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Minister Ottley introduces community day

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA), Omar Ottley hereby informs the public that starting this month August, Minister Ottley will open his office to the public on every last Friday of the month.

During this time, persons can choose to share ideas and suggestions with the Minister. Persons who are interested in meeting with the Minister can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. When requesting a meeting, persons are asked to provide your full name and the purpose of the meeting.

The hectic schedule of the Minister only permits him to have on average 3 meetings a day for the time being. However, on community days, the Minister intends to schedule on average 8-10 meetings.

Due to the anticipated increase in meetings on community days and taking into consideration that the meetings will be held in the Government building, persons will be requested to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative test result, taken within 72 hours prior to the day of meeting. This will be enforced for the protection of all staff and colleagues in the building.

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New prosecutor joins Sint Maarten Public Prosecution Service

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - A new prosecutor has joined the Prosecutor’s Office Sint Maarten OM SXM, bringing the office back to capacity with four case-prosecutors. In addition to these, there is the chief prosecutor and a prosecutor-in-training.

Experienced Prosecutor Marry Oudendijk took the oath of office before Governor Eugene Holiday on July 30. She was sworn in via Zoom, the first prosecutor to be inducted this way, due to the pandemic protocol of the Governor’s Cabinet.

Oudendijk joins OM SXM after two decades with the Prosecutor’s Office of Haarlem in the Netherlands. She plans to apply the knowledge gained in cases over her career to the challenges of Sint Maarten and to bring a fresh perspective to tackling issues and cases here.

“My impression so far of Sint Maarten is the people are kind and friendly. It is like paradise here, but there are still things to do to make it better for all of us in the community,” shared Oudendijk.

Chief Prosecutor Mirjam Mol said the addition of Oudendijk brings OM SXM back to full capacity as the office has been operating for several months with only three case-prosecutors.

Oudendijk’s presence further strengthens the team and aids in the administering of justice as soon as possible. The caseload of the Prosecutor’s Office has been increasing due to the growth of the population and the number/types of crimes committed in the society.

“The return to the full complement of prosecutors means we can execute our tasks, hopefully, more efficiently. We welcome Marry on board and look forward to positive outcomes,” Mol said.

OM SXM is tasked with the enforcement of criminal law on behalf of the country and executes its duties on the premises of the Consensus Kingdom Act Public Prosecution Service.

Prosecutors examine the grounds to bring a suspect before the judge in the Court of First Instance to face criminal charges. A suspect or OM SXM can lodge an appeal if the suspect or OM SXM disagrees with a verdict of the Court of First Instance.

In the Court of Appeal, OM SXM is represented by the Attorney-General or, on his/her behalf, the solicitor-general.

To learn more about OM SXM, its functions, roles, activities, career opportunities, visit www.openbaarministerie.org or Facebook: OMSXM.

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DCOMM launches Environmental Series, First one on Sargassum Seaweed

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Department of Communication will premiere the first video special in a series of DCOMM short video/tv Specials on the important topic of the Environment. The first special is about the Sargassum seaweed that affects the east coast during the months of June to September.

Because the world is in constant flux, there is an increase demand of the world’s natural sources to cater to the world’s population. Businesses and consumers are in a constant interrelationship that aims to satisfy the ever increasing wants and needs of each.

In light of the effects of this period, called, the Anthropocene, there are concerted efforts to reduce the efforts of globalization on the environment.

DCOMM spoke to Ildiko Gilders, Policy Advisor, in the field of Nature and Environment, within the Policy Department, at Ministry of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Planning, and Infrastructure (VROMI) and to Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern, Manager of the Environmental organization: Nature Foundation St. Maarten.

While Gilders spoke about the ministry’s first Nature Policy Plan, its objectives and the specifics of the Sargassum seaweed.

DCOMM also spoke to Nature Foundation St. Maarten manager Meijer zu Schlochtern about the non-profit environmental organization, and more information on what exactly is Sargassum, how it develops, and its effects.

The short environmental special on the topic of Sargassum seaweed will be premiered and posted on Wednesday, August 5, at 12 noon on the Government of St. Maarten’s Facebook/SXMGOV page and their YouTube Channel SXMGOV.

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HIGH FISCAL DEFICITS POSE RISK TO DEBT SUSTAINABILIY

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - As in most countries in the world, the public finances in Curaçao and Sint Maarten deteriorated considerably in 2020 on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic. President of the Centrale Bank van Curaçao en Sint Maarten (CBCS) Richard Doornbosch stated in the CBCS 2020 Annual Report that in both countries the current budget deficit widened significantly in 2020 compared to 2019, due to a decline in government revenues combined with an increase in expenditures.

In addition, the debt-to-GDP ratio rose significantly in both countries. Therefore, according to Doornbosch, having a multiannual plan to achieve a balanced budget is crucial for both countries to achieve sound public finances.

“In 2020, tax revenues dropped sharply in both Curaçao and Sint Maarten, while cyclical expenditures, including unemployment benefits, increased as economic activities shrank considerably. At the same time, both countries implemented discretionary measures including a payroll subsidy and other social transfers to vulnerable groups in society amid the coronavirus crisis,” Doornbosch explained.

“The increase in expenditures in Curaçao also reflected transfers by the government related to the takeover of the preferential claim of the CBCS on Girobank N.V. At the end of 2020, the current budget deficit amounted to 14.0% of GDP in Curaçao and 10.9% of GDP in Sint Maarten.”

Doornbosch added that the debt-to-GDP ratio rose rapidly in 2020 due to a sharp increase in the public debt, driven primarily by the liquidity support that the two countries received from the Netherlands, combined with a deep contraction in nominal GDP. It is expected that, as the economies of Curaçao and Sint Maarten will not reach their pre-pandemic levels until 2024, high fiscal deficits will persist over the medium term making additional liquidity support from the Netherlands indispensable. However, this poses a risk to debt sustainability.

“Against this background, fiscal consolidation is crucial for both countries to achieve sound public finances,” Doornbosch stated. The path towards sound public finances should be designed carefully to prevent fiscal measures, especially when they are pro-cyclical, from hampering economic recovery. Overoptimistic assumptions should be avoided.

“Hence, the countries should develop a plan to achieve a balanced budget over a period of about four years. This plan should include a multiannual budget with operational targets for the current budget balance, the primary balance, and the debt-to GDP ratio as long-term anchor. In addition, public financial management must be strengthened while tax reforms are needed to broaden the tax base to raise revenue in the least growth-distorting way,” Doornbosch said.

The Netherlands has tied additional liquidity support to Curaçao and Sint Maarten to strict implementation of structural reforms and fiscal consolidation. The agreed upon structural adjustment program (“landspakket”) should benefit both countries by improving their competitiveness, promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth, and strengthening resilience.

According to Doornbosch, the decades-long experience with structural adjustment programs by the International Monetary Fund shows that there are at least three critical success factors that should be taken into account when designing and implementing a reform program.

“First of all, the program will only succeed if strong ownership is taken by the governments of both Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Second, overoptimistic macro-economic assumptions should be avoided when designing the budgetary framework of the program. In the case of the landspakket of Curaçao and Sint Maarten, a multiannual budgetary framework is absent and should be established as soon as possible. Finally, the agenda should take into account the capacity constraints of both countries in setting the deadlines to achieve the agreed-upon actions and targets,” Doornbosch stated.

He emphasizes the importance of prioritization of program objectives and conditions. He concluded that a constructive dialogue and cooperation between the Kingdom partners will prove the most effective way towards overcoming the COVID-19 crisis and embarking on a sustainable and inclusive growth path for Curaçao and Sint Maarten.

The complete text of the 2020 Annual Report can be viewed on the CBCS-website at www.centralbank.cw under the Publications section.

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Construction firms, Builders and Trenching Contractors must be Prepared & have Storm-Ready Plans

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Ministry of General Affairs Fire Department/Office of Disaster Management (ODM), is appealing to the building sector, to have storm-ready plans in place for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season.

Construction activities, trenching and excavation works, are taking place throughout the country, and at building and construction sites, materials and debris laying around could pose a threat in the event of a storm/hurricane threat to the nation.

It has already been forecast that the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season will be a busy one. So far, five named storms have already formed for the season.

Contractors and builders must have a plan in place to secure building sites before a storm/hurricane strike. This is also applicable to trenching and excavation contractors, and ODM calls on the sector to review their plans today on how they would secure their building and excavation sites in the event of a storm/hurricane threat.

Building sites must be storm-ready within a 48-hour period before the arrival of a storm/hurricane.

Contractors, trench/excavation works and home builders during severe weather are responsible for securing building sites for the protection of the public, and property.

Materials such as plywood, shingles, zinc, and other construction materials could become flying missiles capable of impaling zinc roofs, windows, or anything in its way.  

Construction debris can cause severe damage to property and lead to possible loss of life. Every construction site supervisor and/or foreman is advised to review their annual hurricane season plan with respect to what action they will be taking at their building site whether it’s a small, medium or large house, or commercial enterprise project.

As a rule, all building and trench work sites should be kept organized and clean. Arrange timely pick up of trash (discarded old zinc, wood etc.) dumpsters, and only keep materials on site you will utilize during any given week especially bearing in mind that we are in the hurricane season and keep construction equipment secure.

All businesses should also see to it that their premises are kept clean of any debris as part of a preventative approach.

Any planned supply deliveries should be postponed if there is a storm/hurricane threat to the island within a 48-hour period.

When a tropical storm or hurricane watch is issued 48-hours before a system is forecast to hit, remove all scaffolding, and remove, or safely secure, all building materials and equipment.

Sub-contractors should also be alerted to their responsibilities as well with respect to securing or removing their materials and equipment.

Stop job processes that will likely become damaged by the storm/hurricane, such as window installations, house wrap, or landscaping. Complete those tasks that will likely prevent damage, such as concrete work, closing in a house, or filling in foundation excavations.  

Follow through with a quick inspection of your building site once a tropical storm/hurricane watch has been issued for the country. Do not wait until the last minute to inspect your job site, as you will need that time to go home and secure your own family dwelling. Employees will also need time to do the same to make their final storm/hurricane ready preparations.

Once the storm/hurricane is over and the All Clear has been given by the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) headed by the Prime Minister of Sint Maarten, you may return to the building site for damage assessment and inspection.

For general information about preparing prior to a storm/hurricane strike, visit the Government website: www.sintmaartengov.org/hurricane where you will be able to download your “Hurricane Season Readiness Guide’ and “Hurricane Tracking Chart.”

Listen to the Government Radio station – 107.9FM - for official information and news before, during and after a hurricane.

For official weather-related information, check out the website of the Meteorological Department of St. Maarten (MDS): www.meteosxm.com or visit their social media page Facebook.com/sxmweather/

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23-Year-old man arrested at the airport due to drug smuggling

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - The Alpha Team arrested a young man with initials R.S.G.A. (23) on Tuesday for his involvement in a drug smuggling offense that took place in the first week of July at Princess Juliana International Airport.  

During the investigation, narcotics were intercepted and confiscated. The suspect remains in police custody in connection with the investigation.

The Alpha Team is a jointly multidisciplinary team comprised of the Police Force Sint Maarten KPSM, the Customs Department, the Immigration Department, the Koninklijke Marechaussee and the Dutch Caribbean Coastguard. (KPSM)

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Voluntary Recall Notice Mc. Cormick Italian Seasoning Products and Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Ranch Seasoning

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Due to possible Salmonella risk McCormick & Company, Inc. has initiated a voluntary recall of McCormick Perfect Pinch Italian Seasoning, McCormick Culinary Italian Seasoning and Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Ranch Seasoning due to possible contamination with Salmonella, the Sint Maarten Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA) Inspectorate said on Wednesday.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses.

The four products subject to this recall include:

McCormick Perfect Pinch Italian Seasoning 1.31 oz bottle UPC NUMBER: 052100049731 MCCORMICK ITEM NUMBER: 901582629 AFFECTED DATE CODES: BEST BY MAY 26 24 K, BEST BY MAY 27 24 K, BEST BY JUN 04 24 K, BEST BY JUN 05 24 K

McCormick Perfect Pinch Italian Seasoning 2.25 oz bottle UPC NUMBER: 052100038254 MCCORMICK ITEM NUMBER: 901455463 AFFECTED DATE CODES: BEST BY JUN 30 24 H, BEST BY JUL 01 24 H

McCormick Culinary Italian Seasoning 1.75 lbs. bottle UPC NUMBER: 52100325743 MCCORMICK ITEM NUMBER: 932574 AFFECTED DATE CODES: BEST BY Jun 12 24 H

Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Ranch Seasoning 153g bottle UPC NUMBER: 066200021047 MCCORMICK ITEM NUMBER: 901543520 AFFECTED DATE CODES: BB / MA 2022 SEP 06

This recall affects cases that were shipped of the affected date codes. Wholesalers and retailers (supermarkets, mini markets, etc.) are instructed to remove these products with the affected date codes from store shelves and warehouse centers immediately and have them destroyed.

The Food Safety division of the Inspectorate is conducting the necessary controls.

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Last week of Mass Vaccination against COVID-19

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Vaccination Management Team (VMT) encourages everyone who hasn't been vaccinated to come in this week to one of the administering locations, as it is the last opportunity to come in while the Pfizer vaccine is still available on a walk-in basis.

This week the Belair Community Center will be open from Tuesday to Thursday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

The Collective Prevention Service (CPS) at the Vineyard Office Park will be open from Tuesday to Friday from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM and 1:30 PM to 4:00 PM.

The VMT also announces that there will be two final vaccination, POP-UPs, on Friday and Saturday, which will be communicated with the public with respect to the venues and times later this week.

Almost 24.000 persons on Sint Maarten have already received their Pfizer vaccine and are now protected against COVID-19. The Delta variant, which is twice as contagious as the Alpha (British) variant, has also spread to Sint Maarten. As this variant is causing major problems in various countries, it is important to know that the Pfizer vaccine is still 88% effective against this variant. This is also evident because almost all current active cases and hospitalizations are of unvaccinated persons.

Lastly, while being young and healthy significantly reduces the chance of developing severe complications from COVID, it is never guaranteed. There are several examples of professional athletes and young, healthy persons ending up in the hospital.

We also know that 10 to 20% of the persons who had COVID-19 can develop ''long term COVID'', which means that they can have mental health issues, chronic fatigue, lung damage, and the loss of smell and taste for months or years after recovery.

The VMT strongly encourages all persons 12 years and older to come for their COVID-19 vaccination at one of the vaccination administering locations or POP-UPs this week. Only if enough persons get vaccinated do we not have to fear another outbreak and Sint Maarten can return to normalcy, the VMT said on Monday.

Sint Maarten Protected Together.

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Chartered Flight to Guyana August 1. Four seats remaining

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Consulate of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana is organizing a chartered flight to Guyana on Sunday, August 1, 2021. Persons desirous of booking a seat must contact the Consulate on (721) 527-0704, (721) 527-3198, or (721) 542-7314. Seats are limited due to Covid-19 restrictions and only four seats are remaining.

The three-hour direct flight will emanate from Guyana and return the same day, landing at the Eugene F. Correia International Airport at Ogle. Tickets are one way.

In the meantime, all consular services continue by appointment only. These include passport renewals; registration of birth; applications for certificate of good conduct (police record/clearance) and non-impediment of marriage certificates; renunciation of citizenship; life certificates; affidavits; recommendation letters; and legalizing of immigration documents, among other things.

The Consulate, situated on Cannegieter Street in Philipsburg (below the Law Firm) is open on Wednesdays (1:30pm – 5:00pm) and Saturdays (10:00am – 2:00pms).

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