Marcel Gumbs to reprise liaison role for Team Gibbs administration

MARIGOT–Former Dutch-side Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs said on Friday at the Victor Schoelcher Fête that he was “privileged and honoured” to be invited by President of the Collectivité Daniel Gibbs to join his advisers in assuming a role of liaison officer for cooperation between both French and Dutch-side governments, and neighbouring islands.

Gumbs told The Daily Herald the appointment should come into effect this year but the subject had already been discussed before Gibbs became President of the Collectivité.

Gibbs said he will be consulting Préfète Déléguée Anne Laubies on how this invitation will be formalised in a workable manner.

In a postscript to his Victor Schoelcher speech Gibbs noted he has had a long working relationship with Marcel Gumbs who he said is the one person who knows how important cooperation is to both sides of the island.

“He (Marcel) is the key to finding decent cooperation, because if we cannot cooperate between ourselves, how can we expect to cooperate with the region, with Anguilla, St. Barths, with St. Kitts or Antigua?” Gibbs questioned.

Marcel Gumbs, who was briefly Prime Minister in 2014 to November 2015, originally began the liaison officer role on request of the Dutch-side government in 2007 on a one-year contract but it continued informally after that whenever the need arose.

“I’ve always said I want to help the island in any form or fashion, so we’ve had a few meetings since Gibbs was elected, and we decided there is a need for it,” explained Gumbs. “The intention is for me to join his team of advisers as an adviser on cooperation and collaboration. He has chosen to make use of my knowledge, experience and network of contacts to make a contribution to the island. I’ve always seen the island as one. It’s time we really started working closely together.

“A lot has to be done….harmonisation of taxes is one important issue because you can’t raise taxes on one side without talking to the other side. We’ve seen this in the past when the then Antillean government raised the gasoline tax and all the business went to the French side with the result that less taxes came in for the government. And there are other issues that need attention.”

Asked about the apparently stalled 10-million euro European Union (EU)-funded joint sewage treatment plant project for Cole Bay, Gumbs said he is hoping this project can be re-started but sounded sceptical on whether it is still a priority for the Dutch-side government.

“If that’s the case, it puts the funding at risk,” he said. “There are court cases on-going over where the plant was supposed to go. My cabinet had reached an agreement with Port de Plaisance to swap a piece of land to make that happen. But you risk losing the funding if you don’t use it by the time limit. I hope we can restart not only this project but others in the pipeline.”

He said EU funding envelopes under regional cooperation that are not being used fast enough get rolled over.

“If you don’t make use of the funds the Parliament in Europe could vote to reduce them or withdraw them and that would be a pity. This joint project (sewage treatment plant) was intended to be a showcase model for European financing with funds coming from both envelopes, the French side as an Ultra Peripheral Territory (UPT) and the Dutch side as Overseas Country and Territory (OCT).

“It would have been a first. But I still hope to get it going again and it will open a door for other joint projects for French and Dutch sides funded by the EU.”

The sewage plant project was moving forward until tensions arose between Dutch and French sides over the Oyster Pond border issue but it was not certain if this was the sole cause of the project being put on hold.

According to information obtained from the French side, documents were supposed to be signed by both governments for allocation of the EU funds by the October 2016 deadline after a plot of land in Cay Bay was approved by a European commission overseeing the project. But no documents were signed. The last meeting of the steering committee was held in July 2016. It remains to be seen whether the original EU funding can still be obtained.

Source: The Daily Herald