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Soualiga News II (3887)

Terence Jandroep CRA CQA explains income controversy in St. Maarten

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Our team detected a very extraordinary condition between Tax Inspectorate, the Pension Federal Ordinance and the current physical pension values, Terence Jandroep said in a press release.

“The Inspectorate is busy assessing the pensioners in a very unbalanced manner due to the following:

“Some pensioners receive Naf. 10.000 per year or less, depending on their status on the island. The individuals fill the tax returns in accordance to their income declaration of the SZV, however the Tax Inspectorate decides to increase the taxable income up to Naf. 25,000 with argument, that the cost of living could not be sustained with the amount declared.

“Considering that approx. 60% of the Dutch Caribbean employees earn the minimum wage, how does Government go about this matter. The minimum wage is Naf. 1350, the full pension as of 2020 is Naf. 1,240 in accordance with the resolution amendment of July 2020 and the Tax office established the living standard at Naf. 25,000

“It is disturbing that the Tax Department is of the opinion that Naf. 25000 should be the taxation standard and the Pension/Minimum wage is way under. The question that arises is why the standard for the cost of living with a taxation objective is higher than what is established in the Labor laws and Pension Ordinances that forces the most vulnerable in a position of distress.

“In addition, most pensioners do file their tax returns and find out later that a whiplash is in the woodwork, not to mention the possible late filing of the protest letter, making the tax assessment solid.  Another question that arises is if the perception of the Tax Department could be used by the Pensioners organization to increase the pension amount due to the already established minimum for the cost of living for taxation purposes by the highest Government Institution (Tax office) via a Court case.

“Due to the existing condition a high number of pensioners that are not collecting the full pension, are being financially violated and forced to continue to work after reaching the pension age. This condition contemplates a very interesting point of discussion that may be brought forward by the Pensioners’ Organizations in Sint Maarten.”

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Statia signs performance agreement with Diker Sports Training Academy

SINT EUSTATIUS (ORANJESTAD) - The Public Entity St. Eustatius signed a performance agreement with Diker Sports Training Academy to further strengthen the foundations’ program for youth, especially teenagers. By providing the teenagers a positive experience, improving their self-esteem, and learning social skills, they have access to valuable life lessons. These will help them to make better decisions when dealing with problems, aggression, and loss.

The agreement with Diker Sports Training Academy forms part of an overall action plan for teenagers. This is developed in a joint effort with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports in the Netherlands (VWS). VWS also contributes financially.

Teenagers and local stakeholders are actively involved in the development and execution. Through this action plan, teenagers aged 12-18+ are offered a healthy, safe and promising environment to grow up in.

Diker Academy will be supported by the Unit Social Support within the Directorate Social Domain to offer activities and guidance after school through sports. The organization is a new addition to the existing organizations that are active on St. Eustatius. Diker Academy is linked to the Directorate Social Domain and for sports to the Saint Eustatius Sports Facilities Foundation. (Statia GIS)

Dikers team

 

 

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“Applying for a U.S. Student Visa or Canadian Study Permit” workshop scheduled for May 25

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - An informative workshop entitled “Applying for a U.S. Student Visa or Canadian Study Permit” will be held on May 25, 2021 by the Student Support Services Division (SSSD) of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs.

This free workshop will be held online from 5:00 P.M. to 6:30 P.M. and is geared towards students who are looking to apply or who have applied to schools in the U.S.A. or Canada and their parents.

In this workshop, information will be given on the application process for obtaining an U.S. Student Visa or Canadian Study Permit. Students who have already been accepted to a school in either of these countries can attend the workshop to receive a step-by-step approach on how to complete the application process. The process can seem overwhelming and confusing, however, SSSD will help students to better understand the process.

Students or parents can register in advance by calling SSSD at 543-1235 and registrants will then receive an invitation by email.  On the day of the event, participants can click the link on SSSD’s Facebook page and join the online workshop.

Students who do not possess a U.S. passport, U.S. Permanent Residence (Green Card), Canadian passport, or Canadian permanent residence are considered international students in the U.S. and Canada respectively. According to SSSD officials, “Applying for a student visa ties into immigration matters, therefore, it is essential that students are aware of the procedure and take care in preparing their application.” They also stress that improper preparation or incomplete applications can delay the process at the embassy.  

“We have seen students having to wait a whole year before attending college or university because they encountered bottlenecks with for example their Canadian study-permit. The global pandemic has also caused a shift in how certain things are done. So, knowing certain aspects beforehand, can help students with their application process, “SSSD officials said.

Students are also urged to contact the career guidance counselor, Mr. Chance, at 543-1235 for more information. Students are also encouraged to log into the workshop on time.

The SSSD office is located in the Gatsby Building across from the Police Station and next to the WIB. SSSD provides many services to students. Some services include: psychological services, counseling services, speech language pathology services, social work services, educational diagnostic services, career services, and parental workshops.  

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9:30 am opening for TelEm Group offices on Monday due to staff meeting

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - TelEm Group has announced the late opening of its offices on Monday, May 10th due to a General Meeting with personnel at the start of the workday.

TelEm Group’s Human Resources & Development Department has scheduled the meeting to take place starting at 8:00 am sharp, noting that TelEm Group’s Main office on Pond Island will open at 9:30 Monday, while the branch office at Simpson Bay will open at 10:00 a.m.

The Human Resources & Development Department has meantime also informed that TelEm Group offices will be closed on Thursday May 13th, and Friday May 14th in keeping with observance of Ascension Day.

TelEm Group customers and members of the public are kindly requested to mark these dates in their calendars to avoid any disappointments when visiting company offices and locations. The company meantime apologizes for any inconvenience caused.

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SECAR discovers 18th-century burial ground during excavation

SINT EUSTATIUS (ORANJESTAD) - The Public Entity St Eustatius and St. Eustatius Center for Archaeological Research (SECAR) confirm that an 18th- century burial ground has been found at the Golden Rock 2021 site. It is premature to say if the bodies are those of formerly enslaved persons, however, most have been identified as having African features.

Twelve skeletons have been discovered to date, Thursday, May 6th 2021. More are expected to lie in this burial ground. All of these remains have been found in unmarked and unmapped locations. “It is imperative that the remains are excavated and removed from the site. We do this in order to process, conserve, analyze and eventually rebury these people in a proper and respectful way,” says GR2021 Director, Ruud Stelten. “If the burial grounds contain the estimated number of graves which we anticipate, this site will be one of the largest rural burial grounds to be fully excavated in the Caribbean,” adds Ruud Stelten.

It is currently not possible to determine if the discovered remains were actual enslaved persons or freed persons of African descent. The archaeologists continue to research carefully and hope to be able to determine the social status of the persons in the burial grounds. The majority of the burials have some remains of coffin, coffin nails and objects which were buried with these people. This indicates that the deceased persons were treated with care and respect.

GR2021 also has a forensic archaeologist on the team. If an intact skull is discovered, she can make a digital facial reconstruction of the buried person.

Former Statian archaeologist Joost Morsink, who is responsible for the Amerindian settlement portion of GR2021, has stated that no human remains have been found to date during this dig, but has unearthed many interesting clues as to how the Amerindians lived in the 7th to 9th century AD.

Artifacts

Multiple archaeological features and artifacts appeared during the test trench phase. These were indicative of a settlement which is projected to be the area of the slave quarters of the former Golden Rock Plantation. It is in this precise area that burials have been found. The remains and all the artifacts which are being found, will be stored in a secured climate-controlled environment. This is particularly important for the archaeological remains as their DNA will be analyzed.

A cooperation has been set up with several prominent universities around the world to analyze the remains in order to learn more about the lives of the buried people. Stable isotope analysis can inform us of peoples’ diets and whether they were born on Statia. DNA analysis can tell us where in Africa these people came from. Through protein studies it is also possible to discover what diseases they suffered from and what eventually took their lives.

Test trenches

In September 2020 the Public Entity St. Eustatius requested SECAR to perform test trenches in a high archaeological expectancy area. The dirt and sand located in this area are intended to be used for ongoing projects carried out by the Environment, Nature and Infrastructure directorate (ENI). This area will also be used for future airport expansion projects.

The Amerindian settlement which is nearby and part of GR2021, has not revealed any human remains during this dig but has unearthed many interesting clues as to how the Amerindians lived in the 7th to 9th century AD.

The Public Entity is pleased that so many specialists have come to Statia in order to assist SECAR. “Thanks to the protocol of testing sensitive areas before digging, these findings have been saved from being destroyed and the stories which are emerging about the island’s history and heritage are fascinating,” says Natasha Radjouki, Program Manager of the Culture Department of the Public Entity.

On Wednesday, May 5th 2021, members of the Island Council were briefed by Acting Government Commissioner Alida Francis and Ruud Stelten of SECAR on the significance of this archaeological excavation. (Statia GIS)

seu grave ins1

 

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Renovation government administration building

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - The renovation will start of the Government Administration Building in The Bottom is scheduled to start late May. The public will be informed as to how this will affect public services.

During a recent retreat with the Executive Council, the Island Council asked to include the grounds surrounding the Government Administration Building into the renovation plan. In the opinion of the Island Council, the grounds can use a thorough upgrade.

The long-discussed upgrade of the court room was tabled and the Island Council has requested the Executive Council to make haste with this project as it is important that the people can easily follow the meetings of the Island Council.

The Public Entity Saba has a new website, www.sabagov.nl, where all publications of government will be available, including press releases, notices and vacancies. Training and education of civil servants is ongoing. A new education plan will include opportunities for civil servants who want to further their education. The Saba Reach Foundation will be involved and execute parts of the education plan.

Discussions on the themes such as the workweek, vacancies, job evaluations, function house and salary table, an organization ordinance, (proactive) communications, and the governing accord in the Netherlands were also discussed and will require further deliberations.

The latter was mentioned as presently the Netherlands is preparing such an accord. The Island Council deemed it necessary to make all efforts to get Saba’s needs and wishes in the agenda of The Hague and to have these included in the Dutch governing accord where possible. 

Various policies

The new Youth Policy Plan was presented to the Island Council during the retreat. The plan seeks to outline the obligations of the Public Entity Saba, the Dutch Government, various stakeholders, families and young people themselves. The policy is both an acknowledgement of the specific needs of young people and a formal recognition of their potential and unique contribution for further development.

The Culture Policy Plan is also ready and was submitted to the Island Council in April. A new traffic ordinance is being drafted, which will be discussed during a townhall meeting. A new first draft of the Saba Development Plan is being worked on and will be ready for input by the Island Council in June. (SabaGIS)

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Central Committee meeting of Parliament about National ordinance budget amendment 2020

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The House of Parliament will sit in a Central Committee meeting on May 7, 2021.

The Committee meeting which was adjourned on April 28, 2021 will be reconvened on Friday at 10.00 hrs. in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelminastraat #1 in Philipsburg. The Minister of Finance will be present.

The agenda point is:

Draft National Ordinance amending the National Ordinance on the 2020 Budget and the Pension Scheme for Political Authorities (National ordinance budget amendment 2020 including the amendment of the Pension regulation political authorities) (IS/560/2020-2021 dated April 1, 2021) (Parliamentary Year 2020-2021-145).

Due to measures taken to mitigate the coronavirus (COVID-19), the House of Parliament is only allowing persons with an appointment to enter the Parliament building.

The parliamentary sessions will be carried live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 115, via SXM GOV radio FM 107.9, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1, the audio via the internet www.sxmparliament.org, www.pearlfmradio.sx and Parliament’s Facebook page: Parliament of Sint Maarten

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Social domain update

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - Developments in the area of the social domain were discussed during the recent retreat of the Island and Executive Council.

Social support

Together with the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), the Public Entity Saba is looking into the possibility to implement a WMO-light (social support) on Saba. The Meals on Wheels is a crucial element in this. A proposal for funding has been submitted to the Dutch Government to receive funds for healthier (locally grown) food, food baskets for children and additional staff.

Government already received a grant for Home support to help with cleaning at people’s homes. A plan is being drafted for Home health which will start shortly. The third pillar is to make small adjustments at homes so people can stay home longer instead of going to the old home. Government received a special grant for this and a plan is being drafted together with the Home and the hospital. Execution will start before the summer.

Artisan Foundation building

The renovation of the Artisan Foundation building in The Bottom has been completed, and the Saba Reach Foundation is moving its offices to this location. The plan is to turn part of the building into a gym and to also create a second social workplace. A plan has been sent to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (SZW) for funding.

Public assistance

The Island Council has requested government to come up with a new public assistance budget and to draft a clear policy on this. Both are being looked into and a plan will go to the Island Council shortly. A project will start in June this year to assist disabled persons with making small adaptations at their home such as installing railings and a ramp. Adaptations will also be made in public areas for persons who are less mobile.

Rent subsidy system

The Public Entity Saba and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) are working on the decreasing of the housing costs of households with low incomes. As part of the ‘Saba Package 2019-2022’ it has been agreed to work on reducing the housing costs, to construct social housing tenements, to develop a policy with regards to social housing, and to start the joint pilot ‘Rent(al) subsidy Saba’. The rent subsidy will also be available to the private sector.

Under the Hill homes

The Under the Hill housing project is delayed. Various factors, at all stakeholder levels, have led to this, and these are being worked out. It is anticipated that the pace will pick up and that the project will be moving along once additional skilled workers arrive on the island. (Saba GIS)

IC BC at Under the Hill project 01

 

 

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Island, Executive Council discuss local produce, food supply

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - Increasing local produce and securing a steady, quality food supply to Saba are important areas for the Executive and Island Council which discussed these topics during a recent retreat.

Agriculture

Investments continue to be made in agriculture to promote local growing of produce and to make the island more sustainable. Efforts are made to increase productivity at The Farm. Recently, Vernon Liburd was appointed team leader at The Farm. The Rendezvous Farm is under construction. An agriculture policy is being drafted. The Island Council was very critical about the fact that these initiatives were taken without being based on a Masterplan Agriculture. Commissioner Rolando Wilson was requested to present a Masterplan Agriculture this year before the implementation of other projects.

Sustainability/food supply

The Public Entity Saba started a pilot late last year for an alternative fresh produce supply line to improve food security. At the start of the Corona crisis, it became clear that a supply of fresh produce cannot be guaranteed for Saba. The same happened after Hurricane Irma in 2017. Saba, but also St.

Eustatius, is completely dependent on wholesalers in St. Maarten which creates a vulnerable situation.

High failure rates and a long logistics chain in combination with the small scale on which imports take place pushes prices further up. Wholesalers at intermediate hubs extend the travel time of the products, repeatedly break the refrigerated chain and repeated repacking of products causes loss of quality.

An important recommendation from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO study was that setting up a supply route directly from the country of origin could improve Saba’s food position. Based on these studies, Saba decided to set up a pilot for an alternative supply route directly from the country of origin/Miami. The pilot started on January 19. A first evaluation takes place in April. The initial findings showed mixed results with both advantages and disadvantages.

Government will do a more in-depth evaluation with the two local supermarkets that participate.

Animals/goat project

The Island Council has questioned the delay of the animals/goat project. It has been months now and the Council expressed the hope that the challenges were being resolved, and the project can move forward. The project will also allow for assistance to goat owners who want to keep their animals in a sustainable manner. The Island Council has asked if the project could also support the fishermen in their plea. (Saba GIS)

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C&W Communications Appoints Tony Matthews Vice President, Dutch Caribbean

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - C&W Communications (C&W) today announced the appointment of Tony Matthews to the position of Vice President, Dutch Caribbean. In his new role, Matthews will have overall responsibility for Flow/UTS operations in Bonaire, Curacao, St. Maarten/St. Martin, Saba and St. Eustatius.

He will also join C&W’s Executive Leadership Team. The appointment is part of an organizational shift that also includes new roles for C&W in the North Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago, and the South Caribbean which previously included the Dutch Caribbean.

Of the four new positions, two will now be held by women. Nicolas Collette who served as VP for the South region for the last two years will transition to lead the company’s B2B Centre of Excellence. Danny Macaya who held Country Manager responsibilities for the Dutch Caribbean will now focus solely on Curacao.

Charlesworth Sydney will continue to lead the St. Maarten business and both he and Macaya will report to Matthews. Matthews joined C&W two years ago to lead commercial initiatives for the company, such as network investment and expansion in Jamaica, along with a harmonization program that provides customers with greater choice and flexibility.

Matthews brings to the role more than 30 years of telecom operations experience with major companies such as Comcast, Cox Communications, and Cisco. Inge Smidts, CEO of C&W, said, “Tony brings a wealth of experience to this role having worked in key positions at major operators in North America.

I am confident that he will work closely with our local leaders in the Dutch Caribbean to improve our services and solutions as we work to provide memorable experiences and win the trust of our customers.” Expressing his sentiments about the appointment, Matthews said, “I’m excited for this new opportunity, as there’s a great deal of work to be done across our markets in the Dutch Caribbean. Still, our commitment to provide the most reliable connections and the best overall experience for our customers has never been stronger and we look forward to delivering on this promise now and in the future.”

Collette, who a little more than a year ago managed the integration of eleven business units, including the Dutch Caribbean, which became the company’s South Caribbean cluster, is transitioning to oversee C&W Communications’ Business to Business (B2B) Centre of Excellence. Smidts also added, “Nicolas has been a pillar of support to me and plays a key role on my leadership team. He has done an outstanding job leading our team in the Dutch Caribbean over the last two years.

Given his background in the B2B space, this transition is a natural fit for him. It is an area of business with which he is very familiar, as before joining C&W, he led the B2B division for Telenet in Europe. In his new role he will be responsible for customer value propositions, go-to-market strategies, sales excellence, digital transformation, business development, strategic marketing, and B2B customer service across all of C&W.”

Adding his thoughts on Matthews’ appointment, Collette said, “Over the last two years Tony has done an excellent job leading key commercial initiatives across our C&W markets. He is passionate about delivering exceptional value and I am confident he will work closely with our local teams and stakeholders in the Dutch Caribbean to ensure that we have a high performing and resilient network that delivers the products and solutions to enable our customers to have an unparalleled experience.”

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