Published On: Thu, Dec 27th, 2012

2012, a lost year for the autonomous island of Curacao

Curacao’s illustrious autonomy dreams, financed by an oil rich economy and energized by tens of thousands of highly trained re-migrants from Holland, as a bustling center of Caribbean tourism and world conferences, imploded onto itself. The rich oil wells only existed in the wildest fantasy of opportunistic politicians and thousands of expatriate Antilleans preferred their highly paid jobs in Europe over an uncertain future on Curacao. To make a difficult economy only worse, the European economy retracted, cutting luxuries, as perk trips to the West Indies its first belt tightening effort. Even a decennia long steady stream of The Hague and Brussels civil servants dried up to less than a trickle.

“The Isle, the Center of the World” dream of Curacao is dead and the economy flat, its flamboyant playboy Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte out of a job. And the flagship, the island’ recently opened luxury Grand Hyatt Resort, Golf course and Spa left with tail between legs in near bankruptcy, signaling an inevitable recession.
For a short while, Schotte’s grass roots cabinet--- heavy on youthful radical enthusiasm but light on skills and experience--- swept government’s gravy train of generations clean; unfortunately not only clean of perk privileges for friends and family , but also clean of highly trained, though stuffy and lazy professionals. It took less than two years before the young nation realized that populist credos and Chavisto bravado could not make up for balancing the government’s budget. Soon treasury coffers were running out of cash and digging a deep hole of debt.
People’s perception of a close association of the PM with organized Italian mafia demoralized the loyal Schotte constituency. After 15 months Schotte’s roaring thunder turned into a tempest in a teapot and since the summer, the sails of the ship of nation hung limp and listless in dead dull drums.
The operetta with Gerrit Schotte as prima donna is over, what remains is a new Caribbean micro nation, utterly and completely broke.

Wiels, Schotte’s coalition partner--- a utterly belligerent populist politician who has been calling for ethnic cleansing, seceding the island from the Netherlands Kingdom and sending all remaining Dutchman home in body bags--- sent the parliament home, therewith reducing the parliamentary democracy to a farce and a de facto dictatorship. Intervention by the crown restored the parliamentary institutions in name, issued elections and set up a care taker government.

Official election outcomes only renewed the people’s endorsement for the Schotte-Wiels coalition. Nevertheless within days after counting of the ballots, the seemingly intimate Wiels-Schotte marriage fell apart. A dogfight erupted and a new care taker government, based on a narrow one-seat parliamentary majority, has been promised for January 2, 2013 under a banner of Peace, Quiet and Prosperity. The new team, mostly recruited from diligent and meek civil servants, will undoubtedly do well as maintenance managers in the rudderless administrative chaos. The question remains, whether they will be able to perform in an extremely competitive tourist market, a lagging European economy, and an imploding Chavisto Bolivarian revolution in neighbor-country Venezuela.

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