Courtesy Reuters

Dutch Problems in the West Indies

A PECULIAR economic and international situation exists in the islands of Curaçao and Aruba, two of the three Dutch West Indies lying off the coast of Venezuela. During the last few years these two islands have enjoyed a period of great prosperity, induced by the oil boom in Venezuela. The Gulf of Maracaibo, about whose shores the Venezuelan petroleum industry has developed, is too shallow for deep ocean-going vessels, with the result that the petroleum is pumped over to the Dutch islands, where it is refined and shipped. Besides good harbors, these near-by islands have the advantages of a stable government and a comparatively large and efficient laboring population; this has made them not only a great refining and export center, but also a fueling station for the numerous oil-burning ships traveling between the Americas.

In practically all the years of Dutch rule previous to 1923 Curaçao was a drain on the treasury of the mother country. However, for 1929 the income of the Curaçao Government was 120 percent more than it had been five years before, nearly 187 percent more than it had been ten years before, and almost 540 percent more than it had been fifteen years before. The budget has in recent years enjoyed an actual surplus. Imports have increased about thirty times in the last fifteen years. Curaçao has become the center of one of the largest petroleum industries of the world, and the tonnage of its shipping has surpassed that of Amsterdam.

The Dutch are wondering whether this prosperity is of a passing or a permanent nature. The islands have had short periods of prosperity before, only to lapse again into long periods of depression. They flourished as a smuggling center and as a slave-trading center in the days of the monopolistic Spanish colonial commercial policy, and during the American Civil War they enjoyed a short period of prosperity from the blockade runners. The present prosperity would seem to have a better and more permanent basis, but

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