Government looking to amend water purchase agreement

PHILIPSBURG–The amount of water that Government purchases from Seven Seas Water under the current “take or pay” clauses of the purchasing agreements have resulted in substantial financial losses for St. Maarten.

Seven Seas Water was approached to see if St. Maarten could get some relief from the minimum take-or-pay clause and its response was both immediate and positive, Health Minister Emil Lee said in a press release.

Lee, who is responsible for the supply of safe drinking water, began an investigation into the financial situation of Government’s position as owner of the public water supply as part of the post-Irma assessments. With major water consumers not in operation he discovered that Irma’s aftereffect would cause Government to lose during 2018 alone a projected NAf. 4 million compared to historical results, it was stated in the release.

Government is obligated to purchase a minimum amount of water from Seven Seas Water on a monthly basis. The company has been producing desalinated water for household and drinking use for the past 10 years at a very high level of quality. GEBE distributes and sells this water for Government. Based on the amount of water purchased at a minimum according to the contract (take or pay), Government was going to bleed money annually for the next several years.

Lee has been authorised by the Council of Ministers to proceed with amendments that will save Government several million guilders over the next several years and beyond. Together with Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Miklos Giterson, amendments to the water purchasing agreements for St Maarten have been submitted and Seven Seas Water has indicated that, as a long-term partner and responsible member of society, this would be acceptable.

During investigation of the current situation with GEBE, Lee learned that GEBE would like for its young professionals to benefit more from the scholarship funds of the Desalination Resource Development Programme (DRDP), which is part of the water contract with Seven Seas Water.

The scholarship funds to allow students to specialise in water engineering are sourced based on water sales. The amendment is necessary and would also benefit the DRDP programme, which will ultimately also provide opportunities for local professionals already working to benefit from scholarships for advanced degrees.

Source: The Daily Herald