SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - Chief Executive Officer (PJIAE). Mr. Brian Mingo, says the immediate and combined effort of all Stakeholders and interested parties is urgently needed to pull St. Maarten’s premier port of entry, the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIAE) out of its poor financial state so that the facility can lead a booming recovery of the island.
For the second consecutive month, PJIAE is finding itself having to juggle cash and says it is being forced to meet liquidity challenges head-on.
Now with the end of the February month fast approaching, the recently appointed CEO is building a financial recovery strategy that he says will require buy-in from all Stakeholders so that PJIAE can lead the way in a new wave of restoration construction on St. Maarten.
“We will continue to experience cash shortfalls unless we take action now. St. Maarten is still reporting just over 60% recovery of its hospitality inventory consisting of the main hotels, restaurants, property rentals etc,” said Mr. Mingo.
He said investors cautiously adopted a “Wait & See” attitude as they wait for the economy to pick up again, and most will not expose their capital until they see some strong activity, in areas of the economy such as our airport.
“PJIAE stands ready to be the catalyst for these investors to give them the confidence they need to invest in St. Maarten again. Once the Airport is up and running and the Airlines will further step up their schedules to the island once again, we can really say “we’re really back in business”,” said the CEO.
Mr. Mingo says Management and staff at PJIAE have done an amazing job with very little resources and are once again utilizing one-third of the Airport Terminal Building, much to the appreciation of travelling passengers. Mr. Mingo notes however, that these passengers are under the misapprehension that the Airport reconstruction is actually under way and get frustrated and angry at the lack of progress.
“What people do not realize that the main reconstruction phase has not started yet,” said Mr. Mingo.
“We have spent millions of dollars cleaning up, making the environment safe, making the facility useable and as comfortable for passengers as much as possible and we have also spent a massive $14Million securing the roof alone,” explained the PJIAE chief.
“What we need immediately is a $15 Million bridge loan that has been allocated by the Netherlands, so that we can meet our immediate liquidity needs and support the cash shortfall, and then a final decision on financing to that. The works can then begin on the reconstruction plans within three weeks and start of construction by July this year.
“If all goes as planned and urgent action is taken now, we will be celebrating the re-opening of our reconstructed airport terminal by Christmas 2020,” said Mr. Mingo.
Mr. Mingo will send a report to the Supervisory Board PJIAE this week, outlining his plans and will promote the urgency for the much needed airport financing.
One source of funding Mr. Mingo is ready to accept, with government and board approval, is a $100 Million soft loan for the World Bank (WB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Mr. Mingo says government has been most supportive of the Airport’s struggles up to now, recognizing particular support and interest from the Prime Minister, Hon. Mrs. Leona Romeo-Marlin, Minister of Finance, Hon. Mr. Perry Geerlings and Ministers of TEATT, with his Ministry’s responsibility for PJIAE, Hon. Mr. Stuart Johnson.
“I thank government for their input and help so far, but it is not our government alone, the Netherlands, Parliament, the Shareholder Representative, the Supervisory and Management Boards and the personnel. We also need to come together, to be on the same page, to remain focussed and head in the same direction to fuel the growth of St. Maarten through our no#1 port of entry,” said Mr. Mingo.
Mr. Mingo says anything other than the signing of agreements to put the airport back on a sound financial footing should be viewed as “unnecessary noise and distractions” that serve no good purpose, except to hold back development and further risk the future our airport and the livelihoods of the 270 employees, the families they support and the host of businesses and operations that all depend on the airport operations for their living.
Mr. Mingo is hopeful he can take the comprehensive recovery plan and his message to government himself along with the support of his Supervisory Board and is ready to secure funding for the airport without further delay.