Bati Bleki Buzz, Weekly Recap, April 12th, 2020

Thoughts over the weekend

Random thought over the weekend

Like many others living on One Happy Island we now eat dinner together at 7pm, so we can listen to the press conference.

I always appreciate the words of the MinPres, I believe she and her cabinet are handling the illness portion of the crisis, well.

But that steady diet of boet, taskforce, sera tienda, police, mara faha, doesn’t have a SUFFICIENTLY STRONG effect on the locals, they still go to the beach, and guzzle beer in clusters.

CNN aired a program Sunday night about how New York hospitals are dealing with CoVid19, a realistic, shocking, emotional account of this lung-eating virus, and the chaos and heartbreak it brings. Perhaps TeleAruba should report from the front line in the hospital here, the ICU, and the over-burdened doctors and nurses, to move people here enough, to embrace TDK.

Manipulate their emotions, evoke empathy, the statistics do not move people. A single young man, a positive CoVid19 patient, standing in front of a camera shivering, with no means of going home, back to his family, scared me enough to never want to leave my home again, ever.

It also exposed a need in our community: Volunteer drivers, with the knowledge of how to protect themselves.

I welcomed the “Hunto Nos Solution” project launched by the Police in the barrios, a friendly, informative initiative designed to educate and build trust, BUT, wouldn’t it be best to entrust that job to teachers? Who are currently unemployed. Isn’t the Police busy enough, as is? It would be good to educate kids, who will then educate parents.   

And the volunteers GOA was looking for, to handle phone lines, checking on quarantine-violators, couldn’t they use some of GOA’s own employees currently at home, out of work?

As an employer GOA is amazing, fiercely fighting to protect its own. Calling for solidarity and sacrifice in the private sector, but making the public sector untouchable.

Why not use the same measures in both markets??

Wait, say the critics, a solution is coming, why are you so impatient, you and your green friends, all you do is criticize, nothing is good enough, shut up, allow greatness to be revealed.

A note to critics: This column lobbied hard for a change of government on the island and was relieved to see it happen. Criticism may seem “negative,” but this column reflects the feelings of many people. If these “negative” topics are not publicized and discussed, we run the risk of unwisely burying our heads in the sand. Every word written here, is written out of love, a deep love and appreciation for the island, and its people.

Don’t we all want a better Aruba?

We will recover… life would be different, we’ll clean and sanitize more, but I am sure recovery is coming, and with it MUST COME an accountable GOA, offering more value and creating less waste.

Our hard earned tax florins, deserve respect.

They were disrespected by past and present governments, who spent them like water, and it is OUR FAULT we let them. We had it good and let the fly. So we cannot even blame GOA for its sub-par performance BECAUSE we did not complain loudly enough.

We only have ourselves to blame for being up poop’s creek without a paddle. And we must learn from our errors. GOA needs to work very hard on eliminating waste and increasing the delivered value.

Every day that passes is wasted and it isn’t ok anymore.  

So, I always appreciate the words of the MinPres, I believe she and her cabinet are handling the illness portion of the crisis, well, but not the economic crisis. And you gotta do both.

No Work, No Pay,

According to lawyer David Kock, he was surprised that GOA picked the strategy of paying employees directly, and not the more logical method, preferred by the Netherlands and most other islands, safeguarding the employee-employer relationship by funneling all aid, via employers.

The more time goes by, he explains, the more difficult it is to retract that strategy that interrupts the important connection between work-giver, and worker.

Additionally, that unproductive strategy of handing money directly to the employee stimulates the employer to let workers go without pangs of guilty, and stimulate the employee to break away, as he is getting paid by the state, anyway.

GOA originally instructed employers to do their utmost to hold on to employees, but with no guests, there is no work, and no income, that is when the principle of ‘No Work – No Pay’ comes into play, it is anchored in law here, with few exceptions.

This is what TEAM DK-Legal writes in their recent blog:  To dismiss an employee from work, the employer must ask permission at the Department of Labor, seeking what is known as a: ‘Dismissal permit.’ Which takes time to get. The question remains: Must employers pay salaries in the meantime, taking into account that there is no work to be executed during this CoVid19 period.

The first measure employers may take is to send employees on vacation. Based on article 4, item #3 of the Vacation Ordinance, the timing of this decision and the duration is determined by the employer.

Item #2 of that law stipulates that an employee may request vacation and that the employer, preferably comes to an amicable agreement about it.

Item #3 gives the employer the option to send employees home on an obligatory holiday, without the need to consult him/her.

HOWEVER, the situation we are currently facing is a rather unique one and it naturally allows the employer to send his employee on vacation, BUT do employees still have the right to receive a normal salary during this time??

In our case, mid pandemic, with employers NOT generating any income, employers may apply the ‘no work, no pay,’ rule before making the decision to dismiss employees altogether.

Based on article 1614b in our Civil Code, the employer is not obligated to pay salaries during the time that employees aren’t working.

1616B is the ‘no work, no pay,’ article, stating the employers are not obligated to keep paying salaries during no work periods. But at the same time the article stipulates that an employee has the right for a salary if the employer is the one causing the no work situation.

So legally, where do we stand on the negative consequences of the measures implemented by GOA to avoid CoVid19 spread??

Jurisprudence does not give an answer to this last question. Probably because a situation such as this has never been faced before.

Actual literature offers similar examples of bad weather where employees cannot come to work. That’s on the employer, but only for a limited time. If the bad weather persists, then the ‘no work, no pay’ becomes justified, seeing that the employer does not have any influence over the elements.

We can also conclude that in case of a pandemic – no clients, no work, no income – this is not a risk for the employee. However, at the same time we believe that this is a risk that –  if it lasts long –  cannot be laid on the employer.

We believe, says TEAM DK-Legal, that a pandemic is an exceptional risk that does not fall under the normal risk factors businesses encounter, and thus we may conclude that employers aren’t responsible for the fact that there is no work, thus the ‘no work, no pay’ principle may be applied.

Of course, the employer may for a more humane reason pay only a percentage of the salary or only minimum wages, obviously this is the best social and moral solution based on solidarity, taking into consideration the difficult times ahead, but the TEAM DK-Legal recommends this as a short term solution, and it cannot send the employers into ruin. Employers are not obliged by law, to max their financial resources or use their reserves, go into debt and/or mortgage all they got, to continue to support employees.

In conclusion: ‘No work, no pay’ policy is a last resort, and when it comes to a point where there are no other viable options, employers may use it as a fair and justified policy instrument.

In case there is a CAO applicable, the situation can be different for union, Collective Work Agreements.

Aruba, maart ’20

TEAM DK-Legal

David G. Kock ([email protected])

Demis G. Illes ([email protected])

Evelyn M.J. Cafarzuza ([email protected])

Petra M.K. Smit ([email protected])

RDA: Are you hallucinating?

Aruba was treated to a press conference yesterday with RDA movers & shakers Eman, Arends & Oduber Inc.

All three looked like they were forced to eat sludge, their body language screamed they did not want to be there, and their flat tone of voice admitted they hated to be news bearers.

Why?

Because at the heart of their message lies an untruth, propagated by the former AVP government and by the current MEP/POR/RED government, that we will one day have a high-functioning refinery and that we will have money for AZV, education and infrastructure, on the wings of the money-machine.

And that is a LIE.

That is intentionally giving people false hope.

Because, the rusty graveyard we saw in the pictures could never be revived, and dismantling is inevitable. In fact, RDA has been flaking and crumbling, practically dismantling itself, as we speak.

You have 18 potential buyers, you said, for that rust bucket? How can your lips even formulate such a fabrication?  We will be better served if you create a huge solar or wind park in the area, for energy provisions, including cars.  

And of course Curacao has a working refinery, stocked with Arubans, ready to service anyone with refining needs in the area.

Judge for yourself: You have two islands. Right next to each other. One has a refinery that works, and one has a pile of rust and hasn’t worked for many years. Both in the Dutch Kingdom. Both under Dutch law. Which one would you go for?

True, if we pour substantial amounts of money into the dangerously leaking tanks, and the rotting finger pier, the Wickland Oil portion of the refinery, maybe 50 or 100 million, we could make some money off the terminal, but with oil prices plunging, the margins are small, there is little money to be made, perhaps enough to pay the enormous salaries at RDA, TDEA and LalaGaga, all newly registered companies, which by the way, did not announce any pay cuts.

So they lied. And it was visibly hard on them. Standing there, mouthing the words, like a bad movie script. They want to give us hope, elections are coming, they want us to wear our pink glasses, and feel good about the future.

I was so sad. I really felt such a huge sense of loss looking at the images of the executives and their shattered refinery dreams – which benefitted from ZERO maintenance for ten years.

This one is definitely on the two Magic Mikes, M&M who screwed us over. They should never have made a deal with crooks and a country with one foot in the coffin and the other on a banana peel, and you already know who always says that. Since they were allowed to play with our money, they clearly did not care.

In the real world we learn not to do business with crooks – and these guys went to prison in front of their eyes!! We also learn in business not to become dependent on a Mafioso partner, like Venezuela, that is clearly imploding, the writing was on the wall in 2016, when the cockamamie agreements were signed.

Then, Eman openly threw Alvin Koolman, former RDA director, and Richard Arends, former CFO, now a member of Parliament, under the bus stating that the forensic analysis of their reign pinned 21 million florins on frivolous spending, parties, political friends and subsidies.

So, you have forensic report and you do nothing with it???

(They also have a forensic report on the hospital, with millions wasted fraudulently, also buried in a drawer.)

And BTW, besides depressive low energy speakers, the graphics they presented were the pits. Just terrible.

And guess who Richard Eman named as board member of RDA, beside Junior Croes, and MinPres? Right, Otmar Oduber occupies a seat. And we were operating under the illusion that he is retired.      

Everything about that press conference and the mothballed rust bucket was pathetic. And we should be willing to put it behind us and accept the hurt.  

With one exception: M&M let Valero off the hook for the environmental cleaning, and that was a crime against humanity.

Aruba needs a good CFO, a Chief Financial Officer, wanted!

The MinPres looked chipper last night, she must have had some positive phone calls with K & K, Kamp & Knops, the almighty Kingdom representatives, about getting ‘liquidity’ support,’ 42.6 million florins, I believe, for 6 weeks in April and May, thus her mood eased.

I did my best to keep on top of things, yesterday, it’s hard, because they are all going in different directions, a drama starring many renegades including out-of-place members of Parliament Rocco Tjon & Co., who wrote to the Governor demanding help in fundraising for Aruba, as if the Kingdom owes him, a letter that should/could have been written, if written at all, by the MinPres; and Advisory Board member Hellen v/d Wal who went out on a limb to point out AGAIN that Aruba is structurally dysfunctional and unsustainable, thus granting us a loan is ridiculous, we can’t pay it back anyway, just hand out the cash as a gift!

My liquidity support, by the way, is called Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, and I like it very cold.

Back to GOA. According to a friend who keeps track of things, GOA said they needed 1.3 billion, but will settle for 70, in April and May, for payroll, goods, services, interest and principal payments on previous loans, which the 42.6 million loan, doesn’t cover.

GOA also needs 40 million florins for economic relief efforts, which it will have to find somewhere, possibly not in US money markets following the downgrade of our credit rating.

They are also 50 million florins in the hole for SVB/AZV payments, due to zero income.

Take out your calculator: 54 SVB/AZV + 39 interest and principle +42 relief = 135 million florins for April & May.

NOTE: With above liquidity support GOA’s payroll expenses are covered, hence, the chipper stance.

Still no efforts to reduce economic footprint, just posturing. Nothing structural.

GENERAL STATEMENT: For the past 30 years, Aruba’s governments saw the island as a business opportunity and took turns plundering its riches and filling their pockets and the pockets of their cronies. Different political parties, same playbook. Everything here was a business opportunity, from contracts, to deals, to jobs, to favors. It is apparent that we have NOW reached the point of no return. The days of a highly functioning economy, under a badly functioning government, are over.

As we stated before, now is the time for a decisive stance, make dramatic changes to lower GOA’s weight on our economy starting with the MinPres, giving herself and her colleagues across ALL government agencies, SETAR, WEB, RDA, ELMAR, Serlimar, FCCA, Arubus, Aruparking, a minimum salary effective today.

She needs to ‘sell’ it to our people, because any ‘help’ secured from the Dutch must also be ‘sold’ to their constituents. They also have tax payers, they answer to. They must follow the policy line of a frugal and efficient government.

So finally, at this point financial supervision must be escalated. We should welcome good Dutch housekeeping, tied to financial assistance, let them be our CFOs.

The Dutch will not dictate what to spend the money on, but they will insist on receipts, and transparency, they will supervise collection of taxes, creating hygiene and sanitation in the accounting department.

This is not a tall order according to my sources, because the Dutch kingdom has all of the supervisory infrastructure in place. It would be like adding a small town to their list of clients at the Federal agency, nothing more complicated.

Just like banks who manage mortgage loans, whereby payments are staggered based on project-phase completion, the Dutch will hopefully instate a help-you-to-help-yourself approach, ignoring childish political temper tantrums.

Sometimes, a patient must be hospitalized, in the ICU and intubated, helping him breath with a ventilator. Well that is the state of our economy.

To do that, the patient must give up his delusion of autonomy for a while, trust the process, surrender to medical professionals.

Same here. Obviously, patients never argue the point, they are grateful, understand they have to give it up, accept vulnerability for a while, if they want to live.  

So Aruba must accept it will never get a lump sum loan, because it proved over time that it doesn’t’ handle the responsibility well; if we wanna live, we require strict discipline, a job that our parliament and our Central Bank failed to do.

It’s a two pronged plan, first financial supervision, immediately, so we can breathe, later structural changes of our statuut, whatever that means, to anchor long term sustainable changes by law. All we need is political goodwill, or in other words, shut up and get out of the way.

Welcome to the No-Touch economy

This is the first of many blogs on the subject. But from what I read Covid19 is here to stay, and even after flattening the curve, testing us all for antibodies, cautiously returning to work, everything we do will be different, with the underlying principles of:

  1. Less inter-personal contact.
  2. More sanitation rules.

There will be changes, everywhere.

The MinPres asked us to cut our airco consumption this weekend, and open windows instead.  And I asked myself whether GOA is doing everything in its power to turn lights off and conserve energy in its numerous buildings and facilities, to cut waste.

Why not open windows in Parliament?

Because of the dress code, suits, and dresses. Note the MinFec always wears a shawl because she is cold in her overly-chilled office. So first change on the agenda? The dress code in Parliament, get rid of the cheap suits, introduce cotton, short sleeve shirts and blouses. Welcome back, dear guayabera, we missed your sexy presence. Who thought the so-called formal format is appropriate for Caribbean island wear? That was so mid 20thcentury thinking, when third-world leaders wanted to look like first-world bosses.

In the immediate world of tomorrow, we will be leaving our houses wearing disposable masks and gloves, and we will change them frequently. Note the word disposable. Don’t re-use.

Many of us will be working at home, doing everything digitally.

(Setar just told me I had to present personally at their branch with my ID to upgrade my WIFI package, from Comfort to Advance. NO, I can’t do it on line, they need to see my ID to prevent fraud. Such misguided dedication to service. If your WIFI hadn’t been so slow, I wouldn’t have to upgrade, duh.)

The banks will get rid of their massive real estate holdings in favor of drive thru tellers, with just one glass protected window.

Schools? What will the schools of the immediate future look like? Certainly not like the petri dishes of today.  

Airline companies won’t be allowed to cram us like sardines, they will be leaving plenty of room between passengers and will probably take our temperature before boarding. Sure, air travel cost will increase, but with the price of fuel plunging, they should be able to offer improved service for the same charge.

I understand restaurants with forward-thinking owners are converting their community tables into deuces. When community tables first came around I though those where so cool, they are a no-no now, discarded in favor of booths, at a distance, we will not be allowed to sit on top of each other and the Flying Fishbone will finally have to cull tables, and return things to the way they were, 6 feet apart.

On recent flights to Europe with KLM I have repeatedly complained to myself, about how small the personal space has become on board. I believe last Fall I even wrote to KLM, protesting the cramming on board. So we needed a pandemic in order to prove that point, that people need air.    

In the immediate world of tomorrow all experiences will be redesigned. How will we experience a spa at the age of pandemics? Massage? Pedi? Mani? How will that service in close proximity, be handled? The hair dresser?

Of course I am thinking in that direction, because I am overdue for color, and am living to go back to the carefree days where I would just call the spa at Tierra del Sol and shimmy over to see Olgita Linda, who was a trailblazer, regularly wearing a face mask, while doing my nails.

Sitting across the bar, from a bartender? The space now must be redesigned to extend 6 feet. Checking into a hotel room that has just been vacated, No, No, it takes 24 hours between guests to clean!

We already know a bit about the shopping experience 6 feet apart, plus hand sanitizers. Just when I felt I could get rid of Clorox in favor of a more environmentally-friendly substance, it made a comeback.

 

Easter Sunday

With just 63 active cases and 0 deaths, we can consider ourselves lucky. And I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all those who contributed to our present well-being, made difficult and good decisions and managed to contain this public health threat on an island dedicated to dushi bida, under the leadership of our MinPres, who deserves an award for cool and level-headedness, for handling that aspect of the Covid19 pandemic well.

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/aruba

I read a paper yesterday, by a world class academic authority, stating that CoVid19 pandemic seems to follow a pattern of 8 weeks, in which it breaks-out viciously, then grows exponentially with a high rate of infection, but slows down on week 7 or 8, REGARDLESS of measures taken by authorities.

So we should count 6-7 weeks from mid-March, see if we fit the pattern.

The paper stated that both Sweden – social distancing, work from home when possible, no lockdown, and Italy – total shutdown for weeks, follow the same pattern, of an overwhelming number of cases at first, which overran the healthcare system in Italy, then a significant slowdown after 8 weeks indicating that life can resume its course, the economy open, and patients with serious health-conditions can be treated. The rest of society should then practice social distancing, be tested at an accelerated pace, and pay special attention to risk groups, as the world puts the pandemic behind it.    

Amen. Perhaps the world class academic authority is right!

Now, to the disastrous economic consequences of the shutdown:

We need all hands on deck, that is true, and I welcome the input of anyone with a good head. That said I recently heard from friends that our former MinInfra, the one who resigned, is making comeback noises, via his party, which he still heads, POR.

He recently floated a few communications among members of the business community stating that the effect of the crisis is underestimated by GOA; that the government needs to offer a relief programs to all businesses, which cannot entail taxes that relate to income, because there is no income. He also stated that payroll is the biggest burden and its where assistance is needed, that without commerce there is no income for GOA, and that GOA needs to cut cost.

He is right on all accounts. 100%.

But before hailing his return on the scene as the messiah, the hero who understands, we should remember that he clearly wants to get back into politics, now that GOA is presented as weak, plagued by many difficult challenges.

As a party-member of the coalition, he’s taking advantage of the situation, and naming himself the proposed savior.

Without consulting with his coalition-partners, or even his party for that matter.

He recently decided to meet with some leaders in our community ‘to get feedback’ from them as to what HE can do to get Aruba through this crisis.

He is clearly positioning himself for next year’s elections.

If anything, we must remember that during his tenure as MinTour/ MinInfra, he demonstrated anti-business sentiments by introducing more stringent labor laws, in his first term, increasing taxes on biz i.e. inventing the environmental tax, and he passed the anti-all-inclusive legislation, despite protestations, and more recently tried unsuccessfully to introduce waste tax, and build an incinerator empire at Serlimar. The Aruparking fiasco? If you recall, it did not help town’s merchants survive, but burdened the public payroll.

I said it before, sticking a square peg into a round hole, is his specialty.

He now wants to become a savior to biz? We can only guess that perhaps his short time in retirement working as an entrepreneur enlightened him as to how difficult it is.

But as I said, we now need all hands on deck, and I welcome the input of anyone with a good head.

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April 12, 2020
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