The Dutch have played an incredibly significant role so far in the recovery and relief efforts in Sint Maarten. Just last week, the largest ship in the Dutch fleet, HNLMS Karel Doorman (A833), arrived in the Philipsburg port loaded with over one million kilos of goods and supplies for the island (read that story here).
The Kingdom of the Netherlands have indicated that they will be providing an aid package to Sint Maarten, but have repeatedly stated that they won’t be writing a blank check. While that language may feel a bit a harsh to the average observer, it’s really more of a message to the government of Sint Maarten than anything else.
The reaction, communication and level of preparedness to Hurricane Irma by the local government has been heavily criticized. It took over a week before relief supplies started to flow to the island, and their was little to no means of communication for those stranded on the island without food, water and electricity. Saying the situation was bad is a major understatement.
In the weeks since, the situation has improved on the surface, but the depth of the issues still remain. Most of the debris has been cleared from the roads, but still needs to be removed from the island. The schools are back in session, although we have heard from locals that some of the schools are very dirty and not particularly sanitary. Many people still do not have roofs or basic shelter, with some sleeping in the dirt outdoors.
In the end, this island and it’s people still need an extraordinarily significant amount of help.
That’s why Ronald Plasterk, Dutch Prime Minister of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations, was on Sint Maarten this week. He wanted to see and get a feel, first-hand, for the situation on the island and the progress of the recovery effort. And while watching the video feels a bit like a public relations effort, you get the sense, based on some of Plasterk’s comments, he is keenly aware of the entire situation.
In the video, Prime Minister Plasterk shares his opinion about the recovery and states, “I’m somewhat concerned that in a couple of weeks, at the surface normal life has resumed because the cruise ships come back in, American tourists start walking around, and everybody may think most of it is solved now.”
Those comments were made as Plasterk was talking about the need for the Dutch and Sint Maarten government to agree on a formal recovery plan. Prime Minister Marlin discussed the National Recovery Plan a couple weeks ago, stating that a draft would be ready at the beginning of October (read that here). As of now, there has been no indication that a draft is ready.
As you’ll see, Prime Minister Plasterk has a sense of urgency and he feels that within 2-3 weeks they should have agreement with the government of Sint Maarten on a formal recovery plan. What will be most important are the steps necessary to implement that plan and get aid to the people who need it most, while rebuilding a Sint Maarten more capable of withstanding major hurricanes.
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