Opinion: Slowly to hell

POSTED: 10/12/12 1:23 PM

Let’s get back to that story about the new government administration building. It is not new anymore of course, because by now it has been standing forlorn on Pond Island waiting for  things that will never happen.

Something’s gotta give of course, and the developer has finally put the proverbial gun to the government’s head by going to court demanding that the government lives up to its end of the deal, finished the darn building and move in.

The delays, the countless promises, and above all the vagueness that surround the project are almost unbelievable. All this indecisiveness has a price tag too: by the end of the year it stands at a whopping $9.l million. That is the amount of tax payer money that has gone to paying rent in handsome quarterly installments of $481,000 since the last quarter of 2007.

In a cash-strapped country like St. Maarten this is (expletives deleted) amazing. Think about it: to construct the building cost $16.27 million. The figure comes from the horse’s mouth, RGM-CEO Gerard d’Arcy.

So by now, tax payers have already paid for more than half the building’s initial cost – 55.93 percent to be exact.

And it does not stop there, because when March 2013 rolls around another $481,000 leaves the island for Trinidad.

If the Continental Finance Corporation – the American party that is negotiation about buying developer RGM out – steps into this quagmire, it will find that the building is already screaming for an upgrade. And we are only talking about what we saw on the outside this week; there is no way of knowing to what extent the interior has already deteriorated.

From the outside we saw broken windows that were handily boarded up, we saw sloppily installed air conditioning units rotting away at the back of the building, and we even noticed a Caribserve antenna for internet service. Who needs internet service in a building where nobody has ever worked? Is this where our ghost civil servants live maybe?

D’Arcy said on Wednesday that the project is a fantastic building. And if you think about it that way  the guy is right. It is a fantastic building, even though the National Alliance kept calling it the white elephant with the green hat for years.

So why oh why have our politicians let the building go to rot? We’re not saying it is beyond rescue, but everybody knows what happens to a house when nobody lives in it. Critters find their way in and make it their home, so the smell will be less than palatable. The terrace behind the building is also in a state of decay. Even though this seems a detail, it is also a symbol of the tragedy this project has become.

And all the while, the people of St. Maarten have been paying through the nose for the building because the people they voted into office proved incapable of finding a solution.

Developer RGM has kept a low profile all these years, and the fact that its CEO finally called a press conference to vent his disappointment is telling. The company wants to protect its reputation – and currently, the so-called new government administration building in Philipsburg – RGM’s only project outside of Trinidad – does not look good on its resume. On the contrary, d’Arcy used words like terrible and shame.

We’re curious where the court case will take this matter. It’s just another blemish on the reputation of the government that is already in court over other issues with the developer. RGM is doing the building’s structural maintenance even though it claims the contract puts this liability with the government, and St. Maarten does absolutely nothing about what one could call tenant-maintenance. This way, the $16.27 million investment slowly goes to hell – and that is not the place where it belongs.

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Comments (1)


  1. John Q. Public says:

    The goverment paid to construct a building on the goverment’s land?
    The government signed a contract to pay for maintenance of a building they are renting?
    The goverment has paid over $9.000.000 in RENT, for a building worth $16.000.000?
    This guy should have let sleeping dogs lie. The sad part is that none of the money that’s going to Trinidad is coming back here, because our crooked politicians have no vision, and did not secure a permanent kickback.