Why Isn’t Aruba PoorIn 1985, a New York times article stated “Unlike most other Caribbean islands, there are few signs of poverty on Curaçao or Aruba.[…] Air-conditioned automobiles are everywhere, and shops are filled with new American and European products.” Today, Aruba continues to enjoy low crime and a high quality of life.

Defying the Odds

In 2010, Aruba’s unemployment rate was reportedly 10.6 percent. In 2011, the GDP per capita was $25,300, and its GDP growth rate was 1.2 percent in 2014. In 2015, its literacy rate was 97.5 percent. These statistics suggest rather positive economic and social structure compared to the rest of the Caribbean.

Knowing that the Caribbean has a history of extreme poverty and high crime rates in countries like the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, the question is worth asking: why isn’t Aruba poor?

Unlike most Caribbean nations, Aruba has little vegetation, arid heat and flat land. For this reason, Aruba’s economy could not rely on the typical cash-crop plantation model in the Caribbean during colonialism.

Countries with an economy heavily reliant on cash-crop plantations tended to experience extreme violence under slavery, and rigid social class systems intensified social inequality.

When numerous colonies became independent nations, many were left with a poor foundational political and economic structure, which perpetuated a pattern of unparalleled violence and poverty. In contrast, Aruba has had an entirely different relationship with the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands, which acquired the island from Spain in 1636, originally used Aruba as livestock farmland for Curaçao because aloe (being the only viable agricultural export) was not in high demand. However, once gold was discovered on the island and mines opened in 1836, Aruba prospered exceedingly until 1924. Why isn’t Aruba poor? Its unique colonial history defined a new path for the Caribbean nation.

Because its economy greatly depended on gold, the country faced economic doom as the mines depleted. Fortunately, the country’s close proximity to Venezuela, a major oil exporter at the time, prompted plans to open oil refineries. Soon, the Exxon oil refinery served as a new reliable source of profit, which became inextricable with community life for many decades.

Oil and its Impacts

However, when the Exxon company closed its refinery in 1985, Aruba faced an imminent economic crisis with an estimated rise of unemployment from 15 percent to 40 percent. Amidst peaceful protest and public outcry, the country would eventually need to find another industry to sustain its economy.

While dealing with the oil refinery crisis, Aruba also pushed for independence from the Antilles Netherlands due to political and economic power struggles with a neighboring nation, Curaçao (also a member of the Antilles). Previously colonized countries across the Caribbean were either newly independent or becoming independent nations at the time, but with independence came other economic and socio-political hardships.

Path to Independence 

After determining that full independence was a national security threat, the country lobbied to remain a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands instead of becoming fully independent (scheduled for 1996). This arrangement with the Netherlands secured a steady source of financing for developmental aid until 2009. Presently, the Dutch government continues to detail defense and foreign affairs while Aruba maintains complete internal independence.

Despite the benefits of its constituency status, no amount of financial and national support from the Netherlands would save Aruba from financial ruin without a new industry. So, why isn’t Aruba poor today? Aruba leveraged its beautiful beaches and perfect weather to promote tourism, which remains a sustainable primary source of income.

However, tourism isn’t the only industry that fuels Aruba’s economy. Other industries include petroleum, bunkering, hospitality and financial and business services. Aruba also exports agriculture products (mainly aloe, fish and livestock), art, machinery, electrical equipment and transport equipment. Aruba has been able to maintain economic security and peace throughout its history because of a beneficial relationship with the Netherlands and positive adaptability to the world economy.

Cassandra Mathelier

Photo: Pixabay

Poverty Rate in Aruba
Aruba, a small country in the South Caribbean Sea, has been regarded as a popular vacation spot where tourism continues to thrive. Accounting for 30% of the island’s income, the tourism industry has been on the rise since 1985. This industry has brought an increase in business to the hotel industry as well as construction and the food industry. Tourism has helped create a flourishing economy and contributed to the low poverty rate in Aruba.

These increases of industry have paved the way for an increase in jobs. This contributes to the low unemployment rate, 6.9% as of 2005. Aruba’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been estimated at about $23,500 per capita in 2011, which is among the highest in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.

The unemployment rate continues to be low due to an abundance of jobs and a stable economy, yet jobs still go unfulfilled. With a focus on tourism, the majority of jobs are concentrated in the tourism industry, whether it be in the hotel industry or otherwise.

Although public debt was recorded as 67% of the GDP in 2013, the inflation rate in 2016 was negative at about minus 0.8%. Like any island nation, Aruba exports only a fraction of what it imports. Partially due to tourism, the island maintains a steady economy, where 1.79 Aruban Florin has consistently been equivalent to $1 since 2012. With more than one million visitors to the island per year, the majority of businesses in tourist areas operate on the U.S. dollar.

Aruba’s tourism industry has continued to thrive in recent years. Increases in the tourism industry have created low unemployment and have contributed to the low poverty rate in Aruba. The tourism industry is expected to continue to prosper in Aruba due to the stable economy and exchange rate. Continued low rates of poverty can also be expected for the near future of Aruba.

Stefanie Podosek

Photo: Flickr

Aruba, known for their slogan, “One Happy Island,” is just one of four countries that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It has been a desired tourist spot for vacationers due to its dry and reliably warm climate. Tourism dominates the economy with over one million tourists per year, mainly from the United States.

For an island as small as Aruba, 20 miles long by 6 miles wide, the cost of living in Aruba would seemingly be low. Yet, due to the size of the island, Aruba’s economy primarily depends on tourism as 30 percent of the island’s income, as well as aloe exports and petroleum refining.

In a July 2017 Aruba Economic of Affairs report, 2012 was said to have tourism receipts of 2,504.9 million Aruban Florin. This factor heavily affects the cost of living in Aruba.

In June 2017, $1 was equivalent to 1.79 Aruban Florin. Many businesses operate on the U.S. dollar instead of florins, especially in the resort district.

Compared to the U.S., rent prices are about 31 percent lower in Aruba, and restaurant prices are about 11 percent lower. While housing rent in and out of city centers tends to be significantly less than in the U.S., buying property tends to be more expensive. Costs such as utilities and income tax are often the most expensive part of the cost of living in Aruba.

Due to the poor soil quality and low rainfall, agriculture on the island is limited. This causes Aruba to have an increase in the import of groceries at a 5.75 percent increase over U.S. prices, due to its imports of milk, beef and fruits.

Aruba may rely on those imports to make up everyday grocery items, but the island is known to have the world’s third largest desalination plant. This allows Aruba to produce potable industrial water, makes the island independent from other sources and cuts the cost of bottled water.

Although tourism has been the main source of income for Aruba, imports and exports have continued to heavily influence the cost of living on the island. Aruba may heavily depend on its imports, but the government is making efforts to expand exports as well so as to balance trade and allow a balance in the cost of living as well.

Stefanie Podosek

Photo: Flickr

Aruba is a 70 square mile island situated in the southern Caribbean Sea. A frequent travel destination for vacationers, Aruba is known for its blue waters, white sands and diverse culture. However, aside from its beautiful beaches, Aruba is also home to many infectious diseases. Here are 5 of the most common diseases in Aruba.

5 of the Most Common Diseases in Aruba

1. Zika

Although Zika is not a prevalent disease in Aruba, there have been a few cases and “public health officials have reported that mosquitoes in Aruba are infected with Zika virus and are spreading it to people.”

Zika could potentially become one of the most common diseases in Aruba because of the island’s mosquito population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that there is no medicine or vaccine to prevent Zika, so the easiest way to avoid getting the disease is by using precautions to prevent mosquito bites.

2. Hepatitis A and E

Travelers to Aruba are encouraged to receive vaccinations for both Hepatitis A and E. These similar diseases are mostly spread through the intake of unclean food or water. Hepatitis A and E are serious diseases that “interfere with the functioning of the liver” and can be a burden to the body for up to a year.

3. Circulatory diseases

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) stated that “diseases of the circulatory system are the leading cause of death in Aruba.” Ailments such as ischemic heart disease and stroke were the top sources of mortality and relatively common diseases in Aruba.

4. Diarrhea

“Travelers’ diarrhea is the most common travel-related ailment” according to Red Planet Travel. Caused by consumption of impure food or water, diarrhea can also be associated with nausea, vomiting and fever. To prevent diarrhea, travelers and locals are advised to stay away from eating raw or unpeeled foods and unpasteurized milk or dairy.

Doctors and health professionals recommend bringing an antibiotic to cure diarrhea if it does occur while traveling.

5. Diabetes

The PAHO shared in their Aruba health report that “there is a high prevalence of diabetes in Aruba.” This disease may be common for residents of the island but is not infectious or particularly a concern for visitors.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr