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SCDF presents first copies Carnival schedule to annual sponsor Scotiabank

IMG_6397PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) on Monday presented the first copies of the 2015 Carnival schedule to the management of Scotiabank, the sponsor of the schedule for almost twenty years. SCDF also presented Bank Manager Raymond Green with one of its uniform shirts for 2015 which Scotiabank also sponsored again this year.

"We cannot express enough gratitude to Scotia for standing with the foundation for so many years. A true, dedicated partner that we can always count on," SCDF President Mike Granger said. "Even in a day and age when so much is strictly digital, people clamour for these schedules. Hotel properties, airlines and other businesses make good use of them. They will be distributed island wide," he said.

Granger said the partnership with Scotia goes past the provision of the schedules and uniform shirts. "Scotia is also where we conduct our business and they've been very, very good to the SCDF. Their staff is beyond cooperative with the SCDF, often giving our requests priority treatment and giving sound, honest banking advice," Granger said while singling out Business Banking Manager Nicole Hodge and Business Banking Officer Samantha Blaize for their steadfast support.

Green said that Scotia is very pleased to be able to continue supporting St. Maarten's Carnival. "Let me take this opportunity to commend Mike and the committee for the great efforts put forth to grow and improve Carnival. We at Scotiabank are committed to giving back to the community and are very pleased to be part of this important cultural event. We wish all St. Maarteners a great and safe Carnival."

CFT: St. Maarten needs to complete loan investments

THE HAGUE/WILLEMSTAD--The St. Maarten Government has taken loans for the purchase of the Emilio Wilson Park and the government building on Pond Island for which it has to pay interest but so far these investments have not been realised.

The Committee for Financial Supervision (CFT) in a letter dated March 12 warned against this modus operandi of the St. Maarten Government by taking out loans and not using the funds for what they were meant.

Whereas the current account of the St. Maarten Government so far showed a NAf. 8 million deficit in the last quarter of 2014, the capital account revealed a surplus of NAf. 110 million. The CFT stated in a reaction to the fourth 2014 Executing Report that this was largely due to loans which have been secured to finance investments that were pre-financed from 2010 to 2012.

This surplus could be used to strengthen government's cash position. However, these loans, NAf. 30 million for the Emilio Wilson Park and NAf. 22.5 million for the government building on Pond Island, do put an unnecessary interest burden on the current account. The CFT calculated that the current account has a cumulative deficit of NAf. 52 million since St. Maarten attained country status on October 10, 2010.

The CFT emphasised the importance of drafting a realistic capital account and having a prudent loan policy. The CFT asked to indicate in subsequent reports how the money of the contracted loans was used so it can check whether the investments for which funds were borrowed were indeed realised.

Aside from the anticipated NAf. 8 million shortfall over 2014, the CFT also indicated its concerns about the increase of personnel expenses in 2014, which were ten per cent higher than budgeted.

The anticipated reduction of overtime payments and other personnel costs did not materialise in 2014. To the contrary: the personnel expenses over 2014 were NAf. 17.4 million higher than budgeted.

Especially the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour spent much more on overtime than anticipated: NAf. 9.6 million and NAf. 7.4 million respectively. The CFT urged government to take measures to contain the exceeding costs of overtime in the future.

Meanwhile, the anticipated revenue increasing measures through dividend payments of government companies of about NAf. 19 million did not materialise in 2014, as a result of which higher expenditures could not be compensated.

Government raised NAf. 430.2 million in revenues while expenditures amounted to NAf. 438.4 million. This brings the preliminary result for 2014 to a negative balance of NAf. 8.2 million.

The CFT was also worried about government's cash position and the payment arrears. The payment arrears of the St. Maarten Government at the end of 2014 amounted to some NAf. 200 million, mostly to the Social and Health Insurance SZV (NAf. 87 million) and the St. Maarten Pension Fund APS (NAf. 70 million).

Then there is also a dispute between government and the APS and SZV of some NAf. 75 million. "The total payment arrears are about half the size of the budget, which is unacceptable," stated CFT Chairman Age Bakker in his March 12 letter.

CFT urged government during consultations last month to find a prompt solution for the payment of these arrears and to reach an agreement with APS and SZV before the end of May.

The proceeds from the division of assets of the former Country the Netherlands will probably not be enough to cover the payment arrears, so alternatives will have to be looked at. Also, a structural solution is needed to further strengthen the cash position, the CFT stated.

Causeway Jump-Up opens Carnival season for 2015

page5a250SIMPSON BAY--Saturday, March 14, saw the official opening of Carnival 2015 with a well-attended Causeway Jump-up.

This particular jump-up held for the second consecutive year, was named after the Causeway Bridge as last year's jump-up was the first ever such event to cross the Causeway Bridge, which was completed in 2014.

This year, once again, hundreds of people showed up to follow three brightly coloured trucks, one carrying live musicians, two carrying deejays and sound systems, from Kim Sha Beach all the way up to the Causeway Bridge, and back up towards Cole Bay. The festive parade made a large circle ending once again at Kim Sha Beach, from where the revellers dispersed into the nightlife of the Simpson Bay area, including a "Jump-In," an after-party in which the festive atmosphere continued into the early hours of the morning.

Revellers were not allowed to walk next to the trucks while the parade crossed the Causeway Bridge, rather they were made to be either in front, or to follow behind the vehicles.

Inspector Ricardo Henson, spokesman for St. Maarten Police Force, stated in a press release that the event had been a success without any police incidents.

"The 2015 Cause Way jump-up was a success. The parade, which was well-attended, started on time in the vicinity of Kim Sha Beach and made its way via the Simpson Bay Bridge, Airport Boulevard, over the Causeway Bridge, Union road, Welfare road and ending at the starting point. The jump-up also ended on time without any incidents. The police department wants to commend the revellers for their cooperation and good conduct," he stated via a police press release.

It is hoped that the festive atmosphere will continue throughout the Carnival Season, with a safe and fun carnival for everyone. The police and the Prosecutors Office have, as in previous years, announced that any troublemakers who ruin the fun for others, will be dealt with severely and may be detained until all festivities are finished.

Mike Granger, on behalf of the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) said: "The SCDF is very pleased with the overall execution of the second annual Causeway Jump-Up. Besides being the first event of the Carnival season, it also serves as a testing ground for our organisation in terms of new procedures we put in place for road events.

"We were happy to note that the excitement and anticipation for Carnival is very high with so many people, either alongside watching, or participating. Special thanks to KFC and Presidente Beer for sponsoring two bands, to the Sea Rescue Foundation, Sheriff Security and the Police Force who ensured that everything went smoothly."

Marlin-Romeo calls for consumer agency

PHILIPSBURG--The establishment of a consumer protection agency is called for by independent Member of Parliament (MP) Leona Marlin-Romeo.

Consumer protection laws exist, but with no agency to execute the laws, she said in a press statement on Sunday.

Marlin-Romeo intends to champion an "immediate" discussion about establishment of the agency with St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce, Bureau Telecommunication and Post St. Maarten (BTP-SXM), Social Economic Council (SER), the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten, notaries, government and Parliament as co-legislator.

She intends to also contact Tourism and Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunications (TEATT) Minister Claret Connor, whose ministry is responsible for setting up the agency, to get the process started.

"A consumer in St. Maarten has the right to know their rights and be protected by the country in which goods or services were purchased or rendered for direct use or ownership," said Marlin-Romeo.

Statistics continue to show that St. Maarten is still considered and favoured as the

duty-free shopping hub of the Caribbean.

"Millions are spent in purchases on this island and yet both local consumers and transitional consumers purchasing goods are still not privy to the support of a consumer protection agency."

Consumers have experienced some dispute about low-quality, inferior and/or counterfeit products sold by businesses, or falling victim to "unscrupulous business practices such as disputes with banks and notaries," she said.

It is "imperative" for an agency to be established, similar to the American Better Business Bureau (BBB) or the Autoriteit Consument and Markt (ACM) in the Netherlands, she said.

Daylight robbery at jewellery store

PHILIPSBURG--A Front Street jewellery store fell victim to a daylight robbery on Saturday. Police spokesman Inspector Ricardo Henson detailed the proceedings in a press release.

"On Saturday, March 14, between 10:30am and 11:00am two armed men stormed into Little Europe jewellery store on Front Street in the vicinity of Emmaplein," the press release read.

"With guns in their hands and threatening to use them, the suspects robbed the establishment of an undisclosed amount of jewellery. After committing this act the robbers fled out of the establishment and jumped into a waiting getaway car with heavily tinted windows, and took off in the direction of Sucker Garden."

The vehicle was found later in the Sucker Garden area. Detectives attended the scene to question witnesses whilst the Forensic Department collected evidence. The vehicle in question had been reported stolen and was confiscated for further investigation.

The police would like anyone who witnessed this act or who can provide any information about the identity or the whereabouts of the suspects to come forward, either in person at the police station or by calling the anonymous tip line tel. 9300. Calls to this number are not traced back to any number and no details are taken from callers.

People also are asked to be cautious and to inform the police if they are offered any jewellery for purchase for which the seller cannot provide a receipt or prove ownership.

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