PHILIPSBURG:--- Minister of TEATT Stuart Johnson reacted to the various articles that state that the Dutch Government and the European Investment Bank wanted to finance the reconstruction of PJIAE to the tune of $100M and the government of St. Maarten did not show interest.
Johnson said in a letter to the media that the statements made could be considered malicious since it coincided with the celebration of the 75th anniversary of PJIAE.
Further to that, the Minister of TEATT confirmed the conditions set forth by the Dutch Government for the refinancing. Below is the contents of the letter sent out by Minister Johnson.
Today I address you on the critical matter of the Airport's ongoing work to acquire financing for its reconstruction project. As the Shareholder Representative for the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) and Minister of Tourism, it is ultimately my responsibility to ensure that the Airport is rebuilt and that the Government of St. Maarten's plans to complete the improvements to the airport such as the FBO Facility, US Pre-Clearance, and the Fuel Farm are finalized.
Having said this, I have taken note of the "concerns" expressed in certain quarters about the alleged offer of the Dutch government and the European Investment Bank (Effi) to finance the reconstruction of PJIA in the amount of US $100 million. I have also taken note of the claim that the St. Maarten government is apparently not interested in accepting this offer.
This is a complete misrepresentation of the facts. In fact, it can even be considered malicious given its timing to coincide with the kick off of the 75th Anniversary Celebrations of the SXM Airport and the migration back into the Terminal Building of arrival and departure operations for the first time since Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
In the interest of full disclosure of truth and facts, I wish to inform you that discussions have been ongoing about a US$50 million loan from the European Investment Bank, EIB to be matched by a US$50 million grant from the Trust Fund. To date, the St. Maarten government, however, is still waiting for the actual "Terms and Conditions" of this proposed financing and the proposals from other potential financiers to be spelt out in writing. Until this is done, I as Shareholder representative and the Council of Ministers as the representatives of the people of St. Maarten cannot naturally take any decision.
We must also take into account that the St. Maarten government cannot contract any loans, while under financial supervision, without the explicit and written consent of the Dutch.
The conditions that the Dutch and World Bank have so far mentioned in discussions include:
• A virtual takeover of the Supervisory Board of Directors of PJIAE
• A takeover of the Management Board of the airport
• The criteria for requiring local company participation in bids for work at the airport is not possible based on World Bank and EIB standards.
As a responsible Government, we would like to have these conditions in writing. We welcome all the assistance we can get, but under no guise should help become a hostile takeover of our most valuable strategic asset.
Let me state categorically as Shareholder, that the Government of St. Maarten itself is not in negotiations with other potential financiers for the reconstruction of the airport. I must also stress that nobody, and Imean nobody, can be more interested, more concerned and more eager to get our award-winning Princess Juliana International Airport back to its glory days, before Hurricanes Irma and Maria, as quickly as possible as I am as Minister of Tourism.
That is why we celebrated the return into the Terminal Building as a significant step on that journey to full recovery and reconstruction. We appreciate the eagerness to give St. Maarten this money so quickly. However, our people would have enjoyed the same speed and determination in getting roofs over their heads months ago. It has been over a year since our island was devastated by hurricane Irma and if a Loan or Grant from the Trust Fund can be made available within such a short period for the Airport, then there should be no excuse for it not to be made available for building the much needed homes for our people.
We look forward to real collaboration with any lending institution who is willing to work in the interest of moving St. Maarten's economy and its people forward.