Through the 1990s and into the 21st century Aruba posted growth rates around 5%. However, in 2001, a decrease in demand and the terrorist attack on the United States led to the first economic contraction in 15 years. Deficit spending has been a staple in Aruba's history, and modestly high inflation has been present as well, although recent efforts at tightening monetary policy may correct this. Oil processing is the dominant industry in Aruba, despite the expansion of the tourism sector. Approximately 1.25 million tourists per year visit Aruba, with 75% of those from the United States. The sizes of the agriculture and manufacturing industries remain minimal.
GDP (2008): $1.968 billion.
Growth rate (2008): -1.6%.
Per capita GDP (2008): $25,922.
Natural resources: Beaches. Tourism/services and oil refining are dominant factors in GDP.
Trade (2009): Exports--$138 million: oil products, live animals and animal products, art and collectibles, machinery and electrical equipment, transport equipment. Major markets in value--Panama (23.89%), Colombia (17.42%), Netherlands Antilles (20.51%), U.S. (9.35%), Venezuela (12.60%), Netherlands (7.56%). Imports--$1.092 billion: crude petroleum, food, manufactures. Major suppliers--U.S. (49.5%), Netherlands (16.14%), U.K. (4.94%).
Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, north of Venezuela
12 30 N, 69 58 W
Central America and the Caribbean
total: 193 sq km
land: 193 sq km
water: 0 sq km
slightly larger than Washington, DC
territorial sea: 12 nm
tropical marine; little seasonal temperature variation
flat with a few hills; scant vegetation
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Jamanota 188 m
NEGL; white sandy beaches
arable land: 11%
permanent crops: NA%
permanent pastures: NA%
forests and woodland: NA%
other: 89% (1993 est.)
NA sq km
lies outside the Caribbean hurricane belt
party to: NA
signed, but not ratified: NA
Part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Aruba has semi-autonomy on most internal affairs with the exception of defense, foreign affairs, final judicial review, and "Kingdom matters" including human rights and good governance. The constitution was enacted in January 1986. Executive power rests with a governor, while a prime minister heads an eight-member Cabinet. The governor is appointed for a 6-year term by the monarch and the prime minister and deputy prime minister are elected by the legislature, or Staten, for 4-year terms. The Staten is made up of 21 members elected by direct, popular vote to serve 4-year terms. Aruba's judicial system, mainly derived from the Dutch system, operates independently of the legislature and the executive. Jurisdiction, including appeal, lies with the Common Court of Justice of Aruba and the Kingdom-level Supreme Court of Justice in the Netherlands.
The Aruba People's Party (AVP), led by Mike Eman, won the September 25, 2009 parliamentary elections, capturing 12 of the 21 seats; People's Electoral Movement (MEP) dropped from 11 to 8 seats, and Real Democracy Party (PDR) took the final seat. The Network of Eternal Democracy (RED) and Aruban Patriotic Movement (MPA) did not return to parliament.
Principal Government Officials
Governor General--Fredis J. Refunjol
Prime Minister--Michiel Godfried (Mike) Eman
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Independence: Part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Branches: Executive--monarch represented by a governor (chief of state), prime minister (head of government), Cabinet. Legislative--unicameral parliament. Judicial--Joint High Court of Justice appointed by the monarch.
Subdivisions: Aruba is divided into eight regions--Noord/Tank Leendert, Oranjestad (west), Oranjestad (east), Paradera, Santa Cruz, Savaneta, Sint Nicolaas (north), and Sint Nicolaas (south).
Political parties: People's Electoral Movement (MEP), Aruba People's Party (AVP), Network (RED), Aruba Patriotic Movement (MPA), Real Democracy (PDR), Aruba Liberal Organization (OLA), Aruba Patriotic Party (PPA), Aruba Democratic Alliance (ALIANSA), Socialist Movement of Aruba (MSA).
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years.
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The islands off the Venezuelan coast and their Caiquetio inhabitants (part of a larger group of Caribbean people called Arawaks) were "discovered" by the Spanish in 1499 but not developed. Although the Dutch claimed Aruba in 1636, no European settlers arrived until the 1750s. The discovery of gold in 1824 brought some excitement and colonists to the island. But the arrival of the oil industry in the 1920s after black gold was found in nearby Venezuela actually had a bigger economic impact: At its height in 1965, the refinery on Aruba produced 550,000 barrels of oil a day.
Aruba's first inhabitants were the Caquetios Indians from the Arawak tribe. Fragments of the earliest known Indian settlements date back to about 1000 A.D. Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda is regarded as the first European to arrive in about 1499. The Spanish garrison on Aruba dwindled following the Dutch capture of nearby Bonaire and Curacao in 1634. The Dutch occupied Aruba shortly thereafter, and retained control for nearly two centuries. In 1805, during the Napoleonic wars, the English briefly took control over the island, but it was returned to Dutch control in 1816. A 19th-century gold rush was followed by prosperity brought on by the opening in 1924 of an oil refinery. The last decades of the 20th century saw a boom in the tourism industry. In 1986 Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles and became a separate, autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Movement toward full independence was halted at Aruba's prerogative in 1990. Aruba has a mixture of people from South America and Europe, the Far East, and other islands of the Caribbean.
Tourists began arriving in the 1960s, but development of large resort hotels with casinos really started in earnest in the 1980s, when declining oil revenues led the government to seek new ways to bolster the economy. Today, tourism is the leading industry and more than half a million people visit Aruba each year, making it one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean. As a result, the island is prosperous by Caribbean standards, and its citizens enjoy good housing, education and health care.
Aruba has been quasi-independent since 1986, when it became a "separate entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands." Actually, the island has been influenced as much by Venezuela (only 15 mi/24 km away from Aruba) as by the Netherlands. Most Arubans speak English, Spanish and Dutch, as well as Papiamento (a mixture of African, Arawak, Dutch, English, Portuguese and Spanish idioms).
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Aruban(s).
Population (2008): 106,050.
Annual population growth rate: 1.46%.
Ethnic groups: Mixed white/Caribbean Amerindian 80%, other 20%.
Religion: Roman Catholic 81%, Evangelist 4.1%, Protestant 2.5%, Jehovah’s Witness 1.5%, Methodist 1.2%, other 5.3%, unspecified or none 4.6%.
Languages: Dutch (official); Papiamento, Spanish, and English also are spoken.
Health: Infant mortality rate--16/1,000. Life expectancy--72 years for men, 78 years for women.
Work force (54,720): Most employment is in wholesale and retail trade and repair, followed by hotels and restaurants and oil refining. Unemployment--about 5.7% (2007).