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Published On: Thu, Jul 22nd, 2021

Ballast Nedam wins bid for airport reconstruction project

PHILIPSBURG — Dutch construction company Ballast Nedam has won the bid for the airport terminal reconstruction project. The Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company (PJIAE) hails de winner of the tender in a press statement as an “international contracting company with vast experience in building large scale and complex projects worldwide, including, ports, hospitals and waterworks.”

But while the airport is happy with the outcome of the tender, its result drew immediate criticism from parliamentarian Christophe Emmanuel, so far the only politician to make a public statement.

Emanuel questions how “Dutch firms with a criminal history” continue to secure contracts in St. Maarten. The MP described Ballast Nedam as “a company with a shady history of bribing government officials.”

While there is some truth to these statements, it is also true that the bribery allegations are more than a quarter century old. Between 1996 and 2003 Ballast Nedam paid around $500 million to the royal family of Saudi Arabia in exchange for large construction projects. A former financial director of the company, identified in media reports only as Rob A., paid 34.4 million guilders (€15.6 million or $18.4 million) to the political party of the Surinamese dictator Desi Bouterse. The difference between the two cases is that Ballast Nedam was unaware of the bribery in Suriname.

Ballast Nedam settled the bribery of the Saudi’s with the public prosecutor out of court for €17.5 million ($20.6 million).

The impression Emmanuel attempts to create that the selection of Ballast Nedam somehow is at the expense of local contractors is however incorrect, simply because there were no local bidders for the contract. There were four bids: from CCECC (Singapore), Cotton Global Solutions (United States), Aecon Airport Construction (Canada) and Ballast Nedam. Bids varied from as low as $70 million to $99 million, according to a report on Caribbean.loopnews.com.

“This is a major milestone for PJIAE N.V. and the country St. Maarten. After a detailed planning phase, we are now about to start the actual construction and get this project moving to restore our airport even beyond its former glory. I’m really happy to see the transparency which was demonstrated with this process, and I’m contented with the selection,” airport director Brian Mingo stated in a press release.

The bidding process, though criticized by Emmanuel, was based on procurement regulations of the World Bank. Bids were evaluated based on a technical and financial scoring methodology. Project director Mirto Breell expressed his satisfaction with the process: “We are pleased to report that the meticulous bidding and evaluation process of the World Bank was fully adhered to and is now complete with an objective outcome, as we move into the anticipated construction phase of the project,”

The reconstruction project will take two years; the mobilization of the contractor is planned for August.

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