Published On: Mon, May 21st, 2018

Minister Martina: Economy is at the turning point

martina-en-blokWILLEMSTAD - Minister Steven Martina of Economic Development is not too worried about it. “Curaçao is in a perfect storm. What could go wrong went wrong”, it sounds ominous. Nevertheless, the minister is optimistic. “We have reached the point of the turnaround. This is the momentum for investors because there are plenty of opportunities. The outlook is good, but we now have to continue as a cabinet. And that's what we are doing.”


Martina (56) knows what it takes to turn the tide. After studying economic business technology and administrative information science in Tilburg, he returned to Curaçao in 1990 to later graduate at TU Delft. His consultancy activities in IT, general and strategic management led him to Venezuela, Colombia, Suriname, Argentina and Brazil, where he also lived for a while. In 1998 he was selected as president and director of the water and electricity company Aqualectra. "The company was structurally losing money. A radical transformation has been made to fully modernize it. When I left it after eight years, it was technologically progressive and sustainably profitable.”

The successful approach at Aqualectra had been noticed. Martina received the offer to become CEO of Fatum, a subsidiary of the Guardian Group. “I was the first local president. My assignment was to achieve growth, but we were already very strong in the Caribbean. I saw something in the Dutch market. Many Dutch companies were active in Curaçao, we were the first Curaçao insurance company that did the opposite. A good position in non-life insurance has been built up in the Netherlands. In addition, I have made a number of acquisitions. The company grew from 200 million sales to 330 and the workforce doubled.” He stayed there for eleven years, with a six-month break in 2013 when he was Minister of Economic Development and Deputy Prime Minister in the temporary business cabinet Hodge.


At the end of 2016, Martina saw the MAN - the party for which his father was once a widely praised Prime Minister and founder - win the elections and form a government. “However, the party stumbled within two months. There were new elections for which the party appealed to me. Apparently the moment in my life had come to make a contribution to the party and the country. After a successful career in the private sector, you enter a phase of self-reflection. You have it yourself well, but see around you that that does not apply to everyone. I consulted with my wife and children and said: I will now use my knowledge, experience and energy for the country.”

On 2 June 2017 Martina was sworn in as Minister of Economic Development in the cabinet of Rhuggenaath. “Not an easy job, but one that suits me. Our country is in heavy weather. We need to look for an operator for the refinery who is prepared to invest in modernization or construct a new refinery, for InselAir a partner has to be found and then there is the unrest in Venezuela. All external conditions that have a dramatic impact on our economy. I sometimes wake up; not of despair, but precisely because the situation motivates me. It now comes down to vision, leadership and decisiveness. These elements are widely available in the cabinet. We are faced with a huge challenge, but I am convinced that we will succeed in turning the tide.”


The first signs of recovery are there. After years of contraction, the economy will grow slightly this year. “If you look at the opportunities, the potential is great, for example in the energy sector. The modernization of the refinery and the construction of an LNG terminal are excellent investment objects for which partners have already presented themselves. The maritime sector also offers perspectives. For the development of the Bullen Bay area we have a vision document with which we go to those interested to invest. Tourism is developing favorably. New hotels have announced their arrival, existing ones are expanding. Now that the second mega pier has been opened, the Rif area is waiting for further development. All this leads towards many construction activities and therefore employment. Curaçao was once large in the financial offshore. We have the expertise to acquire a position as a jurisdiction in the fintech world, for example in the field of blockchain and cryptocurrency. I also see excellent opportunities to give an impetus to the agricultural and fisheries sector on the basis of technology and ingenuity. We are open to partners who see opportunities in these sectors. Naturally, as a government, we have to provide the framework conditions such as good infrastructure. We also seek cooperation with the business community in the form of public-private partnerships. Everything I now tell you is part of our economic reform plan. We know what needs to be done, how it should be done and now it is going to happen.”

By Rene Zwart

NB. This interview is also published in the magazine CURAÇAO, a publication of the Cabinet of the Plenipotentiary Minister of Curaçao.

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