It’s been 12 days since the parliamentary faction of Party for Progress (PFP) sent a letter to Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Egbert Doran seeking answers on the never-completed Dutch Quarter sewage project. Hopefully he will provide some answers in today’s press briefing, because neighbourhood residents have been dealing with the consequences for quite a long while.
The job that included installing sewage infrastructure and public streetlights as well as upgrading sideroads was to be paid for with a grant of 4.2 million guilders by the European Union (EU) Economic Development Fund (EDF) and 1.2 million from St. Maarten. However, the contractor stopped working less than three months after starting in August 2019 and ended up taking government to court for non-payment of invoices, where the company was reportedly awarded NAf. 370,000.
Such disputes can occur, but if opposition faction Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson are right and government never even bothered to secure the required co-financing, that would be regrettable to say the least. Regardless, the current situation sows doubt in the country’s ability to meet commitments and successfully implement such ventures promoting the general wellbeing, which creates credibility issues and has a negative impact on the island’s investment climate.
It’s not the first time either. Funding from Europe was secured for a joint Dutch- and French-side wastewater purification plant in Cole Bay too many years ago. There has been plenty discussion on the best location since, but a choice for Cay Bay behind GEBE only recently became known.
Particularly with so much talk of sustainable development also in the interest of the local tourism economy, all this seems rather disappointing and just not good enough. The people deserve decisive and effective yet responsible leadership, it’s as simple as that.