Doing business in the Dutch Caribbean

The Dutch Caribbean is formed by six islands in the Caribbean Sea, consisting of the Leeward Islands Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire, near the coast of Venezuela; and the Windward Islands St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius, about 150 miles east of Puerto Rico.

Political structure and business environment

Currently constitutional reform in the Kingdom of the Netherlands towards a new status for the Netherlands Antilles is in progress. On the 10th of October 2010 the Netherlands Antilles will cease to exist. Curaçao and St. Maarten will, subject to conditions, become independent countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius will become ‘special municipalities’ of the Netherlands and are referred to as BES Islands.

Since 1954 the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba has been an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands with its own democratically elected parliament. A governor, appointed by the Queen, represents the Crown.

The islands not only differ in size, but also in economic structure. The main sources of income are from the oil refinery, transshipment, tourism, ship repair, international trade and distribution, and financial on- and offshore activities.

Due to the high service standards as well as attractive tax tariffs and regulations, quite a large number of offshore investment, holding, finance, royalty, real estate and shipping companies, and branches of reputable international banks and accounting firms have been established in the Dutch Caribbean.

Aruba
Aruba is an island located in the Caribbean, 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela. It is 19.6 miles (30 kilometers) long and 6 miles (9 kilometers across), at its widest point, with an area of approximately 70 square miles (184 square kilometers).

Aruba is a small and warm island. We all enjoy a sunny climate making it a working and living paradise. The average temperature is 82°F (28°C).

The population of Aruba is based on a mixed population of different culture, which is what makes the island so attractive for foreigners.

The official currency of the island is the Aruban florins.

Dutch and the local language Papiamentu are the official language on the island. What makes Aruba so unique is that great percentage of the population speaks 4 languages, including English and Spanish.

Curaçao
Curacao is the largest of the islands. It measures 37 miles by 3 and 9 miles, and its total area is 171 square miles. It is generally flat, with a small hilly area in the western part.

Curacao was discovered by the Spanish navigator, Alonso de Ojeda, in 1499. In 1634 the island was captured by the Dutch. Some 40 or 50 nationalities now comprise the cosmopolitan population of Curaçao. The vernacular in Curaçao is Papiamentu, a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French. Dutch is the official language, while English and Spanish are widely understood and spoken.

Due to its strategic location between the Americas, and its safe natural harbors with deep waters, Curaçao has always been a center of commerce and business. Since 1954, Curaçao has been known more specifically as a financial center and as a result of its long-time activity in this area, has developed an infrastructure well-suited for offshore finance, investment banking, shipping registration, mutual funds and the like.

As part of the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao is also a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The structure of the relationship between Curacao, the Netherlands Antilles and the Kingdom is planned for change under proposed legislation. The Netherlands Antilles is scheduled to be dissolved as a unified political entity on 10 October 2010, so that the five constituent islands would attain new constitutional statuses: Curaçao will become an independent state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

St. Maarten
St. Maarten, the largest of the Windward Islands, is half French and half Dutch, as it has been since 1648. St. Maarten is located about 500 miles northeast of Curaçao and 144 miles east of Puerto Rico and occupies the southern part of the island's 37 square miles while the northern part is occupied by St. Maarten, a French dependency.
 

St. Maarten changed hands 16 times before the Dutch and French signed a treaty called 'Mont des Accords' on March 23, 1648. By this treaty, the island was divided between the two countries, creating a relationship that continues to the present day.

The official language is Dutch, but because of the rapid growth of business activities and the location of the islands (English speaking Caribbean), English is generally accepted as the mother tongue of the islands.
 

The main economic pillars for St. Maarten are tourism, bunker oil, trade and business and other services. Island authorities estimate that 75% of all employment is directly related to this industry.
 

St. Maarten’s capital, Philipsburg, is its principal seaport. It receives more than 90% of all ocean traffic coming to the island.

As part of the Netherlands Antilles, St. Maarten is also a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The structure of the relationship between St. Maarten, the Netherlands Antilles and the Kingdom is planned for change under proposed legislation. The Netherlands Antilles is scheduled to be dissolved as a unified political entity on 10 October 2010, so that the five constituent islands would attain new constitutional statuses: St. Maarten will become an independent state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius (BES islands)
Bonaire has a total area of 109 square miles, with its southernmost portion lying below sea level. Its northern part is hilly.

Bonaire has an open economy largely dependent on external factors outside of the island's immediate control, such as tourism and related activities, oil transshipment, salt manufacturing and shipment and external transfers of development aid and investment capital.
 

Tourism is an important sector within the island's economy. The island is a favored destination for diving enthusiasts, while marine life flourishes in the waters off Bonaire. In addition, the island is stimulating expansion of industrial activities, especially light manufacturing. It is doing so through fiscal incentives and the availability of industrial parcels.


Saba, 5 square miles, and located 28 miles south of St. Maarten, is a verdant rain forest covered volcano, rising to an altitude of 3.000 feet above ocean waters.
 

St. Eustatius, or Statia, as it is commonly referred to, has an area of 8 square miles and is located 38 miles south of St. Maarten. The main economic pillars of these Windward Islands are tourism, bunker oil, trade and business and other services.
 

As part of the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Statia (BES) are also a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The structure of the relationship between BES, the Netherlands Antilles and the Kingdom is planned for change under proposed legislation. The Netherlands Antilles is scheduled to be dissolved as a unified political entity on 10 October 2010, so that the five constituent islands would attain new constitutional statuses: Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius will become special municipalities of the Netherlands.