Knops positive about his visit to St. Maarten | THE DAILY HERALD

THE HAGUE/PHILIPSBURG–Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops looks back at a positive two-day visit to St. Maarten, he stated on Wednesday. “We are on the right track with the reconstruction.”

The State Secretary said in a radio interview on Laser 101 the Netherlands wanted to help St. Maarten. “We do so in a careful and transparent manner, with focus on concrete and tangible effects for the St. Maarten people.”

Knops emphasised that St. Maarten does have its own responsibilities, for example in the decision-taking about the 2019 budget. The delay in the approval of the budget is having an adverse effect on the speed of some reconstruction projects, such as Princess Juliana International Airport.

During his visit, Knops received a lot of information about the progress of the reconstruction. He had meetings with the private sector and with representatives of civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). “By working on reconstruction in parallel tracks, we can increase the implementation and execution capacity of projects,” he said.

With the funding of the Trust Fund, made available by the Dutch government, more than 1,000 persons have improved their starting qualification on the labour market. The State Secretary visited a number of these persons at their current workplace.

“The training programme is a good example of the materialising of the reconstruction. People are assisted in a sustainable manner and with their newly acquired skills they can contribute to the reconstruction,” he said.

In a meeting with St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce, Knops was informed about the recovery of the economy and the opportunities for local companies to participate in the reconstruction projects. A viable option is to get into joint ventures with other companies. The State Secretary offered assistance to secure contacts with Dutch companies.

Knops said he was impressed by the entrepreneurs whose businesses were destroyed by the hurricane and who successfully rebuilt with the assistance of micro credits. He also expressed gratitude for the work that many volunteers have done in the local community. “It is important that this work is continued and that the reconstruction funds are available for this.”

Before leaving for St. Eustatius for meetings with government representatives of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, Knops visited the Fire Department and the Marines. He received an update on the annual large hurricane training, HUREX.

On Tuesday, the first day of his visit to St. Maarten, the State Secretary and his delegation went to several heavily damaged houses that have been or are being restored through the Dutch Trust Fund.

Besides the three heavily damaged houses which resort under the private home repair programme and St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation SMHDF, Knops spoke with representative of St. Maarten Development Foundation (SMDF) Keith Franca.

Through the SMDF, 95 homes of senior citizens have been repaired. Knops spoke with Dutch Quarter “Mayor” Christina Hodge. He expressed his appreciation for the work that Hodge does for the community.

Source: The Daily Herald