A report of the Dutch General Audit Chamber on the contribution of the Netherlands to the reconstruction of St. Maarten following the devastating passage of Hurricane Irma in September 2017 (see related story) confirms what was already clear. The chosen route of a Trust Fund managed by the World Bank and directed by a Steering Group with execution via the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) has not proven the most effective approach.
Two and a half years later, only a small part of the 470 million euros (US $548.5 million) that was to be deposited in the fund by October 2019 has been spent and no transfer requests for the last two tranches were even made. Of course, important investments are taking place in the airport, the hospital, waste management and other projects, but there is so much more that could be done.
As the Ombudsman and Consumers Coalition had already pointed out, especially regarding home and/or roof repair the results are disappointing. In total it involves close to 2,000 jobs either finished, in process or being planned also with other entities such as the Red Cross, St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF), White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF) and St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF).
The same lack of tangible progress may be seen regarding 17 damaged schools, with an apparent new initiative to completely rebuild some. This is important not only for education, but so they can also serve as hurricane shelters if needed.
The intention here is not to look back and point fingers but to implore all concerned to, more than ever, work together in greatly accelerating the use of available means and execution. With the tourism economy down, the increased business activity and earnings that will bring in addition to the current COVID-19 liquidity support from the Netherlands can help the country get through this very rough patch.