Roy Beaujon of the Captive Insurance Association Curaçao describes the historical and cultural heritage of Curaçao, the main island of the Netherlands Antilles.

This year we celebrate the fact that 500 years ago our island was discovered by Alonso de Ojeda, one of Christopher Columbus's captains during his second voyage to the Americas. That was at the same time the beginning of our written history, which can be traced back in the national archives of the various countries whose flag at one time or another flew on the islands of the Netherlands Antilles.

From the middle of the 17th century onwards, we have been part of the Dutch realm, first as an overseas colony and since 1954 as a semi-autonomous partner. Because of this longstanding and excellent relationship with our mother country, it is more than logical that Dutch influence is prevalent in our education, democratic parliamentary structure, well regulated infrastructure, and so on.

In reality we enjoy the best of both worlds, on the one hand the easygoing lifestyle of the Caribbean and on the other hand the instilled solidity and ethics of a well developed service oriented economy, especially with regard to the financial services industry.

Nowhere is the Dutch influence more visible than in the architecture of the inner city and harbour area of Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao. The typical façades and gables of the many old mansions remind one of Amsterdam, and the pastel colours that these buildings have been painted, provide a burst of colours that a rainbow might fund hard to improve.

For a number of years now organisations and foundations, public as well as private, have worked jointly to restore, maintain and conserve as many of these majestic buildings as possible. The many individuals that have dedicated so much time and energy to this important conservation of this part of our heritage saw their efforts rewarded last year, when the historic area of Willemstad Inner City and Harbour were included on the UNESCO world heritage list. It is a major recognition and a well deserved one.

What makes this work, apart from the will to succeed, is the fact that once a building is acquired for restoration purposes, potential buyers or renters are sought, who move in with their offices as soon as the building is again ready for occupancy. Since the financial services industry of Curaçao is one of the strongest sectors of our economy, it is no surprise that most such renovated patricians' homes and buildings are now occupied by offshore banks, trust management corporations and, of course, captive insurance companies.

In this respect Curaçao is proud that several well known international groups are included in the local “who's who” of captives.

Curaçao boasts a fiscal and tax structure that is very attractive for the establishment of captive insurance companies. Because the fiscal authorities and the sector maintain excellent relations, changes and innovations in order to remain competitive with similar areas in other parts of the world can be introduced in a smooth and well thought fashion.

Roy Beaujon, Captive Insurance Association Curaçao tel: +599 9 463 6347; fax: +599 9 463 6482.