Winding back the hands of time
Thank you for all the replies and e-mails regarding the column about St Eustatius (Statia) last week. It truly means a lot when persons take a moment to reach out.
Last week we spoke about Statia’s history, so today we shall speak about some of the present-day realities.
The population is estimated to be at just under 4,000. Because of the global pandemic, no Census took place in 2020.
Four thousand souls
Of that population, a large proportion are guest workers who have come to Statia to work in several industries inclusive of technicians at the oil terminals, medical staff, construction workers, bar/restaurant staff and hotel staff.
Suffice it to say, there are persons of almost every nationality now living in Statia.
The cost for housing is at roughly $800 for a two-bedroom house and $1,000-plus for a three-bedroom house.
Construction costs are more often calculated by the day versus by the square foot.
For clarity, one would pay a mason roughly $150 to $200 per eight-hour work day. So a two bedroom house may end up costing approx $100,000 to construct.
Houses are constructed similar to codes in Bermuda, with the exception that their walls will use 6in block versus 8in block. To protect against hurricane damage, many new houses are being constructed with flat concrete roofs.
The cost of land is sold by the square metre, and price depends on the location and/or seller.
As a prime example, on the higher end, one can get a quarter acre of land with water views for $60 per square metre, or roughly $60,000. Quite a deal by Bermuda standards.
There is quite a bit of new development going on because of land being sold to young persons looking to become homeowners. Often they are doing a lot of the work themselves with the help of family.
There are roughly eight mid-size grocery stores on island. Most of them are run by Chinese merchants. With almost everything imported via ship from nearby Sint Maarten, the price of groceries is relatively affordable.
As Statia is a Dutch colony, driving is on the right-hand side.
Most vehicles are imported second-hand from Sint Maarten or Miami. For example, the landed costs for a five to seven-year-old SUV would be less than $10,000.
Clothing and other consumer items are, for the most part, being purchased via Amazon and other online shopping. Every week there is an incoming flight full of Amazon boxes.
Subsequently, retailers in Statia are clearly suffering the same fate as others around the world.
There are four main primary schools, three of which are privately run by local churches, and one government high school. For further education, many persons go on to university in the Netherlands or the United States.
As Dutch is the official language, one would have to speak it fluently to have a government job.
I can ramble on and on about those logistics. However, that would not properly convey what it truly feels like to be in Statia.
As it is a small island, with a small population, there are certain qualities that are truly rare in the year of 2021.
You can literally leave your doors unlocked and never have to worry about someone breaking into your home. There is virtually no violent crime, with one “suspicious” death in the past 20 years.
As entry into the island is extremely strict, with negative PCR tests as a requirement, and mandatory five-day quarantines for all incoming travellers, there have been no deaths related to Covid-19.
While driving, every two minutes someone will be honking their horn in passing. Saying good morning, noon or night is fully expected when entering any business establishment or walking across someone.
If you happen to run short of funds at a restaurant, grocery store or petrol station, the owners simply say, “Catch me next time.”
In closing, a lot of changes have taken place to modernise things over the past few years. Some good, some not as good. However, living in Statia is as close to winding back the hands of time when it comes to common courtesy and community spirit.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org