General Information about Curacao
Curaçao is part of the Netherlands Antilles, along with nearby Bonaire, and the islands of St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius - in the English-speaking eastern part of the Caribbean. Together, these five islands form an autonomous part within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Netherlands and nearby Aruba also belong to the Kingdom. (Aruba separated from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986 and became an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands with its own status.)
The Netherlands Antilles has a two-tier government consisting of one governing body for all the islands together, and an administration for each individual island. The government of the islands is formed by a coalition modelled on the European system. The twenty-two members of parliament of the Netherlands Antilles, the Staten members, are elected by free elections every four years. The winning parties appoint the prime minister and other ministers who determine the national policies of the five islands. The Queen of the Netherlands appoints a governor, whose function in the Netherlands Antilles is primarily representative.
Every four years the Island Council, or parliament of the island of Curaçao, is elected. The Executive Council - a kind of board of B&W - consists of seven deputies who govern the island independently. The Island Governor is appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Government of the Netherlands Antilles and chairs the Executive Council. Apart from the uprising in 1969, Curaçao has had an exceptionally calm social and political climate throughout the 20th century. This is still the case today.
The Economy of Curacao
The busy port is still a major driver of the economy. Container ships, oil tankers and cruise ships enter St. Anna Bay daily. The port of Curaçao is one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean. Trade and transshipment have been the backbone of Curaçao's economy for centuries. The port of Curaçao is also home to the largest dry dock in the Western Hemisphere. The oil refinery is still a pillar of the economy. Since 1986 it has been in the hands of the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.
Although the refinery and shipping industry are the main industrial activities on the island, there are also a number of small-scale factories on the island. Most are found in the business park, near the historic Brievengat Landmark. Adjacent to the harbor is the Free Trade Zone, where wholesalers sell clothing, electrical equipment and other goods to buyers from abroad. Many buyers are from the other Caribbean islands. Financial services have been an important part of Curaçao's economy for more than fifty years. The profitable offshore financial sector currently consists of hundreds of international companies that collectively generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue each year.
Tourism is one of the island's fastest growing industries. But you won't find huge hotels lining the beach, or hundreds of tourists pouring out of tour buses at every attraction. Curaçao has learned from the experiences of other Caribbean islands and carefully regulates tourism development through appropriate programs so that different markets are targeted rather than campaigns to attract mass tourism.
Curaçao's diverse landscape is best observed from a seat at the window of an airplane. If you arrive by plane, note the hilly western countryside, dominated by Mount Christoffel. At 375 meters, it is the highest peak on the island. If you are an avid hiker, you should definitely take the short, but arduous trek to the top. The eastern part of the island is flatter and lower, but is broken by the flat Table Mountain in Santa Barbara. A little to the west of the city you will see the three pointed hills, better known as the Three Brothers. These are remnants of an ancient coral reef, formed at least three million years ago.
The water around the island is also uneven. The northern coast is battered by high waves that crash onto the cliffs from the rough, open sea and burst into a spray. These deep, dark blue waters are a marked contrast to the sea along Curaçao's sheltered, calm southern coast. Here you will find sandy shores and beautiful, turquoise lagoons.
Both to the north and south, the coastline is interrupted here and there by some large bays and smaller coves, formed by the glaciers during the last ice age. The largest, Schottegat on the southeast coast, forms the island's bustling harbor. As you admire the numerous bays, you will notice that Curaçao does not have a single freshwater lake or river.