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Three reprimanded during lighted parade

page11b278PHILIPSBURG--Three revellers in Saturday's lighted parade were taken to the police station and reprimanded for misconduct.

The three were released "with a very stern warning" following the parade, police spokesperson Ricardo Henson said in a press release on Sunday.

Apart from this, the parade, which began around 8:00pm at the Le Grand Marché parking lot in Cul de Sac and ended at the TelEm parking lot just after midnight, was largely incident-free.

Henson commended coordinators on behalf of the Police Department for "a job well done." Henson said the parade was "attended by many revellers and onlookers."

Statians ‘masters’ at heavy drinking

SABA/ST. EUSTATIUS--Two out of three persons ages fifteen and older in the Caribbean Netherlands drank alcoholic beverages last year. Heavy and excessive drinkers are most abundant in St. Eustatius, according to a survey carried out by Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS).

The survey showed that half of women and 25 per cent of men in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba had not drunk alcoholic beverages in the past year. One man in eight drinks excessively, compared to one woman in 30, CBS stated.

Sixty per cent of women in Statia reported that they had not had an alcoholic drink in the past year. That is more than in Bonaire, where half of the women had not had a drink. Relatively fewer women in Saba had not drunk alcohol: 36 per cent.

The number of men in the Caribbean Netherlands who do not drink alcohol is much smaller than the number of women. Furthermore, relatively many more men than women can be classified as heavy or excessive drinkers.

In Bonaire, 19 per cent of men are heavy drinkers and 10 per cent excessive drinkers. Six per cent of women in Bonaire are to be considered heavy or excessive drinkers.

In Statia, 24 per cent of men are considered heavy drinkers and 16 per cent excessive drinkers. In Saba, these figures are 15 and 14 per cent respectively.

A heavy drinker is defined as someone who drinks six or more alcoholic beverages a day on at least one day a week. Excessive drinkers drink more than 21 glasses per week for men, or more than 14 drinks a week for women.

Twenty per cent of the population in the European Netherlands did not drink alcohol in 2012, according to CBS. This percentage is almost twice as high in the Caribbean Netherlands: 39 per cent.

There are larger differences between men and women on the islands. The percentage of heavy drinkers in the Caribbean Netherlands is comparable to that in the European Netherlands.

The proportion of female heavy drinkers is four percentage points less than in the European Netherlands (11 per cent), but much larger among men (19 per cent versus 15 per cent). The picture is similar for excessive drinkers, CBS said.

Illidge asks govt to buy Mary’s Fancy

PHILIPSBURG--Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Patrick Illidge (independent) has called on government to look into the purchase of Mary's Fancy Estate. He believes the plantation house can be restored and the property can be transformed into a botanical garden.

Illidge said in Friday's Parliament meeting, dealing with government's decision to purchase Industry and Golden Rock Plantations (commonly called Emilio Wilson estate), that it was time to turn attention to the acquisition of Mary's Fancy Estate. "We could plant guava berries there."

The purchase of Mary's Fancy will cost government US $2 million. The property is owned by the heirs of the late animal and community activist Elizabeth Reitz.

Illidge also reiterated his call and proposal to government for job creation, especially for young single mothers.

His proposal, which will cost "a mere NAf. 10 million" is for the creation of several small light industry-based businesses, such as a sewing centre, a laundry, a call centre and a number plate/street signage company.

Illidge asked government to indicate its willingness to pursue his light industry business ideas, as well as the purchase of Mary's Fancy Plantation. He is particularly interested in knowing how government will fit this into the some NAf. 88 million it intends to pursue in capital projects this year.

The MP has to wait until Thursday, when the meeting resumes, to get answers from government.

No decision yet on more detectives for St. Maarten

THE HAGUE--Dutch Minister of Safety and Justice Ivo Opstelten has yet to decide on a request from St. Maarten Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson to supply additional detectives from the Netherlands.

Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated this in a letter that he sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament in response to written questions of Members of Parliament (MPs) Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA and André Bosman on the liberal democratic VVD party.

Van Laar and Bosman had inquired late January about the capacity of the detective department and the Public Prosecutor's Office in St. Maarten. The MPs worried that the reported lack of capacity would hamper the proper functioning of these two entities and the criminal investigations that they carry out.

Plasterk explained that Opstelten had received the request from his St. Maarten colleague and that he was looking into whether this request could be complied with considering the capacity of the detective departments in the Netherlands, ongoing investigations and financial aspects.

The Netherlands, but also the other countries in the Kingdom can supply additional detective capacity under certain circumstances when one country asks for such, stated Plasterk. The quality of law enforcement, criminal investigations, the prosecution of (border crossing) crime and the execution of the plans of approach for the judicial sector in St. Maarten are important to the Netherlands, clarified the minister.

"Law enforcement and legal security have to be preserved. I stated on earlier occasions that this is my input and that it will remain so in talks with the Government of St. Maarten," stated Plasterk, also on behalf of minister Opstelten.

The St. Maarten Public Prosecutor's Office resorts under the Kingdom Consensus Law Public Prosecutor's Offices of Curaçao, St. Maarten and of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Law enforcement, including the Public Prosecutor's Office, is an autonomous responsibility of the countries in the Kingdom, explained Plasterk.

"This means that it is up to the St. Maarten Public Prosecutor's Office to determine priorities, carry out investigations and to determine whether and who should be prosecuted. The filling of the formation of the National Detectives is also a responsibility of the Country St. Maarten," stated Plasterk.

Responding to a question by Van Laar and Bosman as to whether the temporary expansion of the investigative capacity of the St. Maarten National Detectives was still in place, the minister noted that Minister Opstelten had indeed strengthened the investigative capacity at the National Detectives for a limited time in connection with the ongoing criminal investigation of a Member of the St. Maarten Parliament.

The temporary reinforcement, which had been supplied on the request of St. Maarten, was not in place anymore. Arrests have been made as a result of this detective work, stated Plasterk, who did not mention the name of the MP in question. It concerned MP Patrick Illidge in connection with the Bada Bing bribery case.

The minister said his earlier point of view that the St. Maarten Public Prosecutor's Office had sufficient capacity had not changed. He explained that in 2014, the structural occupancy of this office would be in accordance with the formation as calculated based on the expected work activities.

Hassink says pension awareness should be embedded in community

page1a277~ Large turnout at pension seminar ~

MAHO--Pension awareness should be embedded in the community just as much as sickness insurance.

This is the view of Finance Minister Martin Hassink, who delivered a thought-provoking presentation to the large gathering of seniors and other persons who attended the general pension fund APS' pension awareness seminar at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort on Friday.

"In general we make sure that we insure ourselves against the cost of sickness or car insurance against accidents and homeowners insurance against natural disasters or fires. However, the insurance necessary to cover the cost of our old age, we easily tend to postpone or ignore," Hassink told the large number of attendees – approximately 150 persons.

Dignitaries in attendance included Governor Eugene Holiday; Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams; Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Patricia Lourens-Philip; Ombudsman Nilda Arduin and Advisory Council Vice Chairperson Mavis Brooks-Salmon.

Hassink said some of the excuses persons make for not arranging a pension are that the pension premiums can be high; that the fund may be out of money by the time the person is able to collect their pension; that the person may be deceased before they are able to collect their pension; that they don't need a pension plan or that they will keep working until they die.

"There are many other excuses not to, or to not yet join a pension plan," Hassink said. He noted however, that "we should also realise that for many persons it is not just a choice. For many people the basic net income is just enough to maintain a very basic minimal quality level of life. For many people there is simply no room for saving money for the future or for paying premiums into a pension plan."

The minister said there is still quite a large segment of the business community that doesn't provide their employees with a pension plan. "During times of strong economic growth our population was young and old age hardly existed and not within eyesight. Time has changed, time progressed and slowly, but surely our population is getting older and more and more people feel the consequences of the excuses not to have saved or joined in a pension plan. It simply means in many cases creation of poverty," he said.

He said saving or paying pension premiums indeed means that one's current net spending power would reduce, however, "be aware that time goes faster than we realise and the prospect of living in poverty after years of hard work should support the discipline necessary to set aside funds for our old age."

He also said that the financial crisis has had a negative impact on the strength and durability of pension funds and may have led to doubts if the funds are able to pay one's pension when he or she reaches pensionable age. "Be aware that this is a legitimate thought and reason why we should make sure that the funds are properly managed with controlled risks, such as insuring that employers pay their premiums. Be aware that each pension fund is built on solidarity, this solidarity cannot be eliminated. I would even go further with stating that in a relatively small community like ours, solidarity should go much further. Luxurious pension plans should be scaled down in favour of a basic realistic pension plans for everyone. There is a wise saying 'If we just take what we need, there will be enough for everyone,'" he said.

The minister said that depending on one's children "is not a good pension plan."

"Be aware that your dependability may have a suffocating impact on your children and creates a vicious cycle where they later cannot afford to take care of themselves because they took care of you. It would be great if you could continue to work after the age of 60, or 62 or even 65. In fact, many of us do so. I can assure you as somebody in that age bracket, and maybe that is because of the job I have. You should be aware you should be looking forward to going on pension and enjoying the remaining part of your life comfortably without too many obligations," he said.

According to Hassink, pension awareness is growing with the average age of the population, which he said is a good sign. "A lot needs to be done however to make sure that all of us can spend our old age at an acceptable quality level of life, a broad reform is therefore needed. I'm convinced that the General Pension Fund can play a leading role in this."

Hassink lauded the initiative to hold the seminar.

He closed on a light note saying: "As the Minister of Finance and sometimes referred to as the Minister of golden oldies, I would like to recommend you to listen to the song of the Beatles from the Sergeant Peppers Longplay "when I'm sixty four."

The conference was aimed at raising awareness and disseminating information regarding pensions in general and aspects of the pension system. The conference was held under the theme: "Securing your pension makes cents."

APS had been charged with administering the pension of civil servants, teachers, and employees of other government-related organisations in St. Maarten since the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles on October 10, 2010.

APS had said previously that the conference comes at a time when it is essential that it informs and educates the community about pension-related matters. APS had expressed hope that the seminar would have triggered an exchange of ideas and dialogue on pension issues and promote transparency and open communication as basic principles of APS' operations.

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