Published On: Wed, Apr 9th, 2014

Colombia, Curacao’s new regional partner?

Jacob Gelt DekkerBumping into a member of Curacao’s parliament at Charlee Hotel in Medellin’s El Poblado was not a surprise. For years, Curacao’s SVB has sent patients to Medellin’s medical center. And a little R&R after waiting and treatment rooms is a well-deserved reprieve. Medical tourism, as a major export business and looked down upon by many islanders, has become so successful in Medellin that patients from all over the world flock to this unique center of excellence. The Medellin Medical Center is proud of a long list of firsts, from kidney transplant with live donor, larynx-trachea transplant, thin intestine transplant, to autologous transplant of parent cells from bone marrow via intracoronary, for patients with ischemic cardiac illness.

Medellin Colombia has been named “ The World’s Most Innovative City, 2012-2013,” beating runner-ups, Tel Aviv and New York, in a competition of 200 cities worldwide, organized by “Urban Land Institute,” a non-profit, sponsored by the “Wall Street Journal” and the “Citi bank Group.”

Fernando Botero’s voluptuous sculptures can be enjoyed in civic spaces all over town. Outdoor escalators and an extremely efficient metro and cable car system made Medellin-public transportation the envy of the world. Access for all, rich, poor and tens of thousands of students, made the city-of-eternal-spring most livable.

Mayor Gaviria, who is presiding over the transformation of what was once Pablo Escobar’s global drug cartel city, into a world center of commerce, education and culture, has every reason to be very proud.

The Colombian economy looked set for another year of growth in 2013 according to economic indicators. Ernst and Young’s Rapid-Growth Markets Forecast of Autumn 2012 estimated that Colombia’s GDP would grow by 4.4% in 2013, a figure not dissimilar to the Colombian Ministry of Finance’s own forecast of 4.8%, but the country has outperformed either forecasts with 5.1%. The forecasts for 2014 are now adjusted to 5.8%. The question is, how can the island of Curacao benefit for its newly emerging, rich and prosperous neighbor? The answer is obvious; Colombia offers a cure to most of Curacao’s ills. Just to name a few. 1. Recently, Minister of Justice Navarro conceded the island’s inability to deal effectively with the huge influx of organized crime and is seeking help in the Netherlands. For many years, The Netherlands Police formed a task force in Bogota, in close cooperation with the extremely successful Colombian police forces. Navarro should pay a visit to his neighbor country and join forces. 2. Systemic lack of a motivated and trained workforce has halted Curacao’s economic growth. A 40-year annual brain drain, direction The Netherlands, left the island deserted and screaming for qualified workers. A failing local education system created hope, but fell short to meet the demand. Colombia has many, highly educated youngsters, who are eager to fill the empty spots. 3. With the rapid decline of all business from Venezuela, an eager supplier of goods and services can be found in Colombia. Costs of materials and labor are extremely competitive and also in quality, far outperform any European supplier. 4. Today’s output of oil production of Colombia exceeds that of Venezuela, whereas Colombia has very limited refinery capacity. This offers a golden opportunity for the island refinery. 5. The Dutch flower business of Aalsmeer moved to Colombia some 20 years ago and has become a thriving industry, fueling worldwide transport and distribution. Daily flights by Avianca and KLM are crossing the oceans filled with its colorful cargo. Curacao could easily become the hub. 6. The growing wealth of Colombia’s middle class made vacationing, and mass tourism, a new life style option. Most Colombian tourists go to San Andres, since no visa is required. Although Colombians face no visa requirement for the USA and qualify for ESTA, neither for the EU---no Schengen-visa is required---but Curacao still demands a visa. This silly and outdated rule forms a huge handicap for tens of thousands of Colombian tourists who are eager to enjoy Curacao as destination.

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