~ Future of PJIA and its 270 workers in the hands of all stakeholders ~
AIRPORT–Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Brian Mingo has called on the combined efforts of all stakeholders and interested parties to urgently pull together to get St. Maarten’s premier port of entry out of its poor financial state.
PJIA is finding itself having to juggle cash for the second consecutive month and is being forced to meet liquidity challenges head-on, according to Mingo on Sunday.
“Now, with the end of the February month fast approaching, I am building a financial recovery strategy that would require buy-in from all stakeholders so that PJIAE [the airport operating company – Ed.] can lead the way in a new wave of restoration construction on St. Maarten. We will continue to experience cash shortfalls unless we take action now. St. Maarten is still reporting just over 60 per cent recovery of its hospitality inventory consisting of the main hotels, restaurants, property rentals, etc.,” said Mingo.
He added that investors were cautiously adopting a “wait and see” attitude as they wait for the economy to pick up again, and most will not expose their capital until they see some strong activity in areas of the economy such as the airport.
“PJIA stands ready to be the catalyst for these investors to give them the confidence they need to invest in St. Maarten again. Once the airport is up and running and the airlines will further step up their schedules to the island once again, we can really say we’re really back in business,” Mingo said.
He added that anything other than the signing of agreements to put the airport back on a sound financial footing should be viewed as “unnecessary noise and distractions” that serve no purpose except to hold back development and further risk the future of the airport and the livelihoods of the 270 employees, the families they support and the host of businesses and operations that all depend on the airport operations for their living.
The new chief at the airport said he is hopeful that he can take PJIA’s comprehensive recovery plan and his message to government himself along with the support of his supervisory board and be ready to secure funding for the airport without further delay.
Mingo said management and staff at PJIA have done an amazing job with very little resources and are once again utilising one-third of the airport terminal, much to the appreciation of travelling passengers. However, he notes that these passengers are under the misapprehension that the airport reconstruction is actually underway and they get frustrated and angry at the lack of progress.
“What people do not realise is that the main reconstruction phase has not started yet. We have spent millions of dollars cleaning up, making the environment safe, making the facility useable and as comfortable for passengers as much as possible and we have also spent a massive US $14 million securing the roof alone,” he explained on Sunday.
“What we need immediately is a US $15 million bridge loan that has been allocated by the Netherlands, so that we can meet our immediate liquidity needs and support the cash shortfall, and then a final decision on financing to that. The works can then begin on the reconstruction plans within three weeks and start of construction by July this year.
“If all goes as planned and urgent action is taken now, we will be celebrating the re-opening of our reconstructed airport terminal by Christmas 2020.”
He will send a report outlining his plans to the PJIA Supervisory Board this week and will promote the urgency of the much-needed airport financing.
The airport management team supports the one source of funding and Mingo is ready to accept, with government and board approval, the US $100 million soft loan from the World Bank and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Mingo said government has been most supportive of the airport’s struggles up to now, recognising particular support and interest from Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin, Minister of Finance Perry Geerlings and Minister of Tourism Stuart Johnson.
“I thank government for their input and help so far, but it is not our government alone. The Netherlands, Parliament, the shareholder representative, the Supervisory and Management Boards and the personnel, we also need to come together, to be on the same page, to remain focussed and head in the same direction to fuel the growth of St. Maarten through our number one port of entry,” said Mingo.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/85287-mingo-sounds-alarm-about-pjia-finances