WILLEMSTAD – As head of state, the Governor of Curaçao, H.E. Lucille George-Wout opened the new year with her speech in front of invited guests at Fort Amsterdam.
The Governor started by saying that 2018 was not an easy year in many ways and 2019 will, it seems, also be a year that will be accompanied by many challenges. “These challenges will undoubtedly require the government, the business community, the trade union industry, but also you, the citizen. In a way, 2019 could be labeled as the year of the turnaround. Will we be able to make Curaçao flourish for everyone in 2019?”
The Governor reminded everyone that the past year has been a difficult time for Curaçao. As in previous years, there was also economic contraction in 2018. Curaçao has been in recession since 2016 and many companies, civil society organizations and citizens struggle to keep their heads above water. Fortunately, this usually works, but all too often we also read reports about hotels that have to close their doors, about dismissals of staff or about bankruptcies at companies.
“Governing our country has not been easy either. Not in the least because of the state of public finances. The government debt has been rising for years; not only in absolute terms, but also as a percentage of the gross domestic product. Everyone will agree that this negative trend is not something that we can continue to maintain for a long time. We have all been able to take note of the major concerns that the Cft has in this regard.”
The Governor continued saying that the current financial economic situation affects us all. “The loss of purchasing power, or worse, the loss of an income, is a heavy burden on the shoulders of the individual citizens or families concerned, but also on our population as a whole. For a number of citizens, the pressure is so great that they seek their salvation outside Curaçao. There is a migration surplus in our country in 2018 for the first time in 15 years. This means that last year, for the first time in a long period, more people left than to settle in Curaçao. In my opinion, it is a sign of the situation we are in.”
“The Yu di Korsou (Curaçaoan) is resilient and strong, which we have proven over the centuries. But no matter how strong you are, everyone needs perspective in times of crisis, looking at the arrival of better times. But why does the progress in Curacao still stagnant? Why has it gone worse than better in recent years in financial, economic and social terms? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question. Obviously, developments in Venezuela have contributed, but it is certainly not the all-explanatory cause of our problems.”
The Governor said that we must reverse the decline in our own country. “We must continue to ask ourselves whether we do the right things and whether we do them right. Are we always using our limited resources as effectively and efficiently as possible?”
“I just mentioned it already, in difficult times a people need perspective. And our population also needs light at the end of the tunnel to keep on believing in better times. When we see the opportunities, we are willing to put our shoulders together and bring about improvement. With satisfaction I look at the growth of tourism and enjoy seeing several cruise ships in our harbor and see the city full of tourists. I warmly welcome the arrival of large new international investors in tourism and shipbuilding. I see the first signs of economic recovery in these positive developments.
At the same time, we must not be blind to the major challenges facing Curaçao. I sincerely hope that in 2019 a number of projects will be finalized. It would be good if the new hospital could actually be put into use, when there is certainty about the operation of the refinery and when the problem of the so-called 'red tape' is finally broken so that the decision-making about projects can be speeded up.
Together with the business community, the government is fully engaged in shaping the turn for economic growth and prosperity. The plans for this have been made and implementation is being taken forward energetically.
I am pleased to note that the government also makes use of the opportunities that the Kingdom offers us. The organization of the forthcoming trade mission 'bon bini for business', where the Dutch and Curaçao governments jointly try to interest companies in making investments in Curaçao, is an example of effective collaboration.”
The Governor finished by saying that 2019 is going to be a challenging year, but that she is convinced that when the government, the business community and the citizenry join forces, the beautiful and successful moments will emphatically dominate. “Together we can make it a great year!”
Photo credit: Jeu Olimpio