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Our Budget, Our reality.

PHILIPSBURG:--- When 2022 was brought in with many fireworks and festive activities all around the island I wondered if this would be the year of recovery or if this would be another year of drama for the country. Will we allow our future to determine our present decisions and actions, or must our present time take precedence at the expense of our future? Based on our experience it would seem as though we as a country are incapable of creating a situation in which we do not suffer at present while actively enhancing the prospective future.

I believe some good news thus far for the Caribbean islands was the departure of State Secretary Raymond Knops whose own party told him there was no place for him in the new government moving forward. The reasons will as usual remain a secret or very vague, but at least we are in a better place than we were yesterday. We will not miss you, sir.

But when we look at the way forward for our country, we need to deal with some very serious matters at hand and one such matter is the budget for 2022. We must decide on what’s the best today to reach tomorrow, without allowing today to become unlivable. 

Some of the serious issues that need to be considered are (1) the issues of inflation on the island, (2) the ability of the country to repay the so-called bullet loans granted, and lastly (the recovery of the economy with the additional variants of the covid virus.

When we look at the unnecessary damage the 12.5% cuts have done to the last of the middle class, it’s clear that based on the new governing accord of the Netherlands they aren’t finished punishing the people of the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Unless they finally decide that equality means all of us in the kingdom will be treated equally, and not just when it’s convenient, we are still far from home. The constitutional courts showed its uselessness as their verdict was not a verdict but more a yes they are allowed to do these things in a time of need. What was missing is how you are allowed to do things in a time of need and the excuse that there was no data is just mind-boggling.

There remains a serious need to assist the Caribbean countries to ensure that the countries do not fall into total poverty. Instead, they should create a better economy resulting in minimum wages that are livable, while the inflation is hampering much of such, I would have hoped that a serious look would have been given to agriculture, animal husbandry, and fisheries aspect in our country. We have lots of ideas and even capacity but no capital to truly enhance this sector and those types of loans seem to be lost if at all being offered. Instead, we are offered more loans to build roads and enhance our infrastructure etc. We cannot eat asphalt or concrete, but we surely can eat vegetables, fruits, chickens, goats, and fish.

Our budget must be based on our realities and not on a set of country packages that cannot sustain this country moving forward. Consensus laws are something of the past and that must be made clear moving forward. It is time to create a new beginning for the country and to stop stating that the country is so corrupted but then again that has been their political mantra to keep destroying the people of this country. I hope this practice will stop moving forward but the proof will be in the pudding. Once you are brave to speak out and challenge them you will be taken out judicially and/or financially. The most corruptive aspect of a country is when justice goes unchecked. Let no one fool you into believing that justice is an integer, but that is for another article.

The country needs to find ways to increase its income while not burdening the population, but also collect the outstanding taxes of those that aren’t paying it, yet flaunt their money in our faces.

St. Maarten has opened its doors to accommodate the tourism industry, especially by allowing many ships to dock here and even have crews and passengers (including those infected with covid) to be transferred to the aircrafts that took them back home during the pandemic.

Many countries have increased or created a new tax for tourists of say US$ 10,- to US$15,- to handle the environment (climate change) and the pandemic (to make the country safe). It is an income we do not have now but one which we could be able to collect.

Another income is the aspect of water and fuel sales to the cruise industry where not enough is being done to ensure the country can get a much better return on investment.

I believe the government should look into building the various needed spaces such as the justice wing, the new parliament building and parking for the center of town, the high council buildings, the tourism authority, and all other necessary buildings for the government to move away from renting following the concept of rent to own. This can be done through entities like the APS who can fund these ventures once the risk analysis is done and the government meets its rental obligations.

Secondly, considering the low returns on international investments the government must instruct their government-owned companies that loans from 3rd parties must meet the criteria of trying to borrow from the local institutional lenders like APS and SZV prior to going to local banks and/or international borrowers. Asset protection must be done locally in these trying times.

The added value of border protection and our serious issues with undocumented persons on the island that make full use of the countries infrastructure, social system, and health system cannot go unchecked this year and must be placed on the priority list instead of data protection and only bringing more RST here to continue the hunt for locals to be destroyed. Why isn’t the additional 13 million euro allocated to actual border protection instead of going after more politicians? If we cannot realize the real program, we have a bigger problem than balancing our budget.

The country’s quest for a new anthem, new educational system, PR to enhance the country’s name abroad, getting the airport to a category 1 airport, our economic diversification, our changes needed to the charter to ensure our autonomy is properly defined and we aren’t recolonized, our recovery through the World Bank and the long duration for completion of those projects, our justice system, and its unfair practices, our way forward with Covid in the world of today, our government-owned companies becoming viable are just a few of the important things that also need our attention, but we need to agree on what comes first; the chicken or the egg. Serious choices need to be made in 2022 as the reset button will not be able to be pushed again.

Lockdowns are only destructive to any economy and any society and maybe just maybe we should build up the immune system of our people better by doing things that will make that possible like for example exercising and eating healthier and being more active. We must actively make this possible and not wish for this to happen. I say we as the government cannot do this alone.

Lastly, I strongly believe that the motion of MP George Pantophlet for debt cancellation should be one of our new discussion points with the new Dutch government based on the equality aspect of the new governing agreement of the Netherlands. We need to find a way while we implement the much-needed reforms that we can start off on a fresh foot and not remain buckled down with debts that we cannot afford to pay, nor should it have been part of our new country's status, to begin with.

The hopefully former norm that the Netherlands, mostly through BZK, makes the funds available to make Mutual arrangements or Consensus Kingdom Laws, as is presently once again the case with regards to the (Data Protection law) the country packages must be based on the professed Equality to truly become something of the past.

Recently while being in the Netherlands at an expo, Professor emeritus Gert Oostindie a well-respected professor in the Netherlands in the field of colonial and post-colonial history, minced no words when he stated that Consensus laws are only made to Recolonize the former islands, now countries! 

When I take a look back at the past 2 years and with all I stated above, I can only advise the country “Carpe Diem”; Seize the day and do not worry about the future. You will not reach tomorrow if you die today!

 

Suspended MP Claudius Buncamper.


WITU urges School Boards to honor December pact.

stuartjohnson01032021PHILIPSBURG:--- President of the Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) Stuart Johnson in an e-mail to all school boards over the weekend reminded the parties to honor last month’s pact brokered at the University of St. Martin (USM).

“I sent an e-mail correspondence to all school boards requesting our agreement be upheld,” Johnson’s missive said about the joint December 13th, 2021 pact among the school boards and WITU.

Johnson is concerned that the government has scheduled a meeting for early next week with the school boards while sidestepping two WITU correspondences seeking a meeting with the education ministry and finance ministry.

“I took note of the apparent scheduling of a meeting on January 18th, 2022 by the Honorable Minister of Education drs. R. Samuel through the respective department within the ministry of ECYS. The WITU is still awaiting formal word from the Honorable Minister of Education in regards to our two written requests for a meeting. I stand behind my word and promise, that we will not have an audience unless you, as school boards are also present,” Johnson’s email to the Boards counseled.

“It is on this note, I trust the agreement made in our meeting of December 13, 2021, at the University of St. Martin will be honored in the best interest of all. May we all find solace in this quote, “No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead. That's the only way to keep the roads clear,” the WITU president’s email said.

In an e-mail response of unity with Johnson to her colleague school boards, drs. Peggy Ann Dros-Richardson Chairlady of the National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) promised WITU her body’s solidarity stating, “The NIPA stands by its commitment to honor our agreement made during the meeting referenced by you, between parties. We eagerly await the meeting with Minister to discuss the cost-cutting measures and the strain on the executing of quality education. As such, we will not attend the meeting of January 18. We await a response from the Minister.”

“WITU is calling on all school boards to uphold the agreement as there are some serious challenges which need to be addressed within the education system of St. Maarten and the mutual interest of all must be respected,” Johnson reminded.

Airport CEO Brian Mingo concerned about disruptive union action on Airport’s busiest day.

brianmingo02072020Simpson Bay:--- PJIAE CEO, Mr. Brian Mingo, says the scheduled industrial action by the Windward Islands Civil Servant Union (WICSU/PSU) had a negative effect on the Airport’s operations on Saturday, January 15, 2022. This also comes during peak hours and can have serious financial implications for Princess Juliana International Airport.
“The recovering business we have restored up to now is being threatened due to these actions. A planned “No Show” by Air Traffic Controllers (ATS) on the Airport’s busiest day, could also have safety implications for our airport,” said Mr. Mingo in a statement issued early Saturday morning.
At the heart of this development is a letter received from the WICSU/PSU on Friday evening informing PJIAE management of a planned union member meeting on Saturday, January 15, 2022. The union’s actions were pertaining to an ongoing remuneration demand for increases owed to its members since 2018 - 2020, with an ultimatum of January 14th, 2022.
“We are preparing what we believe to be a suitable package that the Airport can afford at this time. We have requested more time from the union so that the package can be presented in its completed form on Monday, January 17, 2022, however, the union has not agreed and has taken what we believe is ill-advised and damaging action,” Mr. Mingo briefed.
The Airport CEO said that precautionary measures were taken during the late hours on Friday night and early Saturday morning to minimize the impact of the union’s and the ATS personnel’s actions. At the same time, stakeholders and airline partners were being informed of possible disruptions in service at PJIA on Saturday.
The Government of Sint Maarten and the PJIAE Supervisory Board of Directors (SBOD) were also urgently notified about the ongoing developments, which could negatively impact the airport and the island in general.
“I am appealing to everyone to remain calm and allow the process of negotiations to take place so that we can come to a mutual agreement on a settlement that is in the best interest of everyone. Disruptive actions at this time, on our busiest day, have inconvenienced thousands of passengers. It sends a negative message to those out there looking at how we are recovering from Hurricane Irma and the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to continue to work together, to rebuild and recover our business fully”,” concluded the Airport Chief.
The Princess Juliana International Airport initially announced a scheduled closure at 6:00 pm to preserve safety due to the limited staff, but later extended it to 9:00 pm after obtaining staff reinforcement.

Air Traffic Controllers on strike with unions. Airport to close at 9pm (UPDATED 2)

pjiae28032020~ Emergency Crew manning ATC~

AIRPORT:--- The Princess Juliana Airport Air Traffic Controllers are currently on strike as they protest various grievances, one being the 12.5% cuts in their salaries.
SMN News learned that the air traffic controllers are being supported by their unions the Windward Island Civil Servants Union (WICSU) as they continue to protest the way their Collective Labor Agreement goes.

In a letter to the CEO Brian Mingo, the Union WICSU/ PSU informs Mingo that their members from the Air Traffic Control Department requested an urgent meeting with them on Saturday, January 15th which will begin from 7 am to 5 pm to discuss the frustration being experienced due to the indecisive communication that has been going back and forth between management and the union regarding the way forward.
"The union is hoping management and the board of PJIAE understand the serious effects their decisions are having on their members.
This should not be taken lightly as our members carry the title of Air Traffic Controllers and if they are frustrated they will not be able to perform their duties optimally.
lt must be taken into consideration the human factor that is attached to this job. We as Union also understand the responsibility that our members carry where it pertains to the economy of St. Maarten and find it very unfortunate that our members have to resort to these measures.
As a union we take this very seriously and find it unfortunate that after all these years of negotiating that there is no solution to the issues brought forward on behalf of the members of the ATC by the management and board of PJIAE.
This is of great concern to the Union, and we hope that a solution to the issues with our members can be solved post haste." This letter of information was signed by the WICSU/PSU President Sharon Cannegieter, it was also copied to the Prime Minister of Silveria Jacobs, Minister of TEATT Roger Lawrence, and the Minister of Labor Omar Ottley.

 Chief Executive Officer of PJIAE Brian Mingo said that an Emergency Crew is now manning the Air Traffic and aircraft are able to land. Mingo who is busy with the current strike said that he will provide more information later today.

SMN News learned that the Princess Juliana International Airport announced today that the scheduled closure will be at 6 pm to ensure safety due to limited staff at the Air Traffic Services (ATS). The Airport has since extended its opening hours to 9 pm.

CARIBBEAN AIRLINES 737-8 INAUGURAL FLIGHT.

Port-of-Spain:---Caribbean Airlines Boeing 737-8 aircraft took to the skies for the first time today, January 14. The airline’s Boeing 9Y-CAL maiden jet service departed the Piarco International Airport destined to the Norman Manley International, Kingston, Jamaica.

Earlier today Caribbean Airlines hosted a brief ceremony at the Piarco International Airport to launch the new aircraft, which offers passengers exceptional levels of convenience and comfort. The re-fleeting coincides with the airline’s 15th anniversary. Some lucky customers on the inaugural service won an extra 15,000 miles and all customers received bags of goodies and other memorabilia!

Caribbean Airlines’ CEO, Garvin Medera, in commenting said: “The introduction of this new aircraft into service, represents Caribbean Airlines’ initiative to ‘REset Expectations’ for 2022. The 737-8 is the most technologically advanced aircraft in the world and it brings a range of benefits for Caribbean Airlines, our customers, and the environment. Fuel and maintenance costs are lower, each plane has 10 more seats than its predecessor with a total of 160 seats and the aircraft offers state-of-the-art technology and an upgraded level of comfort in both the business class and economy cabin, including in seat power for mobile devices, a new sky interior, sleek modern seats and much more.”

Mr. Medera continued: “We’re really excited about the plans and improvements for the coming year, all done with you in mind. Be sure to stay informed via our social media channels and follow us on #REcalibrate as we REset Expectations in 2022.”

Customers can follow Caribbean Airlines’ social media pages and website www.caribbean-airlines.com for the latest information.


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