Bread on the table

Bread on the table

News out of The Hague over the weekend was discouraging. Despite the mission of Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and Finance Minister Ardwell Irion to “escalate” the suspension of already-approved second quarter liquidity support by Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops, the Kingdom Council of Ministers RMR backed him up.

As predicted, developments at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) played a key role in that decision. According to Knops, while steps have been taken to restore good corporate governance at holding company PJIAH and operating company PJIAE, Royal Schiphol Group (RSG) is not satisfied that enough has been done to continue its role of guiding the terminal reconstruction project.

The latter was a condition for US $100 million in financing that came – half each – from the Dutch-sponsored Trust Fund managed by the World Bank and from the European Investment Bank (EIB). Truth be told, there has been active resistance against this both within and outside the airport community since the relevant agreements were made.

However, the point of no return has long been reached and it is not just the full rehabilitation of the island’s main gateway, more than 3½ years after it got damaged, that hangs in the balance. The very financial assistance allowing thousands of St. Maarteners to maintain – be it often strongly reduced – income during the ongoing unprecedented coronavirus-related socioeconomic crisis has now been placed at serious risk.

The good news is that no new RMR meeting will be needed to release the pending soft loan of 39 million Netherlands Antillean guilders, once RSG is satisfied that enough has been done to basically tackle obstruction of the current rebuilding process at PJIA. Those directly involved had better get on board or move the heck out of the way, because this is about putting bread on people’s tables.