Dutch caretaker State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops (see related story) said means from the post-Hurricane Irma Trust Fund administered by the World Bank cannot be transferred to the proposed Caribbean Reform and Development Body COHO. The latter is to supervise implementation of a “country package” of restructuring measures as condition for continued coronavirus-related liquidity support.
However, although intentions to improve public finances and make the economy more resistant as well as competitive might have merits, one of the island’s biggest social problems is the relatively high cost of living in which the lack of affordable living accommodations plays a major role. If one wants to do something with short- and long-term significance for the wellbeing of especially lower income groups, investing in such is an appropriate place to start.
It was therefore encouraging to see confirmation in Wednesday’s paper that the World Bank will pay for renovation of the apartment towers at Belvedere by St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF), which was able get its own refinancing from the bank to repair and upgrade the duplex homes located there. Obviously key to SMHDF’s continuity is now actively going after delinquent tenants to collect arrears and ultimately evict them if needed, also based on recent jurisprudence.
But while these reports and plans to repair other existing public housing units may be promising, building new ones would really make a huge positive difference going forward. According to Knops, there is 101 million euros left in the Trust Fund and giving more people a decent roof over their heads at a reasonable price seems an as-good-as-any way to spend it.