Dutch St Martin gets interim govt ahead of elections

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An interim government is to take over on the Dutch part of the hurricane-hit Caribbean island of Saint Martin ahead of elections next month, Dutch media reported Saturday.

The caretaker cabinet, headed by prime minister Leona Marlin-Romeo, was agreed late Friday after a row with the Netherlands over aid to the devastated territory forced the resignation of the previous premier in November.

Marlin-Romeo and her cabinet will be sworn in on Monday, the Dutch news agency ANP reported.

Known as Sint Maarten in Dutch, the territory was ravaged when Hurricane Irma torpedoed through the Caribbean in September. Up to 70 percent of its buildings and infrastructure were destroyed, and recovery efforts have been slow.

Marlin-Romeo will shepherd the territory -- which is run as a constituent country but remains part of the kingdom of the Netherlands -- until elections due to be held on February 26. But questions remain over whether it will be possible to even organise the polls due to the devastation.

The Dutch government has promised 550 million euros ($670 million) in reconstruction aid, but has insisted that a special "integrity" body be set up to monitor the spending, amid fears of rampant corruption.

The local economy, which was heavily dependant on tourism, has been badly hit.

A further 67 million euros is going to the nearby Dutch islands of Saba and Sint Eustatius, also ravaged by Irma.

St. Martin, located south of the island of Anguilla, is divided between the Netherlands and France.

© 2018 AFP

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