Bati Bleki Buzz, weekly Recap, Feb 16th, 2020

Serlimar, slash GOA, Covering its Derriere and the Umbrella Protest

Serlimar, slash GOA, covering its derriere

When the director of Serlimar was hired in 2018, I said: Serlimar is definitely in need of a leader, a leader who is capable of managing people. If this guy has the people skills required, and the management background, then welcome to Aruba.

Now I understand he got canned. That was a fast turnaround.

I totally stand behind him.

Without knowing any of the players or any of the details I can recognize the scapegoat strategy. GOA is covering its derrière, relegating the burden of bad management to the director and his financial controller.

That’s pure BS.

Serlimar bought all that fancy new equipment and ordered these HIDEOUS, new blue/yellow totter on credit, based on the former MinInfra’s conviction that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and that the Serlimar law will pass, and that the company will be swimming in cash.

That was a ministerial decision, not a managerial mistake.

Now, with the director fired, they can say the culprit is gone, when Dutch inspectors come for a visit.

That strategy is transparent to me, and it will be to the Dutch too. As long as you don’t institute STRUCTURAL CHANGES in the way that half-banked company runs, everything you do is an exercise in futility.

The Umbrella Protest

Yesterday, a few of my visitor-friends called and messaged. I even got a phone call from as far as Canada, to please intervene and reverse the scarcity of umbrellas on the beach.

That was sweet, and a bit naive. As if writing ever made a difference. But it does feel good to put the issues out there, keep readers in the know.

Apparently, in January, on Aruba, the main visitor-concern is shade on the beach, or the lack of it.

Which brings me to the Beach Policy, a three-year old project, which attempted to regulated activities on our #1 asset, and as far as I am concerned only confused and complicated issues.

Fact. There are more watersports businesses now than ever before, because the Beach Policy was politically used to grant more permits, to those in favor.

DIP inspected the beach yesterday to make sure watersports companies stick to 12 chairs, 6 umbrellas each, no more. Which should be commended. If we have a policy, it should be enforced.

BUT…

On a recent trip to Hawaii I saw that Waikiki beach was completely devoid of permanent shade, not a single umbrella, hut, shack, or pier. Everything is movable. By 6pm, the beach is NUDE, empty, just pink sand, the whole kit and caboodle gets folded and tucked away, until the following day.  

So what is the answer? The Waikiki beach model or the clutter of Spring Break in Florida? There must be a happy medium, something comfortable in between.

The current MinInfra has a meeting scheduled with stakeholders, I hear, let’s see what she comes up with her female Solomonic wisdom!

On the Lookout for New Places

The food court at Hyatt Place received a recent visit from us. Nice, civilized parking, and if you leave your car there, you pay Awg 100, instead of Awg 75 at the airport, for ‘a lost ticket,’ but your car has a roof over its precious head with more protection from the elements.

The ‘lost ticket’ feature comes in handy when you abandon your car to enjoy a short weekend away.

Two eateries were open at the food court, Little Jerusalem and Bowls. We stopped at both, the diet police will have to forgive that infraction.

At Little Jerusalem, everything was very tasty, from Falafel to Baba Ganoush, Lamb Shawarma and Kibbe, washed down with Sauvignon Blanc, on the house.

At Bowls, the Sobe noodle stir fry was delicious, and the Nutella Wonton with ice cream, I’d better not talk about it. Yummy.

The Italian outlet showed signs it was opening, but then it changed its mind. We would have added a slice of pizza to the mix.

The chef at Little Jerusalem is skinny, which is a good sign, and friendly. It’s a family business, and the style of cuisine is Lebanese. The family also own silver jewelry stores at the hotels. The food is served in take-out boxes, the environmental ones. We would have preferred to have it nicely plated for the wow effect.

Bowls is a local business too, by a Food & Beverage professional who decided to branch out on his own.

We’ll be back. We hope next time to have the price of parking included or waved.

A Glitch with Repercussions

Last week, I got an email note from an accounting firm, bearing a warning: In the past weeks, it said, Aruba commercial banks implemented a new instant payment rail known as I-Pago. The main purpose of the I-Pago is that payments can be made fast by reducing time of transactions. Unfortunately, despite the positive intentions, while implementing the I-Pago not all payments were processed accordingly as set by the clients. In some instances, payments for example reach accounts without a payment description. This may result in delays for processing payments or even payments not being processed due to missing information.

Then they explained further: The aforementioned could also apply for payments to the Aruba Tax Authority, the Departamento di Impuesto. Payments of taxes and levies that reach the bank account(s) of the Departamento di Impuesto without a payment description will not be processed. It is also possible that payments did not (completely) reach the bank account(s) of the Departamento di Impuesto. This could result in additional tax assessment(s) including penalties being imposed by the Departamento di Impuesto for late or incomplete payments. The process to get an additional tax assessment(s) and penalties reduced is time consuming since a letter of objection is necessary, which in most cases will result in additional costs. In other cases, further appeal may be necessary if the decision on the letter of objection is negative and will not result in reduction of the additional tax assessment(s) and or penalties.

Lordie, Lordie, as if we did not have enough issues with frivolous assessments.

Last week I got a 5-digit assessment, attempting to collect corporate gains from ONE YEAR BEFORE the company was incorporated.

How is that possible?

I called some friendly bankers and they confirmed, yes, we have a glitch.

Then another note from that same accounting firm paddled backwards: Dear client, it said, we have discussed the status with the respective authorities. After consultation we have been assured that all payments are being processed correctly at the Departamento di Impuesto.

We still advise you to make sure that you include full payment details and payment reference for completeness of payments, the note concluded.

As if we would ever send Impuesto money without specifying exactly what we’re paying for. Never

If we cannot pay them adequately

Before 2015, the janitorial support staff in charge of wiping door knobs, cleaning lavatories, and picking up after students in schools on the island, were paid a minimum hourly wage, no benefits, take it or leave it.

Let’s be honest, it’s a thankless job, but truly important, keeping viruses at bay, and school-yards safe.

Imagine, cleaning up every day after hundreds of kids in dozens of schools.

Take for example SKOA, the catholic education agency here. Some of their schools are a CENTURY old. While the real estate belongs to the church, headquartered in Curacao, the local agency, a not for profit foundation, subsidized by GOA, was given the right to use the buildings, and naturally maintain them.

That said, there is never any budget for maintenance. And the janitorial support staffers hold the ancient facilities together, with elbow-grease. Carefully.

In 2015, the notion that these workers should be treated equally surfaced in the Ministry of Education, under the former minister. It was a social idea whose time has come.

Why should these hard-working people who aren’t government employees, but are employed by the not-for-profit foundation, be treated differently?

Why have they been discriminated against?

The idea fermented and finally a team of legal experts presented a paper to the MinEdu, an MB, a ministerial decree, entitling the janitorial support staff to benefits, the same as any other SKOA staffer, be it teacher or administrator.

Thus the Janitorial support staff has enjoyed the regular government benefits for almost five years.

They received a cost of living adjustment

15 vacation days

ATV days, some more free time, in lieu of salary increases

Bi-annual teeth cleaning

New glasses every two years

Medical insurance

Child allowances

Most importantly, a pension arrangement with APFA the preferred plan on the island.

Their salary remained minimal, about Awg 1,800 a month, but the benefits eased the pain, they were able to get by, and with a steady SKOA job had access to the cut-throat financial institutions where they could apply for tiny loans at murderous interest rates, but at least they had access to credit.

Recently, at a press conference the present MinEdu, nixed that arrangement, declaring it unbinding, and threatened to withdraw the MB. He is looking for savings. He cannot afford the bills, he explained.

He picked SKOA, just one of the island’s educational agencies, as a starting point. They run 46 schools, each school with at least 10 classrooms, which are kept clean with the support of 99 janitors/cleaners/security and maintenance people. 

In the name of transparency, SKOA gathered its staffers, and informed them, the unions, and their lawyers, of the impending threat.

SKOA Director Anuesca Baly, a passionate professional, explained that education is an investment, in the future of this country, and we cannot make unreasonable cuts in health and/or safety, and/or education.

SKOA did not start paying its janitorial support staff frivolously. It was a carefully thought out legal document drawn by lawyers at the department of education that instructed the department of finance to make payments, the wheels of history cannot be turned back.

The antiquated schools, require their hygiene-guardians, the first line of defense against disease. If we can’t pay them adequately, the least we can do is allow them some benefits.

What GOA Supports

We were told this week that a ‘boutique hotel’ is in the making around the area of the Olde Molen, 50 rooms, fantastic.

The new development will finally get rid of the murderous night-club, free the Police from nightly patrols, alleviate the mess, reduce noise and the general ‘molester.’

GOA totally support the project, the article said, it is in accordance with the MinTour’s ‘VISION,’ just what we needed, a small development, in compliance with our mythical ‘carrying capacity.’

The article on 24ORA stressed it was a fantastic move, packed with benefits, only when you scrolled down to see the comments, they sang a different tune. Pueblo was not happy: ‘We voted for you to work for the good of the country, and not to announce a new hotel project every day,’ declared one of the posts. All other comments agreed.

The style of the building, six or seven stories high, reminded me of the work of Joe Fernandez Architects & Planners NV, ornate and busy. Think Royal Plaza.

Apparently, the architect, perhaps his son, took the area over, after the disastrous ownership by Lee Towers, the Dutch Tom Jones, who previously owned it.

They haven’t done much to the area in recent years and are now ready to develop it, with two twin towers, retail on the bottom, more retail or restaurants on a mezzanine floor, and four levels of apartments, including a roof top penthouse floor. Or at least that is what I understand from the images published on line.

They never tell you the full story. As customary here, the press release touting the MinTour’s vision did not make mention of the name of the developer, or his exact plans. They like it opaque.

Any news about the repairs to the Bubali Water Treatment Plant??

I would love GOA to support that.

The Blood Bank

I visited yesterday. It was a good experience. The receptionist called me for an appointment, I arrived on time, they asked me all kind of intrusive personal questions, then took my blood pressure, sat me down in a comfy chair, hooked me up, I was done in 20 minutes.

I couldn’t help but ask about the hacking.

Apparently, all Blood Bank data is shared with Curacao thus they had a backup there and were not affected, as far as their information. Nevertheless, they were terribly inconvenienced as their computers were down, and are still MIA, missing in action.

I asked if the IT man was fired. I thought the entire IT department of HOH was replaced, for underestimating threats, but apparently no, they are all still there.

The Blood Bank can call me anytime, a donation makes me feel good, and I love the free M&M candy.       

Changing the KILL CAGE into a CENTRO DI CONTROL DI CACHO

Monday at the Kill Cage:

The door of the 40-year-old institution known as the Kill Cage was closed on Monday in preparation for the change, the conversion of the tiny facility into a Center for Dog Control.

By 9am there were nice puppies in boxes abandoned at the closed door, and the Animal Shelter called the rescue organizations to come to the rescue.

Nine abandoned, unwanted, dumped souls by 9am.

Monday teaches us that the plan for a dog center with 12 cages, is inadequate. The new plan — thank you for starting to think about solutions — calls for a 3-day moratorium where the abandoned dog will be held, allowing its owners to be found and/or change his mind about destroying the pet.

ONE out of ONE HUNDRED dogs is an animal dumped at the Kill Cage by a nasty neighbor and the new arrangement would indeed save him.

But judging from Monday’s numbers, in three days, you’d have 27 puppies, in 12 cage, not even mentioning cats, that usually arrive in much bigger numbers.

Cats were completely left out of GOA’s plan.

Those in charge of policy must understand that the animals dumped in the Kill Cage are all domesticated, they belonged to a family which irresponsibly decided to shirk its obligation. The pets are often dumped with fancy collars, by grandma and the grandchildren in the car, on a heartless mission.

These animals are UNWANTED. Their owners DON’T want them back, so holding them for three days entails, feeding, offering water, cleaning poopy cages, taking pictures, posting them on social media, trying to adopt them out. If you hold them for three days, you might as well make an EFFORT to find them new homes. Which of GOA’s employees will be in charge of that operation??

The dogs trapped in the street by Criollo Trapper, for example, and offered for adoption are often FERAL, and MORE difficult to adopt because they have to be socialized, domesticated first.

THE ONLY SOLUTION: It should be AGAINST THE LAW, to avoid responsibility like that without a fine. As long as it is acceptable here to just drop a bunch of kitties without their mom, or a bunch of pups in a box, the mentality of people will not change, you have to hit them in their pocketbook, fine them, you have to send the signal that this is kind of behavior is unacceptable.

We have reasonable spaying and neutering programs that are subsidized, and people should be taught to take that road!  

All other solutions are just band aids.

In September the Kill Cage changed its hours of operation and closed weekends and holidays. People shamelessly continued to dump their owned pets in front of the closed door, driving away in a huff. These people don’t want the burden back, so why would you decide to hold their pets in the hope that they will change their minds. They won’t.

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February 16, 2020
Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster