Published On: Tue, Oct 3rd, 2023

Dutch-side economy twice the size of that on the French side

PHILIPSBURG — The economy of St. Maarten is roughly twice the size of that of the French part of the island, it appears from the Economic Bulletin of September, published by the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten (CBCS). The report estimates size of St. Maarten’s economy to be around $1.2 billion, while that of Saint Martin is just $650 million.

CBCS-estimates show that the population on the Dutch side is rapidly increasing while that on the French side is in decline. A graph shows that St. Maarten’s population increased from around 38,000 in 2015 to above 42,000 in 2021. On the French side the numbers went in the opposite direction: from 36,000 in 2015 to just above 32,000 in 2021.

Population density on the Dutch side is 1,238 inhabitants per square kilometer; on the French side it is 600 per square kilometer.

An overwhelming majority of cruise passengers arrive on the Dutch side. Arrivals on the French side are practically nonexistent. For instance, in 2021 St. Maarten recorded 232,519 cruise arrivals while the French side recorded just 992 arrivals – 0.4 percent of the numbers on the other side of the border.

The Central Bank however warns against a straightforward interpretation of these numbers, saying that many Dutch-side arrivals take tours to the French side of the island.

A Tourist Exit Survey conducted by the Bureau of Statistics in 2022 shows that cruise arrivals on average spend 93 percent of their expenditures on the Dutch side and just 7 percent on the French side.

The CBCS notes that St. Maarten does not publish the final destination of its arrivals, so it remain unclear how many of them actually spend their time on the French side.

As an example, the Economic Bulletin points to arrivals from France at Princess Juliana International Airport between 2015 and 2021; the average per year was 44,234. “Most of them likely crossed into Saint Martin afterwards but they are included in the total arrival figures.”

To gain more insights into the two economies, the CBCS has started to collaborate with d’Émission des Départements d’Outre-Mer, a branch of the French Central Bank. This cooperation focuses of sharing data, statistics and analyses to obtain a better understanding of the economic relationship and interdependence between the two sides.

“This will help reduce the chance that policy measures introduced at either side of the island turn out to be counterproductive and even create possibilities for concerted policy coordination,” CBCS-President Richard Doornbosch states in the bulletin’s foreword.


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