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Last updated: 08 October, 2010 - Published 16:43 GMT
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Dream achieved
Dutch St Maarten cruise port
Dutch St Maarten's is the leading cruise destination in the eastern Caribbean
Dutch St Maarten shares a 37 sq mile island with France, of which French St Martin has the larger slice - 16 sq miles.

The other 11 sq miles, 'the Dutch side' is amongst the most densely populated in the world.

Dutch St Maarten's population is officially put at 39,000, however, by some estimates that rises to around 50,000 when the large illegal immigrant population is added.

The population of French St Martin has been put at between 25,000 and 30,000.

Basis for breaking away

St Maarten's economy although mainly tourism-based, gets a significant injection of revenue from the neighouring islands as it is one of the major centres of business and personal shopping in the Eastern Caribbean.

But to keep the economy turning has meant a heavy reliance on imported labour, mainly from the neighbouring islands.

Dutch St Maarten governments have always claimed that they were not getting a fair return for what they were contributing to the coffers of the Curacao-based federal government.

KLM planes landing in St Maarten
St Maarten's Juliana Airport is among the busiest in the region

This claim has been consistently challenged and denied by Curacao.

In the end, after several failed attempts within the Netherlands Antilles to work out a more equitable structure, St Maarten decided to leave.

This is turn triggered the domino effect culminating in that territory and Curacao having 'semi autonomous' status, with the other three smaller islands becoming Dutch municipalities.

Taking care of business

But can St Maarten take care of its own business?

"Without a doubt", asserts the Dutch territory's first Prime Minister Sarah Westcott-Williams.

Prime Minister Sarah Wescott-Williams
Wescott-Williams: We have the ability

She told BBC Caribbean that "in most instances, we were able to prove (to the Dutch) that we have the ability to assume responsibility for certain areas.

"It's those areas where the central government of the Netherlands Antiiles was not doing what it should have been doing for St Maarten, and which have been lagging behind."

These include immigration, education, social security, the police and prisons.

There will be intense Dutch scrutiny, support and is some respects control over budget and finance, the judiciary, foreign affairs and defence.

Despite its glossy tourism appeal, Dutch St Maarten has had to battle threats to its image.

Mounting crime, longstanding allegations of corruption (there have been several convictions of high profile people in government and business), and inadequate investment in infrastructure to cope with the demands of a mass-tourism economy, are challenges facing the new government.

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