Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap, June 14th, 2020

From a reader: Collective sector viewed as a business opportunity

Why now?

The timing of the POR crisis is unfortunate.

You ask why now?

Good question.

Oduber seems the obvious initiator and motivated power monger.

But even he has one or more bosses.

It is those bosses who are the real deciders and puppet masters.

It is those who corrupt the collective sector by directing GOA’s actors to facilitate their business interests.

This corruption is rampant in Aruba.

Lomba pa lomba. I scratch your back you scratch mine.

At its heart, it comes down to the absence of public media’s capability or willingness to critically ask questions and investigate WHAT is really going on with the collective sector.

Maybe because there is no demand for this type of journalism and truth?

It seems like the collective sector is viewed as a business opportunity by many.

That creates the hunger to try get perks and privileges, which creates distrust in the general public feeling left out from eating the delicious pie.

The collective sector should be guarded and made transparent against the possible infiltration of corruption.

Sure, let people make money from delivering good services to the public.

As long as it is done fairly and without strong arming and bullying, at the community expense.

In view of Oduber being the recent legal target of an investigation as a severely corrupt agent, he seems to try and prevent further damage by removing the current MinInfra, and this may just be the straw that broke the camel’s back

The truth will come out. 

The current MinInfra, in this instance, has fought for the truth and had attacked local white collar Machiavellians for some time.

Remember the FCCA Interbank affair? She knows what’s going on and she has the nerves to drag it out and turn on the light.

If this turns into a circus the Dutch will have a good reason to send in the Kwartiermakers escorted by 3 PGs and a corps of inspectors to reinforce the understaffed RST.

Somehow we will learn the TRUTH. Whether we seek it ourselves, or not. It would be good to tell our children that we have liberated ourselves from our own national illnesses. I am not sure we will be telling that story. We may need the Rijksdienst to take over management.

Checks & Balances

Farid Zakaria in his weekly column talked about checks and balances stating that left to his own devices, and unsupervised, President Trump would act with little regard to law, precedent or the Constitution…. And his excesses are not always checked, because other leaders — judges, bureaucrats, generals and, above all, politicians — don’t always want to speak up. It is easier to shut up about the abuses of power, especially inside the president’s own party. It is easier to comply, conform and collaborate.

Ok, so that is the USA.

What about us?

Many countries are now grappling with the issue of personal liberties repressed by the calamity laws put into effect in March, in an effort to flatten the curve and combat Covid19.

Did you know that the calamity ordinance is only valid for 72 hours, and must be rolled over each time?

What does that mean?

That in case of calamity for just 72 hours at the time, the MinPres has unlimited powers, sidelining parliament and other systems of checks & balances in favor of immediate response needed when calamity strikes.

We have been under calamity ordinance for three months.

Is it rolled over every 72 hours?

Isn’t time to replace the calamity ordinance by another set of rules, so that parliament may go back to function in its designated, democratic role?

A few examples of the convenient use of the calamity ordinance, that does away with check & balances:

The MinPres probably used her right to veto the decisions of the MinEdu and reversed them. It didn’t look good for the minister, but it was the right thing to do under the circumstances, and probably only possible under the calamity ordinance.  

Remember the MinEdu decided this and that, and during a press conference the MinPres put a kibosh on those plans and handed the process over to a management team to come up with solutions within one year. It will slow reform down, but hopefully it will still happen, because our education platforms need help.

I think that reversal could only have been possible under calamity ordinance.

Another example would be the HHcode, the Health & Happy procedure, designed by the Aruba Tourism Authority. It’s a beautiful plan, we’re all for it, but it has no legal basis, and thus has no teeth, no one could be punished for noncompliance.

Or the declarations by the MinInfra about 2,000 rooms in the next five years and 1,400 in the following, 3,400 rooms total within 10 years, what evaluation is that based on and who decided just like that?

Or the Fast Tracking of medicinal cannabis were these decisions just squeezed in under the protection of the calamity ordinance?

Basically, we need to come up with a new set of rules, you cannot use the calamity ordinance long term. We gotta let the parliament earn its keep and participate in the decision making process as our system of check & balances for all important decisions.

FYI: The Dutch RvS, Raad von State was asked by the 2nd chamber to evaluate the restrictions imposed to slow the spread of CoVid19 in view of their constitutional aspects, and to what extent the medidonan violated our basic human rights, mostly the freedom to move and congregate.  

(#13 of 30 Basic Human Rights: Freedom to Move. We all have the right to go where we want in our own country and to travel as we wish.  #20 The Right to Public Assembly. We all have the right to meet our friends and to work together in peace to defend our rights.)

Old Biblical Story

I looked at the MinJust FB page and was surprised to see his favorite book was the Bible. I am not making it up. While he lists his favorite book as the bible his favorite music is Alternative, Latin, Classical, and Classic Rock and his favorite movie, The Matrix.

I had to laugh. The man has eclectic taste.

The crisis in POR, the MinJust press-conference denouncing the MinInfra as insubordinate, booting her out of the party, her long meeting with the Governor, the Governor’s obvious endorsement of her continued service, Nel Oduber’s quick condemnation, siding with POR and its right to nominate whoever to the minister’s position, the MinPres quick distancing from the polemics as internal disputes, then the bao palo Hooiberg press-conference the following day, confirming the MinInfra’s feisty, gutsy determination to keep doing what she does, the media survey, proving people are behind her, wishing her to remain in office, and the mea culpa note from POR the following day in which the party states it is ready for mediation…. only strengthened the MinInfra’s position.

She came out of the crisis ten times stronger.

It reminded me a story, the MinJust must remember, if his favorite book is the Bible.

Balaam who was paid to curse the descends of Jacob, found himself blessing them instead, as he realized they were walking with god.  

Numbers 23:11: And Balak said unto Balaam, what hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether.

I see the similarities, he was sent to curse and ended up blessing.

We could conclude that the MinJust did the MinInfra a huge favor. Where we were indifferent before, we now stand behind her, as a woman and a fierce, no holds barred politician.

Departamento di Impuesto Con Ta Bai?

If you haven’t been burdened enough by bills, Ground Tax is in the mail. According to GOA you may pay it on July 1st, or in four installments, with the last one prior to January 4th 2021. We may also get an extended payment-plan, and we should call to arrange it.

Question: Where is the incentive to pay it ALL at once?

Why should I pay it all now, if I can pay it over time?

When will you learn to reward those who comply, not just attempt to punish those who don’t?!

I called to make an arrangement, #5227424. No one answered!

 Last Night’s Town Hall Webinar

The fact that Armand Hessels and Rik van der Vaart were among panelist was a great move, a ray of sunshine in the barrage of GOA propaganda we are deluged by.

The fact that Armand & Rik can explain our core, deep-seated problems on a government sponsored webinar is a feather in the cap of our democracy.

Armand described 30 years under a flawed political system, that ignores all advice, and never reads any reports, recommending change and improvement.

The symptoms of sloppy financial organization, lack of transparency, and zero checks & balances, landed us into the arms of Covid19 as a critical patient, fit for the intensive care.

According to Armand this system of political patronage and its negative CONSEQUENCES has to be explained to the public, who will then understand its own contribution to the disaster, and be moved to make changes in our unsuccessful political mentality, no-win political culture, and our self-defeating political tradition.    

Rik van der Vaart spoke well about delivering public service – see above my attempt to connect with the tax department. He talked about the challenges and waste in the public sphere, how much we do that’s redundant, and about the need to innovate, not just buying technology, but by looking at processes, how we do stuff, and examine if our system is relevant, perhaps some government services could be relegated to the private sector. Amen. (He must have meant Post-Office, Arubus, Aruparking, etc.)

I enjoyed listening to Indra Zaandam who was a government advisor for a while, then moved on. She basically told her own story, how an idealist goes to work for GOA, is overwhelmed by the amount of work GOA has undertaken, is overcome by the complexities, cannot please everyone, must pick and choose, must compromise, work day and night, wrestle old-timers, and the way things have always been done, and at the end of the day achieve little. She has great charisma and what she said was real.

QUESTION, back to Rik’s proposal: Perhaps we need a smaller GOA in charge of less things!

The Webinar public was asked a few questions in the style of what’s more important, the chicken or the egg, then as a conclusion, the forum suggested we need a series of good governance workshops, a code of conduct and corporate good governance supervision of both the public and the private sector.

Then we said good night.

Compliments to organizers, I left a few people out, Luenne Gomez Pieters & Ronald van Trigt, I felt they didn’t bring their real personalities to the forum, they said what they were expected to say.  

GOA announces Aruba’s Border Opening:

GOA announces Aruba’s Border Opening:

The MinPres and the MinTour shared the limelight in announcing the border will open gradually. She reassured us it was the right time, we haven’t had a patient in over a month, and we can face the future with optimism and courage.

From June 15: Flights from Bonaire and Curaçao are welcome.

From July 1: Flights from Europe, Canada, and the Caribbean, except the Dominican Republic and Haiti, are welcome.

From July 10: USA carriers may resume their flight schedules.

There is no opening date yet for Central and South America.

Entry Requirements Prior to Boarding:

A special website is being built to contain all info, and you will find an online ED card there, which is mandatory.

The ED card includes:

A form with questions to fill and a declaration regarding your own general health.

Obligatory COVID insurance. That new insurance would cover costs of quarantine/isolation accommodation and medical care if and when required. The island of Aruba will have that insurance available for an estimated cost of $15 per day.

Locals are not covered by AZV, the testing is at own expense.

You may upload your negative COVID19 PCR test results, of tests taken within 72 hours of travel OR you may pay for testing upon arrival on Aruba.

Testing prior to travel are encouraged. Tests are required for all passengers 12 years and older.

Face masks or shields are required during flight.

Reina Beatrix, Port of Entry Aruba Airport:

100% thermal camera screening, upon arrival

Formal symptom screening which includes a rapid PCR test which is mandatory for all who DIDN’T upload their negative test result via the ED card, prior to travel. Tests are required for all passengers 12 years and older.

Symptom-free visitors MUST await their test results for 24 hours in quarantine at their hotel.

Visitors with symptoms get a 1-hour test. If positive they will be checked into a designated isolation hotel property. If medical attention is required, they will be hospitalized.

Positive test results after 24 hours at hotel:

Visitors who tested positive for CoVid19, must check out of their hotels and isolate in a designated hotel property.

Travel companions will also be quarantined in the designated hotel property.

Local Residents:

Residents are also required to take a test prior to their return or at arrival.

If a resident refuses to take the test, a 14-day quarantine is required.

GOA does not encourage travel to affected countries.

Aruba Health & Happiness Code:

The HH code continues to sign up all business sectors on the island to comply with new hygiene and sanitation norms, the next sectors to register, and apply for the gold seal: Tour Operators and Water Sports, Casinos, and Spas.

The MinPres is running a kindergarten

IPKO was a kingdom inter-island parliamentary gathering, and in the recent Zoom meeting attended by Aruba’s delegation leader Rocco Tjon, a MEP parliamentarian, he was quick to put his foot in the mouth, and really make us all look foolish.

In the planned session, the Dutch territories and islands were asked to deliver a brief overview of how Covid19 affected their countries, and Tjon decided to falsely claim that according to data collected, unemployment on the island is at 77% now, while it was just 7.3% pre-corona crisis.

He also lamented the cuts and measures imposed by GOA to mitigate the effects of the crisis and went on to criticize the financial supervision imposed on Aruba in addition to stating that Aruba handled its autonomy with great difference and care, reprimanding all who state differently for being wrong and unethical because “Aruba has fulfilled all budgetary commitments.”

Imagine, he did not utter one word of gratitude for the fact that every single one of those 77% supposedly unemployed Arubans got 60% of their salary paid courtesy of the Dutch kingdom in May, and are about to also collect in June.

His self-righteous, ungrateful attitude was matched by his arrogance and was not well received in kingdom circles. Moreover, upon his return to his office he sent out a press release reiterating his outrageous claims, naming the Labor department as the information source, namely 77% unemployment among men, 69.6% among women, for a total percentage of 73.1 %.
The MinPres was fast to correct him that in reality our unemployment rate is around 12 or 13% because we are all receiving handouts from the kingdom, which saved our hide from total disaster.

After his ungracious comments, he also expressed hope that the Dutch will convert the no interest and low interest loans into grants to the Caribbean countries.

My sources report: “The kingdom and the islands are experiencing difficult times and no one is served if blatantly wrong information is spun. It doesn’t create good will and it doesn’t reflect well on us, that after dishing out 100 million florins for our payroll expenses the Dutch are confronted with incomprehensible and unintelligent behavior.”

Our leaders worked hard to keep things up and running, and the kick in the shin Tjon decided to give his benefactors, literally bit the hand that fed him.

The MinPres should give him a timeout, for a long time, and hopefully his destructive performance will be forgotten and NOT result in a tougher stance by our financial supervisors. We now need financial aid from the Netherlands, more than ever.

My sources report that Aruba was ahead of the game, compliant and polite, ensuring that those who have lost their jobs receive financial support on time, but now we may be clumped together with the ill-tempered island politicians of St Martin and Curacao.  

Thoughts about FASE

It is the topic of the hour, and the minister is shooting out press releases and charts at a record rate trying to explain, direct and redirect.  

From a reader: Not everyone that applied for FASE got it, even if they have met all the requirements set to register. People are still being ping-ponged between government offices, contractors and private enterprises, between promises of wage-subsidies and FASE that at the end of the day never arrive either because of bureaucracy, bad management, miscommunication or simply because you, the individual, are not party affiliated or because our laws regarding social services focus primarily on the family unit and not on the individual.

As you all know, the populist minister of labor made FASE up as he went along, his own idea, and his own execution.

He assembled a small team and set out to administer a nightmare, instead of relegating the task to the experienced social security bank, he wanted to do it himself.

Lucky for us, and parallel to that, the Wage Subsidy was set up and it is running pretty well, thanks to the SVb structure, according to the letter of the law. The SVb leader keeps his focus, he came to SVb from parliament, so he knows the pit falls.

Not that SVb is perfect, some of my girlfriends are already on kid #2 and SVb still hasn’t compensated their employer for the time they were out with #1.

But, SVb knows how and when to use outside assistance and when not. Which is very important, to know where to look for help, while FASE seems to suffer from mismanagement, adhocracy, and systematic malfunction.

The main reason seems to be, sad to say, a small family team running the show.

So there was no change.

This should have been “a national concern,” we should have gotten the best people/institutions to make it happen, instead, we improvised.

But since FASE is now 2.5 half months invested, it will be a tough tell them to let go and take it up to the next level.

Serious money, thanks to the Dutch kingdom:

FASE distributed more that 11M since between April 29th and June 8th. The process involves the FASE team, SVb, DAS and Directie Financien, so basically the FASE layer was ADDED, and the process became longer.

Total registered 13,093, total in evaluation 1,342, total doubles or triplicate, yes, fraud is an issue, 1,932, total incomplete applications 1,851, about to receive pay 642.

Among independent contractors, a special category for solo flyers, ZZP, registered 2,955, double registration 858, total correct registration 2,097, total qualified companies 670, received payment 357, incomplete applications 1,460, about to receive pay 313.

Town Hall IINew Economic Model: Repositioning our Sails

The second installment of the Virtual Town Hall Webinar featured two your enterpreneurs, which I find interesting to watch, in real life and on TV.

Joase Ann van der Biest runs an art and culture café, BAZ-RRR Galleria, a social enterprise in town, and Stefan Oosterwaal owns Linda’s Pancakes on Palm Beach road.

Joase described how a developer has to start preparations many months ahead of opening, allowing for major delays, budgeting a triple amount of the original investment, bracing for unpleasant surprises every step of the way. Stefan who is big on technology and innovation, was funny when he declared “the struggle is real,” but he was dead serious.

The process of birthing a business in Aruba is demotivating because of waste, redundant procedures, old laws, fragmented information at best, but mostly a great lack of information.

Example: Joase named the United Nations Sustainable Goals, while Aruba professes to follow that glorious path, very few people know what the goals are. The attention paid to anything sustainable in Aruba is pure lip service.

So what is your advice asked the emcee and I could hear Stefan say: Don’t do it, hold your horses. Meaning, don’t be crazy, don’t open a business on your own, but he didn’t say that, instead he gave a good pep-talk about thriving in a niche market and finding easier and cheaper ways of doing things.

I enjoyed watching these two, they successfully run small businesses because they are very courageous, and are willing to jump through hoops.

They talked about sustainability and innovation ADMITTING that the red tape to setup a business is self-defeating, and designed to wear the developer down.

It was a micro- example.

Nobody talked about the elephant in the room, the macro-situation.

Banning plastic straws doesn’t make us sustainable. This is a MARGINAL reduction in the WASTE we experience.

We work so hard in overdrive, going into overproduction to pay for our country’s HUGE OVERHEAD.

And that is the REAL issue, the real waste.

We could have worked less, if we had less overhead. Or worked more and enjoyed a rich country status.

Our little island must spend time thinking about how we can produce more value with less expenses.

We need to get a lot smarter in our collective ways.

Joase advocated awareness, as a much-needed strategy.

Awareness of what? Small waste or the large WASTE.

Perhaps one good thing that sprung out of the Covid19 crisis, the awareness that we can do better, we must reach clarity and get the courage to create and foster a collective improvement agenda

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June 14, 2020
Rona Coster