Knops takes look at home-repair projects | THE DAILY HERALD

Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops (right) speaking with the owner of a home at Bunny Ears Cactus Drive in Sucker Garden on Tuesday afternoon. The house is one of 14 which will be rebuilt under the Private Home Repair Programme. At left is Head of the National Recovery Programme Bureau (NRPB) Claret Conner.

PHILIPSBURG–Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops used the first day of his two-day working visit to St. Maarten to see first-hand how the reconstruction of the island after Hurricane Irma is progressing. During his two-day programme Knops will be taking a closer look at a number of reconstruction projects that are financed by the Dutch Government. On Tuesday afternoon he visited three severely damaged private homes. The State Secretary also had a meeting with St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) in Belvedere.

Knops’ visit focuses on concrete results that have been booked so far in reconstruction projects financed through the Trust Fund and managed by the World Bank on behalf of the Netherlands.

On Tuesday Knops visited homes at Soursop Road in St. Peters, Bunny Ears Cactus Drive in Sucker Garden and at Middle Region Road, which will be refurbished under the Private Home Repair Programme.

These three homes are among 14 severely damaged buildings which will all be repaired and fitted with new roofs, doors and windows. The project is to start on Thursday. The work is expected to be completed before the end of this year. In total, the home repair programme includes 200 homes.

Knops was accompanied during his tour by Head of the Dutch Representation Office in St. Maarten Chris Johnson and by representatives of the National Recovery Programme Bureau (NRPB), including Bureau Head Claret Conner.

In the meantime, over 400 houses have been fixed, not just under the Trust Fund that is financed by the Dutch government, managed by the World Bank and implemented by NRPB on behalf of the government of St. Maarten. Home repair programmes have also been carried out by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and non-governmental organisations such as St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) and the Red Cross.

The State Secretary said that the aim of his visit is to speak with people and to see what is being done with projects on the work floor. “It is very good to see that people are happy with the assistance they receive and that they see that there is progress,” Knops said.

However, there is still much to be done. “We’re cooperating well but it is difficult to find sufficient skilled workers to carry out the repairs. Businesses are also investing a lot and also require many construction workers. That is why we have introduced the construction-sector retraining project for persons who became unemployed after the hurricane,” Knops said.

While visiting the Belvedere housing project, State Secretary Knops was confronted with the financial difficulties St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) is experiencing since Irma.

“Money is always our problem. Without money we cannot do anything. After Irma we cannot pay,” SMHDF Director Helen Salomons told Knops at the start of his visit.

Not just the roofs but entire apartment buildings need to be refurbished, including doors and cabinets, but no repairs have been carried out since Irma struck in September 2017. Some apartment buildings have been deserted.

“As these apartments are currently not occupied, we are losing money and now we’re in an even worse situation financially than we were before. This is our drama right now,” Salomons said.

SMHDF representative Telston Bell said there is not one building in Belvedere with a concrete roof. “There are a lot of homes without plywood in front of their windows and no concrete roofs at all. We need to fix this as soon as possible, especially now we’re in the hurricane season. The community is crying on our shoulders on a daily basis. The future looks bleak. There is no concrete and cement, nothing is happening,” he said.

Knops did not make any commitment to SMHDF as public housing is a responsibility of the government of St. Maarten.

Today, State Secretary Knops will be meeting with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and with the Fire Department. He will also be meeting with entrepreneurs Sade Hodge of “Tropical Hair” and Elliot “Elvis” Harrigan of “Picture This” who both have made a new start with the assistance of microcredits.

Source: The Daily Herald