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Sint Maarten profile

map of Sint Maarten
map of Sint Maarten

Sint Maarten is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It occupies the southern part of the island of Saint Martin in the Leeward Islands - the northern half is the French territory of Saint Martin.

Its economy is heavily dependent on tourism, with some 80% of the work population employed in this sector. There is some agriculture in the territory but most food is imported.

The Dutch government controls defence and foreign affairs while the island's government handles local matters.

In 2017, Sint Maarten was badly hit by Hurricane Irma. The Dutch Red Cross estimated nearly a third of the buildings in Sint Maarten had been destroyed and over 90% of structures on the island had been damaged.

In 2023, Dutch Sint Maarten and French Saint Martin settled a nine-year dispute over the exact location of the border between the two territories.

There have been calls for Sint Maarten to become fully independent of the Netherlands. There is also a movement to unify both halves of the island.


  • Capital: Philipsburg

  • Area: 34 sq km

  • Population: 42,900

  • Languages: English, Dutch

  • Life expectancy: 72 years (men) 77 years (women)


Head of state: The King of the Netherlands, represented by a governor.

Prime minister: Silveria Jacobs

Silveria Jacobs
Silveria Jacobs

Silveria Jacobs has been Prime Minister of Sint Maarten since September 2019.

Speaking in April 2023, and addressing calls for a consultative referendum on independence, Jacobs said she personally believed that Sint Maarten should attain a level of financial independence before striving for actual independence.

"For me, being a mother, I wouldn't want to take my children out of a situation if we are not able to financially take care of ourselves and that is where I stand," Jacobs said.

"While we are still in this Kingdom I think we need to make the best use of it," she said. Sint Maarten should think long-term about planning for independence, she added.


Saint Martin and Sint Maarten have a number of local media outlets. TV service on the Dutch side includes numerous US stations, plus networks from the Caribbean, South America and Europe.




Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten
Tourism is the mainstay of Sint Maarten's economy

Key dates in the history of Sint Maarten:

c. 2000BC - Likely earliest settlements on the island.

c. 800BC-300AD - Arawak people thought to have settled the island in this period.

c.1300-1400 - Arrival of Carib people

1493 - Christopher Columbus is widely believed to have named island after Saint Martin of Tours. He gave the name to the island now called Nevis but confusion over poorly mapped islands saw this name transferred to the island now known as Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten.

1631 - Dutch build a fort on the island, which is useful stopover between their colonies of New Amsterdam (New York) and New Holland (in northeast Brazil).

1633 - Spanish drive off the Dutch and build a fort, amid the 80 Years' War (c.1566-1648) in Europe for Dutch independence from Spanish rule.

1648 - Spanish abandon island at end of the 80 Years' War. Dutch and French establish settlements and divide island in two under the Treaty of Concordia.

1795-1815 - Entire island comes under French control during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

18th-19th Centuries - Dutch and French transport slaves from Africa to work on cotton, tobacco and sugar plantations.

1848 - France abolishes slavery in its colonies. Dutch authorities respond by freeing slaves, though it is not until 1863 that the Netherlands abolishes slavery in all its island colonies.

1815 - Sint Maarten and other Dutch possessions become part of the Dutch colony of Curaçao and dependencies.

1954 - Netherlands Antilles is established as a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, comprising Sint Maarten and other Dutch Caribbean territories.

1950s onwards - Tourism becomes increasingly important.

1995 - Hurricane Luis causes significant damage on the island.

2010 - The Netherlands Antilles is dissolved, and Sint Maarten becomes a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, like Aruba and Curaçao, with the kingdom retaining responsibility for defence and foreign policy.

2017 - Hurricane Irma causes extensive damage across the island. Dutch Red Cross says nearly a third of buildings in Sint Maarten destroyed and over 90% of structures on the island damaged.

Marigot Bay and Sandy Ground, Sint Maarten
Sint Maarten is a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands