Aruba’s economy is based on an open trade system, with tourism being the biggest driver for Aruba’s economy. As a direct result, related industries like construction and other auxiliary services have also flourished. Aruba is heavily dependent on imports from and exports to other countries.
Gold was discovered on Aruba in 1800 and thereafter mining was the island’s principal industry, by the 1920’s Aruba’s economy capped and began to dwindle. But the down slide was short lived, as Aruba benefited from its close proximity to oil rich Venezuela; the island became an attractive spot for oil refineries, which continues to contribute to Aruba’s economy.
Other industries contributing to Aruba’s economy are oil refining, storage services (oil products) and more recently offshore financial services (offshore banking). The current administration has put in place incentives to expanding finance, communication and technology sectors. Areas of focus are international telecommunications, international financial services, international trade, free trade zone activities/services and small scale high tech operations in agriculture, husbandry and fisheries.
Aruba does have a medium scale manufacturing sector, in which semi-finished petroleum products, plastic bags, soaps/disinfectants, printed textiles, refined sugar and rice products are prepared for export.
Due to poor soil, limited rainfall and arid climate in Aruba the traditional plantation economy was limited and undeveloped. One plant species which was successful in Aruba was the aloe, a plant that thrives in desert type conditions. For years aloe was Aruba’s top export and there is a revival in the industry. Animal husbandry and fishing are two areas also contributing to Aruba’s economy.
In addition, the country also exports art and collectibles, machinery, electrical equipment, and transport equipment. Due to the small population of just over 100,000 the labour force is strained and Aruba can boast of a low unemployment rate.
Tourism in Aruba is one of the more prosperous sectors in the economy. Extensive development of modern cruise ship berth, improved infrastructure, opening of duty free shopping zones and development of many hotels and tourist oriented business are key features attracting tourist to Aruba.
Aruba’s current economic policy aims to create high-level employment, transfer technology, control inflation, strengthen Aruba’s financial and monetary foundation, increase productivity, distribute income equitably and substantially improve social conditions. Economic policies of the Aruban government are aimed at accomplishing such, by actively stimulating the establishment of “export-oriented” or “import-replacement” companies in Aruba.
Aruba is a small 20 mi long island, a member of the Lesser Antilles, in the southern part of the Caribbean Sea. Aruba is only 17 mi north of the coast of Venezuela. Collectively Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba form the group called the ABC islands. The ABC islands including Aruba are commonly referred to as the Netherlands Antilles or the Dutch Antilles.