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Discovered and claimed for Spain in 1499, Aruba was acquired by the Dutch in 1636. The island's economy has been dominated by three main industries. A 19th century gold rush was followed by prosperity brought on by the opening in 1924 of an oil refinery. The last decades of the 20th century saw a boom in the tourism industry. Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986 and became a separate, autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Movement toward full independence was halted at Aruba's request in 1990.

Geographic coordinates:

12 30 N, 69 58 W

Map references:

Central America and the Caribbean


total: 193 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 193 sq km

Area - comparative:

slightly larger than Washington, DC


tropical marine; little seasonal temperature variation


flat with a few hills; scant vegetation

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Jamanota 188 m

Natural resources:

NEGL; white sandy beaches

Land use:

arable land: 10.53% (including aloe 0.01%)
permanent crops: 0%
other: 89.47% (2001)

Irrigated land:

0.01 sq km (1998 est.)

Natural hazards:

lies outside the Caribbean hurricane belt

Geography - note:

a flat, riverless island renowned for its white sand beaches; its tropical climate is moderated by constant trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean; the temperature is almost constant at about 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit)


71,218 (July 2004 est.)

Ethnic groups:

mixed white/Caribbean Amerindian 80%


Roman Catholic 82%, Protestant 8%, Hindu, Muslim, Confucian, Jewish


Dutch (official), Papiamento (a Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English dialect), English (widely spoken), Spanish

Dependency status:

part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; full autonomy in internal affairs obtained in 1986 upon separation from the Netherlands Antilles; Dutch Government responsible for defense and foreign affairs

Government type:

parliamentary democracy



Administrative divisions:

none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)


none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

National holiday:

Flag Day, 18 March


1 January 1986

Legal system:

based on Dutch civil law system, with some English common law influence


18 years of age; universal

Economy - overview:

Tourism is the mainstay of the small, open Aruban economy, with offshore banking and oil refining and storage also important. The rapid growth of the tourism sector over the last decade has resulted in a substantial expansion of other activities. Construction has boomed, with hotel capacity five times the 1985 level. In addition, the reopening of the country's oil refinery in 1993, a major source of employment and foreign exchange earnings, has further spurred growth. Aruba's small labor force and low unemployment rate have led to a large number of unfilled job vacancies, despite sharp rises in wage rates in recent years. Tourist arrivals have declined in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US. The government now must deal with a budget deficit and a negative trade balance.


purchasing power parity - $1.94 billion (2002 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

-1.5% (2002 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

3.2% (2002 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

most employment is in wholesale and retail trade and repair, followed by hotels and restaurants; oil refining

Unemployment rate:

0.6% (2003 est.)


revenues: $135.8 million
expenditures: $147 million, including capital expenditures of NA (2000)

Agriculture - products:

aloes; livestock; fish


tourism, transshipment facilities, oil refining

Exports - commodities:

live animals and animal products, art and collectibles, machinery and electrical equipment, transport equipment

Imports - partners:

US 55.1%, Netherlands 13%, Netherlands Antilles 3.1% (2003 est.)

Debt - external:

$285 million (1996)

Economic aid - recipient:

$26 million (1995); note - the Netherlands provided a $127 million aid package to Aruba and Suriname in 1996


Aruban guilder/florin (AWG)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

37,100 (2002)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

53,000 (2001)


total: 800 km
paved: 513 km
note: most coastal roads are paved, while unpaved roads serve large tracts of the interior (1995)
unpaved: 287 km

Ports and harbors:

Barcadera, Oranjestad, Sint Nicolaas

Merchant marine:

total: 3 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 5,772 GRT/7,068 DWT
foreign-owned: Germany 1, Russia 1
registered in other countries: 1 (2003 est.)
by type: cargo 1, petroleum tanker 2


1 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2003 est.)

Military branches:

no regular indigenous military forces; Royal Dutch Navy and Marines, Coast Guard

Military - note:

defense is the responsibility of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Illicit drugs:

transit point for US- and Europe-bound narcotics with some accompanying money-laundering activity