Stakeholders pose for a picture at the conclusion of the meeting. From left: St. Maarten Steering Committee representative Marcel Gumbs; World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean Axel van Trotsenburg; Prime Minster Leona Romeo-Marlin; Dutch State Secretary Raymond Knops; World Bank Steering Committee representative Tasheen Sayed Kahn; and Dutch Steering Committee representative Frans Weekers.
PHILIPSBURG–Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin says she is satisfied with decisions taken at the meeting of the Steering Committee of the St. Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund in Washington DC last week, particularly as it relates to the quickening of the pace of the home repair programme.
“During the meeting, I made it clear to all stakeholders that there is a need for more tangible results for the people of St. Maarten. Thus, moving forward I expect to see more activity surrounding the execution of the planned projects,” Romeo-Marlin said in a press release issued by the National Recovery Programme Bureau (NRPB).
The meeting was intended to take stock of progress, accelerate implementation and agree to prepare new projects.
New initiatives were approved during the meeting, including road connectivity on the island, including the key emergency road from the South Reward area to Dutch Quarter (Link 6), and digital government projects to enhance the efficiency of public services for citizens and businesses.
Updates on the current four approved projects totalling $128 million were shared at the committee meeting, NRPB said in its release.
Highlighted were the achievements of the Emergency Income Support programme, whereby 900 people have already received income support, while the training and certifications programme to improve their skills is continuing; repairs to the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) roof and the installation of the new alarm and fire detection systems; repairs to the Philipsburg and Simpson Bay police stations; and progression in the repairs of 109 social homes in the Belvedere Housing Community.
The procurement of equipment and material to aid in the management and safety of the landfill and preparation for the commencement of the work on the 13 shelters to be repaired before the peak of the hurricane season was also shared.
A report on advance preparations of four additional projects totalling $150 million was also reviewed. The projects – reconstruction of the Princess Juliana International Airport terminal building; support to small businesses; waste and sewage management and a budget support operation to strengthen public financial management, improve social insurance sustainability and support fiscal resilience – were approved at the last steering committee meeting in December 2018.
Approved new initiatives include the preparation of new projects that will deal with road connectivity on the island, including the key emergency road from the South Reward area to Dutch Quarter known as Link 6, a digital government project to enhance the efficiency of public services for citizens and businesses, and an assessment of the financial situation and the possible credit access of large hotels.
“We are moving forward. At the end of this period in our island’s history we will boast of a newer, more resilient, sustainable and better paradise. These projects are not only about the rebuilding of the visible damage, but also about how we can ensure that when the next disaster comes, we will not be in the same vulnerable position that we were left in after the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” NRPB Director Claret Connor said.
In the meantime, the World Bank said in a separate press update that the St. Maarten Trust Fund has received $305 million from the Netherlands, of which $128 million has been committed to four projects: the Emergency Recovery project focused on home and shelters repairs; the Emergency Income Support and Training project; the SXM Hospital resilience and preparedness project; and the Emergency debris removal project.
Advance preparation for four additional projects for the total amount of $150 million is underway – the airport reconstruction, support to small businesses, waste management and a budget support operation.
According to the World Bank update, 900 jobless people received income support, training and certifications to improve their skills. The project aims to reach 1,800 workers in the hospitality and construction sectors. Repairs of the hospital roof were completed with new alarm and fire detection systems. Two police stations were repaired with category-five doors and windows and a temporary roof.
The Trust Fund financed St. Maarten’s insurance premium against tropical cyclones, earthquakes, and excess rainfall under the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF). Equipment and material for management and safety of the landfill has been procured. Thirteen shelters will be repaired before the peak of the hurricane season. NRPB was established and staffing will be scaled up by June.
“Good progress has been made to help the most vulnerable people in low-income housing: 109 social home repairs will be completed by St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) by end May 2019 and 160 units already repaired are being reviewed to assess eligibility for retroactive financing.
“Door-to-door social screening of the private homes of 135 households has been completed and technical assessments to determine repair needs of these homes are about to start. Construction will follow,” it was stated in the World Bank press update.
On the issue of the airport reconstruction, the World Bank said government has adopted the recommendations of a corporate governance assessment of the airport conducted by the World Bank and will appoint a task force to implement these recommendations. The objective is to strengthen the airport’s institutional capacity and its corporate governance.
A co-financing package from the St. Maarten Trust Fund ($51 million) and the European Investment Bank ($50 million) has been mobilised to rebuild the airport passenger terminal. The financing package is being discussed with key stakeholders, including with the airport’s current bondholders. Construction is currently expected to start in the fall of 2019.
For budget support, the Steering Committee approved $30 million for a series of two development policy operations (DPOs) – budget support operations to strengthen public financial management, improve social insurance sustainability, and support fiscal resilience.
The next ad hoc meeting of the steering committee will take place in St. Maarten on May 16, 2019, to ensure the acceleration of the home repair programme and other key activities of the trust fund.
The meeting, which concluded on April 26, is one of the scheduled biannual meetings to report on progress, accelerate implementation and agree to prepare new projects from the Dutch-financed trust fund managed by the World Bank.
In addition to Romeo-Marlin and Connor, the St. Maarten mission included St. Maarten Steering Committee representative Marcel Gumbs and Senior Policy Advisor Abel Knottnerus.
“The steering committee members are committed to ensuring that the agreed acceleration implementation modalities of the home repair programme and other key activities of the trust fund are progressing well,” NRPB said in its release.