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|‘Don’t underestimate culture in doing business’|
|Sunday, 24 March 2013 11:23|
ORANJESTAD — During the General Meeting of Atia last Thursday, Minister of Economic Affairs, Michelle Winklaar (AVP), emphasized once again the importance of culture in doing business. She stated this in connection with the cabinet’s policy vision ‘Green Gateway’ and the upcoming international business conference ‘Europe Meets Americas’ in May on Aruba.By our reporter
The minister reported that meanwhile 41 companies from 11 countries have registered for the conference. She assumes more registrations will follow because of the active presentations given to explain the importance of this conference. It regards ‘being part of momentum’, Winklaar informed the members of the employers’ organization.
Winklaar began with quoting several macro-economic figures (from the Central Bank) on the economy of Aruba. The closing of the refinery most certainly had an impact, for example the unemployment figure increased with 3.7 percent to 41.340 unemployed in the last quarter of 2012 (compared to the same period in 2011). The impact is also seen in less import of goods with 1.9 percent in 2012 and the container transport with 0.8 percent. However, just as the Central Bank and later on also the Minister of Finance, Mike de Meza, noticed, the minister stated the closing of the refinery in San Nicolas had less effect on the economy than expected. In 2012 the economy (actually) declined with 1.2 percent, but without considering the effect of the refinery, there was a growth of 4.9 percent. There are underlying factors and other economic sectors such as retail, real estate and construction weren’t actually affected by the closing of the refinery, according to Winklaar. This can also be seen in the income tax (growth of 4.5 percent), an upward trend that continued as from 2011, after the regression in 2009/2010; in the 14.3 percent increase in the exports of goods, and 5.7 percent increase in the number of new companies registered with the Chamber of Commerce. In 2012, 1206 new companies had registered, compared to 1141 in 2011.
Repeating the figure from the Central Bank, the minister stated that economic growth continues also this year, with an estimated 5.1 percent. Compared to the region, Aruba is doing reasonably well and Atia can be proud of this, said Winklaar. However, there are challenges and successes ahead, and the minister mentions her vision of Green Gateway once again, with the life product cycle, following a research by Ernst & Young, reporting on new economic chances. The circle runs from technology/green zone to financial mediation/company integration to tourism, logistics and back. Winklaar emphasizes once again Aruba’s unique position: the geopolitical position, creating a more accessible business climate by reducing the red tape and making business more attractive by reducing the fees. She emphasized that also the environment makes our island unique: “We have wind, sun and water.” And we have competent personnel.
Moreover, the fact that Aruba is part of the Kingdom, is an ‘eye opener’ for the region”, said Winklaar. “We must seek strategic alliances. It’s not necessarily about trade, because this is already being done.” It regards facilitating that trade in a unique way in which Aruba can play a role, said the minister. As example she mentioned Columbia, a country that is at the other end of the world for companies in Europe. From a European perspective, it regards small companies that are huge in their own country. The region sees that Aruba has the potential to make the cultural and judicial connection. “Owing to their lack of expertise, they need help in doing business with Europe.” For instance, with drawing up contracts, treaties and other legal documents. “Of course, one could outsource this to an attorney’s office or business office, but the entrepreneurs want the assurance of obtaining this expertise close to home.” The minister emphasized that culture is an important aspect here. “It’s not just a matter of, this is the document, just sign here. These countries want to understand how to do business.”
She also mentioned another example given during a visit to the export department of the Panamanian government, where it was said that farmers do business with Europe by exporting goods, mostly on consignment. “Sometimes, they aren’t paid and in that case they could appoint a commissioner on Aruba to facilitate. We have the expertise to help them.”
The business conference ‘Europe Meets Americas’ early May is therefore the opportunity to discover new economic relations, by matching each other and/or establishing on the island.