Gov’t requests 2nd postponement of airport bridge loan repayment | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–The St. Maarten government has asked its Netherlands counterparts for a second postponement of the repayment of the bridge loan issued to Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) in 2019, said Interim Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs at the Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday.

Jacobs said she had requested the postponement in a letter to Dutch acting Minister of Interior and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops. “As soon as we have received a response to that [letter – Ed.], the public can be updated,” she said.

The bridge loan repayment was originally due on November 15, 2019. However, it was decided in a Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting at the time to delay repayment for two months. The new due date was then set for yesterday, January 15.

In March 2019, then-Finance Minister Perry Geerlings signed an agreement with the Dutch government for PJIA to receive a US $15 million bridge loan. This was in addition to a $5 million loan the airport received in January 2019. At the time, these funds were seen as emergency measures to guarantee liquidity support for the airport while the funding agreements for the reconstruction of the terminal building were being finalised.

While all five agreements to finance the airport’s reconstruction have been signed, about $62.7 million is still being withheld by the bondholders due to some of the “smaller conditions” outlined in the agreements being “unsatisfactorily adopted,” according to Jacobs.

“The remainder of the insurance proceeds will only be released once all the effectiveness and disbursement conditions for the World Bank grant agreement, the World Bank on-lending agreement, the EIB [European Investment Bank] finance contract, and the EIB on-lending facility have been fulfilled, including the disbursement conditions for liquidity support facility that is part of the World Bank grant agreement and [its] on-lending facility agreement,” she said.

These outstanding conditions include final appointments to the airport’s project team, the finalisation of PJIA’s project operations manual, and other areas related to corporate governance. Additionally, all members of the airport’s management, supervisory and holding boards must be screened, said Jacobs. “The process has started, but it has not been finalised,” she said.
Interim Finance Minister Ardwell Irion told The Daily Herald last week that PJIA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Brian Mingo was recently in the Netherlands to conclude the contract of the new PJIA chief financial officer (CFO), who will be loaned to the airport from the Schiphol Group. This newspaper understands that the appointment of a CFO was one of the required conditions.

Jacobs confirmed that the bondholders had released $5 million as liquidity support on signing the reconstruction finance agreements. However, these funds could not be used to repay the bridge loan, as the money was necessary to continue financing PJIA’s operations, she said.
When asked for an estimated date when all the conditions would be met, Jacobs said discussions with various partners still had to take place to determine “a realistic timeline.” Some of these partners are PJIA, the World Bank, and the National Recovery Programme Bureau (NRPB).

Source: The Daily Herald