Bati Bleki Buzz, Weekly Recap March 10th, 2019

Gratitude

Gratitude is due today to all those fantastic disciplined and chaotic individuals who gave us such magnificent two-day parades in San Nicolas and Oranjestad.

Gratitude is also due to the almighty for arranging equally fantastic weather, OK, it was a tad windy, but the sun must have gotten instructions to dim its volume a bit, and complied.

Thank you so much.

The Saturday parade in San Nicolas counted 4,550 colorful participants in 14 groups for a three hour plus parade, stating at 10am, and culminating past 6pm.  On Sunday, with more participants – statistics tomorrow – the parade reached a historical record of more than four hours, with the last group reaching the end of the route after 7pm, and continuing straight to the Burning of the Momo, the final hoorah at the Harbor Arena.

Respect to Jairo Grant, road piece of the century, Indians Fantasy of Aruba, the scope of the work and the amazing execution was beyond and above imagination and justly received the ultimate King of Bands award.

We’re resting today: I am exhausted from just watching the spectacle and taking picture, I can’t imagine, how depleted and dazed organizers and participants feel after such cathartic experience, getting Carnival Fever out of everyone’s system, for 10 months. Then it starts all over again for another bout, smaller I am told, for Carnival 66.

At the end of the parade, we walked counter traffic, and naturally collided with the DOW crew, wrapping up, making it all disappear, namely picking up trash and barricades. Dispensa, they said, as we tried to get out of their way. THEY were asking up forgiveness for inconveniencing US.

It struck my Carnival companion as unique and genuinely Aruba, when Carnival brings out the BEST in us, and propels us to courtesy and collaboration.

Collaboration is the key word. We will get ahead fast, if we collaborate in great numbers, regardless of petty differences, year-round, not just in Carnival.    

Following my blog of February 26th, 2019, about due process

Rona, writes one of my lawyer friends: Your compassionate friends are overlooking some facts and the law, take a look at this short overview

Your information about the GNC and lack of due process was almost right.

Almost right because a number of facts were flawed.

Firstly, every foreigner that is found working on the island, acting without a valid work permit is violating the applicable law and public order. For such a person to be detained, a written order has to be issued. That order is subject to administrative appeal, if the court finds it flawed it will be suspended and the person released. Every person detained is brought in front of a supervising judge within 3 days. This judge has the sole task to independently and ex officio evaluate if the detention was executed in accordance with the law, the judge will also investigate if the person was harmed by the detaining authorities. This is the applicable due process.  

Secondly, the asylum seekers. Asylum seekers are required by law and the treaty, to immediately declare upon arrival here that they are seeking asylum and to be prepared to evidence this. Pending the due process, such person can remain on the island.

What I have seen in court decisions is that foreigners are caught working by the authorities (strike 1) and are detained and are prepared for deportation (strike 2) and then they claim asylum. They are fully entitled to do so but can’t really seek asylum protection by the treaty because they failed to declare asylum upon entry. 

During the asylum procedure they would have to present evidence that they qualify for asylum under the treaty. In that procedure they need to prove that there is a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in certain groups. According to numerous decisions by the court the fact that “things are bad” in Venezuela or other countries doesn’t mean that there is well-founded fear of prosecution or torture.

If the competent authority determines that the person in question does not qualify for asylum a rejection letter is given. That rejection is subject to appeal with the court. Then the court scrutinizes that decision, and could very well come to a different conclusion. If the court cites with the competent authority the rejection will stand, subject to any other legal recourse available.

So, anyone seeking asylum is entitled to due process. Having a so called UNHCR certificate doesn’t change the facts.

Considering all the above, there is proper and due process for those concerned.

Thirdly, the army of folks making false claims that they are lawyers and that they can guarantee legal status in Aruba and even work as long as they are paid. So, they take these people’s money file these phony and often chanceless claims and when their clients get deported and barred from re-entry the con man doesn’t have to worry about an unhappy customer……

End of note.

I thanked my reader profusely for putting the above together, then he responded: You provide me with good reads and in return i occasionally reciprocate with a contribution on the legal angles etc. The courts of Curacao, Sint Maarten and Bonaire by the way, are all sitting with these cases unfortunately due to misinformation. I think too many are being encouraged to seek asylum as a way out. And remember it is not a specific examining judge who asks those questions and has the person standing in front of him or her, the same examining judge does that evaluation in ALL criminal cases and all judges on the island rotate in that function according to a schedule.

My compassionate friends answer:  According to international law in regards to seeking asylum there is NO limitation on when a solicitation of asylum is being submitted. Aruba is obliged to review the cases of all Venezuelans who seek asylum. Only after reviewing their claims and denying their claim as unsubstantiated can they be deported. The problem is that there are no functioning asylum procedures receiving asylum claims and reviewing them in Aruba…. but the burden of proof for qualification as refugee under the treaty becomes higher because you have to justify why you didn’t report at entry and how come you suddenly became a refugee. Fake asylum seekers don’t have facts to back their request up and meanwhile won’t be deported. All else is still the same. I also think some want to use asylum as a shortcut to the applicable laws.

About Airbnb, following my February 27th blog, from a top tourism personality, who gave it some real thought!

Our tourism pioneers had the foresight to separate tourism hotel development from our residential areas. The Sasaki Plan was visionary when it allowed Joe Citizen to work in the tourism area and at the end of the day go home to the peaceful surroundings of his barrio to recharge his batteries for the next day’s do-over. The Sasaki Plan created a balance in Joe Citizen’s life between servicing people, most of whom are of a different nationality and culture, and coming home to the comfort of his own culture in his barrio.

Airbnb, aptly labeled “the disruppter” has certainly disputed the Sasaki Plan. It has provided a platform for Joe Citizen’s neighbors to rent their home or a part thereof, for measly net earnings of Awg 15K annually, at the expense of Joe Citizen’s bario, its culture and way of life.

Case in point: The Merlot residences in Bubali are occupied more than 80% of time by vacation rental visitors. This was not always the case and certainly not the case when a local family who lives there year-round purchased their home about a decade ago. The complex has totally transformed into a vacation rental residence. The homeowner who works in the tourism industry says there’s nothing relaxing when you come home to a bunch of tourists either living next door and across the way from you. The noise, the parties, and the comings and goings are all very disruptive to their tranquil island lifestyle. Sure, they can sell and move, which is what they will probably do, but the move will feel like they’ve been pushed out of a house they enjoyed living in.

The other disruppter are non-residents owning a home or in some cases multiple homes on the island, putting them into vacation rental programs and generating revenue from these investments. On the face of it there nothing wrong with that but think of the impact. Aside from not paying their 9.5% accommodation tax, they don’t pay any other taxes but they use the infrastructure of the island. Yes, they purchase goods and services which are taxed and put money into our tourism economy, but so do the six-nighters staying at hotels.

Do we need visitors to own homes to drive our economy? The impact is the increasing cost of real estate thus preventing tax paying locals from purchasing or building a home. Ask our Millennials whom have entered or been in the workforce for a while now if they can afford a starter home in Aruba? Unless they have well-heeled parents, willing to help out, it’ll take them significantly longer to purchase or build their first home than previous generations?

So, what’s the solution(s) – The Sasaki Plan should be updated to include zoning for non-hotel accommodations (vacation rentals). In other words, keep certain barrios off limits to vacation rentals. Why?

  1. Easier to manage/regulate (tax collection, etc.).
  2. It keeps our barrios local, and mitigates the risk of some being overrun by tourists. Additionally, charge anyone nonresident who owns a second home in Aruba premium land tax, for example, U$ 30K per year per home. Why?
  3. This tax will ensure nonresidents are paying their fair share. If you want to own a home in Aruba it’ll cost you.
  4. Naturally some or many homeowners will sell and move on, and that’s ok, because the other upside will be more affordable real estate for locals.
  5. Also, important: Prohibit nonresidents (people not holding a Dutch passport) from renting their homes as vacation rentals or putting their homes in a vacation rental program. This shared economy should be for locals only, not outsiders. This way, the average $9K in net revenue will increase and go to the persons who deserve it. Most of our hotels and condos are foreign owned so give some of the accommodation business to the locals.

I understand and appreciate the argument of the shared economy provided by the likes of Airbnb. There are those who have benefited, locals included, who would otherwise find it difficult to earn a dime from tourism, but when I see the upside being an average $9K in net revenues, of which the property owner still has to deduct expenses, I ask myself, who is the true beneficiary here?

Airbnb for one.

And, the non-resident who owns a home(s), the another.

I seriously doubt it’s the local guy renting out a room in his local barrio that is making much more than the average. If we want to prevent our industry from getting to the tipping point where locals are getting weary of tourism, and questioning the benefits of the industry, we need to give them genuine opportunities to benefit from it. Afteral, who is supposed to benefit from tourism?

Perhaps this sounds controversial but it’s no different than the controversy Airbnb has stirred up.  

Interesting Airbnb article

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/27/nyregion/airbnb-nyc-law.html

It’s not easy to navigate the system

Dear Rona,

I trust you can post the following under your anonymous section because the subject is delicate.

Regularly, our ministers go public when challenged, and accuse NGOs and individuals to have been passive on many topics during a former cabinet, while they express criticism during the current term of government.

To be more specific: The current MinInfra is accusing NGOs and other individuals of playing politics with the mega 900-room development in San Nicolas. According to him they were quiet while his colleague the former MinInfra played Santa Claus handing out every available piece of government land lease for more hotel and condo development.

Why did you not speak out then, is his point? ….and why are you speaking out now, condemning my project for SN?

These accusations are generally accompanied by claims of purportedly foul-play and/or an accusation that those who are now critical are just part of the opposition party, without addressing the real issue(s).

The fierce counter-attack – ignoring the issue – becomes personal, insults fly and the NGO or individual that was courageous enough to come forward with an issue is told by his support system he’d better shut up. The “bon mucha” attitude prevails and ensures that the majority conforms while GOA in general ta “manda” as it pleases.

Once I remarked to the late columnist Rene van Nie that I admired his wit as his pen was sharp and he used it frequently to air whatever came to his mind, and no minister or government entity was safe. Rene was retired and did not ask for anything more than a quality cappuccino at the patio of Delifrance, and an ashtray for his hand-rolled cigarette ash, as he sat in the breeze writing his critiques.

For those who do have a day-job, a business or who are part of a board of an association it is not easy to navigate the system. A former CEO of AHATA was even declared persona-non-grata years ago, when he expressed himself too critically of GOA’s actions.

The result of such a death-sentence for his business, was a sweeter tune, a toned-down discourse, inevitably.

When permits and jobs are used as carrots to silence critics, and positive comments are rewarded by fat contracts, those who have businesses, and wish to stay afloat prefer to remain silent, and thus become accomplices to bad government.

We are paying the price for that today! Those who despite the risks involved repeatedly expressed their opinions are confronted with more than usual audits, inspections, and delays in whatever permit needed, so that with time they also opt to remain passive.

We can’t speak of a dictatorship in Aruba, however, censorship is a common practice within GOA. So, when the MinInfra recently received critical feedback regarding the SN hotel development, he showed his anger and became personal: Everybody was wrong, and had politically motivated reasons for the project to die. All linked to the former GOA.

The former MinInfra was ALSO known to be quite vengeful. His public policy towards Palm Beach included the demolition of several select structures in the area of Paseo Herencia and South Beach Centre. The draconic policy was later abandoned, resulting in kiosks, signs and restaurants as close of 50cm from the road, in that area.

So, are we still surprised when the majority of business owners elect to remain silent?

“Let others take the beating,” is safe while one awaits a permit, asphalt, a job, a favor, while in reality, those in office should know better.

With a new energized MinPres at the helm and a much-needed Integrity Chamber we can only hope that our ministers will be subject to Integrity checks, not just our civil servants, so we could finally see some light at the end of that tunnel.

Rona, the article ends, after Rene, who rests in peace, you are the next person I admire because you are one of the few that either has or can relate to an opinion.

Roads in total disruption

My friend, story-teller Clyde Harms circulated an article just recently regarding the painfully bureaucratic license plate procedure.

How the little person’s patience is stretched to the max, when standing in a long line in the sun, at DIMP.

Apparently Harms wrote about it first, six years ago, expressing hope for the system to get more efficient. His optimism was trashed this week, when he found out nothing changed, on the contrary, to his humble opinion, things have become worse.

And he is making a suggestion, to stagger the collection of new license plates throughout the year, instead of clumping it all together in the first months.

He is hoping DIMP will be thinking out of the box.  

Because according to his calculation the painfully bureaucratic license plate procedure has cost the economy ONE and A HALF hours per person times 60.000 people standing in lines, that is 11,250 work days – with 220 work days a year that amounts to 51 work-years, down the toilet, thanks to the inefficiency of the tax department.

I think my story teller friend could have taken his calculations much further:

What about the closing of the two main roads to Oranjestad for 3 months at Seroe Blanco, and 6 months at Meiveld; the closing of the crossroads of Sasaki at Wendy’s Noord until further notice, because they have been waiting for traffic lights spare parts for 10 months which have to come in from Poland… because they have never heard of Fedex – or what about sending me to Poland to fetch the parts…the closing of the beachfront road at Amsterdam Manor, and Blue Residence, the closing of the crossroads at Ling & Sons, 3 months, the closing of the crossroads at Santa Helenaweg going out of Oranjestad to Ponton, 1 month, and closing of the road at EPB because of the required new junction towards Ling & Sons.

BEST OF ALL, mid high season, in the months when we are busiest….and nobody complains, nothing heard from ATIA, AHATA, Chamber of Commerce, Central Bank, trade unions, Oranjestad Business Association, the San Nicolas Business Association…Parliament…NOBODY

Complete silence. It is OK with them to have our lives disrupted for lack of planning.

Why can’t you move from one project to the next, why clump them all together??

THEY EVEN MARKED MALMOK OFF ON MONDAY, THEN ABANDONED THE SITE. There has been no work done there.

With such a brilliantly orchestrated Carnival, how can we be so complacent and inefficient in all other areas???

From an intelligent reader, now that we know Dreams Resort is heading to Seroe Colorado

We have learned from multiple sources that the ONLY REASON why both the current MEP-POR-RED coalition and the previous AVP government are “totally committed” to building 5,000 extra rooms is that they will require 24,000 new people to enter the labor force.

They will all need to be of young age so that their AOV/AWW and AZV premiums will guarantee that both pensions and AZV coverage for all those entitled can be paid for, because the current labor force demographics will not guarantee minimum required coverage of pensions and AZV.

The harsh reality is that 24,000 extra people will so overburden all of our physical, social and public infrastructures that our national debt problems will spiral totally out of control.

The government needs to NOW (1) reduce the public sector by 2,500 people so that our public sector indicators are back in line with those of Curacao.

(2) must raise the pension age to 65.

(3) introduce a tax reform where there are no exemptions for basic services, e.g. Serlimar, and where we HEAVILY FINE AND ENFORCE existing labor, environmental, public health, safety and other regulation.

(3) introduce on a super-fast track eGovernance and eGovernment a la Estonia.

(4) diversify the economy by focusing on high tech health, IT, biotech, creative industry and global entertainment media and high-end MICE segments in tourism.

(4) super-fast track 100 innovations initiative launched by Prime Minister Wever-Croes at 2nd annual Innovation Summit, held on February 28 last.

(5) Allow Seroe Colorado to become a master planned high technology community area like Sophia Antipolis near Nice, France with a science and technology park, incubator, research and development area and convention facilities (convention center plus small boutique hotels).

(6) in collaboration with science and technology community of Aruba, create a national science and technology infrastructure to allow Aruba to become a high-tech hub between the European Union and the Americas.

Share on:

March 10, 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