The presentation of a new building code and technical norms for St. Maarten by the Association of Dutch Municipalities VNG (see related story) is noteworthy. After the devastation Hurricane Irma caused four years ago funds were made available to develop “build back better” products and this is one of the results.
The regulations in the existing code reportedly date back to 1935 and the environmental standards to 2007, so an update certainly seems in order. This proposal was called the outcome of extensive consultations and – perhaps more importantly – based on the principles of being fair, reasonable and executable.
That is good to hear, but the devil is usually in the details. Government says decision-making is still to follow and implementation will only take place after elaborate communication and training with relevant stakeholders.
While few would argue against the need for more storm-resistance, what should be prevented as much as possible is that these new criteria and their enforcement drive up local construction cost, which can in turn have a negative impact on an already difficult economic recovery. With also plans for a real estate tax and going after outstanding land lease payments, care must be taken not to create the impression of a country becoming less friendly to investors.