NRPB director highlights ongoing national recovery | THE DAILY HERALD

From left: Deputy Minister Plenipotentiary Michael Somersall; World Bank Caribbean Country Management Unit Programme Manager Michelle Keane; St. Maarten Steering Group representative Marcel Gumbs; Minister of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports Wycliffe Smith; Minister Plenipotentiary Jorien Wuite; World Bank Director for the Caribbean Tahseen Sayed; and National Recovery Programme Bureau (NRPB) Director Claret Connor.

THE HAGUE–The Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague, headed by Minister Plenipotentiary Jorien Wuite, updated and informed stakeholders, representatives of various ministries, national and international organisations, and professionals from the St. Maarten diaspora in the Netherlands of the recovery process.

In his presentation, National Recovery Programme Bureau (NRPB) Director Claret Connor highlighted the areas of progress thus far, such as the early recovery component which had been implemented thanks to the close and direct collaboration with the Steering Group and the World Bank.

Connor further elucidated the project geared towards the assistance rendered to workers in the St. Maarten hospitality sector, in addition to unemployed and underemployed individuals, who were given the opportunity to upgrade their skills and return to their places of employment after the completion of the renovation of the properties where they were employed prior to Hurricane Irma, or find new work opportunities in the construction sector with their newly developed skills.

Connor indicated that the disaster not only caused extensive damage to the island, uprooting many persons, but it also afforded St. Maarten the opportunity to revisit many policies and improve them, to rebuild conscientiously and to tackle long-term social and economic ills.

“Irma was an eye-opener on how to not only build back better, but more so on how to build back stronger on both infrastructural and economic and financial policies. It may seem to many that the reconstruction and rebuilding is taking forever, but one must realise that the size and impact of a storm such as Hurricane Irma in itself was a phenomenon never before experienced in St. Maarten.

“How to respond to such a major catastrophe in itself was new to all, both on a national level as well as on an international level. There are no quick fixes, no readily available guidelines and, unfortunately, no expertise on local level to immediately deal with the required challenges the island faced right after such a devastation that would bring St Maarten immediately back to and beyond its former glory,” Connor stated.

Highlighting the relationship with the Steering Committee, he said all parties involved have grown into the respective roles and are communicating with a better and complete understanding of what is to be done to successfully rebuild and develop St. Maarten.

In closing, Connor issued a call to local professionals residing in the Netherlands to consider returning to St. Maarten to work and assist in the recovery process using their individual expertise, adding that this is direly needed.

He outlined the status of the four ongoing projects: Emergency repairs and disaster preparedness (US $55.2 million); Emergency Income Support and Training ($22.5 million); Debris Management, Landfill Fire Suppression and Shipwreck Salvaging ($25 million); and upgrades to the existing hospital, and co-financing new facilities ($25 million).

Other projects that have been presented to the Steering Committee include the Small Business Recovery Project, Airport Terminal Reconstruction Project, Long-term Solid Waste, Connectivity – road construction and road safety, Digital Governance – information and communication technology (ICT) solutions for public services, Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) collaborations and School Improvements.

At the closing of the presentation by NRPB, the Delft Technical University (TU) Student Coordinator and a student in the final stages of completing her Master’s degree in the field of Architecture gave a presentation of the work of some 35 students based on their study-oriented field trip to St. Maarten for the Extreme Architecture special curriculum.

The purpose of their field trip was to create a scale model for the still-to-be-built multi-functional structure that will house Philipsburg Jubilee Library, the National Heritage Centre, St. Maarten Archaeological Centre Simarc and a shelter.

During a visit to Delft TU, the students informed Wuite and her staff that they had allowed themselves to be inspired by the surroundings. They all remained focused on the durability and soundness of the building’s structural enforcement enabling it to withstand a category-5 hurricane as well as earthquakes.

While on the island the students, in cooperation with UNICEF, carried out community service by brightening up the façade of a day-care centre and by repairing and painting the fencing.

Both the Delft TU coordinator and the student thanked all those who had made this study assignment in St. Maarten a success. The displays and scale models of the multi-functional building will remain on display at the Cabinet until after the summer recess.

It has already been determined that another group of 65 Master’s degree students from the Netherlands will be travelling to the island in April 2020 to do another project. NRPB said it applauds this effort and will assist in the creation of a possible new assignment.

Source: The Daily Herald