Published On: Wed, Oct 1st, 2014

Curacao’s aurora

Jacob Gelt DekkerAt the dawn of a new hospitality industry sunshine day, many are stretching their necks to catch the first glimpses of Goddess’ sparkle.

After many years of negotiations, procrastination and haggling, the local government finally concluded a series of contracts, guaranteeing a dramatic increase of airlift to the island from Canada, USA, Netherlands, Germany, Colombia, Brazil and Panama. All flights will commence shortly and before the new winter season.

Arriving passengers and vacationers top priority is to experience, service, security and uniqueness. No doubt the Curacao product is unique and roads are being improved for guests to travel to their unique experiences. Minister of Justice, Navarro, promised to improve security as well, and he seems to be making some headway. The public discussion about service-mindedness is also in full swing and may eventually kick in. So, Curacao’s tourist industry may have a new chance and rise like a phoenix from her ashes.

On the other side of the equation are investors who, at the moment, prefer to put their money elsewhere. At least eight of the large local Curacao hotels are for sale but buyers appear to have little, or no interest. The second-home and condominium markets have come to a near total standstill and des-investment, rather than re-investment appears to be the dominant trend.

So what can be done to revamp the economy and create investors’ confidence? There is no lack of professional advice. The Chamber of Commerce, Central Bank, IMF and many more international economic and financial organizations offered solid and constructive advise. Liberalization of labor markets and enabling free movement of people, services and products is at everybody’s top of the list, except for the priority list of ruling politicians.

Most ruling local politicians still pursue independence, isolationism, ethnic priority and an obscure economic model, that once resembled Chavez-Bolivarianism, a re-invention of a central state dictate-economy.

The assassination of a political leader, near 18 months ago, followed by a war between competing local drug gangs, shattered dreams of yet another ideological socialist utopia in an uneasy co-habitation with “safe-haven” foreigners, retirees and off-shore businessmen. All public discussions tend to lead to completely non-productive black-white, poor-rich and slave-colonizer extremist polarization, which caused a freeze on economic development for the last 20 years.

Curacao’s flippant political situation remains a strong deterrent for any investor, local or foreign. In order to create stability, reformation of some of the administrative and political structures is inevitable and a must, to make permanent investor-friendly changes. Regaining international investors’ confidence will only be possible with the necessary guarantees, with checks and balances, and since the local island institutes have proven to be too small, too fragile and too compromised to offer such, international coalitions will have to fill the gap.

Since Curacao is still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, it is advisable that all benefits should be reaped from that relationship and maximized, including memberships of EU, NATO, UN and mutual international, large packages of tax and trade agreements.

Also coalitions with Caricom and close relations with individual South American neighbor countries should become part of the security blanket for investors.

Empowering local Courts and creating a reliable and solid Judiciary is indispensible and an absolute must.

Only leadership and perseverance can bring this about.

Written by Jacob Gelt Dekker - Columnist for Curaçao Chronicle

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