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Published On: Sat, Nov 2nd, 2019

Former Minister Ferrier: “The trust fund is failing”

Dr. J. Foundation - Hurricane Irma Reintegration Program (24)

PHILIPSBURG – “If the rules allow hurricane victims to remain homeless after two years, something is not right about the rules,” former interim Finance Minister Michael Ferrier writes in a letter to the editor that heavily criticizes the role of the World Bank trust fund.

Ferrier wrote his letter in a reaction to the imminent closure of the hurricane shelter in Sucker Garden, a project established by former Minister of Public Health, Social Affairs and Labor Emil Lee and managed by the Dr. J. Foundation.

“It is shameful that with money in the trust fund, available for the purpose of building homes, well-meaning persons from the Dr J foundation have to run around seeking donations from the private sector to fix a few broken down and abandoned emergency homes to give shelter to families and elderly persons,” the letter states.

Ferrier’s anger and disappointment is directed at the bureaucracy that comes with the distribution of funds from the €550 million trust fund at the World Bank. “We have a fully operational National Recovery Project Bureau, the World Bank is on the ground and there are still millions of dollars in the trust fund, but the shelter is closing and now these vulnerable people have nowhere to go; how ironic, how sad.”

Ferrier says that the documentary the Ombudsman presented last week about the state of affairs of the government’s home repair efforts “is proof that St. Maarten has failed to provide for many defenseless victims of Hurricane Irma.”

When the Dutch government introduced the World Bank as “the keeper of the safe” to make sure that the millions it made available for the island’s recovery would not fall into the wrong hands, Ferrier – at the time interim minister of finance – “rang the bell loudly and continuously about the fact that, while the World Bank management of the funds could contribute to a better St. Maarten over time, emergency home repairs would fail miserably because of all the bureaucracy.”

“We all understand that the Dutch donor wanted to guarantee that funds would not be misused for corrupt or unethical purposes,” Ferrier wrote. “St. Maarten would be helped but World Bank procedure had to be followed. Time and time again, we were told to be patient, the approach would bear fruit. Ok, so it’s been two years but while there are many rules, common sense solutions are in short supply.”

Dr. J. Foundation - Hurricane Irma Reintegration Program (23)

In February 2018, the Leona Romeo-Marlin government presented $23 million worth of so-called “low hanging fruit”-projects to State Secretary Raymond Knops (Kingdom Relations) in reaction to a verbal commitment from Knops to grant short term financial aid that would not have to go through the World Bank procedures. “But that support never materialized.”

Ferrier compares the situation with a man in the middle of the ocean “surrounded by water on all sides but without a drop to drink.” And, Ferrier wonders, with a trust fund of 550 million, “why should any organization have to hit the street to beg donations of a few thousand dollars to put roofs over the heads of our citizens? The trust fund is failing; it is failing the very people it is meant to help. Maybe not a dollar will be misspent but creating homelessness from helplessness is unethical and morally corrupt.”

Photos caption: In the above photos former minister of Finance, Michael Ferrier, can be seen visiting the hurricane damaged homes that need repair in order to house the shelter clients that need homes before the end of January 2020. Photos by Julie Alcin.

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Related articles:
Ferrier: It is never nice to say “I told you so”
Hurricane shelter project closes in January – and its residents have nowhere to go
Dr. J. Foundation urges community to donate to the Hurricane Irma Reintegration Program
Presentation outreach report to Parliament by the Ombudsman
Ombudsman documentary
Transition-shelter: a place for privacy, dignity and respect



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