|St Maarten Economy|
St Maarten is located in the southern portion of the island of Saint Martin. The St Maarten portion of the island is part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands territory, whilst the northern part of the island belongs to the French. St Maarten was previously part of the Netherlands Antilles area (which consisted of five countries) up until October 2010. The country covers a relatively small land area and has a population of around 37,000 people. Being part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, St Maarten does not use the East Caribbean Dollar, instead making use of the Netherlands Antillean Guilder. The St Maarten economy is heavily reliant on one major sector.
Early History of St Maarten Economy
Although the island was named by Christopher Columbus on his travels in the 15th century, the island was not settled by Western civilisation until the 17th century. The French and Dutch have had major conflicts over the island and this is subsequently why it is now two separate areas. The Dutch were the first to promote the economy on St Maarten, starting with salt mining in the early part of the 17th century. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, after a few tussles with the Spanish, the island then began to produce sugar cane, tobacco and cotton which became the mainstays of the St Maarten economy. These industries, in particular sugar cane, began to dwindle towards the start of the 20th century.
Tourism Leads the Way in St Maarten Economy
Undoubtedly the mainstay of the St Maarten economy in the current climate is tourism. There are approximately 1 million visitors to St Maarten each year, both in the form of long-stay travellers and those on cruise ships who dock at the numerous ports and harbours on the island. The tourism sector is so steady and strong on St Maarten that it accounts for four-fifths of the total workforce (which is approximately 23,000 people).
The government of the island is committed to expanding this successful sector, although it has lost out slightly to the likes of St Lucia, where there is a huge emphasis placed on marketing the island for tourism purposes. Of course, with the success of tourism on St Maarten, other industries such as construction and hospitality services have been able to grow at a steady rate.
Although only accounting for 15% of St Maarten's GDP (Gross Domestic Product), light manufacturing plays a small role in the St Maarten economy. Agriculture accounts for less than 0.5% of the GDP, with the majority of foodstuffs having to be imported into the island from import partners such as the United States of America and Mexico. The agricultural practices are centred on sugar cane which is exported to countries such as China and Japan. The fishing industry is somewhat minimal and is only beneficial in a self-sustenance capacity for the population of St Maarten.
It is fair to state that the St Maarten economy would suffer greatly if the tourism industry was to be affected in a major way. The government is keen to help diversify the economy with the introduction and growth of industries such as offshore banking and financial services in the near future.