Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap, July 28th, 2019

Our economic miracle according to the late Don Mansur, historic speech in Curacao in 1989

My friend Clark Gomes Casseres, from Curacao, was wondering where he could send a condolence message in connection with the passing away of E.F. (Don) Mansur.

Casseres explained he worked with him closely in the 1980s, they were fellow general economists, and were in a number of ‘Status Aparte’ preparation committees together, including the important committee that was charged with dividing the gold and foreign exchange reserves of the former Netherlands Antilles of six, up. Casseres then attached a copy of a speech the late Don Mansur had given in Curacao in December 1989. It is a historic document now.

Casseres said he imagined that Don Mansur perhaps never held such a speech in Aruba, he was a modest individual never bragging about his very many real accomplishments. And when I read the document, I decided to publish about half, in a slightly edited version, in his memory, and as a tribute to a very smart man, and a former government minister

Here’s the text from 1989.

UP UNTIL OCTOBER, L984, ARUBA HAD A PROSPEROUS AND STABLE ECONOMY; THE OIL REFINERY AND TOURISM HAD PROSPERED TO THE POINT WHERE THE ECONOMY WAS OPERATING AT OR NEAR FULL EMPLOYMENT. THE OIL INDUSTRY HAD BEEN ON THE ISLAND FOR 60 YEARS, WHILE TOURISM HAD IN FACT GROWN WITHOUT TOO MUCH ATTENTION BEING PAID TO FOSTER IT.

WHEN IN OCTOBER, 1984, THE BOMB FELL AND EXXON ANNOUNCED THE CLOSING OF THE LAGO REFINERY, NOBODY COULD REALLY BELIEVE THAT THIS WAS HAPPENING. THE FIRST REACTION OF THE ARUBAN GOVERNMENT WAS TO GO TO VENEZUELA AND TO THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT IN AN EFFORT TO KEEP THE REFINERY OPEN. ESPECIALLY IN VENEZUELA, OUR HOPES WERE KEPT UP BY THE PRESIDENT HIMSELF, WHO TOLD US ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS: “ESA REFINERIA NO PUEDE CERRAR”….

DURING THE FIRST MONTHS OF 1985, IT BECAME INCREASINGLY CLEAR THAT VENEZUELA WOULD NOT HELP ARUBA IN KEEPING THE REFINERY OPEN, AND ON MARCH 31ST, 1985. LAGO CEASED OPERATIONS.

THE RESULTS OF THE CLOSING OF THE REFINERY ARE WELL KNOWN:

THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE INCREASED TO OVER 3O%, FOREIGN EXCHANGE EARNINGS DROPPED BY 5O%, WHILE GOVERNMENT REVENUE DROPPED BY 3O%. IN ADDITION, THERE WAS A MASS EXODUS OF QUALIFIED PEOPLE.

IN THE FACE OF THESE DISASTROUS DEVELOPMENTS, THE GOVERNMENT OF ARUBA APPROACHED THE DUTCH GOVERNMENT FOR BUDGETARY ASSISTANCE.

THE DUTCH GOVERNMENT WAS WILLING TO GIVE A FIXED AMOUNT IN BUDGETARY ASSISTANCE, PROVIDED WE WERE WIILLING TO ACCEPT A RECOVERY PROGRAM DRAFTED BY THE I.M.F. THE GOVERNMENT ACCEPTED THIS CONDITION, AND AN I.M.F. TEAM VISITED ARUBA IN EARLY 1985 TO DEVELOP A RECOVERY PROGRAM. IN THE MEANTIME, THE GOVERNMENT STARTED CUTTING COSTS, TO THE EXTENT THAT CIVIL SERVANTS GOT CUTBACKS OF APPROXIMATELY 15% IN SALARY AND FRINGE BENEFITS.

THE I.M.F. RECOVERY PROGRAM INCLUDED A SOLIDARITY TAX OF 8.2% AN INCREASE IN EXCISE TAXES ON GASOLINE OF 50 CENTS A LITER, AND A DOUBLING OF IMPORT DUTIES. IN ADDITION, THE PROGRAM INCLUDED AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF HOTEL ROOMS BY 5O% OVER A 3-YEAR PERIOD.

TOURISM WAS CHOSEN BY THE I.M.F. MISSION SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE IT WAS FELT THAT ARUBA HAS A DISTINCT COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE INTOURISM, THAT THIS SECTOR COULD BE DEVELOPED IN A RELATIVELY SHORT PERIOD OF TIME, THAT IT IS HIGHLY LABOR INTENSIVE, THAT IT IS A GOOD EARNER OF FOREIGN EXCHANGE. THE I.M.F. THEN CLEARLY ADVISED AN UNBALANCED APPROACH TO DEVELOPMENT, PICKING TOURISM AS AN INDUSTRY WITH LARGE SPILL-OVER EFFECTS.

ONCE THE CHOICE WAS MADE TO DEVELOP TOURISM AS A LEADING SECTOR, THE QUESTION WAS: HOW DO WE IMPLEMENT THIS PROCESS OF UNBALANCED GROWTH IN PRACTICE?

AT THIS POINT IT IS GOOD TO REMEMBER THAT ALL THIS WAS TAKING PLACE WHILE ARUBA WAS ADVANCING TO ITS NEW CONSTITUTIONAL STATUS WITHIN THE KINGDOM, WHICH ALSO INCLUDED THE INTRODUCTION OF A NEW CURRENCY.

THE NEW STATUS FOR ARUBA PRESENTED ADVANTAGES AS WELL AS DISADVANTAGES IN ITS PRECARIOUS ECONOMIC CONDITION.

ON THE ONE HAND, THE NEW POLITICAL STRUCTURE MEANT THAT A LOT OF TIME AND EFFORT HAD TO BE SPENT BY THE GOVERNMENT IN MAKING THE NEW STRUCTURE WORK. IN ADDITION, IT BROUGHT ADDITIONAL UNCERTAINTY INTO THE ECONOMIC PICTURE, THUS MEANING HIGHER RISKS FOR NEW INVESTORS. ON THE OTHER HAND, THE NEW POLITICAL STATUS HAD ONE BIG ADVANTAGE: THE SPEED WITH WHICH DECISIONS COULD BE TAKEN AND IMPLEMENTED.

WITH THE ADVENT OF STATUS APARTE, THE GOVERNMENT OF ARUBA COULD NOW TAKE DECISIONS WITHOUT INVOLVING A HIGHER LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT.

ONCE THE NEW GOVERNMENT TOOK OVER ON JANUARY 1ST, 1986, IT DECIDED TO FOLLOW THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE I.M.F. ON THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF HOTEL ROOMS, WITH THE ONE EXCEPTION THAT, INSTEAD OF SHOOTING FOR A 5O% INCREASE IN CAPACITY, IT DECIDED TO SHOOT FOR A 100% INCREASE IN CAPACITY, DURING THEIR GOVERNMENT TENURE.

THE GOVERNMENT, AS A MATTER OF POLICY, DECIDED TO USE THE GRANTING OF GOVERNMENT GUARANTEES AS A STANDARD INCENTIVE TO STIMULATE INVESTMENTS IN THE HOTEL INDUSTRY.

GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC POLICY AT THAT POINT WAS A CONCENTRATION ON TOURISM AS A MEANS OF GETTING IMMEDIATE RESULTS, BUT OTHER SECTORS WOULD ALSO BE STIMULATED IN ADDITION TO TOURISM, AND TO THIS END, THE GOVERNMENT DECIDED TO TAKE A ”TAILORMADE” APPROACH TO INVESTMENT. THIS APPRAOCH MEANT THAT THE INCENTIVE PACKAGE OFFERED TO POTENTIAL INVESTORS WOULD NOT ONLY BE THE STANDARD PACKAGE OFFERED TO ALL INVESTORS, BUT THAT THE INCENTIVE PACKAGE WOULD BE TAILORMADE TO THE INDIVIDUAL NEEDS OF EACH INVESTMENT PROJECT. THE FOUNDATION FOR A FINANCIAL CENTER WAS LAID BY ADOPTING THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE ARUBA EXEMPT CORPORATION; THE FREE ZONE WAS EXPANDED AND PROMOTED, AND THE PETROLEUM ORDINANCE WAS ADOPTED, OPENING ARUBA’S OFFSHORE FOR OIL DRILLING.

IN THIS WAY, THE GOVERNMENT TRIED TO DIVERSIFY THE ECONOMY, HENCE LESSENING THE DEPENDENCE ON ONLY ONE SECTOR.

IN ADDITION, THE GOVERNMENT DECIDED TO FOUND THE ARUBA INVESTMENT BANK, A PRIVATE INSTITUTION WHICH RECEIVED A SUBORDINATED LOAN OF FLS. 20 MILLION FROM THE GOVERNMENT, TO MAKE LONG-TERM FUNDS AVAILABLE TO INVESTORS.

ALREADY FROM THE FIRST ATTEMPTS TO INTEREST INVESTORS IN ARUBA, IT BECAME OBVIOUS THAT ARUBA WAS CONSIDERED A SO-CALLED HIGH RISK AREA, AND THAT INVESTORS WERE NOT SATISFIED EVEN WITH AN ARUBA GOVERNMENT GUARANTEE. INVESTORS ALSO TRIED TO GET A KINGDOM GOVERNMENT GUARANTEE. THE LATTER WAS NOT POSSIBLE, ALTHOUGH THE KINGDOM GOVERNMENT DID PLAY A VERY IMPORTANT ROLE IN PROVIDING MORAL SUPPORT AND PUTTING PRIVATE INVESTORS AT EASE REGARDING INVESTING IN ARUBA.

AS FAR AS THE HOTEL PROJECTS THEMSELVES ARE CONCERNED, IT CAN BE SAID THAT ONE PROJECT WAS STARTED IN 1985 – THE RENOVATION AND EXPANSION OF THE GOLDEN TULIP HOTEL. THIS INVESTMENT WAS MADE POSSIBLE BY AN ARUBA GOVERNMENT GUARANTEE, AS WELL AS AN NCM EXPORT CREDIT GUARANTEE. THIS PROJECT WAS VERY IMPORTANT FOR OUR RECOVERY, BECAUSE IT SHOWED CONFIDENCE BY DUTCH INVESTORS IN THE ARUBAN ECONOMY.

A SECOND PROJECT – THE EAGLE BEACH HOTEL – WAS READY TO ROLL IN 1985, BUT LOST ITS FINANCING IN DECEMBER OF 1985. THE CENTRAL BANK OF ARGENTINA WAS NO LONGER READY TO FINANCE THE PROJECT. IN ORDER TO TRY TO SAVE THE PROJECT, THE PRIME MINISTER TRAVELED TO HOLLAND TO MUSTER ENOUGH DUTCH SUPPORT SO THAT THE FINANCING COULD BE OBTAINED. HE DID NOT SUCCEED, AMONG OTHERS BECAUSE THE FOREIGN LENDERS COULD NOT UNDERSTAND WHY THEY HAD TO RISK THEIR FUNDS IN ARUBA WHILE THE NCM ITSELF HAD ARUBA CLASSIFIED AS A BAD RISK, ALONG WITH MOST COUNTRIES IN AFRICA.

THERE FOLLOWED A PERIOD OF VERY INTENSIVE POLITICAL LOBBYING, BOTH IN THE HAGUE AND IN WASHINGTON TO ELIMINATE THE HIGH-RISK IMAGE OF ARUBA. IN THE UNITED STATES, THESE EFFORTS WERE NOT SUCCESSFUL IN GETTING AN ACCEPTABLE RATING FOR ARUBA. IN HOLLAND, THE RESULT WAS THAT WE MANAGED TO INCREASE THE CEILING OF THE NCM FOR LOANS TO ARUBA FROM FLS 100 MILLION TO FLS. 500 MILLION

TOGETHER WITH THESE EFFORTS AT ATTRACTING NEW PROJECTS. THE GOVERNMENT DECIDED TO SELL OF THE GOVERNMENT-OWNED HOTELS AT ATTRACTIVE PRICES, PROVIDED THE HOTELS WOULD BE COMPLETELY RENOVATED AND THAT AN EXPANSION WOULD BE MADE IF ECONOMICALLY FEASIBLE. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES WOULD THESE HOTELS RECEIVE A GOVERNMENT GUARANTEE FOR EITHER RENOVATION OR EXPANSION WITH THE INCREASED CEILING FOR NCM EXPORT FINANCING.

DISCUSSIONS WERE STARTED WITH THE BALLAST-NEDAM/HYATT GROUP, WHO WERE CONTEMPLATING THE CONSTRUCTION OF A HOTEL IN ARUBA. THIS PROJECT WAS CONSIDERED EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FOR ARUBA, FOR IT WOULD BRING A BIG NAME, HIGH-CLASS HOTEL CHAIN TO THE ISLAND. IN THE END, THE PROJECT WAS LANDED WITHOUT USING THE NCM EXPORT CREDIT FACILITY; JAPANESE FINANCING AND EQUITY PARTICIPATION WERE OBTAINED FOR THE HYATT PROJECT. THE SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF AGREEMENTS FOR THIS PROJECT WITHOUT NCM GUARANTEE WAS A GREAT VOTE OF CONFIDENCE IN ARUBA BY INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS AND PAVED THE WAY FOR FURTHER INVESTMENT BOTH BY LOCAL ENTREPRENEURS AS WELL AS INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS.

THE DE VEER GROUP, BACKED BY A GOVERNMENT GUARANTEE AND VENEZUELAN CENTRAL BANK FINANCING, DECIDED TO GO AHEAD WITH THE CONSTRUCTION OF A 330-ROOM HOTEL AND CASINO IN TOWN. THIS WAS THE FIRST MAJOR HOTEL TO BE BUILT OUTSIDE OF THE BEACH AREA.

IT IS TO BE NOTED AT THIS POINT, THAT GOVERNMENT POLICY WAS GEARED TO ENSURING THAT MAJOR INTERNATIONAL HOTEL CHAINS WOULD BECOME OPERATORS OT THE HOTELS FOR WHICH THE GOVERNMENT HAD ISSUED A GUARANTEE. AS SUCH, THE DE VEER GROUP REACHED AN AGREEMENT WITH SONESTA TO OPERATE THEIR HOTEL.

THE DE VEER GROUP WAS ALSO THE FIRST INVESTOR GROUP WHO HAD APPROACHED THE ITATIAN EXPORT CREDIT AGENCY, SACE, FOR FINANCING. AN AGREEMENT HAD BEEN REACHED IN PRINCIPLE WITH SACE, BUT WHEN BETTER TERMS COULD BE OBTAINED FROM THE VENEZUELAN EXPORT CREDIT DEPARTMENT, THE GROUP DECIDED TO GO WITH THE VENEZUELAN FACILITY.

THE INITIAL CONTACT WITH SACE WAS PROBABLY WHAT OPENED THE ROAD FOR THE EAGLE BEACH PROJECT. THEY APPROACHED SACE FOR FINANCING AND MANAGED TO GET, WITH GOVERNMENT GUARANTEE, EXPORT CREDIT FINANCING FOR THEIR PROJECT, TO BE RUN BY THE RAMADA RENAISSANCE CHAIN.

TWO OTHER MAJOR PROJECTS ALSO SUCCEEDED IN COMPLETING THEIR FINANCIAL PACKAGE WITH SACE: THE BETA HOTEL CORPORATION, TO BE OPERATED BY CONTINENTAL HOTELS, TOGETHER WITH THE CARNIVAL CRUISE GROUP, AND THE PLANTATION BAY PROJECT, A PROJECT STARTED BY JAN DE RUYTER AND FINANCED IN PART ALSO BY THE NATIONAL INVESTMENT BANK OF THE NETHERLANDS.

THE INSISTENCE ON ATTRACTING THE HOTELS HAS PAID OFF: IN THE CASE OF THE BETA PROJECT, IT HAS HAD THE SPILLOVER THAT CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES WILL MAKE ARUBA A WEEKLY PORT OF CALL, STARTING IN THE WINTER OF 1990

THE FIVE MAJOR HOTEL PROJECTS MENTIONED ABOVE WERE THE SPEARHEAD OF ARUBA’S UNBALANCED GROWTH. THEY INDUCED A NUMBER OF OTHER PROJECTS, NONE OF WHICH GOT THE BENEFIT (NOR NEEDED) A GOVERNMENT GUARANTEE. IT HAS TURNED OUT THAT, INSTEAD OF DOUBLING THE NUMBER OF HOTEL ROOMS, WE WILL HAVE MORE THAN TRIPLED THEM BY 1990.

IT IS OBVIOUS THAT A RAPID DEVELOPMENT AS JUST DESCRIBED IN SUCH A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME, WILL ENCOUNTER PROBLEMS. CAREFUL PLANNING BY THE GOVERNMENT WAS REQUIRED. AFTER HAVING HAD MORE THAN 5,000 PERSONS UNEMPLOYED IN 1986 THE LABOR MARKET NOW BECAME INCREASINGLY TIGHT, TO THE POINT WHERE THE IMPORTATION OF WORKERS BECAME NECESSARY.

THE GOVERNMENT DEVELOPED A WELL-THOUGHT-OUT AND BALANCED LONG TERM PLAN THROUGH 1992 TO MINIMIZE THE NEED FOR ATTRACTING FOREIGN WORKERS. BY SENDING OUT QUESTIONNAIRES AND FOLLOWING UP WITH INTERVIEWS, A FAIRLY GOOD IDEA WAS OBTAINED OF THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE THAT WOULD BE NEEDED, AND THEIR QUALIFICATIONS. THIS IS TRUE FOR BOTH THE CONSTRUCTION PHASE AND THE OPERATION PHASE OF THE HOTELS. NEXT, WITH FINANCIAL SUPPORT FROM HOLLAND, A CRASH TRAINING AND RETRAINING PROGRAM WAS SET UP, CALLED ENSENANZA PA EMPLEO, WHICH IS AN ONGOING PROGRAM STILL IN EFFECT TODAY.

IN ORDER TO MATCH PEOPLE SEEKING JOBS WITH THE EXISTING VACANCIES, IN A JOIN EFFORT WITH THE TRADE UNION FTA AND EMPLOYEES IN THE CONSTRUCTION AND HOTEL SECTORS, A JOB CENTER WAS CREATED. THIS JOB CENTER WAS A DATABANK WHERE ALL VACANCIES AND ALL UNEMPLOYED WERE REGISTERED, IN AN ATTEMPT TO MATCH THE UNEMPLOYED WITH VACANCIES REQUIRING THEIR SKILLS.

THE GOVERNMENT REALIZED THAT THIS WAS STILL NOT ENOUGH. AN INTENSIVE CAMPAIGN WAS STARTED IN. HOLLAND TRYING TO ATTRACT ARUBANS LIVING THERE TO RETURN TO THEIR NATIVE ISLAND AND FILL THE JOBS THAT WERE OPENING UP. THIS CAMPAIGN INCLUDED THE SETTING UP OF A RETRAINING PROGRAM IN HOLLAND ITSELF, SIMULTANEOUSLY, IT WAS DECIDED TO MAKE IT MORE ATTRACTIVE FOR MARRIED WOMEN TO ENTER THE WORK FORCE BY: 1. NO LONGER ADDING THE WAGES OF THE HUSBAND AND WIFE FOR INCOME TAX PURPOSES. 2. ALLOWING THE WAGE FOR A LIVE-IN MAID TO BECOME TAX DEDUCTIBLE. 3. CREATING DAY-CARE CENTERS FOR SMALL CHILDREN. UNFORTUNATELY, A CHANGE IN GOVERNMENT HAS HINDERED THE IMPLEMENTATTON OF THESE MEASURES.

AS FAR AS THE IMPORTATION OF FOREIGN WORKERS IS CONCERNED, THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE GOVERNMENT WAS THAT THIS SHOULD BE LIMITED AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE TO THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY, WHERE THE JOBS ARE TEMPORARY, WHILE GIVING THE ARUBANS THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE TRAINED TO OCCUPY THE PERMANENT POSITIONS OPENING UP IN THE HOTEL INDUSTRY. IN THIS CONTENT, THE GOVERNMENT INTRODUCED A NEW SYSTEM OF STUDENT LOANS TO TRAIN PEOPLE TO FILL MANAGEMENT POSITIONS.

IN ADDITION TO A TIGHT LABOR MARKET, OTHER PROBLEMS HAVE MANIFESTED THEMSELVES AS WELL; ADEQUATE SUPPLIES OF WATER AND ELECTRICITY, FACILITIES AT THE AIRPORT, PROBLEM OF HOUSING, AND SO ON.

THE RAPID DEVELOPMENT OF HOTELS HAS, OF COURSE, HAD ITS SPILLOVER IN OTHER SECTORS: RESAURANTS HAVE MUSHROOMED, SHOPPING CENTERS ARE OPENING UP EVERYWHERE, NIGHTCLUBS AND OTHER FORMS OF ENTERTAINMENT ARE BEING DEVELOPED, THE NUMBER OF TAXIS AND RENTAL CAR COMPANIES HAVE INCREASED, NEW AIRLINES ARE FLYING TO ARUBA, AND SO ON.

AT THIS POINT I WOULD LIKE TO MENTION THE FACT THAT OUR TOURISM DEVELOPMENT WAS DECIDEDLY A PLANNED ONE. AIDED BY OUR CONSULTANTS, PANELL, KERR AND FOSTER, THE GOVERNMENT LAID OUT A SPECIFIC TOURISM DEVELOPMENT BLUEPRINT, WHICH INCLUDED AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF ROOMS, A DIVERSIFICATION OF MARKETS, AND A GENERAL POLICY OF UPGRADING THE QUALITY OF TOURISTS THAT WE WERE GETTING. WITH THESE OBJECTIVES IN MIND, OUR TOURISM MARKETING WAS DEVELOPED TO TARGET SPECIAL MARKETS. TOURISM HAS CLEARLY PROVEN TO BE THE RIGHT PATH FOR THE UNBALANCED GROWTH PROCESS OF ARUBA. BY FOLLOWING THE UNBALANCED GROWTH PATH USING TOURISM AS THE LEADING SECTOR, WE HAVE ACHIEVED SPECTACULAR INCREASES IN GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT: FROM FLS. 800 MILLTON IN 1986 TO FLS. 913 MILLION IN 1997, TO FLS. 1080 MILLTON IN 1988. (THESE ESTIMATES WERE MADE BY THE IMF). THE CORRESPONDING PERCENTAGE GROWTH RATES ARE 14% FOR 1987 AND 18% FOR 1988. WITH A BALANCED GROWTH APPROACH, THIS WOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE.

IF ONE LOOKS AT THE ARUBAN EXPERIENCE OVER THE LAST FOUR YEARS, THE FOLLOWING PICTURE EMERGES AN UNBALANCED GROWTH APPROACH, USING TOURISM AS SPEARHEAD, HAS SOLVED THE PROBLEM OF UNEMPLOYMENT. DEVELOPMENT OF THE FINANCIAL SECTOR, THE FREE ZONE, AND OFFSHORE DRILLING ARE NOT LABOR-INTENSIVE, BUT ARE REVENUE-PRODUCING, BOTH IN THE FORM OF INCOME FOR THE BUDGET AS WELL AS IN THE FORM OF GENERATING FOREIGN EXCHANGE TO PAY FOR IMPORTS. THE QUESTION REMAINS WHETHER, WITH A DEVELOPED TOURISM SECTOR PROVIDING FULL EMPLOYMENT, THERE IS A NEED TO SEEK OTHER INDUSTRIES NEEDING RELATIVELY LARGE NUMBERS OF WORKERS, SUCH AS AN OIL REFINERY. THE QUESTION BECOMES ESPECIALLY RELEVANT IF ONE TAKES INTO ACCOUNT THAT THIS PARTICULAR REFINERY WILL NOT SIGNIFICANTLY CONTRIBUTE TO EITHER THE GOVERNMENT BUDGET OR TO OUR FOREIGN EXCHANGE EARNINGS.

IN CONCLUSION, I WOULD LIKE TO SAY THAT ARUBA IS A CASE-STUDY IN HOW UNBALANCED GROWTH HAS SUCCEEDED IN BRINGING ABOUT, IN A SHORT TIME PERIOD, SIGNIFICANT ECONOMIC GROWTH AS WELL AS FULL EMPLOYMENT. WHAT IS NOT CLEAR AT THIS POINT IS WHETHER, WITH THE ADDITIONAL OPENING OF AN OIL REFINERY, ARE CAUSING THE SNOWBALL TO BECOME AN AVALANCHE, WITH ALL ITS CONSEQUENCES.

Divi Resorts Promotes Pearl Lake to General Manager of Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort

Divi Phoenix beach Resort is proud to announce that Rooms Division Manager Pearl Lake will be the resort’s next General Manager, effective August 1, 2019, taking over the position formerly held by Gerrit Griffith for 11 years.

“I am ecstatic to become the General Manager of the Divi Phoenix,” said Lake. “My goal in life has always been to make an impact in someone’s life by bringing out the best in them, helping them realize their full potential and assisting in developing their skills. This was always my focus as the Rooms Division Manager, but becoming the General Manager allows me to broaden this reach.”

An Aruban local with a husband of 23 years, five children, and two grandchildren, Lake has over 20 years of hospitality experience with 12 of those years spent at Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort.

“Pearl started as the Front Desk Supervisor back in 1999 and over the past 10 years has worked her way up the ranks, proving herself as a valuable member of the team,” said Marco Galaverna, Divi Resorts President & COO. “As a local and one of our owners, members and guest’s favorite managers, Pearl is the perfect fit for the position.”

Lake is one of only a handful of female Arubans to hold the position of General Manager on the island and the second female General Manager at Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort, after Astrid Muller.

“We are very proud that nearly half of our current General Managers are women,” continues Galaverna, “she joins our two other female General Managers, on St. Maarten and Bonaire.”

“As sad as I am to end my 43-year career with Divi Resorts, I leave knowing that Pearl will be taking over,” said Gerrit Griffith, Divi Aruba Phoenix’s retiring General Manager. “She’s a strong leader with an upbeat personality and an eye for creating the best vacation experience for guests, so I know she will take great care of this beautiful resort.”

Mission Accomplished

On our landscape, Rene Kan is a one-of-a-kind businessman. A maverick.  And he just concluded nine years of service on the AZV board.

About five months ago, he formally informed the minister in writing that as of June 15th, 2019, he will be retiring as Chairman of the Board of AZV but agreed with the minister and board to stay on, until the MinHealth is comfortable with a new AZV chairman, Kan’s replacement, who must still be identified and named.

It is a decision of utmost importance to the country and the MinHealth is taking his time, weighing the options.   

Kan served under three health ministers affiliated to two political parties, helping make important decisions for the general public welfare with deep mutual respect and open-minded professionalism.

It’s not his first time leaving the organization.  He left AZV in 2013, under Minister Richard Visser, when the Aruba Growth Fund developed an interest in the Boticas di Servicio. He thought it was the right thing to do.

With the appointment of a new MinHealth, Alex Schwengle, Kan was repeatedly asked to return, which he did in 2014.

Then under MinHealth Dangui Oduber, Kan asked the Minister to nominate a new chairman. He thought he could perhaps be helpful on another board, but the minister wanted him to be available to AZV.

Needless to say, AZV is an important organization, and Kan reports he has been honored to chair it, but the time has come to make room for fresh blood and new ideas.

As the chairman of the board at AZV he had two important goals, one to do with our hearts and the other with cancer care, and it gives him great pleasure to have helped pilot two immensely important projects for Aruba.

Together with Dr. Casper Lacle, hospital management, Ezzard Cilie and his team, they were able to set up the interventional cardiology department on Aruba in cooperation with AMC, Amsterdam Medical Center, and OLVG both from the Netherlands which today plays an amazing role in saving lives.

Previously, when someone had a heart attack they had to wait for an air ambulance. Today, doctors can intervene immediately, and prevent dire consequence.

Also, together with Dr. Joël Rajnherc, AZV is setting up the radiotherapy for the island’s cancer patients at Imsan, SN, in collaboration with Baptist Hospital from South Florida. Cancer patients will not be separated from their families for months, for treatment purposes, obliged to spend a long time in Colombia, Curacao, or the Netherlands. They will now be able to receive treatment here in a state-of-the-art center and will not be away from their support system — they will be able to stay home, instead.

Dr. Rajnherc’s enthusiasm in cheerleading the project and his persistent management got this done.

The center will be operational in November 2019.

Kan feels extremely good about the two projects realized during his tenure, and decided that now is the time for a different talent to be introduced to the AZV organization.

So, what’s next I asked, the ATA board?

Knowing Kan, he can never stay still and will look for a project, another major undertaking to benefit the island, to contribute his knowledge and experience to.

Miss Sunshine, reporting from the Mill Resort

Mid-December 2016, we were told that the new owners of the Mill Resort have signed and are taking over the operation, with many items to implement, and major improvement plans for the property, converted into a COURTYARD RESORT BY MARRIOTT

I reported on the property again when Willie Chin was hired as GM and we toured the 193-room resort destined for greatness under President and CEO Klaus Moser, for a company that runs about 14 hotels in Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela.

Both Chin & Moser moved on eventually, and again I reported not too long ago about some discontent among employees and their growing distrust of TRUST HOSPITALITY.

In walks Miss Sunshine.

Vicky Perez who has been growing Book It Vicky, her own travel company, danced in to offer sales and marketing support and walked out with an offer to run the show.

While she never aspired to become a resort manager, she always dreamed to own one. And while dreaming she amassed an impressive resume, as a Cornel University graduate, gaining work experience in food & beverage, events, sales and marketing with the Hyatt Regency, The Renaissance, the Radisson, and the Ritz Carlton where she was on the pre-opening and opening team.

All this blue-blooded hotel experience combined with her extensive knowledge of the Latin American travel market landed Vicky in the driving seat.

She has recently been appointed owners’ representative at the Mill Resort and will be harnessing her positive energy and immense drive to open twin operations on November 1st, 158 stylish hotel rooms and 24 timeshare units, used by the resort’s vacation-ownership clients.

The resort has been under renovation in phases and is almost completely done having received a fresh, elegant design.

The restaurant is at the moment getting an overhaul and will be rebranded as Allegra Bistro, together with the two already facelifted bars.  

The new rooms are tastefully decorated, in cool, muted Caribbean hues with blonde wood paneling, oversize TVs, twin sinks in the bathroom, generous closet space, mini fridges and safes, among other upgraded features.

Remember the oversize Jacuzzi tubs mid-room? They are now oversize walk in showers with rainfall shower heads!

The resort aims at 4-star amenities and services, with a nicely conceptualized food & beverage operation, and will be the investment benchmark for other similar properties in Latin and South American.

As for Book It Vicky, that operation will be on-going with the help of a trusted assistant. #Bookitvicky. Vicky s also the VP of COTAL, an NGO uniting travel professionals in Latin America.

If you recall, Vicky successfully organized the #Remedi conference last year.

Turning your passion into a job, she says, is easier than finding a job that matches your passion!

 

Reserve Your Table for A Marriage of Flavors

Mark your calendar—a marriage of Japanese and Mexican tastes is coming to the Aruba Marriott Resort & Casino on August 9th and 10th, and we mean that quite literally. Husband-and-wife duo Takahiko “Taka” Kondo and Karime Lopez are flying across the pond from Italy for a can’t-miss Master Series culinary event at Marriott’s La Vista to wow island guests and locals with an impressive five-course dinner and wine pairing.

Famed Italian chef Massimo Bottura is lending us his prized chef duo for the event. Bottura is the mastermind behind Osteria Francescana, a three-Michelin star restaurant in Modena, Italy, which topped The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in both 2016 and 2018. Taka is the sous chef at this highly esteemed restaurant, while Karime serves as head chef at Osteria Francescana’s sister eatery, Gucci Osteria.

Born in Tokyo, Taka explains how he came to Osteria Francescana, “In Japan, we love Italian food. I started working in an Italian restaurant with a chef who used to live in Italy, and he was always talking about his experience with Italian food, so one day, I went to Italy and fell in love with the country.” He cooked in Tuscany, Venice, and Milan before ending up in Modena. “One day I went to Osteria Francescana for lunch and was amazed by Massimo and his passion for food. I asked for a job, and it all began there.” Taka became pastry chef in 2010, then sous chef in 2015, and has contributed to some of the restaurant’s most inventive plates, such as “Oops, I dropped the lemon tart.”

With her father’s family owning restaurants in Mexico during her childhood, Karime was always familiar with the culinary world. More attracted to the world of art, however, she went to Paris to study this budding passion, only to turn back to her culinary roots after discovering French pastries and cuisine. “I saw that the culinary arts are the same as making a sculpture, but you can eat it,” she explains. After working all over the world in a string of prestigious restaurants, Karime now leads Gucci Osteria in Florence.

For the event at La Vista, Taka and Karime will be working together to present the “Author’s Cuisine,” which simply means that the chefs have the liberty of creating their own surprise cuisine for the evening. However, Taka does give a few hints regarding what diners can expect: “We can call this dinner a Mexican Kaiseki, featuring amazing ingredients from both cultures. Knowing Chef Teddy Bouroncle of the Marriott, we are sure we are going to have an excellent product to work with.” Karime adds, “We all know that Japanese and Mexican cuisine are super rich in history, diversity, and technique, so the event will be a small bite of all of these elements.” She also lets us in on a secret: “We are bringing a special beverage made with Italian cherries, which are now in season in Modena. We are collecting them this month to bring this special flavor to diners.”

Taka and Karime are both very excited to come to Aruba to cook with the Marriott team. They plan to pour their collective soul into the event, taking care of every last detail. They also plan to have fun. Taka adds, “This is no time to be stiff at the table—it’s the time to share, relax, and have fun with our guests.”

Dinner starts at 7 pm on both evenings. Eighty seats are available per night. Reserve your spot here: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/aruba-marriott-resort-amp-stellaris-casino-24260646014.

Travels with the Ministers

Why do the ministers charge PRIVATE trips to their office expense account?

Christmas shopping trips? Easter vacations? Audiences with the Pope? Conjugal visits with spouses in Mexico and Venezuela, why do WE have to pay for those?

Or do we?!

According to a recent very entertaining publication, our eight ministers travelled in excess of 812 days, over the past 16 months at the cost of 6.4 million florins

I believe the Green Machine did a good job tracking they whereabouts.

I wanted to do it myself, when I noticed they are all globetrotters but then did not want to spend the time on the research. The Green Machine apparently did.

TOP OFFENDER

Chris Romero, the Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications. He was so-called buying buses and telecom equipment in interesting place. His recent trip to Brazil coincided with the opening of the Final Copa Brazil in soccer.

Do you think the company he was buying buses from has the power and the influence to secure tickets to that game?

It’s a probability.

He also took a two week trip to Saudi Aruba, one week in St Lucia – what was he buying there – Christmas Shopping and the New Year holiday in NY, three trips to Spain, Mexico, England, Argentina and 4 trips to Columbia and the neighboring islands, recently Brazil and Cuba, for trips ranging from 3 to 12 days.  

The Green Machine should follow the soccer trail and let us know who played where during his globetrotting 200 days, that’s almost SEVEN MONTHS to track, that would be interesting.

The MinEnviron: He was away 83 days, in familiar places 2 to 8 days, depending on the destination, perhaps for medical treatment. Mexico and the Dominican Republic are the two standout places. What did he do there on our behalf? 

The MinLabor: His list includes 7 trips to Venezuela, I guess visiting his wife’s family especially at Easter and Christmas/New Year. He has been away 119 days, on 2 to 9 day trips, and he loved Switzerland. The list shows two trips to Switzerland, 9 and 14 days respectively, two recent vacation weeks in the USA.

The MinPres: She represents our country, and her trips to neighboring islands, Washington, and NY, sound legit, and short. She was away 139 days. One or two splurges: She visited the POPE in Rome. And went to Panama & Switzerland at the beginning of July. Perhaps on vacation. I am OK with her schedule, though it is hectic.

The MinFec: This world-traveler has a taste for the exotic. She added to her same-old-same-old list Paris, Tahiti, and Cuba, staying away a total of 111 days, on trips between 2 and 8 days, depending on the destinations.

The MinEdu: He has a preference for Mexico where his wife is from. Two trips, during the holiday. Otherwise he was away 83 days, for 3 to 6 days. Bolivia? Argentina? What did he do there on our behalf?

THE REASONABLE ONES

The MinJust: Just 40 days, on trips ranging in duration from 2 to 6 days. With 2 x two week vacations at Easter and Christmas/New Year. Sounds reasonable.

The MinTour: He was away 37 days, for 2 to 5 days at the time, and it all sounds reasonable. I guess his active family life, kids, wife, parents, siblings, keeps him here and focused.

Why do the ministers charge PRIVATE trips to their office expense account?

Christmas shopping trips? Easter vacations? Audiences with the Pope? Conjugal visits with spouses in Mexico and Venezuela, why do WE have to pay for those?

Or do we?!

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July 28, 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
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster