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No Need to Point Fingers, We All Failed.

Dear Editor,

I observe Mr. Olivier Arrindell embarking on the process of founding his own political party and initiating his campaign. As I reflect on how he has captivated the hearts and minds of many in St. Maarten, I find myself pondering how this happened. A significant number of people attribute this phenomenon to a failing education system, suggesting that this is why so many are willing to support Mr. Arrindell.

However, I do not entirely agree that our education system has failed us. At the primary level, the FBE system has indeed fallen short, primarily in my opinion it attempted to mimic the Montessori system without incorporating the foundational elements that contribute to Montessori's success. Equally, at the academic high school level, there is a commendable parity in academics that equips our students for tertiary education. Efforts are also being made to enhance vocational training but there is still much to be desired.

Undoubtedly, more resources are needed in both academic and vocational streams—additional funding, more teachers, and smaller class sizes, to name a few. Interestingly, about a third of our national budget is allocated to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport, and three-quarters of that goes directly to education. Therefore, while the need for more resources is clear, I am also keen to understand how the current resources are managed for maximum efficacy.

Returning to the issue at hand, it is undeniable that educating our population, particularly our children, is vital. Yet, I believe a more pressing issue exists. When I compare Mr. Arrindell to figures like Mr. Trump, notable similarities emerge. Both exhibit larger-than-life personas, make outlandish statements, and combine enough truth with misinformation to compel people to listen.

But why are they so effective? In my view, they skillfully manipulate emotions. Regardless of one's level of education, if their rhetoric touches on personal grievances, it becomes persuasive. Consider the complaints: the tax office harasses small business owners while large companies evade scrutiny, business permits for ordinary citizens are delayed while influential individuals receive theirs swiftly, and politicians appear corrupt, amassing wealth while the average St. Maartener struggles.

As an average St. Maartener, witnessing politicians' affluence and the prosperity of foreign businesspeople can deepen feelings of disenfranchisement. Even educated and critical thinkers can find it challenging to dismiss the narratives these individuals present, as they often reflect real frustrations.

This emotional resonance is why elected officials have failed the people, allowing individuals like Mr. Arrindell to sway public opinion. Structural changes within the government, long overdue, remain unimplemented due to constant political instability.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted these issues when the Netherlands and the Kingdom's islands, including Aruba, Curaçao, and St. Maarten, engaged in tense negotiations over reforms. While the Netherlands took a firm stance, the islands rightly defended their autonomy. After extensive debates, an agreement was reached on implementing and managing these reforms.

The reforms target critical areas such as financial management, public sector efficiency, taxation, the financial sector, economic policies, healthcare, education, and the rule of law. The "Implementation Report Country Package Sint Maarten" published on January 22, 2024, offers a clear update on these reforms from October 1, 2023, to December 31, 2023. This document, with its straightforward overview of measures, activities, intended outcomes, deadlines, and status updates, is a valuable resource. I urge everyone to read it.

Successfully completing and periodically testing these reforms for quality assurance will help St. Maarten achieve its collective goals and render the rhetoric of individuals like Mr. Arrindell ineffective. However, this success hinges on the stability of our government and the willingness of our leaders to collaborate, setting aside personal differences to truly listen to the people of St. Maarten.

 

Sincerely,

Charles Darnay

 


How to record GEBE blackouts in the Tax environment.

Colombian-educated Certified Risk Analyst, Terence Jandroep CRA CQA CLA, contemplated the constant energy blackouts that have created significant losses to Small & Medium Size Enterprises and explained how losses are unnoticeably accrued.

Sales and Energy synergy
A company with a sales level of $ 300,000 per year and opens 6 times a week could be interpreted  that the sales volume was  acquired with an energy intensity of 2,496 hours (312 days x 8 hours) per year. This formula illustrates that the energy supply is aligned with the sales volumes. This example establishes that the company achieves average sales of $ 120 per hour. In addition to the sales, the cost of labor and fixed costs play a fundamental role for losses computations.

Payroll and Energy synergy
The employer cannot deduct unworked hours under the mentioned circumstance based upon the “no work no pay principle” due to energy blackouts, meaning the HR costs remain constant. This would be unconstitutional as the minimum wage is preset. In our example it is fair to mention that depending on the company’s branch of activities the Payroll expense could be around 14% of your total sales in retail businesses and 65% in service providers like lawyers, Accountants and IT companies.

We will consider the service providing companies as the starting point of our calculation. The result of loss of productivity is calculated as follows:
65% of $ 300.000= $ 195.000 / 2,496= $78.= per hour, totaling $ 198, = hours in loss of earning capacity and ineffective labor cost burden.

Should GEBE have energy setbacks of 100 hours per year, this totals $ 19,800,= in which up to now is not reflected in your Profit and Loss for recovery.

Irrational capacity Warehouse & Office Space
In addition to the sales and payroll setbacks, the entrepreneur faces an irrational workspace capacity, meaning a building or office for which rent is being paid and has no use during energy fallouts. Our example is based upon an estimation of an average monthly rental price of $ 2,500 for a Warehouse & Office space in Sint Maarten, representing $ 30,000,= per year/2496= $ 12 = per hour. This computation results in a total of $ 1,200 in loss in irrational capacity.

Interest financial institutions
In the case of Banks the interest charge runs with no exception and if you pay an average of $ 18,000 per year in interest, it relates to $ 7,= per hour or $ 700,= on the 100 hour example.

The fact is that GEBE’s 100 hours energy setback caused a corporate loss of $19,800+$1,200+$700= $ 21.700 (based on this example) subjected to a financial recovery curve.

Losses of Pandemic not allocated
The Pandemic 2020 presents similar conditions and are explained in the following example:
By the Governor’s Instruction companies were ordered to shut down 3 months @ 208 hours per month= 624 hours. By extrapolating the same previous example, the results remain consistent with 624 hrs/100 hrs* $ 21,700 = $ 135,408,= in losses for the year 2020.

The mentioned loss less the liquidity support confirms the realistic financial downfall during the Pandemic, with this illustration as a starting point, although this article indicates “examples” of losses, there are the scientific formulas to compute the company’s “Net Worth/Profitability Devaluation” after the Pandemic and Hurricane Irma, that will indicate much higher unnoticed losses.


The ignorance of the Corporate Loss science, places Risk Analysts/Auditors in heavy demand, due to their knowledge of determining business risks “real” values. It is very disturbing that companies in Sint Maarten are paying taxes while the extraordinary conditions of business enterprises dictate losses.

The Need for Critical Analysis of the Recent Government Formation Process.

 

Dear Editor,

The recent events surrounding the government formation process in St. Maarten warrant a thorough and critical analysis. Here's a timeline of events that highlight the complexities and challenges faced, which the public needs to scrutinize.

On January 13, 2024, the 2x4 coalition agreement was signed, a mere two days after the elections. The Governor then appointed Dr. Luc Mercelina as formateur on January 15, 2024. By February 10, 2024, the new members of Parliament were sworn in with a new majority, setting the stage for the formation of the government.

On January 18, 2024, the Governor appointed Dr. Nilda Arduin and Drs. Candia Joseph RO EMIA as informateurs and requested them to submit their report by February 2, 2024. In the report, the Governor requested that the informateurs pay specific attention to seven key areas including but not limited to public finances, employment conditions, the economy, and healthcare. The informateurs surmised that they were not able to present the broadest support in Parliament and that all six parties expressed an inclination to work with others based more on personal affiliation than on party selections over alternative policies and/or the implementation of specific public policies.

The informateurs also stated that “they could not establish the common goals, objectives, approaches, and other aspects for coalition forming, nor identify notable arguments and/or positions brought forward to support the formation of a coalition government by the four parties that signed a coalition agreement on January 13, 2024. Lack of a response to the questionnaire by one of the coalition partners prevented a broader review based on eight seats” (Beyond the Coalition Handshake, Arduin & Joseph, 2024). I don’t have to think long and hard to figure out, or at least make an educated guess, which coalition partner didn’t submit their questionnaire. The informateurs concluded by indicating that it would be up to the formateur to ensure there is common ground between all parties to execute their vision for St. Maarten. The informateurs' report was delivered by the requested date, and the Governor once again appointed Dr. Luc Mercelina as the formateur on February 5, 2024.

However, the process encountered significant delays. On February 28, 2024, the Governor granted Dr. Luc Mercelina his first extension until March 29, 2024, due to ongoing background screenings of candidate ministers. This deadline was extended for a second time on March 28, 2024, to April 26, 2024, as the screenings were still incomplete.

Complications further arose on May 2, 2024, when three coalition members did not attend the Parliament meeting to approve the credentials of two incoming MPs. Two of these MPs had provided notices of absence. Rumors suggested that MP Emmanuel's absence was due to dissatisfaction over not being sworn in as a minister, given an ongoing investigation against him. According to opposition members, they walked out of the meeting due to their questions not being answered or clarity not being given. Members of the opposition asked the Chairlady of Parliament, “how it was possible that two outgoing Members of Parliament who had resigned, one effective immediately on May 1, 2024, and the other effective May 2, 2024, could currently be sitting in Parliament vetting credentials.” The second question was, “how does Parliament handle letters sent in during public holidays?” Due to the opposition walking out, there was no longer a quorum, and the meeting had to be adjourned. The following day, May 3, 2024, seven out of the nine candidate ministers of the 2x4 Government were sworn in by the Governor.

On May 4, 2024, Mr. Raeyhon Peterson wrote to Governor Ajamu Baly, demanding clarification on his non-appointment as a minister, stemming from an incident in 2018. Despite this request, clarity on the matter remains to be seen. The Party for Progress (PFP) has prided itself on transparency and integrity. Even by its own admission in a Facebook post on April 22, 2024, it mentioned that it was not communicating about what was happening, apologized for its absence, and promised to provide more frequent updates. I find their messaging at that point in time to be rather convenient, but who am I to judge? I also find it ironic that the party, based on transparency and integrity as its foundational pillars, would find itself in the crosswinds of such a conundrum.

It is also ironic that the same party was not able to have one of its ministers pass screening, then blamed the Governor for not signing off on their candidate ministers' decree due to the lack of a screening law. It sounds to me like they are trying to play with technicalities, the same technicalities they chastise other parties for playing. These are the same technicalities they used to join this 2x4 government when they knew well that MP Emmanuel wanted to become a minister. This paved the way for Mr. Buncamper to come into Parliament and once again be suspended due to his pending case, for which he has been convicted twice and is currently appealing at the high court for his final appeal.

They also speak about accountability, but I’ve yet to hear them speak up about the recent Lee’s Roadside Bar & Grill verdict, where St. Maarten was held liable for damages because former notary Speetjens favored himself by passing a deed to a company in which he had an interest. This same piece of domain land, which was occupied by Lee’s Roadside Bar & Grill, was granted to “Water’s Edge Development” by former Minister of VROMI Theodore Heyliger on May 18, 2012, three days before leaving government after the UPP/DP government lost majority support in Parliament. Maybe Mum's the word on accountability because they are currently in a coalition with the former Minister of VROMI's wife. Who knows? But I hope we are all judged by the same yardstick, and a rule for one is a rule for all.

It is crucial to note that this government has been in place since February 10, 2024, not just for the 17 days often cited. Public disagreements within the 2x4 coalition were evident during the 2024 budget debate, underscoring internal strife. Given these complexities, it is apparent that the personalities within the 2x4 government were likely to clash. Maybe the informateurs were doing a bit of foreshadowing?

These few months provided ample time for the formateur to display his inexperience and shortcomings in the political arena. They also provided time for coalition members to show the people of St. Maarten that their personal ambitions come before the nation's needs by literally holding a proverbial gun to the formateur's head, insisting on becoming a minister by hook or by crook. The formateur's lack of transparency to his coalition partners about the formation process stemmed from a fear that the coalition might break. Finally, the formateur, now turned Prime Minister, called for elections before reaching out to MP Kevin Maingrette to solve the impasse, which they eventually did just four days later. The detriment to the people of St. Maarten is evident. We now face another election within the same calendar year, and the coffers of St. Maarten suffer, as the Minister of Finance suggests we are living month to month.

St. Maarten deserves a government that prioritizes the people's interests over personal ambitions and feelings. As citizens, we must critically analyze all events to hold our leaders accountable and demand a government that truly serves its people.

 

 Sincerely,

Charles Darnay

 

No need for another cricket academy.

Dr. Keith Rowley doesn't care about cricket, he cares about votes and to him, cricket is a lot of votes. The mere fact that the Brian Lara Cricket Academy is not being used for its original purpose is proof of our priorities being all wrong, despite costing nearly three times its original allocation. If Dr. Rowley wanted to improve infrastructure for nurturing cricketing talent, why not invest in the grounds around Trinidad and Tobago that already exist?

Not everybody can reach Trincity. Every cricket season, from all the different zones, Premiership one come down to Division one, teams and players complain about grounds not having pavilions, non-functional floodlights, not getting the grass cut by various corporations, non sponsorship of teams, can't even get the keys to the toilets if there is a pavilion, to put down a turf wicket and acquire tarpaulin covers is hell since one gets a run arounds from the corporations.

Then, the best places to nurture young talent are in the primary and secondary schools. I've raised a recurring habit of secondary schools importing players from 'non prestige' schools to play for them, why? Because most of them being government secondary schools are starved of proper sporting infrastructure and programs and there are more than enough space and administrators to run it and enough students to participate. So the best leave, and these schools play in the SSCL with 10 and less players, boys and girls.

Take for example QRC, which is the government's prestige school. It took close to seven years for the auspicious assembly hall to be repaired, the main building is forever leaking due to rain. They have struggled for years to get their cricket nets repaired, housing iguanas and squirrels, cricketers had to play with recycled football jerseys. Right now, footballers use the prefab classrooms as dressing rooms because the pavilion next door is a cowshed. Curry Qs and BBQs as fundraisers are a norm across sports disciplines to raise funds to hire a bus driver, purchase cases of water and a playing kit (jersey alone). For years, QRC has had endless fetes and fundraisers and it only affords a few buckets of blue paint and a dozen sheets of ply board.

Therefore, I am appealing to the Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, to invest that energy and effort for private-public sector partnerships in government secondary schools. I am appealing to Reliance Industries and local investors to adopt a school (QRC one if many), maybe adopt a community team and evenly distribute their wealth to them. In so doing, the whole of Trinidad and Tobago becomes a cricket academy and the cricket mecca of the Caribbean.

Kendell Karan
Chaguanas

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