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FEATURE STORYJune 20, 2024

Amplifying Results in Sint Maarten

SXM results fair

Celebrating six years of progress and innovation: The 2024 Results Fair at Sonesta Maho, Sint Maarten, showcased the remarkable transformation and achievements of our ongoing partnership. 

World Bank

On a regular busy day in Sint Maarten, the sun casts a glimmering reflection over the island’s blue waters. Philipsburg’s four-street runway is lined with retail shops and restaurants, and businesspeople welcome customers into their premises. This is the calm after the storm.

After Hurricane Irma devasted the island in 2017, the World Bank established a cooperation framework for the relationship with the government of Sint Maarten, with funding from the government of the Netherlands, to restore the country. The Sint Maarten Reconstruction, Recovery and Resilience Trust Fund was launched as a tripartite partnership between the government of the Netherlands, the government of Sint Maarten, and the World Bank. The World Bank’s role is to help Sint Maarten rebuild stronger and more sustainably and support resilience and longer-term development priorities. 

2024 marked six years since the partnership was formed—a good point to pause and reflect on the country’s progress. The need arose to amplify the ongoing visible transformation, innovations, and achievements. The Results Fair held at the Sonesta Maho, Sint Maarten, on March 12, 2024, did just that. 

Firsthand Insights on Island Progress

The Results Fair was the first opportunity for project beneficiaries to showcase how Trust Fund initiatives have positively impacted their lives, businesses, and communities. Project implementation units—National Recovery Program Bureau, UNICEF the Netherlands, VNG International, Sint Maarten Medical Center, and Princess Juliana International Airport—joined the effort to engage with the public. 

The island typically gives the impression of a sophisticated holiday resort city. For a few hours, the Results Fair in the Sonesta Maho quickly deflated that notion, as an estimated 200 attendees from the public and private sector, broad-based stakeholders, and project beneficiaries swarmed in to see firsthand the Trust Fund’s progress and to hear and share insights.

The halls of the Sonesta Hotel filled with enthusiastic participants as they connected and compared notes, trading stories of growth, opportunity, and improvement. In one corner, people gathered to play HURRYcane Run, a life-size game created by UNICEF to bring hurricane awareness to children; while in another corner, images of the newly renovated Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) sparked lively conversations and questions. 

PJIA, the most significant Trust Fund project by allocation, elaborated on its revival and increase in tourist arrival traffic compared to pre-Irma levels. PJIA recently unveiled its state-of-the-art departure hall, stunning visitors and residents alike with sophisticated technology and massively improved throughput traffic. When the iconic airport completes the arrival hall construction at the end of 2024, it will return to its full glory, with pre-Irma capacity of nearly two million visitors, serving as a regional hub and fulfilling one of Sint Maarten’s long-term visions. 

Stories of Hope and Resilience

Sint Maarten’s spices are one of a kind. The flavors tantalize the pallet in incomparable ways, which may explain why participants lingered around Samantha’s booth. Samantha Hunt, owner of “Uniquely Different,” is one of several beneficiaries who displayed their products at the Results Fair. She shared her journey to recovery and success, enabled by the Trust Fund’s Enterprise Support Project. From submitting her application for financing to now offering her signature Sint Maarten spice blends, Samantha's story embodies the resilience and entrepreneurship fostered by the Trust Fund. 

Conversations at the Results Fair ranged from the critical themes of effective community engagement and partnerships, to adaptability, resilience, digital transformation, cultural preservation, and education. Participants agreed that Sint Maarten is on its way to sustainable development. 

“I really liked the interaction and to see other businesses discuss what they are doing. We networked and heard about different organizations and how they have made an impact in the community. I enjoyed myself.” —Jeanina Dupersoy, Alicia’s Inn/Enterprise Support Project beneficiary.

Creating Connections and a Brighter Future

In addition to testimonials from beneficiaries like Jeanina, government officials and project implementers expressed enthusiasm for continued collaboration like the Results Fair brought, attesting to the overdue large-scale awareness raising on the Trust Fund’s value in Sint Maarten. 

“It was wonderful to see all implementation units do this together, to see the results, and for them to communicate with each other. You can have big corporations like the airport but also small organizations exchanging ideas and seeing how we can bring Sint Maarten forward.” —Ronald Halman, Trust Fund Steering Committee Member for Sint Maarten.

Not surprisingly, Sint Maarten, one of the smallest countries in the Caribbean, is not a World Bank borrower, as it remains an overseas country and territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Sint Maarten shares the southern part of the Caribbean Island with Saint Martin, a French overseas collectivity. Although the country has only 43,000 people, its gross domestic product per capita (2022) is about US$35,000 because of its solid tourism performance over the years. The Philipsburg port, in the Island’s capital city, is a popular cruise ship stop. One of Sint Maarten’s natural features, the Simpson Bay Lagoon, was completely cleaned up and restored through the Trust Fund. 

The Results Fair demonstrated that the country has made significant progress toward post-Irma reconstruction and resilience goals. It was much more than an event; the Fair not only shed light on the results of six years of concerted efforts, but it also highlighted possibilities and raised hope for a brighter future. 

About the Sint Maarten Trust Fund

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma’s devastating 185 mph winds left Sint Maarten reeling. In her wake communities faced the monumental task of rebuilding amidst US$2.73 billion in damages and losses, with over 90 percent of infrastructure affected. However, amidst the devastation, there emerged a collective determination to rebuild stronger, united in preventing such calamity from recurring.

Through a US$500 million grant from the Government of the Netherlands, the Sint Maarten Trust Fund was created in 2018 with the goal of helping the country build back stronger and more sustainably to better withstand the physical and economic impact of climate catastrophes. The Trust Fund is a tripartite partnership between the Government of the Netherlands, World Bank, and Government of Sint Maarten. Through funds provided by the Government of the Netherlands, and with support and guidance from the World Bank as the Trust Fund’s administrator, the Government of Sint Maarten selects and executes strategic projects designed to reinforce Sint Maarten’s resilience. There are currently ten ongoing Trust Fund projects and two that have been completed.


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