Pandemics, natural disasters exacerbated by climate change, have dramatically altered the way, that Caribbean economies conduct business and interact with international actors, in the trade, commerce, and tourism fields. A recent World Bank report, April 12, 2020, highlighted some of the pros and cons of doing business in this ‘crisis’ environment. What follows is a Caribbean centric perspective, which considers the unique position, of Sint Martin as a so-called ‘hub’, in a Caribbean context. This analysis also examines the post-colonial relationship of the Netherlands vis a vis Sint Martin, which relationship taints every aspect of Sint Martin’s foreign policy efforts, to the detriment of the island and its people.
The World Bank report noted that because of global travel restrictions, in light of COVID 19: ‘Air traffic has fallen to a trickle. The resulting collapse in tourism will severely affect countries in the Caribbean basin’. The report further stated that the financial crisis, on a regional scale is a distinct possibility. Domestically and here on Sint Martin, most debtors are unable to service their debts and are calling for debt relief. The question of liquidity support, for the government of Sint Martin from the Dutch government is fraught with a multiplicity of issues.
- The government of the Netherlands insists to attach, draconian demands on the local government as a prerequisite for liquidity support.
- The differences in culture temperament, mores, and values are key and ongoing factors, for the loggerheads experienced by the two governments.
The so-called Dutch Caribbean, namely Curacao, Sint Martin, Aruba, Bonaire, Saba, and St Eustacia, traditionally have been stable islands. In contemporary times however a confluence of factors have increasingly brought to the fore, our unique vulnerabilities and resiliency in the face of natural disasters, pandemics, and climate change. These factors have caused and exacerbated social unrest, as on Sint Martin North and South, when we witnessed massive looting and wanton destruction of property, perpetrated by persons from a broad stratum, of society.
In the economic explanation, years of slow economic growth and the need for fiscal adjustments are straining the capacity of the population to cope. In the social explanation, Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the highest levels of inequality, with wide gaps in living standards breeding frustration. Regional governments, response should be better economic opportunities for the worse- off, with a determined focus on service delivery and social protection. The exact opposite is taking place. On Sint Martin, the poorest are being taxed into perpetual penury, while millionaires have offshore accounts whose sole purpose is to avoid paying taxes locally.
The COVID-19 Outbreak.
The first Covid-19 case was diagnosed in China on December 10, 2019, and the first death and the first death was recorded one month later, on January 9th, 2020. Thereafter the amount of registered cases has surpassed one million. Since then there have been over nine million confirmed cases and nearly half a million deaths. Some governments in the Caribbean have opened back their airports, including the government of Sint Martin. Florida now one of the epicenters of the Covid-19 virus is not on the list of nations whose citizens are banned from entering Sint Martin. The Sint Martin government is risking the lives of 1000’s of people on the island with this move. Again, as a result of its dependency on tourism, the government is willing to gamble with the lives of people, in order to earn a dollar. More to come soon on this topic.