Before heading for The Hague hoping to secure continued liquidity support, Aruban Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes informed social partners that this year’s gross domestic product (GDP) decline will end up at 28.5 per cent, of which only 7 per cent can likely be made up in 2021. This helps explain why, after arranging some financing on its own, the Dutch Caribbean country was soon back at the table with the Netherlands to discuss additional soft loans and attached far-reaching conditions for which Curaçao recently signed an accord.
Like that of Aruba, St. Maarten’s one-pillar tourism economy was particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and inhabitants may have to come to terms with the idea that next year their standard of living could – on average – remain a quarter below what it was before this unprecedented coronavirus-related crisis, never mind pre-Hurricane Irma. Government is therefore left with little choice but meeting requirements for the second tranche of – already received – monetary assistance to begin talks regarding a third tranche.
But Aruba also took another important step by becoming the first Caribbean nation to start “seamless entry testing” (see related story) with JetBlue and its partner Vault. The latter will use its technological platform to electronically supervise saliva-based at-home tests which are sent overnight to a lab and processed within 72 hours.
That should make it considerably easier for the US airline’s passengers to visit the island, where authorities are apparently confident about the reliability of such testing. The company involved promises convenience, a quick turnaround and accuracy.
It is a development worth watching locally to perhaps facilitate the badly-hurting hospitality industry during the upcoming high season until vaccines are widely available. If found to be safe, other carriers might consider following suit as well.
There are always risks, but the trick is to keep them manageable.