Rutte visits Caribbean parts of the Kingdom

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has returned from a trip to Aruba, Curaçao, St Maarten, Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius. He was accompanied on the visit by a delegation of Dutch businesses.

As this was Mr Rutte’s first visit as prime minister to the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom, the trip was an opportunity to get better acquainted with the various islands. Another motivation was to strengthen economic relations between the Netherlands and the Caribbean islands. The latter can serve as a springboard for commercial activity in the wider region, especially growing economics like Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Panama.

Sunday 14 July – Aruba

Prime Minister Rutte began his visit in Aruba with a call on the Aruban Coast Guard. The prime minister and the Dutch business delegation toured a number of Aruban companies. The visit continued to the Vader Piet wind turbine park, the Valero refinery and two resorts, Bucuti and Palm Island.

Monday 15 July – Curaçao

On Monday the prime minister arrived at the second stop on his tour: Curaçao. He was welcomed by the island’s Prime Minister, Ivar Asjes, and attended a cabinet meeting at Fort Amsterdam. At a press conference following the meeting, Mr Rutte stressed the importance of economic cooperation: ‘We look forward to doing business in the future.’

Along with the other countries and islands, Curaçao is the Caribbean gateway to Latin America, just as the Netherlands is the gateway to Europe. According to Mr Rutte, the Kingdom is fortunate to have ‘great opportunities for doing business together in Latin America.’ The first steps have been taken. At a meet & greet at Kura Hulanda Hotel in Curaçao, an agreement was signed between Adeck (Curaçao’s association for small and medium-sized businesses) and its Dutch counterpart, Royal Association MKB Nederland.

On his second day in Curaçao, the prime minister took a walking tour of the Fleur de Marie neighbourhood in Willemstad, where he spoke with local residents and members of the business community. In recent years a great deal has been done to improve the neighbourhood’s infrastructure and living and working environment. In that time, unemployment in Fleur de Marie has fallen from 20% to 1%.

Wednesday 17 July – Bonaire

On Bonaire Mr Rutte met with the island council and members of the local business community. He also visited Jong Bonaire, an organisation that offers extracurricular programmes for teenagers and young adults. Through sport and cultural activities Jong Bonaire supports young people’s development. Finally, the prime minister toured the ContourGlobal Bonaire power plant, which provides energy to the whole island. With its combination of wind turbines and diesel motors, the plant is an innovative and sustainable source of energy.

Thursday 18 July – St Maarten

Prime Minister Rutte is keen for St Maarten to take seriously its commitment to reduce corruption, fraud and the misuse of power. He asked Governor Eugene Holiday to investigate alleged breaches of public trust and report on the outcome. Mr Rutte also urged that a study be conducted of the quality of governance, as was done earlier in Curaçao. At a press conference in Philipsburg, he said, ‘St Maarten needs to show that it is capable of putting its affairs in order. There must be no doubts about public integrity.’

Friday 19 July – Saba and St Eustatius

The following day, the prime minister headed to Saba and St Eustatius, where he met with the administrators of the islands, which have the status of special Dutch municipalities. On Saba he visited the Saba University School of Medicine and the port. Later in the day he and the Dutch business delegation attended an economic conference on St Eustatius.

Saturday 20 July – St Maarten

On the last day of his eight-day visit to the Caribbean, Mr Rutte was escorted by a community police officer around the Dutch Quarter of St Maarten, a disadvantaged neighbourhood. Then the prime minster paid a visit to Point Blanche prison. The port of St Maarten was the last stop on his trip to the islands.