The message from Dutch-sponsored Trust Fund administrator the World Bank to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs (see related story) is loud and clear: Hands off Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Brian Mingo and the Supervisory Board of Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) operating company PJIAE.
Holding company PJIAH’s board, by threatening to dismiss the former and possibly the latter, could jeopardise the long-awaited terminal reconstruction project, including required involvement of Royal Schiphol Group. Scheduled to finally start in May, any further delay already 3½ years after the complex was severely damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria is most unwelcome, because the current accommodations will not allow a full recovery of stayover tourism to pre-September 2017 levels.
Moreover, potentially having the financing provided by the Netherlands and European Investment Bank (EIB) pulled at this point would be nothing short of disastrous for the entire island.
It seems almost ironic that one of the stated reasons for PJIAH demanding Mingo’s resignation in the first place was the rebuilding process taking too much time. However, he said the problem is pressure “from various sources” to simultaneously do other works such as a new Fixed Base Operator (FBO) building for private planes, a relocated fuel farm and a US pre-clearance facility. The CEO believes these are worthwhile endeavours he is willing to even discuss with relevant third parties, but for now the focus must be on the main job at hand.
Some may wonder how the holding’s board gets to decide over that of the operating company and its management. All that has to do with a structure created to keep politics at what was called “arm’s length” of St. Maarten’s gateway in light of earlier legal issues surrounding the airport.
Still, government is single shareholder of PJIAH and obviously has a role to play in this unfortunate matter. The Council of Ministers must assume its responsibility and call them to order.