About Sint Maarten
Economic Situation Analysis
Sint Maarten is a small and open island economy. Its economy is vulnerable to a large extent on worldwide economic developments. Tourism is the core economic activity and accounts for 82.5% of the country’s exports. The United States is the largest tourism market. The indications are that the economy of Sint Maarten is recovering from the recession of 2008 -2009 and positive growth is envisaged in the coming years.
Government expenditure is 33.4% of GDP . Future projection on expenditure depends on investments in building institutional capacity. Government revenues stand at 27.8%. Public debt to GDP percentage is 27.6% which is better than most other countries in the region. The inflation rate has been moderate and reasonably in line with the U.S. inflation. The economy is very open, which means that developments in the external environment – particularly the U.S. economy – will be directly affect the economy of Sint Maarten. According to the Economic Outlook of Sint Maarten 2012-2013, the economy of Sint Maarten has a relatively good starting position for further economic expansion, and is better able to absorb financial and economic setbacks in comparison to other Caribbean countries.
Challenges and Policy Issues
The prevailing challenges for Sint Maarten center on the constitutional and regulatory framework of the country. Since the constitutional reform of the Kingdom of the Netherlands on the 10th of October 2010, Sint Maarten is an autonomous entity within the Kingdom. With its new country status Sint Maarten enjoys a high degree of internal autonomy within the Dutch Kingdom.
The role of the Netherlands is limited to defence, foreign affairs and the court of appeal in The Hague. However, its unique constitutional arrangement means that Sint Maarten must now assume responsibility for its development.
The main policy issues include:
• Economic diversification from reliance on tourism
• Fiscal reform and the need to find “new” revenues
• Poverty alleviation
• Creating social safety nets
• Creation of jobs
• Community development especially in housing
• Infrastructural development
• Legislative focus
• Labour and Immigration reform
Although the GDP per capita for Sint Maarten is one of the highest in the region, the First Millennium Development Goals Report 2011 noted that Sint Maarten has similar levels of poverty as with Curacao. In the case of Curacao, poverty is measured by the income which is just sufficient to purchase means to live a healthy life. A social problem is the ability for social infrastructure development to keep pace with the overall development that has taken place within the last two decades.
In Sint Maarten 22% of households have no income. A feature of the Sint Maarten population, totaling 38,000 (2010) is that a significant proportion of the population comprise illegal immigrants who are attracted to Sint Maarten for work and contribute significantly to the remittance economy. This portion of the population is undocumented . A report on crime in Sint Maarten puts the number of illegal immigrants at 15,000. Undocumented children comprise 10 -15% of the school going population.