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Unlocking Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) for Sint Maarten: A Journey to Investment.

ardwellirion09062022PHILIPSBURG:--- The Ministry of Finance is pleased to share the journey of securing CAPEX for the budget year 2023, marking a significant milestone in enhancing the future of Sint Maarten. The path to obtaining CAPEX has been long and taxing, but it reflects our commitment to responsible financial management and delivering essential investments to benefit the people of Sint Maarten.

In the past, Sint Maarten faced challenges in meeting the standards set by the RFT article 15 in conjunction with article 16 (Kingdom Act on Financial Supervision of Curacao and Sint Maarten) for capital investments. Consequently, CAPEX requests went unapproved for several years, with the last successful approval and allocation of funds occurring in 2014. Recognizing the importance of securing funding for vital investments, the Ministry of Finance initiated a comprehensive reform process.

The Ministry began with a commitment to enhance transparency, accountability, and the substantiation of investment proposals. The Ministry of Finance adopted a three-fold approach:

  1. Proper Explanation: Each investment was meticulously explained in the budget, ensuring clarity and transparency.
  2. Impact on future budgets: Future expenses resulting from these investments were accurately disclosed and recorded in the multi-year budgets.
  3. Justification of investment value: Investments were supported by comprehensive calculations or quotes, substantiating the amount of each investment item.

This process not only refined investment proposals but also involved educating personnel on the importance of meeting these standards.

Following the approval of the 2023 budget, the CAPEX portion underwent thorough scrutiny by the CFT (Committee for Financial Supervision of Curacao and Sint Maarten) under Article 12. The CFT's statement on CAPEX reads: "Sint Maarten budgets a total of ANG 90 million for investments in 2023. These investments are sufficiently substantiated, including a multi-year impact assessment on the budget."

Unlike previous years, the CAPEX loan process underwent adjustments, requiring a risk assessment by the Netherlands and approval by the Netherlands Council of Ministers, ‘Tweede Kamer’, and ‘Eerste Kamer’. This adjustment resulted in some delays, especially due to their summer recess.

After a six-month wait since Parliament's approval of the 2023 budget on March 31, 2023, we are thrilled to announce that the Eerste Kamer granted their final approval on September 26, 2023, for the CAPEX loan of approximately Naf 60.9 million. We are now in the final stages of the process to receive the funding, bringing us one step closer to executing crucial investments for the betterment of Sint Maarten.

The approved CAPEX for 2023 encompasses a range of projects that will positively impact Sint Maarten's infrastructure and community, including but not limited to:

  • Shade for the Dr. Martin Luther King School Playground
  • Renovation of various sports facilities
  • Expansion and reconstruction of the John Larmonie Center and Philipsburg Cultural and Community Center
  • Completion of the Prins Willem Alexander School
  • Hard surfacing of various dirt and main roads
  • Dutch Quarter road development program
  • Expansion of the sewage network, co-financed by the Trust Fund and the Netherlands.
  • Improved software & hardware for various departments.

The additional Naf 29.1 has been granted by the Netherlands to cover the financing of the new Tax and Financial Management System as well as phase one of construction of the new prison.

As we await the final steps in securing the funding, the Ministry of Finance remains committed to ensuring that these investments contribute to the growth, development, and prosperity of Sint Maarten.

Ministry of Finance Outlines Ongoing ENNIA Situation and Proposed Solutions.

ardwellirion15032020PHILIPSBURG:--- The Ministry of Finance would like to provide a comprehensive overview of the ongoing situation with ENNIA and the proposed solutions to address the critical financial issues facing the company. This update comes in response to previous communications to Parliament from the Minister of Finance, including letters dated August 28, 2023, and September 11, 2023, as well as the Prime Minister's presentation to the Committee of General Affairs on September 13, 2023.
The core issue at hand is the substantial capital shortage at ENNIA, which poses a significant threat to the financial well-being of approximately 30,000 policyholders. Without a viable solution, these policyholders would face substantial reductions in their pensions, which could have far-reaching social and economic consequences.
Key Points:
1. Multi-Country Collaboration: It is essential to emphasize that any potential solution requires the agreement of Curacao, Sint Maarten, the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten and the Netherlands. The policyholders are residents of Curacao and Sint Maarten, and the Netherlands has expressed its willingness to provide a capital injection, contingent upon approval by the Dutch Second and First Chambers. Should any of the involved countries fail to agree, a solution for the ENNIA situation becomes unattainable.
2. Negotiations and Technical Committee: Substantial negotiations have taken place on a technical level involving Curacao, Sint Maarten, the Technical Committee ENNIA, the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, the Dutch Central Bank, and the Ministry of Finance of the Netherlands. The Technical Committee ENNIA comprises of representatives from the CBCS, as well as reputable external legal and financial advisors from Curacao and the Netherlands.
3. Acknowledged Intervention: Based on these negotiations, it is widely recognized that intervention is necessary due to the significant capital shortfall at ENNIA. Without a capital injection, the 30,000 policyholders would face substantial pension reductions, leading to severe social and economic consequences.
4. Agreement Reached on Technical Level: At the technical level, Curacao and Sint Maarten, along with the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten, have reached an outline agreement. This agreement stipulates that ENNIA will undergo a solvent restart with a substantial capital injection. Experts consider this solution financially sound and realistic.
5. Confirmation Required: However, it's important to note that the agreement still requires confirmation at the Ministerial level, subject to Parliament's approval of the 2024 budget.
6. Debt Concerns for Curacao: A significant challenge at present is the potential increase in debt and debt-to-GDP ratio for Curacao. This increase may lead to a violation of the Kingdom Act Financial Supervision for Curacao and Sint Maarten (the Rft) due to the exceeded interest burden norm.
7. Cft Advice: The Board of Financial Supervision (the Cft) has expressed above mentioned concerns in a letter dated August 21, 2023, and negotiations are underway with Curacao to address this situation.
The Proposed ENNIA Loan Mentioned by State Secretary Van Huffelen: The refinancing offer made to Sint Maarten is favorable, including full refinancing, interest-only terms, and a spread repayment profile. However, this offer is contingent upon the resolution of the ENNIA situation, and term sheets must be signed by all parties before October 15, 2023, subject to budget approvals.
Impact on National Budget: While the exact impact on the national budget can be determined after loan agreements are finalized, it's estimated that Sint Maarten for its part of the loan will on-lend the received loan from the Netherlands – through a capital injection – to ENNIA. The loan will in principle be mirrored from the Netherlands to Sint Maarten and from Sint Maarten to ENNIA, meaning that the interest Sint Maarten must pay to the Netherlands will in principle be the same interest ENNIA has to pay to Sint Maarten.
However, the Cft, will add the ENNIA loan to the interest burden of the Rft, which will become approximately Naf 26.6 million and as such under the current interest burden norm of Naf 32.7 million.
Government's Intentions and Deadline: The Government's intentions are clear: the refinancing offer hinges on the resolution of the ENNIA situation, with term sheets requiring all parties' signatures before the recently extended date of October 15 2023. These agreements remain subject to parliamentary approval. The Ministry of Finance is actively engaged in negotiations to find a mutually agreeable solution to the ENNIA situation, understanding the significant impact it has on policyholders and the broader community. Collaboration between Curacao, Sint Maarten, and the Netherlands is essential to reaching a resolution that safeguards the interests of all stakeholders.


Traffic Safety Concerns at Oranje Primary School Demand Immediate Action, Says WITU.

oranjeschooltraffic26092023PHILIPSBURG:--- The Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) is deeply concerned about the ongoing traffic safety issues that the staff and students of Oranje Primary School face daily. The school has been grappling with these challenges for many years, and President Stuart Johnson has issued a pressing call for immediate action to ensure the safety of all students and staff.

Johnson said, “Every day, students and staff must navigate a precarious situation as they board school buses at the crossroads of C.A. Cannegieter Street after having to cross Backstreet. The intersection's congestion, lack of proper signage, and erratic traffic flow pose a constant threat to the safety of those involved.”

Johnson expressed his grave concerns, stating, "This safety concern has been ongoing for many years, and it is unacceptable that we continue to put our students and staff in harm's way. We must prioritize their safety above all else. A structural change in the traffic management of this area is imperative before any student or staff is, God forbid, harmed."

The WITU emphasizes that the safety of students and staff is paramount and calls upon local authorities, including the Ministry of Education and the Department of Infrastructure, to address this critical issue promptly.

WITU also urges collaboration between stakeholders, including the school administration, parents, and the community, to develop a comprehensive plan for traffic safety improvements around Oranje Primary School.

The Windward Islands Teachers Union is committed to advocating for safe learning environments and is determined to work collaboratively to find a solution to the traffic safety concerns at Oranje Primary School.

TelEm Group announces major transformation plans on the horizon.

telembuilding31072017Pond Island:---The TelEm Group of Companies announced today that it will transform its total operation into a state-of-the-art “Integrated Digital Service Provider” for St. Maarten.
Information about the transformation was revealed to the Council of Ministers in a specially convened meeting at the Government Administration Building on Tuesday.
During the meeting, CEO Mr. Kendall Dupersoy and CFO Mr. Randell Hato outlined management’s plans. According to Mr. Dupersoy, the message to the Shareholder is that global trends in the telecommunication industry are forcing telcos everywhere to change their outdated business model of delivering traditional telecommunications services to the customer to instead become more customer-centric, offering app services, streaming services, faster and more reliable data bandwidth, payment platforms for retail and wholesale outlets, etc.

“Telcos everywhere are taking the step of transforming into digital service providers for their very survival in a very competitive industry. Companies must literally reinvent themselves every quarter,” says Mr. Dupersoy.
He says the company has commissioned a team of top experts in the industry, with experience in transformation and change management to assist with TelEm Group’s evolution. As the group terms it, to become an "Integrated Digital Service Provider" with a vision aimed at "Navigating Today's Waves, Steering Towards a Digital Tomorrow".
“Our immediate focus is on financial stabilization – increasing revenues and reducing costs,” informed Mr. Dupersoy during the meeting with personnel Tuesday, stating also that the company is embarking on a journey that will involve cutting-edge technology and a culture of innovation that will enhance customer experiences.
Mr. Dupersoy says while a continued drop in revenues may well be forcing management’s hands to move at a greater pace with the transformation than was previously planned, it is in fact a plan that has been in the offing for several years, with management already putting in place a foundation for a new business model with updated hardware, a new billing platform, and a customer-centric CRM system.
“Two years ago, the Customer Relations Management system (CRM) was introduced and immediately started a program of internal advanced automation. As mentioned, we are also installing and implementing a new billing system that will accommodate many of the new features and requirements of an Integrated Digital Service,” continued Mr. Dupersoy.
The CEO says management has pledged to keep employees informed about the transformation plans and to allay their fears and concerns as much as possible.
“TelEm takes its responsibility to its employees very seriously. It is not in our DNA to take these decisions lightly. We have called on everyone to be understanding and patient as we navigate this new direction for the company and for its survival in these critical times,” continued Mr. Dupersoy.
TelEm Group management and board have assured the shareholders that communication with employees remains a priority at this time.
“Much interest is being shown in a voluntary early retirement package in the event there are employees who may want to take a step towards a fresh beginning for themselves, their loved ones, and their families. The plan cannot be announced as it will be tailored to each specific employee based on several criteria,” said Mr. Dupersoy.
The CEO says far from seeing challenges to overcome, he personally sees an exciting future ahead for TelEm, filled with opportunities and achievements.

“We are embarking on a major journey to change the face of TelEm Group as it is today. By making this announcement today, we invite everyone to come on board and join in our journey to success,” said the CEO, Mr. Dupersoy.


Results investigation of deceased baby in nursery in St. Eustatius released Public Prosecutor's BES

St. Eustatius:--- On Tuesday, September 19, a deceased baby was found at a daycare center on St. Eustatius. A large-scale investigation team was immediately assembled by the KPCN under the leadership of two prosecutors from the Public Prosecutor's Office after which an extensive investigation was conducted. The investigation over the past few days has shown that there are no indications that a crime was committed. It also shows that there is no reason to believe that there was any involvement of others in the tragic death of the baby.
KPCN and the prosecution will still be conducting some closing investigative actions but given the results of the investigation, the investigation team will be disbanded.
We wish the bereaved family and friends much strength with this tragic loss.


Fines for traffic violations
Several fines were issued for traffic violations on Saba between Friday, the 22nd of September, and Monday, the 25th of September.

These were as follows:

1x for driving without a helmet on;
1x for driving without a valid driving license;
2x for driving without wearing a seatbelt


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