Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap December 10th, 2017

AHATA AWARDS OF EXCELLENCE

Remember? The awards were taken back by AHATA, who vowed to do a better job on the presentation. They did. It was a well-planned evening last night, with an elegant Champagne reception, with dinner in a tastefully decorated Hyatt Regency ballroom, good food, free flowing wines, beautiful people, capable emcees, and a fast and furious program. Best of all, N’Fuzion, featuring the too-handsome Ofo Escudero, with salsa, meringue, bachata and son montuno, for dessert.

De Palm Tours was a major sponsor of the festivities, giving back to the hospitality community and CMB donated the funds for two scholarships, with a commitment for next year as well.

The foreplay leading to the event was orchestrated by legendary Vanessa, from AHATA, with cute video clips published on social media introducing the 36 nominees in five categories. That was well done too.

Our new MinTour graced the event with his presence. He said he couldn’t stay away, he had to attend. Of course. I gave him my card and he apologized his aren’t done yet. Apparently he inherited the office of Richard Arends, who left it in good shape and was kind to the incoming team, in glaring contrast to MOST other outgoing ministers who shredded all paperwork and emptied their spaces, carting away computers, chairs and printers. Literally cleaning up. MinTour brought his home printer to work, during that first week of transition. We agreed we will continue to talk and I told him about my 100 honeymoon days with him; he promised to make me happy for the next four years.

Back to the party. We had a wonderful time dancing and socializing.

#nowomen = There were no women finalists, five men won, in five categories, Employee of the Year, Supervisor of the Year, Manager of the Year, Young Tourism Professional of the Year, and LifeTime Achievement Award – #nowomen, though they represented 31% of the nominees. They did not shine?! Incidentally, the judges’ panel of three included one woman, 33%.

#lowoncontent #rushed = We would have loved to see the full version of the nomination video of the five winners so that we understand why they won, and what makes them a role model. Please show some video next year, and add the nominee/winner’s resort and position to slides.

Otherwise, don’t change a thing, Good job

I got mail from the handsome Juan David Yrausquin

I have to sit down with him one day and find out what exactly happened to his road to leadership. He fits the bill, educated, connected, pedigreed, handsome, yet, no chocolate.

But anyway, I am always happy to hear from him. He wrote:  Sharing guest lecture where I scrutinize shift towards indirect taxation in Aruba.

I think the subject is very relevant, because the MinFin has been loudly lamenting the fact that the treasury is empty, from the pages of the newspapers, as the previous government left the coffers empty, having built too many trams and bridges.

We’re pretty broke, and financial situation is not pretty, so taxation will soon rear its ugly head and we will be forced to close the gap between budget and cash in hand. We might as well start talking about it.

In my book the illusive 50 million of the refinery rent never materialize, everyone went to jail, and left Aruba hanging. I hear Nilo Swaen is lending a helping hand, working the abacus.  Good.

JDY writes:
This past Monday I was invited to give a guest lecture on taxation in Aruba at the Erasmus School of Law in Rotterdam – since you might be interested in this debate I made this summary for your perusal.
In the lecture I scrutinize the idea of shifting the tax burden towards indirect taxes and evaluate the move against the criteria of equity, administrability and economic efficiency. I also compare  1. the effective income tax levels of Aruba against the Netherlands, and  2. the share of direct to indirect taxation.
Here are some of the findings:
1. Aruba’s effective income taxes are lower than the Netherlands, even though we have a higher top marginal income tax rate.
2. Aruba does not tax capital gains or interest income (in the Netherlands called Box 3 income).
2. Aruba’s share of indirect taxation is higher than the Netherlands and as such there is a higher share of proportional taxes.
I finalize my lecture by calling on students to do research on tax reform in Aruba and contribute to the tax reform debate from the viewpoint of the public interest.
Warm regards,
Juan David Elias Yrausquin

You may view his slides in Dutch, I did, it’s all Chinese to me, but I realize it might be of interest to some readers. https://issuu.com/juanyrausquin/docs/gastcollege_erasmus_jdey_van_direct

When I confessed at being a financial flop JDY directed me to a book Taxing Ourselves, Fourth Edition, A Citizen’s Guide to the Debate over Taxes, available on line, https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/taxing-ourselves, which I intend to get as soon as I finish watching the five seasons of Ray Donovan. I have my priorities straight.

The MIT press says in the Overview: As Albert Einstein may or may not have said, “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.” Indeed, to follow the debate over tax reform, the interested citizen is forced to choose between misleading sound bites and academic treatises. Taxing Ourselves bridges the gap between the two by discussing the key issues clearly and without a political agenda: Should the federal income tax be replaced with a flat tax or sales tax? Should it be left in place and reformed? Can tax cuts stimulate the economy, or will higher deficits undermine any economic benefit? Authors and tax policy experts Joel Slemrod and Jon Bakija lay out in accessible language what is known and not known about how taxes affect the economy, offer guidelines for evaluating tax systems, and provide enough information to assess both the current income tax system and the leading proposals to reform or replace it (including the flat tax and the consumption tax). 

Excellent Final Fashion Week Event

Fashion week wrapped up on Sunday with a show at the Seaport Marina with the runway set up along the wooden promenade. Rickety but genius. #Arubayoushouldbehere.

We sat facing the water, a very long row of white chairs, to the length of the promenade. Imagine the scene, an all lit up cruise ship in harbor, a picturesque charter boat tied up and bobbing in the water, in the forefront, some jetskis in the surf spitting water rainbows, the Technicolor sunset, the setting was fantastic, and the show’s line up spectacular.

With the “dressing rooms” set up in white tents right in the parking lot, the show started pretty much on time, and flowed smoothly through the collections of four designers.

First up Hernan Zajar, from Colombia, which I was not familiar with. His show converted me into an avid fan of his unconventional use of color and texture, and the homage he pays to Caribbean women, notably those from the Columbian coastal city of Cartagena. We saw a simpler, down-to-earth version of his haute couture models on the streets of Cartagena as watermelon and pineapple vendors, mixing orange, green and fuchsia, with yellow and turquoise, topped by a centuries old crochet scarf,  hair piled up in giant head-warps.

The images produced by Zajar, were gorgeous, a cross between Carmen Miranda and Miss Chiquita Banana. Sensual, feminine, very sophisticated and layered, evoking good time associations. I hope I get to see his creations again, somewhere, some when. I would love to have one of his pineapple handbags.

Our very own Elisa Lejuez, from Aruba, was next with her new silk scarves wrapped around models in La Petite Robe Noire, the little basic black dress. Eliza’s collection evoked wintery images, with a classic palate of green, blue, black and red, with little splashes of yellow. Gone are the vivid lime green and signature orange; this collection is more serious, not as playful, nevertheless, beautiful patters — she is after all a fabric designer. The scarves are available at T.H. Palm & Company, De Wit Store at Bucuti Beach Resort and at the Airport.

Jo Aguire, from Venezuela, is a young artistic designer. Her line of bathing suits perforated the material into interesting patterns of skin and spandex, creating very body-hugging, boldly cut bikinis and mayeux. God Bless her, imagine living in Venezuela and still producing a line of simple and fun street wear, a vavoom collection of feminine off the shoulder, long-short dresses, and shoes which are very whimsical and fun, in hot pink, black and white. This girl is a courageous optimist.

Then the music became too loud, we were sitting under a giant speaker, and we were hungry, so we sunk out teeth into a Side Bar hamburger, and washed it down with a delicious Bourbon Old Fashioned.

Why am I giving you the menu?

Because the models, an army of fashion muses from Colombia, Venezuela, and Miami, some brought in by the designers, looked HANGRY, hungry and angry, super skinny waifs, size triple zero, with hair in high ponytails, wrapped with strings, and overstated with braids and extensions. They wished they could dine with us. All they got was soup and salad, at an aftershow event at Le Garage Bistro. I am sure it tasted like heaven to them.

We skipped Labellamafia, from Brazil and Juliana Florez, from Colombia. We missed Rhona Lemminga’s show in opening day L

Pa Bien entrepreneur and organizer Angel Leon Jr. for producing the second Aruba Fashion Week. I understand it was self-funded with the help of some generous sponsors, so we cannot complain about government agencies making frivolous investments.

The sponsors deserve recognition: Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino, Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, Mercedes Benz, Ritz Carlton, Estee lauder, Penha, Hodgson Trading, Vibration PTR, Dinbog, Pawa Airline & Aserca Airlines Venezuela, Gandelman, Colombian Emeralds, and Pepia Est.

Ten facts you should know about Adopt An Addict

For the past seven years, Audrey Lacle, Maggy’s Perfumeries, has been supporting Cas Speransa in Moko 28, a halfway house maintained by Adopt an Addict foundation, AanA, an NGO she started ten years ago, to help the merchants on the main street.

She was the President of Mambo, the downtown merchant association and she decided to help take drug addicted homeless off the main street in order alleviate the pressure on downtown, suffering from break-ins and vandalism.

She also recruited friends and supporters to help fund a partnership with Hogar Crea in Santo Domingo, a rehab facility, where those lucky to be collected off the street, were sent for treatment, all expenses paid.

Upon their return, clean, they had nowhere to go, but back to the street, so that’s how the house in Moko, was set it up as a boarding facility for men in early recovery.

Audrey doesn’t know how she did it, but the ‘proof is in the pudding,’ we have a privately supported initiative sheltering one dozen men in recovery, clean, well-spoken and in possession of new self-awareness and most importantly, hope.

This month Cas Speransa ran a fundraising raffle, and an awareness campaign.

Audrey came to see us at the radio, on Magic 96.5FM, as a guest on Pica 96.5% and told us the following:

AanA sent 241 clients for therapy to the Dominican Republic and was in contact with a total of 415 addicts. Cas Speransa sheltered 86 men in recovery. Average stay 236 days

AanA is a private initiative, not subsidized by GOA, and Audrey wishes it to stay this way

88% clients are male

86% were born in Aruba; 4% more were born within the kingdom of the Netherlands

70% of clients were exposed to contact with drugs between the ages 11 to 20

50% of the clients have a MAVO/EPB education

Most used Marijuana, Cocaine, Base

90% of the clients started with Marijuana and Alcohol

50% of the clients use multiple substances

30% of the clients suffer from addiction AND psychiatric disorders, which in many case the home cannot handle, but there is nowhere to go, with the hospital’s Psychiatric Ward limited to 20 patients.

Pls make a donation to Cas Speransa, this holiday season.

Stichting Adopt an Addict, Moko 28, Aruba; email: [email protected] KVK res#987. Tel.: 582 9256, office 582 9246 hotline: 594 2494; CMB acc# 253.937.03

I wrote about the half way in moko a while ago, here’s the link

Miracles in Moko

A good story from the island of Saint Martin

I had Angie Wallace on the phone yesterday with a heartwarming story. She owns the three Indulgence spas in Aruba as well as two in Saint Martin, one at Divi Little Bay, the other in Oyster Bay.

In September, Hurricanes Irma and Maria raised hell on the island, and the spas were destroyed by wind and water. Not the first time, in 2008, Hurricane Omar plowed through that same address, but Angie rebuilt, and at the end of last year, completely renovated the space.

The brand new spa at Divi Little Bay opened in January 2017, but it was gone in October. Angie reports the devastation did not affect her as much as the lack of communication, she had 22 therapists working for her company, and she had no clue how they survived the disaster. It took a long time to get an accurate  head-count. Most of them experienced various degrees of homelessness, no electricity, no water, they were in need of everything. They explained electricity could be restored in certain neighborhoods, if their home roofs were restored, which proved an immense challenge.

Angie got a report from Divi that the hotel was badly hit, and that it will be serving as a military base over the next few months, accommodating Dutch Marines and other rescue and rehabilitation efforts. Divi was also set to rebuild and reopen in the summer of 2018.

She vowed to take the first commercial flight out to reconnect with her staffers.

“I found 6 girls standing,” she says. Six of her therapists had managed to restore their life to a semblance of normalcy and were ready to go to work. Angie says she couldn’t believe it. She was convinced it was the last thing on clients’ mind, but everywhere she went she was greeted with the same impatient inquiry: “When are you reopening. We need nice nails, more than ever!”

Supported by her courageous crew Angie reopened last weekend. She had a long line of clients wrapped around the block longing for a beauty treatment having been without since the end of August. We are booked solid Angie says, and I have six superstars, Odalis, Tina, Olga, Margarita, Avenicia and Vicky in charge of pampering. Apparently, in a sea of dysfunction and loss, a mini massage goes a long way.

About the island: Angie reports unbelievable price gauging and corruption. The merchants should be ashamed for selling a sheet of plywood for $40, when it was just $27 before the storm. But is feels safe, she offers, the island is slowly going back to business. Many employees were offered financial packages and termination settlements, while the hotels are rebuilding, so the island is flushed with temporary cash, which will run out in January. Then what, she fears.

The Oyster Bay spa? That is a total loss, nothing happening there, at Divi Little Bay is under construction and looking good.

Cu Mira Pa Futuro, looking into the crystal ball

The first sign that welcomed me in Portugal on a recent vacation was graffiti, Mass Tourism = Human Pollution, and Mass Tourism kills Lisbon, in several places around our Alfama neighborhood hotel. And Portugal is not as busy as Venice, Amsterdam or New Orleans, and it is starting to complain.

In past decades developing countries did everything possible to attract tourism often at the expense of their local population. The tide is turning now. Cities want neighbors not tourists; a steady, responsible core of people not a transient, uncaring bunch of carefree vacationers.

In Aruba, we have enjoyed the blessings of tourism, and up until a few years ago, the island was able to cope with the influx of people, and whatever comes along with 1.1 million tourists enjoying the hospitality of 120.000 people. I used to say that Arubans are intuitively gifted with a sense of navigation, making successful decisions about growth and development based on notions, without the science.

It is clear today that we can no longer make life-changing decisions without a plan, hence the Aruba Destination Development Plan, titled Cu Mira pa Futuro that crossed my desk this week. (Cu Mira Pa Futuro may be loosely translated to With a Future Outlook)

It is an impressive document. It talks about the challenge we’re facing, it explores the way forward, and outlines a reasonable plan, breaking it down to a detailed action plan of three phases, destined for completion between 2017 and 2021.

The document was written by project lead and author Varelie Croes, the Liv Group, who is a former lawyer-finance-corporate exec turned entrepreneur. She is into technology and startups, with a special interest in fintech development. She’s basically the Woman of the Hour, in anything to do with innovations. She also co-founded ATECH with a mission to develop the startup and technology ecosystem in Aruba and the Caribbean region. Named a World Change Maker by the world bank youth steering committee, Varelie, compiled an impressive document as an initiative of the Aruba Tourism Authority, in collaboration with many ATA execs, under the leadership of CEO Ronella Tjin Asjoe Croes  and I wish I could give you all a copy for Christmas, it would be excellent reading material by your virtual fireplace.

The writing of the document involved 350+ stakeholders, over a significant length of time, and it aligns the island with UNWTO’s sustainable tourism goals, linked to the UN 2030 agenda, regarding sustainable economic growth, sustainable consumption and production and the sustainable use of oceans and marine resources.

What can I tell you? It is the Bible. If we drink our own Kool-Aid we will be ok. We will be able to handle the ever-changing paradigm and do good by visitors and locals.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         My only source of concern?

Aruba has been known for shelving reports and plans.

Stakeholders such as GOA, the land department, DIP, and public works, DOW, etc., have regarded integrity as a suggestion, for many years.

The island doesn’t have a long term thinking culture; it has always been about short term solutions of gains.

That said, I can’t wait for the Advocacy Agenda and Sustainability Awareness Plan scheduled for 2017 to be published, because I can help publicize them. It is of outmost importance that we all embrace sustainable practices if we want to stay in business. Keep me in the loop, tks in advance.

TEC INC Reinvents Itself

We already know that the late Ike Cohen was an excellent businessman, he set up things right. First the hotels and the restaurants, then a support circle, including a distribution agency, TEC INC, on Arendstraat, Oranjestad. TEC was always a quiet-water-runs-deep type of operation, with a steady management, selling reputable brands with a no nonsense attitude.

Famous for being the Polar Beer distributor, the amber Venezuelan elixir was not the only product imported, and distributed by TEC, which incidentally stands for The Eight Continent, a kind of romantic name, hinting perhaps at the company’s size, big, and its diversity of products.

Ike founded it in 1971 to service the F&B industry here, and then a few years ago it also expanded successfully into generic pharmaceuticals. Last year it ventured into spirits and hired a good, experienced gun, Kavey Yarzagaray, assisted by Robert Anjie as the marketing counterpart, to set a complete liquor department up.

Last week TEC INC. inaugurated its new liquor division, with swanky offices, and a spacious air conditioned warehouse, on Arendstraat 105, just across the mother ship.

On the occasion of the festive opening, they invited a good number of people for a food & wine tasting and a tour of their cellar. It was impressive. We uncovered Minuty Rose, and Chateau Minuty Rose 281 in the cobalt blue bottle, from the Cotes de Provence, Provence, France, a magnificent Sunday brunch wine; a great variety of Rioja from Northern Spain, including Machoman and the Invisible Man,  the entire ConoSur line from Chile including their top of the line Ocio, Silencio and 20 Barrels. A traditional blended Scotch Whiskey, High Commissioner, which has been a solid seller on the island for many years. Several labels of Flor de Cana Ron, premium Rum from Nicaragua, and Mamajuana Rum Caribeno, from the Dominican Republic. French Meukow cognacs, in several aromas and most importantly Billecart-Salmon champagne and Comtesse La Fond Champagnes both very aristocratic labels, symbols of quality and elegance, which you should get for New Year’s Eve, I tried both, the tiny bubbles feel like angels dancing on the tip of your tongue.

The evening also promoted meat, seafood and pork products, Anchor butter, Anchor milk, and enjoyed an excellent patronage of industry insiders.

TEC INC is a privately held company, and is part of Cohen Enterprises, an organization whose portfolio includes, a resort, liquor stores and real estate, in Aruba as well as in Florida.

 

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December 10, 2017
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Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
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Bati Bleki by Rona Coster