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My next ‘Friendly Island’ will have reasonable rules, investor protection

Dear Editor,

After over 35 years of visiting on St. Maarten, and living on the island part time for the last dozen or so, I am leaving. I have sold my villa and my boats and the commercial real estate I invested in. I will miss a great deal in St. Maarten, including the feeling of freedom as I navigate the waters of the lagoon in my small dinghy and being called “Captain” as I tie up at a marina. I will miss many good restaurants, La Rosa most of all and Etna vanilla ice cream, the best there is, Oasis 96.3 on the radio, ACE, Grand Marche, and day visits to Anguilla among many other pleasures of the Friendly Island.

I will not miss the traffic or the people at Immigration, who insist that in order to become a resident pensioner with no objective other than to invest and spend my money on the island, that I submit the same information year after year. They appear not to understand that it would be foolish of me to sell my main residence and move full time to St. Maarten in the hope that the regulations will not be changed, and that I will not be told at some stage that I cannot have another permit.

They say that would never happen. In that case, why impose the five year ordeal wasting their time and mine? After the first submission, when I was judged eligible to receive a residence permit that expired six months later, and when they knew more about me than my own mother ever did, why could not Immigration have charged me $5,000 and granted status as a resident pensioner? Instead, I line up year after year to buy a five guilder stamp to accompany the new documents that duplicate those already on file.

Who could possibly miss the awful people at Alegria, who have done more to destroy the island’s reputation as a safe place to invest than anything I have seen in the last 35 years. Why have they been permitted to do this?

And, I will not miss Sunshine Properties, the real estate agent which had the temerity without a contract or permission of any kind, to list my villa for sale in a recent brochure, even though they probably knew it had already been sold. And, they listed it at a price I would never have agreed to list it. To add insult to injury, they used pictures of my villa in their “Rentals” section again without permission, and even though my villa has never been rented. Without an apology or even an explanation I am left to assume that these actions were taken in revenge for my refusal to allow them to muscle in on a sale to a buyer who had contracted me directly.

Ah well, when I find my next Friendly Island I shall be looking for more reasonable regulations, more protection for investors and a real estate agent with integrity. I’ll not be buying a time share unless I can find one like Royal Islander.

 

Calum Johnston

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