Building resilience and reengineering our economy

The spread of the coronavirus disease is developing into one of the largest health and economic crises of the last 100 years. The strong confinement measures taken by governments around the world, including Curaçao, are critical to protect public health and human life, but these measures have also placed immense strain on domestic and international commerce.

For small island developing countries, like Curaçao, the strain is even greater. Highly dependent on tourism for foreign exchange earnings, and highly dependent on imports to purchase essential products like food, medical supplies and other goods, Curaçao is facing its greatest economic challenge in living memory.

As a small island and a developing state in the Caribbean, the island like many small islands worldwide faces specific challenges and is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change and financial turbulence – and now the Covid -19 Pandemic and related crisis. So we need to take several risks into account with respect to vulnerability when planning for sustainable development and resilience. Resilience however is defined as the ability to counter shocks and their ability to withstand shocks. Coronavirus came as a shock which we still cannot measure, we do not know when it will stop or how it will end, there is no best practice, it is a matter of learning by doing and start preparing for the future even though we don’t know when is the future, while at the same time dealing with economic downturn.

We have to accept that everything has changed. We need to get accustomed to a new normal. While vulnerability is inherent to small islands, strategies can be put in place to mitigate the risk of being harmed by external shocks, by increasing their resilience. To move from a position of vulnerability and dependence to one of resilience, small island economies must explore new areas of economic development and, in some cases, diversification.

Sound policies focused on broadening the “options” for small island economies should be designed to exploit the inter-linkages between sectors like agriculture, tourism, ICT, finance etc. Therefore managing Curacao’s transition from a dependent economy to a resilient one requires both strong managerial and political capacities.