It was good to read in Thursday’s paper that Finance Minister Ardwell Irion is confident government will still get suspended liquidity support of NAf. 39 million from the Netherlands, although it did not become very clear based on what or how. According to Dutch caretaker State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK Raymond Knops, the only way is by satisfying Royal Schiphol Group (RSG) that proper corporate governance has been sufficiently restored at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA).
While Irion and Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs are obviously correct that the airport issue was not part of the agreed-on conditions for the soft loan, the Kingdom Council of Ministers predictably backed up Knops. “Taking the matter further” as intended may have an impact in the future if successful, but this probably will require some time.
And that’s exactly what St. Maarten does not have, as the money is for the second quarter of 2021 that is already almost over. The minister of finance said there was enough cash to pay civil servants, but added that no liquidity support would affect the St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP) that is keeping thousands of employees on the job and providing a minimum wage income for others.
Like it or not, RSG’s involvement was a requirement of financing for the US $100 million terminal reconstruction project provided half each from the Dutch-sponsored Trust Fund and by the European Investment Bank (EIB). And that too cannot wait, as it has taken long enough.
RSG after meeting with the two ministers indicated a willingness to reconsider once “appropriate measures” have been taken, whatever that means. The session on corporate governance held Wednesday for holding company PJIAH and operating company PJIAE was obviously planned earlier as part of an improvement process in the country package of structural reforms that is tied to the same assistance from The Hague, but it at least confirmed steps in the right direction are being taken.