29-01-2019 14:24

Looking Out on the Horizon

In an attempt to get a pulse of the status of the economy for 2018, and what lays on the economic horizon, the course of the economic prospectus should be changed as there are still many opportunities for economic growth and investment here on the island that can lead us on the road to economic recovery.

There are a significant number of projects that will materialize this year that have the power to fuel the impetus towards an economic revitalization. A number of key public investments are in the pipelines and promise to deliver that much-needed momentum to start us on our journey to economic recovery.  In addition, several initiatives within the private sector, from both foreign and local investors, have been facilitated by the government and are now in their early phases of development.

At a recent presentation held by the Ministry of Economic Development, Minister Steven Martina laid out an overview of the plans that the government has in store for the recovery of our local economy.  The event was kicked off with Prime Minister, Eugene Rhuggenaath’s endorsement of the plans.  He acknowledged that the recent downturn in the economy was due to a number of different factors which amounted to “a perfect storm” and that Curaçao must take aggressive measures to change the course of the economy.  He appealed to the greater business community for their support through private investment and highlighted the need to create an attractive environment for foreign investors as well.

As Minister Steven Martina presented the details of the island’s economic outlook, he noted that there were significant factors that led to a sudden economic downfall.  The political and economic crisis in Venezuela has undeniably had a tangible effect on the island with the lion’s share of Curaçao’s trade coming from Venezuela.  Also, due to this crisis, production at the Isla Refinery has also drastically decreased.  This is further compounded by the recent embargo that Venezuela’s President Maduro has enforced, which has essentially served to de-capitate all travel and trade between the two nations.  The economy also had another drawback when the agreements with candidate for the management of the oil refinery failed, and in effect were nullified.  In addition, the downsizing of Insel Air also served to have a drastic impact on airlift and the number of visitors to our shores.

But the message delivered by the Minister presented a number of development projects that are already in place that will serve to give the economy that much needed boost.  Several public investments are already underway including: the neighborhood improvement projects at Sapaté, Tera Kòrá and Kortijn/Otrobanda; the upgrading of the Koredor area; the construction of the public rest area and beach facility at Marie Pampoen; and a 40Million injection into the tourism sector including marketing, airlift and cruise contracts.

Several semi-public investments were also noted, including the construction of the new Aqualectra Diesel Power Station, the Airport Expansion Project and the construction of the new Cruise Terminal “Tula”.  Indeed Mr. Martina highlighted an “ambitious strategy” that encompasses both investment and structural reform to stimulate the economy and encourage both local and foreign investment.  

There were several major private investment projects that were also discussed, including the new residential developments at Grand View, Rif St. Marie and Blue Bay; the new floating docks that will soon be installed by Damen Shipyards and the construction of the new Chobolobo Plaza in Salinja.

We can also take into account the additional injection of investment capital and income brought in by several major developments in the tourism sector. Already underway, we have the refurbishment of the Curaçao Marriott Hotel and its expected re-opening later this year; the construction of the Marriott Courtyard Hotel; the development of the Hard Rock Resort, and the recent completion of the Coral Estate Resort.  Each of these projects promises to add a significant number of hotel rooms and tourist attractions to the island, further increasing its appeal as a tourist destination.  

There is undoubtedly a need for an increase in airlift to the island, and it is hoped that in the coming year, the government will have successfully completed negotiations with several new airlines facilitating a marked increase in the number of regular flights to Curaçao. The follow-through of the Airport Expansion Project, is evidence of the Airport Authority’s forward-thinking commitment to seeing that this need is met. Indeed, one cannot work without the other. With the launching of these and other new hotels, there will be a clear increase in the demand for flights to Curaçao, and the logical conclusion would be for the airlines to begin establishing new routes for this newly expanded market and newly expanded airport. One must also acknowledge the efforts of the Curaçao Tourist Board, with the implementation of their aggressive Tourism Marketing Plan, as indeed it is equally important to not only provide expanded facilities and infrastructure to the tourism market, but to also get the word out there.

The completion of the new Mega Pier also holds great potential for further econo