Published On: Sat, Nov 17th, 2018

World Bank confirms: Dutch want rep in airport management

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PHILIPSBURG – It is not like the Netherlands wants to take over the complete management of the airport in exchange for financing of the airport’s rehabilitation, but the Dutch do want to have somebody on the inside. This appears from a report by the World Bank.

The “vital rehabilitation” of the airport, improved governance and “measures that will strengthen the airport’s ability to function resiliently in the future” all cost money.

According to the World Bank, St. Maarten has made a commitment to make these measures a reality. While Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin recently denied that the Netherlands will take over management at the airport, the World Bank sends a slightly different message, saying that, for the Netherlands to endorse the financing of the airport’s rehabilitation requires “Dutch participation in the airport’s management and supervisory board.”

This is, according to a press release issued by the World Bank, the position of former State Secretary of Finance Frank Weekers, the Steering Committee member for the Netherlands.

Earlier this month, the Steering Committee of the Sint Maarten Recovery and Resilience Trust Fund met in Washington DC. Former Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs is St Maarten’s member of this committee.

In its early-November meeting, the Steering Committee “took stock of three emergency recovery projects” (worth $102 million) but it also took a closer look at the preparation for three new projects. There is $50 million available for measures at the airport, $35 million for the support of small and medium enterprises and $25 million for debris removal and suppression of fires at the dump.

The $50 million mentioned in the World Bank press release is for the airport terminal reconstruction project. According to the airport, damages to the terminal amount to $107 million. The World Bank expects additional co-financing from the European Investment Bank “and other potential donors.”

Apparently, the World Bank is not convinced that the airport is being managed properly – or at least, that there is room for improvement. For this reason, the Steering Committee endorsed “an assessment of the airport’s governance.” This exercise is expected to generate recommendations.

Apparently, the looming addition of Dutch experts to the airport-management and to its supervisory board is not an issue for St. Maarten’s Steering Committee member Marcel Gumbs.

“The urgent reconstruction of the airport is of vital importance for the economy and people of Sint Maarten. We will continue to work with the government of the Netherlands, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and all other stakeholders to support the rehabilitation of the airport, as it is a collective effort for all concerned,” he is quoted as saying in the press release.