What will this do to the MOU signed with GB Energy and GEBE?
PHILIPSBURG:--- Members of the French Executive Council met with members of Members of Parliament on Tuesday to discuss the usage of European funding that are available to both sides of the island.
Both President Aline Hanson and Vice President Guillaume Arnell told the Members of Parliament that the two sides of the island have to take matters seriously and work efficiently in order for the island to obtain the funding to construct some main projects, one being a waste management plant in the vicinity of Bellevue border. Arnel made clear that is the first time St. Martin is able to obtain these funds jointly, therefore both sides government should get on top of the matter in order to obtain the funding for projects that will benefit the two sides of the island.
President Aline Hanson said that the French side has rights to collect the FEDS funds while the Dutch side the FEDER both of which comes from the EU funding. She said that the two sides’ government do not have much time to obtain the funding because they must be able to submit their projects by December 2015. President Hanson said when the former Prime Minister was in office they met often to work on these projects but since the new Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs took office they have not met, however, there is a meeting is scheduled for some time soon. President Hanson said that bidding was conducted for the waste management plant since it has to be constructed by French company and the monies will be controlled by the Prefet, even though some of the funds will be given to the Dutch side to control; she said the reports on the those bidding process should be in by October 2015 in order for them to finalize their project by December.
Member of Parliament Theodore Heyliger said that since he was a commissioner (former member of the executive council) he was discussing all of this with the French side authorities and nothing got off the ground, he went on to say that the French side went ahead with their ‘dump’ and left the Dutch side behind. Arnel corrected Heyliger by informing him that the French side did not have a choice because France had threatened to close the French side dump and they would have had to find a solution for their garbage themselves.
Heyliger also suggested that the French and Dutch side begin discussions on barter deal on how they can exchange water for electricity. Other projects that will be financed by the EU funding is the cleaning of the lagoons. MP Maurice Lake a former Minister of VROMI felt that it is time for both sides government start working on an action plan as to how they will obtain the funding for these major projects. MP Lake said there is no need to establish any committee to handle these matters because there is already one in place.
While the EU funding is available to construct a waste management plant that will benefit both sides of the island the question that now surface is what will happen with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by GEBE and company (GB Energy) from the Dominican Republic.
The MOU signed by GEBE and GB Energy is a document that even Members of Parliament cannot obtain from the Government owned company.
Other topics the French Executive Council members discussed is the Treaty of Concordia. President Aline Hanson said that in the past the two sides worked hand in hand but since the French side falls under the France persons who want to work on the French side have to register at the “Pole Employ (Labor Office)”, she said persons who chose to do so will also enjoy the benefits such as social security.
As for the driver’s license problem that the French side residents are facing. Arnel thanked the former Prime Minister now Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot Williams for her patience when she extended the grace period several times to facilitate the French.
Arnel said that the French side faced of some problems before they could do the exchange of the licenses. He said the French side could only exchange licenses that were issued from 1995 to 2005. He said that the French side is now issuing licenses based on the European format. Arnel said the French side cannot exchange licenses that were obtained in Saba. Those persons who obtained their licenses in Saba prior to 2005 and exchanged on St. Maarten they could have their licenses exchanged. Arnel said persons who obtained their driver’s license after 2005 on St. Maarten can have their licenses exchanged. Persons interested in exchanging their licenses have to apply for it and it will be granted to them.
Persons who obtained their licenses from Saba is still facing a predicament because they cannot exchange those licenses. He said at the moment the exchange process is taking place. Arnel also raised some of the problems that the French side are facing with persons using outdated Dutch number plates without any kind of repercussions. MP Leona Marlin said that the Dutch side is also facing the same problems with persons with French license number plates. She said that she strongly believe that the two sides needs to exchange information to combat the abuse.
Another issue the French delegation brought up is the abuse by residents from the French side that works on the Dutch side but still obtain unemployment benefits (RSA) from the French side. President Hanson said currently the CAF (Casse Allocations Familiales) owed the French state some Euros 35M.