In my previous article: “The Chronicles of NRPB – Part 1,” I highlighted some of the many challenges locals in Sint Maarten have dealt with, and continue to deal with as it concerns the NRPB.
As stated in the previous article, NRPB’s main objective is to disseminate monies from the Trust Fund through projects and initiatives to local persons and businesses. Some of the issues highlighted in the previous article are: nepotism due to specific affiliations; NRPB’s adherence to immigration laws; NRPB’s interpretation of and adherence to corporate governance standards concerning employing family members; and unfair treatment of locals and local businesses.
This article will focus on examples of the process NRPB uses to grant monies to locals and local businesses on Sint Maarten.
Who gets, who doesn’t, and why.
NRPB is an organization that should be focusing on empowering small businesses and initiatives of entrepreneurs that will positively impact locals, neighborhoods, etc., based on the purpose of the Trust Fund monies. Yet, NRPB seems to have their own opinion on how to spend this money, whom to award monies and how much to award.
While NRPB’s main focus should be on helping small businesses establish and grow themselves, NRPB has a track record of granting monies for initiatives owned by big businesses on Sint Maarten in the tourism sector, specific engineering companies on Sint Maarten and a number of family members associated with these engineering companies, just to give a few examples.
Yet, it is extremely difficult for entrepreneurs in Cul-de-Sac, Cole Bay, Fort Willem, Dutch Quarter, Middle Region, Sint Peters and Cay Bay to be fortunate enough to get their proposal approved and receive monies. I have received complaints from a number of entrepreneurs and small businesses, who feel that they have been discriminated against and played by the NRPB. They point to different challenges. Some examples are having to wait a year to sometimes almost two years, going back and forth with NRPB, incurring different expenses to make adjustments to their proposals just to be told after “sorry you have been denied.” Those that did get through, in the end would indicate that they felt as if NRPB was making it difficult on purpose just for them to give up and retract their request.
Two very interesting examples of the above have been brought to my attention:
A hardworking entrepreneur requested monies for a project to have a laundry facility in Middle Region similar to those on the French Side. He could earn a living from this initiative, but also solve a problem within his neighborhood and assist those who do not have the resources to purchase a washing machine or the infrastructure in their homes for such. The request was denied. This person, after going back and forth with NRPB, was denied because those in charge of granting monies felt that the person did not present a proper solution to dispose of the water, and the effect of such on the environment.
This particular outcome leads one to wonder what assessment criteria is used by NRPB to come to the decision not to grant a person money based on this one factor of the environment. This is particularly of importance as I have learnt that the NRPB has a section that advises on proposals, and the majority of persons within this section are persons who are either part of one of the many environmental groups on Sint Maarten, or have family members and/or partners who are members of these organizations.
What is even more interesting, is that the section within NRPB that actually deals with the approval requests for monies for projects, consist of persons who are either part of and have families in different environmental groups on Sint Maarten. While I understand the importance of the environment of every country, especially a tourism-based Country like Sint Maarten, one cannot ignore the fact of conflict of interest.
Impossible that a person, who is fully biased on matters concerning the environment, is allowed to be involved with the decision-making process as it relates to a proposal with an environmental perspective. The hardworking local should have no doubt in their mind that when they apply for monies they will be granted a fair chance.
Another example related to this situation is that of a local businessman who has a license to operate on Mullet Bay. This person also applied for funding through NRPB. After going back and forth with NRPB, and invested financially in a proposal, this Sint Maartener, was told via telephone: “you will not be receiving monies, because of the environmental impact of your proposal.”
After this conversation, this businessman felt that actually his proposal would have been denied from the onset. In this case also, the same persons who advised on this proposal, and the person who is part of the decision-making process to approve the proposal, are part of environmental groups on Sint Maarten that in 2022 lobbied for a petition against another Sint Maartener with a license to operate on the beach.
Furthermore, the person who was part of the decision-making process to deny this local man monies for his project, was one of the persons who submitted a petition to Parliament against another local in possession of a license to operate on the beach. (Hmmm…eye-opening)
Is this not a clear and concrete example of a conflict of interest?
How is it possible that someone, who is completely biased on a specific topic is directly involved in the decision-making process to grant money to a local?
To add insult to injury, this particular NRPB employee knows that she was wrong to take part in this process as immediately after this phone conversation, she deleted her Facebook account, and tried to erase any other digital footprint connecting her with a petition concerning beaches on Sint Maarten last year.
If this was this done on advice of NRPB management, that is yet to be determined. What is clear is that by deleting her account and trying to eliminate traces that can show her involvement, she shows that she understands that it is a clear conflict of interest.
What this person does not realize is that the paper trail in Parliament, and online still exists.
I would like to reiterate and make abundantly clear that as a citizen of Sint Maarten, I understand the critical role of our environment. What is equally important is that every local, especially small businesses should trust that they will be treated fairly when applying to receive monies for proposals to assist themselves, their families and others on Sint Maarten. It cannot be that before someone even applies for monies, they fear that they might not receive it. At the end of the day, there will be other projects that have some type of impact on our environment. It is the responsibility of NRPB, and of the Government of Sint Maarten, to ensure some type of balance between the environment and economic prosperity of our people.
These examples are two of the many examples of cases where the Sint Maartener has felt used and abused. We must realize that Sint Maarten is a small community and news travels quickly. It cannot be that locals, who have tried their best, spent money to submit a proposal, deal with “go and come back,” are then denied. Then they hear and see families and friends of a particular clique within the NRPB continue to get through in an extremely short time with a large sum of money. Others are sentenced, due to whether they like or don’t like the NRBP clique group, to receiving a certain sum of money for their business.
Stay tuned for the next article on how the NRPB, and its management deals with our locals and how our Sint Maarten Council of Ministers allows this.