Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap June 9th, 2019

KLM Marathon delivers a fun Sunday morning

I try to walk every morning and judging by yesterday’s KLM Marathon results, I am supposed to get through my routine 5k in 20 minutes instead of 55, but in a discussion we had while walking we thought that we derive most benefits from walking, just getting out of bed and placing one foot in front of the other. Speeding it up is an option, a good option, but the main benefit comes from “Just Do It,” kick-starting our engines with modest exercise.

Patrichi Sports published the results, based on chipped participants, on its FB page. And on the KLM Marathon website. www.klmarubamarathon.com.

96 Marathon runners. I am impressed. The fastest, Jesus Galea, demolished the distance in just 2:50:28.

245 Half-Marathon runners. The fasted, Jonathan Busby, burned through the distance in 1:25:16

487 10K walkers. The fastest, James Rick, skimmed the distance in 34:53

And the ‘walk in the park’ 5K, with 1,095 participants was won by Jethro St Fleur in 18:22.

I sauntered leisurely, and came in at number #470, not last, after 1:43:29, enjoying the day, the route, the water stops, and the company!

The after-party on the beachfront of the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino was fueled by some Chill & Balashi apple juice and a great band, NFUZION, followed by a picturesque award ceremony against a gorgeous KLM blue backdrop.

I noticed winner Lana Govert who finished her 42.195 kilometers, in 3:03:00, that is super-fast, she finished third overall.   

The winner of the 10K among females was an elf, Yuli Tineo, a gorgeous 13-year-old who conquered the distance in just 0:41. Running is her passion, I heard, and she has been practicing since the age of four!

Thanks you: KLM Aruba Marathon & the Aruba Tourism Authority for a great production.

This is the first of three planned, as the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino signed a three-year agreement with Run in the Sun foundation, in charge of the organization. The run is listed on the World’s Marathon Calendar, according Kees van Muiswinkel, Chairman & Founder of Run in the Sun Foundation/ KLM Aruba Marathon, and attracted a decent number of international guests, as well as tourists, who just joined on the spur of the moment.

We were rewarded with a nice, expensive-looking medal, and bananas. The only lacking feature? Trashcans for our banana peels, which ended up heaped on a sign outside he watersports facility, on benches and chairs.

Brown Law prepared an entertaining water station with motivational messages and water in cups, not bottles, and I appreciated the diligent agents of TOTAL SERVICES walking counter-traffic to pick up all plastic left behind, and the IBiSA volunteers who kept us safe on the road and at intersections

Lucky: The Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino beachfront award ceremony granted two round tickets to Amsterdam to a lucky winner.

Save the date for next year’s event!
Partners, sponsors and volunteers:
KLM Aruba Marathon was made possible by various sponsors, partners and volunteers: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Aruba Tourism Authority (A.T.A) Cavalier logistics, Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino, Chill by Balashi, IBiSA, the Aruba Athletics Federation, Hertz, Venequip Aruba, Little Switzerland, Kooyman, High Performance, Adidas, Digicel, Superfood, The Red Cross, Imsan, KPA and the Harley Davidson volunteers.

For more information, please contact them via [email protected]

ESPN run will cover the race in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Perú, Paraguay, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panamá, Costa Rica, México, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, Guyana Francesa, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and República Dominicana. Audience: 20.000.000.

Most importantly, 2 Marathon influencers and journalists from Brazil covered the Race. And me.

 

Refinancing and Vigilante Justice

Refinancing. It’s a good thing.

We were informed by 24Ora that AIB accomplished a historical transaction. It concluded the refinancing of the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino to the tune of 182.5 million. The article went on to credit all the good people who worked on the complicated financial deal including the Aruba Growth Fund, and the AIB in its role as mandated lead arranger, financier and agent.

So, listen, it’s a good, thing. You have nothing to worry about, on the contrary.

Every business initiative requires financing, in order to make it happen. Any development in Aruba and around the globe must come up with a plan, and identify a deep-pocket institution to handle its financing.

The Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino found its initial financing in the USA, like most other hotels. But recently the resort paid off the USA lender, and received its financing from a local source. AIB.

That means that 100% of the money was raised locally.

For AGF, an Aruban fund, it was important to shift its financing here, because then the money stays here. The fees and interest paid every year stay on island. Otherwise it all goes overseas. As an Aruban company AGF was obviously familiar with the legal system, the banking system, Central Bank’s policies, so it was easier for them to put the contract together.

AGF hopes that other hotels/businesses will follow and create more business on-island. If we do our business here, the money stays here, and fuels additional local business. The example of the recent AGF transaction proves that the Aruban banks can be competitive, and that the structure of loans is apparently much simpler here. Congrats everyone!

 

Vigilante

A great number of year ago, an individual by the name of Bernard Goetz, shot and wounded four teenagers on a New York City subway. According to the story, they cornered him, he felt threatened, they asked him for money and he unzipped his jacket, took out a concealed revolver the shot them.

He was labeled the Subway Vigilante in the newspapers of the time, a hero for standing up to bullies, and a villain for over-reacting, and shooting young, unarmed teenagers, a number of times.

Goetz later surrendered to Police and was charged with several offenses, but interestingly, a jury found him not guilty of all charges except for one count of carrying an unlicensed firearm, for which he served eight months of a one-year sentence. In a civil suit, however, he was sued by the injured teens and was obliged to pay millions.

The Vigilante, the man who doesn’t take anything lying down, is a familiar theme and Aruba last week applauded a father who brutally avenged his daughter’s honor, by slicing a man. I went through some comments on social media: Sit your sentence, proudly, was the common tone of the comments.

Not a single social media reaction was negative, they were all supportive of the outraged father whose daughter suffered an indignation.

Fact: We confuse vengeance as justice.

But what the vigilante phenomenon means is that some of the trust we had in law enforcement was lost. Eroded. Nos Ta Fada. The public is tired. Of what?

If truth be told the crime rate in NYC was high at the time of the Subway Vigilante and his actions started a conversation that eventually gave way to a major clean-up, that made the big apple what it is today, a much safer city. According to Wikipedia:  Violent crime in New York City has been dropping since 1991 and, as of 2017, is among the lowest of major cities in the United States.

The Subway Vigilante created a huge public reaction, which led to positive action. I hope our vigilante does the same thing for us.

 

The Economic Contributions of the Food Service Industry in Aruba

Yesterday at UA the Aruba F&B Association, previously known as AGA, the Aruba Gastronomic Association gave a presentation highlighting its recent restaurant survey

It was super interesting.

Member of Parliament Setty Yarzagaray was the only attending government representative, many other potentially-interested and should-be-concerned entities were glaringly missing.

The findings over 17 pages are very interesting.

The restaurant sector is responsible for around 5% of our GDP. That’s very significant. It’s 4% in most other countries. One in every five Arubans works in the F&B sector.

Of course, we eat a lot, and we love food!  

The survey found we have 614 restaurants in Aruba, with the following breakdown: 96 Quick Service/Fast Food outlets, (16%), 127 Cafes/Snack Bars, (21%), 160 Casual Dining places, (26%), 35 Upscale Casual, (6%), 18 Fine Dining restaurants, (3%), 39 Food Trucks or Carts, (6%), 102 Bars, (17%), and 37 Chinese Restaurant, (6%).

We have too many bars, targeting locals.

I believe we have more food trucks/carts by now, that segment of the F&B markets grew exponentially lately.

Also, we have too little upscale casual and fine dining places for an island aspiring, hoping, to host upscale travelers with deep pockets.

(Obviously, we are unable to offer fine dining service, and fresh top ingredients and produce are hard to get).

I will go back to the survey on another occasion, because it is full of insights.

 The takeaway:

If you had a dream to one day open a restaurant, DON’T. You’re better off taking your money and heading out into the street and giving each person you meet a crisp new note of Awg 100; you will make other people and yourself much happier.  Also before investing in a restaurant or eatery, read this report. Unless you have something totally unique and appealing, invest in something else.

With 96 fast food joints – no wonder we’re fat!

The report expresses a lot of concerns about the level of employee training, financial management and administrative oversight, hygiene, tax reporting and payment, licensing and permits, but enough for today!   

 

Jan Van Nes at UA

Jan van Nes gave an interesting talk at UA, on the morning on June 4th, 2019, when AF&BA, Aruba F&B Association, the former AGA, presented its Impact Study of the F&B industry in Aruba.

After introducing the study, its methodology and thanking the individuals who worked on the material, he went on the debunk some myths about F&B, then continued to make important points. I wish you would read it all, but if you drop out, we understand the desire to live in a bubble.

MYTH: The F&B niche is a fun filled, easy business, one will get rich soon: Wrong. We see many outlets open and close for a reason. If you do open, you must have a TWO YEAR cash reserve to tide you over, until you perhaps turn a corner.

Profit margins in the F&B biz are small, and cost of business high. In a nutshell: F&B Cost, 35%; Cost of labor, 35%; Rent and Utilities/ Gas, 12%; Advertising, 4%; Administrative and Other 6%. And we have not even considered accounting, legal fees, maintenance and contingency, to round up 100% cost.

Then GOA steps in, no wonder many establishments close their doors once GOA claims its share and demands the prompt settlement of obligation.  

Margins in the F&B biz are shrinking and most operators do well 6 months a year and have to make ends meet the other 6 months.

Raise prices? Aruba already fluctuates between the 4th & 6th most expensive island in the Caribbean, according to the Travel Index.

And the cost INCREASED this year, and was partially passed on to the consumer:

GOA’s taxes increased from 3.5% to 6% and SOON, they will have to be changed to hide the tax from the consumers, and accommodate the upcoming sugar levy. Menus which were just printed will have to be reprinted. That’s an expense. And when BBO is replaced by a TBA tax, that exercise including ads, and signs, will have to be repeated.

Bear in mind: The F&B biz does not understand the reasoning behind the mandatory lack of transparency in including the tax in the price, and banning the mention that tax is included with the total invoice. It is inconsiderate of the industry, and GOA should abandon the idea until the next so-call fiscal phase. Most importantly, GOA must include the private sector in this discussion.  Several letters spelling out the negative consequences have been sent to GOA, and resulted in a postponement. AF&BA urges the MinFec to reconsider, this will be an accounting nightmare, to try to figure out GOA’s share from total sales, manually.

The ban on plastic bags, a good idea, increased the cost of take-our containers EIGHT times, which will be passed on to the consumer or absorbed by the biz. Mind you, we cannot pass all increases to the consumer! Remember, Aruba is already expensive!

Sin taxes: As a result of recent increases the beverage of choice is now water, most times. Soon, a Rum & Coke will become a luxury drink, and consumers will not point their finger at GOA but at “greedy” F&B operator.

Minimum wage? We were sitting at a tripartite meeting one day, and the following the MinLabor unilaterally increased the minimum wage. Not many employees in the F&B sector make minimum wage, most of them go home with substantial salaries, twice, triple and more, yet it was unacceptable to spring a decision of that kind without warning.

Other than that the industry faces red tape in almost every step of the way, and obtaining restaurant permits, work permits for functions Arubans have no interest in filling, cooks, dishwashers, bartenders, is impossible. The process is becoming more tedious and more challenging and even fifth or tenth permit are denied with no proper suggestion as to how to replace the ladies and gentlemen required to run the additional businesses coming on line. And it will not get any better. Our youth has no desire to work evenings, weekends, or holidays! It is everybody’s dream to land a GOA Job, and be set for life.

Consequently, our business climate does not entice real investments…. what it entices is a tidal wave of food trucks, carts, private lunch deliveries, home cooking, and we ask ourselves if these operations pay their fair share as we do.

Based on several letters to the MinPres last year, we were promised a multi ministerial task force to sit down with AGA/ AHATA to see how these challenges may be solved. But, we remain skeptical about that promise in view of the installation of the tripartite caucus where decisions were taken ignoring the entire private sector. Commitments made by the MinPres in regards to BBO/BAVP/BAZV in Parliament were ignored, when the decision by the MinFec differed. Dialogue is key, and we would like to see more of it. 

With more rooms added to our inventory (O condominium/ Acqua, Embassy Suites/ Hyatt’s Place Airport Hotel) and others in the pipe-line, we wonder how long will our Bubali water plant be able to handle the current and new developments, how will we clean the additional rooms, how will we cook and serve, how will we fill the vacancies of worker for evening, weekend and holiday shirts. Our service level as monitored by ATA dropped from Excellent to Very Good, but Fair that should not be acceptable is realistic in many places.

I don’t want to sound like a kill-joy, at the end of an excellent presentation of the Economic Impact of the F&B Industry in Aruba, however, AGA/ AF&BA want to ensure that the follow up study, reflects improved conditions. However, it will take two to tango and we hope the Private and Public sector together can convert the current red tape hell into red carpet paradise. We ask this on behalf of the 7,000 employees who derive their daily bread from the F&B sector.

Thank you UA for an educational effort.

 

UNHCR Reporting on Refugees Media workshop Aruba 2019

Sibylla Brodzinsky, Communications Officer, headquartered in UNHCR Washington, visited Aruba this week to meet with a select group of press members to help them report on refugees, use the correct terms, and be better informed regarding the challenges facing our region.

The upcoming June 20th, is World Refugee Day, and UNHCR, The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, aims to inspire acts of solidarity with refugees all over the world and asks us to join their social media challenge and take a step with refugees.  

Sibylla shared a lot of information with her forum, but added that things change on a daily basis and that the latest global figures will be published June 19th, one day before World Refugee Day and that we will get a copy of the press release and report.

Her presentation briefly touched on the refugee situation in Nicaragua, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. According to UNHCR about 8.8 million people are victims of armed conflicts in Colombia; 7.8 million are internally misplaced having had to leave their villages, or towns; 5,950 were displaced in 2019; 50,532, were Colombian refugees in Ecuador, by the end of 2018; and 10,029 of them asked Ecuador for Asylum, by the end of that year.

The numbers are smaller in Central American countries, but nevertheless of great concern to UNHCR.

Local members of the media were of course interested in Venezuela. According to Sibylla, 3.9 million Venezuelan live abroad; 3.1 million are in Latin America and the Caribbean; 464,229 have registered for asylum in Peru, Brazil and the United states, by the end of 2018.

Our neighbors from the south continue to flee their country at an average of 3,000 to 5,000 a day, and 1.4 million of them managed to get some form of legal stay documents in neighboring countries.

Globally, over the past four years there were 170,169 asylum seekers registered with UNHCR and 507,353 were lucky to receive some form of protection/alternative legal stay in their region.

The Latest News: The UNHCR is coordinating the R4V platform, for refugee and migrants from Venezuela, go to: https://r4v.info/en/situations/platform

That R4V Response for Venezuelans brings together governments and NGOs, local and international with the objective of coordinating the overall humanitarian response. R4V is headquartered in Port of Spain and has branches in Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao.

Until the end of April 2019, about 146,900 Venezuelans arrived in the Caribbean, since 2015; 12,731 are registered asylum seekers.

The forum then went on to discuss how many of them are living in Aruba, but the number is unclear, and unsubstantiated.  

I wrote about it before, perhaps it is time to conduct a real time survey, get some good data, and develop a local integration plan, the job market could use some helping hands.     

 

About UNHCR, Established by the UN General Assembly in 1950

UNHCR is neutral, humanitarian and apolitical

Provides protection and assistance to the world’s refugees, internally displaced people and people who are stateless

130 countries, staff of almost 11,000

68.5 million (2017) Total number of men women and children displaced by war, persecution, and discrimination around the world; 25.4 million refugees; 3.1 million asylum-seekers; 40 million IDPs; 10 million stateless people

 

Such an outrage, but I don’t want to get outraged

I wrote an article yesterday about a work shop conducted by the UNHCR about the subject of humanitarian support for refugees, and it was banned from FB for being political, and I had to identify myself and to authorize the fact that I am spinning “political materials” in order to boost it for circulation.

That by itself is such an outrage.

One of my friends asked for a cashier cheque of $110 in order to renew her passport via the US consulate in Curacao, the bank charged $25.

That by itself is such an outrage.

In court this week, a skimming visitor who was identified and caught stood trial accused by a local bank for compromising a number of ATMs on the island, following complaints from customers that their accounts were attacked, and money missing.

I understand that video footage is very minimal, and that it would be difficult to prove the man guilty despite of the fact that circumstantial evidence point loudly at him. Apparently, the ATM cameras don’t work. Is our money protected?

That by itself is such an outrage.

(Get into the habit of looking at your bank statements, regularly)

The ONTVANGER Just sent me an Awg 2,375 Naheffingsaanslag, this would be number 24 Naheffingsaanslag this year, for a due amount I paid, minus fines, on time, on February 15th, 2019. I will write them a letter, but this thing will be hanging for years, I am sure, with no resolution, because the other 23 letters I wrote are hanging too, without resolution.

That by itself is such an outrage.

By October 1st, BBO/BAVP/AZV will need to be included in prices and not mentioned on receipts.

That by itself is such an outrage

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