From the Editor:   Your editor first came to St. Barths in 1968, and has been a permanent resident for more than twenty years. He lives with his Franco-American family on a hillside overlooking Lorient from which he gazes fascinated by the unfolding panorama of a halcyon and unique way of life.
  December 1998
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  For many decades St. Barths' residents have been exonerated from the dazzling array of French taxes, in part, because of the terms of the 1878 treaty of acquisition, but, in larger part, because of neglect.
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  Now the government in Paris, desperate for any additional source of income, no matter how meagre, has recently decided that, in view of St. Barths' hard won recent prosperity, it's time for local folk to ante up.
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  The legitimacy of this change of tune is at least questionable, but this hasn't prevented the French fiscal authorities from sending demands for payment through the mails, and dispatching a cadre of grim faced agents to harass local businesses.
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  The arguments for both sides of this dispute are too elaborate to be detailed here, but let it suffice to say that the local folk aren't taking this assault on their economic achievement lying down.
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  There have been demonstrations in the streets, and there will likely be more.
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  A suite of legal and political tactics have been launched to stymie the government's avowed goals.
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  The issue is not likely to be resolved quickly. Government maneuvers easily become entangled in very red tape, and local folk are steadfast and resolute.
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  Should the government prevail, the already breathtaking prices for everything in St. Barths are likely to rise, removing those businesses that are marginal, and making the place more exclusive than it already is.
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  Visitors are unlikely to notice this underlying drama apart from some local brows being a bit more furrowed than usual, or unless traffic becomes temporarily paralyzed by yet another public expression of the citizen's civil rights, but any description of St. Barths would be incomplete without mention of this issue, unsavory though it may be.

  More to come,

  Peter O'Keefe


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