Officials from the EU monitoring committee visit French Quarter Collège with Vice-President Yawo Nyuiadzi. Reconstruction of a new 600-student Collège has been budgeted at 8,855,000 euros, of which the EU contributed 5.2 million euros. Work starts in August 2020 for an opening in September 2021.
MARIGOT–President Daniel Gibbs has given an update on the European funding programme and allocations to St. Martin following a plenary session with the monitoring committee from the European Commission in Hotel de la Collectivité recently. A delegation of representatives from the Ministries of Labour, Agriculture and Overseas Territories was also present.
The last meeting on the subject was in May to look at how funds have been utilized in the 2014-2020 programme and to look at progress since then.
“The purpose of this meeting is all the more important and decisive, as the end of programming approaches,” said Gibbs in his preamble. “I would like to stress this point, because it is crucial: all operations must be launched and scheduled before the end of December 2020. That is in thirteen months. Stakes are high for the territory because of the delay in mobilizing funds following the devastating Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Our priority today is to continue to mobilize the available funds to meet critical needs within the time frame set.”
Gibbs noted as far as European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) is concerned nearly 28 million euros has been mobilized to date for projects to strengthen the competitiveness of local businesses, particularly in the tourism sector.
Since Irma, nearly 3 million in ERDF funding has contributed to the recovery of tourism on the island which was welcomed. ERDF has also been asked to support the reconstruction component, in particular by bringing the 600-student secondary school in Quartier d’Orléans up to standard. Over 5.2 million euros has been mobilized for this operation.
Other projects already earmarked will mobilise ERDF funds for the reconstruction by the end of the year, such as the rehabilitation of the Sandy Ground bridge currently under way, for a total investment of 1.6 million euros. In regard to European Social Funds (ESF), over 7 million euros has been mobilized.
“This makes it possible to support the implementation of a territorial vocational training programme, mobility assistance schemes for students and initiatives by external project leaders, such as post-Baccalaureate diploma courses run by the GRETA training institute in St. Martin,” Gibbs added. “As for Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) funds, they have so far been fully programmed.
“Further efforts will have to be made before the end of programming to avoid the risk of losing funds from the global grant. An increased effort will be made to implement the many projects already identified and which will be co-financed by the ESF. These include: actions to bring young people closer to the world of work: holiday jobs for high school students, summer jobs for young people without diplomas, training, or who are neither in employment nor in education or training; and driving licence financing schemes for young people in particular to increase their employability.”
He noted the 46-million-euro allocation from ESF has continuously mobilized the Collectivité services and made it possible to carry out emergency and clearance operations to restore the functioning of public services and the rehabilitation of infrastructure – water and sanitation, and school buildings. “Considerable work has been carried out by our teams, under difficult material conditions, to recover eligible expenditure within the time limits set, that is until February 29, 2020. I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that we had to work within extremely tight deadlines imposed by the State.
“The funds were released in July 2018 and as a first step, we were forced to send the invoices back by December 31, 2018, a date that had been postponed, not without difficulty and on several occasions until the end of September, i.e. still five months before the real deadline for payment.
“To date, we have raised 38.5 million euros. In the three months remaining, we would have been able to meet the challenge and keep our commitments if the State had loyally favoured the reconstruction of St. Martin over its own budgetary and accounting interests. It is no secret that the ‘urgent emergency’ period, whose deadline of August 2019 (almost two years after the disaster) has been very severely punished, resulted in several million ‘ineligible’ invoices.”