Dutch gov't gives green light for Sint Maarten aid half year after hurricane

Sint Maarten during Hurricane Irma, 6 Sept 2017
Sint Maarten during Hurricane Irma, 6 Sept 2017Photo: @C_ZMCARIB / Twitter

Nearly seven months after hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on Sint Maarten, the first financial aid from the Netherlands is heading towards the island. 110 million euros for reconstruction will be released, State Secretary Raymond Knops of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations announced on Wednesday. The money comes from an aid fund of 550 million euros, which will be managed by the World Bank, NOS reports.

The island of Sint Maarten is an autonomous country that falls within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Sint Maarten was hit hard by Hurricane Irma on September 6th. Two people were killed on the Dutch part of the island and dozens were injured. The hurricane also destroyed a large part of the island's buildings and infrastructure. 

The World Bank was chosen as a neutral authority to manage the financial aid from the Netherlands for reconstruction on the island. According to Knops, that has to do with the "special history" of the Netherlands and Sint Maarten. "It's a lot of money for a small population. We want to spend that in a good way", the State Secretary said. 

The financial aid from the Netherlands was already available in November, but the Dutch government set conditions the island had to meet before the money would be released. Sint Maarten had to establish an integrity chamber to prevent corruption and make sure the money is spent well. And the Netherlands required extra border control on the island.

"I regret that it took until January before Sint Maarten could agree to our conditions", Knops said. "Then negotiations with the World Bank started, Sine then we've been on track."

Former State Secretary Frans Weekers of Finance (2010 - 2014) will sit on the World Bank's trust fund to represent the Netherlands in managing the aid fund, ANP reports. He will evaluate reconstruction projects in consultation with the World Bank and Sint Maarten. Weekers will hold the position for two years initially.