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Blog Caribbean 5.0

Blog Caribbean 5.0

Mr. Etienne Ys will be on the talk show 2121 on Monday 28 February 2013

Posted on January 27, 2013 at 9:20 AM

These are my notes to prepare for the show.  They will consciously change. 

Mr. Ys is former Prime Minister of the Netherlands Antilles.

On 101010 Curacao obtained its current status as an autonomous part of the Dutch Kingdom.  The Kindom now consist of the following countries: The Netherlands, Aruba, Curacao  and Sint Maarten.

Curacao is a Caribbean SIDS (a small island developing states).  These states are vulnerable because of their small scale, openness and climate change.  Curacao ignores the fact that it is a SIDS, especially that it has to deal with climate change.  The island is 444 square kilometers and has a population of 150.000 inhabitants.  And people of 50 different nationalities call the island home.

The island has a GDP of over 5 billion guiders and a GDP per capita around 36.000 guilders.  The island is relatively rich compared with others in the region.  But Aruba for example over the years is out performing Curacao.  Over the last two decades the economic growth was about zero, much lower than the world growth and the growth in the region.

The main economic sectors of the islands are tourism, the financial sector and the refinery.  The smallest sector is the agricultural sector.  And government is too big. 4,600 civil servants.

One of the problems of the island is the income distribution.  Too many people earn an income below the poverty line.  A significant part of their life in the smoke of the refinery. Unemployment is high (in 2011 it was 9.9%), especially with the youth (22.6%). Still the condition is better than the region and so the island attracts immigrants.

The causes of this poverty are poor government.  There is a correlation with higher education and higher income. So the solution is good education for everyone.  Implementing education policy the last twenty years was not successful.  Education was not a real priority and there is a lack of vision, knowledge and know how.  The union leaders of the unions of workers in the education sectors also do not understand. 

Because of the structure of the economy and the education system annually the top graduates leave the island to study in the Netherlands.  It is estimated that only 30% return to the island.


The island was discovered in 1499 by Spain. It was conquered by the Dutch in 1634.  And was used as a naval basis by the West Indian Company in the war against Spain.  In 1795 the WIC went into bankruptcy and the State took over the island.  Slavery was abolished in 1863. The islands went through a recession. Many immigrated into the region. Poverty was a great concern for the governments, also the government in the Netherlands. The Economy 1.0 ended.  This all changed when in 1914 the refinery started to refine Venezuelan crude oil.  The Economy 2.0 started. The population grew from about 30.000 to over 100.000 in a short period of time.  The peak of the refinery was during the second world war, when the fuel of the allied forces was produced by the refinery.  The economy suddenly westernized. Very early on Curacao was a tourist destination,especially for cruise ships. This was taken for granted. During the Second World War the Dutch moved assets from companies to companies created in Curacao, to avoid to be confiscated by the Germains.  This was the seed for the Economy 3.0.  During the fifties the refinery started to rationalize and so laying off workers.  This led to the revolt of May 1969. The island came back. But in the 1980s the global oil crisis finally arrived to the island.  There were several simultaneous issues.  The devaluation of the Bolival in Venezuela, putting an end to tourism from Venezuela. The Shell left and the Venezuelan state company took over the operations of the refinery.  The tax treaties with the USA changed, affecting the offshore sector.  The Economy 2.0 was over and the Economy 3.0 took a blow.  This reflected in the Public Finance and since then the government tried to adjust and stimulate the economy.  This was a driving force behind the constitutional changes, that finally went into effect in101010.  Early on the tourist sector was seen as the sector with the biggest potential and much effort was spent to make it into the most important sector.  The refinery always remained important, employing around 1,000 people directly.  But times have changed.  There is a green movement and a green agenda.  The refinery is not so welcome anymore. The financial sector employs around 1,000 highly educated professionals but was never given enough attention.  The general population has not enough information about this sector.  This has several reasons. First of all it is a service and by nature intangible.  Only the higher educated and higher earners, among them expatriates, are involved.  There is a big social distance with the rest of the population, but the sector contributes significantly to the budget of the government.




Categories: Curacao 3.0

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