Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (1780)

Biggest Dutch pension funds very likely to cut payouts next year

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The two biggest Dutch pension funds – ABP and Zorg & Welzijn – are now extremely likely to be faced with cutting pensions for teachers, civil servants and healthcare workers next year.

Both funds’ coverage ratio fell to below 95% in July – which means they only have assets to cover 95% of their pension responsibilities. If the coverage ratios do not improve by the end of December, cuts will have to be made.

The two funds are responsible for the pensions of 5.8 million people and are among the biggest in the world. Engineering pension funds PME and PMT have been in the danger zone for longer and also facing making cuts unless their coverage ratios top 100% at the end of the year.

The funds have been hit by low interest rates but a downturn on the stock markets is now also having an impact, the Financieele Dagblad said. ABP, for example, said it had earned €8bn on its investments in July but that was not enough to prevent its coverage ratio falling from 95.3% to 93.9%.



Low-skilled worker life expectancy is five years less than for graduates

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Today’s new pensioners with a college or university degree will live an average of four to five years longer than those with vocational qualifications, the national statistics agency CBS said on Friday.

Men with a degree are now expected to enjoy 22 years of retirement, while men with few qualifications will live a further 17 years, the CBS said. In addition, the life expectancy gap for men has grown a full year since the period 2011 to 2014.

For women, the gap remains four years. Lifestyle is likely to be behind the difference, the CBS said. ‘People with a lower level of education are more likely to be overweight and to smoke,’ a spokesman told news agency ANP.

They are also more likely to have hearing, eyesight and muscle problems. In addition, people with degrees retire, on average, eight months before the low-skilled – meaning they enjoy both a corporate and state pension for longer.

The FNV trade union federation, which is campaigning for early retirement to be incorporated in the current proposals to reform the pension system, said the new figures demonstrate the real need for change.

‘The growing difference in life expectancy shows that the union is right to call for the state pension age to be frozen and to scrap the fines for early retirement,’ a spokesman told ANP.



Outer Space: New Economic Opportunities and Revenues for Government

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY By Roddy Heyliger) - The Government of Sint Maarten continues to face financial challenges due to the damages caused by Irma and Maria almost two-years ago. As the rebuilding effort continues and hotels continue to come back online, as a country we need to step outside the box and explore other economic and revenue generating opportunities in order to become a smart island.

The Smart city concept is common term used due to increase urbanization, scarce resources and development pressures. Countries need to turn to smart innovations in order to make their cities more livable in order to accommodate growth. Building a smart city is the order of the day as according to the United Nations, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050.

Today, more than ever, we need to plan in a more strategic manner and look beyond rather than continuing to look within at the current business model. The current tourism-oriented economy will continue, and we must further enhance and develop it in a sustainable manner. The hotel infrastructure continues to rebuild back better. We have two new hotels (eg. Planet Hollywood) that are planned and will add additional hotel rooms to the current room inventory.

Some hotel properties won’t ever be rebuilt (eg. Summit Resort Hotel) while others are pending decision-making on rebuilding (eg. Westin at Dawn Beach). In the meantime, life goes on, but financial challenges within the public sector continue to create headaches for policymakers and financial independence of any nation is the ultimate goal.

Hence, economic diversification is the key and should be pursued now more than ever. Our country needs strategies that leads to sustainable economic growth, an expanded vibrant business sector, good job opportunities for Sint Maarteners and a higher quality of life for all.

There are economic areas that the country should explore and pursue such as international business services/insurance-risk industries; a ship and aircraft registry; fintech/block chain technology; e-commerce/technology sector among others. Why can’t we pursue with private sector partners business solutions and scale them globally from Sint Maarten?

Steps need to be taken today to establish a diversified business ecosystem leading to an economically and financially sustainable smart nation by 2030 that will be able to deal with the various global changes – including climate change.

For example, Sint Maarten should explore the possibility of acquiring a Geostationary Orbital Slot for Satellites via the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – it’s like renting real estate in the sky. Outer space, for the telecommunication sector is becoming more accessible to more actors in existing and emerging new industries.

Bermuda, an island nation similar in size in population compared to Sint Maarten, has four satellite orbital slots – an area where satellites operate - which were allocated by the ITU to that island nation back in 1983. One slot hosted its first satellite in 2013.

A country of course needs the necessary legislative regulations such as a space law – in line with the Outer Space Treaty - in order to capitalize on satellite space slots, and the Sint Maarten House of Parliament has a key role to play. The State of the Satellite Industry Report 2019 said the global space economy was worth more than 360 billion dollars in 2018 – a satellite industry that is worth more than 277 billion dollars with telecommunications being the biggest sector – and is forecast to become a trillion-dollar industry by 2040. The island of Jamaica is also working on developing a slot for commercialization.

The development of a Geostationary Orbital Slot for Satellites also has applications for aviation and shipping sectors – aircraft and shipping registry – through the use of surveillance or reconnaissance satellites.

Why not establish the ‘Sint Maarten Space and Satellite Policy Advisory Group’ which can lead to the establishment of the ‘Sint Maarten Space and Satellite Authority’ that would chart, manage and capitalize on the opportunities that exist in this area whereby country Sint Maarten becomes a part of emerging space economies which translates into economic diversification and financial independence?

Roddy Heyliger    




Netherlands presents findings on Airspace and Aerodrome Capacity Study

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - In an initiative set forth by the Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), the representative of the Netherlands Aerospace Center (NLR) Jan-Hein Dronkelaar declared his findings on the aircraft movements within the Terminal Control Area (TMA) and the aerodrome at the extraordinary stakeholder’s info-session. The closed session was hosted at the Simpsonbay Resort Conference room on Thursday August 1, 2019.  NLR has been in existence for 100 years, with the goal to make the world of transport safer, more sustainable, more efficient and more effective.

The Princess Juliana International Airport have been prepared for this info session since the study was concluded in 2017. The first presentations were completed prior to Hurricane Irma, but the efforts were halted due to the damages sustained. The overall results concluded that we were able to identify our capacity for both the SXM Airport and the airspace that our ATC unit controls.

The recent presentation gave insight into the current state of the island’s airlift capacity and how best to safely maximize airlift, whilst improving the capacity due to traffic surges. The Netherlands Aerospace Center worked jointly with the Air Traffic Services (ATS) to evaluate the possibility of airspace layout design changes.

In addition to airspace redesign, infrastructure improvements will have to be made in the future which should take operational requirements into consideration, as development progresses in a logical and results oriented approach. The findings also considered the complexity of the current operations, as it analyzed the controller workload.

Invited guests included the honorable Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication (TEATT), Stuart Johnson, the Dutch and French tourist offices, Management of the Edeis Aeroport Saint – Martin Grand Case, St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), the St. Maarten Harbor Group of Companies, St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority, Airline Representatives, Hoteliers, Menzies (Ground Handling Company), and the airlines and handlers of the PJIAE.

"Statistical information that is used to decipher the airport's capacity is integral to its redevelopment as the number one gateway in the region. Understanding how to maximize the use of our airspace plays a crucial role in how fast we in St. Maarten can increase our airlift. The Airspace and Aerodrome Capacity Study is a valuable tool that would shape our future decisions,” stated the Honorable Stuart Johnson Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunication (TEATT).

"The presentation on the study further highlights the need for collective solutions, which meets the current and future demand. All stakeholders should be included to harmonize the airport's future infrastructure and operational advancements. NRL was selected to conduct this study due to their vast experience in this field of expertise,” added the Manager of Air Traffic Services, Gregory Hassell.

“It is imperative that everyone in the tourism industry is aware of the capabilities of our ports of entry, with SXM Airport being a key driver. Driving our tourism product is one thing but making sure that our visitors arrive and depart from our airport and airspace safely, should be everyone’s concern. Tourism demands are getting back to pre-Irma levels, and we need to be vigilant in our approach when planning to increase airlift to the island. Therefore, it was important for the tourist offices from both sides of the island to attend the info-session in the company of the airline representatives/handlers, so they can realize what challenges our airport and Air Traffic Control units are faced with and be part of the discussions going forward,” concluded Manager of the ATS Training and Development Duncan Van Heyningen.

The results from the study showed that the runway capacity of PJIAE during the busier winter season is reaching its limitations. Adding anymore capacity means that the scheduling of new flights must be spread around the peak hours of 11:00am – 3:00pm during which there is ample capacity available.


Your holiday e-scooter could be illegal at home, insurers warn

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – People who bought an electric scooter (step in Dutch) while on holiday abroad may face high costs at home if involved in an accident, insurers warn.

In the Netherlands many individual modes of transport are banned from the roads because they have not been approved by the vehicle authority RDW and their owners are not insured.

‘It is a bit confusing because they are allowed abroad,’ insurance sector spokesman Oscar van Elferen told broadcaster NOS. ‘While some third-party insurances may cover the costs in other cases the damages will ultimately have to be paid by the owner of the electric scooter,’ he said.

Owners also risks a fine of €380 and having their scooter confiscated.



Nitrous oxide behind wheel no laughing matter: road safety group

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Traffic safety organisation Veilig Verkeer is starting a campaign on social media to raise awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence of laughing gas, broadcaster NOS reports.

Police research has shown that the drug has been involved in 960 road accidents so far this year compared to 60 in 2016. ‘It is incomprehensible that people, mainly youngsters, drive while under the influence of laughing gas.

They are taking their own lives and that of others into their hands,’ a Veilig Verkeer spokesperson told the broadcaster. A poll by drug monitoring organisation TeamAlert and NOS among 193 young adults who have driven having used the drug showed almost half thought nitrous oxide did not influence their ability to drive.

Police say the use of laughing gas while driving is a form of distraction and although it is not an enduring high people are for a short time under the influence. Apart from raising awareness Veilig Verkeer want a ban on the use of the canisters while driving.

Insurers, too, would welcome a ban. Users are already liable for damages, but a ban would put the blame unequivocally on the user, an insurance sector representative told NOS.

The health ministry said last year it wants to make it more difficult for teenagers to buy laughing gas following a report by addiction clinic Trimbos on the rising use of the drug by youngsters.

Regular users

Research showed over 37% of Dutch party goers use laughing gas on a regular basis and that young adults are the most likely to do so. Although laughing gas is relatively safe it is not without dangers and its long-term effects on children has not been researched.

Alkmaar and Hoorn have already banned the use of laughing gas at events following a number of incidents in which youngsters were taken ill after taking the drug.

Dozens of little companies have sprung up in the Netherlands selling and delivering laughing gas to party goers since courts ruled the gas should not be treated as a medicinal drug.



Retired Managing Director of PJIAH bids farewell at official honorary luncheon

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - The retired Managing Director of the Princess Juliana International Airport Holding Company N.V. (PJIAH), Joe Peterson took centerstage at a merited farewell luncheon at the IZI restaurant on Friday August 2, 2019. Peterson officially retired two years ago as the official decision maker of the PJIAH. On August 1, 2017 past member of the PJIAH Supervisory Board of Directors, Dexter Doncher was officially appointed as his successor.

His longstanding career resulted in 18 years of service at the airport, notwithstanding his term as member of the Supervisory Board of Directors, as lead by the former chairman, the late Max Pandt.

Joe Peterson reminisced about his accomplishments and rewarding journey at the helm of the holding company during a private event which included his wife, Charlotte Peterson – van Viegen, the honorable Minister of TEATT, Stuart Johnson, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Directors, Michel Hodge, the Management Board of PJIAE and close friends. At the close of the luncheon he was awarded tokens of appreciation for his years of service from the Minister of TEATT and PJIAH.

“When our citizens dedicate their lives to the development of our country, it is always sad to see them leave companies or organizations they’ve helped build. Joe Peterson will be genuinely missed, as he dedicated a large portion of his adult life to the growth and development of Princess Juliana International Airport. I want to say success, Joe, in the next chapter of your life. As Managing Director of the Princess Juliana International Airport Holding Company N.V., you provided us with exceptional service and leadership. Therefore, on behalf of the Government of St. Maarten and a grateful nation, I salute you,” announced Honorable Minister of TEATT, Stuart Johnson.

 “The major part of my life involves the airport because my father was an operator at the Princess Juliana International Airport. I can recall teaching my sister to ride a bicycle on the old runway, as there was sometimes one flight a week back then,” Peterson told the invitees.

“Relationships made with HBN Law was crucial, as I learned a lot from its team and put it to good use at the airport. Today I can undoubtedly say that those teachings served as some of my high points during my tenure,” Peterson added.

“Dexter Doncher is not in a good position to take his role lightly. I wish him much courage, perseverance and strength to bounce back from this very difficult time after hurricane Irma. I’m also hurt by the slow pace of the reconstruction of the airport and will remain just a phone call away to lend any assistance to my second home,” concluded the outgoing Managing Director of the PJIAH.

Farewell Luncheon 1

Former Managing Director of PJIAH, Joe Peterson addresses the invitees at the farewell luncheon at IZI restaurant.





A pancake is not a biscuit, court rules in pension dispute

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A pancake baker who refused to put his staff’s pension contributions into the confectionery makers’ pension fund has won his case – because a pancake (pannenkoek) is not a biscuit (koek).

The fund had demanded the staff be included in the sector-wide fund, arguing that the company was a producer of biscuits and other confectionery. If the baker had lost, it would have cost him €8.5m in back-dated contributions.

The pancake baker has organised his pension affairs through Aegon since 2000 and argued that he did not have to subscribe to the sector scheme.

The court in Rotterdam went into details about the difference between pancakes and biscuits, including their ingredients and the way they are cooked, in order to reach its verdict.

For example, milk is a primary ingredient in pancakes but not biscuits, and pancakes are cooked on a hot plate not in an oven, the court said.



July’s heatwave cost hundreds of lives, over 80s were hardest hit

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The heatwave at the end of July appears to have cost an additional 400 lives, the national statistics agency CBS said on Friday.

The heatwave resulted in record temperatures and the over 80s were particularly hard hit, accounting for some 300 of the extra deaths, the CBS said. Eastern parts of the country were more severely affected, because the heatwave lasted longer away from the coast.

‘It was to be expected because the heat was intense,’ geriatrics professor Marcel Olde Rikkert told broadcaster NOS. ‘It caused me problems, so imagine how it was for people with little physical strength.’

Heatwave plan

Research by the Volkskrant during the July heatwave showed that the recommendations made in the national heatwave plan, brought into effect when the temperature tops 30 degrees, had saved ‘hundreds, if not thousands‘of lives.

During the heatwaves of July 2013 and June 2015, fewer elderly people died than would have been expected during normal temperatures.

But in the heatwaves of 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, before the heatwave plan was introduced, the death toll among the elderly rose by an additional 3,000, the Volkskrant said.

The paper based its claim on an analysis of death statistics. The heatwave plan offers advice to older people, the chronically sick and overweight people to drink enough water, wear thin clothing, avoid physical effort and stay in the shade.

Parents are also urged to make sure young babies stay cool.



People are retiring later, average age to stop work now hits 65

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The average age that Dutch workers are retiring hit 65 last year, a rise of five months on 2017, according to new figures from national statistics agency CBS.

In 2006, the average retirement age was around 61 but changes in the law in 2007 led to a sharp drop in the number of people taking early retirement. The rise in the state pension age, which began in 2013, has also had an impact, the CBS said.

This year, the official retirement age has reached 66 and four months. In 2006, 88% of people retired before they hit 65, a quarter of whom were 59 or younger.

Last year, just 34% of people stopped working before they reached retirement age and only 5% quit at 59 or earlier.

People working in healthcare, the energy industry, education and for the government are the most likely to take early retirement, the CBS said.


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