Published On: Mon, Oct 8th, 2018

The dark side of Curacao transitioning to a different age

The cockhorse of the Prime Minister of Curacao, Mister Eugene Ruggenaath is that Curacao is experiencing a transition. The transition is becoming today’s buzz word on the run. But this process has its sharp edges and ugly faces. In recent years already many different workers lost their jobs by the closing of different establishments. The trade unions stand with their backs against the wall and cannot do anything. For example, Hotel Howard Johnson and Plaza Hotel in the city center of Willemstad are closed. At the westside, Hotel Mariott has been closed for already two years for reconstruction activities. Thus, it still cannot receive tourists. And lately the auction of Hotel Veneto and coming soon the auction of Hotel Otrobanda.  But the effects of these closures are not only for the tourism sector, but also for the retail, manufacturing, trade, telecommunications sector etc.  In its tourism promotion, Curaçao also fakes to be ‘Gay Pride’ friendly island. As we speak only the construction sector is going in a positive manner. But, more ugly faces are rising on the horizon. Tug Company KTK (“Kompania di Tou Kòrsou”) is having difficulties. About 1200 workers labor in this sector. The company depends for work heavily on port activities. But a great 'external shock' caused by an emergency state in neighboring Venezuela has downscale and create great shortages in coming oil tankers to the port of Curaçao.  The past seizure by the American Company ConocoPhilips on properties of PDVSA has legally been ended, but it has still its negative psychological effects on foreign companies, which don’t send their oil tankers to the port of Curaçao.

But what is the meaning of a transition? There is actually no clear definition for it. Defining the type of transition depends from which perspective (e.g. ecological or economical) your perceiving the transition. In the meantime, our coasts are being flooded with refugees from neighboring country Venezuela. But the Kingdom government will still not take any extra measures for these lately developments. And maleficent business people exploit the situation by making fast money out of the emergency situation of ‘trago’ girls. The characterization from what is actually happening in Curaçao has more the characteristics of a massive sellout and/or buyout of the local labor force to foreign companies, exploitation of human lives and even there is human trafficking. The ugly part is that government in cooperation with other important stakeholders doesn’t have any social safety net in place as countermeasures through active policy against rising unemployed, violation of labor rights and even so urgent violation of human rights. Until now, it has been really a brutal assault on the people’s existing living standards without any preparation for a transition. The transition has more the characteristics for the preparation of an overall takeover by foreign investors; an invasion of cheaper immigrants labor coming in, because the own local labor force is too expensive and doesn’t have the proper skills of mentality for the creation of a new economy.  For example the reorganization of the local airline company InselAir. It has been extremely downsized from 650 workers to 50 workers; total 600 workers have been laid off. And until this moment the owners are seeking for a strategic partner who wants to invest fresh capital in this ill company for a restart.  The same thing is happening, but less extreme, with the company of United Telecommunications Services (UTS). UTS is being downsized, so it will have less workers. On the same time talks in seeking a strategic partner are going on.

But what is lacking? A policy towards the stimulation of the own local entrepreneurs, and possible innovators in the creative, small and medium businesses sector on the island. The government has presented a view in  attracting ‘digital nomads’ and foreign investors to the island, but it still lack a vision towards the transformation of his own local business and citizens toward a vanguard society. This lack of preparation is heart breaking and the effects are harsh on its citizens. It aggravate directly the state of poverty in the country. During this week the ministry of Economy Development is intend to present their policy on stimulation of small and medium businesses. The adagio ‘better late than never’ sound very appropriate in this sense. But, if the patient is already died on the operating table a second life on earth cannot be guarantee anymore!

By Sharnon Isenia, Willemstad Curaçao

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