The View
from Here:

    Ellen Lampert-Greaux lives in Petite Saline and is the new editor-in-chief of Harbour Magazine, and when she's not organizing the St. Barth Film Festival, or writing for various magazines, she turns her all-seeing eye upon local happenings.

    February '07

    January 2007 will go down in the history books of Saint Barth as one of the most important month's in the island's history. After many years of political wrangling and wangling, the French government has finally voted to allow Saint Barth to get out from under the yoke connecting it to Guadeloupe and become a COM— or Overseas Collectivity — reporting directly to France rather than a regional entity or department (as counties are called in France). Other important dates in the island's history include the day that Christopher Columbus sailed by, yelling Land Ho! —and naming this dry, scrubby rock after his brother Bartolomeo Columbus, whose name might have been lost to historians forever if Saint Barth had not become… well, Saint Barth. In fact, the French might have had no say in the manner at all, and we might all be saying "hej" instead of "bonjour" had the Swedish king not given the island back to France in 1878, after about 100 mosquito-bitten years of rule, when the blue and yellow flags of Sweden were replaced by the blue, white, and red "tri-color" flags of France…at least officially. But not to stray from the point, the approval of the COM has to be the most important event in the island's recent history. But of course, no one yet knows exactly what the COM will mean on a daily basis. Apparently the one clause of the law (or is it "claws") that interests people most is the one about taxation. Seems as if the island's official residents are free from paying French taxes while the non-residents get the Full Monty. How they'll decide who is a resident and how they'll collect from the non-residents remains to be seen. And they say that folks from metropolitan France who move here will have to establish residency for five years before the no-tax status kicks in. For now it's "wait and see," but once the COM is official, all should be revealed. For us foreigners it ought to be interesting as well, and I hope I'm not the one who has to translate the complex French texts of the new laws into English! But whatever happens, the destiny of the island is more in its own hands than every before. There will certainly be a lot of pressure on the new territorial council members about local taxes, building permits, paving of the roads, and other issues of importance to the islanders. So after all the years of wrangling and wangling, its time for the local politicians to do some serious soul-searching and decide where the island really wants to go, and then do all they can to help it stay on track!

    More to come,
    Ellen Lampert-Greaux
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