ast Friday, the members of the Curaçao International
Financial Services Association (CIFA) gathered at Omundo Restaurant with other notable
members of our society to ring in the new year. During its annual new year’s event, CIFA
members reflect on the past year and set goals for the current year. The association’s
chairperson, Mrs. Nacha de Jesus, announced 2020 to be the year in which the international
financial services sector will reinvent itself.
Shifting to a higher gear
The highlight of the evening was a moving speech and toast by CIFA chairperson Nacha de
Jesus. She started by thanking her guests for the support they have received throughout
2019 and stated that she welcomed the position of chairperson on CIFA’s board with open
arms. “It was one of my personal achievements in 2019 and a true honor. Thank you,” she
said. Her speech continued with highlighting some of the achievements made by the
international financial sector in 2019. Such as obtaining the largely compliant- status,
implementing a new, internationally accepted and competitive profit tax regime, deepening
existing relationships with partners and starting new collaborations as well as having all
important players in the international financial services sector pursue one and the same
goal. De Jesus also touched upon the economic importance of the financial services sector
by drawing a parallel between the contribution the refinery made to the island economy
and the offshore regime. Her speech concluded with an outline of the goals the organization
has set for 2020. “2020 is the year in which the international financial sector will reinvent
itself. Now that the offshore regime no longer exists, it is time for a reinvention,” she said.
The chairperson believes that an attractive investment climate can only be achieved by
readjusting the sector’s product portfolio and improving the client licensing process. “The
aim is to introduce innovative technological solutions to be able to compete regionally and
internationally. We need to form strategic alliances with local as well as regional players.
There is so much we can learn from other countries that are in the next stage of
development. By analyzing what worked and what didn’t, we are able to shift to a higher
gear much quicker and gain competitive advantage in the region. The first steps have
already been made in 2019 and the momentum has been building. Decisiveness and hard
work, while still remaining agile, will ensure that we reach a higher level of service this
year,” De Jesus continued.
The growth challenge for 2020
De speech by De Jesus was preceded by two opening speeches. The evening kicked off with
an opening speech by the Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath where the political leader
complimented the international financial services sector on the island for achieving the
OECD largely compliant-status last year and thus remaining off the blacklist. The Prime
Minister was optimistic about the future of the sector and acknowledged the importance of
the sector for the local economy. “A consolidated financial sector represented by CIFA is the
best way for the international financial sector on the island to grow. The new tax regime is
another great step in the right direction,” he said. “Even though the various negative
forecasts may suggest otherwise, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The international
financial services sector together with the tourism sector remain solid pillars of the local
economy,” he continued. The Prime Minister finished his powerful speech by remarking that
by breaking the mold, the island will be able to turn the tide and put Curaçao back on the
map so that next year the annual new year’s event will be a celebration of growth.
The Prime Minister’s speech was followed by an equally positive speech by the Minister of
Finance Kenneth Gijsbertha. He stated: “We must, and we will, overcome the obstacles that
are currently in our way.” He reflected on the challenging year 2019 with the formal
instruction (aanwijzing) the Dutch Kingdom Council of Ministers gave to the government as
well as all the insecurities surrounding Refineria di Kòrsou (RDK) just to name a few.
“Surviving is not enough. We need to thrive. And the only way to achieve that is collectively
as one country,” he continued. The Minister of Finance finished his speech by expressing his
belief that together and in close collaboration with CIFA in its role as representative of an
important pillar of the economy, economic growth can be achieved and sustained.
The evening finished with a toast by De Jesus.