SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – In observance of the second anniversary of the passing of Hurricane Irma, Prime Minister the Honorable Leona Romeo Marlin addressed the nation.
“To the people of Sint Maarten, our residents and our guests, September 6th, 2017 will be a day that none of us who lived through it or heard of it, will ever forget. Today, marks the 2nd anniversary of the passing of Irma, the most devastating Hurricane to ever hit Sint Maarten. With winds of over 185 miles per hour, the horrific storm left a path of destruction across both sides of Sint Maarten and many of our neighboring Caribbean islands.
Unfortunately, the predictions by many climate change scientists are proving to be accurate, as catastrophic category 5 hurricanes are becoming the norm even during years when the Hurricane Season predictions are below normal.
On behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten, on this Day of Reflection I ask each of you to observe a moment of silence to reflect on your lives, family and friends as we have a lot to be thankful for. I also ask of you to take this moment to pray for our fellow Caribbean brothers and sisters in the Bahamas whose lives are forever changed by the loss of loved ones, property, jobs and their businesses. Their struggles towards a full recovery are only just beginning, a process that we are very much familiar with.
Even though as a country we are not fully recovered since the passing of Hurricane Irma, I encourage each of you to show compassion, empathy and solidarity with the people of the Bahamas. If you may have the means or the resources, I humbly encourage you to contribute whatever you can towards the people of the Bahamas during this critical emergency phase of the first days post Hurricane Dorian.
Yes, we are still in our recovery phase, and there are many who continue to struggle with the trauma and pain that Hurricane Irma has inflicted on Sint Maarten. I want to let you know that this Council of Ministers remains focused on delivering a full recovery to you the people of Sint Maarten. Together we have made some significant accomplishments in the past 2 years many visible and some not so visible, but there is still so much more to achieve and we will get there.
As I look forward, I see a brighter future with new opportunities on the horizon as many of the businesses on the island continue rebuild and reopen their doors including the larger hotel properties. There are also many new investments that are under the way and being developed to help boost our dynamic economy, to return this country to its previous position as the gem of the Caribbean.
As it relates to the National Recovery Plan, Sint Maarten continues on the right track although I would really like the pace of projects to go much faster but the process is teaching us to be patient, as the objectives will soon be achieved. Recently I had the pleasure of attending the graduation of some 200 persons from The Emergency Income Support and Training program funded by the Sint Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund. From its inception until now, this important training project has assisted nearly 1200 persons in our community.
This is just one of the many ongoing projects funded by the Trust Fund and executed by the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB). Recent reports indicate that other projects like the Emergency Debris Management, the Private & Social Home Repair program and the Shelter Repairs are progressing nicely.
Meanwhile, the Airport Terminal Reconstruction project is almost ready to start. Upon the entry into force of the 2019 budget, in early October, the different financing agreements are expected to be signed. With the help of the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the Government of the Netherlands, we have attracted 122 million US Dollars in financing for the airport under extremely favorable conditions. With this financing, and the support of the NRPB and Schiphol, the airport will be able to restore the terminal building to its former glory.
On this Day of Reflection, I encourage each of you to remain steadfast and through faith and perseverance, our beloved country will continue to recover and grow from strength to strength on the foundation built with your resilience and hard work. I also remind you to be prepared and ready for any event or disaster as we are in the peak of the Hurricane Season and as the saying goes, “it only takes one”.
May God bless Sint Maarten and its people, I thank you.”