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  Introduction Back To Top

Although sighted by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1493 and claimed for Spain, it was the Dutch who occupied the island in 1631 and set about exploiting its salt deposits. The Spanish retook the island in 1633, but continued to be harassed by the Dutch. The Spanish finally relinquished St. Martin to the French and Dutch, who divided it amongst themselves in 1648. The cultivation of sugar cane introduced slavery to the island in the late 18th century; the practice was not abolished until 1848. The island became a free port in 1939; the tourism industry was dramatically expanded during the 1970s and 1980s. In 2003, the populace of St. Martin voted to secede from Guadeloupe and in 2007, the northern portion of the island became a French overseas collectivity.

  Geography Back To Top

Land boundaries:
total: 15 km
border countries: Netherlands Antilles (Sint Maarten) 15 km

temperature averages 80-85 degrees all year long; low humidity, gentle trade winds, brief, intense rain showers; July-Novemeber is the hurricane season

Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean

Geographic coordinates:
18 05 N, 63 57 W

Natural resources:

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pic du Paradis 424 m

Geography - note:
the island of Saint Martin is the smallest landmass in the world shared by two independent states, the French territory of Saint Martin and the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten

total: 54.4 sq km
land: 54.4 sq km
water: NEGL

island 300 km southeast of Puerto Rico

58.9 km (for entire island)

Area - comparative:
more than one-third the size of Washington, DC

Environment - current issues:
fresh water supply is dependent on desalinization of sea water

  People Back To Top

Ethnic groups:
creole (mulatto), black, Guadeloupe Mestizo (French-East Asia), white, East Indian

29,376 (July 2008 est.)

French (official language), English, Dutch, French Patois, Spanish, Papiamento (dialect of Netherlands Antilles)

Roman Catholic, Jehovah's Witness, Protestant, Hindu

  Government Back To Top

Diplomatic representation from the US:
none (overseas collectivity of France)

National holiday:
Bastille Day, 14 July (1789); note - local holiday is Schoalcher Day (Slavery Abolition Day) 12 July (1848)

18 years of age, universal

Political pressure groups and leaders:

Diplomatic representation in the US:
none (overseas collectivity of France)

Dependency status:
overseas collectivity of France

International organization participation:

Legislative branch:
unicameral Territorial Council (23 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 1 and 8 July 2007 (next to be held July 2012)
election results: percent of seats by party - UPP 49%, RRR 42.2%, Reussir Saint-Martin 8.9%; seats by party - UPP 16, RRR 6, Reussir Saint-Martin 1
note: Saint Martin elects one seat to the French Senate; election last held 21 September 2008 (next to be held September 2014); results - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - UMP 1

Legal system:
the laws of France, where applicable, apply

Flag description:
the flag of France is used

none (overseas collectivity of France)

Country name (Goverment):
conventional long form: Overseas Collectivity of Saint Martin
conventional short form: Saint Martin
local long form: Collectivity d'outre mer de Saint-Martin
local short form: Saint-Martin

Political parties and leaders:
Union Pour le Progres or UPP [Louis-Constant FLEMING]; Rassemblement Responsabilite Reussite or RRR [Alain RICHARDSON]; Reussir Saint-Martin [Jean-Luc HAMLET]

name: Marigot
geographical coordinates: 18 04 N, 63 05 W
time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
daylight savings: +1 hour

4 October 1958 (French Constitution)

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Nicolas SARKOZY (since 16 May 2007), represented by Prefect Dominique LACROIX (since 21 March 2007)
head of government: President of the Territorial Council Frantz GUMBS (since 7 August 2008)
cabinet: Executive Council; note - there is also an advisory economic, social, and cultural council
election: French president elected by popular vote to a five-year term; prefect appointed by the French president on the advice of the French Ministry of Interior; president of the Territorial Council is elected by the members of the Council for a five-year term
election results: Frantz GUMBS elected president by the Territorial Council on 7 August 2008

  Economy Back To Top

Exchange rates:
euros (EUR) per US dollar - 0.7345 (2007), 0.7964 (2006), 0.8041 (2005), 0.8054 (2004), 0.886 (2003)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1%
industry: 15%
services: 84% (2000)

Currency (code):
euro (EUR); note - US dollar (USD) widely used

Economy - overview:
The economy of Saint Martin centers around tourism with 85% of the labor force engaged in this sector. Over one million visitors come to the island each year with most arriving through the Princess Juliana International Airport in Sint Maarten. No significant agriculture and limited local fishing means that almost all food must be imported. Energy resources and manufactured goods are also imported, primarily from Mexico and the United States. Saint Martin is reported to have the highest per capita income in the Caribbean.

Imports - commodities:
crude petroleum, food, manufactured items

tourism, light industry and manufacturing, heavy industry

Labor force - by occupation:
85% directly or indirectly employed in tourist industry

  Communications Back To Top

Internet country code:
.mf; note - .gp, the ccTLD for Guadeloupe, and .fr, the ccTLD for France, might also be encountered

Radio broadcast stations:
FM 3 (2007)

Telephone system:
general assessment: fully integrated access
domestic: direct dial capability with both fixed and wireless systems
international: country code - 590; undersea fiber-optic cable provides voice and data connectivity to Puerto Rico and Guadeloupe

  Transportation Back To Top

Transportation - note:
nearest airport for international flights is Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) located in Sint Maarten

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1


  Military Back To Top

Military - note:
defense is the responsibility of France

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 186
female: 162 (2008 est.)

  Transnational Issues Back To Top

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