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FIREFLY FAMILY FIREWORKS SETS RECORD STRAIGHT

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Firefly Family Fireworks, which has been engaged in the import and distribution of fireworks since 2011, wishes to publicly state that despite meeting with the Prime Minister to convey their concern regarding the import and sale of fireworks for the New Year’s celebration 2018/2019, they were informed by mid-November 2018 that fireworks shooting into the air going higher than five meters would not be allowed to be imported and sold. This was in complete contrast to previously granted permits, 

Firefly has always advocated for a safety first approach and in no way attempted to circumvent the rules or avoid restrictions that are currently in place for the import and sale of fireworks. However, the company cautions that there must be consistency with regards to enforcing said rules and restrictions. 

Over time, starting in 2012 up to and including 2018, this has not always been the case. At the heart of the inconsistency lies the country’s outdated and soon up-for-review fireworks ordinance. The ordinance, and the incorrect interpretations made of it, causes quite a bit of confusion for companies operating in the sale of consumer fireworks, particularly when it seems the goal posts keep moving year over year with no provided reasoning. 

For example, in 2012 repeaters (cakes) were not allowed to be sold; by 2014, they were allowed for import and distribution. Similarly, in 2012 the 16000 shot rolls were not permitted for import and sale, but in 2016, it was permitted to order and sell these fireworks. Firefly laments a general lack of knowledge when it comes to fireworks as one of the primary factors behind the confusion within the local industry. 

The company cites incidents wherein inventory had already arrived on island and was suddenly disallowed by the Fire Department. It must be noted, Firefly states, that the United States will never ship anything without having seen a valid import permit for the order of consumer fireworks. Yet on more than one occasion, the local fire chief insisted that the items in question were pyrotechnical fireworks, based on their size, despite seeing that the label clearly stated “consumer fireworks.”

These inconsistencies are not restricted to just the products being imported and sold. They extend to the storage, display and on-site security of the containers housing the fireworks. In 2013 and 2014, the Fire Department demanded that sand be placed around the sides of the container, ignoring Firefly’s objections due to the cost involved and the fact that it is not stated in the ordinance that sand is required. 

Nevertheless, the company complied with the new restriction. By 2015, the company was informed that indeed, after having consulted the fireworks ordinance, it was apparent that sand was not required. 

To complicate matters, the ordinance in its current form contains contradictory information, which contributes to the confusing and frustrating interactions between companies, government and the Fire Department each year. 

As an example, it must be noted that the current ordinance forbids importing fireworks with an explosive capacity of more than 40 mg; however, the worldwide standard for a firecracker is an explosive capacity of 50 mg, which makes it impossible for any company to comply with the ordinance’s limitation. This inaccurate information should be updated to reflect the global reality in any revisions made to the ordinance. 

In addition to this, Firefly has made every effort since 2011 to submit their permit request early for the right to import and sell fireworks, often providing their application by April in preparation for December sales. This is significantly ahead of the three-month gap between the request and the start date for a permit that is noted down in the law. 

However, Firefly has encountered significant delays with the permit process each year. This frustration is only worsened by the discrepancies that pop up once the permit is granted and impact the company’s ability to properly conduct business. 

On 29 December 2018, it was reported in The Daily Herald that a company had submitted a request for the import and sale of fireworks but “did not complete the process.” This statement from the Fire Department was incorrect, as Firefly had submitted all necessary documents months in advance, however, due to the restriction of importing fireworks shooting more than five meters in the air, the company decided to abandon the request. Firefly has all documents stamped and dated by the Fire Department, contradicting the 28 December 2018 statement. 

It must be noted that despite Firefly not receiving the permit to import and sell fireworks, the sky on New Year’s Eve 2018 above St. Maarten was lit up with many beautifully-colored fireworks, which begs the following questions:

  1. How did these fireworks get here and who was selling them. The news that they were bought on the French Side of the island was fake. The French Side cannot import fireworks, only sell.
  2. Did the authorities pursue the illegal import and sale and what was the outcome of this.
  3. Can the Government provide us with the amount of times that the Fire Department had to respond to fires caused by fireworks between the 29’ December and the 31’ December 2018

Firefly has, on numerous occasions, offered to be part of the review regarding the fireworks ordinance, as one of the main stakeholders in the industry. The company reiterates that it is not opposed to regulations but these must be based on accurate information and backed by consistent practices.

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NA President offers condolences to the Dutch Government after terrorist attack

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The recently elected board of the National Alliance (NA) is in deep shock after learning of the senseless terrorist attack in Utrecht leading to the death of three (3) innocent lives and five (5) wounded, the NA said on Sunday in a media statement. 

“On behalf of “The National Alliance” political party and the people of St Maarten, we hereby extend our sincere condolences to the bereaved families and the Government of the Netherlands,” President of the Board, Lenny F. Priest said on Sunday behalf of the National Alliance. 

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NA Congratulates WIPM Party on March 20 Victory

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Leader of the St. Maarten National Alliance (NA) Party, Member of Parliament Ms. Silveria Jacobs - hereby extends her congratulations to the leadership as well as rank and file of Saba’s Windward Islands People’s Movement (WIPM)for the victory in theMarch 20th Island Council elections, the NA said in a press statement on Sunday.

“A unique and enviable result, that bodes well for real deep and sustainable changes required for the continued socio-economic growth of our sister island of Saba. We must also commend the other two parties that participated in the election as well,” Member of Parliament Ms. Silveria JacobsParty and Faction Leader said in the statement on behalf of the National Alliance.

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De Weever says separation of powers must not be compromised

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – The Cabinet of the Minister of Justice issued a statement on Sunday afternoon in connection with the incarceration of Leader of the United Democrat (UD) Party Member of Parliament (MP) Theo Heyliger.

Minister Cornelius de Weever statement reads as follows: “In the last few weeks there has been many discussions surrounding Mr. Heyliger. Please note that it is not customary for me or the ministry to react any investigations whether they are open or closed. 

“As much as I sympathize with his family and any family whose loved ones, parent, child or friend are involved in an investigation that has led to his or her pre-trial detention or incarceration, there is a fine line that any minister of justice has to walk to avoid getting personally involved. 

“The minister is responsible for public order and should not get involved in individual cases. This case like every other case has to be fought in the court of justice and not in the court of public opinion.

“With this in mind I would like to stress that the office of the minister of justice cannot and should not be compromised or used as the fall guy neither for the prosecutor or any suspect.

“The system that we have-trias politica-with our legislative, executive and judicial branches-clearly separate the powers. These are the boundaries in which we must operate,” Justice Minister Cornelius de Weever said in a statement on Sunday.

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THE TOP 10 SCENIC AIRPORTS 2019 REVEALED: SXM AIRPORT AT #5

SINT MAARTEN – Just release by SXM Airport, PrivateFly has issued the following statement on the top 10 scenic airports for 2019.  

While ‘window or aisle’ may be a matter of debate on many flights, certain destinations demand an uninterrupted view on landing. And the world’s most window seat-worthy runways are now revealed, in PrivateFly’s annual Scenic Airports poll, voted for by travel fans and experts.

Click to view: https://www.privatefly.com/airport-poll/privatefly-airport-poll-results-2019.html

Adam Twidell, CEO of PrivateFly and an experienced pilot, comments: “Some airports offer an aerial view that becomes reason enough to visit in itself – never mind what attractions await on the ground.

“Our Scenic Airports poll presents a bucket list for travel fans, offering a mix of global descents to tick off in your lifetime. Some of these destinations are rapidly acquiring iconic status with aviation enthusiasts as a result.”

PrivateFly teamed up with a panel of travel experts to form the shortlist before the public vote, including travel writers Nigel Tisdall and Francesca Street; and aviation experts Johnny Jet and Doug Gollan.

The 2019 top ten is as follows:

  1. Donegal (Ireland)
  2. Barra (Scotland, UK)
  3. Nice (France)
  4. Orlando Melbourne (USA)
  5. St Maarten (French/Dutch Caribbean)
  6. Saba (Dutch Caribbean)
  7. Queenstown (New Zealand)
  8. Toronto Billy Bishop (Canada)
  9. London City (England, UK)
  10. Aosta (Italy)

The most votes overall went to Ireland’s Donegal Airport, on the country’s northwest Atlantic coast, which claims the number one spot for the second year.

Twidell continues: “Donegal’s rugged coastal landscapes are truly awe-inspiring as you come into land. There is simply nowhere else like it, and its popularity with global travelers is clear.”  

One voter commented in support of Donegal: “The view is spectacular! Mountains on one side and a beautiful rugged coastline dotted with islands and golden sandy beaches running adjacent to the runway.” Another said "there is nowhere as lovely as the wild rugged beauty of unspoiled Donegal.”

Anne Bonner, Managing Director of Donegal Airport comments as follows: “We are delighted to retain this acclaim as the ‘World’s Most Scenic Airport Landing 2019’, having been voted No. 1 airport landing for the second year running. It is indeed a great endorsement from the travelling public and aviation/travel experts. Donegal airport is located in the heart of the Northern Headlands in Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way – now top of the world’s places to visit”.

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A Solution in Search of a Problem: Curacao Policy Response to the Economic Crisis

SINT MAARTEN/CURACAO (COMMENTARY) - When a nation faces serious economic problems, the logical policy response to solve those problems has to be the result of a profound, and at the same time broad analysis of the underlying causes of those problems. One has to make the right diagnosis of those problems to come up with the appropriate policy response. Otherwise, a wrong policy response may aggravate those problem instead of solving them.

In the IMF parlance, one needs to engage in financial programming: Financial programming is a framework to analyze the current state of the economy, forecast where the economy is headed without policy intervention, and identify economic policies that can change the course of the economy, while taking the interdependencies between economic, fiscal and monetary policy into account.

In the case of Curacao, rather than analyzing the current state of the economy, since 10-10-10, successive governments have consistently been blindsided by their urge to please CFT, while focusing only on budgetary imbalances. The economic crisis that we are experiencing today therefore, is the result of gross negligence of our policymakers. Since 2012, I have warned of an impending economic crisis as a result of decisions and/or policy actions that have been taken in the past. If not timely addressed, I argued, the crisis may drag us in an economic abyss.  

In addition, I have warned that the existence of CFT has created a state of mental paralysis of our policymakers. Implicit in the law that instituted the CFT are a set of perverse incentives that render sound macro-economic policy making irrelevant. Sound macro-economic policy since 10-10-10 came to be defined as: meeting CFT demands to avoid an instruction from the Kingdom Council of Ministers (RMR). Hence, since 10-10-10 all macro-economic policies came to be seen or have been justified as “necessary to meet CFT demands”. Meeting the CFT demands became a goal in itself and thus gradually transformed from ‘necessary’ to ‘sufficient’ condition. This all at the expense of the social and economic situation. 

We are now in 2019 with the economic crisis gaining momentum and yet our policymakers seem still to be blindsided by the CFT demands. We have to realize that our budgetary problems cannot be seen in isolation but rather are the result of our mistakes in the realm of social economic policy making. Given the nature and size of our current budget deficit, no sustainable solution is at hand without addressing the underlying economic problems.

The inflationary set of policies that the government has announced to address our economic ills will further deepen our economic crisis. They will erode the purchasing power of the consumer with all their economic (e.g., loss of jobs) and social consequences (e.g., increase in poverty, and brain drain by mid and high-level professionals leaving the island in search for employment elsewhere) without addressing the objective they want to achieve.

One should ask oneself: will a further increase in the sales tax improve our competitiveness in the international financial sector? Will an increase in excises and import duties reactivate the refinery through a new operator, willing to make the necessary investments in the refinery? Will the announced measures create the necessary and sufficient conditions to improve our airlift and hence strengthen the tourism sector? Will they lead to the reversal of the net foreign exchange outflow and hence improve the current account position of the balance of payments?

The answers to those questions serve to indicate that contrary to what the government purport to achieve with those set of measures, they will lead to further economic contraction, poverty and brain drain and eventually loss of government revenue and hence further budgetary disequilibrium.

The question becomes: if the announced set of measures are not the right ones, what then? What are the appropriate set of measures to be taken in the current state of the economy?

As argued before, our problem is the economy. For the appropriate solutions, the government should not be talking to the CFT but rather to those with the necessary understanding of and experience in financial programming. We are experiencing unusual economic problems that call for unusual, and comprehensive policy response. In this regard, while fiscal soundness is necessary it has to take a back-seat position. AT THE FOREFRONT OF OUR ECONOMIC AGENDA MUST BE THE REACTIVATION OF OUR ECONOMY.

Given the magnitude and urgency of the problems we are facing, a sustainable solution is only possible if we take a multi-annual approach. A policy of acquiescence toward CFT means draconian fiscal measures with far-reaching negative social and economic consequences. 

Given the size of our economy, each percentage point growth will generate approximately Naf 17 million in additional tax revenues. This implies that with the current lackluster growth we cannot not grow out of this problem with current policies.  

This means that if the adjustment path may make compliance with the “Rijkswet Financiele Toezicht” impossible, we will have to come up with some form of accommodation on the Kingdom level to make this possible. Our future and sound macroeconomic policy cannot hinge on past decisions. 

The appropriate policy response therefore should be: in the short run addressing our pressing economic problems to avoid an economic abyss and devise a medium to long run policy to improve the resiliency of our economy to achieve sound macro-economic policies. 

Dr. E. Tromp

March 19, 2019 

EDITOR’S NOTE: (Initially published in the Curacao Chronicle)

 

MIKE FERRIER – Hear hear!!!

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY) - Hear hear!!! I am far from being an economist, nor am I a highly learned person, but pleased to read in above mentioned article by the former President of the Central Bank of Curacao & Sint Maarten that our approach to argue St. Maarten’s case, was probably the right one. I refer to the following observation by Mr. Tromp: “At the forefront of our economic agenda MUST be the reactivation of our economy!” 

In my capacity as Interim Minister of Finance from January 15, 2018 to June 25, 2018, extensive discussions with the Dutch Government representatives were held, pleading that the lions’ share of the financial help offered by them should have been used in the early stages after the natural disaster to fund initiatives and projects that would jump-start economic activity on St. Maarten post Hurricane Irma.

For example: funding should have paid for a “Serve-Pro, like it never even happened”-type team of professionals who could have cleaned up and mitigated additional damage to the interior of the Air Terminal Building at the SXM Airport. 

Funding should have also been made available to facilitate the expedited “better & stronger” rebuilding of tourist accommodations, and to develop programs offering “soft” loans to small and medium sized businesses. 

What was needed were immediate and focused financial injections to tide these businesses over for 2 years, until Winter Season 2019-2020. What St. Maarteners needed, were practical programs to quickly and intensively invest in roof/home repairs, Mental Health Support and other social programs. 

These types of quick and major investments would have given the economy of this destination the “boostershot” it needed at the time it needed it most. If funding could have been combined with our people’s sense of “let’s do for ourselves what we know is best, in-spite of government’s willingness/ability to help (or lack thereof)”, our economy would have gotten the “jump-start” it needed. 

I am convinced that an early, aggressive funding approach would have given both parties, St. Maarten and Holland, the biggest bang for the buck (EURO). The World Bank solution to take care of the “lack-of-trust” issue, unfortunately as predicted, has become our recovery’s “Albatross”.The roll-out of the Dutch hurricane aid will undoubtedly help the island to over the years become more “Hurricane -proof”, but the slow pace has unfortunately prevented crucial emergency aid to the vulnerable amongst our citizens (when it was most needed) and it, as well as ongoing process- and man-made bureaucratic holdups  continue to seriously delay  the recovery of our island’s main economic pillar: TOURISM. 

Michael J. Ferrier

MJF by Petes Photo 800x685

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Man shot in Union Farm. Police seeking assistance from the community

UNION FARM - On Thursday March 21stat approximately 5.15 AM police patrols and paramedics were directed to Sao Paolo Road in Union Farm where it was reported that a man was lying on the road and was bleeding, police said in a report on Thursday. 

On the scene the investigating officers encountered the unknown victim on the crossing of Brazilia and Sao Paolo road. The victim was bleeding from gunshot wounds to the upper extremities of his body and had difficulty breathing. 

The victim was treated by paramedics on the scene and then transported to the Sint Maarten Medical Center for further treatment. The crime scene was immediately cordoned off by the investigating officers to allow forensic specialists to collect evidence and for detectives to speak to potential witnesses. 

The victim could not give an account to what exactly happened or who the ones are that are responsible for this shooting. The victim has not as yet been positively identified. As Detectives continue to investigate this case, the Police Department is asking anyone that has information in connection with this investigation to get in contact with the Detective Department by calling 54-22222 ext 214-215 or call 911. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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Sergio Vargas, Elvis Martinez, Secreto for Noche Latina 2019

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Noche Latina 2019, presented by Presidente Beer, will be headlined by legendary Merengue singer Sergio Vargas, one of the best Bachata singers out of Santo Domingo Elvis Martinez and up and coming Latin rapper/singer Secreto El Biberon.

The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) on Thursday released its lineup for Noche Latina which will be held on Thursday, May 2 in Carnival Village. Though announced a little later than usual, Noche Latina caters to a more niche crowd/demographic of St. Maarten and is expected to attract the same vibrant and energetic members of the Latino community and visitors as well.

“It’s Carnival 50, we expect every night will be a successful one and Noche Latina will be no difference. We have three great artists that we’ve gotten great feedback on and it should be another high energy night. One thing about our Latino community, they know how to have fun no matter who is on stage. They always bring high energy,” President of the SCDF Alston Lourens said. 

Tickets for Noche Latina 2019 will be for US $30 in advance and US $40 the week of the show. Noche Latina will also feature local Latino acts which will be announced at a later date. 

Sergio Vargas

Talented Sergio Vargas is primarily a merengue singer, but has also earned acclaim for his ability to sing other forms of tropical music, including ballads. He was born in the Dominican Republic and got his start singing with the local group La Banda Brava. In 1980, he sang a version of José José's "Amor, Amor" and won second place in a talent contest. Two years later he had begun working with one of the country's most popular merengue artists, Dionis Fernández. Vargas founded his band, Los Hijos del Rey, in 1986 and by 1988 had become a major star throughout Latin America where he began touring. Later that year, Vargas signed to CBS Records in the U.S. and his debut album eventually went gold. By 1991, he was recording with Sony and remains one of his country's top artists.

scdf Elvis thur2103

Elvis Martínez

Elvis Martinez, aka El camarón, is a bachata performer whose career started in late 1997. Born in San Francisco de Macorís, Dominican Republic, Martínez is not only a singer but also a songwriter and guitarist. In the mid-90s he signed with the bachata label Premium Latin Music and made his full-length solo debut in 1998 with Todo Se Paga. The album proved popular as well as critically successful, winning an ACE Award in the category of Revelacion del Año (awarded by La Asociación de Cronistas de Espectáculos de Nueva York—in English, the Association of Latin Entertainment Critics). Martínez released four additional albums on Premium Latin Music—Directo al Corazón (1999), Tres Palabras (2002), Así Te Amo (2003), and Descontrolado (2004) -- and enjoyed further success; for example, "Así Te Amo" won a Casandra Award in 2004 for Best Song of the Year while Martínez himself was nominated for a Premio Lo Nuestro award in 2004 for Best Traditional Tropical Artist.

scdf Secreto thur2103

Secreto 

Secreto “El Biberon” is a Dominican Republic Rapper who has toured in the United States, Europe, and the Dominican Republic.  He first broke records in the music industry with the album Toy Killao. He won the Casandra Awards in 2011. He has over 2 million followers on his papasecreto Instagram account.

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On the Slaughter of Sharks in Anguilla and Why We Must Save Them

SINT MAARTEN/ANGUILLA (COMMENTARY) - Some days ago it was my birthday. It is an event which I look forward to immensely, taking the opportunity to disconnect from the world and to focus on celebrating another trip around the sun with my loved ones. 

After a few days when I connected my phone back to the internet the device soon blew up with disturbing images and video of a pregnant tiger shark being caught, cut open and having her pups ripped out while a crowd, including small children, stand by and look on. 

I was first quite upset, and then saddened to see my friends and colleagues from St. Maarten, St. Martin, Anguilla and around the come to grips with not nly the catching of a species threatened with its imminent extinction but to also watch the disrespect for life we still need to come to grips with here in the Caribbean.

I was upset and saddened at how, in 2019, with all of the information out there on how sharks are so important to our ocean’s ecosystem, that they are not the mindless killers that they were made out to be by the media, that they are one of the most endangered animals on the planet, how can us island people who have such a close connection to the sea not realize that we have now removed one of the most important animals in the oceanic food chain? I then realized that misconceptions are still a major issue regarding how we perceive sharks.

Sharks are essential to the health of our ocean: they are top-level ocean predators and their essential role in the ecosystem is to keep it in balance, ensuring that the whole food chain remains intact and functioning. If sharks are removed the population of animals that they prey on will become unbalanced and our reefs, and the fisheries which depend on them, will collapse. 

To also see more than a dozen near term pups, who would have grown into essential parts of the ocean food chain, also killed further highlights the level of threat faced by these creatures. 

The arguments that a shark was responsible in the death of an Anguilla fisherman who went missing some months ago without any corroborative evidence, or the saying that any good shark is a dead shark, without any consideration for the importance of the species, is something which needs to be addressed in the wider Caribbean Sea.

Sharks are not the mindless predators we have been led to believe by movies and books and television series. I would recommend your readers to consider this the next time they use their telephone cameras to take a picture of themselves and their friends at say, a nightclub: the act of taking a selfie has killed more people in 2019 than in three years by sharks. 

And New Yorkers have bitten more people than sharks ever can and ever will, often times with more deadly consequences. Think about this the next time a flight arrives from JFK. Yet we are led to believe that these animals are mindless killing machines out to consume unsuspecting bathers. 

All this while annually humans kill one hundred million sharks a year. 100.000.000. Annually. Some estimates say that some sharks will be extinct by 2030, followed by many other species of fish, followed by the way of life we know as Caribbean people.  And some may say that the shark will be eaten. This is in itself a problem: sharks are so full of mercury that eating them may be causing us to poison ourselves.

Aside from these facts, all of them established in science, the act of cutting up a live animal, a pregnant female, and leaving its pups spill out on the beach in front of children, dragging it up the beach causing it to suffocate is just cruel. Where is our moral compass, our realization that we are part of a whole with all of the creatures of this planet? 

Where is the realization that we should and must show compassion for all life? I find it difficult to believe that the people who were seen dragging this animal up the beach and seeing it suffocate and die did not feel some type of remorse, did not consider that this is a living thing that had a life, an animal that has seen things in the ocean that we never will, that has evolved much earlier than us and has formed the foundation of our very existence. 

I find it hard to acknowledge that somewhere, deep down in their hearts, they did not feel some form of negative emotion in doing this to such a magnificent example of God’s creation. 

The Nature Foundation will continue with its shark conservation program that not only involves research and protection but also has a large educational component. It seems as if we have a long way to go in changing people’s perception of sharks, which luckily, are protected in the territorial waters of St. Maarten.

These animals are some of the most misunderstood, maligned yet most important creatures in our seas. Healthy Reefs Need Sharks. And to do this we should collectively Save our Sharks. Not only for their sake but, ultimately, for ours. 

Tadzio Bervoets

Manager Sint Maarten Nature Foundation

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