Rescued and rehabilitated Jaco parrots at the aviary in Dominica. (Photo by Stephen Durand)

Jaco

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Minister of Justice De Weever says measures forthcoming to combat robberies and barkers

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever on Monday met with Chief Police Commissioner Carl John regarding armed robberies and barker harassment.

The Minister of Justice was informed during the meeting that a strategy is in place and will be carried out by the police officers as they execute their daily duties to protect and to serve the community of Sint Maarten.

Some of the measures include increased police surveillance in the Simpson Bay area as well as preventative searches throughout the country. This will be an ongoing operation by the Police Force.

“The recent armed robberies are very concerning, and it has the undivided attention of the Police Force. Community support is very much key as well.

“If you know something, call the Police and inform them. Help the Police to protect you and our community. Fighting crime is a responsibility of the entire community.

“With respect to barkers, action will be taken to protect our livelihood which is tourism. Safety and security of cruise passengers are essential for the cruise passenger experience while visiting a destination.

“The safety and security of our visiting guest is priority number one, and cannot be taken for granted. Our law enforcement officials will do all they can according to the laws of the land where infringements are found,” Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever said on Tuesday.

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Armed robbery of another restaurant in the Simpson Bay Area

SIMPSON BAY - The Special Unit is presently investigating an armed robbery which took place on Tuesday April 17th at approximately 1.30 a.m. at Marty’s Gyros on Welfare road close to Kim Sha Beach.

Two men dressed in dark clothing and their face covered, one of which armed with a handgun stormed into the establishment coming from the rear of the building. The armed suspect threatened several customers that were in the establishment at the time with his firearm, at the same time allowing the second suspect to rob at least four victims of their personal belongings.

After committing this act the suspects fled the scene via the rear of the building, the same way the entered. Nothing was stolen from the establishment. No one was injured during the robbery. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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Minister of Tourism De Weever Welcomes the Return of United Airlines

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – Acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Cornelius de Weever, welcomes the return of United Airlines to the destination.

United Airlines returned on Saturday, April 14 to Princess Juliana International Airport.  The airline will provide once a week airlift out of Newark, New Jersey.

“The return of United Airlines once again demonstrates that the country is slowly moving forward and the destination is open for business.

“Even though it’s a once weekly flight, it still translates into additional airlift to the destination.  This should further influence airfares as well to the destination.

“United Airlines shows that they are committed to the destination and over time we expect additional flights to be added as the country slowly returns to pre-Irma level.  Every new partial resort opening further strengthens our national economy. 

“Airlines are looking at how fast our hotel infrastructure re-opens and this results in additional airlift. We have a number of partial resort openings taking place in the coming weeks and months. These re-openings will lead to employment opportunities and places for our visitors to stay and enjoy the ‘Friendly Island,’ Acting Minister of Tourism Cornelius de Weever said on Monday.

United Airlines and United Express operate approximately 4,500 flights a day to 338 airports across five continents. In 2017, United and United Express operated more than 1.6 million flights carrying more than 148 million customers.

United has the world's most comprehensive route network, including U.S. mainland hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark/New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., according to the airline.

United operates 744 mainline aircraft and the airline's United Express carriers operate 518 regional aircraft. The airline is a founding member of Star Alliance, which provides service to 191 countries via 28 member airlines. 

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