Published On: Mon, Sep 17th, 2018

Arab business owners are suffering but remain optimistic about future

WillemstadWILLEMSTAD - In an exclusive interview with Yak Baroud, in a representation of the Arab business owners in Curaçao, he spoke with Curaçao Chronicle about the current economic situation of the island and how it is affecting them.

Baroud admits that all the business owners are suffering but he is now specifically talking about those from Arab descent. Several shops have already closed their doors and those that are still in business are paying their employees out of their own pocket. “They are paying rent, utilities and their employees out of their own savings because there is no sale,” said Baroud.

Several stores in the Freezone area have already closed their door. “It is empty there, no customers and of course, the owners will leave.” Several owners have left for other countries to continue their business. Countries like Colombia and Panama. Especially in Panama because there it is cheaper.

But Baroud stresses that they are optimistic about the future. “We’ve been through worse and we have survived,” Baroud mentioned episodes in Curaçao’s history such as May 30, 1969, when Willemstad was burned by protestors. “Almost the entire city was burned down but we survived that, we got back on our two feet.”

Baroud also mentioned when the Venezuelan currency, the Bolivar was devaluated in the 80’s. Before that Curaçao was making lots of money with Venezuelan customers. But suddenly they stopped coming and the businesses suffered. “But we survived that too.”

Another episode is when the Shell company left the island. That was a hard blow to the economy. “But we recovered from that one too.”

“Like I said we are suffering but we also know that it won’t last forever. There are signs already of things to come that will boost the economy. We are very religious and as it says in our scriptures, there are 7 lean years and seven fat years. When we have abundance, we save for times like these.”

To the question what the specific signs are that gives them optimism, Baroud pointed out the growth in tourism. “We see that the people are coming to the island. And because of that, we need to work more on the airlift. The good sign is that all international airlines are increasing their operations to Curaçao. Look at Avianca, Copa Airlines and KLM. But we need more,” said Baroud.

“There are plans for Veneto Hotel, which recently went bankrupt. Also, there are plans to construct a new hotel in Otrabanda, the Marriott Courtyard. There are people interested in buying the Plaza Hotel. I even took a group of investors there to see the place.”

But, according to Baroud, the government needs to make it attractive for investors to come. “We have to work on our tax laws, work permits and other important aspects of our system. Make it easier to get an economic and a work permit. Sort of like a red carpet system for investors.”

“The government needs to also make Curaçao attractive for tourism. Take care of the judicial force. People need to feel safe. This needs to be a safe island both for tourists and investors.”

According to Baroud, the issue now is that Curaçao is part of the Dutch Kingdom but the living standard is not the same as in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is enjoying a good economy now but Curaçao is not. “This is not right, somebody made a mistake while negotiating our political status 50 years ago. We are in a Kingdom together, we should all be on a high standard of living. But I am optimistic and I will continue investing because I know things will change.”

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