40th Year End Luncheon Of The VBC -Dec 12, 2012
Leo Rigaud, SFT Bank Director gave a speech during the anual Curacao Business Association (VBC) year end luncheon. During this event he gave VBC’s wish list to the leader of the largest party in the Government, Mr. Helmin Wiels.
WILLEMSTAD – As always we will start by thanking our members for their increased support in 2012 which has allowed us to become more active in representing the interests of the business community in particular and in promoting the health of the Curacao economy in general.
The decision to invite Mr. Wiels was a controversial one within the board of the VBC and also within the community. The reason why we invited Mr. Wiels obviously has a lot to do with the fact that his party, Pueblo Soberano, gathered the most votes in the last election and will be the senior partner in the upcoming Government. The main reason was, however, that we felt that after years and years of hearing Mr. Wiels saying rather unpleasant things about the business community in general and many of us in particular we started to hear Mr Wiels talk about working together with the business community and improving the economy and that is exactly what the business community wants to hear. We want to work together with the Government for the sake of Curaçao.
Some of you may remember that 2 years ago we presented then prime minister Schotte with a Xmas wish list. Last year we reviewed what happened with our wish list and concluded that we must have been very naughty because we hardly got anything we asked for and we lamented the fact that we suffered from very deficient government. We could do the same thing this year but the results would be not too different from last year and on Government we would have to say that in 2012 we have suffered through the worst period in our political history since 1969.
Rather than gloomily look back at the past we have decided to confidently look towards the future and present Mr. Wiels with a reformulated Xmas wish list.
- We really need an Economic Masterplan. Let’s not reinvent the wheel. The former Government has paid a lot of money to the TAC consultants to come up with a study. We understand that the study is almost ready. Let’s organize an economic seminar in which the outcomes of this study are presented and discussed with all local economic experts from the Central Bank, Government Departments, the private sector, the platform of economists, etc. The outcome of this seminar should serve as the basis for an economic masterplan for the coming 4 years as well as indicate what we can start doing immediately to improve our economy.
- We wish for an internationally competitive tax system with less direct taxation (IB/WB), more indirect taxes (OB, ABB, BTW) and the elimination of cumulation.
- We need to address the serious problems within our educational system.
- We wish for a reduction of red tape as this is essential for economic growth.
- Normally we ask for lower costs of doing business when we mention water and electricity. The situation we find ourselves in at the end of 2012 is so bad that we scale back our wish and just ask that we HAVE water and electricity in 2013. Aqualectra needs to be rescued from the near dead experience it finds itself in and the water & electricity plant at the refinery (CUC/BOO/CRU) needs to finally start producing if we want to continue to enjoy the employment and foreign exchange that the Isla refinery generates for our economy. Just look at Aruba where the refinery closed down after almost a century. We also believe that alternative energy must continue to be part of the picture as it’s not only good for our environment but also provides cost savings and last but not least improves our balance of payments.
- We wish for an improvement of our infrastructure.
- We need to rescue our old age pension (AOV) and Health care insurance (BZV/ZV soon to be called Basis Verzekering) without wrecking the economy. That means that the pension age MUST be increased to 65 and that the level of health care provided by the BV can NOT be higher than the present ZV level. Last but not least dumping almost all the premium increases in the lap of the business sector (werkgevers premies) will only push more companies over the edge and result in more unemployment, poverty and crime. We express the hope that the national dialogue process will continue with the new Government.
- We need to improve productivity and that is only possible if we get more flexible labor laws.
- We need to urgently address the 500 pound gorilla in the room which is the ANG 1.7 billion current account deficit in the Balance of Payments. We need to identify, develop and realize more foreign exchange generating businesses in tourism, in international financial services, in international trade & transport services as well as create new businesses in new sectors. The job of the government is to create the conditions for this to happen and act as facilitator.
- Most of all Ladies and Gentlemen, more important than everything we mentioned before, we wish for good government, respect for the rule of law and a functioning democracy.
Thank you for your attention and bon apetit.