Skip to main content

Sint Maarten Country Report

Country Risk Level


Overview

Executive Summary

Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs leads a coalition comprising the National Alliance Party, the United St. Maarten Party, and independent MPs Luc Mercelina and Chanel Brownbill. Jacobs is pro-business and favours foreign direct investment with his government’s main priorities being to upgrade anti-money laundering, mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, and lead the island’s economic reopening process, including the reactivation of the key tourism sector. Sint Maarten’s economy expanded by 1.7% in 2019 following the deep 2018 recession caused by the extensive damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma in early September 2017, which caused massive losses in infrastructure, including the international airport and sea ports. Our forecast for economic growth has turned negative, driven by the negative impact of the COVID-19-virus pandemic, contracting by 12.2% in 2020 and going back to growth by 3.5% in 2021.Reconstruction and recovery efforts following Hurricane Irma are now complete having improved the tourist-sector business environment and rebuilt infrastructure restoring the island to its pre-hurricane condition. Amid COVID-19, the government is likely to give priority to support shops, restaurants, bars, casinos, and tourist leisure activities and five-star hotels to ready to resume operations once international flights are resumed and the pandemic contained. 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.

Operational Outlook

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of property and Sint Maarten is a pro-business jurisdiction aiming to attract foreign investment. Hurricane Irma in September 2017 decimated approximately 90% of buildings and infrastructure, but reconstruction efforts have succeeded in restoring tourism as airports, most hotels, and restaurants have resumed full operations. There are moderate levels of bureaucracy, as well as rigid regulations in the labour market and the tax system. Countering corruption and money laundering, mainly related to the island’s drugs trade, are a key priority of authorities.

Terrorism

There is no history of terrorism in St Maarten. However, a low risk is posed by international terrorist groups should they 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 a low likelihood of radicalised individuals returning, moderately raising terrorism risks across the Caribbean, affecting Western assets or tourism zones. There is no precedent 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.

Crime

Gun-related violence in St Maarten is largely confined within drug-trafficking circles, which means that bystanders, tourists, and business people are rarely targeted by violent crime. 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, who are often targets of petty 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.

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.

Social Stability

Unions are not usually militant and general strikes tend to be resolved quickly and without property damage. However, in April 2019 there was a general strike lasting several days by a main labour union on French Saint Martin, demanding dialogue with 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 is likely to lead to short-lived road blockades with confrontations with security forces unlikely.

Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal