Chris: Numbers for hospital do not add up, fleecing continues. A hospital that cost as much as the airport? | SOUALIGA NEWSDAY

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Tuesday likened the stalled construction of the hospital to a “pitiful drama”, complete with a cast of characters that should win an award for the fiction they have portrayed to the people of St. Maarten. In fact, The MP added, “even the King of The Netherlands was shocked when he was told that the construction cost increased by 50%. “The King was so taken aback he had to ask ‘five-zero’?

MP Emmanuel has been questioning the progress of the hospital construction for over two years with queries to government, several press releases and publishing videos he made of the stalled work at the construction site. To date, neither the government nor the board of the St. Maarten Medical Center has fully explained why the delay and why so much more in cost, backed up by solid data.

“Instead we have seen financial fleecing at the hospital project continue unabated, just like what is happening at the airport. Together the cost of these two projects is approaching US $500. Think about that. And neither is close to completion. When I said in Parliament that the next thing we will hear is that the project will cost 50% more, people looked at me like I was crazy. Well here you go,” MP Emmanuel said.

The MP on Tuesday was reacting to information provided to Dutch King Willem Alexander on Monday. In briefing the King and the royal family, medical center officials told the royals that the cost to be the hospital has “skyrocketed” by 50% plus. “The fact that SMMC officials can tell this to the royal family with a straight face, while the people of St. Maarten has been wondering and pleading for answers, is a slap to the population and raises more questions,” MP Emmanuel said.

“Fifty percent or more of what exactly? The original contract with INSO (predecessor of now FINSO) was US $136 million. In 2018 the hospital signed a loan with a group of lenders and financial institutions in St. Maarten and Curaçao for $75 million. The World Bank provided the hospital with a grant of $25 million from the Dutch trust fund set up after Hurricane Irma. The Netherlands recently provided an extra US $7 million to the project. So is it 50 percent of US $136 million? 50 per cent of US $107 million? Which is it?” MP Emmanuel asked.

“So by the time the hospital is finally completed, 10 years after it started, it could cost over US $200 million. This is more than the re-construction of the airport at this point. And nobody is seeing a problem here? The government of St. Maarten has not asked for a cost breakdown? Is it not time to conduct a systemic investigation into where the money has gone? Millions of dollars and the only thing they could show the royal family is the world’s most expensive foundation because that is all we have gotten, a slab of concrete,” the MP added.

Emmanuel also reminded that the Minister of VSA assured that the public would see “major movement” at the hospital ground in January 2023. It is now February 2023 and instead of work being executed, Emmanuel said, additional vague information was shared to the public, through the royal family. He further reminded that this latest news comes on the heels of what he called a “carefully crafted, cunning and misleading” press release from the government in late 2022 announcing that SMCC and FINSO signed an LOI “regarding the adjusted terms for the construction of St. Maarten General Hospital (SMGH) in the presence of Minister of VSA Omar Ottley, marking the next step in the continuation of the project.”

He said the obvious questions were why was a LOI needed? Is this a financial issue or a supply issue? If only the latter, why a LOI? Is the project going to cost more or less? Has additional financing from the stakeholders been requested? If yes, how much and from whom? Is SZV giving more money? If yes, how much? “We have gotten no answers,” the MP said.

Regarding the “excuses” of delays due to COVID and the War in Ukraine, the MP said while those two calamities have affected the supply chain of world, FINSO in the meantime have completed two much larger hospitals in two different countries.

“We have also seen major real estate developments on St. Maarten and throughout the Caribbean coming online and being completed in the same time frame. The hospital project on St. Maarten started before COVID or the conflict in Ukraine. We only have the foundation of the basement in place. So it’s either the contractor or financial people at FINSO are incompetent, they have redirected their resources to bigger projects, or there is some serious mismanagement going on. The excuses do not fly anymore and the government of St. Maarten is complicit in this fiasco,” the MP concluded.

Source: Soualiga Newsday,-fleecing-continues-a-hospital-that-cost-as-much-as-the-airport&Itemid=450