Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap, Feb 9th, 2020

BOI Online Tax filing Platform. rolled out

AHATA invited for an informative hour with the tax office crew to hear from them about the mythical digital platform forthcoming.

We were told about the digitalization process of our tax paying system, and now a milestone has been reached, the platform is live.

The conference room at AHATA was filled with hopeful accountants, I was there too, as the accountant of my own mini-company.

The mood in the room was pleasant, and the tax office crew helpful and friendly. They showed us the wonders of the online platform that makes calculators obsolete; you punch in a number and the clever platform applies it correctly, all you have to do is save your work, print it, then go to your online banking to pay the amount, and if you punch in the reference number correctly, you are in the clear, with much less work on your hands.

It’s so simple, they gushed, it’s so clear, we couldn’t have made it easier for you, you will surely have no problem accessing your data, or filling it out, and filing, that platform was made for simpletons, they implied, and will make paperwork, stamps, people waiting in lines and photocopies totally obsolete.

A few thoughts raced through my head, as I was listening to the lighthearted, jovial, presentation.

Main thought: The tax office greatly underestimates the burden that it has imposed on its clients to date. The hardship that we have suffered. They should have acknowledged that.

Last year, my mini-company filed 26 dispute letters for unjust fines and assessments, perhaps more. Besides, there is this double-taxation issue that has been hanging unresolved for one full year, for which I cannot get anyone’s attention.

At the back of my head a Kafkaesque theme always plays whereby the little guy, the tax payer, is crushed by complex, and illogical bureaucratic delays and demands.

Kafka has lived at Ontvanger for many years.

One of the AHATA members asked whether the tax office will be reimbursing him, compensating him for all the time he spent for the past 35 years standing in line.

We thought it was funny. But clearly it is not…we’re all traumatized.

Then the same clever man asked: And what will you do with all your employees, that are now free from stamping and collecting paperwork; what will their job look like from now on, will there be more enforcement and control?

We realize IMPUESTO is working hard on the digitalization process, and I don’t want to rain on their parade. Thank you for doing that.

BUT, this before and after video they showed, featuring a stressed-out accountant, hand-filling forms VS that same man AFTER the introduction of the digital portal, carefree, chatting on his cell phone while coffee-drinking in his office, with plenty of time to kill, is a bit of an insult.

In the private sector, no one reclines on the job, chatting on their cell phone while drinking coffee.

That would be sufficient cause for termination.


Memories from the St Regis in NYC

We are getting a brand new St Regis, by the people who gave us The Ritz Carlton, on the empty space between Riu Antillas and Divi Phoenix. I noticed the construction company discreetly draped the fence to contain the activity within, and spare guests next door the view of construction.

Who wants to look at construction while on vacation?!


Now, if only they put up a sign explaining exactly what they are doing, with the name of the developer, architects and companies involved, it will even be better. Throw is a small architectural rendition too.

Last year, Raiz tried to collect signatures in an attempt to abort the project and found out that the project was 50 years old, and grandfathered in.

This has been on drawing boards for ages, and now finally, we’re getting a top brand, staffed with Ladies and Gentleman, a much-needed commodity, with 200 rooms, considered small in today’s standards.

I believe it was just before the 2008 financial crisis that the clever Alfonso Riverol managed to offload the Wyndham hotel property on a NY self-styled show-off, so-called investor, whose pockets were just deep enough to spring the purchase, but not to upgrade and run the resort as a Westin.

At that time, the empty lot was to become a Starwood timeshare, a glitzy flagship, and some of my hard-working girlfriends quit their perfectly secure jobs in order to join the sales staff at the new Starwood timeshare whose deluxe Sales Gallery was being built at the Westin, in the lower lobby. Developers spent money like water on the design, and then as the world’s financial crisis overwhelmed them. They shut down the operation, fired the staff and the lot remained empty, until plans hatched in recent years, named it a St Regis.

24Ora gave an excellent 50-year resume of the property. I wonder who wrote it.      

I remember arriving at the St Regis in NYC in a limo, stocked with Champagne and strawberries. That was a great number of years ago. I glanced at the hotel’s red carpet entrance through the smoky windows of my car as a spiffy uniformed bellmen rushed up with a gleaming luggage cart. It must have been October. My birthday month. The next morning in bed, still over Champagne and strawberries I watched the delegates of an Anti-Hunger conference on TV, they were arriving at their meetings in limos and I couldn’t help but wonder if they too had Champagne and strawberries for breakfast, in their cars.

That thought – strawberries and Champagne – stuck with me for years, it was a much talked about humanitarian conference, and I decided that if we just provided every single hungry person with a black American Express card, and checked him/her into the St Regis, issues would be resolved. Sorry, I was young, that was an alcohol inspired plan, in decadent times.

The St Regis at the time was a bit stuffy. In consequent visits I noticed they renovated continuously but the Italian marble bathrooms and the Bloody Marys, remained. Then was created, and revolutionized reservations. We now shop by price, not just location.

Good memories. I am ready to make some more.

Censo: An enormous and much-needed undertaking

I checked the United States Census Bureau and found out there are 329,253, 533 persons living in the US but because there is 1 birth every 9 seconds and one death every 11 seconds, plus one international migrant every 44 seconds, the net gain is one person every 24 seconds, so chances are we now have 329,253, 541 people living in the US.

How do they know?

They conduct a survey. Meticulously collecting information that would allow decision-makers to reach informed-decisions about how many garbage trucks to buy and how many schools to open, in the next 10 years.

World population by the way, was 7,628,482,612 when I started writing this column, and is 7,628, 483,845, as I reached the second paragraph. That’s 1,233 additional mouths. We must plan to house, feed and educate them.

The CBS website also offers similar information, and the fifth 2010 Population and Housing Censo of September 29th is available for download with incredibly detailed data on every aspect of our life on the island including projections, looking into the future to predict what it will be like.

In their words: Development is about improving the lives of people. Policy and fiscal decisions should rely on data which tells us who these people are, where and how they live, and how their lives are changing. The demographic and related data that answers these questions are essential to policy-makers and development-planners across nearly every sector of our society. The fundamental purpose of the population and housing census is to provide actual, accurate and complete facts for planning and policy-making purposes. The census is unique because it is the only source of detailed socio-economic, demographic data at small geographic areas including neighborhoods and communities. It is the only body of comprehensive sub-provincial statistical data on population, housing and hard-to reach/special population groups such as seniors, persons with disabilities and migrants.

I checked with CBS if there will be a possibility to participate in the Censo online or on the phone, similar to the US.

They answered immediately: The difference between the US Census and the Aruba Census is that in the US, the Census questionnaire contains 9 questions per person. In the Aruba Census questionnaire, we have more than 9 questions.

During the Census, we will be filling a digital questionnaire on an Android tablet. The questionnaire will be filled by enumerators that will visit each and every living-quarter on Aruba. The questionnaire can only be completed by Census enumerators. It will not be made available online, given the magnitude and complexity of the questions. Enumerators are being trained on the definitions and procedures used in the survey, right now.

We thank you for the interest you have shown in the Census. We aim to inform the public about the questions that will be asked and reiterate why it is important to participate. Each and every question asked was subjected to a thorough review-process to make sure it is needed/essential in providing policy-makers, academia, and the public in general with relevant information about the socio-demographic characteristics of the population of Aruba. Our motto is: Better data, better policies, better lives, better Aruba. Best regards, Desiree Helde, Deputy Director, Central Bureau of Statistics

It’s hard to be a General Manager

We’re blessed to have a successful Vacation Ownership segment of the market. Thank you Raymond Maduro and his team of yesteryears.

Most VO resorts are already three to four decades old, well-oiled machines, considerably successful, with a steady flow of income from membership dues and rent income from concessionaires. That said, they have to be smart about their five-year projections, because the big money was made on sales many years ago, and renovations and improvements must be sustained creatively.

While the EP resorts spend fortunes on sales and marketing, VO properties don’t even have a budget line for that.

All of Aruba’s VO resorts are run by member-cooperatives, associations, and the General Manager, a professional hotelier almost always answers to board-members who know nothing about hospitality, but may be venerated experts in their own fields, which made them sufficiently affluent to be able to afford VO weeks in Aruba.

One of my friends, a general manager of a successful large VO property explained to me yesterday, that it is of utmost importance, on day one, to outline in writing, what the GM’s responsibility is and what is of interest to board members, who don’t live on the island, are retired, bored know-it-alls, happy to put their many years of expertise in plumbing or heating to good use, here.

Aruba has a long history of meddlesome boards, who attempt to micro manage by remote control.

Years ago we saw the breakup of Casa Del Mar and Aruba Beach Club, makes no sense from a historical point of view. Why have double of everything, just because board members can’t get along. Bob Curtis the current GM of Casa del Mar could run both.

Because, the single most important quality in a VO GM, is his ability to get along with his board members.

In recent months, after the retirement of Farida Mansur, a woman with extraordinary staying-power, the Aruba Beach Club hired and then fired two young local general managers. I feel for these two professionals, but I know for a fact that they were challenged by meddlesome board members on one hand, and confronted by rebellious staffers, who found it difficult to adjust to the sweep of a new broom, after Farida’s long reign, on the other.

In 2008, a coup d’état at Costa Linda, pitched membership against local management. Under Royal Resorts things have been nice and quiet. I imagine the current management company outlined in writing, on day one, what the GM’s responsibility is, and what is of interest to board members.

Which brings me to Caribbean Palm Village Resort where Astrid Muller was the Interim General Manager for nine years!!! Sure, we’re friends, but that’s beside the point.

I have seen her operate over the years. Guests drink her Kool-Aid, and staff members drink her Kool-Aid, happy and grateful to be on vacation and/or to be working under her leadership.

Her chronically ungrateful board members combined with a drama-queen, doomsday prophet accountant, employed her service as an ‘Interim’ for nine years. Imagine. That is such deep lack of respect and appreciation.

Why? Because she is a local. Or perhaps because she is female. Or perhaps because she is a female over 30?

But Karma struck fast. With Astrid’s retirement, the drama-queen, doomsday-prophet accountant was booted out along with the spineless chairman of the board.

But that doesn’t make up for nine years of disrespect. My view, not hers.

Last minute, the GM of the Courtyard by Marriott will be replaced. My take: You have to hire carefully, then be patient, and supportive to the max. You can’t expect an inexperienced young professional to turn seasoned overnight.

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.


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.   

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February 09, 2020
Rona Coster