Friday, May 29th

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Win some, lose some

Member of Parliament Christopher Emanuel (NA) during his press conference on Thursday (see related article) openly questioned why grocery prices are considerably lower on the French side, using receipts with concrete examples. His colleague Maurice Lake (UP) had touched on the issue earlier, at the end of July.

This matter actually has been the “talk of the town” among shoppers lately, especially since a new supermarket was established in Marigot with a house brand. It regards a large chain in France, so that may have something to do with it as well.

One also must keep in mind that both Europe and the US, while beacons of free enterprise, still have some varying subsidies and other protective measures in their agricultural sectors. The latter is actually a longstanding bone of contention between the two and with others.

But the recent drop in the value of the euro against the US dollar and consequently the Antillean guilder plays a big role too. It is important to remember that exactly the opposite happened not long after the common currency of the EU was introduced.

At the time consumers from the Northern part of the island found themselves frequently heading South in droves not only to buy stuff, but to work and do business. The tourism industry on the French side also was hit hard and still is hurting from that blow even today.

Let’s face it, the economy of St. Maarten and many entrepreneurs greatly benefitted from this development for quite a few years. Anyone overly concerned about the tables now apparently having turned somewhat should take that reality into account.

There is in any case no reason to point fingers. If a food store is perceived as expensive, everyone is free to visit another on either side of the open border. That’s the beauty of being a twin-nation island and essentially one market, although – again – differing rules, regulations and circumstances like the so-called basic goods under price control on the Dutch side can have an impact.

For example, a supermarket in Cole Bay already has adapted to the new situation by bringing in a well-known French product line of its own. That is the only appropriate response, because in an essentially capitalistic system characterised by competition there is always a chance to win some and lose some.