POND ISLAND–A “political spin” was put on his expressions of frustration on behalf of the people of St. Maarten about the accessibility to Dutch recovery fund and the resulting “surprise” expressed by the Dutch Parliament resulted for that spin, Finance Minister Mike Ferrier said on Sunday evening.
Ferrier was referring to an article quoting him in the Dutch daily de Telegraaf and the subsequent comments his quote drew from the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on May 18.
Ferrier reiterated that everything he said in the Dutch daily “is a fact … Of the money allocated by the Dutch government to the recovery trust fund, none has yet been accessed by the interim government headed by Prime Minister Leona Marlin.”
“I chose to express the frustration of the reality on St. Maarten. Not for my own benefit; I have no political agenda. I am not staying on as minister. My frustration is rooted in the lack of urgent help for some of our people who are still in desperate need. There is not a lack of will or commitment from St. Maarten. There is also not a lack of appreciation for the help that is on the way.”
He added, “However, a lot can be lost in translation when politics gets involved. In Holland, political parties, already sceptical of St. Maarten, are spinning the story to make political hay by grabbing hold of my comments. We all would be well served by remembering who this recovery is for. It is not for the politicians on either side of the ocean. It is for the people without a roof over their heads or a job right here on St. Maarten. I live this reality every day!”
The only Dutch funds (cash, not services) that have reached St. Maarten to date (May 18), are those sent directly by the Dutch government to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), he pointed out.
Further, the 13 million euros donated by the people of the Netherlands were given to the Red Cross for distribution on St. Maarten via various programmes, not under the guidance, or with involvement of the present government.
Due of a lack of trust in the body politic on St. Maarten, The Hague chose to use an intermediary, the World Bank. “As such, the Rutte Cabinet is accountable to the Dutch population, represented by the Second Chamber, for the use of the funds. This choice is understood, acknowledged and respected,” said Ferrier.
Since January 15, the local civil servants have diligently worked on understanding and applying World Bank rules. “This is a process that has and continues to consume the attention of just about all our available local government expertise.”
The “dilemma” is that the limited government expertise is “simultaneously needed to do three things” – run the day-to-day operations of government, manage and guide the country’s recovery post Hurricane Irma and learn on the job how to do items while taking a crash course in learning and applying World Bank rules, norms, protocols and procedures.
Among the challenges of the Minister of Finance is having to deal with sharply-reduced government income and greatly-increased government expenditures, Ferrier said. This means “living on a daily basis with the frustrations of not being able to come to the aid of many of our citizens fast enough.”
In October 2017, the parliamentary majority of United People’s (UP) party, Democratic Party and independent Member of Parliament Chanel Brownbill agreed with the conditions set by the Dutch to make way for the release of promised Dutch funds; the conditions were establishing an integrity chamber and beefing up border control. Disagreement with those conditions caused the former National Alliance (NA) government to collapse.