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Commissioner Wilson gives assistance update

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - Commissioner with responsibilities for Social Affairs Rolando Wilson on Friday provided an update on the assistance that Saba has been receiving from the Dutch Government in connection with the coronavirus pandemic and the actions that have been taken on the island.

Wilson said that he has been in contact with the Social Affairs and Labour (SZW) unit of the National Government Department in the Caribbean Netherlands RCN with regards to the assistance that the Dutch Government is providing.

The Dutch Government has established two different arrangements for compensation: the SZW emergency package and the arrangement of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate EZK. Under the emergency package of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, financial support, wage subsidy, is provided to entrepreneurs, dismissed employees and self-employed persons.

The EZK arrangement involves a one-time payment of US $4,400 and now also the US $ 2,200 for entrepreneurs who have lost US $ 4,400 or US $ 2,200 in both revenue and fixed expenses during a period of three months. This arrangement ends on June 12, 2020. The situation will be evaluated after June 12 and will likely be extended as the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is expected to last much longer.

As for Saba, a total of 226 applications for the the SZW emergency package were received, of which some 200 have been approved and 12 denied, while 14 are still pending. The 12 applications that have been denied involved self-employed persons who also have other income besides their business that exceeds US $907. A total of 40 companies applied for the EZK arrangement of which 11 have been denied based on valid reasons.

Commissioner Wilson said that the Public Entity Saba assisted 103 families during the lockdown period and also made several of its civil servants available to assist the supermarkets with the deliveries of groceries. In addition, the Saba Lions Club handed out some 50 packages for the children.

“As Commissioner responsible for Social Affairs I would like to thank our Department of Community Development for the work that they carried out during the lockdown period. They went out there delivering food baskets to the needy persons and they provided assistance for families with children that needed internet services,” he stated, also thanking Satel for assisting during this time.

“As government we continue to provide and assist where needed. We are also very thankful to the ministries in the Netherlands for their support and for the different packages they provided. The cooperation and assistance from the National Government went very fast and this goes to show that being a part of the Netherlands has worked well for us. Together with St. Eustatius and Bonaire we were able to achieve a lot for the communities of our islands.” He further thanked the Saba Health Care Foundation and staff, police, the Red Cross, the supermarkets and the pharmacy.

“I am extremely happy to know that all govermment departments took their tasks very seriously and rendered excellent work for our island and its people. We will continue to play our part, bearing in mind that we are still not out of this COVID-19 pandemic. We still have to be cautious in all that we do. I urge our community to continue observing the physical distancing and hand sanitizing protocol.”

Wilson asked everyone to be vigilant and careful. “In less than two weeks we will be entering the hurricane season. Government is asking all citizens to start cleaning up around their homes and in their neighborhood. Everyone should start preparing and ensuring that their house is in order. It is not an easy time that we are living in as we are confronted with the corona crisis while also having to prepare for the hurricane season. Let us not forget we are all in this together and we are a resilient people and we have shown over and over that we are a strong community.”

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Port St. Maarten Management supports High Level of Hygiene

PORT ST. MAARTEN – With a larger number of businesses now able to open as the country starts the process of de-escalation, Port St. Maarten Management reminds the community to remain vigilant and to maintain a high level of hygiene measures such as washing your hands frequently for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and social distancing of at least six feet, in order to minimize the risk of infection from COVID-19.

Port St. Maarten has been working continuously with the Government’s Collective Prevention Service (CPS) from the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, the Ministry of General Affairs (Department of Communication-DCOMM), and collaborated on a number of communication and public information campaigns to community efforts.

Last week Thursday Port St. Maarten contributed personal protective equipment to the St. Maarten Police Force that comprised of masks and hand sanitizer that can be used by law enforcement officials while carrying out their daily responsibilities throughout the communities.

Last Friday the port also donated 300 masks to the Department of Communication (DCOMM) which plays a very important role in keeping the population informed and up to date with respect to COVID-19 related matters besides other public information.

“Everybody needs to work diligently to maintain safe, clean work environments which results in everyone getting back to business quicker allowing us to project the country as a safe destination,” Port St. Maarten Management said on Tuesday.

Fostering a safe place to work, safe community and a safe country is key right now as the destination emerges from this crisis.

Port St. Maarten Management reminds the population to stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19, and follow advice given by your healthcare provider, CPS, or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

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Factions of PFP, USP and UD call for urgent meeting of Parliament about Dutch conditions

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten parliamentary factions of PFP, USP and UD have called for an urgent meeting of Parliament to debate the request from the Government of St. Maarten for financial assistance in connection with its stimulus and relief  plan (SSRP), and the Kingdom Government’s response to this request. According to an agreement with Parliament, the Prime Minister is scheduled to provide a briefing to Parliament on the overall state of affairs this coming Wednesday at 2PM. 

In their letter to the Chairperson of Parliament, the Members of Parliament Buncamper, Gumbs and Wescot-Williams remark that this briefing will be after the deadline for Government’s response to the Kingdom Government and  that would leave Parliament no room for discussion on this important matter, that will have consequences not only for the Government of St. Maarten, but for  the community as a whole. 

The deadline for Government’s reaction to the Kingdom Government is this Wednesday,  it has been reported. Hence the request by the Members of Parliament for an urgent meeting no later than today, Tuesday afternoon. 

The agenda point requested by the MPs  is: Government’s response to the conditions of the Kingdom Government in reaction to Government‘s  request for financial assistance for the SSRP.

The Members of Parliament further motivated  their request, “the  media has been inundated with bits and pieces of the conditions laid down by the Kingdom government. The Minister of Finance speaks of ‘unachievable conditions’ and the Prime Minister has labeled the proposal ‘indecent’.” 

In the opinion of the Members of Parliament, If this meeting is not convened, by the time the Prime Minister comes to Parliament at 2PM on Wednesday, the die would have already been cast.

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Business Community Reminded to Register for May 20 Webinar

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Registration for a special webinar on Wednesday, May 20 from 10.00am to 11.30am (local time) that aims to inform the general business community but especially those companies that would like to consider export as a new business stream, is still open. 

The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) and the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) are reminding the business community to register via COCI’s Facebook page and following the instructions on how to do so or go to https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2066300514066747664

The webinar is an opportunity for the Sint Maarten business community, RVO and COCI to provide information about the various instruments and programs that can benefit the country over the mid to long-term.

COCI has requested via direct contact with lead professionals in the various industries relating to Export to be part of this first Webinar and to provide their feedback and testimony of their challenges and successes.

The webinar aims to improve opportunities for entrepreneurs by strengthening their position and helping them realize their international ambitions with funding, networking, know-how and compliance with laws and regulations.

If you are an entrepreneur who wishes to venture abroad, participating in the upcoming webinar may be your ticket to learn more what the Netherlands Enterprise Agency can do for you in helping your business fulfil their international ambitions.

For more information regarding this webinar or the various instruments and programs please visit COCI’s Facebook page or RVO’s website link https://english.rvo.nl/caribbean. Email your questions, statements or remarks to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made various instruments available to companies in Sint Maarten since January 1, 2018. 

Under RVO, various services, subsidies and other programs are available for trade and investment projects in countries outside the Kingdom. Caribbean Dutch entrepreneurs may use these services and programs under the same conditions as European Dutch companies and in cooperation with local partners. 

The Netherlands Enterprise Agency is a Dutch government organization which operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy that stimulates entrepreneurs in sustainable, agricultural, innovative and international business.  

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President Gibbs tours re-opened primary school on Monday

SAINT-MARTIN (MARIGOT) - President Daniel Gibbs on Monday morning toured a primary school for the school year of CP, CE1 and CM2, where he met with students and supervising staff in order to get a firsthand look of the ‘new normal’ now that schools have reopened after being closed for two-months.

President Gibbs was very interested in to see how the social distancing and other health and hygiene measures were being applied.

The President was accompanied by Michel Sanz, Vice President and Dominique Boyer from NEI.

The Marie Antoinette Richards School has adopted and applied hygiene measures throughout the school and classrooms, in accordance with the physical distancing rules. The Collectivite technical officers supervised the placement of markings for access to classes and other parts of the school facilities.

The President welcomed the personnel present and commended the work of the civil servants of the Collectivite and the teaching staff for what they have done in order to be able re-accommodate the school children within an optimal secure, and safe school environment.

COM visite rentrée 1

COM visite rentrée 2 INS2

COM visite rentrée 5 INS 3

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GRACITA: ST. MAARTEN 2.0. RESETTING OUR ECONOMIC OUTLOOK

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Gracita R Arrindell, Leader of the Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA) stated in a press release on Thursday that: There’s no question in any one’s mind that our immediate social and economic outlook is bleak. That said, our longer-term financial economic future remains bright. To emerge successful after this latest pandemic we must hit the ‘reset button’. We must begin a new order of doing business by first accepting that we cannot go back to ‘ how things were’ before COVID-19”.I call that the “Pre-Corona-virus World” or PCW for short. What we must do is create what I call “SXM 2.0”.

Arrindell said: “we must get a firm grip on getting our people back to work and get businesses open. We must attract direct foreign investments. Our country’s budget has hovered around the 450 million guilders mark for the past ten years. Successive governments have reached out to The Hague for more money but we must realize they want accountability and transparency and they are right. We must stop pretending it’s an affront to our so-called sovereignty. The opposite is true. Not providing hard information and accountability is an insult to our integrity and or partners are right to demand it. ‘Beggars can’t be choosers’.

“We must collectively decide and allow the government to take the lead responsibly and provide full transparency. We must cooperate with business and civil society to reset governance and realize that past and destructive economic policies cannot be re- applied. Someone very wisely once said the definition of madness is to make the same mistakes over and over again and expect a different outcome. It is time to break this negative cycle”.

Gracita continues: “both the cruise-as well as the airline industries are having to make hard decisions for their respective businesses. This will create paradigm shifts for island nations like St. Maarten. We depend heavily on the tourism sector. Many believed we are doomed to stay the present course. We do not share this belief and remain hopeful and excited about our future but also realize change must begin at home. It must begin with us”.

“Our island must be pro-active and decide if we want to continue to pursue the 50 dollars tourism market or the 500 dollars and up market. We championed the establishment of five-star hotels for decades but surrendered this market to neighboring islands because we forgot that what we offer must be commensurate with what we promise. We forgot we must deliver on what we promise. Over-promising and under-delivering is doomed to failure.

“We spoke out against the 450 unit ‘Pearl of China’ project in Bell- air, and pleaded for fewer high-rise hotel projects. Our infrastructure, including our fire department capacity, no matter how capable and professional our local team, is not equipped to handle ‘skyscraper’ calamities and mar our skyline. We are not New York. We are not Dubai and shouldn’t try to be. Both concepts do not fit the vision of quality versus quantity of St. Maarten, said Arrindell”. “We forgot who we are and what we want to be and most importantly what we need to do to reach our goal. We forgot sometimes we need to make short-term sacrifices to reach long-term prosperity”.

Arrindell continues and stated that: “In 2016, we invited to St. Maarten, Professor Gunter Pauli creator of the Blue – economy concept. Gunter’s presentation in Bell- air community center outlined the many possibilities for our island to create new jobs, significantly reduce unemployment, improve our environment and increase prosperity. It was well received. The level of prosperity he envisioned is achievable by looking inward and use more efficiently what is available to us. The Sea, the Land, our People. Sadly, nothing happened following this historic visit”.

“Conversely, Barbados Prime Minister the Honorable Mia Mottley, established a ministry of ‘Maritime Affairs & Blue Economy’ upon her appointment. Today this Caribbean nation continues to look inward and create new jobs as the mass tourism outlook lights dim”.

“The Spanish island of ‘El Hierro’ is another good example that choosing a sustainable path for the future is a successful one to take. In 2017, I personally visited this beautiful island for one week to attend, along with many others from around the globe, the Blue economy seminar series. This experience was an eye-opener. Both government and the private sector had in professor Pauli’s words a ‘ refreshing approach’ in their vision that led to El Hierro’s success as a sustainable, yet diversified tourist destination.

Finally, states Arrindell: “we must recognize that St Maarten remains valuable to surrounding high-end islands such as Anguilla and St. Barth. In order to stay relevant to these markets in terms of airlift and shopping, we must reset the social- economic button to SXM 2.0. We should establish a Research and Development Institution that will function as a public/ private sector funded think-tank”.

“This entity will provide much needed and updated data-points which the government can use to establish policy decisions for a new quality- based economic model. Our future cannot sustain over 500 taxi drivers, a mono- culture of same (luxury) goods, not allow for a dilapidated city center, substandard infrastructure and high dependency of imported agricultural items. We cannot thrive as a nation if we do not reduce and control crime, illiteracy, garbage strewn about on our streets. It creates an insalubrious impression of insecurity for both our citizens and our visitors. We must start at the street level and take pride in our paradise. If we see a discarded can we must pick it up. We must bend over and pick up a paper cup we see at our feet. We must do this and more and also provide affordable housing for our citizens”.

Arrindell concludes: the real game changer starts now. Our neighbor St Barth started life poorer than us and in the past 30 years has become a beacon of what high-end tourism is. We can do this but to reach this goal we must begin by dreaming together and then we must follow up by acting together. We must realize that change begins with us, at home, on our streets and most importantly together as one.”

ppa grp pix

Group photo, Gracita Arrindell (first on the right).

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Port St. Maarten donates PPEs to the police

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Representatives of Port St. Maarten made a courtesy visit to the police station on Thursday at midday, May 24th, 2020, and during this visit the management of the Harbor Group of Companies made a donation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to members of the police force.

This is the second donation the Police Force received from the Port over the last few weeks. The protective equipment will assist the police, as first responders, to continue to do our work in helping to control the spread of the virus.

The equipment provided included surgical masks, and hand sanitizers and will be distributed among the departments in the justice chain.

On behalf of the Police Force, C.O.O. Ms. C. Pecht thanked the Harbor Group and members of the community who have assisted and supported police officers and the entire justice team during this period. (KPSM)

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Johnson Reappointed as Island Governor of Saba for a third term

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - On the recommendation of the State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations Mr Jonathan Johnson was reappointed as the Island Governor of the Public Entity Saba by Royal Decree of April 24, 2020.

Mr Johnson has been the Island Governor of Saba since July 2, 2008. This is his third term of office. This shows appreciation for the work of Mr Johnson and his contribution towards the administrative stability of Saba. The reappointment takes effect on July 1, 2020 and aligns with the present term of appointment which then starts his third term as Island Governor.  Each term is a period of six-years.

The State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations congratulates the Island Governor with his reappointment and looks forward to a constructive cooperation.  

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Prime Minister Jacobs International Nurses Day Message

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Today is International Nurses Day, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs said on Tuesday.

“A day we celebrate and appreciate the people that provide care so selflessly. On this day, we take the time to recognize that commitment. We know that you work long hours, and sacrifice time with your family to care for our entire community.

“The theme chosen for International Nurses Day is 'Nursing the world to health.’ This theme could not be more appropriate given the situation we are facing worldwide with COVID-19. During the COVID-19 outbreak, our nurses in St. Maarten and around the world have assumed so much more responsibilities and are risking their safety to help save lives on the frontlines in this battle against this pandemic.

“Our nurses have sacrificed their time and they all continue to be dedicated to help us take care of our community. Therefore, I ask the general public to join me in congratulating our nurses.

“On behalf of the government of St. Maarten, I would like to take this opportunity to say Thank you to every single nurse here in St. Maarten and abroad. Whether you work at our St. Maarten Medical Centre, our Ambulance Department, the White & Yellow Cross or any entity where there are nurses, know that you make an enormous difference in the lives of a great number of people every day.

“Not only do you care for the ill, but you give the respective loved one’s comfort in the care that you provide.  This profession that you have chosen is one of honor, humility, and strength. You have delivered with compassion, and commitment, therefore, you deserve all the appreciation and respect. We value your efforts, and we are extremely proud. God Bless our nurses!” 

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Commissioner Zagers: Embrace new normal, accept economic realities

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - People will need to embrace the new normal under the corona crisis, accept that things will be different for a while, and be honest about the new economic realities moving forward. Commissioner Bruce Zagers has a straightforward message for the Saba community in the early stages of the easing of the lockdown.

“We cannot expect that our world will return to the normal we once enjoyed anytime soon. For now, it is prudent that we focus on some priorities. Opening schools which will ensure that our children are getting the guidance and attention that they need to further their educational growth should not be delayed. We must also allow for our business community to be able to open their doors in an attempt to salvage their business and save jobs,” he said.

Zagers stated that while at times physical distancing will not be possible and interaction with other households will happen, this risk will be present whether government allows these openings to happen now or in several weeks or even months. “We will have to accept certain risks and adjust our lifestyle to this new way of life until there is a proven cure or a vaccination for the virus, neither of which will materialize in the short term.”

According to the Commissioner, embracing a new normal is a small sacrifice everyone will have to pay to ensure that restrictions can be limited and hopefully continue to contain the virus if or when it is reintroduced to Saba. Physical distancing, good hand hygiene, extensive surface cleaning, not shaking hands or giving hugs must become part of people’s daily routines for the foreseeable future. He urged people to adhere to the recommendations from the experts and follow their guidelines for a new normal. “It is because of their directions we have been able to contain COVID-19 on Saba.”

Economic realities

Zagers said it was important to be honest about the new economic realities in moving forward. “It is difficult to predict when it will be safe for our borders to open back for tourism. It is even more difficult to estimate when people will feel safe enough to consider planning a vacation, when it again becomes possible to travel.

These factors, amongst many others, will greatly impact when we will start to see tourists coming back to our islands. This global pandemic will have a much larger negative impact than what we have experienced after any hurricane.”

The relief measures of the Dutch Government will bring some assistance for the people and the business community. “Although these measures can help in the short term and are very much appreciated, it will not solve the economic problems for the long term. We will continue to have an open dialogue with the Ministries in the Netherlands with the hope of creating a relief package that will enable our small businesses to remain open and keep their staff employed during these anticipated tough economic times.”

The Saba Government takes the responsibility that it has particularly seriously, especially in these times. “From the local government, we will do our utmost to fast track projects that have been in the pipeline for some time. This will allow for contractors to continue working and hopefully even expand their personnel with local workers. We are taking steps to increase and diversify production at the government farm in Hell’s Gate.”

More self-sustainable

The community can contribute as well. “We can and should promote the idea of becoming more self-sustainable. I urge you to start a small garden, if possible, where you can grow some of your own food. I also urge you to support your local businesses like the farmers, fishermen and restaurants. With our support we can help ease their burden during these tough economic times.”

Zagers shared his deep appreciation for the frontline workers and encouraged others to do the same.

“As a community we should all express our appreciation for the frontline workers who have worked tirelessly during the past weeks to support our wellbeing, to keep us safe, have continued educating our children, ensured that we received groceries and have kept our island clean. To everyone who has been a part of this movement, I say thank you. Thank you for being there for us when we needed you the most. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.”  

Overcome

The Commissioner remarked that this crisis has also brought good things and that together, the Saba people will overcome. “There is a common saying that every cloud has a silver lining. For some of us finding something positive out of this will be difficult. However, during the last few weeks, it has allowed for more family time, and we have learned to appreciate the smaller things in life such as going for a short walk in the afternoons. It has motivated many to practice their cooking and baking skills. Some people have started their own vegetable gardens. I am confident that as a people we will become stronger and even more resilient. As Sabans, this is in our nature. We never shy away from any challenge and we always come out on top after every disaster. I assure you that this too shall pass.”

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