Pechtold urges faster recovery for St. Maarten on national TV | THE DAILY HERALD

THE HAGUE–Dutch Democratic Party D66 leader Alexander Pechtold urged a speedier reconstruction of St. Maarten, during the national TV talk show “Jinek” on Friday night, and made an appeal to invest more in the relations within the Kingdom.

Pechtold visited St. Maarten with a delegation of the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament earlier this month. He is the chairman of this committee. He was invited to well-known Dutch TV talk show host Eva Jinek’s show to share his thoughts about the developments in St. Maarten after Hurricane Irma.

Pechtold explained that the parliamentary delegation considered it important to visit St. Maarten to see first-hand how the island was doing and how the reconstruction with Dutch funds was progressing.

He described what the arriving tourists first saw: a damaged, closed airport, the temporary arrival tent, boats that were thrown on land and many that remained half sunk in Simpson Bay Lagoon. He also spoke about the districts where many homes were still without a roof.

“You can see that the damage is still extensive more than 10 months after the disaster. Can you imagine how the atmosphere would be in a town in the Netherlands if almost a year after the disaster there was still damage of this magnitude? And, the new hurricane season has started,” Pechtold said in the popular Jinek TV show.

People are trying to rebuild in a stronger, more hurricane-resilient manner, but for that one needs money and a contractor to do so. “But first you want a roof over your head,” said Pechtold, who spoke of the resilience of the people and how they were trying to grab all opportunities to make something of them.

Jinek asked how it was possible that only earlier this month an agreement had been reached for the release of US $55 million from the Trust Fund to start the first projects, while the Dutch government had already pledged half a billion euros in November last year.

Pechtold replied that due diligence was very important in the reconstruction process because it concerned Dutch taxpayers’ money. “That is wise, because in that part of the Kingdom, there are occasions that things have gone wrong with finances. That is why the World Bank was put in between. The World Bank is carefully looking at the plans,” he said.

Jinek, obviously not pleased, asked whether people on the island 10 months down the line must be thinking that they had been lied to about the Dutch reconstruction funds. She wondered why the reconstruction progress had not gone faster.

Pechtold said he had confidence in the new St. Maarten government, and especially Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin, who he said did not care much for party politics and solely focused on the island’s recovery. “We do have to show tangible results together; otherwise, people will stop believing in the process,” he said.

When Pechtold mentioned that the French side was in an even worse state while that part of the island resorted directly under Paris, Jinek said: “This doesn’t make me happy at all. What are you going to do about the situation?”

Pechtold noted that St. Maarten was an autonomous country within the Kingdom and that it was primarily responsible for its own affairs. He added that St. Maarten was a small country with a limited population. “We have to keep the pressure on the recovery process. We have to be diligent about using Dutch taxpayers’ money, but more speed is needed,” he said.

He made a plea for closer ties within the Kingdom and especially more comprehension from the Netherlands. He said that in St. Maarten the people felt related to the Kingdom. “They are proud of the Dutch Royal House; they learn about the Netherlands in school. We need to dedicate more attention to the positive aspects of our Kingdom. That is direly needed,” he said.

Source: The Daily Herald