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Open letter Post-Irma Statistics.

Open letter to the Private Sector of Sint Maarten, the Central Bank, the Department of Statistics, the Ministry of TEATT, the World Bank, The UNDP, the IMF, ECLAC, the CFT, The Governor of Sint Maarten, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and everyone else interested in St. Maarten.

Last week marked 6 months since the passing of hurricane Irma, the economy has been severely affected; at best some sectors are achieving only 30% of their pre-Irma revenues; and it will likely take years of planning and hard work to recover, if indeed we are ever able to return to pre-Irma levels. While many efforts are focused on moving forward with recovery, some crucial things are still pending. Two reports were recently published that provide some serious food for thought about the economic future of St. Maarten. One is the Statistical Yearbook 2017 published by the Department of Statistics (STAT).

And the other is the 3rd Quarter Report of the Central Bank of Curacao (CBCS) and St. Maarten.

Hard data is very difficult to come by. That was already the case pre-Irma, but now even more so. Case in point, the Central Bank could not obtain data for the 3rd Quarter from St. Maarten. In the meantime, we have had numerous entities attempt to put some analysis together, as a basis for Recovery Plans: The Netherlands, the World Bank, ECLAC and the UNDP just to name a few. With the best of intentions, the 4 mentioned are completely data dependent and are lacking in local knowledge; which puts them in a very difficult position when it comes to helping chart a way forward economically. This is obviously not their fault—but a recognized problem.

SHTA’s recent membership surveys point to an economy that has been struggling for the last many years and may very well have closed 2017 down over 2016 in profitability as well as turnover even without Irma. Some statistics report a very slight GDP growth for the years 2015 and 2016 but that could actually indicate a decline considering the margin of error in statistics. Data taken from the Yearbook (see link above) indicates GDP and Per Capita comparison for the years 2013 – 2016 as follows:


Note that as a result of a growing population the actual average income per resident (per capita) decreased over 2015 and 2016. Data for the year 2017 is not yet available but it is safe to say that there will be a significant decrease in both GDP and Per Capita.

Due to the unavailability of 2017 data, the Central Bank Report includes a study of economic development after a catastrophic event and includes scenarios for the development of St. Maarten’s post-Irma economy, we refer to page 38 of the quarterly report, which is academic and very well elucidated. We encourage you to read the report.

4 Post-natural disaster GDP/Capita versus Time growth scenarios


Some of these scenarios forecast a better picture than others, but in all 4 you have GDP/Capita rising above pre-Irma levels over time, indicating that GDP development will in general, more or less, return to the “pre catastrophe trend”. By using the upward trend graphics, the Central Bank may create the perception that St. Maarten appears to be okay, despite the Irma blip or blips (depending on the scenario) it looks like over time we will again be on the right track.

Unfortunately, as we have noted in the data included in the Statistical Yearbook 2017 (we refer to top of page 65) the GDP development showed low or no growth whereas Per Capita development was reported as negative. Therefore, apparently, we do not have a rising trend in GDP/capita! If we apply the well-considered reasoning of our Central Bank; we can only conclude that the following 4 scenarios give a better reflection of our St. Maarten reality.

4 Scenarios GDP/Capita versus TIME based on actual Pre-IRMA GDP/Capita trends


In these scenarios, over time the GDP/capita never makes it above the pre-Irma levels.

This is where St. Maarten’s real challenge lies; how do we use the available recovery funds in such a way that the existing GDP trend improves and starts showing a healthy upward trend of say 3% growth per year and improving Per Capita income for its residents? As the personal income tax and wage tax is based on a progressive tax bracket system, lower per capita means reduced Government income from personal income tax and wage tax even if the economy increases. As a result of lower purchasing power TOT revenues will also decrease (or at least show lower growth than GDP growth would suggest). The fact is, that our economy was underperforming, with (intended) government expenditure outpacing real growth. While GDP was growing with less than 1% per year, Government Budgets were growing with 5% per year.


The developments in 2017 and 2018, GDP as predicted by the Central Bank and budgets as presented by Government, result in a dramatic increase of Government spending, especially when presented in a percentage of GDP. This is an unsustainable path in the post Irma reality; deficit spending by government without providing stimulus for the private sector to achieve real growth. Continuing on this path is a big mistake. Considering that the economy was already shrinking, it is clear that from a policy perspective that stimulus was not there pre-Irma. The logical conclusion is that without structural changes to policy, economic performance will continue to deteriorate.

Given the above, a few questions need urgent answers. If Government does not try and reduce expenses, it will need to borrow significant amounts of money for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019. Chances are that they will hit the established lending ceiling, especially if global interest rates increase over time (which is the market consensus). How does government intend to service that debt? How do they intend to fund new policies and capital investments when they cannot borrow additional funds? Raise taxes? Combining increased tax rates with a downward GDP trend will only worsen the situation, decrease private sector economic activity more. That is not how you get out of the downward spiral that we are caught in.

The SHTA has been stressing and will continue to stress with increasing urgency the need to address the size of government vs. the private sector. Just as Irma decimated the private sector, so should government curb spending. Not increase it by borrowing from the future of a private sector in shambles. There could be nothing left by then.

Looking forward to fruitful dialogue with all the stakeholders on what is and isn’t a good idea under current circumstances. With hard work and sacrifice we can come out on top. Sit and wait seems to have run its course and hasn’t produced any improvements.

To be continued....



Thank You from Maurice Lake.

Dear Editor,
I would like to thank my entire campaign team, my family and my faithful supporters for standing next to me for this snap election on February 26.
I also would like to take the opportunity to thank the Leader of the United Democrats (UD) Theo Heyliger and the entire UD family of candidates and team for giving me the opportunity to run with this experienced, young, and innovative and action-oriented group that will put our people first.
We need to go back to basics to move St. Maarten forward with a plan of action for the people.
I am looking forward to working with a team that is willing to work together with the Netherlands to reconstruct St. Maarten and put our people and economy back on their feet by creating jobs and low-income homes for our people and seniors.
In closing, I would like to thank God for guiding our Leader and entire team and supporters with wisdom, knowledge, understanding and strength through this entire snap election period. God is in control and he knows best
Maurice Lake


The Editor

Every politician knows that the key to winning elections is to make great promises. This is the season where politicians mount platforms and sell cures to all the ills of the country. In the spirit of the election season, Sint Maarten’s longest-serving Minister has once again dusted off his promise to construct a much-needed hospital. Minister Lee, a top underperformer, is now trying four years later to redress the wombs of his broken promise with the application of the same dirty dressing on his broken promises. But like old wombs dressed over with old bandages, its pungent smell is offensive to the voters.

Desperate to give life to old promises, Lee confident in his ability to fool the people with gimmickry, may offer to host a breaking ground ceremony for his haunting four-year-old hospital promise, even with no approved funding. This may be a countermeasure to jump past botching the bidding process on this occasion. Minister Lee stands accused of not given to promising any vast improvements in job creation, infrastructure, and the economy if it will not bring a benefit that abounds to his immediate family and Princes Heights Hotel.

Theo Heyliger, Prime Ministerial hopeful, has now found his voice and dusted off his own recycled promises. Theo and Minister Lee must learn that digital era makes available an extensive repository of videos and archived articles which now stand in stark contrast to their actions (or inactions).

Today Theo's glaring inconsistencies can now go viral as we have discovered that on September 25th in 2016 Theo is quoted as saying UP is “about inclusion” and shamelessly evoking the spirit of the late Dr. Claude Wathey he repeats “My grandfather said “Never take the people for granted,” and then goes on to add “I am a born Sint Maartener and I love every child and all the people of Sint Maarten. If you live on Sint Maarten you will be represented by this party.” Less than sixteen months later the same Theo, as the Political Leader of the Democrat Party is committed to appeasing his big business friends and cronies and the children of Sint Maarten get no more love and are to get no basketball court. This is why UP/DP voters suffer the highest buyers’ remorse.

But against the backdrop of his enumerable empty campaign promises Theo managed during African history month in an interview with SOS host Billy D revealed thinking of a prejudice politician with his revoltingly divisive comments. Theo to calmly announced to the whole of Dutch and French Sint Maarten, that he would deny the youth; the future of our nation, a place to play in the land of their forefathers and instead place the interest of the people’s of other lands, ahead of their own. This is reason enough to banish Theo Heyliger forever from the corridors of government. Supporters and independent voters alike must not ignore these prejudice stereotyping of our youth and must outright reject him at the polls.
Billy D must have sat in disbelief enduring Theo’s insult to our children. Theo claims that “you know how our local boys do behave” so he uses that as a reason to justify why he supports non-Sint Maarteners try to seize government land with his support. The occupation of the proposed basketball court is irrefutably illegal. The old hotel owners were squatting on government land, on our land. Theo’s logic is an insult to our intelligence that our young boys and girls should be denied a basketball court because a set of less than honest people wants to claim of our limited land space in our friendly island.

The question that we should ask is whether the hotel has the permission to transfer its long lease to another or whether it should have gone by to government for the Minister of VROMI to issue. Theo’s behavior is far from exemplary and he has no right pronounced on our children.

Theo must be told in no uncertain terms, that our neighborhood children will not search for a new space to play, they have a place and must be allowed their promised space to become the first Michael Jordan of Sint Maarten. Let the hotel owners excavate and create underground parking or let Minister Lee create a container parking solution. All our local boys and girls in Sint Maarten will take our known behavior to the voting booth and vote for those who genuinely love Sint Maarten, do not disappoint our children.
Name withheld upon author's request

Fair distribution of Government Land in A small island state.

It speaks to our political immaturity when the distribution of state lands takes center stage in the 2018 Parliamentary Election. It was only on the 10th October 2010, with the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, Sint Maarten became a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Most of us already know that the island of Sint Maarten-Saint Martin is the smallest land mass in the world to be shared by two different nations. Only 37 square miles are owned by France and the Dutch Kingdom, with Dutch St. Maarten on the South spanning only 16 square miles and French Saint Martin on the North covering 21 miles. But what we did not know, was that Sint Maarten is possessed of a bunch of fork tongue politicians who take issue with ordinary citizens receiving a small allocation of land.
We say this to reflect on the absurdity of pronouncing on the former Minister of VROMI Christopher Emmanuel’s decision to give out government lands in long lease to tax paying citizens of Sint Maarten. To start with, the current interim office holders are laying bare their lack of knowledge of what a Minister can or cannot do, as it is permissible, and not illegal for a Minister to issue long lease for government lands. When William Marlin secured Emilio Wilson Estate for the use of the state to secure a National Park for citizens of Sint Maarten and then government changed, the same noise makers of today quickly gave away “below market price” government land on long lease in a non-transparent manner to the Rain Forest Foundation; a profit making concern, and it appears those detractors and other serving Ministers and prominent technocrats were muzzled, as they said nothing.
In the current scenario it is already established that these leases were issued at market rates, so these recipients are not getting a peppercorn rate, they are instead paying market rate sums of 10 Guilders per square meter, paying to "KADASTER" and paying the notary, it is no gift.

On further scrutiny the citizens’ of Sint Maarten will be happy to learn the recipients are not aliens landed here, but all indigenous citizens of Sint Maarten. Some of the family names that are said to have gotten lands, have lived on the island for decades, with family both on the Dutch and French side. There is no one parcel that exceeds 10,000 square meters, there is no single parcel that any individual received that is in excess of 5,000 square meters. What will shock citizens is that this much ado about nothing is over no more than a total of 11,000 square meters.

In the final analysis it is irrefutable that the issue is not with the awarding of long lease of significantly small parcels of land, but the salient issue for the sitting interim government is their utter abhorrence that the former Minister of VROMI Christopher Emmanuel elected to distribute lands to citizens who are not of the bourgeois class. The Sarah Westcott-Williams and Theo Heyliger Team are beyond themselves at the audacity of this Minister Christopher Emmanuel, to attempt to empower the working class families by putting government land in their hands for which they have to pay.
There is a big hue and cry about Christopher Emmanuel actions as if a serious breach in protocol occurred during his short window of opportunity to serve, to not have allowed technocrats with vested interest in self-serving to have frustrated his efforts to locate government land for “ordinary” Sint Maarten citizens. Emmanuel has upset the apple cart, where the usual order of the day is that large non-traditional business interests snatched large pieces of land in prime locations; like next to the airport.
Good governance necessitates for national economic development pursuing policies that facilitate equitable distribution of limited land resources and with proper spatial planning ensuring country’s development agenda in a small state.

The casual non transparent distribution of water rights to proprietors already in control of large blocks of government land at Mullet Bay did not even result in a murmur. Today a minuscule amount of land for locals is too much, and the citizens’ names are plastered in the public domain as if they have broken laws. The only thing broken by Christopher Emmanuel is the glass ceiling that existed before Emmanuel that made ordinary people believe that it was only a privilege extended to the rich and those of lighter hue that are entitled to land. Today Christopher Emmanuel is the “Equalizer’. To hear Sarah and Theo busy across the land wooing would be voters and condemning Emmanuel’s actions as if it borders on treason, is a clear signal to voters that they plan to give nothing more than rhetoric and a T-shirt.
To his credit Emmanuel has not even blinked at this absurdity other than to promise that he is committed to continuing to place citizens in a position to access government lands through his housing platform.

Name withheld upon authors request.

Colonialism On Some Caribbean Islands.

The Editor

The winds of colonialism still tend to pose threat to life on some Caribbean territories, who will stand for them if they will not stand for themselves.

In September 2017 Hurricane Irma displaced the imagery of sand, sun and sea synonymous with favourite Caribbean destinations like the French-Dutch territory of St. Maarten, Barbuda, St. Thomas, British Virgin Island and Dominica, instead, the pictures captured destruction, devastation, and death. People would have seen these islands decimated by Irma, the many people who were rescued, the families who were separated from each other, and some who still remain displaced. Irma, a category five "major" hurricane according to US authorities, had wind speeds up to 185mph. History to date records Hurricane Irma as the most powerful ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean.

Caribbean territories who were spared the worst offered assistance to the best of their abilities, as they epitomized ‘my brother’s keeper’. The Miami Herald could not help but praise “the 15-member Caribbean Community regional grouping known as Caricom... for its cooperation among governments.”, while European countries and the United States came in for a wave of criticism over their handling of the response and relief efforts after Hurricane Irma battered their sandy tropical outposts in the eastern Caribbean.

In a tremendous show of solidarity and support, CARICOM members stepped up to help, offering relief, refuge, police officers and even prisons to aid storm-ravaged nations.

Prime Minister Skerrit of Dominica addressed the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly told the world body:
“The time has come for the international community to make a stand and to decide; whether it will be shoulder to shoulder with those suffering the ravages of climate change worldwide; .....; or whether the international community will merely show some pity now, and then flee....; relieved to know that this time it was not you.”

The UK Government committed £92 million to help recovery and long-term reconstruction of its territories in the region.

But on the island of Sint Maarten something peculiar occurred, but only for those who may suffer from the same Dutch collective amnesia when it comes to Dutch merciless suppression of opponents least we forget their actions in the Indonesian independence movement in the jungles of Java. The Dutch, quick to moralize about human rights abuses by other nations, would while Sint Maarten lay bleeding and gasping for breathe after Irma, offer Sint Maarten a “conditional” lifeline of aid. With the eyes of the world watching a brazen Dutch government without diplomacy said to the duly elected government of Sint Maarten, surrender your border control or no aid. While the Dutch Kingdom declared to the world a €550m aid package, they held Sint Maarten hostage; no compliance no disbursement. They went further and dictated like despots are prone to doing, that an Integrity Chamber be established that reports directly to the Hague, by-passing the Parliament of Sint Maarten and defined that its membership be constituted by two Dutch appointees and a token St Maarten member.

To his credit, and with his characteristic fortitude demonstrated, throughout his tenure in service to his country, Prime Minister William Marlin stood up to the Dutch. He tried to reason with a what was more a despotic order,the likes of a not to be forgotten colonial era and negotiate, hoping that Sint Maarten be afforded the dignity befitting its seven year old country status. But there were those within his coalition, long standing self-serving politicians, whose lust for office would see them sacrifice the crowning glory of 10-10-10 for thirty pieces of silver. In a final effort to protect his country, Prime Minister Willaim Marlin did not allow the Dutch to undo his stewardship by seeking to dismiss him with his Ministers who had all pass screening and install a compliant puppet cabinet. History will record William Marlin exacted a brilliant stroke, and put the power back in the hand of the citizens of Sint Maarten. William Marlin resigned with dignity and called an election.

The citizens of Sint Maarten may be Hurricane worn but they are also election worn, yet they can ill afford to take this election for granted. The example of Dutch controlled Statia is an indicator of what can occur under the Dutch. The world is watching to if Sint Maartener’s will reward William Marlin’s sacrificing his long awaited opportunity to govern, where he choose instead to protect the right to his people to self-determination or will Sint Maartener’s squander an unique opportunity to give a government that was able to reinstate services in record time after Irma, a resounding mandate to govern uninterrupted for the next four years.

The next hurricane season looms and promises to be even fiercer than 2017, but the winds of colonialism can keep Sint Maarten flattened and in chattels, they must choose wisely.
Aubrey Richardson

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