SPEECH PRIME MINISTER EUGENE RHUGGENAATH CELEBRATION 71ST INDEPENDENCE DAY OF INDIA
Dear fellow citizens, ladies & gentlemen, Bonochi!
It is always my pleasure and honor to be in the midst of my fellow countrymen, like you.
On behalf of the Council of Ministers and the rest of our community of Curaçao, I would like to congratulate you with the fact that on this day – 70 years ago – India’s first Prime Minister, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, raised the Indian National Flag above the Lahori Gate and Red Fort in Delhi, marking the long-desired Independence Day.
The night before the stroke of the clock at 12am, Mr. Nehru delivered an impactful speech entitled: “Tryst with Destiny”.
When the world was still asleep India awoke to life and freedom. People of India stepped from the Old into the Now. And in a way, Curaçao is on a similar path.
In the invitation, I received for tonight’s presentation, I was asked to speak about my favorite topic: a vision for Curaçao including the transformation of our economy into one of sustainable development and a possible road to get there.
In all humbleness and with due respect for the great personality of Mr. Nehru, please allow me to deliver tonight my version of “Tryst with Destiny” for our beloved Curaçao.
Before I embark on my dream for Curaçao in achieving its maximum potential, allow me to start ‘in the now’. The Present.
As your Prime Minister and Past Minister of Economic Development I am convinced of our country’s Economic Potential. And I feel optimistic, because of the following current activities:
• The further Expansion and Upgrading of our Curaçao International Airport is in full execution and represents an investment of ANG. 65 million in our economy; preparing for greater flows of arrivals, as well as for catering the largest aircrafts of the world.
• Construction of the “Tula” MegaPier is well in execution, and represents an investment of ANG.72 million in our economy. This will make Curaçao ready for additional business and to cater for the largest vessels that sail in our region while being able to welcome 1 million cruise visitors a year.
• Currently we are working vigorously to turnaround projects to realize the potential laid out in the Tourism Masterplan. And in doing so grow the number of stay-over, high spending tourist arrivals substantially for the next couple of years.
• The management of the Curaçao Dry Dock is now in the hands of DAMEN, a global leading shipping repair company that will be investing at least ANG 50 million in upgrading the facilities and also in a new large floating dock.
• Also acknowledge efforts of our financial institutions and our local pension funds (APC) in showing confidence investing in CAP, DAMEN and CPA (megapier)
• Despite the challenges with regard to diminishing Trade & Export in our Economic Zones – which certainly require innovation and development of ‘new business models’ – I felt great last year when I witnessed the signing of the agreement between C-MCC (Curaçao Multi Commodity Center) and CAH & CURINDE. The focus here is to develop a logistic center at our airport like they have done in Dubai. This can result in a total investment of ANG.900 million over a period of 10 years, while creating hundreds of jobs.
• Local companies such as Kooyman Group is currently investing ANG. 30 million in a new Megastore at Jan Noorduynweg.
• ORCO Group investing ANG. 60 million in the renovation and expansion of the Marriott Hotel.
• And Government, through development institution Korpodeko. Risk Capital to facilitate financing of the new Hard Rock Hotel.
• Currently negations between Guadong Zhenrong Energy are taking place to guarantee continuity of the refinery, but now with a clean refinery process, after a century of refining and pollution.
• The latter, combined with a LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) terminal at “Bullenbaai” potentially represents an investment of over ANG. 7 billion, while offering thousands of well-paid jobs for our fellow citizens. An investment amount we have not experienced in a hundred years.
• This development will be complemented by comprehensive, mixed use, harbor related activity developed at Bullenbaai.
• Last week a delegation of the Curaçao International Bank Association visited the Council of Ministers where the sector explained that – through innovation – they are seeking to develop new (Fin-Tech) business models to lift up our Sector of International Finance services, while being in compliance with the OECD policies and requirements. This is very encouraging for sure.
All these – initiatives and investments are reasons to feel optimistic. But this is no reason at all to sit with crossed arms and wait and see what comes our way.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am well aware that over the past 20 years Curaçao has on average registered a zero percent ‘real economic growth’.
So, looking towards the future, to keep doing the same and expecting different results – what Albert Einstein called ‘Insanity’ – is not an option.
It about time that we choose to make a dramatic turn once again and drive towards the Boulevard of Progress, Success and Happiness.
We live in an era of disruptive industries. Technology and the world-wide web have changed markets and the way we do business, in the online and dotcom economy. It has changed the approach towards markets and customers in a disruptive manner.
We should, we must have Greater AMBITIONS and ‘DARE 2 DREAM’ more and start doing things in a different way. We have to step out from the Old to the New, just like Mr. Nehro said 70 years ago..
Dreaming is one of the most powerful creative exercises.
It is about time for all of us – and I mean ALL OF US – to START RE-IMAGINING rapidly our social economic development.
And as we do, we will notice new and interesting developments, popping up at the horizon.
My fellow citizens,
I … have a dream!
I dream of an inclusive, positive and thriving Curaçao. A promise to serve the greater good: a vision about what is possible and a call to action.
WE NEED – and it is a matter of survival – TO TRANSFORM ourselves into a Nation of Sustainable Progress, of Success and where Happiness thrives. Transforming Curaçao into one of the Best place to live for all people.
To achieve this, we must be willing to embrace change, work together based on a shared vision of harmony and solidarity.
I dare to dream that our educational system prepares each and every one living in Curaçao to successfully participate in the global community. Same as India has done in a remarkable fashion in past decades.
I dream that this holistic and modern education, accessible to all, is perfectly aligned with our needs as a knowledge & service economy.
That our education allows us to serve as a premier holiday destination for the nations deprived of sun, sand, sea and smiles.
Historic events have led to a society where diversity reigns. The fact that we are a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-religious, and, also, a multi-talented population needs to be exploited as a valuable asset.
This in addition to connecting and collaborating with our diaspora worldwide including India of course.
Over the centuries, we have experienced that the more open and tolerant we are, the more connected, the more we prosper.
As such, we should as a small and developing island state continue to be open to immigrants – especially to those who can help us lift this country to next levels.
I dare to dream of a Curaçao with a state-of-the-art infrastructure in terms of roads, transportation, telecommunication, high speed internet, but also with smart & livelier neighbourhoods, where we can live at peace and our children can play and learn in a safe environment.
Good corporate government, where transparency and online fast services of public servants are the standard and where corruption or deliberate mismanagement is penalized rapidly and severely.
I dream of a society with human beings with high values. A community with a high level of medical care, but focussed primarily on prevention instead of cure. Yes, I dream of a Curaçao as a Center for Welness and Care for both citizens and visitors alike; why not convert E-Zones into Wellness Zones for example.
Now Back to Business and the Economy.
Our Government is preparing to facilitate and execute an ambitious plan of coherent actions covering all nine ministries in transforming this nation into a thriving one the upcoming years.
Too many actions to mention on this occasion. However, I would still like to give you just a brief preview of what we are undertaking with regard to sustainable economic development:
• Several actions to improve our ‘business and investment climate’ on the overall are on their way
• A dedicated team of ministers meets religiously every 2 weeks to facilitate pending projects and investments in order to speed up permits and the like
• Areas around our seaports like Waaigat, Schottegat, Bullenbaai and areas around our international airport have been identified for development.
• A Masterplan for the development of Banda Abou, the Southern Coastline and the East-point (an area larger that Dutch St. Maarten) will be prepared with a special emphasis on “cultural, eco and wellness tourism”
• Upgrading and expansion of current hotels like Kura Hulanda, and also construction of The Hard Rock Hotel, a new waterfront hotel in Pietermaai.
• We are open to look into creative and innovative ways to facilitate the development of World Heritage Willemstad (down town) into a Smart Business & Cultural & Residential district. In collaboration with merchants, DMO, SKO and Pietermaai / Scharloo
• Implementation of the Masterplan E-commerce roadmap 2016-2018 -in collaboration with stakeholders- must be accelerated to connect Curaçao and local entrepreneurs to the digital economy.
Yes, too many to mention tonight. But, an overall picture will soon be presented in the upcoming Government Program 2017-2021.
Meanwhile, permit me to share with you out of proper experience the following:
The government needs and is willing to facilitate.
But do not expect from civil servants and even politicians – read government – to be ON THE FRONT ROW OF CHANGE. Nor of economic development and jump-starting the economy.
In democracies as we are – although government is an important player in the economic circle – the economy runs on private initiatives.
So, I would like to convey to you that “Our Government is Open for Business”. We will be happy to receive concrete ideas and proposals from successful businessmen and investors like you.
I like to invite you to step out of the ordinary and invest in our common future. Just like some of the companies and financial institutions mentioned. Help us Help you! Let’s create the future we wish to see for Curaçao, together.
In closing: Our country is in need of GAME CHANGERS.
No successful businessman in the world has ever waited for the government. Bill Gates did not. Steve Jobs did not. Jeff Bezos of Amazon did not. ‘Jojo’ Correa of MC-Bank did not. Jules Peña did not. Kooyman did not. Mr. Boolchand and many other Indian merchants did not.
It is about time, ladies and gentlemen, to demonstrate that we still have Captains of Industry on this island. It’s time for all successful and potential entrepreneurs and businessmen (& woman) to truly get engaged …and be co-responsible for the future of our economy, and for our country.
And tonight, I make a special request to the Indian business community. Let us combine what had made Curaçao successful, through the ages, what made India one of the most successful countries in the world, what made the Indian community, our fellow countrymen, thrive right here in Curaçao.
Let’s make the connection, strengthen the bridge between to two nations. Bring in new business and investments, transnational education of prestigious universities, wellness and health, Ayurveda centers & spas, renewable energy, hi-tech data centers & creative industries like Bollywood productions. What is actually holding us back in developing these developments?
Yes… WE DO face some challenges as a fairly new country.
But, are we brave and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of creating our successful future?
It is the future that beckons to us now. My call to you:
Let’s take the Boulevard of Progress, Success and Happiness! Let’s make that turn. Let’s step into a new bright future together, right now!