Dutch aid to hurricane hit Sint-Maarten largely unspent

An USAR team builds a new roof for a Sint Maarten home damaged by hurricane Irma, 20 Sept 2017
An USAR team builds a new roof for a Sint Maarten home damaged by hurricane Irma, 20 Sept 2017Photo: @USARNL / Twitter

Almost nothing of the 550 million euros in aid money the Netherlands set aside for Sint Maarten after hurricane Irma has been spent. As a result, the residents of the island still have little concrete results a year after the disaster, the Court of Audit said in a report published on Thursday, NU.nl reports.

Hurricane Irma hit Sint Maarten in September 2017. It damaged 90 percent of the buildings on the island, resulting in damages estimate at 1.9 billion euros. The Netherlands committed 550 million euros to help with the reconstruction of the island. To make sure that the funds are spent carefully, lawfully and efficiently, an amount of 470 million euros was put in a trust fund managed by the World Bank to be paid out as needed until 2025.

According to the Court of Audit, the World Bank's tender requirements are perceived as an obstacle on the island. "No roof has yet been repaired on the island with the help of money from the trust fund. The repair work on electricity supply and water storage has also been at a standstill since October", the Court said. World Bank procedures state that the utility company must publicly contract the work and can not just give it to local market parties.

The biggest obstacle in the way of reconstruction is a lack of staff and a lack of expertise, the Court of Audit said. "The island needs not only financial support, but also support with its spending. The officials on the island need more assistance from the Netherlands and the World Bank."

The Court added that two projects it studied have been launched smoothly. This involves financial contribution to a new hospital and to a program for in-service training and income support for Sint Maarten residents.