Netherlands Antilles and Aruba - Infrastructure, power, and communications

The 5 small islands of the Netherlands Antilles have no railroad and only 602 kilometers (373 miles) of roads between them, of which only 300 kilometers (186 miles) are paved. And yet given their size, they are, in fact, unusually well served. Even the tiny and impossibly precipitous Saba boasts "The Road," 31 kilometers (19 miles) of winding roadway built in early 1940s and one of the region's engineering marvels. Most of this development, however, has occurred since the 1960s. Saba's dock was only built in 1963; until then everything reaching the island had to be rowed ashore through the surf. It was not until the 1960s that all of islands received public electricity and water supplies.

Inter-island traffic has made sea and air connections a vital means of communication, as well as vital parts of the economy. Curaçao is blessed with one of the largest natural harbors in the world, and the port has become not

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Netherlands Antilles 76,000 (1995) 13,977 (1996) AM 9; FM 4; shortwave 0 217,000 3 69,000 6 2,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Jamaica 353,000 (1996) 54,640 (1996) AM 10; FM 13; shortwave 0 1.215 M 7 460,000 21 60,000
St. Lucia 37,000 1,600 AM 2; FM 7; shortwave 0 111,000 3 32,000 15 5,000
a Data is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
b Data is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
c Data is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

only a major center for the transshipment of Caribbean oil, but an important dry dock for ship repairs. The port annually handles around 850,000 metric tons of cargo, and the foreign exchange earnings it generates are a crucial component of the Antillean economy. Also economically central is the ailing national carrier, Antillean Airlines (ALM), scheduled for privatization. Each of the islands has an airport, with international access via Hato Airport in Curaçao and Juliana Airport in Sint Maarten, both major hubs for their respective regions. There are also plans to upgrade Bonaire's airport to receive international flights. Nevertheless, the federation's fragmentation into widely separated parts, in which separate infrastructures are required for each island and communication between islands is cumbersome and expensive, is a continual economic drain.

The islands boast 76,000 telephones (1995), and 11,727 cellular telephones (1995)—one for each 2.8 and 17.9 Antilleans, respectively. Energy provision is good, and more than 97 percent of Antillean households have electricity (93 percent with a refrigerator). Generating capacity runs to 200 megawatts, all of it produced from imported fossil fuels. In 1999 the islands' final power consumption equaled around 2.67 million tons of oil.

The picture for Aruba is much the same: 802 kilometers (497 miles) of roads, 513 kilometers (318 miles) of them paved (mostly the perimeter coastal roads); 27,000 telephones and 1,718 cellular phones (one for each 2.5 and 40.5 Arubans respectively, as of 1995). Moves are underway to sell the state telecommunications utility, Setar, but these have faced stiff resistance from the country's labor groups. Like the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba relies heavily on its ports and air connections. Its 3 ports are Oranjestad, the main commercial and cruise ship facility; Sint Nicolas, used by the oil industry; and Barcadera, opened in 1962 to serve the industrial zone on the leeward coast. The island has 2 airports, with international facilities at Oranjestad. Deregulation of the air market included the sale in 1998 of 70 percent of the government's share in the bankrupt national carrier Air Aruba. Continued difficulties in the company, however, forced it to cease operations in October 2000.

Aruba's electricity generating capacity of 125 megawatts gives almost universal access to electricity. Like the Netherlands Antilles, power generation relies on fossil fuels. Aruba's total power consumption in 1999 came to the equivalent to 210,000 tons of oil, around 0.02 percent of the island's oil production.

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