Should We Be Optimistic About the State of Affairs in Sint Maarten or Discouraged

The conditions in Sint Maarten are well known throughout the world. Billions of people have seen the images of total destruction to the island caused by Hurricane Irma. And there’s undoubtedly a large number of people paying attention to the post-Irma situation as it continues to unfold.

A quick and efficient recovery would be a boost to Sint Maarten at a time when so many are watching. And it’s important to at least note that even though they’re watching because of a disaster that hit the island, the attention can be used for good to promote tourism.

Of course, the only way that happens is by people in charge making decisions to rebuild as quickly as they can.

Everyone I speak to about the island truly wants to be optimistic about the future of Sint Maarten. I feel so strongly about this island that I started this website to help track and disseminate information more efficiently at a time when there were few other sources of information.

Since that fateful day, the government of Sint Maarten also started a website called SXMEmergency.org. If you do a quick WHOIS search (a way to find out who owns a URL) you’ll see that site is owned, and likely run, by a large consulting company named Bearing Point. It’s a good source of local information happening on the island.

In the end, we all seemingly want the same thing for Sint Maarten. We want things to get back to normal again. We want the island to be cleaned up and restored. We want the people of the island to be taken care of and to live in well-built homes. We want the businesses on the island to thrive. We want to see the Friendly Island come alive again.

As we move further from Hurricane Irma and closer towards the real future of the island, it’s necessary to take a look and assess where things are, where they’re going, and whether that future is indeed as bright as we all want it to be.

Where are we now

We are nearly seven weeks away from when Irma ravaged the island. Naturally, there is a lot to assess. But let’s just look at the basics for now, in an effort to keep things simple.

After the hurricane hit it took several days to get any assistance to the people of the island. Chaos ensued as looters and thieves imposed their will on the people of Sint Maarten. The government blamed the delay on Hurricane Jose, which was tracking towards Sint Maarten just days behind Irma. It ended up missing the island.

For up to two weeks after Irma hit, locals were posting messages on social media claiming that they still had no food and little water. And while food and water now seem to be available, the real problem is that homes are in shambles, people have no money, no jobs, and they’re sleeping in cars or in the dirt outdoors. This is real, and it has been confirmed.

What is the plan

Just yesterday, the government of Sint Maarten published the Interim Report (or draft) of the National Recovery Plan (the Plan). You can read an overview of the document here.

As expected, the Plan contains a lot of information and it will take time to completely distill. That time will come sooner than otherwise expected, or should at least, when Parliament will debate the Plan beginning this Thursday, October 26. That’s one you’ll want to tune in for.

The government estimates the damage from Hurricane Irma to be approximately $1.8 billion. That’s Dutch side only. Of that, approximately $785 million is projected to be covered by insurance, and $200 million is estimated to be covered by private individuals and businesses. That means that a minimum of $815 million remains unfunded.

Let that sink in.

So, best case — which is unlikely — means someone needs to cover that nearly $1 billion gap. But who?

Naturally, when that question is asked, the answer would seem to be a combination of the Dutch Government and the European Union, with the EU acting through the EU Solidarity Fund.

Is there a plan B

For an island with a GDP of approximately $1 billion, it would seem quite unlikely that there’s any alternative to cover an equally large $1 billion funding gap. Consider that the GDP amount is for both sides of the island, not just the Dutch side, and that the budget deficit projections for the government of Sint Maarten just released in the Plan are as follows:

2017: $87 million projected deficit (44% of total projected revenues)

2018: $143 million projected deficit (103% of total projected revenues)

2019: $130 million projected deficit (89% of total projected revenues)

That is to say that the projected deficits will grow and the cumulative three year deficit of $360 million, the shortfall, is 75% of the sum of all the projected revenues over that same period. To put it another way, it’s like someone who makes $30,000 a year spending $52,500 in that same year. That doesn’t work.

Earlier today, news broke that Prime Minister Marlin indicated that the Sint Maarten government has a plan B, although he refused to reveal any details. Now, we can try to speculate about what an alternative plan might look like, but if the cost and revenue projections released by the government yesterday are even close to being accurate, I can assure you, there is no realistic alternative plan that doesn’t involve Dutch funding.

Optimistic or discouraged

I’ll leave it to you to decide whether to be optimistic or discouraged about the state of affairs in Sint Maarten. On one hand, the people of the island have come together in amazing fashion, truly showing why Sint Maarten is called ‘the friendly island’. On the other hand, the government appears to be more concerned about not being held accountable by the Dutch government and, by doing so, is risking the entire future of the island.

The time has come to step up and lead this country out of this disaster. It’s getting to the point that the people on the island don’t care who it is that helps them, as long as there is help on the way. It never should have gotten to this point.

The one glaring fact in all of this is that something has to be done now.

Please help rebuild SXM and give today. Click here to visit the SXM Strong donate page. Thank you!

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Jon Strong

I fell in love with the island of Saint Martin the first time I visited, more than 10 years ago! Since then, I've spent a lot of time here getting to know this wonderful place and the friendly locals that make it so special. I adore the culture, the people, the community, and the beauty of this stunning island. SXM Strong is a website where I share my thoughts and love about Saint-Martin (French side) and Sint Maarten (Dutch side) with the world. I hope you enjoy it!

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