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Guilder to remain currency for now

WILLEMSTAD--The Netherlands Antilles guilder will remain the joint currency of Curaçao and St. Maarten for now, while the two countries map out their monetary system.

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Finance Minister Martin Hassink met with Curaçao Prime Minister Ivar Asjes and his finance minister in Willemstad on Monday to discuss the monetary union and other matters of mutual interest to the countries.

Wescot-Williams said in a teleconference that Curaçao had indicated clearly its wish to have its own central bank. No definitive time line has been set on when this will happen.

Wescot-Williams said at a joint press conference with Asjes that the countries had agreed that the matter must be pursued in a “careful and responsible” way and that “no haphazard decision” would be made by either party.

St. Maarten has committed itself to make its decision on its monetary policy soon and to make that decision known to its partner in the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten CBCS.

Once all the necessary decisions are made, an “independent group” will be installed to oversee the steps to be taken to reach the countries’ desired goals.

A pending report on the functioning of CBCS will be completed soon and submitted to the two governments to review and take action on the outcome.

Officials of the two countries also discussed the work on the committee for the division of assets and liabilities of the Netherlands Antilles. They expressed the joint desire to see a firm report from the committee this year.

The two countries also will indicate, when these come up for review on a kingdom level, the way they want to proceed with the some five consensus kingdom laws that cover Finance and Justice, among other points.

The two countries will work out “a structured way” for continued cooperation in general to take the place of the working cooperation that existed when St. Maarten and Curaçao were island territories of the (now dismantled) Netherlands Antilles.

The St. Maarten officials stopped in Curaçao for the meeting, on their way to the Kingdom Conference in Aruba.

Tintamarre sold to Middle Eastern Group

page1a267~ St. Martin economy expected to explode ~

MARIGOT --Negotiations between the legal representatives of the owners of Tintamarre and a consortium of Middle Eastern investment businessmen were concluded late yesterday with the sale and purchase of Tintamarre Island, which has been privately owned since 1878, for a fabulous amount that exceeds 200 million euros.

The new owners' intention is to conduct negotiations with the Republic of France to obtain a status identical to that of the Principality of Monaco and to be able to act as a tax haven for the very wealthy.

The developments in both the European Union and the United States where the governments are putting pressure on the countries that up to now have functioned as tax havens to make available the names of the persons who have parked their fortunes at those countries' banks have led to the decision by the group to establish its own tax haven that will not be subjected to the current demands of transparency. The new owners' intention is not to sign any treaty with the US or any other country.

According to Brett Mucklow of Coldwell Banker St. Maarten Real Estate, who represents the Tintamarre owners, the island has been sold with its water rights that extend 200 miles to the North of the island and 150 miles East. Included are fishing rights, along with any mineral deposits.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that the oil rights alone were worth in excess of one billion US dollars. Investors expect to have one oil rig for every umbrella on Orient Beach by 2020. If oil is found, Statia with its Oil Terminal will play an important part in the storage of such.

The idea of making the island a Principality is to give it an aura of glamour à la Monaco. The owners are looking for candidates who would apply to be the monarch/prince of the island. One of the requisites is that the candidate be a descendent of a family that has been residing in St. Maarten for at least two centuries.

A grand palace will be built for the one chosen and he will be supplied with all the royal trappings included in the job. It is thought that this may be conducive to making the island a tourist attraction for the jet set. Those who think they qualify can apply by calling Brett Mucklow.

Ministry has no confidence in SVOBE financial management

PHILIPSBURG--An agreement still has not been reached by Foundation for Secondary Education in the Windward Islands SVOBE, which provides secondary education to approximately 1,200 students at Milton Peters College and Sundial School, and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports, it was revealed in a LAR administrative procedure yesterday.

The case first came to court on Wednesday, February 26, when SVOBE said it was in grave financial difficulties and facing bankruptcy if the Ministry of Education did not provide funding in the amount of NAf. 4.5 million.

The parties had been given an opportunity until March 4 to reach an amicable decision. Despite talks having been held, and SVOBE having submitted more paperwork to provide evidence of the exact nature of its financial difficulties, an amicable solution was not reached.

In court, attorney Camiel Koster for SVOBE said SVOBE had presented to the ministry all requested documents, including documents showing the organisation's cash flow. He stated that a cash flow analysis had been made, providing evidence of the shortfall, and that talks had been held with the minister as a result.

SVOBE has three main concerns, Koster stated: outstanding debts of NAf. 2.6 million, a cash flow shortage calculated to have been NAf. 104,000 for the months of March and April alone, and short-term running cost such as GEBE bills, recruitment and the purchase of books for the schools, amounting to the NAf. 4.5 million SVOBE had requested in funding.

As a result of talks, Minister of Education Patricia D. Lourens-Philip had requested that Minister of Finance Martin Hassink put demands for repayment of the NAf. 2.6 million debt on hold temporarily, Koster said. However, he said he did not believe this really addressed the underlying issue: the fact that the lump sum system currently in use is not working. The cash flow analysis, which showed a shortage of NAf. 140,000, proved this, he said.

SVOBE is of the opinion that the lump-sum system, which was introduced in 2010, is the cause of all hardship. The lump sum provides the school with an estimated fixed amount per student, without making any differentiation between students at VSBO or HAVO and VWO levels.

Not only salaries and education materials are to be paid from the lump-sum payments, but also expenses for security, cleaning, telephone bills and office supplies. SVOBE claims government subsidies have been too low over the past 3½ years.

The foundation claims the remuneration for personnel alone is already NAf. 8 million too low, while no amounts for school maintenance, estimated at US $489,000, were included in the lump sum.

SVOBE contends the 2010-2012 arrears amounted to more than NAf. 5.5 million and are an estimated NAf. 2.9 million for 2014.

Attorney-at-law Richard Gibson Jr., the government's lawyer in the procedure, said the minister had offered to cover the shortfall for March and April as shown in the cash-flow analysis and had offered to arrange for a debt to GEBE to be paid directly by government. SVOBE refused this latest payment offer.

Gibson said historical financial overviews had been given, but future expenditure overviews were necessary and these had been presented only "on a scrap of paper." He also said some expenses reflected in the paperwork presented were paid directly by government and therefore should not have been included in the calculations.

SVOBE also was accused of not following the auditor's advice and of paying higher-than-required wages to teachers. "The minister wants to help, but does not believe the figure of NAf. 5.5 million is accurate," Gibson said. "It is not clear that SVOBE is dealing with its finances carefully."

"The minister does not want the schools to have to close. The lines of communication are always open," Gibson also said. "The minister wants to assess what is necessary per month in a detailed way."

This does not match SVOBE's hopes of financial security in the long term. The ministry wants to sit around the table each month and has instructed a research company to consult on what can be done differently.

Gibson added that the ministry did not want to give money without checking how that money was being spent.

"During talks, situations came to light that hadn't even been mentioned in the budget. This shows that SVOBE does not have its financial affairs in order. If SVOBE were to go bankrupt, it does not automatically mean that the schools will close. School closure is not a threat at this moment," he added. "There is no confidence in the financial management of SVOBE."

Judge Katja Mans will give her verdict on April 14.

Teacher spits on student, calls her prostitute, threatens her

~ School board investigating ~ SOUTH REWARD--The actions of a Milton Peters College (MPC) teacher, who allegedly spat on a girl student, called her a “wh***” (prostitute), used profanity to describe her and threatened to harm her physically, has enraged a number of educators at the institution as well as youth magazine Teen Times. In an invited comment on Sunday, School Board for Secondary Education SVOBE Executive Director Joseph Rogers said the school was investigating the incident and “will take appropriate measures.” He said the teacher in question had been placed on non-active duty while the investigation was taking place. The incident is said to have occurred at the school on Tuesday, March 25, and involved teacher A.A. and a TLK second-form student. It occurred while class was in session and was witnessed by other students. Teen Times youth publication and a group of teachers have written to the SVOBE and MPC Executive Director Wim de Visser on the matter. In its letter, Teen Times said that if the allegations “prove to be true, and many witnesses say that they are, a mere suspension in our opinion will not suffice. “This is not the image or behaviour that MPC or any other educational institution should portray to students, fellow teachers, parents and others. Though admittedly we do not know what triggered his actions, we cannot fathom what reason this teacher would have to go to such lengths. “Every professional and ethical line was crossed and it tarnishes relationships between teachers and students of the school. While we will not attempt to tell SVOBE or MPC how to do their job, we wanted to reach out respectfully and indicate that the teacher in question should face more than a suspension for his actions.” In a letter to the SVOBE, a group of concerned teachers condemned the incident as “unacceptable” and said the institution would be sending the wrong message if the ultimate disciplinary measure were not taken against the educator.

SCDF makes history with first Causeway Jump-up

page5b266SIMPSON BAY--Friday night saw the first-ever Causeway Jump-up, the first Carnival parade of the season, which started off at Kim Sha Beach before making its way to the causeway, turning on to Union Road, before completing its circle back to the causeway.

The event, which started and finished on time, was well attended by many revellers and spectators, and marked a historic moment when the parade entered the Simpson Bay Causeway for the first time.

A staggered approach was used with the parade crossing the bridge in small groups of vehicles, so as not to cause excessive weight on the bridge. "We are making history in St. Maarten," shouted out the band leader of one of the Carnival trucks. The crowd agreed, with hundreds of people being part of the first Carnival parade ever to cross the Simpson Bay Causeway.

Despite the large amount of people, the atmosphere was festive and happy. There were no reported incidents of violence, however, two people were taken to Simpson Bay Police Station to be reprimanded. Many police officers also walked along in the parade, with members of the Coast Guard and the Sea Rescue at hand to assist where required.

President of the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) Mike Granger said: "We are extremely happy with the outcome of the first Causeway Jump-up. It was historic and it was great fun. Everyone conducted themselves, cooperated with instructions on the causeway and had an overall good time.

"Special thanks to the Police Department, Sheriff Security and the St. Maarten Sea Rescue Foundation for partnering with us to ensure that everything was executed without a hitch. It was a terrific way to kick off Carnival festivities in our 45th year."

The Police Department also said they were very happy with the way the event rolled out, and said that they had enjoyed excellent cooperation with the SCDF. "We want to congratulate the SCDF on a well-organised Causeway Jump-up. Thanks also go out to the Coast Guard and St. Maarten Sea Rescue, who showed their presence in the Simpson Bay Lagoon while the Jump-up passed through the area. Congratulations go out to the entire community who conducted themselves in a very festive and orderly manner."

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