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Sint Maarten: Overview

Sint Maarten is an autonomous constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands inhabited by over 40,000 people. Sint Maarten’s economy is based on tourism. Restaurants, hotels, and other tourism-related sectors account for about 45% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with a per-capita GDP of US$29,495 (IMF, February 2021). Tourism accounted for 73% of foreign exchange income in 2016, supported by large tourist arrival numbers. Prior to hurricane Irma, the country received an average of 1.8 million cruise ship passengers and 500,000 visitors by air annually.

Following the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, Sint Maarten suffered damages and losses of around 260% of its GDP, destroying homes, schools, and restaurants, damaging critical infrastructure including the hospital and the airport terminal, and disrupting the tourism-based economy, dramatically reducing arrivals. Sint Maarten’s economy contracted by a cumulative 12% in 2017-18 and public finances faced a sharp decline in tax revenue.

Through rebuilding and recovery efforts, in 2019 Sint Maarten’s growth was just rebounding to 5% when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing heavy income and job losses. In particular, micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) endured significant capital losses due to the impacts of the hurricane that were compounded by the pandemic.

The global border closures and travel restrictions due to COVID-19 further exacerbated losses in tourism. The economy contracted by an estimated 24% in 2020, with major impacts on fiscal revenue (IMF, February 2021). Unemployment is projected to have increased to 19%, according to the Government of Sint Maarten.

Although the economic outlook remains challenging, modest growth is projected in 2021 at 3.5% of GDP. Some of this growth will be supported by investments in reconstruction and recovery from the Sint Maarten Irma Trust Fund for Reconstruction, Recovery and Resilience (SXM TF), financed by the Government of the Netherlands for up to Euro 470 million (2018-2025). The SXM TF is managed by the World Bank and implemented in partnership with the Government of Sint Maarten as well as NGOs and local financial institutions. Trust Fund investments include major infrastructure projects, including the reconstruction of the hospital and the airport, and repairs to homes and schools. Funding is also in place to finance eligible NGO projects and provide loans and asset recovery grants to MSMEs. Disbursements under nine SXM TF projects rose to over US$94 million during 2020.

Last Updated: Apr 01, 2021