That construction activities for the new St. Maarten General Hospital (SMGH) have slowed down following delays in purchasing and shipping materials as well steep increases in their cost – while perhaps understandable – is regrettable. According to St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC), these “external factors” make it unrealistic to build SMGH for the original amount and by the set deadline.
These things always raise a red flag, because – in principle – when agreements are made everybody concerned in effect runs risks that fulfilling their resulting obligations can become more difficult than assumed. One could argue that had prices dropped significantly instead, SMMC would not have requested a downward adjustment either.
But – let’s face it – that rarely happens, at least not in such a global and comprehensive manner as they are now going up for various reasons including the combined successive impact of a two-year COVID-19 pandemic, the temporary accidental blockage of Suez Canal and now Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. This is no doubt an extraordinary circumstance.
Besides, budget and delivery time overruns are not uncommon when it regards projects of this magnitude. “Hospital Nobo Otrobanda” (HNO) that later became Curaçao Medical Center (CMC) is an example and – to a lesser degree – Aruba’s Horacio Oduber Hospital (HOH). In CMC’s case part of it had to do with a change of location and revised plans related to demolishing structures of the adjacent old St. Elisabeth Hospital complex as well as infrastructural works in the area.
All that in no way means vigilance is not called for. Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel is providing it, although his assertion that the project is out of money seems a bit far-fetched.
Involvement of the Dutch-sponsored Trust Fund managed by the World Bank is somewhat reassuring in the sense of possible financial consequences, as government obviously cannot afford additional expenses due to the current situation.