Published On: Tue, Jun 30th, 2015

Feudal, exclusive rule in the Caribbean

Jacob Gelt DekkerWith its actual execution still hanging, the 80/20-labor law of Curacao was the straw that broke the camel’s back. With draconian hiring and firing labor laws already in place, wide spread abuse of labor disability claims of employees, and extremely poor work ethics of a poorly trained workforce, Curacao’s marginal economy was already far from an investor’s dream. The racist 80/20 law, aimed at benefiting locally born, and excluding immigrants, paralyzed foreign investment nearly completely. Why would anybody want to invest in such a restrictive economy that only benefits a small privileged group?

Labor laws and regulations, supposedly set up to protect and benefit locals, became the stranglehold for the local economy by extracting disproportionate labor expenses from enterprises, while excluding aptitude and skill. Instead of creating an all inclusive, open-to-all-talented participants free-market economy, an exclusive Yu di Korsou-only restrictive system was the end result. And as a consequence, the island economy is dying slowly.

Politicians, either trapped in their own ideological quagmire, or compromised as proxies of the ruling economic elite, shy away from any change. The rush of many disenfranchised into the shadow economy is overwhelming. Rampant crime and corruption are the inevitable spin offs. Prosecutors are unable to stem the rapid growth.

Infighting amongst the local political elite, daily acted out for the larger public as cheap soap operas, became so pervasive, that well-meaning efforts of change were instantly smothered and suffocated.

The economic problems of Curacao are similar to those of Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Haiti. With bolstered pathos, nationalistic micro-nations were set up after unloading colonial rulers, but neo-colonial rule never changed in character. The new micro-nations continued to benefit a new ruling elite at the expense of a large group of marginalized people. Exclusion and not inclusion in its economies prevailed.

With extractive and exclusive administrative and economic institutions the once proud and wealthy Caribbean trading centers of Western Europe have been transformed into Jack-in-Box tourism destinations where locals serve pizzas, ice cream and cocaine to drunken, partying visitors.
Change is not in the offing. Caribbean politicians seem to say, in tandem with Von Metternich, the feudal foreign minister of the Habsburgs, “We do not desire at all that the great masses shall become well off and independent…. How shall we otherwise rule over them?”

By Jacob Gelt Dekker, opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle.

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