What is inflation? Well to the best of my knowledge, although I am not an economic guru, inflation is an increase in the average level of prices of goods and services.
I feel as though this topic is long overdue for discussion. I do not intend to proffer solutions to the ever growing problems of St. Maarten but to highlight the problems we face daily on the island. I am provoked to write on behalf of everybody whether local or foreign, concerning our daily challenges and frustrations!
1. Dollar has very low value in St. Maarten! You want proof? Try hiring a mason to work for you. Don’t get me wrong, it is not the mason’s fault, it is the way things are naturally in St. Maarten. There is no price control, from the top, which is government establishments to the bottom, which are local businesses. I am sure that even the rich people in St. Maarten will agree with me that GEBE is quite expensive and very unaffordable. Again I do not blame GEBE, you know why? It’s the general situation in St. Maarten. You make all the money and spend all the money whether you like it or not.
The prices of regular items (not ostentatious goods) are out of control compared to everywhere else around St. Maarten, which is why most goods are imported because they are affordable; but as soon as they get to St. Maarten, they are sold expensively. Look around you, there are so many goods coming in from nearby places, for example, alcohol and a lot of hair products, plus furniture are imported from the Dominican Republic, Dominica and Haiti and some other places bring in agricultural products, toys and clothes, candies, confectionaries and many more come in from the United States, packaged sea food mostly from Asia, etc.
The list is endless. St Maarten is a land that collects from everybody and gives out nothing. What does this mean for the economy – DOOM!!! Things will never work out this way, no matter what we do. Our relationship with other countries is one-sided, it is supposed to be a symbiotic relationship. We are spending more than we are earning! I really hope that an economic guru would look into the situation of SXM and tell us exactly where we are at this point.
2. Wages are very low and everything is imported: I often wonder how people survive on such low wages. Let me tell you how this works, if I earn 1,500 dollars a month and spend all of it, how do I survive? And you all wonder why so many adults still live with their parents on the island despite having jobs? The norm is to wait to acquire from your parents to enable you to step up to the next level of owning anything because, it is almost impossible to own anything from your monthly remuneration, which is totally wrong! You can barely survive not to mention save for the future.
The older generation are very quick to blame my generation for having no incentive to attain greatness; how would you be motivated when there is barely anything around to motivate you? I am being very sincere. Most people who are doing well in St. Maarten first of all, most likely got their college education from a foreign country, saved up from a foreign country and then brought all of their money home to set up businesses and try to keep the business afloat.
Often at times, they are only able to maintain that business for as long as they can and they are barely able to expand, which is why so many locally owned businesses aren’t doing very well compared to their foreign counterpart, because most foreigners (who are from countries with less currency value) have the connection to purchase their goods cheaper and from certain places.
Everything needed to run a business including food products is imported in St. Maarten!!! I have lost count of how many times my friends have a tool that needs replacement on their car and they wait for weeks to get it, because it is imported. A friend of mine once imported an item that was about 10 dollars but he paid the cargo company more than the original price of purchase to pick it up! Do we then blame the cargo companies? My answer is NO! They have salaries to pay and are employers of labour as well, living with the situation of St. Maarten.
3. Poverty is the order of the day! There are barely high paying jobs but so many avenues to spend! Yes crime is on the increase! We all need to brace up! Before you start to judge me for predicting doom, realize that I am a realist. We are all suffering and smiling. Even the so called rich people can feel the pinch of constant and forever living inflation on the island. There are hardly any industries in SXM, often at times only low paying jobs are available, well unless you decide to become a politician but hey you need money to campaign right?
The majority of the populace are living from hand to mouth. You can barely satisfy your daily needs not to mention save for the future unless you are fortunate enough to own land and properties that were most likely acquired from your forefathers (and were developed) years ago. Why do you think that most locals sell off their properties? They sell most likely with the intention of maybe, establishing a business but in the twinkle of an eye, the money is gone!
I know some of us are very careless with our expenses but the truth is that you are forced to live measly to save up anything on St. Maarten. The rich have been rich from many years ago and it will remain that way unfortunately! Visit the supermarket and pick up a few items, by the time you get to the cashier, you would be shocked at the amount you are charged. I don’t even know “what the St. Maarten is going on.”
4. Most educated “St. Maarteners” decide to stay abroad despite coming from a beautiful country like this. Because, those of them in developed countries see that it is absolutely cheaper and better. They earn more salaries, have better health care, better insurance, better pension plans, cheaper water and electricity bills, better infrastructure and less stress. The few of them that try to come home to set up businesses are mostly not prepared for what they meet. The endless “hidden laws” and the way money flies off of your hands leave you poor and frustrated.
5. So many people on the island are poor because the cost of living is permanently high, but you cannot tell them that though! Some people don’t even know that they are poor, that’s how bad it is! Most people work for several years and drive big cars that they get through a bank loan and they really think that they are equivalent to Bill Gates! Even the government cannot keep up, which is why they are also looking for ways to make more money. The problem isn’t for money to be made, it is for prices to be controlled. But how can you control prices when you do not produce anything!!! Meanwhile the borders are opened to all to bring in everything including shark meat!
6. Prices cannot be controlled, irony of it all right? Well you are able to control prices when you have products that are made in the country I guess or what do you all think? Because it seems complicated to me. Again, because of the high cost of living, as a matter of fact, locally made products are going to be far more expensive than those that’s are imported if you ask me. Most of the products are imported from all over the world without proper checks to trace the origin and rules concerning importation from certain countries but guess what, try exporting from St. Maarten “legally” and you would be met with a huge wall of rules and regulations that are sometimes irrelevant to what you do. Our boarders are opened to everything. How can the infant (local) businesses be protected?
I really don’t understand how people survive on this Island, I don’t even know how I survive, but I know one thing for sure, we are not having it easy, from business owners to employees and even the government. I hope this stop soon because the worse it gets, the more criminality will be recorded on the island and when that increases, tourism would decrease. We all pray it doesn’t get to that. I am afraid for the future of my kids who are from here. What can be done? This is getting out of hand; we are all just suffering and smiling really! Can any economic guru tell us the present economic situation of the Island and how this situation can be curbed since it is impossible to eradicate at this point?