Curaçao

Region: Caribbean

Capital: Willemstad

Population: 152,760 (CBS 2013)

Surface area: 444 sq km

Currency: Netherlands Antillean guilders (ANG)

GDP per capita (purchasing power parity): $2.838 billion (CIA, 2008 est.)

                                                                               

Background

Originally settled by Arawak Indians, Curacao was seized by the Dutch in 1634 along with the neighboring island of Bonaire. Once the center of the Caribbean slave trade, Curacao was hard hit economically by the abolition of slavery in 1863. Its prosperity (and that of neighboring Aruba) was restored in the early 20th century with the construction of the Isla Refineria to service the newly discovered Venezuelan oil fields. In 1954, Curacao and several other Dutch Caribbean possessions were reorganized as the Netherlands Antilles, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In referenda in 2005 and 2009, the citizens of Curacao voted to become a self-governing country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The change in status became effective in October 2010 with the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles.

As of August 2012, Curaçao became an Associate Member of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Economy – overview:
Tourism, petroleum refining, and offshore finance are the mainstays of the economy, which is closely tied to the outside world. Although GDP grew slightly during the past decade, the island enjoys a high per capita income and a well-developed infrastructure compared with other countries in the region.

Venezuelan state oil company PdVSA leases the single refinery on the island from the government; most of the oil for the refinery is imported from Venezuela; most of the refined products are exported to the US. Almost all consumer and capital goods are imported, with the US, Brazil, Italy, and Mexico being the major suppliers. The government is attempting to diversify its industry and trade and has signed an Association Agreement with the EU to expand business there. Poor soils and inadequate water supplies hamper the development of agriculture. Budgetary problems complicate reform of the health and education systems. Pension system reforms are pending. A new basic health package was implemented in 2013.

Major Export Commodities:  food and live animals, beverage and tobacco, crude materials, chemicals and related products, manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, commodities and transactions (CBD, 2013)

Remittances: Not available

Major Trading Partners: USA, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Panama, Aruba, St. Maarten (CBD, 2013)

Life Expectancy at Birth: 72.4 (male), 80.1 (female) (CBD, 2013)

United Nations Membership date: Not a UN Member.  Became an Associate Member of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in August 2012.

Sources:

Curacao Bureau of Statistics 2013, Statistical Orientation Curacao 2013. http://www.cbs.cw/images/SO_2013.pdf (accessed 19/11/2013)

CIA World Factbook (2013). Information on Background and Economy of Curacao: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cc.html (accessed 19/11/2013)

World Bank Data: http://data.worldbank.org/country/CW (accessed 19/11/2013)

Image of flag and map; copyright of Wikimedia Commons

Updated November 2013