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PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Samenwerkende Fondsen, also known as the Cooperating Foundations for the Dutch Caribbean, will be hosting an information session focused on funding opportunities for social projects.

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Port St. Maarten Management met with Sir Richard Branson on Wednesday.  Sir Branson is one of Great Britain’s highest profile billionaires with his Virgin Group holding more than 60 companies serving more than 60 million customers worldwide.  Branson was accompanied by Virgin Executives Tom Mc Alphin and Craig Milan as well as other staff members.

HAVANA, Cuba – The Association of Caribbean States (ACS) fully supported the debt relief initiative presented by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) which, among other measures, proposes the creation of a resilience fund as part of a strategy based on a swap proposal for climate change adaptation.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - ASL Cultural Ambassadors Otmar Martina and Shianne Lake received donations from Windward Islands Bank and Mingo Civil Law Notary this week on behalf of Art Saves Lives Foundation.

Both companies join several businesses and persons who have donated to the annual Summer Intensive of the past months.

The ASL Team will be continuing its fundraising efforts this month to raise funds for their Summer Intensive and Student Award Trip.

Art Saves Lives Summer Intensive will be held from July 4th to 8th.

For more information, or if you wish to donate to their Summer Intensive please contact Art Saves Lives at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 721-526-8590.

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PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) recently took a decision to continue to support the No Kidding with Our Kids Foundation – After School Activities (ASA) Program.

SMDF Director, Mr. Keith Franca stated: “No Kidding with our Kids Foundation was amongst the first foundations to approach the SMDF for funding in 2013.

The Foundation received funding for the year 2011/2012 from AMFO and has received funding from AMFO in previous years.

The No Kidding with Our Kids Foundation is outstanding in the quality of reporting delivered to SMDF on a monthly basis.

The reactions from parents over the years point to a balanced program of afternoon school activities with dedicated leaders.

Fiscal year 2016 will be the fourth consecutive year that SMDF has funded the No Kidding with Our Kids Foundation. We are satisfied with the excellent leadership displayed by the Director, Mrs. Merlyn Schaminee - Miguel.”

On hand to sign the relevant funding terms and conditions with the SMDF Director, were Mr. Paul Boetekees (President) and Mr. Jimmy Challenger (Board Member) of the No Kidding with Our Kids Foundation.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Government via the Financial Intelligence Unit MOT must be clearer to the business community and residents about MOT policies and why the rules on St. Maarten vastly differs from that of the United States and elsewhere, said United People’s (UP) party leader Member of Parliament Theo Heyliger on Monday.

The role of the MOT as the vanguard of the country's financial standing in the world is understood and is indeed vital, said Heyliger. "Measures are needed. However, if the measures are not properly and thoroughly explained, businesses and residents will continue to be affected and at a loss about the way forward."

Credit card purchases on St. Maarten over US $10,000 must be accompanied by a copy of a buyer's passport and a statement about the origin of the funds. This is a different approach than the United States and many other countries where such a requirement do not exist for credit card purchases.

"The United States is our largest trading partner by way of the number of cruise ship and stayover passengers we get daily and annually from that country. Why is our approach different? This must be better explained and, where possible, changed," said Heyliger.

"Take for example cruise ship passengers. They leave the ships often with just an ID card and a credit card, not their passport. What is a business to do when one of these passengers wants to make a purchase over the US $10,000 limit? Are they to tell the shopper to go back to the ship for their passport? In such a case, businesses may as well tell cruise ship passengers 'your money is not good here' and let the money go to another island," said Heyliger.

"Cash, of course, requires scrutiny, but this issue with credit cards has made St.Maarten less of a attraction in attracting the global shopper. With the economy is severely hurting, these measures are not good for business. Mind you, these measures on credit cards do not exist outside of St.Maarten," said the UP leader.

Representatives of the MOT met with Parliament's Committee for Finance over week ago on the request of Heyliger. The meeting was called to give MPs a clearer understanding of MOT's functioning and challenges.

"My request for that meeting was an attempt to not only get information, but to communicate to the MOT the challenges being faced in the community," Heyliger said.

"Inspite of calls for a review of the policies and measures, last week the MOT again called for businesses to adhere to their directives of the past. It is as though the meeting with Parliament and the request of MPs never happened. This is going against what was told to Parliament by the MOT," said Heyliger.

The UP leader calls on MOT to again look at its economically damaging measures and find a way that allows St. Maarten to  continue to be attractive to shoppers and safe in the financial world.

Heyliger also called on Government and the management of MOT to sit with businesses, banks, St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry for a  open and transparent dialogue about the impact of MOT's measures "before we fall to far behind."

PARAMARIBO, Suriname – Suriname has landed a $478 million loan from the International Monetary Fund to boost an economic reform programme amid a drop in commodity prices, becoming the second South American country to seek such a bailout in nearly a decade.

The IMF said it will immediately disburse $81 million as part of a two-year deal announced Friday that has been met with protests.

Suriname is the first country in South America since 2007 to seek help from the IMF through what’s known as a stand-by-arrangement, in which loans are conditioned on a government adopting policies aimed at stabilizing its finances and economy. The last country to do so was Peru.

The reform is designed to strengthen Suriname’s finances following a drop in prices for its principal exports including gold and oil. The country’s main alumina refinery also shut down last year.

The IMF said Suriname faces what it called substantial fiscal deficits and a rundown of international reserves.

“Implementing the structural reform agenda is essential to ensure a prosperous future for Suriname,” the IMF said in a statement.

Suriname plans to create a value-added tax and eliminate electricity subsidies as part of the reform, which also seeks to increase private-sector growth and attract more foreign investment.

IMF officials said the drop in revenues from the sale of gold, oil and alumina caused Suriname’s fiscal deficit to reach nearly 9 percent of GDP last year, compared with a small surplus in 2011.

Commodity prices fueled a region-wide boom in the past decade, but analysts say their collapse could cause more policy makers to swallow their pride and return to the IMF, which is widely mistrusted in the region for its role in Argentina’s 2011 financial collapse.

Possible candidates are OPEC members Ecuador and Venezuela, which have seen their economies shrink as investment and oil purchases from a slowing China have fallen. Brazil, the region’s largest economy, is also fighting recession as prices for its grain and iron ore exports have collapsed. (AP)

Professor Compton Bourne, Executive Director of Caribbean Centre for Money and Finance (CCMF), wrote an article entitled: "The Liquidity Problem in Caribbean Commercial Banks" in the CCMF's December 2014 Newsletter: Volume 7, No. 12.  In this article, he observed that "excess liquidity depresses commercial bank profitability". Indeed, this past week a commercial bank in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, apparently without consultation with its clients, imposed a $25 per month levy on bank accounts, presumably to boost their non-interest income as a result of declining profits. The depositors are not taking it lying down and this induced a "run on the bank".
 
Compton suggested that one way to address this declining profitability is for commercial banks to "become more venturesome in their search for banking opportunities within the domestic economy, expanding beyond their traditional comfort zones to finance new customers in new industries as well as in familiar industries." This means that the commercial banks must become less risk averse or, may I suggest, look at ways of reducing the business risk associated with their customers' proposals for finance.
 
My experience in dealing with start-up businesses in the Caribbean over the past 15 years is that there is no shortage of business ideas and their associated innovations which determine the core products and services of these proposed businesses. However, start-ups are perceived by commercial banks as high risk and/or as not having the required collateral. Most of these businesses, which are potential contributors to the growth of the economy, get no investment and do not see the light of day. As a result, growth in the economy is therefore commensurately impacted.
 
In my opinion, there is unlikely to be a change in present risk assessment practices of commercial banks so why not look at ways of reducing the business risk associated with their customers' proposals for finance. The Shepherding component of the CBET Shepherding Model™, led by the ManOBiz™ Matrix, helps the customer to remove the obstacles along the journey to business success and reduces business risk, thus potentially increasing commercial bank business and growing the economy. When the economy wins we all win.
 
The financing component of the CBET Shepherding Model™, as depicted in the accompanying graphic, is creatively designed to pay for initial shepherding expenses through a revolving and growth seed capital fund (to start a business) and then innovatively weave the seed capital component into a working capital fund (to finance operating activities) as the business grows over time. The skillful engagement of shepherding services enhances the chances of business success and enables the commercial banks, the clients and the national economies to win.
Since change is the only constant in life, since we should recognize that practice makes improvement and that our work is never finished, let us pray that commercial banks will modify their practices and consider at least a Shepherding pilot project to build a new Caribbean - a Caribbean that is fair and just and a Caribbean where hard work and a positive attitude bring progress, fulfillment and financial prosperity for all.

PARAMARIBO, Suriname – Suriname has landed a $478 million loan from the International Monetary Fund to boost an economic reform programme amid a drop in commodity prices, becoming the second South American country to seek such a bailout in nearly a decade.

The IMF said it will immediately disburse $81 million as part of a two-year deal announced Friday that has been met with protests.

Suriname is the first country in South America since 2007 to seek help from the IMF through what’s known as a stand-by-arrangement, in which loans are conditioned on a government adopting policies aimed at stabilizing its finances and economy. The last country to do so was Peru.

The reform is designed to strengthen Suriname’s finances following a drop in prices for its principal exports including gold and oil. The country’s main alumina refinery also shut down last year.

The IMF said Suriname faces what it called substantial fiscal deficits and a rundown of international reserves.

“Implementing the structural reform agenda is essential to ensure a prosperous future for Suriname,” the IMF said in a statement.

Suriname plans to create a value-added tax and eliminate electricity subsidies as part of the reform, which also seeks to increase private-sector growth and attract more foreign investment.

IMF officials said the drop in revenues from the sale of gold, oil and alumina caused Suriname’s fiscal deficit to reach nearly 9 percent of GDP last year, compared with a small surplus in 2011.

Commodity prices fueled a region-wide boom in the past decade, but analysts say their collapse could cause more policy makers to swallow their pride and return to the IMF, which is widely mistrusted in the region for its role in Argentina’s 2011 financial collapse.

Possible candidates are OPEC members Ecuador and Venezuela, which have seen their economies shrink as investment and oil purchases from a slowing China have fallen. Brazil, the region’s largest economy, is also fighting recession as prices for its grain and iron ore exports have collapsed. (AP)

BES Islands - The investigation into money laundering on Bonaire Wednesday, in which searches were performed, a total of eight locations were searched (investigation ‘Thorbes’).

On Bonaire six homes and a business were searched by the investigation team, with the support of Korps Politie Caribisch Nederland, RST and Kmar. In the Netherlands a home and a business were searched at the request of the Public Prosecutor BES.

Furthermore, a bank vault of the suspects was opened by the prosecutor on Bonaire.

On two addresses on Bonaire and on one address in the Netherlands it was legally demanded that the complete administration would be handed over to the investigating officers. Not complying or not fully complying with such a claim is a felony. No arrests have been made.

In the interest of the investigation, all the data are established and linked with each other. It is obvious that the suspects will be questioned on the basis of these findings.

In the searches and through the demand to hand over data, a very large amount of paperwork and other information was seized. The research is not only intended to further investigate the suspicion that suspects have made themselves guilty of money laundering. But also to prove and take illegally obtained assets.

Also in this context expensive jewelry, cash, a motorcycle, cars, scooters and seven paintings were seized. Furthermore, an air gun, a pepper spray gun and a laser pointer were taken for further investigation.

Given the scope of the investigation it is expected to take some time before further information can be provided.

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