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Finance Minister Irion receives counsel on impact of Dutch Conditions on Socio-Economic Wellbeing

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Minister of Finance, Ardwell Irion has sought the counsel on the impact of implementing the several infamous conditions on St. Maarten, the cabinet of the minister of finance said in a statement on Friday evening.

“Measures were presented to St. Maarten by the Kingdom Council of Ministers (KCOM), in order to qualify for the second and third tranche of COVID-19 liquidity loans. 

“On June 15th the Minister had a lengthy discussion with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a number of topics such as the effects of the border closures, full lockdown and the St. Maarten Stimulus & Relief Plan (SSRP). The Minister requested that the IMF produce an analysis on the conditions set forth by the KCOM on the economy of St. Maarten. 

“The IMF has produced an updated assessment on the economic outlook for St. Maarten that is currently being perused by the Minister and his team.  On June 18th the Minister had a follow-up discussion with the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten where he also requested their analysis on the conditions presented. In addition, the Minister has also requested the joint advice of the High Councils and Social Economic Council. 

“The conditions have presented many challenges to be implemented during an already challenging period. Though the island is in need of assistance, the Minster would like to ensure that the conditions do not send us into an economic and social tailspin. “Though we as a people are resilient, it should never be the case that we are forced to see our limitations unnecessarily. I am still hoping that our colleagues in the Netherlands see that we are compliant and that everyone is making sacrifices.”

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Two more arrests made during general traffic controls for stolen vehicles

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In a continuous effort to suppress the rapid upward climb of vehicle theft, the Sint Maarten Police Force patrols made another arrest on Wednesday July 1st and today Friday July 3rd of a person’s driving a stolen vehicle, police announced on Friday evening. 

On Wednesday 1st July, the patrols conducted a general traffic control on the A.Th. Illidge Road around 9:30 pm. Officers stopped a white Daihatsu Terios and requested the valid documentation of the vehicle from the driver.

It was immediately apparent to the officers that the VIN numbers of the vehicle had been tampered with. Unable to provide a valid explanation, the driver with the initials C.P.C. was immediately arrested and brought to the police station for further questioning.

In the subsequent arrest, the police patrols conducted another traffic control early Friday morning at approximately 1:30 on the L.B. Scott Road. The patrols stopped a Hyundai Grand i-10.

The officers again requested the documentation of the vehicle and the driver was also unable to provide the proper documentation. The driver of this vehicle was also arrested and brought in for further questioning.  

Both vehicles were confiscated and brought to the police station in Philipsburg. 

After being questioned the suspect was incarcerated pending further investigations. (KPSM)

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Panneflek: New COVID-19 positive case

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Honorable Minister of VSA Richard Panneflek, would hereby like to inform the general public of Sint Maarten that as of Wednesday, July 1st 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases on Sint Maarten is 78.

However, we have received information that a person who was admitted to St. Maarten Medical Center on Wednesday, July 1st, 2020 tested positive for COVID-19.

The person was admitted due to a non-COVID-19 related condition and was tested for COVID-19 as a requirement to be transferred abroad due to his/her condition.

The management of St. Maarten Medical Center informed Minister Panneflek that when re-tested, the individual tested negative for COVID-19 and was evacuated to Curacao for non COVID-19 related medical treatment.

Let us all continue to stay safe and protect ourselves and each other by practicing the set guidelines.

May GOD be with us all as we continue to work collectively towards COVID-19 free days ahead.

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Winner Aquilla Pemberton receives a Lenova Lap Top courtesy of Philipsburg Jubilee Library

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The overall winner, Aquilla Pemberton, a fourth form student of the Sint Maarten Academy, received a laptop from the Philipsburg Jubilee Library. Ms. G. Holiday was accompanied by the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, the Honorable Rodolphe Samuel, who handed Aquilla her prize as seen in the photo.

The short ceremony was organized to award the participants and winners for their participation in the two month literacy campaign held in May in June to stimulate literacy during the Covid19 lock down. All students from primary and secondary schools were asked to express how they dealt with the Covid19 pandemic and were encouraged to participate by submitting any of the following entrees about their personal experiences in the form of an essay, poem, research report, novel, song, video, blog, etc.

The library received essays, poems, drawings and raps. All art-work was judged by six professionals in the field of arts and education. The external judges were: Charisse Piper, Lucinda Audain, Sjorensly Valies, Lorenzo Gomez, Rita Carty, and Garfield Young. The internal judges were: Irmin Hughes, Francia Housen, and Mariland Powell.

The winners were: Sanaa Lake (age 7) in the category of primary school students, cycle 1. In the category of primary school students, cycle 2 the prizes went to: Amisha Lake (age 13), third runner up; Gabriela Guimareas (age 10), second runner up; Shylo Halley (age 10), first runner up; Grace Khoury (age 10) winner. Last but not least in the category secondary school students the prizes were received by: Breyenne Brown (age 17), second runner up; Makaria Baptista (age 17), first runner up; Aquilla Pemberton (age 16) winner. These were the final words of her poem called ‘Rona Season’:

‘I am certain that my future stands ever-radiant,

and that nothing goes or comes without reason,

that this is a time of purpose,

that this is a season.’

All winners are required to join the library. Membership includes receiving the App for PJL E Reading and a code for the Kingdom Library online reading App. The prizes were made possible by our local businesses, TELEM, Office World, Intertoys, Shop N Take, Klass Electronics and Adolphus Richardson Technology. The prizes varied from mobile phone, tablets, books and a Lap Top.

Both the director and the Minister stressed on the importance for students to be able to read. G. Holiday emphasized that the devices received are tools to use to enhance the quality of work produced in this new era, but being able to read and comprehend is your passport to being among the leaders of this country and abroad.

Compliments to the focal group that made this program a reality and the Philipsburg Jubilee Library would like to use this opportunity to encourage all students in Sint Maarten to further develop their ways to express themselves. Continue to follow the PJL Facebook Page and the Website and the local news, because more of such programs will be coming soon.

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NV GEBE in final discussions with local bank for facility agreement

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - NV GEBE finds itself once again refuting statements made in the media by persons uninformed about the operations of the company. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NV GEBE, Kenrick Chittick stated that “it is unfortunate that the Managing Board must constantly be required to disprove statements made about the company.”

Chittick is referring to the statements made by Member of Parliament Grisha Heyliger-Marten in the Daily Herald of Monday, June 22, 2020.

The CEO stated that the statements made by MP Heyliger-Marten claiming that NV GEBE “is unable to secure financing from local lending agencies for its projects” is not true. Chittick explained that from the onset of discussing financing for the investment projects, the Managing Board of the utility company insisted that local participation was a requirement and a must. He further stated that local, regional, and international lenders were included in the initial search for funding and that the company is presently in final discussions with a local bank for a facility agreement.

Chittick declared that the Managing Board of NV GEBE is transparent in all its actions regarding the running of the government owned company and that inquiries can always be made by persons seeking information.

He stated that this “would ensure that the information disseminated is factual and that the community is not misinformed.”

The utility company is presently in the process of finalizing agreements with lenders for its investments set to ensure that NV GEBE is up to date with new technologies, renewable energy and is able to meet the island’s demands while improving the services to its customer with up to date information. 

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APS to expand homeownership options for Oryx Residences

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - Pre-qualification appointments resume for Oryx Residences in Cay Hill, after COVID-19 measures pose delay in the sales and move-in process. The 62 units residential project of the General Pension Fund of Sint Maarten (APS) acquired the interest of over 500 persons, of which 339 are APS participants.

APS is working with Banco di Caribe (BdC) to issue mortgages with 100% financing for first time homeowners. APS is now announcing that the Fund is preparing to provide participants additional financing options, such as lease-to-own.  

APS is expanding the financing options in order to allow more participants the opportunity to own their first home. While APS was able to close the sales of some units just before the lockdown, the initial round of pre-qualification appointments resulted in surprisingly low numbers of qualifying APS participants for the 100% financing offer. The reason being that, participants are faced with limited borrowing capacity, as a result of existing car loans, personal loans, payday loans, credit card loans, Irma recovery loans etc.

“During mortgage pre-qualification process we came to realize that the indebtedness of our participants was hampering their ability to get a mortgage. For this reason, we had to get creative and look at other options to ensure that homeownership would not be out of reach for our participants.” – Nadya Croes-van Putten, APS Director

Lease-to-own is a more viable option for many who now do not qualify for the 100% financing offer. The Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten (CBCS) lending guidelines stipulate that only a portion (37%) of the gross salary can be used for repaying any kind of debt. For many interested participants, these conditions leave little to no room to qualify for a traditional mortgage, even when 100% financed.

Oryx Residences is the first residential project by the pension Fund. The project consists of 62 residential units, 44 of which will be 2- and 3-bedroom townhouses and 18 apartments of 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms. Oryx Residences is designed to create a true sense of community with designated green spaces, a playground and central park area. The units are engineered to withstand seismic activity and wind speeds up to 150 mph, factoring in the effects of a category-five hurricane and those of an earthquake. The construction of the homes is completed, however some necessary repair works to the exterior finishing of the units are pending. The repair works primarily consists of plasterwork and will resume taking into consideration the local and international COVID-19 impact.

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Airport to Re-Open on Emancipation Day

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Minister of TEATT Ludmila de Weever stated that the Country is ready to receive travelers from Europe and North America as of July 1st, which coincides with our celebration of Emancipation Day. The community is encouraged to continue adhering to the proper social distancing and health and safety protocols as well as the established guidelines for businesses in order to maintain a COVID-19 free Sint Maarten.

Minister de Weever released the ‘Travel Entry Requirements’ to all stakeholders that outline the safety and health protocols, testing requirements and health screening procedures, among others for visitors arriving at the Princess Juliana International Airport. Sint Maarten is open to passengers from Saba, Sint Eustatius, Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba, Anguilla, St. Barthelemy, Martinique, and Guadeloupe. For these countries, passengers should ensure that they have been consecutively present there for 21 days prior to the date of departure. No quarantine will be required upon arrival to Sint Maarten.

As of June 22nd, Sint Maarten will be open to St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica and the British Virgin Islands. The 21 day minimum stay will apply to passengers from these islands. No quarantine will be required.

‘The Ministry understands the urgent need for increased economic activity on the island but we intend to re-open in a safe and responsible manner for our residents and visitors,’ said Minister de Weever.

The Ministry of TEATT is committed to keeping the public informed of the developments surrounding the re-opening of our borders. Minister de Weever continues to meet with the relevant stakeholders in the interim.

Travel Entry Requirements for St. Maarten

 

 

 

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Additional relief package Saba

SABA - The Public Entity Saba has decided to put in place additional support measures to contribute in the costs of the local private sector, to continue assisting vulnerable groups in the community, and to look at a one-time contribution for apartment owners losing rent.

The Executive Council has approved the local relief measures in addition to the larger support package for the Caribbean Netherlands that the Dutch Council of Ministers approved on Friday, June 19. Because the measures of The Hague do not fully encompass all private losses and all sectors, the Public Entity Saba considered it important to provide assistance where it can.

For the period April 1 up until June 30, 2020, government will look at waiving the rental fees on government owned properties for the hospitality and business sectors. Government will also look at waving the fees for business licenses, restaurant licenses and liquor licenses for the same period.

For the vulnerable groups in the Saba community, the Public Entity Saba will continue to contribute with the food vouchers for individuals and families in need. People are encouraged to get in touch with the Community Development Department in cases when assistance is needed.

Through the Community Development Department vulnerable groups that are struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic will be assisted to cover with structural costs on a case by case basis. This can include one-time support to help cover the cost of utilities and rent.

The Executive Council has approved an initiative to provide some assistance for apartment owners renting to medical students, since this group is not receiving support from the relief packages of the Dutch Government.

As part of this initiative, a survey will be initiated on empty apartments that are normally rented to medical students. Apartment owners are asked to submit information on empty apartments with proof that these apartments were rented to medical students to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The apartment owners are asked to submit this information within two weeks. The deadline for the submissions is July 3.

Once the survey is complete, government will determine how a small, one-time financial compensation can be organized for apartment owners who have not received financial assistance through the Dutch Government package. Government will look at the benefits of having these apartment owners become members of the Chamber of Commerce of Saba and St. Eustatius so they can obtain financial relief in the future.

Commissioner of Finance Bruce Zagers explained that the Public Entity decided to draft and approve this local relief package, because it is important that government assists all sector in the Saba community.

“This crisis is affecting all of us and since the support package doesn’t cover all sectors and private losses, government decided to assist where it can. We must support each other where we can in this crisis,” said Zagers.

The Executive Council played a considerable role in the drafting of the larger, second support package of the Dutch Government that was approved on Friday. “For the last several weeks there have been many discussions with the various ministries where various scenarios were explored. This second package, which is a follow-up to the first package approved in March, should provide more substantial relief for the business community,” stated the Commissioner. Zagers extended gratitude to the Dutch Government and the individual ministries for their input and assistance. (Saba GIS)

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Prime Minister Jacobs sends letter to Rutte about Dutch Secretary of State Knops role

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – On June 16th, 2020¸ State Secretary Knops held and chaired a meeting regarding several urgent matters, including the conditions for further liquidity support from the Kingdom Council, the cabinet of the prime minister said in a statement on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and the Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion were in attendance. The Prime Minister believes that State Secretary Knops did not have all the necessary information before the meeting and behaved in an unbecoming manner. Prime Minister Jacobs stated, “As kingdom partners, we should treat each other with mutual respect, and that certainly did not happen during the meeting.”

According to Prime Minister Jacobs, the information submitted on the agenda items was immediately disregarded by State Secretary Knops. Prime Minister Jacobs stated, “It was simply rejected as irrelevant to the discussion or falsehoods in general. While we have communicated our positions and findings openly, honestly, and in a transparent way.

State Secretary Knops made comments, that the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers were being uncooperative with the Steering Committee for the Trust Fund of Sint Maarten, implying that communication with the Prime Minister’s Cabinet was difficult. In refute of this, the Prime Minister stated, ‘That statement is absolutely incorrect as I have had meetings with the World Bank Country Director and the St. Maarten representative on the Steering Committee. On May 28, the Council of Ministers received a presentation on the St. Maarten ‘Emergency Debris Management Project.’ I even sat in on a World Bank mission pertaining to the e-governance program.

The tone of State Secretary Knops was described to be quite unpleasant during the meeting and State Secretary Knops even ended the virtual meeting prematurely and rather abruptly.

Prime Minister Jacobs further stated, “From the beginning, the convening notices for the meetings have not been decent. We received the agenda items too late and without underlying documents or further explanation, even after repeated requests.”

Prime Minister Jacobs has sent a letter concerning these challenges to Prime Minister Mark Rutte and hopes that Prime Minister Rutte will investigate the matter. “I remain ready to continue the conversations with an equal mediator who is open to discussion in a decent manner and who shows respect in the event of disagreements,” concluded Prime Minister Jacobs.

rutte press conference

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte

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Rotary Sunset Supports WYCCF With Food Boxes For Elderly

SINT MAARTEN (ST. JOHN’S ESTATE) - The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset presented a monetary contribution to the White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation to assist with the distribution of food boxes to vulnerable seniors.

The WYCCF Food Pantry was founded several years ago by Mimi Hodge and Karen Eusebius, who saw that there was a need to provide food and basic necessities to some of the foundation’s clients who struggled with food security. The food pantry is usually filled through donations from employees of WYCCF and through food drives that are regularly organized at numerous supermarkets on the island.

In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic and Government’s response to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus on the island by instituting an island wide lock-down, numerous senior citizens who were deemed vulnerable and at risk were left with insufficient food supplies. The WYCCF responded by distributing care packages to clients the clients that they serve on a monthly basis as well as seniors that are most vulnerable in this crisis.

“We are honored to have contributed to this initiative during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the generous contribution from Rotary Sunset, WYCCF was able to assist many households with food and other necessities,” Service Projects Chair Kimberley Duzong stated.

The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset would like to extend its heartfelt gratitude to the WYCCF for granting us the opportunity to serve our community. The club would also like to encourage the people of St. Maarten to remain steadfast and resilient while we get through these difficult times.

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