In The Spotlight
I am standing in line - or rather in a disorganized congregation of desperate souls - in the parking lot of St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport, once the second busiest airport in the Caribbean, now a shell of sheetrock, concrete, metal and glass; the main terminal building is completely gutted. My partner is some feet away, seeking shelter from the searing mid-day sun in the shadow of a delivery van flipped unto its side, all its windows blown out and its bonnet lying across the street.
On the van’s bent fender a parrot is inexplicably perched, ogling the some one-thousand people filling the parking lot with desperate chaos, trying, like us, to evacuate ourselves or our loved ones out of St. Maarten. The island is still reeling from the one-hundred and eighty-five mile per hour winds and subsequent civil unrest brought upon by one of the strongest hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic, a storm with a name that will live on in infamy in the collective psyche of every Caribbean community from Barbados to Cuba; Hurricane Irma.
Dutch Marines are handing out hot bottled water to people congregated in different sections: one section for US citizens with US Embassy staff running around with clipboards; one section for Dutch Citizens evacuating to Curacao and then onwards to the Netherlands on military transport aircraft; one section with EU Citizens, getting pink and then purple under the blazing Caribbean sun and looking wide eyed at the destruction around them; and us, desperate Caribbean Nationals (Michelle is Jamaican and was visiting me on Sint Maarten) trying to find word on whether people will be evacuated to Antigua and then onwards to Jamaica, Trinidad, St. Kitts...anywhere. We are all Caribbean Climate Change Refugees.
A week before, as holidaymakers were disembarking their flights on jet bridges now twisted like foilpaper, a low-pressure system started to develop off the Cape Verde Islands in the Atlantic. Three days later, as cruise ship passengers meandered out of the Majesty of the Seas unto Front Street, our main tourism center, that low developed into Tropical Storm Irma. By the next day, when she hit unusually warm sea surface temperatures not far from the Lesser Antilles, Irma became a Category Three storm. The day after that Category Five, intensifying more rapidly than any other storm on record. Tomorrow the Majesty of the Seas will be docking here again, not to have her passengers buy jewelry and electronics on Front Street but to evacuate three thousand people off of the island. Besides, the jewelry and electronics were looted clean even before the storm stopped raging.
Irma struck on Wednesday morning. The day before Marine Park Staff helped to secure various boats in the Simpson Bay Lagoon. We tied our patrol boat down and together had what we knew would be our last cold beer for a while. Predictions weren’t looking good. While we hoped that Irma would head north the various weather models had the storm hitting us directly. We knew we were in for trouble. We secured our houses, bought our last supplies and hunkered down. By four on Wednesday morning Michelle and I, two dogs and a cat were riding the storm out in our guest bedroom, then kitchen, then guest bedroom again; the pressure popping our ears and the concrete building shaking as if in an earthquake.
The storm humming and sucking like a living, breathing, thing, a thing upset at the very presence of humanity. At one point our ceiling flexed as if being pushed and pulled from above. At six the eye passed and we fled to our downstairs neighbours. Our windows blew out and ceiling caved in. By twelve the storm was done. As I stepped out on our balcony and witnessed the destruction I thanked God; we were lucky to be alive. Ninety percent of all buildings were flat. Not a single leaf was on a tree, and hundred-foot ships lay across the street as if placed there by a giant child playing Battleship. St. Maarten had been decimated.
Unfortunately this will be the increasing reality of our situation here in the Caribbean. This paradise of fun and merriment, of frozen beverages and beautiful beaches, of music and sunscreen, will increasingly be faced with disasters brought upon us by a warming climate. As industrialized nations discuss and meet and hold Fora and COPs deliberating the consequences of a warming earth, as the US President withdraws from the Paris Climate Accords (while ironically having a house on French Saint Martin that was completely obliterated by Irma), as the world struggles with our addiction to fossil fuels and their impact on the climate, we are trying to put the pieces of our lives back together as Caribbean People. We are trying to adjust to the New Normal: to our new status as Caribbean Climate Change Refugees.
Barbuda, where I did fieldwork surveying the health of their coral reefs just a few months ago, has been declared uninhabitable; the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda ordering mandatory evacuations off of the island. A whole community displaced because of the effects of climate change. Anguilla, one of the wealthiest islands in the Caribbean, has been leveled and Necker Island, home of billionaire Philanthropist Richard Branson, has been destroyed. And, as I write this, a lady is washing her two children in brackish well-water. Adversity brings equality.
In the aftermath of the storm local governments, especially on Sint Maarten, struggled to control law and order and the island descended into lawlessness. First people looted water and food, and then they emptied out electronic stores, jewelry stores, anything. I saw one guy dragging his barely clad children behind him with three flat screen TV’s on his head. The island likely will not have power fully restored for months. Rumours spread like wildfire of armed gangs pillaging whole neighbourhoods, emptying hotel rooms, robbing at gunpoint. Whether true or not the news spread around the world and our island will be eternally scarred. People have been frantically waiting for a government in disarray to feed and water them. The Dutch Military has arrived to restore law and order, placing us under martial law. There are now armed marines patrolling streets that, just a week ago, were lined with bars, restaurants and strip-joints.
While working in the conservation field we have been continuously preaching sustainable development to Caribbean Governments. We have been advocating a structured social welfare system, a sustainable economic plan not totally reliant on tourism, and the protection and management of our natural resources. Resources like coral reefs or mangroves, which not only provide goods and services like tourism and fisheries, but which also protect our vulnerable coastlines and critical infrastructure from the damaging effects of hurricane storm surge. Because of the decline of both coral reefs and mangroves and because of Irma’s unabated twenty foot storm surge I have had to do a diving survey of the Simpson Bay Lagoon earlier today. There is a sunken boat every five meters. The water is more diesel than salt. We will be diving again tomorrow to see if there are any bodies to recover.
Long time neglect by most Caribbean Governments of their natural areas has reduced the ability of island ecosystems to be resilient enough to recover from disasters; to allow for the nature of these islands to return to its beauty, the reason why tourism is so popular on all of the islands hit by Irma. Our islands are now changed. Forever.
We are at the head of the line now. We have said our hurried good-byes, tearful and fearful, wondering when and where we will see each-other again as Michelle is hurried away by the Dutch military to her waiting evacuation aircraft. As I stay and watch the tiny plane leave for Antigua two women are chatting about which school in the Dominican Republic they will now have to send their young daughters to since all schools on the island are damaged. A few feet away, in the shade of the upturned delivery van where just an hour ago we sought shade, two of the girls are trying to teach the parrot to say a word. As I walk towards my truck I hear it squawk “Irma”.
The passage of Hurricane Irma has wreaked havoc on the island of St. Maarten and in its wake has transformed the island’s landscape. Sections of the island now bear a spitting resemblance to a disaster zone with buildings and houses severely damaged and in some cases completely obliterated. Key infrastructure and installations continue to be affected and as a result of extensive damage with some roads still impassable at the time of writing this letter.
However, I am constantly reassured that collectively the people of St. Maarten are very resilient and sooner rather than later that resilience will serve as the catalyst to propel this beautiful island back on the road to recovery.
While some experts have intimated that the destructive power of a hurricane the likes of Irma in one day is equivalent to the detonation of 800 atomic bombs, what was equally and continued to be even more worrisome was the state of lawlessness, moral decadence and anarchy with which sections of the society descended into during the passing and aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Pilfering and looting were widespread almost every- and anywhere the opportunity presented itself and subsequently became the modus operandi for acquiring property, food supplies, vehicles and other material comfort.
Did this behavior mimic a state of nature? Did we render null and void Jean Jacques Roseau’s “Social Contract” in which he articulated that for the concept of society to be upheld its subjects must surrender certain public freedoms and rights in exchange for security and order? Thus far, living within the walls and confines of society seems to be preferred to a state of nature. At the most fundamental level, is this who we are as human beings that if exposed to the right stimulus the beast in us would want to go back to the woods – that primal appeal we all share as human beings of wanting to escape the cognitive mode of experience?
What really motivated some among us to act and behave the way they did? I there a biological basis for behavior that we seem incapable and powerless to control in certain circumstances? In the absence of hard evidence or proof I am of the opinion that it is reasonable to conjecture that there were quite a lot of people whose moral compact pointed them in the right direction and they in turn took a position not to plunder and ravage these businesses and properties simply because their conscience dictated it wasn’t the right thing to do.
Incidentally, though, I am also of the opinion too that some folks weren’t the “holier than thou” kinds in that they had no religious justification for their decisions but just the sheer weight of their conscience, which ironically was the case with many of the sanctimonious hypocrites who were seen entering and exiting looted premises. These are the kinds of people who will sing “Hosana” with you in the morning and in the evening they say “crucify him!”
There are quite a lot of well-meaning people in this society that can be considered as model citizens with a heightened sense of what is right and what is wrong and certainly not morally bankrupt. What, then, are the factors responsible for the moral superiority of the beings? Again I am unable to say conclusively, but what I can say with some degree of certainty from the available evidence is that nurture seems to be leading and dominating nature.
Was reason – that strict untiring governess – convicted of inadequacy, resulting in the savage-like behavior of looters who found immediate gratification at the expense of long-term benefits and implications more appealing?
If one were to examine his or her intended actions prior to a dispassionate way prior to engaging in the act of looting it would have become clear, of not partially clear, that the cost of one’s actions would have far outweighed the benefits, the extent of which this was difficult to deduce I am unable to say.
Those many among us who chose not to go “shopping” during closing hours without either cash, plastic or even accompanied by the Mr. Credit allowed good sense to prevail and understand the implications for themselves, businesses and the island of St, Maarten as a whole. It was very sad and heart-rending to learn that some of these businesses were victims of individuals they have been supporting and sustaining for years, whether in the form of direct employment or indirectly through other services they routinely required. Sad! Very sad!
My hope is that we will desist from biting the hands that continue to feed and provide for the wellbeing of ourselves, families and this beautiful island of St. Maarten. I am very much aware that one should not be judged by his or her worst moments, because as human beings we all have the capacity for change, so let’s use this time to reflect on our actions and inactions going forward.
My husband and I eloped and because we were strapped for cash we used my grandmother’s wedding ring for the marriage ceremony.
We’re a lot better off financially now but my husband still hasn’t bought me a ring of my own. He always has an excuse – we’re buying a house, he has to pay our credit card bills, whatever.
Queenie, this is really getting to me. How do I fix it?—Lady of no ring
Many women would be pleased to wear an heirloom ring as the symbol of their own marriage, especially if the previous owner’s marriage was long and successful. However, your feelings on the matter are your own.
Have you really explained to your husband how much this means to you? If so, professional counselling might help you get through to him. Also, you might want to consider professional financial counselling if your husband’s excuses have a real financial basis.
we preparing fo she te come
But in we heart we praying
fo she not te come
Meteo France tell we one thing
and the Weather Channel
saying another thing
but one thing ah know
Irma on she way
and nobody know way
she coming going
but she coming
sometimes it take the worst
To bring out the best of human
it is only in these moments
of physical stress
And emotinal duress
That we find our true strength
and that we are at our best
when we have less to mind
and are put to the test
Is when we take time to be kind
so everybody waiting
And we praying
we praying like we never
Please allow me some space in your newspaper to address the people.
Fellow citizens, neighbours and friends it is high time we pay some serious attention to hurricane Irma that is threatening our area. Most of us like to believe that we have time to put everything in place before the onslaught. Experience has shown how wrong that can turn out to be.
The preparation for these types of meteorological phenomena is and will remain a yearly ritual, as we are in the hurricane belt and will continue to be so. We can no longer rely on the afterthought of what we could or should have done; the time to act is now.
This hurricane [yesterday – Ed.], Sunday, September 3 is fluctuating between three and four on the [Saffir-Simpson – Ed.] scale which makes it a huge, dangerous and life-threatening storm. In the past few hours it has shifted somewhat southward bringing it almost directly over neighbouring Anguilla.
With reports of hurricane force winds extending fifteen miles from the centre and gale-force winds up to sixty miles out, we will experience serious weather affecting lives, businesses and the economy which is now struggling to rebound at about point five per cent.
If we are convinced we have nothing to do and a lot of time to do it in, please use this time to batten down the hatches. Good sense tells us that waiting for the last minute is foolhardy. Our country needs all of your contributions so it behoves us all if you can remain clear of harm’s way.
To all our NVs: a day or two of no activity is better than months of getting back to normal. Don’t be afraid to err on the side of caution and shut it down, we will deal with that later. There is nothing to see outside in a storm if you are not a first-responder or emergency personnel; keep the streets clear for you would only add to the problem.
Listen to your radio and follow and obey the instructions given by the authorities. Your safety and the protection of life and property is their main concern and they are experienced in dealing with hurricanes, counting the number we had since 1995. Fellow St. Maarteners, be safe and I hope we meet again after the storm. It is truly a lot better to be safe than sorry. Good luck and blessings to us all.
My boyfriend has a habit of breaking dates or just not showing up as much as half the time and he never explains why. Other than that he’s everything I could ask for.
I’ve talked to him about this and asked him to let me know when it’s going to happen, but nothing changes.
It also bugs me that he’s never introduced me to any of his friends and we’ve never done anything in a group with them, it’s always just the two of us.
Queenie, what do you think about all this?—Confused girlfriend
Your boyfriend may just be unreliable, but I suspect he is married, or at least in a relationship with someone else, and does not want to take a chance on the other woman in his life finding out about you – and, of course, you finding out about her (or could it possibly be a “him”?).
The first day my mother saw me dressed in uniform getting ready to go to work,
she gave me God's blessing and told me that I must always remember that anytime, anything happen to anybody anywhere, some mother's belly hurt. She said be fair to the people and treat them right.
My Father was the philosopher, so coming from my mother that registered with me until today. All kinds of examples were given to us in the academy, but that one hit home. When I got home in the afternoon after work, and asked her about what she had told me in the morning, she explained that when positive things happen, especially with police people, it is noticed, but soon forgotten. On the contrary, when something negative happens people will always remember that and continue to comment about it.
It is expected for people involved in policing to do the right thing, so doing the right thing would be considered normal. A whole lot of other people do negative things but that will go unnoticed. Whereas once people in policing mess up, it becomes the biggest offense.
I read the results of the court case against the ex-head of VDSM and got the impression as if he was the biggest murderer that Sint Maarten has ever known. The person who supplied them with a lot of vital information. One would think that he had embezzled millions of dollars. If memory serves me well, the amount involved in reality is about seventy-five percent less than he was accused of embezzling, and that those who were supposed to know did the Pilate thing. With the little experience that I have in life and the forty one years in law enforcement.
I know that there are certain standards of procedures, and, security of self, is one. I also know that a sense of integrity is another. I do not know anything about the case other than following it in the papers. But from the onset I knew that security to those involved was laid aside for politics. I cannot remember any such an office being exposed to the public.
When I saw the ribbon cutting in the papers, I informed about it, and I was told that is how they wanted it. That already to me was a no-no. Having an idea how finances for that department is handled, and in this case with no one to secure checks and balances, I told myself the stick is right there to beat that dog. By now we all know that fear and threat took place in prompting the ex-head of VDSM to take those decisions. Is that really fair?
But I must mention this. People in policing and government have always been at logger heads, and up to today there are still problems with salaries and promotions. I am still not sure of the real reason for going at the ex-head of VDSM. Was he railroaded? What would Donald Trump do in a case like this?
I do not think it is far-fetched to think in this manner, because my pension money is being used to bail out bad spenders of government money. The harbour deal, the new government building deal, and we are talking millions. Dubious deals of which we have not heard of anyone being arrested.
Not to talk about the causeway. The Causeway cost us an amount of which I as a taxpayer, a citizen and a voter am still waiting to see the figures, and we are not seeing any kind of returns from that investment. The casino's owed plenty and we only hear an amount of thirteen million. The ex-head of VDSM so-called unaccounted for amount was made to be almost seventy-five percent more than the real amount. And you know what, one mother said “I have to do this", and the other mother’s belly hurt.
Russell A. Simmons
Please allow me to respond to that article entitled “On Parity” in the following manner. I must admire the energy and effort of the writer, but would ask him to be more careful when challenging the Democratic Party of Statia. We do our research and present the facts to the people of Statia in accordance with our code of ethics. We have no desire to scare or frighten our citizens, but we do believe that all is better served with truthful and factual information.
In his letter of the 8th of June 2015, Minister Plasterk informed the second chamber of the Netherlands about the tax and premium income and total Federal Expenses of the Caribbean Netherlands, divided over Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba for the year 2014.
Of the €110 million collected in the BES Islands, €13 million or 11, 8 % was collected on Statia. A whopping 80% of that income was collected on Bonaire. Of the €287 million in total BES expenditures, €54 million was attributed to Statia. €13/€54=24%; this means that the Dutch Government is covering 76% of our expenses, or three times the taxes and premiums generated on Statia. Until other information is available this is the information we will continue to refer to.
I also noticed Glen that you omitted to mention the €42 million that the Dutch Government pays into the BES Fund, which is paid out as free allowance, bringing the total expenditures for 2016 to €340 million, instead of the €298 you quoted in your article. You need to get your information straight, recalculate your parity and explain how income generated by Bonaire will finance an autonomous Statia.
We are all for more autonomy and support all actions that lead to a more self-sufficient and sustainable Statia. Being able to carry your own load is the real key to more autonomy. Our focus therefor should be to build our economy and improve the wellbeing of our people. We in no way can support a coalition government that has divorced itself from the very essential funding available to Statia to help us on our way.
While Statia is content to argue and fight the Dutch every step of the way, Bonaire and Saba are grabbing what they can. I never thought in all my years we would be arguing over the size, and fighting for a bill the Dutch Government is content to pay on behalf of the people of Statia.
What is interesting to know is what sacrifices Glen and the coalition government are asking the people of Statia to make? Will the universal health care remain intact? What will be the amount of old age pension and social benefits? Will our teachers and civil servants continue to receive their yearly periodic increases and cost-of-living adjustments? What about the regular CLA adjustments? Will education continue to be free?
My advice to you Glen is to stay far from the issue of integrity, leave that for someone else. Correct your numbers and recalculate your parity and focus on Statia, not the three Islands together. Bonaire’s revenues belong to Bonaire. Come out of the clouds; there’s no autonomy without responsibility.
Advisor to the Democratic Party of Statia
How do you introduce someone you’re living with but not married to? You can’t say “husband” or “wife” because you’re not legally married, but “boyfriend” or girlfriend” seems too casual, “partner” sounds like a business relationship, “lover” sounds like it’s just for sex and “significant other” is just a big mouthful.
Any suggestions, Queenie?—Introduction Etty Ket
Dear Etty Ket,
I understand your dilemma.
How about “life partner”? Or does that seem too permanent? Maybe “live-in boyfriend/girlfriend”?
But you do not need to explain the details of your relationship at first introduction. It is enough to say, “This is (whatever his or her name is),” and leave the further details for later conversation as the need comes up.
I must applaud the Minister of Finance Richard Gibson and his cabinet for making it possible to have consecutive balanced budgets for three years, no small feat and also presenting it on time to Governor Eugene Holiday. This is really no small feat.
One should not underestimate the heated debates that possibly took place during the discussions on where and how much to cut. Every ministry has its priorities and probably some more than others, but in the final analysis a compromise had to be reached as time was of essence. If government continues on this trend, which also should include surpluses then it means more funds available for government to meet its vital responsibilities.
We are all aware of the issues with the Police Force relating to the function book, payment arrears and so on; the much-needed repairs to schools and much more. What must be remembered is that with five years consecutive balanced budgets there is a possibility that the Committee for Financial Supervision will no longer be needed. Some might want it to be in place while others, like myself, would prefer that not to be the case for the simple fact that they determine whether the budget is feasible or realistic.
While Parliament and Government have the responsibility of providing seriously needed social welfare to those who are in dire need of such. In his opinion, the CFT looks at figures and he looks at people. I believe the way forward is to have a department set up separately to look at the financial management of each ministry. This was started in the past but for some reason it was halted. What must be ensured is that there is waste management and he is not talking about the sanitary landfill. It is a discipline that all of us need to practice.
Finally, the mention again by the Minister of the 40-million-guilder upgrade a long awaited process for a long neglected Inspectorate of Taxes is of utmost importance. We are in the 21st century and modern technology is available. It should not be that almost for some 25 years now one still has to wait two years or more to collect his/ her tax refund. The United States of America pay their tax refunds in April of the following year. Case in point on April 2017, taxes for 2016 were paid.
Again congratulations to the ones involved in having this draft budget ready on time. No small feat.
Member of Parliament
My husband and his first wife shared custody of their children until the kids reached adulthood and they still are is still on good terms. Now that the kids are grown up I don’t see why she still has to be around for family occasions and holidays and the like.
Queenie, am I being unreasonable?—Jealous of the ex-wife
Face it: Even though his children are now adults, your husband’s ex is still part of their family, so any occasion that involves them, such as holidays, their birthdays, weddings, etc., will probably include her. However, I see no reason why she should be included in your personal special occasions, even if the children are.
It is important to evaluate our representatives in Parliament on an annual basis and not wait until election time. Therefore, St. Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) is developing a parliamentary report card that will indicate how well or how poorly our Members of Parliament (MPs) are doing in the following six areas: attendance, participation, representation, supervision, legislation and interaction. In a previous letter to the Editor, we covered the reason for and the nature of the report card and presented an extensive description of the first benchmark, attendance.
Later on, we dealt with the following benchmarks: participation, representation and supervision. And finally we will describe the last two benchmarks of the report card i.e. legislation and interaction.
The legislative function of Parliament is anchored in article 82 of the Constitution, which states, “National ordinances shall be enacted jointly by the Government and Parliament.” In other words, Parliament is co-legislator together with Government. Parliament as well as Government may initiate or draft laws, which must follow the legally prescribed route and procedures in order to reach their final destination, which is approval by Parliament.
During the first six years of Parliament, approximately 40 laws were presented by the Government and passed by Parliament. With the exception of the budget laws, all the other laws were adoptions or amendments to laws that were already in force in the Netherlands Antilles.
Sadly, in the nearly seven years of the existence of our Parliament, not one law, initiated or drafted by Parliament itself, reached its final destination. The very first draft initiative ordinance, namely the law to eliminate the abuse of the temporary labour contract, was submitted on June 6, 2012 by the National Alliance (NA) fraction. That was more than five years ago. To date this law has not been approved but is still in the pipeline.
When we look at individual parliamentarians initiating laws, the annual reports of Parliament only make mention of Petrus de Weever who submitted a motion in June 2011 to amend the timeshare laws in St. Maarten. However, according to The Daily Herald of April 12, 2013 MPs Frans Richardson and Johan Leonard also submitted a draft initiative law to ban the import, distribution and sale of plastic bags. In conclusion, the legislative functioning of Parliament and of parliamentarians, as far as initiating laws is concerned, is seriously lacking and would certainly receive a failing grade.
Interaction refers to parliamentarians interfacing and communicating with the voters and the public. During the campaign period, prospective parliamentarians were daily in the face of the people. They interacted on a one-on-one basis or with groups via social media, radio and television talk shows, home contact meetings, town hall and public meetings. However, after the election all contact with the people was severed. In fact, it seems as if parliamentarians now try to avoid the public.
The interaction benchmark will evaluate how parliamentarians stay in touch with the public. They will be evaluated on how frequently they interact via their websites and other social media.
We will look at how often a parliamentarian goes on radio and television talk shows to inform or enlighten the public about issues relevant to them and their community. Does he/she keep in touch with the people via the print media or via town hall meetings? Does the parliamentarian visit companies, organisations or businesses to get a first-hand feel of what is going on? The interaction benchmark will give the people an idea of how well or how poorly a parliamentarian is keeping in touch with the public.
In SMCP’s Manifesto, a chapter was included entitled “Post-Election Agenda.” The purpose of this activity is to keep in touch with the people. Most political parties and their candidates only reach out to the public prior to the elections to get your vote. But SMCP believes that the people are always important and therefore wants to also reach out to the people after the election. The party planned to do so via general membership meetings, media and social media, lectures and town hall meetings. I have not seen this kind of commitment to the voters and the public in any other Manifesto.
Rather than wait until campaign time to talk about what a parliamentarian did or did not do and how well or how poorly he/she executed their parliamentary functions, the SMCP intends to evaluate members of Parliament at the end of each parliamentary year and present their scorecard to the general public.
Consequently, at the end of their term of office, the public can judge for itself as to which parliamentarians were functioning and which ones were not. The parliamentarian who attended meetings, represented and interacted with the people, carried out his/her supervisory task, etc. deserves another chance.
But the parliamentarian who said nothing of substance in Parliament, who did not read the documentation, who did not attend meetings and who did not interact with the public should definitely not be rewarded with another four years in Parliament. The report card is simply a tool to help the people make the right choice.
Leader of the St. Maarten Christian Party
The public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba, have reached parity with the Netherlands where it concerns sharing the cost of running and developing these three islands. What this means is that the islands and Holland are sharing the cost (almost) equally.
The facts, according to the Annual Accounts of the Dutch Ministry of Finance, show that in 2016 the total expenditure on the three islands was 298 million euros; of this amount 146 million euros was raised on the islands through taxes by the Dutch tax regime. That is a 51 to 49 per cent division for Holland and the islands respectively.
This information is very important in light of Statia’s expressed desire for a more autonomous position in the kingdom and being able to do more decision-making locally.
It is also important to counter the continued disinformation and misinformation being spread by opponents of more autonomy who have no limits spreading lies and false information to confuse the people of Statia shamelessly.
As I have written in the past, I regularly listen to the weekly radio programme of the Statia Democratic Party (DP) aired on Friday’s and hosted by the DP leader and Island Council member Adelka Spanner, Island Council member Koos Sneek, and party candidate and advisor Ernie Simmons. These folks leave no stone unturned in trying to convince the public in Statia that we as an island cannot handle autonomy because of the high cost and our inability and limitations. The worst part is they resort to outright lies in trying to convince the public and make their point.
Time and again I hear these folks say that Holland is spending three to four times our tax revenues on top of those taxes that we pay. That would mean that Holland spends as much as five times our tax revenues on these islands, which would be five times 146 million equals 730 million euros per year. Compare that with the actual spending of 298 million in 2016.
It is therefore clear that these folks are peddling false and misleading information on a weekly basis in their programme. And despite my earlier stories on this behaviour they continue to find new topics with which to mislead their listeners. The desperation drips off by the bucket loads.
The constitutional future of a people is a serious matter and the least the people must expect from their leaders and politicians, media, and others in the public eye, is that they provide factual and accurate information that serves to educate our people and not to mislead as we ponder decisions of such magnitude. In this respect the DP radio programme fails miserably, but wilfully, since they have been put in the spotlight on this already.
Numbers will change from year to year and if the Dutch Government would release tax information for each island we would know exactly where Statia stands in this. What is also clear is that in the first years of this new status much had to be invested in upgrades and innovations, and working away backlogs in education, healthcare, infrastructure, and other areas. As these investments are completed and austerity measures are implemented over time, the spending of the Dutch Government will decline.
Due to population growth and economic growth, tax revenues can be expected to increase over time, and as a result the portion of expenditures covered by the islands can be expected to increase. I predict it will not be long before we will move from parity to dominance, meaning the islands completely covering their full cost. We see it happening now in the now autonomous countries Aruba, Curaçao, and St. Maarten, so why not in our islands as well, with proper financial management and smart economic development.
There is hope for Statia, and we Statia people must keep the faith. Nothing comes easy in life but the harder and longer the struggle, the sweeter will be the victory; so press on toward more autonomy, in Jesus name.
There is no universal definition for luxury tourism. One person’s luxury is another’s ordinary.
Even if there was a definition of a tweet length, what purpose does it serve? Why hide behind academic fabricated definition that is no better than an astrological horoscope profile that one can read in a boulevard magazine. Everyone has his own perception what luxury tourism is, according to his own needs, desires or commercial interests. All the perceptions have wild variations.
The perspectives are also multi-layered. There is already a distinction between ultra-luxury and affordable luxury. For those who like the idea of developing luxury tourism for the benefit of a destination how about a straight talk three-word definition like “Big Spender Tourism?”
The first thing that may come to mind for the development of such tourism segment is five-star-plus hotels. I would consider such naive thinking. My primary thoughts would be about what this clientele is really looking for, how does it fit in their lifestyle, and what might meet their expectations.
Here are the ten things that they expect:
* Secluded pristine white sandy beachfront with crystal clear and turquoise waters.
* Lush tropical emerald greenery with palm trees and flower bursting landscaped gardens.
* Boutique properties styled after traditional island architecture.
* Harmonious sense of place that blends masterfully into the natural surroundings.
* Private utopia to unwind, lifetimes away from the hustle and bustle.
* Daily life adorned with elegance, intimacy and serenity.
* Savouring the spice-of-life in a heaven like paradise.
* Impeccable personalised, detail-oriented service delivered by a passionate team.
* Unmatched sophisticated amenities in style with contemporary comforts.
* Cultural authenticity and genuine conviviality of the Caribbean.
These are the development benchmarks that need to be considered. If one cannot meet eight of the ten on this list, the advice would be to try, try harder or start re-thinking. Mind that this listing nowhere includes the two words that you might have expected, “luxury” or even “hotel.” Commonly recognised as the Caribbean hub for exclusive guests like celebrities and tycoons, St. Barths apparently has twice as many villas that are rented out than it has hotel rooms.
The next thing that may come to mind as essential to develop this exclusive tourism segment is to have a big international airport to receive these guests; again, naive thinking. If we use a bit more class and elegance to replace the crude definition “Big Spender Tourism,” this category of people is usually known as high-net-worth-individuals (HNWI) and ultra-high-net-worth-individuals (UHNWI).
Most of these affluent persons arrive on private jets. Many of these jets only need a runway of about 5,000 feet/1500 metres even when they come from far-away. Some of the most beloved island destinations worldwide can only be reached via a hub airport. The one claim that can be made with high accuracy is that “Big Spenders” typically don’t arrive from abroad with cheap airlines or low-cost-carriers.
Surveys and research in the Caribbean have indicated that private flyers spend an average of US$ 69,000 on that destination. Furthermore, these visitors do have the means to invest in a destination, if they like the location. It underlines the thesis that depending on “headcount statistics” is one of the worst mistakes made in tourism development. How much each “head” actually spends is a better indicator for what concept should be advanced. To top it all off, HNWI are more loyal visitors to return to a particular destination and in many cases more than once per year. Destinations that offer more authenticity and are less commercialised are more to their liking. These people may not be considered vacationers anymore.
The multiple visits can make them integrated part-time members of the community and they may become valued friends. There is not only a positive economic impact coming from this visitor segment. It has a positive social impact also. The affluent individuals are usually successful individuals. The saying goes that success breeds success. It may be a bit of exaggeration but it could rub off on a community that has to adapt to the expectations and demands of their guests who are actually raising the bar.
The upscale guests who have personal preferences that combine enrichment, enjoyment, but also education, can encourage communities to maintain their culture and society. They appreciate access to the local people, places and experiences that represent all that is authentic about a destination.
Becoming more affected to a community and destination may result in an increased willingness to assist in improving the quality of life of the members of a community. These visitors, who often wish to immerse into local culture more than ever before, will protect the natural resources and the culture of a destination for future generations.
A fact is that on the international tourist market, there is one segment that keeps expanding regardless of any set-backs, be it recession, increased full prices, currency fluctuations; the upscale or luxury market remains on top like oil on water.
I’m not advocating that luxury tourism is something all could or should pursue. In cases where destinations put more emphasis on mass-tourism, it is hardly feasible because the two segments are like the oil of the affluent and the water of the masses, and they just don’t mix.
While others see the minimum standard of luxury tourism as the development of five-star hotels, I have tried to give you a different exclusive boutique perspective. You can believe and do what you want, but if all of the above is appealing for destination tourism development, the clear-text advice is “If you really want it, get your back up off the wall and get down it.”
Commander Bud Slabbaert,
Initiator and coordinator of the annual Caribbean Aviation Meetup conference
Ever since my husband died his family has been critical of everything I do. They didn’t like the arrangements I made for his funeral or the headstone I chose for his grave. When they visit the cemetery they throw away the flowers I put on his grave and put their own instead.
Queenie, should I just ignore them and not have anything to do with them?—Widow in still mourning
Your husband’s family is also mourning his death, so try to have a little patience with them.
If you have children, cutting contact with their father’s family would deprive them of having a relationship with their grandparents and any aunts, uncles and cousins, so I would not advise complete non-contact, but you might want to limit time spent with them until all of you have learned to deal with your grief. Counselling by your clergyman or a professional counsellor might also help.
If no children are involved, do whatever you need to do for your own sake.
My BFF is planning to marry a man who she knows has a record for sexual assault. I think she is making a BIG mistake.
Now they have invited me to the wedding.
Queenie, should I go even though I don’t approve?—Undecided
I depends on how strongly you feel about this match and whether you can manage to hide your feelings and at least pretend to enjoy the occasion for the sake of the bride. If you can do that, go. But if your presence might cast a cloud of disapproval over the event, send your regrets and stay away.
I read Mr. Ferrier's letter to you concerning the homeless and immediately Statia came to mind. The first time I visited St. Eustatius, was in 1976 to assist our colleagues with the celebration of the Bicentennial. Since then after hurricane LUIS in 1995 I went to replace the post Commandant yearly when he went on vacation. The lay of the land intrigued me and I wondered why were we not getting any more Statia Yams. Then the thought came to me that this could be a solution to get the illegal drug addicts off the road and make them also productive at the same time.
As the Dutchman would say: "twee vliegen in een klap." I am not a professional social worker and do not know exactly how it should be done, but my idea at that time was to gather those illegal drug addicts and have them plant food on a designated piece of land on Statia and house them and treat them there until they recovered. Yes, I am aware that 10-10-'10 is usually used as a scapegoat when we try to cross borders, but then why are we a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands?
Why is Mark Rutte the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and not only of Holland? If that is so, should not William Marlin use the title Chief Minister like is done in Anguilla which is also part of the (United Kingdom) Great Britain? And should we not stress on the word reciprocity?
So yes I agree with Mr. Ferrier that we should have that conversation and with everybody who is willing to help. If there is a will there should be a way and that should be much cheaper than sending our sick to Columbia and Santo Domingo. I hope also that we reach much further than we have reached with our air traffic. I do not understand why, if there is an airline which belongs to the Kingdom (KLM) why we would have so much trouble travelling between the islands of the Kingdom? Not to mention the airfare. If we are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and we have ships which travel all over the world (KNSM) why can't we have at least one ship travelling between the islands of the Kingdom?
The Dutch are stressing on us about integrity, can I ask Mr. Bosman who always knows the answers when it comes to Kingdom relations, especially between Holland and the other islands, if this kind of behaviour of Holland falls under the heading of “lack of integrity?” Are we really willing to solve problems?
Russell A. Simmons
Nowadays, short of quarantining oneself completely, there is no escape from the news, particularly from reports of folks going back in the past, seemingly, in an effort to address and redress past and present ills. These reports and September’s back-to-school fast approaching may have stirred up old impressions and prompted this attempt to revisit the Sandy Ground of the mid 50s and early 60s, the Sandy Ground of my youth: the old Sandy Ground.
My husband never gives me gifts on special occasions like my birthday or our anniversary, if he even remembers them at all.
Queenie, this really hurts my feelings!—Neglected wife
Does your husband ignore you all the time, or only your special occasions? If it is the former, you have a problem that you should discuss with him and perhaps a professional counsellor. However, if it is only the special occasions, it may be the way he was raised and he needs to be re-educated.
When the next special occasion approaches, borrow his credit card (or ask him for cash if he does not have a credit card) and go out and buy yourself something special (but not too expensive). Then, when the date arrives, present the gift to yourself in his presence and make a big fuss about thanking him for it. Continue this custom until he learns to remember – if he ever does. Either way you will have your celebration and he will be a part of it, whether or not he learns to remember in advance.