Wall Street got a big one. Detroit is looking for one as well. And it remains to be seen if Saint Barth will need one or not. An economic bailout that is! But while the troubled money tycoons and beleaguered automakers were able to turn to the US government with their hats in their hands, Saint Barth would have a hard time turning to Paris for relief. On the surface it looks like Saint Barth is that mythical playground for the rich and famous that keeps popping up in the press. But spend some time here and that playground paved in gold is not to be found. Oh maybe for a few days around the New Year, the jet set brings in a gilded lily or two, but in reality the recent economic crisis and the vagaries of the French government are putting the squeeze on the island. On the one hand, the island recently changed its political status, breaking its yoke with Guadeloupe and opting for more autonomy, including fiscal responsibility. But one of the big budget items is a new occupancy tax on nights spent by visitors in hotels and villas. But if the winter season is slow due to the crisis in the US and elsewhere, will the coffers fill with this new revenue stream? All we can do is wait and see. The same is true for port fees and import duties. A slowdown would affect all these sources of income. On the other hand, the French government is playing hard ball in unexpected budgetary demands and the president of the island’s territorial council, Bruno Magras, and his brother Michel, the recently elected senator for Saint Barth, were recently in Paris to try and get to the bottom of the matter. But if tourist revenue is down from the lack of Wall Street bonuses or other economic factors, and the government is asking for more in the way of financial participation from the island, the residents are liable to get caught in the middle. The good news is that the dollar is stronger against the Euro, at least for now, and the price of oil has gone down, resulting in a decrease at the pumps here as well. They yachts are beginning to arrive in the port, and the entries in a classic yacht regatta should arrive throughout the rest of the month of December, adding a bit of extra animation to the port. The restaurants are open, the holiday decorations are up, the beds are made in hundreds of bedrooms in hotels and villas. And when the tourists start arriving planeload after planeload at the airport in Saint Barth, we can all share a sigh or relief. It will start looking a lot like Christmas after all!
More to come,