Published On: Tue, Feb 5th, 2019

Time to Objectively Evaluate World Bank Program and Bottlenecks, says President of Parliament Wescot-Williams

Sarah Wescot-Williams 20180109 - HH

Philipsburg, St. Maarten, February 4, 2019 – Amidst reports of accomplishments by the Government of St. Maarten as far as the Trust Fund is concerned, the debate continues as to the speed or lack there-of in the entire process of financing of the reconstruction on St. Maarten via the World Bank. We have had reports regarding the progress, the pace and the accomplishments. Just recently someone wrote an article and compared the World Bank structure on St. Maarten for the reconstruction as “Met een kanon op een mug schieten”. This could be freely translated into “cracking nuts with a sledge hammer”. President of Parliament Wescot-Williams recently stated.

She continued to explain that “these reports include the progress report by the World Bank itself and a scathing report by the General Audit Chamber of the Netherlands. Just recently again there was some uproar regarding a statement by the Dutch State Secretary, about completion of the repairs to homes and roofs on St. Maarten. It was commented that the State Secretary grossly exaggerated the amount to which he referred. The amount to which he referred was that most homes have been repaired. Several persons subsequently contradicted that statement of the State Secretary. There is still a lot of discussion regarding the entire functioning of the financing structure as chosen by the Dutch Government for their reconstruction aid to St. Maarten. The agreement between the Dutch government and the World Bank for this purpose is regulated and agreed to in a so-called administrative agreement. With respect to St. Maarten, the World Bank and St. Maarten would sign off the different grant agreements when these approvals have been arrived at. As an annex to the administrative agreement between the World Bank and the government of the Netherlands, there is also a document called Guiding Principles of the Government of the Netherlands regarding the execution of the trust fund for the recovery of St. Maarten. Several matters are set out in this particular document, but which should not supersede the administrative agreement.”

“Nevertheless, in this guiding document, the Dutch government has marked three policy objectives and they state that it is highly desirable that these three policy objectives are addressed in the steering committee when considering financing through the trust fund.”, she said. “These three policy objectives by the Dutch government are a) achieving sustainable waste processing and water purification in collaboration with France; b) guaranteeing the accessibility of St. Martin with of view to supporting the economy, and thirdly and interestingly is the policy objective for the Dutch government in the reconstruction, good governance! This might explain some of the discussions that are taking place with respect to the financing for individual projects”, Wescot-Williams further elucidated.

“Noteworthy also are some other principles in this document of the Dutch government such as: Value for money and it is mentioned thereby “local labor will be used to the greatest possible extent and within the framework of the procurement regulations of the bank; attention will be giving to opportunities for local companies to take part in the implementation”. I highlight this area again because given the aforementioned and the criticism and contradictions regarding the execution of the Trust Fund, I think it behooves the three parties involved in the steering committee as three equal partners (The Netherlands, the World Bank and St. Maarten) to take a moment and evaluate the process up until now and try to get a better understanding of where exactly the bottle necks in the implementation are and come up with ways to improve these. It helps no one to only be pointing fingers and giving personal opinions as to where possibly the bottle necks could be and who is responsible for the tardiness in some of these projects and grants etc. St. Maarten needs to emphasize the capacity-building element in this program as well as getting the maximum of the program back into our local economy, despite the rigid World Bank procedures”, she concluded.