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2008-01-28 Speech "Strategic choices" Cahamber of

2008 annual address Curaçao Chamber of Commerce & Industry
by Ruud F.M. Thuis, chairman of the board

Governor of the Netherlands Antilles,
Prime Minister of the Netherlands Antilles,
Ministers of the Netherlands Antilles,
Members of the National Parliament,
Members of the Island Council and the Executive Council, Authorities,
Fellow chairs of business organizations,
Representatives of the Labor Unions,
Members of the Kolaborativo,
Representatives of the news media,
Member of all the Workgroups of the National Dialogue Labor Development,
Fellow Entrepreneurs,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome, Bon Bini

The rising of the confidence of the private sector in our economic future started a race for the many fathers of this success. The Curaçao Chamber of Commerce as an organization of entrepreneurs and employers, restricts its role in this to the extend that we congratulate the real authors of this success: the private sector! Pabien with 2007, and if efforts are made by all truly to make the private sector again the engine of economic growth, than I am really convinced that we will have an even better 2008!
Standing here, at the beginning of the year, our Chamber keeps an eye on a very important upcoming date at the end of the year, namely December 15, 2008. At the same time we are looking forward to interesting times before and far beyond this date.
As we all know, the people of Curacao have spoken in a referendum and chose to remain within the Dutch Kingdom, as an autonomous state.
Apart from the fact that a relief in the public debt burden will give more funds for the government to pro-actively develop and implement policies geared at facilitating sustainable development, the question arises, how will this new constitutional status otherwise contribute to an improvement of our lives and those of our children?
The answer to this question is not a matter of the Kingdom and is surely not a matter that requires a “consensusrijkswet”, nor does it require actions from anyone else. The answer to this question lies in our abilities and skills as a community to prepare and confront the challenges ahead and turn them into development opportunities for our people.
We need to make a mind shift. I think that the National Dialogue of The Labor Force Development is a good step in the right direction. At any rate, some of the “diehards” have begun experiencing the much needed healing process which will help getting all of us on the same page with respect to how we view the future of our society.
Tripartism by now has proven to be not only relevant for labor, a tool of good governance, or even for the process of globalization, but has also proven to be relevant to any effort to make the economy more performing and more competitive and to make society more stable.
Government is tasked with developing the framework that will allow the social dialogue. It will facilitate the investment opportunities of business and assist in the economic growth and social wellbeing of our people.
Government should limit their expenditures and make clear cut choices were we want to go as Pais Kòrsou. In this respect I would like to support the CIFA and the CHATA, and request the Government to be more pro – active in facilitating the most promising export sectors of our economy, tourism and financial services.   
This year we have to make strategic choices, …..those that will determine our future. We should and must be smart about the choices we make.
Let’s make 2008 the year of change, the year of opportunities. Knowing what lies ahead of us, we should start, not tomorrow, but today with gearing up our society, by enabling and empowering each and everyone of us to build and/or sharpen their abilities and skills and in doing that, building up the capacity we need to actively compete in the global marketplace.  
We will need to develop the physical infrastructure, roads and communication, achieve a much higher yield for the investments made in education and training, create a favorable fiscal climate and a facilitating government that promotes entrepreneurship, competition, and innovation. It is also imperative to manage the costs of doing business wisely.
We all know that sustainable economic growth is also achieved in most economies, by embracing the consistent combination of:
Growth of the working population, well educated and trained;
Growth of the capital formation, as a result of foreign direct investment and domestic investment;
Applied technological improvement resulting in higher labor productivity; and
A facilitating and business-friendly government!

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The issue of the performance of our businesses brings me to the topic of sustainability and growth of our local businesses, primarily those in the sector micro, small and medium enterprises.
A research carried on by our Chamber shows a cumbersome development in the sustainability of newly established local businesses.
A short review of the registry figures over the last 7 years shows an inflow of about 12 thousand new local businesses, against an outflow of more then nine thousand  businesses, a default rate of about 75 percent.
Extensive interviews of parts of this group showed the lack of abilities and skills to be the major factors for failure.
Knowing that micro enterprises account for 8 percent of all jobs and small and medium enterprises account for 26 percent of all jobs in our economy, our Chamber, based on
the experiences with over 4.000 entrepreneurs participating in our training programs during the last five years our vast experience with coaching entrepreneurs
and the feedback we recently received on a survey of our monthly publication Empresa Chikí designed a policy based on training and guidance of starters and potential starters aimed at stimulation of their sustainability and growth.
We also designed a fiscal framework especially for the micro, small and medium sized businesses, aimed at creating the right fiscal climate for these entrepreneurs. This tax proposal was recently presented to the Minister of Finance and the commissioner of economic development.

Fellow entrepreneurs,
Dear friends,
Making the right strategic choices to become a competitive economy will bring us closer to the successes we need to build the sustainable and stable community we should want. We will have to agree on the items and issues we disagree on. This requires a clear cut commitment by all three partners, government, labor unions and the private sector, starting with the conviction that the future of our society is determined by what we do today! This requires an open mind, intelligence, and real commitment towards the development of our nation!
Finally, I would like to introduce our Chamber’s board for this year, which features two new board members:

Edgar Leito and Frank Eustatia

Our other board members are:
Amerigo Thodé; he is the vice–president of the Chamber for the year 2008
Bart Rosheuvel;
Elbert de Windt;
Marcos Cova;
Rudolph Haseth;
Billy Jonckheer;
And myself, Ruud Thuis, president of the Chamber for the year 2008

And our Executive Director John Jacobs

Dear friends,
Let’s toast to on another successful year

Salú! Proost! Cheers!