Curaçao Papiamentu: Kòrsou is an island in the southern Caribbean Sea, north of the Venezuelan coast, that is a constituent country (Dutch: land) of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Formally called the Country of Curaçao, it includes the main island and the uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao ("Little Curaçao"). It has a population of over 150,000 on an area of 444 km2 (171 sq mi) and its capital is Willemstad.
Prior to the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in 10 October 2010, Curaçao was administered as the "Island Territory of Curaçao.
Curaçao has an open economy, with tourism, international trade, shipping services, refining, storage (oil and bunkering) and international financial services being the most important sectors. Curaçao's economy is well developed and supports a high standard of living, ranking 46th in the world in terms of GDP (PPP) per capita and 27th in the world in terms of nominal GDP per capita. Curaçao possesses a high income economy, as defined by the World Bank. Activities related to the port of Willemstad (like the Free Trade Zone) make a significant contribution to the economy. To achieve the government's aim to make its economy more diverse, efforts are being made to attract more foreign investment. This policy, called the 'Open Arms' policy, features a heavy focus on information technology companies.
While tourism plays a major role in Curaçao's economy, it is less reliant on tourism than other Caribbean countries. Most tourists originate from the Eastern United States, South America and the Netherlands. It currently leads the Caribbean in cruise tourism growth with 610,186 cruise passengers in 2013,Hato International Airport received 1,772,501 passengers in 2013 and recently announced capital investments totaling US$48 million aimed at transforming the airport into a regional hub by 2018.
The island's insular shelf has a sharp drop-off known as the "Blue Edge." Scuba diving tourists often visit for this vista. Coral reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving can be reached without a boat. The southern coast has calm waters as well as many small beaches, such as Jan Thiel and Cas Abou. The coastline of Curaçao features numerous bays and inlets which serve as popular mooring locations for boats.
Some of the coral reefs are affected by tourism. Porto Marie Beach is experimenting with artificial coral reefs in order to improve the reef's condition. Hundreds of artificial coral blocks that have been placed are now home to a large array of tropical fish.
Curaçao's history in financial services dates back to World War I. Prior to this period, the financial arms of local merchant houses functioned as informal lenders to the community. However, at the turn of the century, Curaçao underwent industrialization, and a number of merchant houses established private commercial banks. As the economy grew, these banks began assuming additional functions eventually becoming full-fledged financial institutions.
The Dutch Caribbean Securities Exchange is located in the capital of Willemstad, as is the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten; the latter of which dates to 1828. It is the oldest central bank in the Western Hemisphere. The island's legal system supports a variety of corporate structures and is a corporate haven. Though Curaçao is considered a tax haven, it adheres to the EU Code of Conduct against harmful tax practices. It holds a qualified intermediary status from the United States Internal Revenue Service. It is an accepted jurisdiction of the OECD and Caribbean Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering. The country enforces Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism funding compliance.
Curaçao trades mainly with the United States, Venezuela, and the European Union. It has an Association Agreement with the European Union which allows companies which do business in and via Curaçao to export products to European markets, free of import duties and quotas. It is also a participant in the US Caribbean Basin Initiative allowing it to have preferential access to the US market