Speeches from the official start of Mary's Fancy restoration works Thursday, project details included

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten -

Remarks Hon. R. Gibson, MinFin – MF unveiling of project works board – July 13, 2016

Members of board of APS; management and staff of APS; dignitaries; contractor representatives; ladies and gentlemen:

I am pleased, to represent the ministry of finance, here this afternoon for this occasion.

I still remember the days when I would be a regular visitor to Mary’s Fancy, in those days, meeting with friends and on occasion, visiting celebrities gracing our shores.

Today, many decades later, we revisit Mary’s Fancy – but this around, as we witness the beginning of a new chapter for Mary’s Fancy, now in the hands of St. Maarten’s general fund administrator, APS.

As a proponent of pension reform, I must applaud the initiatives of our pension fund to work towards an affordable and viable pension fund for our country.

The government of St. Maarten supports the efforts of APS in embracing opportunities aimed at reaching stated goals -- and one that lives up not only to present needs but also to projections for the future.

We are, of course, quite aware that APS will not get there on its own and that government has its role cut it for it, in this process.

The settlement of the outstanding debts owed to APS has the attention of this government administration and government has every intention of following through with agreements made, in the interest of the general public and that of our pension fund administrator.

Some concrete actions on part of government entails the concluding of negotiations on the division of assets as a result of the dismantling of the former Netherlands Antilles.

I look forward to further discussions with my Curacao counterpart, minister Jardim, on this issue, through which St. Maarten expects some 60 million guilders to come across the table.

Another 4.3 million is expected to be accrued once the deed is signed shortly for a parcel of land for a planned parking facility in Philipsburg.

Additionally, pending is the passing of the land sale and purchase deed (along with SZV) for the new government administration building on Pond island. This would represent another 19.1 million guilders for APS.

All of this is welcome news, since the idea should be to secure a healthy coverage ratio, in the long run.

And so, as minister of finance, I can state that the government applauds and encourages the efforts of APS in making those investments it deems necessary, all as part of making our pension fund even stronger.

Allow me, in closing, to congratulate the board, management and staff of APS on this, another step taken in the right direction.

I thank you.

 

Unveiling of projects board of Mary’s Fancy works – July 13, 2016

Remarks by F. E. Richards, Chairman APS Board

 

Honorable Dignitaries; Distinguished Guests; APS representatives; Ladies and Gentlemen…

 

First of all, allow me to welcome you to Mary’s Fancy estate.

I would be amiss were I not as chairperson of the board to mention the APS commitment, of doing what is right for the client – as it relates to APS being the new owners of Mary’s Fancy.

With the acquisition of Mary’s Fancy, 17.500 m2, for which special gratitude is in place for the heirs of the late Elizabeth Reitz-Ahlstrom as well Miss Jacky Morris for their cooperation, APS has exercised its need to invest and at the same time contributes to cultural heritage preservation.

‘Doing the right for the client’ has entailed addressing when and how to secure present and future pensions.

Our pension scheme has been under pressure for a number of years. We are facing a rapidly increasing life expectancy, dubbed as the financial crisis of this century, as well as prolonged low interest rates. Result has been that many pension funds are now into trouble.

St. Maarten’s APS pension fund is no different, where, for instance, our coverage ratio, guaranteeing the future sustainability of the fund, is below 100 percent.

APS therefore will have to seek and find various means and ways of having a sustainable and affordable fund in the future and ideally create the possibility of having a coverage ratio above 100 percent.

In this regard we are having ongoing discussions with government and stakeholders about pension reforms. In addition to that we are seeking and making sound, sensible and feasible investments within the framework of good governance and proper due diligence!

And so, we are confident that the Mary Fancy’s project will significantly contribute to the sustainability of APS, in the long run.

The groundbreaking ceremony here this after afternoon is to mark the start of phase 1, namely:

  • restructuring the stone wall and the so-called Zaegersgut,
  • creating a walkway alongside the stone wall,
  • widening the bridge and,
  • creating an exit road to the Gladiola road.

We also have a Mary’s Fancy phase 2 and a phase 3 in the pipeline.

In phase 2, which by the way will start within short, we will focus on restoring the plantation house and the sugar mill. And in phase 3, the focus will be placed on rebuilding 18 to 20 cottages and developing office and commercial buildings.

But, we are not stopping there.

Already there are plans for:

  1. the construction of 60 affordable housing units on a parcel of land at Welgelegen in Cay Hill, for which the groundbreaking ceremony, starting a.o. with constructing of a model home, is scheduled for this September;
  2. a much needed parking facility in the Philipsburg area and, interestingly enough;
  3. APS to explore the possibilities of establishing a Mortgage Bank.

With exploring the possibilities of establishing a Mortgage Bank, APS envisions providing an attractive alternative to clients, especially young professionals, who wish to purchase one of the affordable homes, thereby further investing in Sint Maarten over a long-term period.

These and other investments is our local response to the urgent and ongoing need of seriously addressing reforms with which to make our own pension system more sustainable and affordable.

As I stated before, St. Maarten is not alone in this; it is the trend in a number of cases with pension providers, the world over.

So, the pension reforms and seeking and making sound, sensible and feasible investments within the framework of good governance and proper due diligence, as alluded to earlier, are avenues being pursued.

Having expressed all of the above, let me add a few reminders:

  1. APS is often looking for investment opportunities on Sint Maarten, Curacao and other locations throughout the region. Each investment opportunity is unique and requires thorough review.
  2. An investment committee advises the APS board of directors and the pension administration on how to adequately invest monies of APS.
  3. Pension fund participants and stakeholders can rest assured that careful consideration is given to each investment opportunity, in order to safeguard payment of future pensions.
  4. The objective of APS investment goals is to provide participants with pension benefits as required by the national pension ordinance for civil servants (or pensioenlandsverordening overheidsdienaren – PB 1997, no. 312).

Allow me, on behalf of the entire APS organization to thank government, for its due diligence in facilitating us with moving forward at this stage, particularly the Prime Minister who has a coordinating role in relation to nation building and him seeing the importance of the social economic impact of this project for Sint Maarten; the minister of Education Culture Youth and Sports for her role preserving our monuments; the minister of VROMI for his infrastructural role and last but not least the minister of Finance, who on behalf of government is responsible for APS, who keeps reminding me of: “papier is geduldig” and to stick to agreements made! Approaching him every so often with proposals, of which I believe, would enhance agreements made, he would say: ‘Frankie, that wasn’t our agreement. So let’s for clarity and simplicity sake stick to the agreement made!’

Members of the council of ministers and parliament, as chair of the board of APS, I humbly make the following urgent appeal to you, which by the way for your information was previously done by APS, via a letter to the ministry of VROMI, dated, July 2, 2015, in regard to the development of Mary’s Fancy estate.

The area located at south west of the present APS property is part of the former plantation and should be acquired in ownership to secure future development in line with present rehabilitation plans of APS of Mary’s Fancy estate and for further protection of the investments of APS. The present use as car repair area and bar are not activities supported by the development vision of APS and nearby vicinity.

My appeal thus to government is: to institute and or include strict development conditions for any future development in this area particularly the location at the south west of APS’ Mary’s Fancy property in the present Zoning Plan and other Government plans considering APS’ future development of Mary’s Fancy estate!

Special gratitude is also in place for the continued professionalism of APS management and staff, particularly George Willems, our adjunct director, and Kendra Arnell, our project leader, who have worked diligently and tirelessly in getting the project to this stage. Past and present members of the Board and of the Investment Committee as well as numerous other entities for their provided expertise. These include consultant HISMAR, ICE, Heren2, the project team and other persons who have assisted in this process thus far. Of course, words of appreciation are in place for Windward Roads, the contractor executing this long awaited project.

In closing, I leave you with a basic premise as to why APS acquired this estate called Mary’s Fancy in the first place. This premise is one which explains how we see our actions in reference to those we serve as part of our core responsibilities.

The premise is:

“Preserving St. Maarten’s cultural heritage, as we pave the way for the sustainable safeguarding of the present and future pensions of our clients”!

I thank You.

 

Unveiling of projects board of Mary’s Fancy works – July 13, 2016

Remarks by N. van Putten, Managing Director APS

 

 

Honorable Dignitaries; Distinguished Guests; APS colleagues; members of the media; invited guests; Ladies and Gentlemen…

 

Allow me, as Managing Director of APS, to join in welcoming all of you to this event here, today.

As a young girl and consistently throughout my life I visited my grandfather’s country of birth, the island of Sint Maarten. I must have passed this road many times never knowing what was beyond the lush tropical garden that we are sitting in right now.

You were invited to bear witness to yet, another important development in the continuing evolving of APS, as general pension fund administrator for the country of St. Maarten.

Take a minute to look around you [pause and point]. As we are all witnesses here at this point in time of the start of something special, today APS is taking the first steps towards the rehabilitation of Mary’s Fancy.

Today’s signaling of the commencement of work to be done on the rock walls is to be followed by a monitoring of the progress of this and other stages pertaining to the rehabilitation of Mary’s Fancy.

As we move forward, important aspects for management will continue to be:

-        provide advice to support official decisions;

-        peruse technical reports and advise where necessary,

-        deliver financial status reports and provide quality control,

-        budget considerations and ultimately

-        handing over the completed project

The future use of the property has been established by preparing and evaluating options that will be developed while the rehabilitation of the existing older structures is taking place.

UNESCO defines cultural heritageas the legacy of physical artefacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations. APS is extremely proud to play a role in protecting this part of our St. Maarten cultural heritage. As such, we are committed to the continuing the process of gathering information regarding the history of Mary’s Fancy plantation.

This project is a great example of how economic growth, nature conservation and respect for our cultural heritage can go hand in hand.

May we continue to count on your support and contributions as we build up our pension fund and secure your pensions by way of investments such as with the Mary’s Fancy project.

Thank you for your attention!

 

Unveiling of projects board of Mary’s Fancy works – July 13, 2016

Remarks by K. Arnell, Secretary of the Board /Project lead

Honorable Dignitaries; Distinguished Guests; Fellow APS colleagues; Ladies and Gentlemen…Welcome!

Two… Two is the number of categories into which I could break down the general responses to the news of APS having purchased the Mary’s Fancy Plantation back in September 2014.

On the one hand you had a group of proponents – persons that were championing the anticipated preservation of a piece of St. Maarten’s cultural heritage. On the other, you had a group of persons who questioned… questioned Why? Who? How? You know how you have the 5 W’s and 1 H? We probably heard them all… and then some.

But you know, those two groups actually represent the challenge that is inherent in a project of this nature. In essence, this MF renovation project is about honoring the heritage, respecting the monument status of the structures surrounding us here today. And at the same time finding a feasible and somewhat profitable use for the property that generates the much needed return on this investment. Because as a pension fund, APS has as core business to pay pensions to its participants when the time comes.

During the months since the acquisition of the Mary’s Fancy plantation, much has transpired. Because of its monument status, Mary’s Fancy is not just a “construction project”. Specific legislation governs our monuments, special permits required, other types of stakeholders are to be heard: nature preservationists, archaeological experts, advisory bodies etc.

Look around… One of the most beautiful aspects of this plantation is the vast number and size of the trees. How do preserve as much of the flora and fauna that is currently on the property?

Remember… many generations before us have passed through these grounds, leaving behind pieces of equipment and remnants of the past for us to find. How do we safely retrieve and secure these artifacts?

Hear… the traffic on LB Scott Road. How do we allow vehicles to enter and exit the property taking into consideration current and future traffic flow?

Take note … of the vast amount of water that can channel through the trench. How do we protect our investment from natural disaster?

These are just some of the stipulated conditions that APS needed to meet and questions that needed to be answered in order to get to this day here today.

APS was well supported in this preparatory phase: representatives of VROMi and Culture, engineering firm ICE, consultant Hubert Lopez[Franklyn1]

After extending invitations to contractors for the submission of bids, reviewing their bids and preparing an advice for our APS board, the decision was made to award the contract for the first phase of the renovation project to Windward Roads. And now here we stand… July 13, 2016, marking the initiation of the first phase of this first real estate /infrastructure project for APS.

Over the course of the next four to five months the following will be completed:

  • the restoration of the rock wall which has fallen into ruin after withstanding damage from nature and mankind;
  • the construction of a sidewalk along LB Scott Road;
  • the widening and deepening of the trench;
  • the construction of a new one-way entrance from LB Scott Road and exit onto Gladiola Road.

The use of the term “first phase” implies a start: the start of the restoration of the wall which signals to our community, that APS has actually started with the total rehabilitation of the plantation.

The use of the term “first phase” also implies subsequent phases, in which it is envisioned that improvements to the characteristic structures of Mary’s Fancy plantation: the plantation house, the boiling house, these surrounding gardens and the rock wall, will be made. This same approach is applicable for other structures on the property such as the dwelling and cottages.

Ladies and gentlemen, as project leader I look forward to the continued cooperation of all involved, in realizing all of the projected goals where it pertains to the Mary’s Fancy plantation and trust that once, completed, will be met with the full approval of all concerned.

I thank you.


 [Franklyn1]I would suggest to mention HISMAR instead of Hubert Lopez

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