Geographic and Governmental Profile of Sint Maarten

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 the island of Saint Martin to the French and Dutch, who divided it amongst themselves in 1648. The establishment of cotton, tobacco, and sugar plantations dramatically expanded slavery on the island in the 18th and 19th centuries; the practice was not abolished in the Dutch half until 1863. The island's economy declined until 1939 when it became a free port; the tourism industry was dramatically expanded beginning in the 1950s. In 1954, Sint Maarten and several other Dutch Caribbean possessions became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as the Netherlands Antilles. In a 2000 referendum, the citizens of Sint Maarten voted to become a self-governing country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The change in status became effective in October of 2010 with the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles.
Caribbean, located in the Leeward Islands (northern) group; Dutch part of the island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean Sea; Sint Maarten lies east of the US Virgin Islands
Geographic coordinates
18 4 N, 63 4 W
Continent / Subcontinent
Central America and the Caribbean
34 sq km
34 sq km
0 sq km
Dutch part of the island of Saint Martin
Area - comparative
one-fifth the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries
15 km
border countries:
Saint Martin (France) 15 km
364 km
Maritime claims
territorial sea:
12 nm
exclusive fishing zone:
12 nm
tropical marine climate, ameliorated by northeast trade winds, results in moderate temperatures; average rainfall of 1500 mm/year; July-November is the hurricane season
low, hilly terrain, volcanic origin
Elevation extremes
lowest point:
Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point:
Mount Flagstaff 386 m
Natural resources
fish, salt
Land use
arable land:
permanent crops:
Irrigated land
Natural hazards
subject to hurricanes from July to November
Environment - current issues
Geography - note
the northern border is shared with the French overseas collectivity of Saint Martin; together, these two entities make up the smallest landmass in the world shared by two self-governing states
Country name
local long form:
Land Sint Maarten
local short form:
Sint Maarten
conventional long form:
Country of Sint Maarten
conventional short form:
Sint Maarten
Netherlands Antilles; Curacao and Dependencies
Dependency status
constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands; full autonomy in internal affairs granted in 2010; Dutch Government responsible for defense and foreign affairs
Government type
geographic coordinates:
18 1 N, 63 2 W
time difference:
UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions
none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)
none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)
National holiday
Queen's Day (Birthday of Queen-Mother JULIANA and accession to the throne of her oldest daughter BEATRIX), 30 April (1909 and 1980)
Staatsregeling, 10 October 2010; revised Kingdom Charter pending
Legal system
based on Dutch civil law system with some English common law influence
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch
chief of state:
Queen BEATRIX of the Netherlands (since 30 April 1980); represented by Governor General Eugene HOLIDAY (since 10 October 2010)
head of government:
Sarah WESCOTT-WILLIAMS (since 10 October 2010)
the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch for a six-year term; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party is usually elected prime minister by the legislature
Legislative branch
unicameral parliament or Staten (15 seats; members elected by popular vote for four year term)
last held 17 September 2010 (next to be held in 2014)
election results:
percent of vote by party - National Alliance 45.9%, UPP 36.1%, Democratic Party 17.1%; seats by party - National Alliance 7, UPP 6, Democratic Party 2
Judicial branch
Common Court of Justice, Joint High Court of Justice (judges appointed by the monarch)
Political parties and leaders
Democratic Party or DP [Sarah WESCOTT-WILLIAMS]; National Alliance or NA [William MARLIN]; United People's Party or UPP [Theodore HEYLIGER]; Concordia Political Alliance or CPA [Jeffery RICHARDSON]
Diplomatic representation in the US
none (represented by the Kingdom of the Netherlands)
Diplomatic representation from the US
the US does not have an embassy in Sint Maarten; the Consul General to Curacao is accredited to Sint Maarten
Flag description
two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and blue with a white isosceles triangle based on the hoist side; the center of the triangle displays the Sint Maarten coat of arms; the arms consist of an orange-bordered blue shield prominently displaying the white court house in Philipsburg, as well as a bouquet of yellow sage (the national flower) in the upper left, and the silhouette of a Dutch-French friendship monument in the upper right; the shield is surmounted by a yellow rising sun in front of which is a Brown Pelican in flight; a yellow scroll below the shield bears the motto: SEMPER PROGREDIENS (Always Progressing); the three main colors are identical to those on the Dutch flag
the flag somewhat resembles that of the Philippines, but with the main red and blue bands reversed; the banner more closely evokes the wartime Philippine flag
National anthem
"O Sweet Saint Martin's Land"
Gerard KEMPS
the song, written in 1958, is used as an unofficial anthem for the entire island (both French and Dutch sides); as a collectivity of France, in addition to the local anthem, "La Marseillaise" is official on the French side (see France); as a constituent part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in addition to the local anthem, "Het Wilhelmus" is official on the Dutch side (see Netherlands)
Data source 1: All Above textual data, maps and flags were extracted from The World Factbook which was prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency and made available on the following link: The World Factbook. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsered or affiliated, in any way, by the US Central Intelligence Agency
Data source 2: Plots and Charts are constructed using the world bank public data catalog which can be viewed by visiting the following link: World Bank Data Catalog. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsored or affiliated, in any way, by the worldbank

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