Michael Ferrier: “Treating French St. Martin as competitor is a mistake”

POSTED: 12/3/13 12:05 PM

St. Maarten – “Being a preferred cruise destination, I agree that Government should post haste limit the “must close” days for businesses on St. Maarten to Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day,” businessman Michael Ferrier said in a statement he sent to this newspaper. However, he disagrees with a claim that if the Dutch side is not open for business, the visitors will “simply head across the open border to the French Side and spend their money there.”

This is not necessarily a bad thing, Ferrier wrote. “We all need to accept and embrace the fact that this is a 37 square mile destination, that for “donkey years” we have promoted as being unique with the real concept of two countries in one (a little bit of French, a little bit of Dutch, and a lot of Caribbean). If tourists can for one reason or the other, not spend their vacation dollars on the Dutch side, but can do so on the French side, more power to us all!”

At least people spend their money on island, this island, our island, Ferrier adds. “All those of you who want to constantly treat St. Martin (French) as a threat to St. Maarten (Dutch) need to rethink and embrace. Just like the hurricanes do not stop at the border, neither do any of the other negative phenomena. If because of a lack of visitor and/or local spending on French St. Martin, that half of our 37 square mile rock continues to slide into economic and financial ruin, sooner or later it will drag down the Dutch side, as crime (for instance) will also not stop at the border.”

Treating St. Martin as a competitor of St. Maarten, is unwise to say it mildly, Ferrier notes. “Opposing visitor/local spending on the French side by some that think it is at the expense of the Dutch side, is tantamount to cutting our St. Maarten nose and spoiling our face. In this same vein I suggest to politicians on both sides of the island that they consider a single currency for both sides of the island.”

“While I cannot boast to have book sense on the topic, I apply common sense from a personal angle when I recommend that we should dollarize (US$) both sides of the island. I do not mean that we make the same mistake that was made on the BES islands whereby everything that now costs a guilder should then cost US $1, nor that if someone earns 2,000 guilders now, that he/she should earn $2,000 then. Consumer item prices, employee wages, service charges and everything else we now pay or have to charge for, should be converted at the last guilder/dollar exchange rate.”

Ferrier mentions another item he considers very important: “France needs to be reminded and convinced that St. Martin is “vraiment unique” in the French Republic. As long as people on French St. Martin get paid in stronger-than-the-dollar Euro’s (both earned wages, as well as social benefits), they will bypass their own French stores and shop across the same open border on St. Maarten, where they get more “bang” for their euro, and thereby exacerbating their own downward economic spiral. We cannot expect the Southern (Dutch) 16 square miles to produce continuously enough economic and financial activity to carry the entire 37 square miles. Can anyone foresee the calamity that will hit all of us if ever the social benefit euros from the French Republic stop flowing into Marigot? We, the joint population together with our two local governments must stop the whining and the begging and do what it takes to prop up the economy of St. Martin, the Siamese twin of St. Maarten. It will in my opinion ultimately benefit us all, Dutch, French, North, South and even East, West.”

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