Kept in limbo

Kept in limbo

Finance Minister Ardwell Irion confirmed that St. Maarten faces a serious cash flow shortage (see related story) since the halting of liquidity support from the Netherlands. He said the country is currently running on a month-by-month basis and – when asked about vacation allowances – said they were trying to at least pay salaries at the end of June.

But it is not just about the public sector. If an already-approved second quarter loan of NAf. 39 million is not released soon by caretaker Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK Raymond Knops, the St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP) that provides payroll subsidies keeping thousands of employees on the job with income and a minimum wage to many others will be placed in jeopardy.

The result would be disastrous, for the businesses and families in question as well as the national treasury, due a to-be-expected steep decline in tax and social premium revenues. This is likely to cause a domino-effect and negative cycle spiralling into a deep socio-economic recession with widespread abject poverty, while even the food aid programme being taken over by government from the Red Cross depends on funding of the same BZK ministry.

Most infuriating is that practically the entire population is now being held hostage over issues at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) they know little about and have no control over. There was talk of restoring proper corporate governance, but exactly what that means remains unclear.

In any case Royal Schiphol Group (RSG), brought in to guide the US $100 million terminal reconstruction project financed half each from the Dutch-sponsored Trust Fund and by the European Investment Bank (EIB), must give the green light before the pending liquidity support is transferred. This reality puts RSG in an unusual position as private enterprise to basically decide over the immediate wellbeing of citizens who never chose them to do so.

That entails an enormous responsibility for the company that its management will have to be very mindful of. Keeping the whole community in limbo like this cannot be anyone’s intention and all parties involved need to make sure the problem is resolved sooner rather than later.