Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap, December 29th, 2019

Seize the Day

In the name of YOLO, You Only Live Once, and Carpe Diem, we decided to play hooky for the afternoon, skip work, without any excuses, last Wednesday, and drive around Tanki Flip, Tanki Leendert, and Solito, where a great number of new businesses seem to have sprung, under our noses.

We were busy year-round, had no time to explore, but finally, the time to be jolly has come.

We stopped for lunch at Los Cafeteros. The place was hopping with huge lunch traffic, take out, eat in, in a profusely decorated double-decker dining room.

We shared an excellent shrimp ceviche with skinny plantain chips, Awg 21, and a plentiful bandeja paisa, Awg 23. We got enough food for three. It was an experiential dining episode, with excellent service.

To digest our food, we walked a bit up and down that little roadside mall, and found a tarot card reader at a hair salon and an electronic service station at an embroidery shop.

I guess it’s a trend. Hard times, require inventive measures, if you have no electronics for repair you may customize a cap, and if you don’t want your future divined, the least you can do is walk out with clean hair.       

Ricarepa was empty except for a large bottle of hand sanitizer in the window. Petje’s Surinamese Fusion Cuisine was not an option. We already ate at Los Cafeteros.

On Kamerlingh Onnesstraat we stopped at Café Torino Sport Bar & Grill for an ice cold beer with Erick Alvarado. The place is clean and inviting. He opened last year and regulars at the bar praised the establishment’s mature clientele and excellent service. Erick told us about his whiskey and cigar specials, and the weekend BBQ. A vintage car aficionado, he named his bar after a classic car and reports to have worked in the hotels for many years. He now works for himself, and marches to his own beat. We will be back.

We visited quite a number of boutiques, from Line of Style, to La & Lu Fashion, Bellisima Boutique, You & Me Lingerie, and a Shoetiek. We encountered lots of glittery dresses in honor of New Year’s Eve. We tried to buy something, to break the spell, but never found anything in our size.

Regretfully, we never made it to Cas Casuela or Blue Moon, which was closed anyway, but we put them on the list for next time.     

Coffee. Where can you get a decent cup of coffee in the neighborhood? Eduardo’s Car Wash and Coffee serves the BEST, most amazing pick-me ups, with two color hagelslag on the rim, caramel and chocolate drizzle, really a work of art cappuccino for just Awg 5, worth every penny.

We realized that Arubans are very entrepreneurial and creative, especially those arrived in recent years from Colombia and Venezuela, they have a real mercantile spirit, and they put it to work in their hoods.

Out stop before last was Smart Contractor & Services where we met Elly Paesch who matches F&B businesses with temporary help. We liked her, and her solid approach to Human Resources. She is a true professional, in business for herself the past five year.

Our last stop, the Foot Spa, but the door was locked, and indicated no business hours, no menu of services, and no telephone number. The outside window was blank. Their business remains a mystery.  

Savaneta, you’re next!

Na Werki

I sent an envelope with Fed Ex on November 29th, paid Awg 147.51, and never heard a word from them.

My confidence in their system was so colossal, that I never bothered to track.

A week later I checked with the recipient, if my envelope arrived.

No, nada.

Over the next two weeks, I went on line to file in a formal complaint, called the 800 number, called Fed Ex in Aruba, but my package is still in Memphis, and why it is stuck there, is a mystery.

Earlier this year, I sent an envelope with UPS, to NY. For three weeks, until I followed up, the envelope lingered in the outgoing basket here on the island, and was never sent, I am not sure why.

Then the company never even offered any form of compensation of apology.

So I switched to Fed Ex.

I guess both companies are na werki.


The Informal Economy

One of my readers, Emiliano De Cuba, commented on a post, about being excessively taxed, in the following way: This will draw more individuals and businesses too into an informal economy where everyone will make a best effort to “get away” with not paying their “fair share”, and the government ends up NOT getting what it had budgeted for.

He is right, of course.

This column is not designed to ‘out’ anyone, but December is the month in which the informal economy is at its best.

Home industries of dessert, ayaka in the thousands, and many seasonal specialties are booming.

Take for example the popular flea markets, holiday bazaars and festivals.

Table after table of home-industries, cosmetics, jewelry, tee-shirts, handbags, salt, artisana, ornaments, desserts, popcorn, preserves and soap.

Some of the participants are well-established businesses that I believe run above board. Some are experimental startups and deserve a break, but will never get one, because the system here is rigged for survival of the fittest, and does not sweetly nurture and cajole entrepreneurs for their courage and determination.   

Of course once a year, if you hide a bit of income, I will leave you to your conscience, but in past years, the informal economy grabbed hold of our community, it is everywhere, in services and products, entrenched, and not going away.

I bet the informal GDP is in the billions.   


Wikipedia: An informal economy or grey economy is the part of any economy that is neither taxed nor monitored by any form of government.

Although the informal sector makes up a significant portion of the economies in developing countries, it is sometimes stigmatized as troublesome and unmanageable. However, the informal sector provides critical economic opportunities for the poor and has been expanding rapidly since the 60s.

Integrating the informal economy into the formal sector is an important policy challenge.

An idealistic, feel-good story in honor of the holiday, Petite Greens Aruba

Having served the Royal Dutch Navy for 18 years, Lorraine Cooijman Van Bogaert settled on Aruba and became a farmer. Logical, no?

Her story is actually very inspiring. How a Navy vet reinvents herself with the help of YouTube and whatever else she could lay hands on, to become an exclusive purveyor of fresh microgreens on the island.

Lorraine grows about 25 varieties of vegetable shoots, her vibrant greens are grown on demand and delivered personally every Tuesday to Aruba’s fine dining restaurants and hotels.

Just peek at Lorraine’s dry-erase board, in the small shack that double up as her office, in Santa Cruz, and you will see all top island chefs and premier restaurants listed, and when I say all, I mean perhaps two dozen?!  

We reconnected recently when Lorraine attempted to educate some of my readers about CBD and THC, and the difference between them, and about customizing Marijuana plants for one or the other.

She said: “Aruba should educate its people to recognize the difference between CBD plants and THC plants. There is a huge difference between those two, and their effect.  But, sure, they are both called Marijuana. And when you say Marijuana, people go nuts and negative. So education is the solution. Selling and growing the right plant with a THC below 0.3 % and a high CBD percentage, will be a huge economic boom for Aruba.  True, Marijuana with a high percentage of THC gets you stoned, BUT a plant with low THC and high CBD is going to relieve chronic pain, and alleviate Chemo symptoms. It’s a wonder plant. We should grow the high CBD plants not the high THC plant.”


So her inner farmer would love to grow licensed and certified high CBD low THC plants, make her own oils, and sell them here to an anxiously waiting ailing public.

But the authorities are dragging their heels.

They are also dragging their heels about land for agriculture and water.

So she grows microgreens meanwhile.

I went to visit her on a Monday. Monday is a good day, her microgreens are at peak performance, just before being delivered for harvest on Tuesday.

 Lorraine grows everything under two white party tents in her backyard with a third tent coming up soon. It’s all growing in neat little reusable plastic boxes on soil imported from the Netherlands, available at Flora Market, she waters by hand.

Experience is the best teacher she says, and over the last 18 months she cracked the code on what the chefs want, then she grows it. She studies their menus, then delivers fresh ingredients. They go crazy, if I am late, she beams.

The reason I am a farmer, she states, is mostly because I want to be an example for Aruba’s youth. I am doing this because I want to prove to Arubans that it is possible to become a farmer, even if you don’t have a farming background. And to show that you can grow food for profit and sustainability, but you need to grow the right crop. Showing Aruba what I have accomplished in 2 years and showing Aruba that it is possible to become what you want to become, is my goal.  

If you see my farm now, there is a big change from when I started, and I am still not done reaching my final vision. I want to inspire, there must be young entrepreneurs out there having the same passion and they need to be inspired. I have so many other ideas for Aruba, but money is naturally the big challenge, to start things up. But we are getting there. I am persuasive.

I want to reach out to Aruba and to show what I do, and inspire others, she concluded.

Petite Green Aruba: Microgreens Business to Business, for chefs, restaurants and other businesses.
Petite greens Aruba produces the best microgreens, edible leaves and edible flowers, we grow what chefs want. Always open: Call 562 1052

Enabling – in a negative sense of encouraging dysfunctional behavior

I know, it’s the holiday, and I shouldn’t bother you, but it came up in conversation, during Christmas brunch:

WEB is changing water bill due dates to crack down on the long lines of people paying their water bills on the 8th. Presently, all water bills are due on the same day, hence the lines, but from now on the payment of bills will be staggered, spread over different dates.

DISFUNCTION: Instead of teaching people to pay their bills on line, and migrating us all to the internet you accommodate old habits and perpetuate long lines. You have to teach people to move their banking on line!

ALTO VISTA just got a glistening coat of asphalt, creating one more parking lot.

DISFUNCTION: We need less parking lots. Instead of cracking down on the UTV/ATV traffic around that iconic place you accommodate it with a designated, organized space. We need legislation, not asphalt.

DOGS IN CAGE: For months, Ewald Biemans has been lobbying for a pair of dogs in a steel cage in Palm Beach, no water no shade.

DISFUNCTION: Oh, the bureaucracy is enormous, says the policeman in charge of the “investigation,” we are getting there but the road ahead is long. So, why don’t you make changes. You ARE the law.  

DOGS IN TRUNK: Jack Sparrow who stuffed dogs in a trunk got our visitors up in arms, and nothing happed. This man is in fact damaging what many of us have worked hard to achieve, a prosperous tourist trade.

DISFUNCTION: Oh, the bureaucracy says the coordinator of the NATIONAL PLAN, in charge of the “investigation,” we are getting there but the road ahead is long. So, why don’t you make changes. You ARE the law.   

HOSPITAL SUPERVISORY BOARD: The MinHealth asked for the resignation of the hospital’s supervisory board and got the only female member to step-down. She doesn’t need the headache, she has a huge day-time job already, and a family that needs her.

DISFUNCTION: The hospital supervisory board just lost its most intelligent member, of five years, the smartest by far just stepped down. All others should go home, not her.  

Light Up Aruba

So Setar replaced Ling & Sons Super Center for the pre-New Year’s Eve fireworks extravaganza and they will be lighting up Aruba tonight at 10:30pm when they shoot a colorful fireworks show, following a concert by Las Originales, the Rincon Boys and Grupo di Betico, at the Harbour Arena.

Pregnant pause.

Do you know what I am going to say?

Perhaps, perhaps, the time has come to reconsider, and reevaluate our addiction to fireworks?

Global warming?!

Climate change?!

Perhaps we could have a reduction in Setar rates, instead?

Some money for charity?

Around the world the traditional ooh, and aah, are replaced by boo and ugh…

And they are signing petitions to restrict and/or ban the sale and display of fireworks because of their “sulfur-coal compounds, traces of heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals or gases.”

“The combustion cloud can contain harmful fumes such as ozone, sulfur dioxide and nitric oxide.”

I am just saying, just putting it out there for public discussion, we can agree to disagree, but we should talk about it.

Calling for One Bold Move

The MinFec called the other day, to share her lament that she occupies a thankless job, we, her ungrateful spectators are never happy, we did not want the Sugar Tax and GOA listened, yet we repeatedly claim it doesn’t. The September summit, was unprecedented, where GOA for the first time in history sat down with the private sector. GOA is making amazing strides in the right direction, and she the MinFec is at the heart of all those changes, laboring day and night, on stage and behind the scenes, still working when we all take a rest, making tough decisions, setting us up na bon caminda, despite insurmountable obstacles, with the Dutch breathing on her neck, and still we are unhappy! Now, the foreign exchanges tax has our knickers in a bundle, what else can she do to communicate her accomplishments, we don’t even know HALF the chaos that we avoided thanks to her diligent maneuvering, in the finance limbo.  

Forgive the run-on sentence.

But you know, the MinFec is a talker, and when she goes, it is a steady stream.

I assured MinFec we appreciate her efforts, and that we are grateful, because indeed no one wants her job, and no one else would be willing to do what she does.

BUT, and that I did not say, but I am saying it now, digging into our pockets cannot be the only solution to our financial crisis.

You have to share the burden, crack down on the government organization as well, that way the suffering is spread out, and not just a single segment of the market affected.

You do not have to pay bonuses in time of trouble, or a 13th month salary.

It would behoove the MinFec to sit down with all departments heads and review all budget items. You would be surprised how many savings you could find. They do it in the private sector. Sit around the table and go down the line of numbers asking questions.

The devil, as you know, is in the detail. ATA just reviewed its budget making cuts across the board to make sure that at the end of 2020, 30 million would remain of tourism budget to be funneled into GOA’s purse. (Tourism should have a say in how to spend it!)

I already wrote once about energy-efficient bulbs, water saving toilet flushes, smart thermostats, and motion detection devices in charge of cuts when spaces are vacant, we have to take the reduction of expenses seriously, when every penny counts, and mostly make ONE bold move, forget about all small confusing taxes, forms and bureaucracy in favor of a onetime charge, at the port of entry, it’s called direct taxation, we keep talking about it, but not moving to implement it.

Take a few days off, enjoy family members and friends, see you in the New Year.   

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December 29, 2019
Rona Coster