Published On: Tue, Aug 20th, 2019

Discussions in Parliament ignore economic impact marine industry

StMaartenNews LettersDear Sir,

Recently there were discussions in parliament about lease land that housed a boatyard (St Maarten Shipyard) and the press also covered the matter of the major marina in Oyster Pond (Captain Olivers) where legislation matters prevented reinvestment after hurricane Irma.

In all that was said on these matters by public decision makers, there was nothing that referred to the impact that these non-functioning entities are having on the marine industry. This is in contrast to the airport where the link between it’s functioning and other industries is central.

The marine industry was measured at being 15% of the economy pre-Irma. A significant number of employees work in this industry and there is the potential for more including high paid positions.

The industry does not receive any tax breaks unlike the stay over industry.

The industry has to date not required public investment unlike the cruise industry where public funds investment has to date not resulted in acceptable dividends for the investor, the Sint Maarten taxpayer.

Every single planning report by external consultants have pointed to the suitability of the development for the future of Sint Maarten when compared by criteria like employment, investment, returns, sustainability and growth to other existing or potential industries.

In spite of this, public representatives seem only to view the two problematic properties from angles other than their contribution to this important and high potential industry.

The success of yachting sectors in the various islands in the Caribbean, all of which I am familiar with , have been connected with investment in yachting infrastructure. The initial investments are typically boatyards and marinas which in turn drive downstream smaller investments. The manner in which the properties are handled will impact how investors will perceive investment in Sint Maarten. This investment is very important but sadly not currently reflected in the conversation about them.

The yachting industry of Sint Maarten developed mainly without public investment. If it is to flourish and contribute to the tax base and provide employment in the future it cannot be ignored in the manner that has recently been identified.

Competitive destinations are actively courting investment, facilitating growth and supporting marketing. The experience of the two properties referred to above may well suggest a poor investment climate to potential investors .

Robbie Ferron