This paper reviews economic developments in the Netherlands Antilles during 1990–96. The economic situation started deteriorating significantly since the early 1990s. Economic growth slackened, mainly reflecting weak investment and a sharp drop in tourist arrivals in 1995–96 owing to hurricane damage. The underlying external position deteriorated progressively, and reserves fell to an uncomfortably low level. The major factors behind the deterioration were occasional slippages in monetary policy and persistently large fiscal deficits that had their roots in a rapid growth of personnel costs.
This 2005 Article IV Consultation for the Netherlands Antilles’ reports that economic growth has been feeble so far in this decade, in the midst of economic policy drift. Growth has been constrained by still inflexible labor markets, widespread state ownership and interference in commercial activities, and insufficient investment in infrastructure and human capital. At the same time, free migration to the Netherlands has kept wages high. Persistent budget deficits and a large and growing public debt have also remained unaddressed.
The past decade has witnessed a progressive weakening of the Antillean economy, and prospects for a recovery depend on reinvigorating and sustaining adjustment. There is a need for more vigorous reforms, well coordinated across governments and supported by building social consensus. Fiscal policy can support growth over the medium term by reforming the tax system and lowering the tax and administrative burden on the private sector. Continuing progress with structural reforms is critical to improve the prospects for job creation and economic growth.