Plenty of homework

Plenty of homework

The Kingdom Council deferring its decision on a proposal regarding the repayment of the 2019 bridge loans totalling US $20 million for Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) implies a de facto second extension of the deadline by one month. Requirements for the airport loans from the Dutch-sponsored Trust Fund and the European Investment Bank (EIB) to release the necessary funds include appointments on the project team, appointing a Corporate Financial Officer (CFO) from Schiphol Group and screening management plus the two supervisory boards of the operating and holding companies.

These steps will now probably have to be completed by mid-February before the issue comes back on the table in The Hague. That is also important to get the construction started so the destination’s main gateway can be restored to its former glory sooner rather than later in the interest of the local tourism economy.

Then there is the matter of liquidity support from the Netherlands to the government of St. Maarten. Interim Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs had said there were plans to scrap this for both 2018 and last year. She requested and received a postponement, but also urged that NAf. 21.3 million for 2018 already approved by the Kingdom Council be disbursed as quickly as possible.

But here too conditions were set, like the pension age increase on parliament’s tentative schedule this week, elected representatives taking a salary cut as cabinet members had done earlier, and more attention for the island’s detention capacity. These have not yet fully been met either.

It’s interesting that in his request for Jacobs to form the next government based on the recent NA/UP coalition accord, Governor Eugene Holiday mentioned some of the same topics as their tasks. He listed – among other things – execution of agreements with the Netherlands and World Bank on the rehabilitation of PJIA and building a new general hospital, investments in the police and prison, sustainable waste processing and bringing the Electoral Ordinance and Law on Registration and Finances of Political Parties in sync with the Constitution.

A major priority is compliance with standards of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The governor even called a meeting with party leaders and the bankers’ association to emphasise this point.

All in all, it appears both the outgoing and incoming governments have plenty of homework going forward.