Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap, June 10th, 2018

Don’t Do It!

The suspension of Jerry Starring from the Health Department was upsetting. I should have written about the previous suspension of Marck Oduber from Meteo in February, but it somehow fell between cracks. Now with the public shaming and character assassination of Starring, I have no choice but voice my disappointment with the way the political system works. Moreover, the list published in AweMainta with fourteen other GOA directors reportedly being sacked is further disappointing.

I hope it’s just gossip.

Starring was a MinHealth appointee from our green fever period. He is educated, and qualified. He tried to bring some structure and discipline into the department that reportedly was chaotic, to quote my sources, DVG was in anarchy, a state of total disorder.

Starring created some job description, enforced work hours, spelled our rights & obligations pissing the old guard off. Finally, those who previously came and went as they pleased played politics and cried on the minister’s shoulders.

It is amazing to me that a politically affiliated crybaby can bring down a department head.

Regarding Starring, what are the accusations, we want to know, you cannot spill his blood in public and withhold the reasons for investigating him in the first place

What kind of message are you sending?

Other department heads will be shaking in their boots, scared to ever create any job descriptions, or enforced work hours, let alone spell out rights & obligations for FEAR of pissing the old guard off.

One of my friends writes: I understand that in some cases people need to go if they are conflicted. And some of them are too political. RDA. UTILITIES. However, in some other cases, like at Inspectie and DVG, these are hard-working smart people, which GOA should use. Sending them home with full benefits and pay is counterproductive and will set us back lightyears. It will cast a dark negative shadow over public sector employment, during its yellow fever period.

The Awemainta list, a hand scribbled list of people reportedly on the chopping block, is very demoralizing and wrong. A guy like Marlon Croes at DOW, I don’t understand. This bulldozer does what needs to be done, he is smart, educated, why would you want to replace him in a storm of negative energy? Dorly Lopez, finally the right person, at the right place, they do a great job, why fix what ain’t broke.

GOA should try to score credit with us by looking beyond political color. Don’t lose years wasting time with new and potentially useless people. We must adhere to a MERIT system, down with NEPOTISM.

On a funny note: The former MinPres issued a pompous Human Rights violation alert regarding political persecutions. Perhaps we should ask him why so many of the department heads have an AVP political affiliation? Because he dislodged all MEP supporters when he was on the throne.


Divino NV, entertains clients in its new headquarters

The new warehouse Michael v/d Berg put together across the street from Caribbean Overseas, in Eagle, has been in business even before being finished. Hooked to a generator Divino NV was delivering Tito’s handmade vodka, and other popular brands as well as premium wines, with just a roof overhead. It all worked out, construction is winding down, and the company’s market share is impressive.

This week Divino NV embarked on a fun project, personally introducing clients and partners to the wonders of its new facility by hosting a two-week series of lunches in the tasting room, complete with wine pairing and culinary firework by chef Ilja Cybulski: Fresh Ceviche & Chips paired with a Benzinger Sauvignon Blanc, Short Rib & Truffle Lacque chased by 19 Crimes Red Blend and Chocolate & Berries paired with Conundrum Red.

The first round was attended by bankers and suppliers, ASD, from across the street. Al invited guests licked their plates clean. With one dozen guests each day, Michael is confident he will manage to connect with all company clients within two weeks and hopefully not gain any weight by the end of the process.  

Divino NV is more than double the size of the Pepia Est facility. The way Michael saw it, the company couldn’t expand in its original address, so the partners decided to partially part ways, with Michael v/d Berg overseeing the growth at Divino NV and Herdy Ten Lohuis consolidating Pepia Est.

Pa bien boys, very impressive!!

From a previous article about V/D Berg: As the owner of the new company he opted to spearhead sales and leave the actual management to two members of the next generations. As a sales person he is tireless and driven, a consummate wine connoisseur and a deal closer, all wrapped in one. He got his start on the island in F&B but later joined a stumbling liquor purveyor. He eventually took the business over, with his partner Herdy, as he found his calling: Grapes, Wineries, Vino.

Always engaged, always engaging, I will drink his wine, anytime. We wish Divino NV a great success.



Opening the Door

Last evening the successes of the first 30 GED Graduates was celebrated at the International School of Aruba. The program was announced exactly one year ago, by the then MinEdu determined to deliver more career opportunities and an option in education.

At the time, the International School of Aruba together with the Ministry of Education launched the GED, General Educational Development, hoping to restore hope for those whose education was interrupted and who are now adults, in need of a diploma.

The GED here offered recovery to candidates proficient in English and competent in Math, Science and History.

At the time headmaster Dennis Willeford reported he had about 75 candidates identified, and this week 30 of them graduated, enjoying diplomas and the traditional recessional with members of the audience on their feet, applauding and wiping tears.

The graduation was a festive occasion, and the tears were tears of joy.

The Class of 2018 received a symbolic key from headmaster Willeford, as teacher Leigh Ann Vanderheyden addressed the audience warmly, talking about the fulfillment of dreams and a continued journey of learning.

Many of the graduates are heading to universities and colleges in Canada and the USA where Aruban students receive in-state tuition, making studies more affordable. Having earned high school equivalent credentials, the doors into these programs are now wide open.  

My compliments to Leigh Ann Vanderheyden, a warm and supportive professional who is visibly invested in her students.

In his address the current MinEdu confirmed his backing/funding of the program. He agreed that the island’s Dutch education system needs an alternative, and from talking to students I understand that already 100 candidates have been identified for a second chance at a high school diploma for 2019.

This certification will also enhance options for employment if staying in Aruba and facilitate the pursuit of better careers.  From technical trades to business, the options will be improved with a GED diploma, and English Proficiency, will also help open doors.

Students told me that the program entailed a number of formal hours at school, twice weekly, over a full semester. A weekly LAB was offered with additional help in all subjects. They studied at their own pace, and then took the final exams. There was a small charge for the exams, the rest was available free of charge, paid for by the Ministry of Education.

The ISA, with a campus in the neighborhood across the airport, has been providing quality education in Aruba for over 85 years. It started in the early LAGO days and was designed to educate the ex-pat kids in the colony. The primary language of instruction has always been English. Nowadays, the ISA is affiliated with the International School System, ISS, a global network of learning institutions, and enjoys an established relationship with the Office of Overseas Schools – a branch of the US State Department.



Renaissance Hotels – We experienced the unexpected on the Seventh Annual Global Day of Discovery

One of our best loved island musicians, Johnathan Thiel, a musical titan, song writer, poet, rapper and producer delivered an amazing concert Tuesday night to an audience of over 250 lucky guests at the Renaissance Marina Tower, mixed in with local residents.

We were invited for a Live Life to Discover party, on the pool deck, prepared to experience a modest gathering over cocktails at sunset and were totally blown away by the scope of the production as more than 100 Renaissance Hotels around the globe inspired guests to discover local culture.

Jonathan Thiel, 27, now known as Jeon Arvani, became big here as Biggie Boy – he later dropped the boy, when at the age of 14 he broke into the local music scene with his first hit. He was immediately noticed by Janiro Eisden from Basic One, who already heard him as early as 2004 on TV. Janiro started opening doors for the budding star, talking about future plans, and collaborating on local music projects.

I saw some early clips of a slightly pudgy young man, singing with a gaita band, the Sensacionales, very cute and innocent, he already oozed irresistible charm back then.

The way he tells it, he was born in Santa Cruz Aruba to a musical family. His father Robert Thiel is a pianist and music producer, his grandfather was a musician. Music became his calling, his world, there was no room for school or a formal education.

In an early interview with TeleCuracao Jeon speaks about his dual personality, the soft romantic Biggie who writes and produces love ballads for the girls, and the bad boy Jeon who shakes, pops, and shifts his booty, promoting a mix of Reggaetón, Rap and Latin Pop, we call Ritmo Combina.   

He broke into international stardom in early 2018 when in January he released Machika, a Reggaetón sensation, one of the most viewed music videos ever, in an artistic collaboration with the king of Reggaetón, from Colombia J Balvin who extended his fan reach by also including Anitta, from Brazil, a Latin pop diva in the creative.

Their incredible, costly, Mad Max inspired music video conquered the world, catapulting Jeon onto the international stage. They toured many cities, playing to full stadiums, yet Jeon still came back for Carnival in his home island, entertaining the grateful crowd from a super charged music trailer in the parade.

Tuesday evening, he played all his hits on the gorgeous Renaissance stage, accompanied by his wing man Ritmo Real, a local rapper. I stood in the front row. Wow, this guy can work a crowd.

A most touching unexpected moment was when he introduced his mom, then brought dad on stage for an improvised performance of a much-loved local ditty, Muchannan di Bario, recorded earlier in collaboration with Upgrade Music, an Urban Band in the genre of Hip-Hop, Rap, R&B, Zouk & more under the management of Krish Mahtani. Father and son sang and shimmied unforgettably.

The audience sang too, then slinked left and right; there must be more than 250 live versions of that concert on line because the cellphones were busily recording every move.

Renaissance – You set the bar high, can’t wait for next’ year’s Global Day of Discovery   


History repeats itself, it started with a race car and ended with a tram

I recently attended an event at the MFA Paradera celebrating the 15th anniversary of RED Democratico. It was a thinly attended occasion but it marked a milestone in our political history, a truly outstanding event, the coming together of the Aruban public, behind an idea, and in the course of coming together, they changed history, and gave birth to an opposition political party.

While small, they accomplished a lot in the last election and I wish them modest growth because without an active, caring opposition our democracy is short lived.

Happy birthday RED, I don’t really know much about your platform besides the desire to legalize weed, but the mere fact that you exist positively impacts our public life.

RED changed the course of history? No entirely, but certainly contributed.  I am referring to Colorado Hill, the racetrack in San Nicholas conceived by former MinPres Henny Eman as a way of revitalizing San Nicholas.

It started in February of 1999, when Ralph Sanchez, who developed the Homestead race course in Miami, received a phone call from Carlo Mansur, at the time a prominent businessman and developer here. Mansur invited Sanchez to come to Aruba for the purpose of developing a race course, the project eventually was conceived as a 2.7-mile, 14 turn road course, to be built to international safety standards, and scheduled for completion in September 2000.

Read the following super interesting file

The cast of characters in the crazy drama that followed also included Gilberto F. Croes, Jr., Franklin Abath, Elton Liue-A-Tjam, Robertico “Tico” Croes, Glenbert Croes, Mike de  Meza and many other familiar players, and what started as a  “gift from heaven” because “it was the first commercially and economically productive project that the government could attract for San Nicolas,” ended up costing you and me over US$ 20 million in penalties, plus, plus, by the time the project was flushed down the toilet in 2003.

GOA was forced to abandon the racetrack fantasy because of grand civil protests of this island’s environmental organizations and individual nature lovers.

I remember it was a grass root movement, Aruba Dushi Tera, that morphed into today’s RED. The third Eman cabinet buckled, elections were called in Sept 2001.

The gathering at the MFA acknowledged the involvement of Melva Croes, Leo Croes, Julie De Cuba, Henry de Cuba and Henry Coffi who were instrumental at the time, in organizing the well-attended manifestations in Seroe Colorado.   

The late Henri Coffi’s satirical writings are still relevant, and the event paid tribute to his sharp pen, and quick wit.


Better late than never

From my mail box

Bon nochi, awe mi colega MinFec Xiomara y ami a cuminsa cu e trabounan pa reforma di belasting, y a reuni cu departamentonan di gobierno. E intencion ta pa simplifica nos sistema di belasting, hasi’e mas husto y asina elimina e crisisheffing y crea progreso y bienestar pa tur cuidadano. Na caminda pa un sistema di belasting mas husto y simpel. Un fuerte abraso, Evelyn

Good evening, today my colleague MinFec Xiomara and me are starting to work on a tax reform, together with GOA’s department heads. The intention is to simplify our tax system, make it more just/fair, eliminate the crisis levy, and create progress and wellbeing for our citizens. We’re on the road to fair and simple taxation. Big hug Evelyn

 I asked around what does the MinPres mean:

Tax advisor: I think VAT or another kind of sales tax, and simpler wage and income tax

Hotelier: She used to be the SIAD manager – not that she managed too well, but at least she knows enough about taxes and the challenge of collecting – she might come across with a solution – or borrow the one from former MinFin Angel Bermudez and tax advisor Hans Ruiter.

(I later found out the indeed PWC submitted a paper, filled with suggestions.)  

Tax Advisor who thinks I am stupid, and don’t understand what is being said in Papiamento: This is just a message to let you know that work started today on the fiscal reform to eliminate the crisis levy. The fiscal reform should lead to a more distributed and fair tax system which will lead to progress for every citizen of Aruba. This is my translation of the text…

A former SIAD department Head: Precisely what she says…simplification of tax laws…start praying. The moment you hear belasting husto in Aruba…fair tax…fair for whom?

Member of the business community: I sure as hell hope so. One tax at the border. Like in Bonaire. Would work for everyone. Everyone pays. Right now, the majority pays ZERO and the rest 40%.

Tax Advisor: Everybody has suggestions, question finally will be what GOA will actually do, Evelyn is a tax lawyer herself so she will also have her own opinion, we will probably shift from direct to indirect taxes but then again this is what I would do!


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June 10, 2018
Rona Coster