SIMPSON BAY--Organisers of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta were advised late on Friday, February 19, one week before the 36th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, that the long-awaited subsidy payment for last year’s 2015 event will not be made by the Government of St. Maarten.
The Regatta organisation said in a press release that it had been working alongside the St. Maarten Tourism Office to market the island of St. Maarten and had operated on the advice and promises of both the Tourism Office and multiple Ministers of Tourism holding office over the last 18 months.
The advice and promises continually made were that the event would receive its backdated funding as agreed, before the 2016 event began. This promise was made as recently as January 29, 2016.
“The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta has been operating under the guidelines of Government for more than a decade and has always provided the financial statements as required,” the release stated. “The 2015 financial statements were submitted on time to the Tourism Office by the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.
“With regard to the financial guidelines, the organisers of the Regatta were recently told its financial statements for the 2015 fiscal year would need to be audited, unlike the agreed-upon convention from previous years. Furthermore, the organisers of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta were told by the previous four Ministers of Tourism that the stipulation for audited financial statements was waived.”
St. Maarten Heineken Regatta Steering Committee Chairman John Gifford said regarding the submissions that nothing had been done differently compared to previous years.
“It’s a surprise and the way the terms have been changed and the goalposts moved is disappointing. We recognise the difficulties of having multiple ministers in the last year and budget cuts, but it’s very hard to move forward on trust and false promises,” he said.
“The Carnival got their money and they have the same onus on them to provide the same information. There’s one set of rules for them and one for us. But we’re not begrudging Carnival that they got their money. We’re all in this for the island.”
St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) submits its financials annually around March, after the close of its fiscal year in December. SCDF’s last two financial reports were prepared by reputable firms PricewaterhouseCoopers and Baker Tilly. SCDF is scheduled to present its financials to the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication Irania Arrindell and Minister of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sports Silveria Jacobs this week.
Gifford disclosed the Regatta’s marketing budget had been cut and the island receives no marketing this year, similar to last year.
“We’ve borrowed from one of our partners and are looking for ways to cover our losses. A 10 per cent cut in the budget is perfectly understandable, but having been put in this position from the previous year’s subsidy we are certainly not going to go out pre-spending money. I’m not saying for a moment intentions are not good, but at this moment it’s very difficult for us to get suppliers to grant us a line of credit against our history,” he said.
“We are aware that the money hasn’t been there. It’s pretty obvious when there’s a
300,000 guilder hole in your budget and it’s been a year, but we are going to make the Regatta the best it can be under the circumstances. We have some terrific sponsors that have stepped up and helped us, but we are running in the red. It’s not sustainable and eventually something has to give.”
Despite the financial woes, Gifford said: “We assure all those participating in the 2016 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta that despite the funding cuts and possible changes to the programme, we will present the island with a world-class event that will be ‘serious fun.’”