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Country Reports

Sint Maarten Country Report

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Risk Level

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Moderate
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Overview

Executive Summary

Sint Maarten’s GDP is estimated to have contracted by about 8.7% in 2018 following Hurricane Irma in late 2017. This caused about USD2.7 billion in damage, and major tourism infrastructure was destroyed. The economy is likely to restart growth in 2019: IHS Markit forecasts GDP growth of 1.8% in 2019 driven by reconstruction efforts and the gradual reincorporation of the half of the labour force which was engaged with the tourist sector. Prime Minister Leona Marlin-Romeo has led a minority coalition that holds 7 of 15 seats since the February 2018 general election. It comprises her United Democrats (6 seats) and the Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP:1 seat). Despite the political class being pro-business and favouring foreign direct investment, this leaves the government very vulnerable to losing support from SMCP prior to completing its four-year term in 2022. Reconstruction and recovery efforts following Hurricane Irma are likely to continue progress in improving the tourist-sector business environment and rebuilding infrastructure to restore the island to its pre-hurricane condition in the two-year outlook. The government is now likely to give priority to private housing as the international airport, most shops, restaurants, bars, casinos, and tourist leisure activities are already fully operational with many five-star hotels also having resumed operations. Private housing reconstruction is a key priority as around 80% of private homes remain damaged. Sint Maarten is experiencing increasing crime levels. It is likely to seek to increase resources and improve policing to address the illicit drug and arms trade, human trafficking, money laundering and armed robberies. Criminal activity rarely affects foreign visitors or tourism. The main tourist areas are likely to remain safe, with instances of street or opportunistic crime unlikely there.
Last update: May 11, 2019

Operational Outlook

St Maarten broadly welcomes foreign investment. There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of property. Despite the island’s infrastructure being decimated by Hurricane Irma in September 2017, when approximately 90% of its buildings were damaged or destroyed, reconstruction efforts have succeeded in restoring tourism as airports, most hotels, and restaurants have restored full operations. There are moderate levels of bureaucracy, as well as rigid regulations in the labour market and the tax system. Corruption and money laundering, mainly related to the island’s drugs trade, are relatively common.

Last update: May 11, 2019

Terrorism

There is no history of terrorism in St Maarten. A low risk exists from the activities of international terrorist groups that may indiscriminately target Western interests. Caribbean nationals, mostly from Trinidad and Tobago, have travelled to Islamic State controlled territories in recent years. Following the Islamic State's territorial losses in Syria and Iraq, there is an increased likelihood of radicalised individuals returning, moderately raising terrorism risks across the Caribbean, affecting Western assets or tourism zones. However, there is no history of such attacks in the region, and in Saint Maarten there are no indicators of a home-grown threat or signs that the country constitutes a target for external terrorist groups.

Last update: June 21, 2019

Crime

Violence in St Maarten is largely confined within drug-trafficking circles, which means bystanders, tourists, and business people are rarely caught up in conflicts. Street and opportunistic crime, although low by regional standards, is one of the main domestic security issues in St Maarten. The country has a high number of tourists, which are often targets of casual crime. The main tourist areas are generally safe. St Maarten provides strategic locations for drug trafficking into Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands – gateways to the continental United States.

Last update: May 11, 2019

War Risks

There are no significant external threats to the island or pending border issues . Interstate war risks are accordingly very low. Defence issues are handled by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Last update: June 6, 2019

Social Stability

Unions are not usually militant and general strikes tend to be resolved quickly. However, in April 2019 there was a general strike lasting several days by a main labour union on French Saint Martin, demanding dialogue from the government over employment and the reconstruction of the island following Hurricane Irma in 2017. Unions on both sides of the island have a close relationship, raising the risk of synchronised strikes should the protests re-emerge in a widespread manner in Saint Martin. In the event of civil unrest, this are likely to lead to short-lived road blockades and in rare cases the throwing of stones at security forces.

Last update: June 6, 2019