THE HAGUE–A report drafted by the SEO economic research bureau on behalf of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament shows that the economic development of the Dutch Caribbean has not been doing well since 2010. The negative economic growth has hit especially Curaçao and St. Maarten hard.
The general impression is that the islands, with a few exceptions here and there, cope with issues in the area of government finances, economic growth and social problems. For St. Maarten, economic growth was positive until 2017 when Hurricane Irma caused massive damage.
According to the report, some of the islands have been coping with social-economic deterioration since 2010, when Curaçao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba attained their new constitutional statuses within the Kingdom.
However, there are also positive developments, such as in Saba where government finances have been structurally in order and the unemployment has remained very low at 3.3 per cent. In Saba, the population grew by 13 per cent between 2010 and 2018, whereas in St. Eustatius the population decreased by nine per cent in that same period. In St. Eustatius, the unemployment doubled from 3.2 per cent in 2010 to 7.1 per cent in 2017.
About St. Maarten, the report said that, in comparison to Curaçao and Aruba, the island had positive economic development with a growth of an average one per cent per year until Hurricane Irma hit in September 2017. Until that time, St. Maarten was doing better than the Caribbean region.
St. Maarten’s economic growth until 2017 was mainly contributed to the large population growth of 17 per cent between 2010 and 2017. Because the population grew much faster than the economy, the gross domestic product (GDP) decreased per capita from NAf. 46,301 in 2010 to NAf. 39,446 in 2017. The real GDP in 2017 decreased by almost five per cent in 2017 as a result of the hurricane.
St. Maarten’s economic growth between 2010 and 2017 was mainly attributed to the growth of local consumption, which is directly tied to the population growth. Government consumption and investments by the private sector contributed to the economy’s growth. Thanks to tourism, St. Maarten often had a positive balance on the current account, which in turn contributed to the GDP and had a positive influence on the foreign exchange reserve.
Inflation in St. Maarten was an average of 2.4 per cent between 2010 and 2017. The economic growth in that period resulted in a lot of employment. The number of employed persons grew faster than the working population and the unemployment figure almost halved from 11.5 per cent in 2011 to 6.2 per cent in 2017.
“With this low unemployment figure, St. Maarten did a lot better than Aruba (8.9 per cent) and Curaçao (14.1 per cent).
“You notice that Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten are going through a difficult economic period. Since 2010, there is no economic growth, the spending power has decreased, unemployment has gone up and government finances have been deteriorating,” stated SEO researcher Koert van Buiren, who is well acquainted with the islands.
According to Van Buiren, it is of great importance that the Dutch government supports the islands in the area of economic reform.
It is the first time that a report was compiled in this format, based on the main figures that were collected of all six islands, applying the same method that the Central Plan Bureau of the Netherlands uses to compile reports in the Netherlands.
The SEO report, titled “Main figures Caribbean Research. Economic, financial and social developments 2010-2017,” was presented to the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations on Wednesday. Van Buiren handed over the report to Acting Committee Chairman André Bosman.
The research was carried out on the Committee’s request and fits into the Committee’s objective to extend its knowledge about financial and social-economic developments in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. Bosman said he was content with the report. “All information has been brought together in a proper manner. It is an accessible report and very useful for us,” he said.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/85442-deteriorating-economic-development-hit-islands