Published On: Mon, Oct 28th, 2019

“Impending financial crisis at PJIA is of national importance”

MP Claude Chaco PetersonPHILIPSBURG — On Monday, October 28th, SMCP Faction Leader and Member of Parliament, Mr. Claude ‘Chacho’ Peterson dispatched two letters to the President of Parliament, Mr. William Marlin, regarding the alarming financial developments surrounding the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) which has been playing out in the media lately. Copied in these letters were the caretaker Ministers Smith, Geerlings and Johnson as well as Mr. Connor of the National Recovery Project Bureau (NRPB) and his Excellency the Governor, Mr. Eugene Holiday.

One letter concerned the reconvening of the Urgent Public meeting of PJIA (OV34) which was cancelled at the last minute on October 21 for reasons yet unknown and the other regarding questions to the Minister of Finance for the second round of said meeting.

In the first letter MP Peterson writes: “As the SMCP faction in parliament we are very concerned about the financial position of PJIA and their ability to maintain the financial obligations, specifically the payroll to their approximately 270 employees and the 1000+ employees of their service providers (i.e. Menzies, Winair, Signature, Halley Aviation, Goddard Catering, etc).

We consider this matter a National Crisis in the making, given the number of people depending on PJIA directly and indirectly to make a living.”

The MP goes on to urge the President of Parliament to re-convene this meeting in the week of October 28 – November 1, 2019, even though it is a non-meeting week, given the precarious financial situation at PJIA and the current impasse with the bondholders as described by the Minister of Finance in the Council of Ministers Press Briefing of Wednesday, October 23, 2019.

In the second letter MP Peterson sends questions in writing via the President of Parliament to the Minister of Finance to be answered in the second round as listed below:

1. What is the present financial situation of the airport? Specifically as it relates to liquidity to pay personnel (payroll), service providers, contractors, loans and taxes and social premiums for the coming months?
2. What is the current status of payments to the bondholders? Is PJIA in default? If yes, to what degree and what are the consequences?
3. What is the current status of the insurance payout based on the court case? How much has PJIA received to date? How much is pending? What are the next steps to finalize this matter?
4. In an article in The Daily Herald on October 24, it is stated:
“The Bondholders concerned about instability. Geerlings said the bondholders are concerned about the motion of no confidence against five ministers which was passed by Parliament on September 26, and whether the incoming interim government will honour the agreements with the World Bank and the EIB or instead seek to reverse them. The motion of no confidence also instructed the Care taker Council of Ministers not to enter into any contracts with third parties, whether collectively or individually. The World Bank and the EIB are considered third parties.”
What steps have you, the care-taker government and the National Recovery Project Bureau (NRPB) and PJIA taken to remedy this situation?

MP Peterson was quoted as saying: “This recent hesitation by the Bondholders is clearly due to the fall of the Leona Romeo Marlin cabinet as they are not willing to take the risks that comes with this sort of INSTABILITY in Government created by the constant ship jumping in parliament. A phenomenon which has plagued our island over and over since 10-10-10, resulting in eight Governments and four elections in nine years.

While we all talk about the airport as being the gateway to our economy, we see the continuous sabotage of the financing option of the Trust fund and EIB loans to the tune of $122 million.

Every delay impacts the final reconstruction date of the airport and sends a very bad signal to many investors who still have not rebuilt since Irma or who may have been considering investing in St. Maarten.

It is time we put politics aside on this issue and seek to avoid the financial crisis which will negatively impact so many of our people.

SMCP will be looking towards the new majority of nine in parliament for support in finalizing the airport financing and prevent undue stress on the workers and service providers of PJIA.”

In the meantime, MP Peterson looks forward to receiving answers as soon as possible from the President of Parliament in reference to the letters on this matter.