A metropolitan well integrated into the economic networks of Martinique, Éric Dupré supports young business leaders there through the Entreprendre Network. “I haven’t seen a drop in the number of projects. And no increase in insolvencies either ”, he explains, pointing out that “The Martinican economy has withstood the crisis rather well”. His company, which supplies warehouse equipment, is also flourishing, a sign of the good investment capacity of Martinican companies. These have benefited from loans guaranteed by the State (PGE): 750 million euros, or 8% of the island’s GDP. “A significant portion has not yet been consumed”, noted again at the end of December 2020 the Institute of issue of overseas departments (Iedom), the equivalent of the Banque de France for overseas.
Sectors have certainly suffered from the three successive confinements that Martinique had already experienced. Tourism first, which represents 7% of GDP and around 10,000 jobs, but also half of the island’s exports. Small businesses then, with a 27% drop in consumption in 2020. “But the weight of the non-profit sector served as a shock absorber for the crisis”, notes Éric Dupré. Civil servants represent 40% of the working population and, thanks to their increased salary, 30% of the economy. As for employees in the private sector, many have benefited from partial unemployment.
The new confinement, however, leaves employers in the dark. “The government has announced a drop in support for partial activity. But does this apply to this new, very strict closure? I do not know at what rate our employees will be supported ”, worries Bernard Édouard, president of Medef Martinique. “If the economic crisis has been alleviated there, we must not neglect the structural weaknesses of Martinique”, tempers Olivier Léna, interregional director Antilles-Guyana of INSEE. He thus notes that, if it has fallen less, the Martinican economy was also starting from a lower level than that of the metropolis and that, even if unemployment is stable, the employment rate has fallen by one point, to 56%.
“Martinique is experiencing major training and integration difficulties: many young people go to study in metropolitan France and do not return”, he sums up. Once one of the youngest departments in France, Martinique has aged in this way, and many of the young people who remain have little training. Multiplying odd jobs, often in the informal economy, these “jobeurs” have not benefited from state aid and risk sinking into deep poverty. “The State has played its role well in the face of economic crisis, but public policies in favor of the economy must be coupled with social policy: combating poverty is an essential element of the island’s development ”, warns Olivier Léna. Of the 375 million euros of the local component of the recovery plan, signed between the State and the Territorial Collectivity of Martinique, 86 million are also planned for the training and integration of young people, and 50 million for cohesion territorial.
“But if we have benefited a lot from aid, there is a time when we will have to pay, and this can only be done through the results of companies or household income”, warns Bernard Édouard, who is worried about the first reimbursements of PGEs. During a virtual meeting this Monday with the overseas ministry, the Martinican “boss of bosses” must also ask for it. “Transformation into grants or equity loans”. This solution, allowing repayment over eight to ten years and integration into the quasi-equity of the company, had however been rejected by the European Commission. But Bernard Édouard wants to believe that Brussels will make an exception “In support of the outermost regions”. He will also plead for a new impetus for tax exemption for economic activity overseas, in particular to strengthen investment in the tourism sector: “The State would lose nothing, because these investments allow consumption, and it rethen collects the VAT. “