The seat of the Netherlands Antilles government lies in Willemstad, Curacao. Bonaire
and each of the other four islands within the association maintain control over
internal affairs, but it is the central government based in Curacao that regulates
police affairs, post, telecommunications, aviation, public health, and education,
among others. The Netherlands Antilles government is based on a parliamentary democracy,
and Parliament comprises a council of ministers and a prime minister. Bonaire, the second
largets of all the Netherlands Antilles, comprises six distinct townships and villages.
The island runs it's internal affairs through an elected legislative council, an advisory
council, and executive council, comprising elected members of the island council. A lietenant
governor, who is appointed by the queen, lives in Kralendijk and oversees local issues.
Economy Over the years, Bonaire has developed an economy based on tourism, oil transference,
salt production, and some light industry such as apparel manufacture and rice processing. By far,
the oldest surviving industry on the island lies in the salt. Salt pans cover 10% of Bonaire's
surface, and the island produces 441,000 tons (400,000 metric tons) per year. The Akzo Nobel Salt
Company moved onto the island in 1963, and today it produces nearly half a million tons of salt
at it's solar processing center (meaning after the salt is harvested and washed, it's dried by
the sun) at Pekelmeer, at the southern tip of the island. This is the only spot today where salt
is commercially produced. The salt harvest in rough grades used mainly for industry and
ice-melting, rather than astable salt.
While Aruba and Curacao benefitted from the discovery of large quantities of oil in Venezuela in
the early 20TH century, Bonaire did not. However, in 1975, the Bonaire Petroleum Corporation (BOPEC)
was established. You'll see it today, at the northern end of the island near Gotomeer.
The plant does not refine petroleum, but is a transfer center, stroing petroleum for transfer
from large tankers to smaller ones.
The largest industry on Bonaire today is tourism. The 70,000 tourists who visit the island each year,
a small number by Caribbean standards but just about right for Bonaire, contribute not only to
direct sales such as hotel rooms and diving operators, but to related industries such as food
and restaurants, retail sales, and transportation.