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Royal Caribbean Group to Finance the Reconstruction of Philipsburg Marketplace

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation & Telecommunications (TEATT) announced that the Royal Caribbean Group has agreed to reconstruct the Philipsburg Marketplace at the cost of Naf.600k.

The agreement was made possible during the past months through dialogue by the honourable minister of TEATT Roger Lawrence, stemming from the discussions and walkthrough that was done on February 2nd with the Port St. Maarten Group (PSG) and Royal Caribbean Group officials. The ministry sought out creative alternatives and the collaboration with the PSG and Royal Caribbean Group to get the project completed.

He explained that it became necessary to find creative alternatives for completing the project after available funds were reallocated to complete road repairs throughout the island as a result of the 2022 budget debate at the end of January.

“Philipsburg is one of Royal Caribbean Group’s premier destinations in the region and we are excited to participate in rebuilding and reinvigorating the iconic Philipsburg Marketplace to support the artisans and the community of St. Maarten,” said Joshua Carroll, VP Destination Development for Royal Caribbean Group.

The Philipsburg Marketplace has served tourists for many years as a central location to purchase souvenirs from their visits to the island. It sustained significant structural damage during the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

Critical to the reconstruction of the Marketplace is ensuring that it is built strong enough for protection from the weather conditions and elements. In the new design, vendors will be able to store their goods safely within the stall instead of having to remove all items on display daily.

The new and improved Marketplace will be wheelchair accessible and will feature designated parking for the offloading of goods by vendors. The Ministry of TEATT has also ensured that the new design considers the safety of vendors and patrons and says the facility will be equipped with fire extinguishers and surveillance cameras.

Within the minister’s assessment of the opportunities of the project to Royal Caribbean Group, Lawrence particularly outlined that the marketplace is strategically located in the heart of the island's capital for easy access by cruise guests, serving as a tourist attraction that offers visitors a piece of culture and memorabilia, they can take with them on their return home.

The Ministry of TEATT is excited that Royal Caribbean Group has chosen St. Maarten as one of the destinations that will benefit from the cruise company’s generosity and goodwill. With St. Maarten ranking high among the top ten destinations that Royal Caribbean Group visits each year, it makes sense to build partnerships that add value to the destination. Royal Caribbean Group's contributions to our island's sustainable redevelopment and continued partnership will also enhance their guest experience when they visit our island and win us significantly more return visits

According to the minister the Public-Private collaboration between the Government of St. Maarten and Royal Caribbean Group will go a long way in restoring activity in Philipsburg. The revitalization of Philipsburg remains a major goal in restoring the island’s economic activity to pre-hurricane Irma and Maria of 2017.

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Minister Doran Reappoints Nature Foundation as Ecosystem Authority

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On May 13th, the Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure, Egbert Doran, signed the continuation of a service level agreement with the Nature Foundation in which the organization is granted the authority to manage the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of Sint Maarten and provide related services to the Ministry.

Minister Doran and Jan Beaujon, Chairman of the board of the Nature Foundation, signed the agreement during a brief ceremony at the Government Administration Building.

Since 2014, the Nature Foundation has been appointed the Scientific and Management Authority of Sint Maarten, as related to the CITES convention, and as required through the National Ordinance for nature management and protection. As such, the Ministry of VROMI had maintained this service level agreement with the foundation to support the execution of these executive tasks.

Areas of responsibility bestowed upon the foundation through this updated agreement include research and advice, site inspection and enforcement (on matters related to the management of the natural environment), active park management, public outreach, and protection of (endangered) species. Specific tasks in these areas include maintenance of dive moorings, fisheries management, sea turtle nesting and beach monitoring, and providing advice to the government in all matters related to the management of the natural environment, including the impacts of developmental activities.

In addition to the routine tasks and services to be rendered by the Nature Foundation, this agreement includes additional support for the management of invasive species, and more specifically, the management of the invasive vervet monkey. This comes following the results of the foundation’s monkey management project in 2021. The Ministry of VROMI is pleased to maintain this positive working relationship with the Nature Foundation and looks forward to continued progress towards pursuing the sustainable management of the natural environment.

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LU overall winner of the 5th Annual Domino’s Interschool Dinghy Sailing Championship 2022

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - The 5th edition of the Domino’s Interschool Dinghy Sailing Championship took place on Sunday May 15. A total of 32 sailors in 26 boats, representing 7 schools took part in 5 races in the lagoon. 

The sailors were representing the following schools, Learning Unlimited (LU), Caribbean International Academy (CIA), Milton Peters College (MPC), Sister Regina Primary School, St. Dominic, Jean de la Fountaine and Victor Hugo.

The organization was very happy to see new sailors joining the race. It was a very exciting event for them to experience their first race and they did great.

New this year was a reaching start from the Sint Maarten Yacht Club dock, so that parents, schoolteachers, and spectators had first row seats to see the sailing competition. After the sailors had completed their course they finished at the Yacht Club dock as well, which ended up in a lot of cheering and applause for every competitor crossing the finish line.

In the Laser Class Lucas Dish scored a third place for St. Dominic, Alex Speetjens came in second sailing for MPC, and Emma Lennox won the Laser Class for Learning Unlimited. 

In the RS Zest class 4 schools were represented. Henry Darling came in third in the Zest class and Melina came in second, both sailing for MPC. But St. Dominic took the win with Rio Stomp winning the Zest Class. 

The RS Quest class saw 3 competitors. Maya, Clarice and Wabi sailed together, representing MPC in the RS Quest class and came in third. Natalie and Lauren Johnson sailed the Quest for Learning Unlimited and came in second. The class was won by Louka Williams and Filippa Vriezen representing CIA. 

The Optimist Class was the biggest class in this year’s interschool regatta with 9 competitors. Joseph Johnson, sailing for St. Dominic came in third, but LU took second place and first place in the Optimist class. Feline Oosterhof came in second and James Lennox won the Optimist Class.

After the individual prizes were rewarded the Sportsmanship prize was awarded to Rylan Benjamin, competing for the Sister Regina school. Rylan started sailing in September last year in the Primary School Program. He showed great progress in the primary school program and was so motivated to join the interscholastic championship! Well done, Rylan!

For the overall school trophies, the results of the 3 best performing boats per school were added and compared. MPC took home the third-place trophy, while St. Dominic got second place. The overall winner, for the 5th time in row, was Learning Unlimited!

“Domino’s is proud to sponsor events like the Interscholastic Sailing Regatta as it us catering towards our youth and youth athletes. Watching the sailors compete for their schools out on the water today was incredible,” said John Caputo the local Domino’s Franchisee.

The SMYC is thanking Domino’s Pizza for making this event a great success, we are looking forward to next year! Thanks to all volunteers that helped us out, the students for participating and the parents and schoolteachers for cheering them on!

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GRACITA CALLS FOR COMMON SENSE APPROACH OVER ELUSIVE COHO COMMON GOALS’ POLICY

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Gracita Arrindell, Leader of the People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA) on Sunday in a media statement said: “We are two years into discussions back and forth between Kingdom partners in an attempt of the Dutch government to solidify the Caribbean entity for Reform and Development by means of a Consensus Kingdom Law.

“This intended structure is aimed at among others supervision of the restructuring processes on the islands paid for by the Dutch tax- payers’ monies. Yet the question to date on the minds of the man on the street remains: ‘what is this Coho thing?

“Clearly, this effort by the government in Holland is not understood by the ordinary citizen given this question we encounter regularly. It is equally an enigma to most of the business community as recently expressed by some representatives of this sector. Especially the manner in which the current government handles the COHO discussions with the Netherlands as well as with the Parliament and people of Sint Maarten leaves much to be desired to state it mildly.

“A new deadline of May 20th is set for the governments and Parliaments of the three Caribbean ‘Countries’ to present their position on this new administrative entity. This date too is ill fated. Most likely proposals will once again be hastily submitted. Why? Our local administrations are still seriously overwhelmed and critically understaffed since assuming our new status in 2010. The brain drain in critical positions continues as we write. Bottom line… this COHO thing in my humble view means that the Dutch government including the First and Second Chambers are implying to the people of Sint Maarten that there’s a lack of Good Governance, Transparency and Accountability in managing this island while government is broke, can’t pay its bills as and when due. Therefore article 38 of the Kingdom Charter is used to establish COHO to bring you ((citizen) much needed Reform and Development.”

Arrindell continues: “Two years and counting, our local government’s messages and proposals when presented are at best, ambiguous, elusive, accusative while COHO technical meetings are held behind closed doors of Parliament. All such meetings must be held public in the House of Parliament for transparency’s sake. Dutch Ministers in charge of Kingdom Relations ‘applied the carrot & stick “policies in order to reach ‘consensus’ which includes:

a. no liquidity support if all conditions (some previously mentioned) are not met

b. withholding financial support for Princess Juliana International Airport if government and Parliament doesn’t accept and approve a COHO Consensus Kingdom Law.    

“These efforts are a futile attempt to ‘fry three pancakes from the same dough’ in one pan and flip them simultaneously to have a common shape and look’. The behaviors and expectations at both sides of the Kingdom are contra productive and unhelpful,” stated Arrindell.

“Our position on the new proposed entity including ways to firmly increase and strengthen our country’s liquidity position were presented publicly on several occasions during these past two years. Immediate objection to imposing 12.5 percent cut in civil servants salaries as expressed in our November 20, 2020 publication while we proposed new income/ revenues including the lucrative ‘offshore’ for our government coffers under the title “now is not the time,” Arrindell said.

Gracita states: “Most factions in Parliament have a different position on this proposed Consensus Kingdom Law. Rather than resort to grand standing over this ‘COHO’ thing, we are better off stating the obvious: Common sense dictates that the proposed law has little bottom-up support (draag-vlak) and it is lost in translation between our local elected and appointed officials, as well as business communities. Additionally, too many objections and concerns have been expressed across the board by experts from different backgrounds within the Kingdom in spite of efforts to make improvements in order to satisfy it’s naysayers.”

PPA Leader states: A firm No to COHO by Consensus Kingdom Law is warranted and defendable for reasons mentioned by many previously and publicly. Time, expertise, finances are more efficiently served if applied directly to strengthen the standing government organizations in their execution of their daily management tasks with expertise and COUNTERPARTS to ensure continuity rather than establish a parallel administrative entity by Law in the Hague with money and powers that supersedes the powers of local governments and Parliaments. Consider:

  1. To include the already established work organization created to oversee the execution of the ‘Country’ packages into the standing government organizations. As an Ad Hoc committee Reform and Development there will be more cohesion in the execution of the proposals when the Secretary Generals (SG’s) of the seven ( 7 ) Ministries are included in this Ad Hoc committee. The standing organization is familiar with the budget preparatory process. This synchronization of minds, money to implement new methods is more likely to succeed because it’s based on common sense, rather than seeking common grounds from three separate countries. Areas in need of upgrading and restructuring are well documented and known.
  2. Parliaments Constitutional Affairs Committee must prepare and call monthly meetings to monitor the process and its progress.
  3. Establish a Junior Minister for Constitutional Affairs in the 3 countries as counterpart to the Minister of Kingdom Relations and Interior Affairs.

PPA leader concludes, “We must bring tranquility back to the Island governments. No need to hear lamentations or statements that local governments are accepting conditions for liquidity support under threats from the Netherlands. This coming week we will know.”

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NPOwer releases first batch of support nine videos for 2022

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - NPOwer, tasked by Foresee Foundation with capacity strengthening for local Non-profit Organizations (NPOs) released the first batch of 2022 “Know your NPO” video. These nine videos highlight their work, needs and impact on the island. The videos are now available via Foresee Foundation’s YouTube channel, the NPOwer website www.npowersxm.com and the social media accounts of the participating NPOs.

This initiative, financed by St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) and Samenwerkende Fondsen Cariben (SFC) via NPOwer, facilitates concise promotional videos of NPOs, showcasing their good works, raising awareness of the work being done on St. Maarten while inspiring others to support through volunteerism or other means.

The new videos produced by NPOwer in collaboration with local videographer Serb Tember and his colleague Richaira Rondei are:

  1. Inter-vision Foundation (Seaside Nature Park)
  2. Mental Health Foundation
  3. Windward Islands Emergency Medical Services (WIEMS)
  4. St. Maarten Nature Foundation
  5. Kidz At Sea Foundation
  6. Senior Citizen's Recreational Foundation
  7. Home Away From Home Foundation
  8. St. Maarten Football Federation (SXMFF)
  9. St. Maarten National Basketball Association (SXMNBA) is part of 2021 batch of videos. Due to some technical and logistical issues this video was not in the package for last year.

"NPOwer understands the value of recognition, brand building and empowering organizations. These videos also serve to connect the people of St. Maarten to initiatives and groups that would inspire volunteerism. We are a nation that embraces the value of volunteerism and over the years, we at NPOwer have facilitated a range of volunteer events, however nothing compared to the body of work and initiatives our featured NPOs have accomplished over the many years of their existence on St Maarten, so highlighting NPOs thought these videos showcase their continued efforts to build our nation,” said NPOwer’s Rajesh Chintaman.

NPOwer’s Jose Sommers said, “We at NPOwer and our partners are sharing these videos on our various online platforms and we encourage all to share the videos so that the causes of these featured foundations can gain the awareness and support they need. It is important to recognise the achievements of hard working NPOs on St. Maarten because often organizations are taken for granted and are only recognised when people see them at an event but with this video initiative, we remind viewers that lots of work is being done on St Maarten behind the scenes and not always visible.

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Seatrade Cruise Global Conferences Gives Strong Indications of a Sustainable Global Cruise Recovery

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Seatrade Cruise Global 2022 wrapped up recently in Miami, Florida where 9,350 cruise line executives, political decision-makers, thought leaders, suppliers, and destinations from 110 countries came together at the Miami Beach Convention Center for four days of networking at the biggest global cruise industry gathering since 2019, according to the organizers.

Port St. Maarten Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alexander Gumbs took part in a panel discussion, “Adapt and Thrive Through Public-Private Innovation,” along with several other panelists that included cruise line executive Rick Sasso from MSC Cruises.

Gumbs also held several strategic stakeholder meetings with representatives of various cruise corporations and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).

“A new dynamic has been established between the cruise industry and destinations as we continue to transition out of the pandemic setting the stage for future success. We are all looking forward to a sustainable transition and things are looking positive for our 2022-2023 high cruise season,” PSG CEO Gumbs said.

Gumbs added that there’s a lot of changes within the industry leaders’ grid and congratulates Michele Paige on being appointed the CEO of FCCA and Adam Ceserano the new President. “Our relationship with FCCA is at an all-time high and we look forward to collaborating on further initiatives in the interest of the Port St. Maarten Group.” – PSG CEO Alexander Gumbs.

According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the cruise industry expects to exceed its pre-COVID passenger levels by next year; by July 90 per cent of the industry’s cruise capacity will have returned to service, representing 270 ships and 550,000 lower berths.

The four-day conference explored the latest trends with industry influencers and high-level cruise executives. The three-day exhibition is the largest gathering of the cruise industry hosting over 700 exhibiting companies from all sectors including Design & Ship Interiors: Entertainment, Environmental & Health, Hotel Operations and Concessions, Information Technology, Ports & Destinations, Safety & Security, Ship Equipment & Shipbuilding.

The discussions at one of the leading cruise conferences focused on the cruise industry and destinations banding together to survive the COVID-19 pandemic along with the ‘State of the Global Cruise Industry.’

Confidence in the cruise industry is being restored with countries and Governments at higher rates than 2019 levels. Based on recent statistical data and outlook, 69 per cent of persons that never cruised have started cruising, while 87 per cent of millennials are willing to go on a cruise. Global cruising levels are expected to return to 2019 levels in 2023.

There were a number of workshops and sessions focused on how the cruise industry is adapting to climate change where sustainability is the buzz word with major progress being made in lowering its environmental carbon footprint in transitioning to a carbon-free future.

Seatrade Cruise Global is considered the leading annual business too business (B2B) event for the global cruise industry. Seatrade Cruise Global is part of the Seatrade Portfolio, an integral portfolio within Informa Markets, providing a range of global exhibitions, conference, events, awards, news websites and publications that cover every aspect of the cruise and maritime industries. Seatrade is owned by Informa PLC, the largest B2B event’s organizer in the world.

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SXM AIRPORT ANNOUNCES SUCCESSFUL DEBT REFINANCING TRANSACTION

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - On May 11, 2022, Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIAE) completed the successful refinancing of its 2012 indenture, with borrowings under a new term loan facility in the amount of USD 90 million. The new facility has been closed at more favorable terms and a reduced interest rate of 4,75%, which allows PJIAE to stabilize its much needed cash position. 

By taking advantage of low borrowing costs and actively managing its near- and medium-term maturity profile, PJIAE has enhanced its ability to invest in future financial stability and growth. This step is consistent with PJIAE’s strategy to build the airport for the future of Sint Maarten. 

Ben van der Klift, Chief Financial Officer of PJIAE ‘Today’s announcement is an important step forward and another vote of confidence in PJIAE and it underscores our transformation into an airport with  strong ambitions for the future.

With the announcement of this oversubscribed refinancing, and our continued strong performance through Q1 of 2022, we have positively repositioned PJIAE, while enhancing our financial flexibility. However, we’re not out of the woods yet. Hurricane Irma and COVID-19 has had a deep impact on the performance and results of our airport in the last five years and we are on the road to recovery in the coming years’.

PJIAE was able to find the necessary funding within the former Netherlands Antilles and is extremely excited to report that most of the funds (46%) came from St. Maarten institutions, 39% from Curacao based institutions and 15% from Aruba based institutions. AIB Bank N.V. from Aruba acted as mandated lead arranger and RBC Bank N.V., a St. Maarten based financial institution, will be the security and facility agent.

The refinancing of the loan facility would not have been accomplished without the honorable Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and the Minister of TEATT of Sint Maarten. The Management Board of PJIAE N.V. extends their gratitude for their relentless support during the entire re-financing process.

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Emmanuel: SMMC project out of money is embarrassing puppet show of incompetence

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Wednesday said his concerns have been validated when it was announced that the new hospital project is out of money. He once gain immediately called on the Minister of VSA to finally conduct a real investigation into how and where US $100 million disappeared, and to stop letting the contractor make a fool out of local leadership.

The MP also pointed to the incompetence of the World Bank, the Trust Fund Steering Committee and the NRPB and its director Claret Connor as once again dropping the ball on a major project years in the making, with no results to show. “This is an embarrassing puppet show of incompetence on display,” he stressed.

MP Emmanuel was reacting to a press release issued by the St. Maarten Medical Center Foundation announcing that the new project construction is delayed due to international developments. The SMMC states in its press release verbatim: “As a lingering result of the pandemic, there have been delays in purchasing and shipping materials and steep increases in the prices of construction materials. These challenges make it unrealistic to build the hospital at the original price and by the original due date. The result of these discussions might be an increase of the overall SMGH construction budget caused by external factors that are beyond our control. Therefore, SMMC has started discussions to look into additional financing possibilities with the relevant stakeholders”

“Translation: Money done! Am I fear-mongering now?” the MP rhetorically asked, while pointing out that it is “downright impossible that all the money was spent on the pouring of a concrete foundation. That has to be the most expensive foundation in history.”

In 2018 the hospital signed a loan with a group of lenders and financial institutions in St. Maarten and Curaçao for $75 million. The World Bank is providing the hospital with a grant of $25 million from the Dutch trust fund set up after Hurricane Irma.

“For almost year I, along with MP Claudius Buncamper, have pointed out that there is something amiss at the hospital project. People weren’t getting paid on time, deadlines missed, FINSO having financial issues, no man-power at the work site and a reported mis-appropriation of funds from the project that has yet to be confirmed or denied by SMMC or the government,” MP Emmanuel said.

“There is always flimsy excuse at every juncture, including from the government. I even warned the current Minister of VSA not to believe what they are telling him and to investigate the project, in particular the financial aspects. Two weeks ago the Minister visited the site and said he would hold contractor FINSO and others accountable. Will they be held accountable now and how? And who will be held accountable? Will Emil Lee be held accountable for saddling the country with INSO now FINSO?”

The MP pointed out that several other projects on the island and in the surrounding islands has continued uninterrupted despite the pandemic. He said only on St. Maarten has two major projects run into financial issues in the millions.

“First the airport is now up to 150 million and now SMMC can’t even get past the pouring of the foundation and 100 million is gone. Mind you, not even the foundation is finished because the last pour of the main building was scheduled for the end of July 2022. Severe budget overruns seems to be the norm on St. Maarten projects with zero accountability being demanded by the government, who then could be seen as complicit in these debacles,” MP Emmanuel said.  

Besides the government, he went on to question the silence of the World Bank, the Steering Committee for the trust fund? and the NRPB in particular its Director Claret Connor? “Where is the oversight of these projects? Where are the explanations based in facts and evidence? Where is the World Bank who always touts its strict financial disciplines and protocols? Why do we only hear from Claret Connor when he is posing in a picture giving the airport another 20 million just so and without proper explanation? All of these entities have dropped the ball once again on yet another major project. The same projects they boast about when it’s convenient,” the MP said.

He continued: “The press release from SMMC has opened up a Pandora’s box of questions that must be answered. How much more money will the project need from lenders and the government? Is the government in a position to provide additional funding? Can the project continue in the meantime? Does “delay” mean all work halts? Have lenders been informed, when and what were the responses? Did government know? How healthy is FINSO financially? If 100 million has been spent thus far on just preparation work and a concrete foundation, how much is it going to take to complete the entire project? Will someone finally answer the question about the missing money and how much that was? Or am I fear-mongering again?” the MP concluded.        

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MP Wescot expresses her utter disappointment in the government’s rhetoric regarding relief to the population

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - It’s about a month ago, that the Minister of TEATT, Roger Lawrence said that he had made a proposal to “offer relief to consumers at the pumps”, Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot Williams said in a press statement.

“The minister went on to say that he had received the support of the council of ministers before he made the announcement publicly. In fact, the minister stated that he “had collaborated with his colleagues, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Finance. To add insult to injury, that relevant article in a local newspaper was pictured with the 3 aforementioned ministers, MP Wescot recalls.

The minister alluded to the role of his 2 colleagues in this respect, namely “to enact changes within our legislation….” And that the next step was to quickly submit draft legislation for its approval.

MP Wescot surmised that calculations were already made, as the minister of TEATT recounted a month ago that the proposal will reduce government’s duty revenue by approximately 14 percent.

“As member of parliament and very aware of the burden for so many households due to the rising cost of living, I have been looking at the buildup of the cost of fuel at the pumps and noting the income for government from TOT on 2 levels and excise duties.”

I have been promoting a combination of actions to be undertaken by the government to assist the community in general and the lower income earners in particular. How much longer must I be content with the promise that the basket of controlled goods will be expanded? That the 12.5% reduction in benefits will be reversed? That agriculture and fishery will receive a real boost to lower the cost of at least these food items.

MP Wescot is frustrated by the obvious flipflop last week: “Now there is a different tune coming from the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister, with the contradictory arguments such as, we are comparing apples and pears, when members of the media referenced to relief given by other islands in the region.”

What is clear, MP Wescot continued, is that the government according to the Minister of Finance is looking for income to substitute for the loss for government, if the relief is granted to the consumers on St. Maarten, and the Prime Minister did not help things by suggesting that legislation is going back and forth and sort of alluded that she was picking up the slack for the minister of TEATT, who was absent.

From these statements, I have to conclude that it is not the slowness of the legislative process to enact relief for the citizens, but rather the lack of cohesion between the government ministers and between the governing parties, MP Wescot once again made clear.

“Giving the minister the authority to adjust tax rates etc. via a lower legislative instrument, as proposed by a member of parliament will not solve the problem and is but a distraction from the real matter at hand.”

“Going by the very minimal concrete information provided by the respective ministers on this topic, I make the following assumptions and call upon the government to act.”

The member of parliament proceeded to provide the following synopsis: “Fourteen percent of the budgeted income for excise duties (7 m) amounts to 980.000 guilders. This is the “hole” the government apparently has to fill if relief is granted. The minister did however not reveal what the reduction would entail for the consumer.

However, if the government is serious about this relief (which I doubt) I propose the following approach:

In 2021, it was budgeted that the government would receive 9.4 million guilders in excises: in 2022 this amount was lowered to 7 million, because in 2020 only 6.6 million guilders were collected from excise duties.

Every quarter the governments provides the budgetary realization numbers. The full year 2021 yielded 9.5 million in excise duties. I therefore conclude, unless otherwise proven, that the excise income in 2022 will be over budget.”

From that synopsis, MP Wescot concluded her advice “that the government has under budgeted the excise duties amount 2022, and since the ministers seem to be staring down a black hole, my advice is to adjust that number in tune with a real projection and provide the relief to the consumer as promised, since other budget amendments are also projected.

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SMGH construction delays due to international developments

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - Due to international developments, St. Maarten General Hospital (SMGH) construction activities have slowed down over the recent weeks.

As a lingering result of the pandemic, there have been delays in purchasing and shipping materials and steep increases in the prices of construction materials. These challenges make it unrealistic to build the hospital at the original price and by the original due date. SMMC and the contractor (FINSO) are working on a solution to address the increased cost of materials and challenges with shipping.

The result of these discussions might be an increase of the overall SMGH construction budget caused by external factors that are beyond our control. Therefore, SMMC has started discussions to look into additional financing possibilities with the relevant stakeholders (e.g. the lenders, government). It is noteworthy that SMMC is not the only construction project that is affected with extraordinary price increases as many projects around the world must deal with the same issue.

As the outcome of these discussions and the chosen path forward is awaited, SMMC continues with improving the delivery of quality care, close to home. Various expansions and upgrades to SMMC’s current facilities, which will be highlighted in the coming weeks, have been realized recently with the support of the Trust Fund managed by The World Bank as SMMC aims to meet the local care demand for years to come. As such, SMMC will continue on its path forward in becoming Fit For The Future.

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