PHILIPSBURG – Members of Parliament (MPs) posed more than 100 questions in a heated Central Committee meeting on Monday afternoon that discussed the structure, composition, and assets of Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) operating company PJIAE and holding company PJIAH, and the ongoing terminal reconstruction project.
The airport has been the hot-button issue of the past week and some MPs launched a series of fiery questions during Monday’s meeting. The topics included the current World Bank financing and the financial alternatives, the bidding process for the terminal’s main reconstruction works, airport infrastructural improvements, PJIAE’s personnel affairs, and the relationship between PJIAH and PJIAE, among others.
MP Angelique Romou of National Alliance (NA) asked about the airport’s current liquidity position and the forecast for 2021. She later asked about the role of government in a potential dismissal of PJIAE’s board, as well as how evaluations and reporting work within PJIAH and PJIAE.
MP Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper of United St. Maarten Party (US Party) asked how Moody’s credit rating for St. Maarten would affect the airport’s finances.
Party for Progress (PFP) MP Melissa Gumbs asked about Piper Sandler and Co.’s recent offer to finance the airport’s reconstruction and whether government had solicited this offer. “Has the World Bank been involved in any aspect of corporate governance related to the airport? If so, could you please explain how and when, and if there was a report issued?” she asked.
United Democrats (UD) MP Sarah Wescott-Williams asked whether the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) was still committed to the World Bank and European Investment Bank (EIB) financing.
MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten of United People’s (UP) party asked about the status of the new fuel farm and the United States (US) pre-clearance facility.
She also questioned the labour conditions and renumerations of consultants and the PJIAE chief financial officer (CFO), as did fellow UP MP Rolando Brison.
UP MP Omar Ottley asked whether the CFO’s salary would be subject to the 12.5 per cent cut of the wage package for those working at government-owned companies. He also asked why there was no local counterpart to the CFO position yet.
Independent MP Christophe Emmanuel also asked several questions about the fuel farm and the CFO’s labour conditions. He wanted to know the plans for relocating the fuel farm, the revenues made from the fuel, and government’s vision for US pre-clearance.
He also wanted to know how many “Dutch individuals” made up the committee that would be evaluating bids for the main reconstruction works, later claiming that such persons would favour bids from Dutch companies.
US Party MP Akeem Arrindell asked about the bid for the terminal main reconstruction works. His party colleague Buncamper asked whether it was feasible to award the contract for the main works in two months, as described in an earlier presentation on the reconstruction timeline by PJIAE chief executive officer (CEO) Brian Mingo.
Buncamper also asked how much money has been used from the NAGICO insurance proceeds, as well as from the World Bank and EIB funds.
Emmanuel ended the session with a flourish, theatrically reading from a letter from Royal Schiphol Group to argue that this company, and by extension the Dutch government, controls the airport’s affairs. He also called for Mingo’s removal from the helm of PJIAE, calling him a “disease and a poison to the growth of the airport.”
The meeting was adjourned after MPs posed questions on all three of the meeting’s agenda points. TEATT Minister Ludmila de Weever will answer these questions when the meeting resumes, which Parliament Chairperson Brison indicated could be as early as the middle of next week.