n April 6th, the Curacao International Financial Services Association (CIFA) organized a lunch meeting in the Avila Beach Hotel. The lunch was completely sold out. Several people employed in the financial sector were present. They all came to attend presentations by Justus Martens of the Curacao Growth Fund and René Römer of the DCSX. CIFA looks back on the luncheon with satisfaction and is already looking forward to a new opportunity to inform the community about the latest developments in the financial sector.
Justus Martens began his presentation to the crowded room with the question whether Curacao is at a crossroad. Many people believe the offshore sector won’t last beyond the year 2019. They fear the impact of globalization, political instability, the digital economy and climate change. But is that fear justified? Or is it just another day in a lifetime full of surprises?
Then Martens presented the other side. Changes and challenges are a given. It’s just a matter of adjusting. Curacao has other taxation options, it will comply with new regulations, expand its e-zones, and build more windmills and parks with solar panels.
According to the director and partner of the Curacao Growth Fund, our job is to make the most out of Curacao; we need to take advantage of our position within the Kingdom and the EU and the numerous entrepreneurs on the island. Economic development is certainly possible, but capital is required for that. “Ideas and a track record are not enough. Investments are required, financed by equity and loans. Funding must come from banks, institutional investors or the public market. Equity can be earned or raised from different types of investors.” According to Martens, raising capital is not easy in Curacao. He even speaks of a huge bottleneck: local banks are conservative and the local capital market is just starting to grow. “In that light, the economic growth rate of Curacao isn’t surprising and, in fact, due to the lack of capital, it is not that bad.”
In OECD countries, banks lend more and investors finance through bonds. More importantly, Martens added, institutional investors and the public invest in small and large companies. This takes place in the form of private equity funds or through the stock exchange. According to the director of the Curacao Growth Fund, having no private equity or capital markets is an obstacle to economic development and growth. Several economies of small islands are affected by this and hardly realize growth. “But Curacao is one of the few small countries that can remove this obstacle: the island is blessed with a strong and professional pension sector and a well-developed financial sector. All that is required is vision, dedication and courage. And the realization that there is no alternative.”
At the end of his presentation, Martens had a message for the financial sector of Curacao: support important new capital market initiatives. Do not confuse caution with passivity (no decision is also a decision). Be a catalyst for growth, development and innovation and provide a helping hand to good local businesses and entrepreneurs to achieve their full potential.
During his presentation, René Römer of the Dutch Caribbean Securities Exchange (DCSX) summarized the history of the stock exchange and explained how this creates alternative financial opportunities for the local market, and at the same time serves the international market by attracting international companies to Curacao.
“Financial institutions, companies and individuals on Curacao have inactive savings that are not invested back in the Curacao economy,” Römer explained. “They are based on local and foreign investment accounts and generate very low returns.” The goal of DCSX is to provide a transparent platform where these inactive savings funds can be linked to initiatives / companies on Curacao to provide investors with a higher return and at the same time to help grow the Curacao economy. Building Depot Member Services, which participates in the Curacao Growth Fund, is the first local company to place bonds through the DSCX.
The Curacao International Financial Services Association (CIFA) is the representative association of professionals in the international financial services sector of Curacao. The organization, with over a 100 members, acts as a sounding board for and advises the government, regulatory agencies and monetary authorities on issues concerning our international financial services sector. For more information visit www.cifa-curacao.com or www.facebook.com/cifa