Developing Curacao’s Business Sector

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CURACAO — Curacao is an autonomous territory in the Caribbean with a population of almost 150,000 people. It is under the rule of the Netherlands and was previously part of the Netherlands Antilles. The island nation’s economy relies on tourism, service, petroleum refineries and communication with at least one foreign contract expiring in 2019. Recent developments have put Curacao in a more fortuitous position and have gained foreign interest in developing current or new sectors in the country. The country also has internal plans in regards to developing Curacao’s business sector.

Advantages for American Business Interest

Curacao’s current geographical position has several advantages with building trade partners with South America and the United States. Curacao’s current offerings for potential American investors include two “free-zones” at both the Curacao International Airport and Port of Willemstad where imported goods are not taxed. Companies with full permits are required to export at least 75 percent of their goods.

Curacao also provides international trade with its own World Trade Center near the country’s main airport, giving access to South American, Caribbean and European markets for American businesses. As political and economic ties already exist with the U.S., businesses can expand into Curacao with these advantages, which can also help with developing Curacao’s business sector.

New Mega Pier Increases Tourism

Tourism in Curacao has taken a noticeable boost with new investments in the construction of a new mega pier. The new Tula mega pier, located in the Otrabanda area, was built in 2017 and moored it’s first large-sized cruise ship in November of that year, following up with a full opening in 2018. The new pier has bolstered the tourism industry in Curacao.

Tourist turnout was up by 18 percent in February 2019 from the previous year. There were 41,145 visitors for that month alone. Estimates show a total of 800,000 will visit by the end of the 2018-19 season. The new mega pier was designed to allow larger cruise ships to moor into Curacao, allowing for an increase of tourists entering and staying in the country. Curacao expects the Tula mega pier can continue growing the tourism industry in the following years.

New Business Partner for the Petroleum Refinery

Curacao’s Isla Refinery is currently going through a transfer for its petroleum refinery operations. The American-based company ConocoPhillips took over assets used at the refinery from Venezuelan oil corporation PDVSA after PDVSA shut down refineries across the Caribbean. So, Curacao made a tentative deal with Swiss-English corporation Klesch Petroleum to operate the Isla Refinery, which has been left largely idle since PDVSA’s shutdown of the site.

The refinery contributes 10 percent to Curacao’s gross domestic product, making Isla an important pillar for the country’s economy. Curacao and Klesch are currently aiming for a deal in 2020. As of now, there is an arrangement between Curacao’s Refineria di Koursou (RdK) and PDVSA to continue using the Venezuelan company for at least another year.

Curacao’s current developments have the island nation primed to fully develop its business sector with plans for further growth in several other sectors. Curacao’s current interest in allowing American businesses to take root in the country will allow additional the flow of foreign interest and goods through Curacao. The Tula mega pier has already bolstered the currently strong tourism industry and current expectations should grow the sector even further in the near future. A new deal to reignite the petroleum refinery sector is currently in place with negotiations currently ongoing and with the hope that it will get done before year’s end. Developing Curacao’s business sector has set up its future success.

-Henry Elliott
Photo: Pixabay

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