Sint Maarten

Region: Caribbean

Capital: Philipsburg

Population: 37,664.0 (2014, UN Data)

Surface Area: 54.4 sq km

Currency: Netherlands Antillean guilder (NAF)

GDP (PPP): $365.8 million (2014 CIA est.)

GDP per capita (PPP): $66,800 (2014 CIA est.)

Background: Although sighted by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1493 and claimed for Spain, it was the Dutch who occupied the island in 1631 and set about exploiting its salt deposits. The Spanish retook the island in 1633, but continued to be harassed by the Dutch. The Spanish finally relinquished Saint Martin to the French and Dutch, who divided it between themselves in 1648. Friction between the two sides caused the border to frequently fluctuate over the next two centuries, with the French eventually holding the greater portion of the island (about 57%). The cultivation of sugar cane introduced African slavery to the island in the late 18th century; the practice was not abolished until 1848. The island became a free port in 1939; the tourism industry was dramatically expanded during the 1970s and 1980s. In 2003, the populace of Saint Martin voted to secede from Guadeloupe and in 2007, the northern portion of the island became a French overseas collectivity. In 2010, the southern Dutch portion of the island became the independent nation of Sint Maarten within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. (CIA, 2015)

Economy – Overview: The economy of Sint Maarten centers around tourism with nearly four-fifths of the labor force engaged in this sector. Nearly 1.8 million visitors came to the island by cruise ship and roughly 500,000 visitors arrived through Princess Juliana International Airport in 2013. Cruise ships and yachts also call on Sint Maarten’s numerous ports and harbors. Limited agriculture and local fishing means that almost all food must be imported. Energy resources and manufactured goods are also imported. Sint Maarten had the highest per capita income among the five islands that formerly comprised the Netherlands Antilles. (CIA, 2015)

Major Export Commodities: sugar

Major Imports: crude petroleum, food, manufactured items

Industries: tourism, light industry

Remittances ($US): 62,117,318.4 (2014, UN Data)

Life Expectancy At Birth: 75.6 (2009, UN Data)

Sources:
CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. www.cia.gov
World Development Indicators. World Bank www.worldbank.org
UN Data http://data.un.org/Search.aspx?q=sint+maarten
Graphics: Flag and Map; CIA World Factbook

Updated January 2016