Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap, February 10th, 2019

A Random Search Yields some Interesting Information

Last week I had a book-signing at T.H. Palm & Company, Playa Linda Beach Resort, at the heart of Palm Beach. Between chatting with store clients and watching the action on the street, I was quite content to spend two hours of chill.

(Island Life is available for sale at T.H. Palm & Company and at local book stores)

I looked across the street. The sidewalk in front of La Hacienda Mall was packed, with kiosks, obstructing the entrance to the elegant Alex & Annie boutique, and hiding the fine dining establishments which pay exorbitant rents to that complex.

Rent at the heart of Palm Beach cannot be cheap.

I asked. The rent for the kiosks, collected by the owner of La Hacidenda Mall, is about Awg 2,000 a month. Per shack. And mind you, all shacks are located on government land, on the public sidewalk.

Between looking at the mess across the street, and admiring the gorgeous shopping environment I was in, with nicely merchandised displays, and well-trained staffer, I had the pleasure to talk to some of our visitors, and conduct a random search.

I am usually a productive person, and it doesn’t often happen that I have time for random searches.

So, I plugged “El Bohiho Holding” into my phone, Yellow Pages said it was an Arts & Crafts Goods & Supplies company. But I know for a fact that it owns the real estate, across the street from the lovely T.H. Palm & Company, presenting this hard-working, tax paying store, with a great deal of unfair competition, selling 3 for $10 tee shirts, which the tourists then carry around in single use plastic bags. Don’t we have a ban of those??  

My phone told me that in 2018, ninety-four, 94, containers of goods were received by that company from Columbia, exported as ceramic & plastic articles, glass and glassware, wood & leather items, handbags and similar article of animal guts. (?!)

My phone just confirmed that in addition to renting the 11 kiosks on government land, and pocketing the rent, the goods sold in the kiosks are ALL provided by the landlord, who happens to have been a DIP employee, yes, that is a fultime government employee, for many years. He has owned the complex forever, and also owns and supplies the kiosks… which of course explains why every one of them carries the same exact merchandise.

Wow, some people are shameless. Playing the cards, they were dealt, to their full advantage.

Imagine? An opportunist DIP employee, assigns himself a prime piece of real estate on Palm Beach, I am sure he did not stop there, rumor has it, he has many more fine places caught in his claws.

I called to follow up on a rumor I heard the kiosks will be dispensed with. Yes, was the answer, 9 were approved on a lottery basis. Two must go. I laughed.  

And the opportunistic DIP employee? No, he is no longer employed, the MinInfra thanked him for his “contributions” – though I don’t think he had much time to work for the country in view of the many business dealings on his plate – and showed him the door. 

The following day I saw MinInfra continues to sweep: Three other DIP employees were temporarily suspended. One of them, for a second time, he already won his case in court in the first round, and seems like a good guy.  

The Canasta, The Basket of Daily Goods

There has been a lot of talk recently regarding the basket of goods containing everyday products, the cost of which is compared each year.

As we are reminded via the media, the cost of the items in the basic basket is controlled by the government in an effort to give the consumer some much-needed protection against inflation.

According to a GOA publication, the basic basket includes baby food, corn flour, tea, coffee, coffee milk, powdered milk, rice, kitchen oil and baby milk, with no specific brand mention.

On February 1st, 2019, a number of new items were introduced as phase 1.

Phase 2 is upcoming.

When done, the basket will include 1,200 price-controlled items, amplified from 11 to 22 categories.

As a member of the media I salute the effort, with grocery-prices sky rocketing, it must be a mission impossible to feed even an average family, and value shoppers rely greatly on the Save More and Save A Lot food markets.

Cost conscious consumers should have healthy options too, and we should TRY to steer away from Spam as a viable lunch-meat option.

Some comments I heard from importers, regarding the basic basket amplification:

Regarding frozen vegetables, for example, added to the basic basket in phase 1, on Feb 1st, 2019. They are problematic because they required special care, mostly refrigeration, during storage and transportation which is a money costing factor, and if importers cannot charge for the finicky product and enjoy a decent profit margin, they will drop it, and stop importing any of it, besides, if GOA wants indeed to do the right thing and include frozen broccoli, spinach and mixed vegetables in the basic basket it should exempt the product from BBO/BAVP/BAZV, and give up its own profit on the item.

Tuna fish is problematic too, because no two tuna cans are alike. There is tuna, then there is tuna, and premium varieties cannot be included in the basic basket. Same goes for pasta, about to be introduced in phase 2, no two pastas are alike. There is pasta, then there is pasta.

You get it, Piet’s ice cream, VS Haagen-Dazs, with all due respect to Piet’s, it can never be clumped into one category!

The Delusion of Being Digital, at Ontvanger

Deloitte invited a number of clients for a breakfast seminar and the response was enthusiastic. They all said ‘I do’ to a session titled Being Digital.

Most people confuse technology with being digital says Kristjana Thorvalds – yes, originally from Iceland – Senior Manager Deloitte Digital Services, they make an investment in hardware and software and in their perception, they just launched into the digital age, without changing the culture of the company and without considering internal and external customer needs.

That’s where Deloitte naturally comes in with a hand book and guides.

Kristjana reported that during the session, invited guests were quizzed regarding their company’s position on the digital curve: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced.

Most told the truth and conceded that they were at the foot of the mountain, not looking forward to scaling it, for lack of understanding of the customer dynamics, technology choices, and managerial implications.

I thanked Kristjana for the engaged and engaging time and went to Ontvanger. 

I have recently received the 2014 Heffings and Aanmanings and wanted to check with my friends at the Tax Collector’s officer, if they are out of their mind.

How can you run a country like that?

2014?!

There were 100 people, I counted, waiting in line on a regular Monday, at 3pm, between the reception and the waiting side-room. I took a number.

My turn came fast, after all I fall in the business category, and Emil Boekhoudt, in room 2, is a darling. But he could not do anything for me. I have to submit a BEZWAARBRIEF for each and every amount, and attach bank documents. Every disputed amount must be backed up.

I told Emil I already filed THREE petitions on NOVEMBER 2nd, and never heard anything from my diligent girl Mrs. Geerman. Emil said that by August, for sure, I will have a response — three months, November to February, is simply not enough time.

AND THEN HE DECLARED: We have a new system, and it is very frustrating because if posts everything then we must go in to correct it.

So that’s exactly what happened: Ontvanger invested in technology, and thought it went digital without the understanding of customer dynamics, technology choices, and managerial implications.

It pains me to think that we are 25 years behind the Nordic countries. Kristjana has a good explanation for that. Next time.  

Watty Vos Boulevard, WVB, coming to Eagle Beach.

I attended a Stakeholders Meeting at the Alhambra Ballroom where DOW, the department of Public Works, presented its upcoming project of the portion of the road from Ling & Sons Super Center to the Riu Antillas.

The project is expensive and fancy and never mind the polemic whether we need it fancy or modest, we will grow into it, and it will certainly alleviate the traffic bottle-neck in town.

Basically, the WATTY VOS BOULEVARD, I show it in my archive as an Awg 440 million investment, also included some work at Ernestro Petronia, L.G. Smith and Juancho Irausquin boulevards, with EIGHTEEN main intersections, or rotondas, executed in sections, sometimes all at the same time.

Hopefully, traffic in the future will flow from the airport to the Lind & Sons junction, and then on to Noord and the hotels, with an emphasis on flow……….

Between now and August, that road portion between Lind & Sons and Divi Phoenix will be na werki. Then the heavy lifting will be done, and landscaping begun.

The presentation at the Alhambra Ballroom was again somber, and no frill. We watched some slides, we asked some questions.

The work will include road rehabilitation, a parking lot next to Costa Linda, what they call a Picnic Area, sidewalks, bicycle paths and landscaping.

Project Manager Joao Paulo Soares, and Joao Campos Forte, both with MOTA – Engil Aruba, Marlon Croes and an ARUBUS spokesperson, all promised they will do their best to inconvenience us the least.

There will be alternative routes, no one will be cut off.

They will be cancelling the cactus, sea grape and aloe median in the scenic road along the hotels, the two traffic lanes will be adjacent to each other, and the portion of the southbound lane will be return to the beach.

Here are some videos from old day, describing the project. Very interesting:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=watty+vos+boulevard+aruba

RdA Down the Rabbit Hole

There has been some noise coming out of the refinery. The workers’ union voiced protest, and aired some pretty dirty laundry. Basically, no one gets paid. The terminal is empty, no ships coming in. Local contractors have not seen a black-cent since November. And there is a breakdown in communication between the officials and the few remaining CITGO terminal hourly operators, that off-load the FMSA bound fuel destined to power our cars and supply the airport jet fuel.

The Members of OIWA are unhappy and threatened a strike.

Someone must go down there and read them the writing on the wall.

Because the writing is clear. In the wake of the imminent death of Venezuela, PDVSA and CITGO are as good as dead. And indeed, because of the recently imposed US sanctions, the project is now officially “on pause,” having previous been in a “slow down.”

But now it is clear that by February 27th all USA affiliated personnel has to beat it. And by March 24th, all ties to CITGO must be severed.

Something about the treasury department licensing. It is expiring.

And members of OIWA probably don’t want to accept the ugly BIG picture.

A few months ago, it seemed that Goa was getting ready to pull out of the CITGO agreement. Then, one of my smart friends volunteered to read the agreement for me, and comment on it. How convenient, I did not have to read the document myself.

He reports: The agreement says that if either party has a dispute with the other, then such a “Dispute” must be resolved through a “Negotiation Process.” Then they have 30 days to resolve the dispute…or they begin the “Mediation Process,” which takes another 60 days. And then if it is not resolved they will go into “Arbitration Process.”

So basically, the Negotiation- and Mediation Process end up in a never-ending loop. This agreement was not written by a legal genius, but it was certainly signed by a fool. Money must have changed hands for someone to accept that kind of rabbit hole scenario.

Specifically, the “Umbrella,” makes all other agreements worthless in terms of getting CITGO to comply with their obligations.

I wish these could be published on a public website for everyone to read, he adds, and goes on.

In the interim, the good guy at RdA, Ray Buckley, is sent out to pasture, and the sly fox, Director Alvin Koolman, is hanging on, despite persistent rumors. He recently hired the former IOWA President Michael Koolman even though the later has no usable talent or experience within RdA. That former mechanic, now on the RdA management team embodies Aruba’s deep-rooted, corrupt practice of hiring people for who they know, rather than what they know!

Back to the Crisis du Jour: Alvin Koolman, needs to step up and assure us the continued operation of FMSA and the delivery of fuel to the airport and local gas stations regardless if IOWA goes on strike.

A foot note on RdA: According to my learned friend, the crude operation, boiling and mixing Venezuelan’s heavy Orinoco Gold, is a worthwhile economic pursuit, if we find the right operator. The refinery portion of the biz is dead, but the crude operation is valuable – estimated replacement value 8.3 billion. We just have to clean up Venezuela, AND find the right operator. Then we’re in the money.  

Much Needed Initiative

A letter went out at the beginning of January to the Minister of Tourism, Public Health and Sport addressing the fact that ARUBA has experienced a series of accidents involving UTV vehicles and tourist. AHATA along with the community is concerned for the protection of our visitors and for these accidents’ effect on the reputation of Aruba.

AHATA stands for tourism companies that operate in a responsible and safe manner and we endorse introduction of regulation to ensure safe circumstances for our tourist, our community and our flora and fauna.

In consultation with our members that operate UTV tours, we have compiled the attached set of regulations to propose for legislation.

It is important that the rules not only be introduced by law but are also accompanied by a sound plan for enforcement and a clear definition of which agency is authorized and responsible for such enforcement.

We also believe that it is essential that there are repercussions for lack of compliance such as fines and eventual loss of permit.

We appreciate your consideration and are available to answer any questions you may have

Sincerely,

Tisa LaSorte

President and CEO

Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association.

c/c Minister of Transport, Minister of Justice & AHATA Board of Director

 AHATA Suggestions for Regulation for UTV Operators

  1. Strict enforcement of required permits and regulations to be able to operate.
  2. Ban the rental of UTV/ATV vehicles directly to individuals. Rental is only allowed by a registered operator in a guided tour (caravan style).
  3. Max size of a caravan is 10, including 1 guide in front, 1 guide in back and 8 tourist vehicles in between.
  4. If vehicles are owned or leased, all rules and requirements must be complied with (including proper license plates, insurance, etc).
  5. Every operator must have an insurance policy which includes liability insurance with a minimum of USD $1M coverage per incident.
  6. All operators must have a written safety manual and proof that every employee has read and signed it.
  7. Safety and rules briefing for each tourist driver is required, prior to start of tours.
  8. Every operator must have a set of written Accident & Incident Procedures dealing with the handling of guests in the event of an accident/incident.
  9. A properly stocked first aid kit must always be in the guide vehicle.
  10. Every guide must have properly working cell phone in the event of emergencies.
  11. Every guide/driver must have a “green card” (health card).
  12. Minimum age for guides is 25 years.
  13. Minimum age to drive the vehicle is 23 years.
  14. Minimum age for passengers is 12 years.
  15. Every guide must be first aid certified and be recertified annually.
  16. Every vehicle must be inspected by the authorities annually and can be determined to be beyond their lifespan after 18 months (lifespan can vary depending on type of UTV vehicle, a Sports Side Vehicle has a longer lifespan with off-roading than farming vehicles, for example).
  17. Every vehicle must be equipped with turn-signal lights, and governors to regulate speed.
  18. UTV’s are required to be well-maintained and Operators are required to keep up to date maintenance records of every vehicle which must be made available for inspection by the authorities upon request.
  19. Dangerous maneuvers such as fishtailing, donuts, driving in undesignated areas or off the trail are prohibited by all drivers.
  20. Guides are required to respect and protect local flora and fauna.
  21. Ban the vehicles from certain roads/main arteries (such as Irausquin Blvd, L.G. Smith Blvd, Downtown, etc.)

Additionally:

  1. Protect certain trails/areas from use by any motorized vehicles.

Note:

Need to determine what authority is responsible for ensuring compliance and the consequences of or penalties for non-compliance.

 

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February 10, 2019
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