Price tag for new prison set at $39m in UNOPS proposal

Price tag for new prison set  at $39m in UNOPS proposal

PHILIPSBURG--The price tag for the new prison is US $39 million in the latest proposal by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Justice Minister Anna Richardson told Members of Parliament (MPs) on Wednesday.

  Richardson’s comments came during the continuation of a meeting of Parliament’s Justice Committee that discussed immigration and issues related to the country’s prison facilities.

  UNOPS has been tagged as a potential partner to construct a new detention facility to replace the outdated and run-down Pointe Blanche prison, having first held a meeting with Richardson on July 6, 2020.

  UNOPS is an operational arm of the United Nations (UN) that implements projects on its behalf, as well as for international financial institutions and governments.

  The Dutch government has earmarked 30 million euros toward the project via the yet-to-be-realised Caribbean Body for Reform and Development COHO. Of these funds, some 20 million euros will be slated for construction costs while the remainder will be used over a five-year period to strengthen the new prison’s operations and services.

  Richardson said the 10 million euros in improvement funds will be used to finance training courses and legislative assistance, among other things. The money will be disbursed in annual tranches of two million euros, she said.

  The Dutch contribution for the construction costs amount to almost $24.4 million, which means St. Maarten will have to cough up approximately $15 million for the project.

  “In our discussions with the Netherlands, they have enquired about St. Maarten’s ability to meet the financial commitment that is required for the project. As such, my cabinet reached out to the Ministry of Finance, which confirmed that the finances are available … which will be reserved on the capital service budget,” Richardson told MPs.

  UNOPS’ proposal divides the project into two phases. Richardson told Parliament in December 2020, that the first phase will last 13 months, while the final phase will take four years.

  “UNOPS has expressed that to start with each phase of the project, the required budget must be available,” said Richardson on Wednesday.

  In a Parliament meeting in March, then-MP Omar Ottley had asked if the new prison would be built in the same place as the current one.

  “That determination still needs to be made,” said Richardson on Wednesday. “Assistance will be sought from UNOPS to advise on this. However, considering the scarcity of land in St. Maarten it is very likely that the prison will be built at the same location.”

  During the new prison’s construction, inmates will be temporarily housed in a so-called rapid deployment facility. “The establishment of this facility will be guided by UNOPS,” said Richardson.

  Although she could not give a tentative start date for the project, Richardson did say that UNOPS personnel will be coming to St. Maarten to conduct an assessment and that government is having weekly discussions with UNOPS.

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