PHILIPSBURG–The Council of Ministers decided on Tuesday to go with the Dutch government and European Investment Bank (EIB) financing proposal to the tune of US $100 million for the reconstruction of St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA).
The Daily Herald understands that the decision was carried by the ministers during the weekly Council of Ministers meeting. The loan consists of half in the form of a loan from the European Investment Bank and the other half in the form of a grant to the St. Maarten government from the Trust Fund via the World Bank.
The government in its turn will lend the entire amount to the airport for the full reconstruction of the airport. US $50 million from EIB will come at an interest rate of 4.45 per cent. The government of St. Maarten will then have to decide at what interest it will lend the airport the much-needed funds.
Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops expressed his worries last month about the developments surrounding the airport’s recovery and wanted the St. Maarten government to decide on the proposal post-haste.
According to Knops at the time, the ready-to-be-executed plan for the airport was approved by the Trust Fund Steering Committee on November 5, 2018. The Steering Committee did set a number of conditions that had to do with the integrity of positions in the airport’s management and supervisory board.
The loan comes with the condition that the Royal Schiphol Group, which manages Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, has informed the St. Maarten government that it wants to have talks on this matter. Prime Minister Leona Romeo Marlin plans to announce the terms of the loan agreed on during today’s Council of Ministers press briefing.
Minister of Tourism Stuart Johnson said in a previous press statement that some other conditions for this agreement include “a virtual takeover of the Supervisory Board of Directors of PJIAE, and a takeover of the Management Board of the airport; and the criteria for requiring local company participation in bids for work at the airport is not possible based on World Bank and EIB standards.”
However, Knops disagreed with Johnson’s statement and said, “I have seen nobody, no government, give US $50 million without conditions, so we asked for two positions in the executive board and supervisory board. These could be temporary to ensure that in the phase of reconstruction all is spent properly,” This condition has been communicated to Parliament and government.
“Part of that deal was that the Royal Schiphol Group was willing to assist. They visited St. Maarten already, but so far that had not been successful. They did not get access. … They wanted to know how the company was doing, but there were a lot of closed doors,” Knops said on Monday. “If they step in and if they deliver on the expertise, then they have to be convinced of the fact that this is a profitable case and can contribute to the benefit of all.
“It is not that I want someone to be looking out on my behalf. … The people have to be mutually acceptable to both governments. They will be selected based on their expertise.”
PJIA’s management board, after hearing the news about the loan agreement, said, “As airport we are happy that the government has committed to allocate US $100 million of the recovery fund for rebuilding the airport. As the management board, we are open to any workable and practical support both financial or/and technical.
“One needs to remember that the organisation of PJIA is experienced in operating our airport, yet not specialised in building or rebuilding the airport once we have confirmed that funding is available.”
“As CEO and chair of the management board we are planning to complete the second phase of restoration once the funding is available,” stated PJIA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Brian Mingo on Tuesday evening in an invited comment.