Feyenoord gaat in het nieuwe stadion, dat is gepland in het project Feyenoord City aan de Maas, naar een spelersbudget van minimaal 30 miljoen euro per jaar. Dat is het dubbele van het huidige budget. Dit blijkt uit het onafhankelijke[…]Read more...
Om Cruijffs nalatenschap en heldendom in ere te houden renden 6500 mensen op zijn 70ste verjaardag van het Olympisch Stadion naar de Amsterdam Arena. Fans. familie en vrienden zijn trots dat het stadion van Ajax wordt omgedoopt tot de Johan[…]Read more...
Opnieuw is een plan van president Donald Trump gedwarsboomd. Dit keer door districtsrechter William Orrick uit San Francisco. Hij blokkeerde dinsdag Trumps decreet over het financieel korten van zogenoemde ’sanctuary cities’. Dat zijn steden die weigeren mee te werken aan[…]Read more...
Komst FlyAllways Naar St. Maarten
De nieuwe Surinaamse luchtvaartmaatschappij, Fly All Ways, is van plan vanaf 3 september 2016 wekelijks vanaf Suriname via Georgetown, Guyana, naar St. Maarten te vliegen met een stop in Barbados. Deze wekelijkse vlucht zal met een Fokker 70 met 80 stoelen uitgevoerd worden. Deze eerste serie vluchten zal tot en met 2 oktober 2016 duren. De tweede serie vluchten zal wekelijks vanaf 15 december 2016 tot en met 15 januari 2017 uitgevoerd worden. Indien de bezetting en vraag vanuit de markt dat verantwoordt zal nadien elke week een vlucht vanuit Suriname via Guyana naar St. Maarten rechtstreeks uitgevoerd worden.
Gedurende de actieve vluchtcampagnes kunnen mensen vanaf St. Maarten naar Suriname en Guyana vliegen voor $680 US Dollars en naar Barbados voor slechs $450 US Dollars. Deze vluchen zal mensen die gewend zijn met LIAT, Caribbean Airlines en Inselair naar Guyana en Suriname te vliegen een goed alternattief bieden.
De mensen die deze vluchten van Fly All Ways willen boeken kunnen vanaf heden terecht bij reisbureau Let's Travel op St. Maarten in Philipburg om te reserveren. Men kan bellen via +1-721-542-2381, emailen via email@example.com of online boeken. Boek hier...
Richard Gibson Campaign Jingle
Chinese promise 1 million tourists; build large hotel and apartment project
GREAT BAY – One million Chinese tourists every year, the construction of a 326-room hotel and showroom and 450 apartment suites in Belair at the location of the former Barbaron project will change the landscape of St. Maarten’s economy forever. On September 17, a 30-strong delegation from China will come to St. Maarten for the groundbreaking ceremony for the Belair project. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have struck the jackpot,” Finance Minister Richard Gibson said yesterday at a town hall lecture he hosted at the university of St. Maarten where he announced the Chinese project that could in one go double the size of the local tourist economy.
“The future looks extremely bright,” the minister said. Earlier in his address he revealed that he had been negotiation for the past couple of months, together with Prime Minister William Marlin with representatives of the Chinese private and public sector.
“A company has been formed on St. Maarten owned for 50 percent by the Chinese government and for the other half by the Chinese private sector. “This company purchased a parcel of land next to the Belair Beach Hotel, hired engineers and architects to prepare construction plans for a 326-room hotel and showroom on the property and 450 apartment suites,” Minister Gibson said.
The apartments will be sold to Chinese companies for use by their executives and staff as a hub for commercial activities they intend to pursue in the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America. “St. Maarten will be the hub for these activities,” Minister Gibson said.
“During the discussions held between the prime minister, myself and the Chinese representatives they committed to take the necessary steps to generate tourism from China to St. Maarten. In fact they have promised to see to it that at least 1 million of the 100 million annual tourists China produces will travel as tourists to St. Maarten.”
The Chinese delegation that comes to St. Maarten for the groundbreaking ceremony includes executives from China, but also from other countries like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Canada. A reporter from China will cover the ceremonies on behalf of the Chinese government. Chinese consular personnel will also be present.
Minister Gibson said that the Chinese company will use technology it has at its disposal “to seek and find a water source on St. Maarten that will make it possible to start growing agricultural products as an import substitution measure.”
And that’s not all: “China is the leader in the production of solar energy and other alternative energy technology. They have offered to work with the government on significantly reducing the cost of electricity to our citizens and reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.”
Furthermore, the Chinese have “expressed an interest in building an eco-city in St. Maarten and to help the country with its ecological needs and ambitions,” the minister said.
During the visit of the Chinese delegation a forum will be organized with the government to discuss St. Maarten’s needs and ambitions.
Earlier during his presentation, Minister Gibson related that income is rising in China and that the desire to travel is a result of it. Every year 100 million Chinese travel abroad; the number is rapidly growing but only 0.3 percent of Chinese currently travel to the Caribbean.
“St. Maarten has no goods to trade,” Minister Gibson observed. “It has no exploitable natural resources, nor does it manufacture any product. All we have to offer are tourist services. If we can attract 1 million of the 100 million Chinese who travel annually, we will be able to almost double our tourist industry.”
Doubling the number of tourists to St. Maarten would “trigger an economic boom that would significantly increase economic activities and significantly improve the standard of living of every man, woman and child on St. Maarten,” the minister pointed out. “It would bring us full employment and provide the means to satisfy our social demands and infrastructure requirements.”
The Chinese are coming and they are coming in droves. Finance Minister Gibson made that announcement yesterday during a lecture at the university.
Because the groundbreaking for the hotel project is on the agenda for September 17, a mere nine days before the elections, politicians will probably be quick to dismiss this as an election stunt. If it is, it’s a darn good one.
We take the announcement of the finance minister at face value. After all, this could be exactly what the doctor ordered for our sluggish economy.
Bringing one million Chinese tourists to the island will present its own set of challenges – if not in terms of infrastructure and hotel capacity, then at least in terms of communication.
Those challenges are ahead of us and it is better to grab the bull by the horns and deal with them than to waste time and energy on wondering whether this does not sound too good to be true.
You hit the jackpot not that often and if this is one of those moments, all the kudos belong to Finance Minister Gibson and Prime Minister William Marlin.
Published Friday, September 2, 2016, in the Today newspaper
Richard Gibson Announces Major Chinese Hotel Development Project in Little Bay, St. Maarten, with 326 hotel rooms and 450 condo apartments.
During his Town Hall Meeting entitled "Inequality and Demand", the present Minister of Finance, Mr. Richard F. Gibson, Sr., used his lecture on the aforementioned topic outlining the international financial and economic trends that will have an impact on St. Maarten as an introduction to announce a new major hotel development project that will be built by and for the Chinese in Little Bay, St. Maarten, with the groundbreaking of the hotel construction scheduled to take place on September 17th, 2016.
Celebration Time: Budget meets deadline for the first time
GREAT BAY -- "Today is a day for celebration;" Finance Minister Richard Gibson said at yesterday's Council of Ministers press briefing.
The reason: "For the first time in history St. Maarten has presented a balanced budget according to the stipulation in the law."
The budget was presented in the Council of Ministers on Tuesday and approved. "This deserves a big round of applause," the minister said. "It shows that St. Maarten is on the right path and that it is prepared and can do the right thing."
Minister Gibson commended his staff for two months of dedicated and hard work on the budget.
The deadline for presenting a budget to the financial supervisor CFT is September 1.
The 2017 budget has an expenditure-ceiling of 450 million guilders. No subsidies have been cut to achieve this, the minister said, adding that subsidies are back at their previous levels.
That members of parliament at times grossly misunderstand the role they have to play in our parliamentary democracy became once more apparent from a press release issued by the united People’s party. Three MPs held what they labeled ‘preliminary talks’ with representatives of a hospital in Florida.
The purpose of these talks – and the press release - is without any doubt to create confusion about the construction of the new hospital.
What were these parliamentarians doing in Florida? On whose behalf were they talking with some medicine men in the US of A? Did Minister Emil Lee send this delegation? (We didn’t ask him, but we’re sure that this is not the case). What then is the status of three citizens from St. Maarten who spent their free time on a trip to America and on talking to doctors and visiting hospitals, as if they were tourists on a medical binge?
Our democratic system is based on the trias politica – the separation of powers. We have the legislative branch (the parliament), the executive branch (the Council of Ministers) and the judicial branch.
The term legislative branch contains a clue nobody can miss: if you’re part of it, you legislate; you don’t execute. And yet, this is what the three MPs – Theo Heyliger, Cornelius de Weever and Dr. Lloyd Richardson did.
Was this a business trip paid from the parliament’s travel budget? Did they pay this from their own pockets? Or did they accept free tickets from an American hospital organization eager to do business on the Friendly Island?
We don’t know the answers to these questions, but there is nothing wrong with wondering about these issues.
MP Cornelius de Weever – who is harboring a lifelong grudge against Public Health Minister Emil Lee for reasons only he understands – stands out in the press release the UP sent out about its Florida hospital tour. Look at this line from the press release: “MP De Weever, who is also a medical professional, looked into the needs from a ministerial perspective to develop a solid relationship with the hospital group.”
The key term in this sentence is not medical professional even though this seems to be the wrong claim form someone who actually is a professional politician.
No, the key term is ‘ministerial perspective.’
MP De Weever is a lone, independent member of parliament who will make another run for office in the September elections as a member of the United People’s party. But apparently he already behaves as if he is in the seat of the minister of public health. At least, that is the smell that arises from the press release.
And now De Weever, Richardson and Heyliger want to “develop a solid relationship with the hospital group.” The question is: who is the other partner in this dance? It cannot be country St. Maarten because individual members of parliament do not have the authority to negotiate anything on behalf of the country – certainly not without authorization from the government.
Even if – and we emphasize the word if – the parliament had authorized the three medical musketeers to make this trip – the best they could have done was gather information, present a report about their trip to parliament and ask via a motion to bring this to the attention of the relevant minister.
Maybe the three have found some obscure rule we’re not aware of that gives them the authority to do what they did. But if that rule exists, it is wrong and ought to be abolished.
Why? Because members of the legislative branch legislate; they don’t execute. Looking back over the past almost six years since 10-10-10 it is legitimate to ask the question how often these MPs have actually legislated anything.
Classic example: the motion to legislate the ban on the single use plastic grocery bags came (also) from a member of the United People’s party. That was four years ago. Do we have the ban? Do we have the legislation?
Of course we don’t. That’s because MPs are too busy traveling to faraway places to make deals for their own benefit. Indeed, this is not limited to one faction in parliament, it would be unfair to even make that suggestion.
Remember that press conference Romain Laville gave on March 26, 2014? Laville, former faction-leader of the UP and in 2014 an independent member of parliament, presented a memorandum of understanding between the government of St. Maarten and the Commonwealth of Dominica. The Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs, Ted Richardson, sat as a sidekick next to Laville during the press conference and never uttered a word.
Again, this is an example where a member of the legislative branch stepped into the shoes of the executive branch.
The memorandum required the approval of the Council of Ministers – and never got it.
The memorandum contained a “tentative deal” (in other words, nothing was certain) to piggyback on Dominica’s deal with Venezuela’s Petro Caribe Agreement that would have made cooking gas on the island much cheaper. What Laville did not say is that this good-looking deal would have bound St. Maarten to a loan for the price difference. The country would pay a percentage of the real cost up front and pay off the balance over a period of 25 years at a 1 percent interest rate. This way, Jamaica had built up a debt of $2.5 billion to Venezuela in 2014, while the debts of many other Caribbean countries run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars..
The memorandum also boasted five scholarships for St. Maarten students, but it turned out later on that these scholarships did not exist.
Two years earlier, Laville was however on the legislative bandwagon when he announced that he would submit a draft law regulating pawn shops and cash for gold businesses. A good initiative, but it never came to anything. And yet, these are the kinds of initiatives members of parliament ought to pursue if the executive branch does not come up with its own legislation.
Making deal with hospitals in other countries, or even suggesting the possibility of a deal, is not part of the job description for any member of parliament.
GREAT BAY -- “Tax reform without reforming the tax department is counterproductive,” Finance Minister Richard Gibson said in a meeting of the finance committee of parliament yesterday afternoon. “These two go hand in hand. Reforming the law with a tax department that is unable to carry out the reform is not going to give us what we are looking for.”
The minister said that parliament has already adopted the framework for tax reform and that the legislation to bring the reform about is pending. “Tax reform is an expensive exercise. It has to be done carefully and cautiously in terms of what taxes and what rates we’re going to apply.”
The minister informed the committee members about his preferences: lower profit and income taxes and a shift to more indirect taxes.
“Which buttons we decide to press has to be done in a responsible manner. We have to calculate the effects to make sure we’re not taking a gamble that will bankrupt the country. We need experts to make those calculations and once that is done we are able to take responsible decisions.”
In the old days, when the newspaper was a gentleman the expression “it was in the newspaper so it must be true” still had a lot of credibility. With the rise of electronic media the landscape has changed forever – and not always for the better. Anyone with half a brain who has a computer and access to the internet is able to ‘publish’ anything that tickles their fancy.
In this world of half-truths and outright lies, the local gossip website SMN-News takes a special place because of its ability to misunderstand information, twist it for the purpose of someone’s political agenda or simply write whatever pleases the highest bidder. Mind you, that last observation is a mere suspicion, based on garbled writings that seem to have as their main objective to create confusion and to discredit certain initiatives for obvious political purposes.
We’re not in the business of defending anyone – because they are very well capable of doing this themselves - but we think it is justified to provide at least our readers with the correct information.
This is, of course, about the hospital project. We know that the previous UP-led government was busy with the Austrian company Vamed and that the current government put a stop to it, replacing it with a public bid for the construction of a new hospital. Vamed was one of the three bidders and the company did not win. It therefore objected to the tender result, as this newspaper extensively reported last Friday. The objection did not lead to a different ranking of the bidders: 1. Inso, 2. BAM/Philips and 3. Vamed.
Does this mean that Inso will build the hospital? Hmm, not so fast. When the results of the tender were announced, Inso was indicated as the “nominated winner.”
Currently, contract negotiations are underway to seal the deal. If parties do not come to an agreement, things could still change and the project could go the number two bid.
One of the more confusing things SMN-News reported about was that there was no dialysis center in the new hospital plan. That is actually correct, but it does not mean that there will not be such a center. On the contrary, the way we understand it, the need to expand the current dialysis center is so high, that it cannot wait for the completion of the new hospital.
Therefore, a reservation has been made for the construction of a separate building to house the expanded center. Of course the tender document for the hospital bid does not contain further explanation; that’s not necessary because all the bidders have to know is that they should not put a helicopter pad or anything else in that particular location.
Then there is the thing about the so-called ‘special purpose vehicles’ that could or could not become part of the project. SMN-News has created the impression that there is a dark motive behind all this: the minister wants to transfer money from the old age pension fund to such a vehicle (a legal entity) to escape control by the supervisory board of directors of SZV.
But wait a minute: all this hangs together with the financing of the project. At the moment it is not certain who will become the owner of the new hospital” SZV, the government, or another entity.
There are at least three financing options; the first one is that the contractor offers financing; the second one is that SZV finances the project; and the third option – the preferred one – is that the government finances it from its capital investment budget.
The latter option gives access to cheap money, because the Dutch government would have to subscribe to the loan and the interest rate would be somewhere between 1 and 2 percent. If this happens, the government becomes the hospital’s owner.
If SZV finances the deal it becomes more expensive; SZV gets a return on investment of 5 percent for financing the completion of the Government Administration Building and it stands to reason that it expects a similar yield on the hospital project. In this scenario, SZV would become the owner.
There are however variations in the mix, for instance when SZV finances part of the project and a loan through the capital investment budget comes through later. Or when SZV lets in a third party in on the financing – the general pension fund APS comes to mind here. In that case the partners in the project would want to set up a special purpose vehicle – an entity in which the financial backers each take a percentage.
In other words – there is nothing wrong with these special purpose vehicles. They only sound weird to people who do not understand these constructions and then jump to the wrong conclusions.
Another point is the presentation of the outcome of the evaluation process to the supervisory board of SZV and to the Council of Ministers. SMN-News suggests that this was not done. Again: correct, but also misinterpreted, because the contract negotiations with Inso have not been completed yet. When that is done, the presentation will be made to the supervisory board and to the Council of Ministers.
Oh, and what about financing the hospital from the old age pension fund? That should not be a problem at all. An actuarial report by Keesen states that the AOV-fund will accumulate reserves to the tune of 1 billion guilders in 2030. According to an advice from the Social Economic Council about the AOV, this is “an extraordinary amount for a fund that is essentially of the pay-as-you go variety.”
The website writes that the contract SZV is about to sign on August 31 is misleading. That in itself is a remarkable statement, because right now there is no contract since the negotiations are still ongoing. So who is misleading here?
USp-leader Frans Richardson strongly disagrees with Finance Minister Gibson on the issue of taxes. That happens.
But in his drive to disqualify the minister’s position, Richardson slips up when he says that “the small man” is burdened with an average tax levy of 35 percent.
First of all, that tax bracket does not exist. In the 2016 tariffs the brackets start at 12.5 percent and then go up to 20, 26.25, 33.75, 40 and 47.5 percent.
If we look at the tax bracket that comes closest to Richardson’s 35 percent, (33.75 percent) and consider the kind of income this concerns, it does not exactly represent “the small man.”
The 33.75 percent tax bracket begins at annual (taxable) incomes of 65,604 guilders; tax payers who make exactly that amount, are due 9,858 guilders in income tax, leaving them with 55,746 guilders to play with. That is a comfortable income of 4,646 guilders per month ($2,596).
The top of this bracket earns 98,392 guilders and pays 20,924 in income tax, leaving the tax payer with a disposable income of 77,468, or 6,456 guilders ($3,607) per month.
To call people at this income level rich is probably a stretch, but identifying this group as “the small man” is nothing less than ridiculous.
If we understood MP Richardson correctly, he is okay with the idea that the rich and the poor pay the same in taxes.
That is, and we agree here with Minister Gibson, unfair. The strongest shoulders should bear the heaviest burdens in our opinion.
Why? Because they can, while people at the bottom of the economic ladder have no maneuvering space at all.
We would like to see a detailed model of Richardson’s tax proposals and an audited assessment of its effect on all citizens. Then we know what we are talking about. Right now, we’re dealing mostly with election rhetoric.
Published Friday, August 26, 2016, in the Today newspaper
"A BIG NO-NO"
Finance Minister Gibson came out with a clear statement yesterday about flat rate and indirect taxes. That’s a big non-no, he said, and it won’t happen on my watch, because that approach only benefits the rich.
It is good to take note of this statement, because several political parties have made tax proposals part of their manifesto and they present these plans without explaining what their effect on the people will be.
On the other hand, given the fact that tax reform is a process for the long haul, similar to constitutional reform, voters should not be too concerned that any of these tentative proposals will become a reality any time soon.
But the diverging opinions about these issues must make people wonder whether the parties that came up with these ideas know what they are talking about.
Published Thursday, August 25, 2016, in the Today newspaper