Published On: Sun, Oct 15th, 2017

President Daniel Gibbs: No conditions from France for rebuilding French side of Saint Martin

Daniel Gibbs 20171014 - HH

MARIGOT – The French part of St. Martin is not subject to conditions for receiving financial aid from France, the way the Dutch government has put demands on Dutch St. Maarten. “If there is any obligation to be put in place to receive the necessary help, we will do it in partnership with France,” Daniel Gibbs, President of the Collectivité said at a press conference on Saturday afternoon.

Reconstruction in partnership

“Reconstruction will be subject to a certain number of rules and regulations,” Gibbs said. “I, as the President of the Collectivité, have certain competences in the field of urban development. The state has competences in the field of environmental regulations.”

And while the French intend to put a new zoning plan in place that will forbid construction in certain areas, Gibbs says that he will not be able to forbid everything. “We have to take our economic development into consideration. Tourism is driving our economy and some things we will have to enforce – I’m talking about our hotels. But if we want to remain competitive, we cannot have our hotels in the hills. As the Collectivité’s President I have certain competences and I will use them.”

President Gibbs said that addressing unemployment is an important issue. “We are talking about measures to address this; before Irma unemployment was 33 percent, now we are expecting 60 to 65 percent.”

The French side’s budget is also a point of discussion. Gibbs said that he did not have an exact figure for the damages Hurricane Irma has inflicted on his territory, but in the end he mentioned an amount of €3.5 billion for the public and private sector combined.

For more than a month the Collectivité has worked tirelessly on food distribution and cleaning up; President Gibbs said that the government had spent so far 6 million on these activities, performed by local companies, on repairing schools and on supporting victims through its department of solidarity and families.

Conférence presse DG 14-10-17

On September 22 the government decided to exempt citizens from property tax at a cost of €9 million in lost revenue for the Collectivité.

Gibbs explained that the territory’s recovery plan, dubbed Plan Phoenix, focuses on four elements: reconstruction, restarting the economy, the success of children and youngsters and supporting citizens.

The main objectives during the reconstruction phase are simplification, control and modernity, Gibbs said. Building permits will be waived until October 1, 2018 and the government will keep an eye out for the security and safety of its citizens. Reconstruction has to come with “ambitious projects, fitting for the local environment. Plans for grand Marigot, the re-planning of Grand Case and the development of new locations for housing projects must be accelerated to deal with our new reality,” Gibbs said.

The president said that reconstruction is allowed but that in the locations that are at the highest risk, decisions will be based on a case by case study.

Hotels will be allowed to rebuild but construction on beaches will have to be light and easy to dismantle in the face of an approaching hurricane.

Saint Martin received €24 million in financial aid from the European Union. Part of that money will go to local businesses to help them to restart their operations. Another €16 million from the solidarity fund will go to training and reemployment efforts. President Gibbs will be in Guyana at the end of the month to ask for additional aid from the European Union.

Conférence de presse DG 14-10-17

Photo of President Daniel Gibbs by Hilbert Haar. Press conference photos provided by the Cabinet of the President in a press release.