Letter to BBB – where was the press when our future was flushed down the toilet?

In hindsight, it is clear that Aruba was completely unprepared for this economic crisis. Over many years, one government after another kept adding to the national debt. All economic activities not directly or indirectly connected with tourism withered away. By the beginning of 2020, people either worked for the government and state owned entities, or provided services (directly or indirectly) to tourists. Even the construction industry mostly built hotels, timeshares, ports, parks, etc. aimed at visitors. Although it has been clear since 9/11 that dependence on American tourists is very risky, their share kept growing. Despite a boom in tourist arrivals and the related income, no money was put aside by governments for leaner times. Everybody behaved like the “party” will last forever.

Now one can hear many critical voices on the island. People talk about irresponsible spending, enrichment of friends and families, and so on. But no one seems to engage in some introspection and ask “who put these prime ministers and ministers there?” The voters, of course. It was the general public that not only allowed but supported with votes these irresponsible policies. Why did people who seem to care about Aruba’s autonomy allow successive governments to undermine that very precious autonomy? There is no point complaining about interference by the Netherlands after the island ended up in an economic crisis that was due to arrive in one way or another, so the island needed a bailout.

Were the voters uninformed? Why the press did not explain to them that the economic policies of each and every government would leave the island vulnerable to a major drop in tourism? Not only did external advisors (IMF, Netherlands) warn about the accumulating risks, but even government programs noted the need for the diversification of the economy and the diversification of tourists. These warnings and the statistical facts were there to see if someone was interested. The press should have flagged that diversification had never been pursued seriously, in fact, the actual trends were pointing in the opposite direction, year after year. The press should have flagged that the piling of external debt was unsustainable. The press should have flagged that money needed to be put aside during the boom years so the island could rely on it when the lean years arrive.


One can only hope that the government, and perhaps more importantly, the general public and the press learns the lessons from the current economic crisis, so it will not be repeated.


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July 14, 2020
Rona Coster