Progress amidst the pandemic: Sint Maarten’s journey to recovery and resilience

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A worker repairing a damaged house in Sint Maarten
A worker repairing a damaged house in Sint Maarten. Photo credit: National Recovery Program Bureau of Sint Maarten

Before the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Caribbean countries were still rebuilding and recovering from the devastating impacts of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. In the case of Sint Maarten, those hurricanes caused widespread damage to many homes, buildings, and infrastructure, amounting to US$1.38 billion or roughly 260% of its GDP. 

With the help of the Sint Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund – funded by the Netherlands in 2018 with a budget of up to 470 million euros and managed by the World Bank – the country had started the long, complex process of rebuilding, before the COVID-19-related lockdown and border closures brought things to a temporary halt.

As the “anchor project” under the Trust Fund, the Emergency Recovery Project I (ERP-I) supports the reconstruction of private residences, critical infrastructure, public buildings such as schools, and the building of resilience in key areas. The bulk of the activities under the Trust Fund, and likewise, the ERP-I, are managed by the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB), the in-country implementation unit that has spurred significant, measurable recovery progress despite the delays caused this year by the pandemic.

This includes:

Although a country-wide lockdown, mandated from April 6 to May 11 as a necessary measure to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, interrupted repairs to private homes, government buildings, and shelters, and hindered engineering firms and technical consultants from travelling to Sint Maarten to conduct supervisory and other work, projects swiftly resumed in June, just after the country reopened its borders in mid-May.

The lessons learned and positive momentum generated by ERP-I’s achievements continue to fuel recovery efforts in the country. Valuable insights gained from conducting procurement activities in Sint Maarten’s small market, engaging with beneficiaries and contractors, and the sequencing of contracting and technical work, have helped identify challenges and improve the implementation of this project, as well as other projects financed by the Sint Maarten Trust Fund.

Some challenges related to the new nature of Sint Maarten’s engagement with international organizations like the World Bank are beginning to be addressed. Among them, measures are being supported by the Government of Sint Maarten to facilitate the processing of work visas, residence permits, and business licenses.

Successful resolution of these challenges will complete the groundwork laid by the NRPB and World Bank project teams for completion of critical activities remaining under the project.  These include a big batch of residential home repairs, shelter and school repairs, and trenching programs to move utilities underground, among others, to help strengthen Sint Maarten’s resilience to future disasters.

Project beneficiaries in front of their repaired home featuring new hurricane shutters
Project beneficiaries in front of their repaired home featuring new hurricane shutters, installed under the Home Repair Program. Photo Credit: Emily Bartels Bland/World Bank

Authors

Fen Wei

Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice Consultant

Jie Li

Environmental Specialist

Edouard Ereño Blanchet

Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist

Jung Weil

Communications consultant

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