Mar 27, 2014

Aruba's Prime Minister Mike Eman Shows Path to a Sustainable Future

NYU Wagner students were treated to a fascinating account of Aruba's efforts to link economic growth and social development in sustainable ways -- a presentation delivered at NYU Wagner by none other than the island's Prime Minister, Mike Eman.

Prime Minister Eman, who is serving his second term, noted that Aruba, with a population of 100,000, began to develop its structural reforms even before the worldwide financial bubble burst in 2007-'08. In the prior two decades, Aruba had struggled with socio-economic stressors of its own despite the tremendous growth of its tourism industry.

To address this striking disconnect, Mr. Eman and his political party initiated Social Dialogues to encourage greater public involvement across communities and sectors in government planning. These and other efforts brought about the reshaping of the streetscape, the refurbishment of older buildings, and renewed emphasis on strengthening schools, healthcare, and conditions for the elderly. Overall, the work-in-progress contributes to the island's general welfare and "happiness," even drawing praise from environmentalists Al Gore, Richard Branson, and many others. Mr. Eman went from his Wagner visit of March 26 to an engineering society gathering in Manhattan where he accepted an award on behalf of the new battery-fueled trolley system in Aruba -- a notable advance in clean, safe urban transit.

"In 2008, the world was surprised when in so many cases greed had taken over and the public interest was not taken into account," said Mr. Eman. However, he said, Aruba's experiences suggest that while economic growth is critical, it cannot be de-coupled from democratic values, the environment, and social development -- or the result will be a city, a country, or indeed a world which is neither truly happy nor sustainable.

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