Bati Bleki Buzz, Weekly Recap, January 19th, 2020

We frequently hear from young educated Arubans that it is impossible to find a well-paying, top position on the island.

My colleague and friend, investigative reporter and magazine published, facebook.com/xclusivo.aruba, penned her first backroom-politics post this week regarding integrity. I read her remarks with great interest and thought them worthy of publications.

She talked about the Old Boys club holding a few members of our community together, she quoted them by name: EDWIN TROMP (FCCA) – PRAKASH MUNGRA (CBA)- FRENDSEL GIEL (AIB_SOGA).

I checked Wikipedia for the Old Boys Club definition: An informal system by which money and power are retained by well to do men through incestuous business relationships.

Yup, the definition fits.

One of them, a highly-qualified, now retired former banker, has been the interim director of FCCA, since in 2017. The FCCA is a government mortgage bank designed to facilitate public housing, a very social minded and important financial institution which allows the more vulnerable members of our community to finance their first homes. The interim director was instated for six months, until a worthy new broom is identified. More than 50 applicants later, and the FCCA is still looking for the perfect match, rolling the interim appointment over, every six months, for a hefty salary, and still nothing, no one is good enough to fill those shoes.

That same highly-qualified, now retired former banker, is also on the board of the hospital. And we have already agreed a while ago that THAT board gotta go, in view of the terrible mismanagement of the hospital’s expansion/construction project. Two sensible members had already resigned, three are holding on, recruiting legal assistance, to help them retain their posts and keep their poor-choice-of-a-manager in the position of Director, forever.

Same highly-qualified, now retired former banker, is also on the board of the AIB, the Aruba Investment Bank, a private banking institution, owned by the island’s commercial banks, that caters to the other end of the spectrum, the fancy projects, among them the financing of the hospital, which must be investigated in view of the terrible mismanagement of the expansion/construction project.

All that soup, is supervised by the executives at the Central Banks who are supposed to see the connections, and recognize the cover-up-opportunities these relationships offer.

Moreover, a member of the FCCA supervisory Board, a well-respected retiree, who is married to the President of the Central Bank, is rumored to be assuming the position of the FCCA Co-Director, now that one director retired.

Is that kosher?

A husband supervised by his wife. At home, that’s perfectly ok, but on the job? It just doesn’t sound right, and I agree with Jacqueline Aruba, that we frequently hear from young educated Arubans that it is impossible to find a well-paying, top position on the island. Perhaps it is so hard, because the old guard refuses to let go, and make room for the next generation.

Anyway, the ball is in the MinFec’s court.

The Malmok Swim Zone, The Malmok Walkway, the Noord Ontvanger

The Malmok Aquarium

Everyone loves to swim and snorkel at Malmok but we leave it to God to take care of the area, we never teach visitors water etiquette, e.g., not to trample coral, and we deliberately mix boats and people, as if accidents never happen.

Once upon a time, maybe two, three years ago, a line of defense was installed in Malmok, a swim zone, perhaps 75 meters out and in total over one kilometer, covering Malmok, Boca Catalina and Arashi.

The Tourism Product Enhancement Fund paid for the buoys, the installation first, then the upkeep.

A small project, yet vital, protecting people from injury and marine life from boat parts.

For one full year, the highly motivated and knowledgeable people of Sea Solutions worked without pay, cleaning and maintaining the swim zone, because their money did not come through, for 12 months, lost in the government bureaucratic labyrinth.

This year they decided, no more, work must be compensated on a timely basis, thus the swim zone in Malmok is almost gone, abandoned, the buoys can be seen drifting aimlessly, praying for Sea Solution to return and anchor them properly, keep the boats and fishermen out, people and all their body parts intact and in.

I understand the budget is there, but Parliament hasn’t approved the expense and as long as law-makers dilly-dally Goa’s TPEF people are frozen in space.  

At one point MinTour personally PORMISED to intervene. Nothing happened.

Sharlyze Romano, paging Sharlyze Romano. Hello?!

What happened here, how did you let this slide?

Or perhaps it is true that the project now falls under the ATA product department?

Anyway, if we can’t get a small environmental/safety project going, for sure, the big ones are doomed to failure.

Untrue

Goa published a resume of activities for 2019, and among finished projects listed the Malmok walkway. Not True. To date, half of the project, less than one kilometer is semi-finished, in ten months.

Waiting in Line

Report from the front, the Ontvanger office in Noord: They started handing out numbers at 7:30am, and by 8:20am, had 120 people waiting in line. Service however was delayed. The change carrying armored trucks were late and the two cashiers couldn’t open their registers. License plate frenzy is on and for a developed country we have a primitive way of handling things.  

¿No dijiste que no hay plata?

One of my girlfriends asked: My husband is working at the refinery, but by Jan 30th, everybody has to leave. Now, can they get away without paying the employees??? With kind regards, K.

That’s stressful.

Basically, Venezuela’s opposition is now in charge of Citgo, the US refining company that was part of the Maduro regime-held PDV.

So the recognized-by-the-Dutch, Interim-Venezuelan-President Juan Guaido is really in administrative control of our rust bucket, but according to my friends who understand this crazy situation he has enough challenges on his hands without Aruba. He’d rather not deal with us.

According to Patricia Garip, in Argusmedia.com article from Jan 13th: Citgo Aruba Holding (CAH) the parent company of Citgo Aruba refining (CAR) has missed lease payments on the refinery and associated oil terminal since March 2019, taxes have not been paid since 2017, refinery maintenance has been neglected, and now the company is shirking its labor obligations.

Honesty, this is as much GOA/RdA’s fault as Citgo…Why wasn’t compliance enforced??

In a letter received in Aruba on December 27th, Citgo Aruba Holding cried crocodile tears about US imposed sanctions that impacted the refurbishment/upgrader project in SN, resulting in severe financial hardship, and in view of no hay plata, the company can no longer continue to support day-to-day operations, closing its doors on January 30th.

About 70 workers are involved, they are organized in two labor unions and none of them signed the proposed package offered, they want more money and the FTA is trying to negotiate with Guaido’s representative Luis Palacios, but no hay plata. The other union plans to go to court, but we don’t know if RdA would have resources to execute a verdict, remember, even if you win in court, the company must be solvent. A sure course of action is to go to Svb for Cessantia, but that is a drop in the bucket.

These 70 men are caught in a power play between Maduro and the Opposition, as a result of the false promises and blatant lies told to us by the previous administration.

Sure, the union supports its workers, and they must have evaluated the pros and cons of every move, but remember there are slim execution possibilities of an eventual verdict.

It’s a mess.

These 70 workers who signed up at the CITGO desk have some responsibility for the predicament they are in. We told them, RDA is a dead-horse, only they opted to believe the propaganda, and willingly walked into the trap, carefully laid for them by the former Minister of Energy and the former MinPres.

Since last year, GOA has tried to take the refinery and terminal over by declaring the suspension of the agreement between RDA and CAR, but a solution wasn’t reached, now GOA is left with only one option, demanding that CAR satisfies its labor obligations. But no hay plata.

Most importantly: We should now worry about the terminal, and jet fuel, and fuel for our cars. In the Argusmedia article, writer Garip calls Citgo Aruba Refinery’s local imports MINISCUEL, but it is gigantic for us, we’re dependent on energy for our survival. So what’s gonna happen here if the company is allowed to leave Aruba at the end of this month?? GOA will operate the terminal? Goa will look for a buyer/operator? Our gas stations under the Citgo brand, will be rebranded? Who will supply the airport with jet fuel? Who will supply WEB? Can GOA handle the responsibilities? We must find out before January 30th, 2020. 

Moreover, what is GOA doing to collect the outstanding amounts and what are they doing to get us another lease?? Perhaps the KLESCH group is interested in an upgrader in Aruba?

One of my friends in the know says: The people of Aruba should demand the institution of a Freedom of Information Act whereby this type of situations is more transparent and accessible in public records.

Vandalism is a Crime

When I heard about the vandalism at Casique Macuarima and then saw the pictures, I was as shocked as you were, a combination of pain and sadness washed over me, I always think Aruba is insulated from the ills and evils of the outside world and that many so-called normal but disturbing phenomena haven’t reached us yet, or have reached us on a minor scale, but this was a blow, serious damage, the intent of destruction was palpable.

So just like many it took me a while to study Vandalism online and collect my thoughts.

Thank you Aruba Bank for the immediate donation. And thank you for picking a reasonable amount, a fraction of what is needed. I see it as a beginning, a seed, to a giant fund raising drive that should involve the entire community.

The entire community should get behind Cacique Macuarima for car washes, bingo and flea markets, baked goods sales, and the collection of funds via direct deposits.

Take a page out of the Church of Noord handbook, when they needed to repair their roof, it was a community effort.

Every single resident of the neighborhood must share the pain and feel it, then contribute to the repairs, because we cannot wait for *Deus ex Machina, god from the machine, to fix it, we must do it ourselves, and Aruba Bank started the ball rolling.

Let us know how we can help.

You Can Help Prevent Vandalism

Educate the public, especially young people about the costs of vandalism.

Clean up vandalism as soon as it happens — replace signs, repair playground equipment, paint over graffiti.

If you see anyone committing vandalism, report it to the police, school authorities, or someone who can take action.

Remember, vandalism is a crime.

Protect your house or apartment from vandalism by using good lighting and locking gates and garages.

Support recreational programs for young people in your community. Volunteer your time, donate money or supplies, and help in any way you can.

Take a Stand!

Tap into the energy and idealism of youth. Involve young people in all vandalism prevention efforts.

Organize a graffiti clean-up project in your neighborhood.

Work with Neighborhood Watch and ask the City or a local business for cleaning supplies and paint.

Work with schools or the arts community to paint murals on areas that are vulnerable to graffiti. Make it a contest for teens.

Adopt a street or park, perhaps in cooperation with a church or business. Plant trees, bushes, and flowers. Repair equipment and install trash containers. Organize a monthly park patrol to clean up litter and keep an eye on things.

Ask police or a City agency to start a hotline for reporting vandalism.

Have a community meeting on vandalism to discuss its victims, costs, and solutions.

Make certain that City or town officials promptly remove abandoned cars, and other offensive debris from the public domain.

(From the official site of the Los Angeles Police Department)

*Deus ex machina is an unexpected solution to a seemingly unsolvable problem, in a magical way, that results in a happy ending.

The Goal: 20/20 Vision, in 2020

It’s big news for The Specialists, Vision & Hearing. They rebranded. Retiring the Oduber & Kan name that served them since 1955, facing a new era as a family business, they are ready to take it to the next millennia, under a new name.

Times are changing and so is the nature of business. With a new name over the marquee The Specialists are heading into the future, with a bigger vision and a better sound.

What started in 1955 as a partnership, evolved into a most-recognized name with a catchy slogan: Wat Kan, kan Kan alleen.

Monichi Oduber, the first Optometrist in Aruba and Jeweler Sal Kan dedicated a corner of the famed jewelry store to eyewear and vision, and later when Optician Hans Jansen joined they opened a dedicated outlet on the main street, offering high quality products and excellent customer service.

In 1996 Optometrist Bert de Vries came along, and in time took over as managing director with his wife RoseMarie de Vries doing the financials.

Under the “Our Mission…Your Vision” slogan they continued to provide fantastic eye care to generations of happy customers, and sometimes along the way relocated to a larger store in the Cayena Mall, on Caya Betico Croes 222, in Oranjestad. In 2014 they also introduced a commercial hearing company, promoting the latest technology for the island’s hearing impaired.

Then the next generation graduated, Optician Marcus de Vries and Retail Professional Iris de Vries, they joined the business, contributing their experiences in the Netherlands and the USA, to the already thriving business.

The family has been talking about a name change for a long time and finally, with 2020 approaching they took the plunge retiring the name that served them faithfully for 65 years in honor of an appropriate new one, The Specialists, Vision & Hearing.

Bert has been passionate about eye care for many years, and still is. He recently started a monthly column in the Amigoe newspaper, with the idea of educating the public about vision. Every month, he says, he will discuss a specific topic that affects visual acuity such as myopia, hyperopia, and eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and the effects of diabetes on the eyes, and more.

The equally fired up Iris reports that while the name changed everything else remained the same, same owner, same service, just a new fresh look, which will be promoted in the coming months to inform locals about the rebrand.

Both father and daughter duo acknowledge that there are many Opticians on the island but few Optometrists. As an Optometrist, Bert is a primary health care specialist trained to examine eyes, as an eye doctor who has earned a Doctor of Optometrist degree. As such he can provide expert advice on injuries, ocular diseases or abnormality, and problems with general health.

You now understand that the Specialists, Vision & Hearing, don’t run an average optical store.

They believe in friendly service, delicious cup of coffee included, they keep up with innovations, bringing the latest technology to Aruba and as sustainability advocates introduce ecofriendly products to eye care here.

If you are like me, you are wearing a cheap pair of drugstore reading glasses now. Do yourself a favor, and drop in for a visit with The Specialists. Get yourself proper reading glasses made for your exact prescription, farsighted, nearsighted, astigmatism, left eye, right eye, if you have a 20/20 vision goal for 2020, you’d better have a customized pair of readers.

You know where to go.

 

The Aruba QUALITY SEAL (AQS)  officially launched

This week at a casual reception in the garden of Wilhelmina Restaurant, the Aruba Tourism Authority introduced the 14 first recipients of the official Aruba Quality Seal. The companies certified have undergone an almost ten-month process, since they were the first ones, part of a pilot project, put together by Qesh Services and the dedicated team at ATA.

The certification is now open to businesses in retail, tourist activities and restaurants, and comes complete with professional guidance at a modest fee which the Aruba Tourism Authority did not reveal, but is available upon request.

In the process of writing the hand-book for the Aruba Quality Seal, the team perused more than a dozen international certification programs and relied on the feedback received from participating companies.

They all agreed, their businesses are now running smoother, customer service is more defined, regulations are in place, people know more about what’s expected of them. Overall, the certification itself resolved many hanging issues and while intense, the results are rewarding.

Among restaurants now eligible for the AQS: Que Pasa – Gianni’s & Azia – Westdeck & One Happy Bowl.

Retail outlets earning the AQS: Cosecha – Aruba Aloe – Maggy’s Store & Rage Silver

Tour operators who qualified for AQS: Clear Kayak – Red Sail Sport – Fofoti – Kinikini and Balashi Brewery Tour

ATA’s director Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes revealed that her organization, as Aruba’s Destination Marketing AND Management Organization, introduced the Aruba Quality Seal certification, in addition to the Happy Information Officers (HIO) and the Aruba Certification Program (ACP).

Companies wishing to apply for Aruba’s Quality Seal must have a high percentage of employees who have graduated the Aruba Excellence Foundation’s certification, as those go hand in hand in assuring quality customer service on an individual and corporate level.

First you educate the individuals, then you mold them into a sustainable tourism entity, ticking like clockwork. Good plan!

The ATA team worked hard on this, remarked Tjin Asjoe-Croes, it was their endeavor, including the benchmark exercises, it all came together nicely through the pilot approach, and we now call more players to action via arubaqualityseal.com

The evening was nicely emceed by Patrick Melchior. Isha Kock, of the Aruba Tourism Authority who handled the process graciously asked any company ready to undertake the AQS challenge to study the dedicated website for information: www.aqs.aw.

Testimonials by Fofoti, Gianni’s Group and Aruba Aloe indicate the certification is very helpful in assuring standards of service are formalized and followed. Amen.  

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January 19, 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