PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Sunday called on the government of St. Maarten to confirm or deny reports that the airport project is delayed and that operations currently inside the terminal will be moved back into tents.
The MP used the opportunity to remind the public that he has been warning of pending delays of the project which has still not shown any significant reconstruction progress in over five years. He pointed out that the airport and its main contractor Ballast Nedam continues to get an influx of financing that now stands at approximately US $ 150 million with little to show for it.
The airport project, he stressed, is not a new one, it is a reconstruction of areas. The airport originally cost under 100 million, its reconstruction has ballooned past that amount with no explanation from the government or the contractor despite questions he has posed to the government.
MP Emmanuel recently questioned the announced US $90 million refinancing of PJIA’s 2012 indenture to a conglomerate of companies. Emmanuel said it is “unbelievable” that such a crucial decision has taken place and the Parliament of St. Maarten was not informed. “That the news came from the arranging bank, and not from the shareholder shows a lack of respect for Parliament and the people of St. Maarten,” MP Emmanuel said.
“PJIA is apparently a bottomless money pit that keeps getting significant amounts of financial injections, while we can barely see any significant progress five years after hurricane Irma. PJIA received US $50 million from the Trust Fund, 50 million from the EIB (European Investment Bank) another US $20 million recently from the Trust/NRPB, and a 90 million refinancing?” the MP questioned.
He said Ballast Nedam is making a killing as the only contractor he knows whose contract gets more expensive with literally nothing to show for it. “The government needs to come out and say if the airport project is delayed and if report is true that questions have been asked of PJIA management. “Because this is a joke being played on the people of St. Maarten,” Emmanuel said.
“They say I’m fear mongering when I raise questions about these ongoing projects. Money is being poured into these projects and nothing is happening. So the country isn’t getting its most strategic asset rebuilt to compete in the region, but apparently somebody getting rich because the money disappearing with no explanations given. Now we have to hear that we are reportedly moving five years back again, right back into tents. Where is the accountability, why is nobody being held responsible, where is the transparency and the truth?” Emmanuel asked.