PHILIPSBURG–More than 200 persons from the private sector in Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten delved deeper into the St. Maarten Trust Fund tendering process through a series of information sessions in the past week. The sessions were a follow-up to an introduction webinar held on May 9.
“Two million still has to be allocated to projects connected to the St. Maarten Trust Fund. The World Bank has two billion available for projects in the region. These are two good reasons to familiarise yourself with the tendering process, as it can mean a wealth of opportunity for your business,” said Chris Johnson, Head of the Dutch Representation Office in St. Maarten, who opened the information session in St. Maarten on behalf of the Dutch government.
The St. Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund is financed by the government of the Netherlands for up to 470 million euros (US $553.4 million) and is administered by the World Bank. The St. Maarten government implements the activities financed by the Trust Fund through the National Recovery Programme Bureau (NRPB).
The sessions in Curaçao and Aruba on June 5 and 7 respectively were well attended. Both chambers of commerce expressed the importance of “working together and creating joint ventures to speed up the recovery of St. Maarten.”
The fully booked session in St. Maarten on June 11 included a wide range of representatives of the business community.
“There is nothing better than rebuilding a home and seeing persons on their feet again,” said Natasha Constant, who attended the info session on behalf of the company Master Fixers. “We are here to learn more about the World Bank tendering process so that we can get involved in upcoming housing and construction projects.”
Others, like Jobert Gabriela of Carib Trans, attended the information session as an opportunity to network: “We were one of the first shipping companies up and running after the hurricane. Our company wants to continue to play a role in the rebuilding process. Today I hope to connect to companies that will work on projects connected to the Trust Fund and that can use our services.”
There were also representatives present who had already been part of Trust Fund projects, such as Yuri Daal of Independent Consulting Engineers (ICE).
“Our company has provided consulting services on projects including the police station repairs and shelter assessments. Yes, working with the World Bank means a lot of ‘paperwork’ for your company. However, we did quickly notice this is beneficial. The checks and balances are in place for a reason – to make sure that a project is completed properly and transparently,” he said.
World Bank representatives kicked off the three information sessions by providing an overview of the Trust Fund.
“The private sector is a key partner in building resilience in St. Maarten and it is exciting to engage with businesses across the Caribbean region. Building back better means increasing resilience not only in housing and infrastructure, but also in social and economic sectors and we need many partners in this transformative process.
“These seminars were a promising step in involving these partners to deliver recovery projects on the ground,” said Michelle Keane, World Bank Manager of the Sint Maarten Trust Fund who presented in Curaçao and Aruba.
NRPB Director Claret Connor followed with a presentation on the role of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan to guide project selection, ongoing projects connected to the Trust Fund, as well as future projects.
“We are very fortunate to have the opportunity of the Trust Fund and support from the World Bank, a triple-A-rated institution, in building back a more resilient and better St. Maarten. I am very pleased to have been told on all of the islands that the information shared in the plenary and the hands-on workshop sessions have met the expectations of those who attended,” Connor said.
Jules van Son, Private Sector Liaison Officer Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (RVO), concluded the plenary session with information on working in consortia and/or joint ventures: “In most cases, especially with large projects, it is necessary to find business partners that are complementary. This entails good preparation, being informed as much as possible about the projects that are of interest, to eventually start with the bidding process.”
The RVO is available for further assistance on this subject, also in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom.
In the second half of the information sessions attendees worked in breakout sessions, one focused on works and one on services to discuss the tendering process step-by-step, the types of tenders that are currently open and those that are expected to open.
The organising parties – World Bank, NRBP, Dutch Representation, Chambers of Commerce and RVO – extended their gratitude to all participants who have attended the information sessions thus far. The information sessions have contributed to increased insight into the supply and demand and capabilities of the private sector in Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten. It has also given all parties a chance to connect with each other.
“It is one of the core responsibilities of the Chamber of Commerce to add value to Chamber membership. By providing this platform, which allows for an exchange of information and networking, we are empowering our local businesses to tap into a world of opportunities when it comes to projects and possible joint ventures connected to the Trust Fund and the World Bank,” explained Jennifer Carty, board member and project liaison for the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Follow-up actions will be formulated and scheduled based on the experiences from these sessions, with a continued goal of increasing information access and cooperation within the private sector.