As Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and Finance Minister Ardwell Irion travelled to The Hague to “rectify” the non-payment of the fifth tranche of liquidity support (see related story), a deadline Royal Schiphol had set for its continued participation in the airport reconstruction project, if proper corporate governance was not restored there, expired. The two are related because recent developments regarding Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) were also the reason Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK Raymond Knops gave for holding back the soft loan of 39 million Netherlands Antillean guilders already granted by the Kingdom Council of Ministers RMR.
St. Maarten obviously does not agree with the latter and will escalate this matter at Friday’s RMR meeting, even though Knops stated while on the island that he would ask to reconsider the suspension if the problem of good governance was resolved. It appears remedial actions were taken, including the reported placement on non-active duty of holding company PJIAH managing director Dexter Doncher.
During Wednesday’s press briefing Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmila de Weever could not say whether that had satisfied Schiphol and – by extension – the BZK ministry. However, her impression is that parties were still on board discussing an extension of the group’s contract.
So, while the main argument on Friday will be that Knops surpassed his authority, ultimately what steps have been taken to address the situation at PJIA may still prove key to a positive outcome. And that is important not just for more badly-needed financial assistance, but to finally complete once and for all the long-awaited rehabilitation of the island’s main gateway serving its tourism economy.