Covid 19: weighing risks of re-opening to tourists

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Curaçao has, so far dodged the worst of the covid 19. Team Gerstenbluth is doing an excellent job based on an effective science-based approach. We’re however facing a choice between a risky reopening to tourists and further economic collapse. The tradeoffs are perhaps starker considering our dependence on tourism and the fact that our tourists come mainly from places where Covid 19 is still spreading.

Yet, some decision makers are irresponsibly pushing to quickly re-open our borders to save the economy. First of all, the sorry state of our economy is only partially due to covid 19. The bigger picture here are the lack of fundamentals (inflexible labor laws, a burgeoning civil servants structure, no export network and salaries on steroids in state controlled entities). Our dependence on tourism and lack of revenue diversity remain a real weakness. 

After the cautious opening up of local businesses, our priority should be response requirements such as in-country testing and repatriation of stranded citizens. We need to be designing new economic policies that are in sync with the global reality. We need to redesign the NOW and other initiatives aimed to cushion the economic blow. It’s been proven that not much thought has gone into the institutional aspects of the aid package. There’re already signs of corruption and misallocation of funds due to weak targeting. 

Yes, we need to think about eventually opening up for visitors since we won’t be able to rapidly diversify our economy as long as we don’t take care of our weak economic structures. We must carefully weigh when to ease restrictions that would save jobs but risk the virus running amok. Imprudent opening is chilling to imagine and could cause a lot of unnecessary anxiety with our people. We’re better off not ignoring the science. 

Willemstad, Curaçao

Author: alexdavidrosaria

Alex Rosaria is from Curaçao. He has a MBA from University of Iowa. He was Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and United Nations Development Programme Officer in Africa and Central America. He is an independent consultant active in Asia and the Pacific.

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