Island Financial

Island Financial (1549)

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten — The board of the St. Maarten Small Properties Association (SMSPA) had an introductory meeting with S.E.L. Maduro & Sons NV last week Monday, said Nzinga Lake, SMSPA president.

S.E.L. Maduro & Sons general manager Sjaoel Richardson, and office manager Laura Louis represented the travel agency at the meeting with the association. The meeting took place at the company’s office in Pointe Blanche.

“The topics discussed were joint marketing, ‘Summer and Winter’ promotions, travel packages, site inspections and networking events with travel agents,” said Lake.

The newly elected board has been contacting tourism stakeholders to meet on “fostering strong and mutually-beneficial relationships for our small hotel members. S.E.L. Maduro & Sons is committed to our tourism product and its development. And as a board we are focused of realizing alliances in the tourism market for the regional and international promotion of our member properties and our beautiful island,” said Lake.

“We believe that once stakeholders on the island combine their resources and find common grounds to market the island and its events, that everyone will benefit from this kind of cooperation,” said Richardson.

SOUTH REWARD, St. MaartenThanks to a MOU recently signed between Minister Christophe Emmanuel, a locally-formed company, Adopt A Stop SXM is set to provide solar-powered bus shelters later this year at planned bus stops around the island.

Adopt A Stop currently operates in islands like Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis where the company provides seating and shade for public transit commuters at no cost to Government, as the structures are financed by advertising.

From the perspective of the St. Maarten road usage, the bus shelter project provides an opportunity to provide safe access points to the public transit and manage local traffic with designated bus stops. The minister notes: “Bus shelters create a reason for the public to stand at bus stops, as commuters seek shade and protection from rain. The busses then tend to operate more predictably … because they stop where people congregate.” This alone will alleviate unnecessary traffic jams that stopping on the road is presently creating due to the lack of proper shaded bus stops.

The placement of the Bus stops will be done in collaboration with other ministries like the ministries of TEATT and JUSTICE to ensure that we get the best of all aspects involved like the transportation regulations, the traffic aspects for the stops just to name a few angles.

ORANJESTAD – During the visit of the Board of financial supervision of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (Cft) to Sint Eustatius, the Executive Council explained in detail the decisions that have been taken to structurally address the capacity problems of the Finance department. The Executive Council is planning to contract an outside firm to not only conduct the financial accounting, but also to provide training to the department’s personnel. Chairman Age Bakker: "For a long time Cft has been calling attention to this problem. Now it seems that serious attempts are being made to reach a solution”.

During its visit on March 28 and 29, the Board met with the Executive Council and the Island Council of Sint Eustatius. The structural reinforcement of the Finance department was one of the main topics of discussion. The Executive Council pointed out its choice for an approach whereby employees will be coached and trained, whilst simultaneously the current situation will be taken care of on a going concern basis. Cft has confirmed to endorse this approach. The need for reinforcement is considerable: Sint Eustatius is not yet able to conduct a timely and qualitatively suitable financial accounting.

 In addition to the strengthening of the Finance department, the budget and accounting process on Sint Eustatius were discussed as well. "Compliance with reporting obligations still does not occur in a timely manner," the Cft Chairman declared. The 2015 financial statements and the fourth progress report of 2016 have yet to be completed. He continued stressing the importance of these reports for both the Executive Council and the Island Council, since they allow the Councils to gain insight and to be able to fulfil their executive and supervisory role in and adequate way.

UNITED STATES - The United States of America has named 21 Caribbean countries among a wider global list of Major Money Laundering Countries of 2016.

This list includes Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maarten. The US State Department this week released the countries in its 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report on Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

The US says money laundering in Sint Maarten, centers around criminal profits that occur through business investments and international tax shelters.

The State Department slammed the island’s government as “weak” adding that it continues to be vulnerable to integrity-related crimes.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - On Thursday, March 23, Prime Minister William Marlin presented as part of the launch of the governing program 2016 – 2020 “Stability for Prosperity!”, a hard copy of the program to Parliament. The presentation was made to the Chairlady of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams and MP Frans Richardson, second Vice Chairman.

The governing program outlines the vision and strategy for the governing period. The program was formulated by a workgroup established by the parties that rejoined forces after the 2016 elections – the National Alliance, the United St. Maarten Party and the Democratic Party - under the umbrella of the United Democratic Alliance.

According to the Prime Minister, “the continued union of the United Democratic Alliance is a solid base to ensure the achievements towards the stability and growth of Sint Maarten. Given the parties' desire to continue developing a sustainable, equitable and flourishing Sint Maarten for all the governing program 2016-2020 has been named "Stability for Prosperity!””

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – On Monday 13th March, 2017 the Minister of Finance from Sint Maarten, the Honorable Richard Gibson Sr. met with the Minister of Finance from Curacao, the Honorable Kenneth Gijsbertha to discuss vital financial matters that affect both Sint Maarten and Curacao.

Some topics addressed during this meeting were: the management of the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten (CBCS), the de-risking trends within our financial institutions, the division of assets of the former Netherlands Antilles, Sint Maarten and Curacao’s possible participation with the pilot project organized by the United States and the upcoming IMF Meeting in Washington, to take place in April of this year.

The meeting further centered around the plan of approach to finalize and address other pending financial matters and to ascertain a continued working relationship between both Governments.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - On March 1st, Minister of Finance Richard Gibson met with Mr. Julian Lopez Ramirez, Managing Partner and Tax Partner of Deloitte in the Dutch Caribbean, to discuss the most recent developments in national and international fiscal affairs.

Mr. Lopez Ramirez took this opportunity to also present the published inaugural lecture of Professor Kavelaars titled “Internationale fiscaliteit in transitie” which was presented on January 19th in Curacao when Professor Kavelaars accepted his appointment as extraordinary professor at the University of Curacao.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – The House of Parliament will sit in a plenary public session on March 9, 2017. The Minister of Finance will be present.

The plenary public meeting has been set for Thursday at 2.00 pm in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelminastraat #1 in Philipsburg.

The agenda points are:

1. Incoming documents

2. Draft National Ordinance establishing the accounts of Country St. Maarten for the financial year 2012 (Ordinance establishing accounts 2012) (ZJ 2016-2017-096) (IS / 014 / 2016-2017 dated September 21 2016)

3. Approval Decision Lists Public meetings Parliamentary Year 2016-2017 no. 1-6 and POV no. 1

Members of the public are invited to the House of Parliament to attend parliamentary deliberations. 

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten On March 6, 2017, the General Audit Chamber submitted its report to Parliament and the Minister of Finance, regarding the audit of the 2015 Financial Statements of the General Pension Fund (Algemeen Pensioenfonds Sint Maarten - APS).

The financial position of the APS has become more worrisome, according the Audit Chamber. The drop in the coverage ratio from 97.6% in 2014 to 93.2% in 2015, is a key indicator. The coverage ratio is an important measure used by a pension fund to determine if the fund’s assets will be able to cover future pension obligations. The minimum standard required by the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten is 100%. Furthermore, APS did not meet the internal standard of its investment policy, which requires a long-term return of 5.5% on its entire investment portfolio. In 2015, the APS recorded a 0.39% return on its entire investment portfolio. The average return since 2011 is 4.29%.

Factors that contribute to the tenuous financial position of the APS include APS’s invoicing of lower than legally required premiums (22% instead of 25%), and the long outstanding claims against both the government of Sint Maarten and the General Pension Fund of Curaçao. The payment of ANG 19 million arising from the sale of the government building, and the payment of ANG 60 million based on the division of assets and liabilities between Sint Maarten and the Netherlands Antilles, was not fulfilled. As of the publication of their report, the Audit Chamber had not received confirmation of the resolution of these claims.

The Audit Chamber believes that the agreement reached between government, labor representatives of civil servants and the APS to reform the pension system may lead to sustainability of the Fund as compared to the existing arrangement. “However, compared to the current pension system, the new system represents austerity”, according to the Audit Chamber. The proposed changes of the pension system include an increase of the retirement age to 65 years, introduction of a pension based on the average-salary over a career instead of a final-salary arrangement, and the lowering of the minimum participation age to 18 years. In its report, the Audit Chamber expresses the hope that the APS will inform participants in a timely fashion about the reasons and consequences of the proposed changes.

There are several encouraging improvements at the Fund. APS presented the 2015 Financial Statements and the 2015 Budget within the legally required timeframe. In addition, APS is finalizing the amendment of its investment policy to align the policy with their new strategy. The APS reported that as of January 1, 2016, they have been invoicing based on the legally required premium of 25%.

WILLEMSTAD/PHILIPSBURG According to the Quarterly Bulletin of the Centrale Bank van Curaçao en Sint Maarten, the economic performance in the monetary union was disappointing during the third quarter of 2016. Growth remained flat in Curaçao (0.0%) while Sint Maarten recorded a real GDP contraction of -0.3%.

Growth remained flat in Curaçao caused by a decline in public sector activities, offsetting subdued private sector growth. The positive outcome in, particularly, the construction and utilities sectors was offset in part by fewer activities in the restaurants & hotels, and the transport, storage & communication sectors. The upbeat performance of the construction sector was supported by the growth in public and private sector investments. Meanwhile, the gain in the utilities sector was driven by increased production of water and electricity. Real output also expanded in the manufacturing sector, albeit at a much slower pace compared to the third quarter of 2015, as a result of an increase in ship repair activities moderated by a drop in refining activities.

By contrast, real value added shrank in the restaurants & hotels sector reflecting a decline in the number of visitor nights, stay-over arrivals, and cruise tourists. The contraction in the transport, storage & communication sector was related to a drop in air transportation and airport-related activities.

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