The fireworks shows are over, the first baby on the island was born and the New Year’s dives into the sea have taken place to mark the start of 2017. It’s time to get back to work and deal with what appears to be a challenging year ahead that nevertheless holds promise.

The economy of St. Maarten is expected expand by 0.5 per cent compared to 2016’s meagre 0.1 per cent, but it won’t happen just like that. Efforts to attract new investment and help create the necessary circumstances for growth, including adequate promotion of the tourism destination, must not only continue but be intensified.

The latest figures from the Chamber of Commerce (see Saturday paper) inspire some confidence in the immediate future, with 849 new businesses, 259 sole proprietorships and 461 limited liability companies registered the past year, up from respectively 732, 212 and 350 in 2015.

On the other hand, 111 mostly sole proprietorships shut down mainly because of financial difficulty, although there were still fewer business closures than the year before. One can safely conclude that the Dutch side is still seen as offering possibilities to entrepreneurs.

However, a lot still needs to be done regarding key ingredients such as prolonged stability in government, structurally sound public finances, less bureaucracy, fairer taxation, improving security, better care for the environment and a solution to the garbage problem. The opportunities will no doubt be there, but seizing them requires strong yet prudent decision-making and determined action to indeed make the New Year prosperous for one and all.

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