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Minister Ottley takes next step to improve access to affordable prescription medication

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Omar Ottley has recently signed off on a draft legislation that will allow for measures to be taken by Social & Health Insurances SZV to improve the quality and minimize stock issues of prescribed medication, in addition to reducing the purchasing costs.

Once the draft legislation is officially approved by Parliament, the necessary projects can be implemented later this year by SZV, together with the Pharmacists Association Sint Maarten (PAS) and the Department of Public Health.     

“In comparison to the neighboring islands, and Europe, the cost of pharmaceuticals on Sint Maarten are high. It’s important that we act now to address these issues and I’m happy to have signed off on this draft legislation that will not only improve our access to affordable medication, but also the quality of medication being prescribed. Our entire health care system will benefit from this, including our public health funds.”- Minister of VSA, Mr. Omar Ottley.   

The cost savings will be welcomed by SZV, as the health insurance funds have been negatively affected by the high costs of medications for several years now. Director of SZV, Mr. Glen A. Carty commented; “SZV has been preparing and waiting for some time now to act on these changes but could not do so without Government’s full support. This is one of the many small steps that have been taken to secure quality and affordable health care for our insured and protect our health care funds. On behalf of the project team, I thank the Minister and our partners for bringing us closer to the finish line.”   

The draft legislation will also make way for various SZV projects, such as digital prescriptions and medication tracking. These projects will enable health care providers to keep better records to manage stock, gain transparency in how medication is prescribed, prevent overdose, detect contra-indications, indicate allergy alerts and better guide patients on how to use medications. With these projects, SZV and its partners can better oversee the costs and quality of medications being prescribed and distributed, as part of its role to ensure the sustainability of the health insurance funds.   

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St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) Commemorates its 9th Anniversary

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Taking a moment to acknowledge its efforts throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021, the St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF), is celebrating nine fruitful and exciting years of existence. Along with this anniversary celebration, the organization is also launching its new look including a modern logo and revamped social media accounts and website.

The new look captures the organization’s commitment to cradling and nurturing a brighter St. Maarten, where its people can grow into their full potential through targeted social development initiatives. Though the official look may be changing, SMDF’s unwavering dedication remains at the heart of the organization’s work. With the continued support of its public and private sector partners, SMDF will continue its work to improve the lives of St. Maarten’s most vulnerable groups as it has always done.

While 2020 was a year of unexpected challenges, it was also a year of unexpected growth. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, SMDF pivoted its efforts to manage new programs without so much as a second thought. With the country’s economy devastated, wages plummeting and unemployment skyrocketing, SMDF managed the Income and Unemployment Support programs within St. Maarten Stimulus & Relief Plan (SSRP) on behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten. Since its inception, the program has provided financial relief for hundreds of persons struggling to survive and overcome the fallout of the pandemic.

Similarly, SMDF’s COVID response activities also had the organization serving as a Coordinator of the Collective Food Program, which supported 4,800 households by means of hot meals, food boxes, and e-vouchers. In the coming weeks, SMDF will continue to coordinate and provide food support to these persons collaboratively with its NGO partners.

Social development is a dynamic and ongoing process that requires constant assessment of the needs of the community and the ability to respond through creative initiatives that fill voids as they appear. Through its Workforce Development Program (W4D), SMDF created a free opportunity for learning for over 400 persons. Education has long been one of the key means of improving one’s income and quality of life. With so many unable to follow traditional learning programs, the initiative launched with e-learning platform Coursera, gave residents a chance to learn new skills and better equip themselves to reenter the workforce while at home during the less than active economic year.

In addition to its programmatic developments, the year 2020 was one of transition for the organization with the retirement of its first leadership. In December 2019, SMDF’s first Managing Director Keith Franca retired, passing the helm to Makhicia Brooks as of January 1, 2020. Similarly, in May 2020, incorporators Richelda Emmanuel-Rodriguez, Joy Arnell, and Marinka Gumbs all retired at the end of their two terms making way for new Supervisory Board Members Louisian Wathey, Zuleima Violenus-Salmon, and Claudette Labega-Forsythe who join Zylena Bary and Ahmed Bell.

Needless to say, without collaboration, SMDF can neither fund nor execute projects to the extent it does now. Thus, SMDF would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the organizations that have been along with us through this journey, including but not limited to: associated NGOs, donors and partners, the Government of Sint Maarten, Windward Islands Bank, the Ministry of BZK, NAGICO, and the Netherlands Red Cross.

As the organization goes through its tenth year, it will be doing so with the steadfastness and optimism necessary to development work. With St. Maarten and its people at the heart of its work, SMDF will continue to find innovative ways to fulfill its mission of Contributing to a Society that Cares.

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PFP Submits Teen Times Request to Parliament Committee for ECYS

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Shortly after receiving a request to pursue curriculum that includes local history from members of Teen Times, PFP Members of Parliament Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson have submitted it to the Committee for Education, Culture, Youth & Sports via a meeting request to the Chairwoman of the Committee, MP Angelique Romou.

The faction provided two agenda points in their meeting request, calling first for a review of pending initiatives or plans regarding the development of a comprehensive St. Maarten history course for secondary schools and secondly, for an update from the Ministry regarding existing and required materials to facilitate such a curriculum.

On June 5, Teen Times members presented their request to Gumbs in person, with the knowledge that it would be channeled properly through Parliament to come to the attention of Government. Gumbs accepted the request with full intentions of getting it to her colleague MPs as soon as possible.

In their letter to Romou, the faction explained that they are bringing this matter to the committee’s attention because they believe that nation building begins with people being aware of where they have come from, the challenges, successes and failures that they have shouldered along the way, and, most importantly to PFP, where they want to go collectively.

“This type of vision can only be accomplished through a full, objective and unbiased educational initiative that we believe should be spearheaded by the Ministry of ECYS,” the faction writes.

“With the discussions that we are having these days,” Gumbs states, “in Parliament, at the hairdresser, in the supermarket, it is important that the most critical force for our future as a country is not ignored or left behind. It is equally important that the knowledge to frame these discussions is made available to them via the one place they spend the most time in: school.”

Peterson confirms that the faction first wants to understand what, if any, initiatives have been brought forward to or by the Ministry of ECYS since 10-10-10, noting that this is a decision that sits firmly in Government’s hands to make and then execute.

“The Committee for ECYS of Parliament can play an instrumental role in highlighting this topic and in monitoring Government’s progress as it undertakes this request,” the faction concluded in its request, and also noted that it understood that the meeting may take place after Parliament’s summer recess.

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NV GEBE distances itself from incorrect factual representation by disgruntled Supervisory Board member

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Supervisory Board of Directors and the Management Board of NV GEBE took notice of the contents of a letter by a member of the Supervisory Board of NV GEBE addressed to the Prime Minister of Sint Maarten that circulated in social media and was the subject of an online newspaper article.

NV GEBE fully distances itself from what can only be qualified as deliberate incorrect factual representations of a seemingly disgruntled member of the Supervisory Board.

A member who has been held responsible by all other members of the Supervisory Board on repeated occasions, the last time being June 3rd, 2021, for a long record of serious violations and actions against the best interests of NV GEBE. The confidential records of NV GEBE speak volumes and the proper authorities have been and will again be fully briefed.

The general public can rest assured that both the Management Board and the Supervisory Board of NV GEBE have been working tirelessly in the best interest of NV GEBE to address also what appears to be a systematic undermining by a small group of persons, which includes an employee of NV GEBE with a high function.

In the process of taking the appropriate disciplinary or other measures against these persons, NV GEBE once again regretfully suffers through publications of false statements and innuendos.

The latest containing incorrect accusations about the functioning of the boards of NV GEBE and a legal advisor of the Supervisory Board of NV GEBE. Whilst the general public only sees what is directly or indirectly leaked by or on behalf of this small group of people, the simple reality is that the Sint Maarten Government, as the sole shareholder of NV GEBE, is in possession of several detailed reports, both from the Management and Supervisory Board of NV GEBE, outlining and substantiating these irregularities by, as stated, a small group of people. Further detailed reporting will be forthcoming to the Sint Maarten Government.

The specific involvement of the Supervisory Board in this respect is premised on the simple fact that one of these persons with a high function in the company reports to the Audit Committee of the Supervisory Board of NV GEBE, and the other one is the disgruntled member of the Supervisory Board.

Meanwhile, the Supervisory Board has also sent certain reports, documents and opinions to the Corporate Governance Council and the Integrity Committee. The Corporate Governance Council however received the package with the pertinent information after it rendered its advice on prospective candidates for vacant functions on the Management Board of NV GEBE.

The Corporate Governance Code and certainly the best interest of NV GEBE warrants for the various findings of both the Management Board and the Supervisory Board to be properly considered in the decision-making of the Shareholder of NV GEBE going forward.

NV GEBE hopes that this is done and that all bodies with authority to safeguard Corporate Governance matters will first and foremost be allowed to perform their tasks, without unnecessary victimization and even intimidation. More importantly, that these bodies continue to take the right decisions for NV GEBE, even when they might be – politically – unpopular.

The Management Board and the Supervisory Board of NV GEBE cannot compel the Shareholder of NV GEBE to seriously consider or even at minimum enter into an objective, fact-based dialogue on the merits of the findings and various substantiated recommendations made by the Management and Supervisory Board of NV GEBE. The Management and Supervisory Board of NV GEBE can only continue their best efforts of reporting to the proper authorities, thereby safeguarding privacy and confidentiality of the matters of NV GEBE.

This, in the hope that the internal system of checks and balances within NV GEBE and the Corporate Governance Code will ultimately suffice in resolving cardinal issues of systematic abuse that now appear to go back till 2014. It is either that, or the Shareholder or Public Prosecutor's Office should consider commissioning a corporate investigation into NV GEBE.

Ultimately, the well-being of its stakeholders whereunder the employees of NV GEBE and the entire Sint Maarten community is at stake. That well-being is not served by one liners and politicking, but by objective fact-based decision making, with the best interest of NV GEBE and its stakeholders at heart.

And of course, with proper understanding of and abiding to the Corporate Governance Code and (by) laws.

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Civil Registry Department Closed on Monday and Tuesday

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Civil Registry Department offices at the Public Service Center Government Administration Building in Philipsburg and Simpson Bay, are closed for Monday, June 21 and Tuesday, June 22.

The closure is in connection with COVID-19.

On Wednesday, the public will be updated with respect to when the offices will reopen; the contact number in case of an emergency; as well as available services.

The Civil Registry Department apologizes for any inconvenience caused.

All other services at the Government Administration Building and at the Simpson Bay Public Service Center are operational.

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STATIA HAS NEW GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONERS

SINT EUSTATIUS (ORANJESTAD) - Statia has a newly appointed Government Commissioner: Alida Francis. At the same time Claudia Toet is appointed as the new Deputy Government Commissioner. The Dutch Council of Ministers has approved the appointment of both candidates this morning, Friday, June 18th, 2021, based on the recommendation of State Secretary Raymond Knops (Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations),

The new Government Commissioner and her deputy will take office with effect from June 22nd, 2021, following the departure of Marnix van Rij earlier this year.

During a special ceremony this morning where both Alida Francis and Claudia Toet were sworn in, State Secretary Raymond Knops said that he is very pleased to swear in the new Government Commissioner and the Deputy.

I am extremely happy that Ms. Francis will take up this honorable position as Government Commissioner. She has a lot of knowledge and was born and raised in Statia. I have no doubt that she is the ideal person to fulfil this position.” About Claudia Toet, Raymond Knops said that Claudia worked on Statia for 1.5 years already and knows how to build bridges. Knops: “Alida and Claudia are a perfect match.”

Alida Francis

Alida Francis was born and raised on Statia and has been working in the Caribbean Netherlands for more than thirty years, of which 2 years for the Government of St. Maarten, 18 years in Statia as Director of Tourism and more than 10 years as senior communications advisor for Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland (RCN). She has served as Deputy Government Commissioner of St. Eustatius since February 15th, 2020.

Alida Francis: “I eagerly look forward to continuing efforts to strengthen the civil service organization, increasing the pace of the implementation of projects that will boost the local economy and working with the members of the Island Council on the Route Time Table.

“St. Eustatius is undergoing a major transformation. As a native Statian I am extremely proud to be a part of this transformation and will work with everyone who is willing to invest effort and time to lay a solid foundation for sustainable growth for our island; a foundation that is solid enough for future generations to build upon.”

Claudia Toet

Claudia Toet was born and raised in The Hague, the Netherlands. For the past 1.5 years, she has worked for the Government Commissioners of St Eustatius as an advisor and Change Manager, and also for the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations as a dedicated St Eustatius project leader. Previously she was employed by the Municipality of Rotterdam for ten years as a Department Head responsible for (among others) the portfolios vulnerable (high-risk) youth, municipal taxes, supervision and enforcement.

Claudia Toet: “I am excited that I can use my experience of the past 1.5 years in Statia and as a project leader in the role of Deputy Government Commissioner. The civil service organization has developed, in knowledge and skills, to be able to tackle the number of projects and the criteria associated with the restoration of the democracy.

“There is a lot to do and the pressure is high, and yet I have every confidence that we will work towards better socio-economic conditions in consultation with the Island Council and the stakeholders involved. I look forward to taking the next steps together with the Government Commissioner, the Island Council and the civil servants. Together with Ms. Francis, I will do everything in my power to continue taking steps for Statia. This will be done in dialogue and with an open mind.” (Statia GIS)

SEU New Gov Comm Knops

Alida Francis (L) and Claudia Toet (R) sworn in by State Secretary Raymond Knops via a Webex conference.

 

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Royal Caribbean Group Donates $25K Worth of PPE to Collective Prevention Services via SMDF

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Through a facilitated effort between Royal Caribbean Cruises, Port St. Maarten, and the St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF), the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) was the recipient of USD $25,000 worth of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to combat the local spread of SARS-CoV-2 and support its vaccination efforts.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and upon seeing the alarming uptick in cases, Royal Caribbean Cruises reached out to Port St. Maarten to donate USD $25,000 worth of PPE to St. Maarten. SMDF was later entrusted to facilitate this effort, which involved launching a public tender in search of local suppliers of quality PPE. SMDF worked directly with CPS representatives to identify their specific needs, preferences, and quantities of items required. Following communications, it was determined that the items in short supply at CPS included face masks and shields, gloves in various sizes, hand sanitizer, alcohol, disinfecting wipes and solutions, and cleaning supplies.

Upon completion of the tender process, local businesses Divico Distributors, Martijn Trading, and Watkan Trading were selected as recipients of the bid and quickly proceeded with sourcing and delivering the relevant PPE items to CPS. Due to the pandemic, suppliers faced global shortages of certain items alongside delayed shipping times. Nevertheless, the project was recently completed in June 2021. Now, the acquired PPE will go towards minimizing the exposure of COVID-19 to the island’s healthcare workers and consequently the persons they tend to.

“As an organization, we seek to facilitate development efforts however we can. It was a pleasure to assist with this initiative between Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and the Government of St. Maarten,” said Makhicia Brooks, Managing Director of SMDF.

In an invited comment, the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Omar Ottley would like to thank the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines for their generous donation of PPE supplies during these trying times. “PPE supplies are a necessity to protect the safety of our front liners, who have been diligently working to serve our community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the Minister of VSA.

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VMT announces only three weeks left to receive first dose of the Pfizer vaccine

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Vaccination Management Team announced on Monday, May 24th, that the mass vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine will stop after July 31st. As of Friday, July 9th (three weeks from now), will be the last opportunity to come for your first dose followed by your second dose the end of July.

The VMT encourages everyone who hasn't received their vaccine against the COVID-19 vaccine to use the opportunity while it's still easily accessible, free, and simple.

The evidence that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective is very evident. 20.000 persons on Sint Maarten have already been vaccinated without any unexpected issues or complications. The efficacy is also clear as daylight, as the 70 active cases on Sint Maarten consist for almost a 100% out of unvaccinated persons. In the last months, we recorded four deaths, and 23 hospitalizations, all consisting of persons who were not fully vaccinated. Additionally, it is now also thought that 10-20% of persons recovering from a COVID-19 infection can develop "long-term COVID." Months after their infection, persons still don't have taste or smell; they can feel constantly fatigued and develop mental issues.

The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA) Collective Prevention Service (CPS) is also noticing more and more work floor clusters of COVID-19 infections, as work is a place where a lot of interaction occurs amongst employees.

The danger, of course, is that an organization can lose half of its workers at once and cannot continue to carry out its operations. As it is not always possible for employees to come for their vaccine during work hours, the VMT encourages managers and business owners to promote vaccination among its employees without intimidation and to allow getting the vaccine during working hours. Having a fully vaccinated staff is in the best interest of the company, the economy and Sint Maarten.

Vaccination will always be a personal choice, but every choice has consequences. The world around us is changing, so, when you choose not to get vaccinated, you endanger the health of others and put the future of our island at risk. However, with your choice to take the vaccine, you reduce the chance of infection and infecting others by 95%.

1.4 billion people worldwide have taken the vaccine, which is scientifically proven to be safe. Your choice is also a social one, as the future of our island depends on it.

The VMT encourages everyone to not only get vaccinated but also encourage others to do so. Ask if persons in your social circle are vaccinated and try to spread correct information instead of fake news. Offer to drive and accompany someone to a vaccination location. We are stronger together, and we can only reach our goal collectively.

Come for your vaccine and encourage others to do so as well.

Only if Sint Maarten works together and uses the tools given to us can we prevent the scenario of Curacao from happening.

Sint Maarten Protected Together.

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Governor receives 2020 winners of the Governor Youth Award for Excellence Program

SINT MAARTEN (HARBOUR VIEW) - His Excellency, Governor drs. E.B. Holiday, hosted the first annual Governor’s Youth Award For Excellence on December 8, 2020. The Governor’s Youth Award for Excellence Program has been designed to recognize youths, ages 13 through 19, who have performed above and beyond and excelled in Education, Sports, Arts, Environmental protection, or Community service.

The 2020 winners of Governor’ Youth Award for excellence (in alphabetic orders) were:

  • Nigel Alexander Adriana, co-recipient in the category Academics;
  • Riya Baharani Khemchandani co-recipient in the category Academics;
  • Sarah Bharwani, recipient in the category Environmental Protection; and
  • Ray-Angel Clarence Antrobus Boasman, recipient in the category Arts.

As winners of the Governor’ Youth Award for Excellence the recipients have participated in national events, such as the Memorial Day ceremony on May 4, 2021 and the Flag Day celebration ceremony on June 13, 2021.

Today, June 17, 2021, Governor Holiday received the winners of the 2020 Governor’s Youth Award for Excellence for an audience at his office at Falcon drive 3. Mr. Adriana, Ms. Baharani, Ms. Bharwani and Mr. Boasman took the opportunity to asked Governor Holiday about his education, career, hobbies, the role of the Governor and how the Governorship impacted his life.

The winners exchange thoughts on college life during COVID and on the importance of technology on their life, studies, and future work. They also shared their views with the Governor Holiday about their aspirations, hobbies, interests, and study plans. Governor Holiday congratulated them on their winning of the first Governor’s Youth Award for Excellence, encouraged them to continue to be the best they can be going forward and reminded them that they can be anything they want to be once they worked for it. The awardees thank Governor Holiday for the opportunity.

At the time of the awards ceremony in December 2020, Nigel Adriana was off island for his studies. The meeting was closed off with the presentation by Governor Holiday of the Governor’s Youth Award for Excellence in academics to Mr. Nigel Adriana. Riya, Sara, and Ray-Angel received their award on the evening of the ceremony.

The second annual Governor’s Youth Award for Excellence ceremony is scheduled for June 24, 2021. The evaluation committee has selected finalist from the 20 nominees and the winners will be presented with their awards on Thursday June 24, 2021.

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Doing Business in Sint Maarten Summit set for June 23. Sign-Up Today

SINT MAARTEN/THE HAGUE - The Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary of Sint Maarten (KGMSXM) and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) will host a Doing Business in Sint Maarten summit on June 23, 2021.

Entrepreneurs from Sint Maarten or the Netherlands and who are interested in exploring business opportunities on Sint Maarten should attend this summit in order to learn about the business opportunities on Sint Maarten.

During the summit, insights will be provided into the key facts and figures of Sint Maarten’s possibilities and opportunities. Get informed about the local business environment and meet potential collaboration partners.

The summit is the result of a conducted research into the possibilities for business matchmaking in Sint Maarten. As a result, the conducted research highlighted several promising opportunities and provided insight into what is required for a successful matchmaking program.

The Program is as follows:

10:00 Opening

10:15 Presentation part 1 – RVO & Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunication (TEATT).

10:35 Presentation part 2 – KGMSXM & Sint Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI)

11:10 Breakout rooms with matchmaking

11:30 Closing

The registration is open until June 23, 2021. Register at http://www.kgmsxm.com. The webinar is in English.

If you have any questions about this Summit, please contact: Prakaash Rostam, Senior Advisor International Economic Affairs Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary of Sint Maarten M: (+31) 61 789 8704 | E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; or Bernise Stoffer, Project manager Business matchmaking SXM The Netherlands Enterprise Agency M: (+31) 65 548 9526 | E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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