Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap, March 1st, 2020

More about Unbalanced Tourism

I got an avalanche of reactions to my column regarding the accelerated rate of development taking place in Aruba, and the Forbes article, which scratched its murky surface.

Greetings Rona, said a local businessman / developer: I read your column regarding the Forbes article. You left quite a few developments out. The hotel in San Nicolas is planned for 900 not 600 rooms, and there is not one but TWO Iberostars coming, one on Eagle Beach of 240 rooms, and the other on Arashi Beach, affiliated to Tierra del Sol, they must both be equally large.

Additional options for condos were granted by the previous Mininfra right before leaving office even though we have a moratorium in place. In my humble opinion, the current MinInfra will try to abort some of those projects which will result in a number of law suits against GOA, if projects are opposed.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, ATA/GOA should in addition to occupancy rate and revpar ALSO measure spend per tourist in the economy outside the hotels. Try to determine what benefits the Arubans, in general. I guess, they do not publish these indicators, because the numbers are poor, and the island doesn’t perform well in the spend-per-tourist category.

Aruba is just too expensive for what you get and beaches have become crowded.

We are a mature product, we turned the corner, we are no longer the authentic/cool Caribbean tropical destination on every romantic’s bucket list.

We are now a commercial destination.

Besides, no one follows ATA’s strategic vision of a 4star high-income destination, because personal and political interests drive decision- making.

Aruba does have a GREAT brand name but needs an immediate U turn, turning back the clock on its hotel development policy, or the window of opportunity for the fast reposition the island as a high end destination will close forever.

Of course, the Forbes article also mentioned a number of new all-inclusives, and this will have an additional negative impact on our economy

What the banker said:

One of my friends, a banker, met me by the side of the road on Carnival day. The economy of the island is terrible, he said, winking, like he just told me a big joke, like we just say it is bad, but in reality it is super, stoked, overheating.

I looked at the parade. He is right. The parade while smaller, did not show signs of a radical economic downturn. There were feathers and bands, and glitter, and beer, and BBB chicken legs.

So why are we crying?

Why isn’t there any money for the Social Rescue Plan? Why do school lavatories have NO running water and no toilet paper?

How can we be so rich, and so poor at the same time??

Then the banker told me, the gray economy, he said, the gray economy is fueling a large portion of Carnival, it is all cash business, hair, makeup, nails, sewing, and welding, he explained, and GOA never gets to lay its hands on any of it, so it can spend on the community.

Yet, GOA is asked to help finance the party.

Zip, he said, I did not tell you anything, but one of the biggest challenges on the island is the challenge of that gray economy and the fact the GOA is left out of the game.  

Goosey, in praise of a good dog, gone.

By show of hands, who wants to wake up on a Tuesday morning, and head to the vet with a loved fifteen-year-old dog, who is tired, and really prepared to ditch the regiment of prednisone and blood pressure pills she’s been on, in favor of a long delicious sleep?!

To add insult to injury her hepatic cancer was burdened by some kind of stroke yesterday, that left her tilting to one side.

No one. No one wants to face that. But we must. It is part of the process, part of the amazing phenomenon of loving a dog, and letting him/her go.

I was first at the vet with Goosey, who was slowly dissolving in a towel in my arm. The vet took one look and that was it.

Goosey, was grey, as in Grey Goose. She was born in my yard and had two meals served to her every day of her 5,400 and something days.

She was a lucky dog.

I adopted her pregnant mom from Arashi beach in the spring of 2005, and Kaya promptly rewarded me for my hospitality with seven pups, which she laid under a bush in the yard.

We kept three pups, and mom.

They all had a charmed life.

Kaya was the first to go, she must have been 13, a few years later Bruiser, he was the biggest, a gentle giant, at 12, then Peanut Butter at 13, suffered a sudden heart-attack and was gone, now Goose, who enjoyed longevity, because she’s always been the most athletic, and the leanest!

Pay attention.

Trim is the secret.

We sometimes called her Gustavo, because she was not a girlie- girl dog. But she was the social hostess of my kingdom, and kept three other male mutts accountable for their digging, and peeing, in unauthorized places.

She was an excellent correction-officer, firm, but sweet.

Jacqueline B. from Criollo Trapper met me at the vet this morning, she just collected four pregnant females from one home t Iguana Morto. She said Goosey’s departure created a job vacancy, and looked at me in a certain way.

Soon I said. We are indeed looking for a social hostess, one capable of filling big shoes, because Goosey was the best.

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech was defended nicely this week on the island, which is reflective of the way our judicial system works.

It works.

One of our parliamentarians, not a great luminary, sued the former Minister of Infrastructure and Integration over the use of personal under-the-belt offenses, and the judge basically refused to muzzle the rude & crude former MinInfra, because politicians are supposed to grow a thick skin. They’re supposed to be able to take it. And while we should be civilized in the way we talk to each other, strong language is perfectly acceptable, and non-punishable.

I was happy with the judge’s decision, because it helps the journalistic cause.

On a personal note, I wouldn’t have cried if the former MinInfra lost the case, because he is bad-mannered.

I may have told you the following story already, only now it is relevant.

A while ago, I stopped for takeout lunch at Alfresco, on the boulevard. As I walked from my car to the restaurant I recognized, outside on the terrace, at an elongated table, the members of the opposition party, scheming.

I uttered a mild hello. I was taken by surprise, and quickly disappeared into the door.

What are the plotting, I thought, aren’t they supposed to be at Parliament, legislating some fantastic laws?

The take-out box in my hand, on the way out I debated: Shall I strut past their table, or avoid the encounter by walking around the building, to the other side.

True to myself, I decided to walk the gauntlet. I am bullet-proof.

The first one to stand up to greet me was parliamentarian Richard Arends. My handsome neighbor.

The second was the former Minister of Justice, handsome too, he also greeted me warmly, and told me he disliked most of my writing. He only liked one piece directed against GOA.

As if offended by my presence, remaining seated and silent, eyes shooting darts, the former Minister of Infrastructure and Integration. Apparently, HE didn’t grow a thick skin during his political career. The former MinEnergy, also pouted resentfully.

Then I got into my car, and drove away with my tasty lunch. How I wish I could stay as a fly on their wall.

One of my friends wrote this week: It is the opinion of the Aruba Bar Association that discussion about the place and boundaries of the judiciary, executive and legislative branches is legitimate and necessary in any democratic society, and that the Bar Association does not object to these discussions taking place with the use of strong language. AMEN.

Harvard historian JILL LEPORE said: “It is a paradox of democracy that the best way to defend it, is to attack it, to ask more of it by way of argument, protest and dissent”

The Malmok Walkway, quo vadis, where are you going with that?

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I wish ‘they’ would tell us what their plans are for the Malmok walkway.

To date, about one kilometer has been semi-finished. One kilometer, in one year.

They poured the concrete in segments, and when done, dug it up to run electric cables and drain ditches. I guess planners forgot about rainfall and illumination.

Why should I complain?

They forgot the operating rooms in the hospital, so a few electric cables and some drain ditches may be considered a mere oversight.

Then they erected black protective columns, made of durable resin with reflective stripes in one portion of the walkway. Having finished planting the poles, they started ripping them out.

For a while, they were working on an attached low, dividing border-wall, but seem to have ditched that idea in favor of sand-stone encrusted pedestals, with colorful bird mosaics, crowned by the individual birds’ names in English.

As if the gorgeous Malmok scenery required beautification.

Color bird mosaics?

Who came up with that?

Just an unnecessary expense.

As an afterthought they installed some traffic signs, no biking, and a bus stop sign, laid the infrastructure for illuminations.

Anyway. Can we please hear your COMPLETE plans for the rest of the project?

It is a fact, that more people run & jog the walkway, and more visitors make use of the parking areas, but until finished the nonconformist among visitors will still try to get in and park as close to the water as possible.

Please share your plans.

The walkway has now reached the home of the MinInfra.

Where will it go from there?

Is there the final design?

What type of lights are you installing?

Please let us know, no more surprises.

The sneeze heard around the world

Headlines informed us today that the Pope came down with a slight indisposition. He shook hands, he kissed a baby, and now has to quietly rest, and nurse his symptoms.

Coronavirus? Flu? Who knows, but we cannot live in fear says the good doc, Dr. Joel Rajnherc, a pediatrician by profession, now the head of the medical facility in San Nicolas.

Wednesday marked the day coronavirus became world-resident

A patient diagnosed in the USA tested positive for the new plague without any links to travel or direct contact, which means the illness is now in the environment, in the air, and probably here to stay for a while.

Apparently, because it yields mild symptoms, it is hard to detect, harder to control, and according to CNN, the disease must be seen as everyone’s problem.

Wash your hands well, teach your kids to wash their hands well, cough into your elbowed-sleeve or tissue Kleenex, stay home with the sniffles, don’t let your kids go to school with a runny nose, avoid large crowds, mega concerts/lectures, cruise ships, and any other petri dish conditions, drink tea with lemon, whiskey is good too, take paracetamol, and most importantly don’t be afraid, says Rajnherc.  

Just live your life with common sense and good hygiene, he says, avoid touching your eyes and mouth, and don’t get sucked into the face mask hysteria.

These masks have become a personal statement, they don’t really do much, because they still let air in, and you still breathe particles in, in spite.

HOWEVER, if you have cold/flu symptoms, it is advisable to wear a mask, to protect other people from sharing your germs.

And don’t be duped into buying the $69 urban fashion variety, because there is a protocol that goes with it, in order for it to be effective, and we know YOU will find it an uncomfortable and threatening hassle.

Just like SARS, MERS and ZIKA it will come and go, and we should not be living in fear.

According to the good doctor, the new coronavirus as its name implies is a fresh variety, in a family of viruses, and eventually, it will make its way to Aruba. The question is not if, but when.

In about a year or so, we will have a vaccine, but meanwhile, let’s pay attention to risk groups, people with existing illnesses, heart conditions, cancer patients, people with a history of respiratory diseases such as asthma, our aging population whose immune systems are weak, these risk groups, are most likely to catch the virus if and when it comes our way.      

It is far more dangerous to be anti-vac, and avoid vaccinations against measles, mumps, and rubella, says Rajnherc.

So, let’s stay calm, and collected, and avoid unnecessary damage to world economy in general, and to the island’s wellbeing, we can handle this.

The world’s single topic of interest

I just tested positive for two Corona yesterday, says one of my friends, as in beer.

Apparently 38% of American wouldn’t buy Corona Beer under any circumstance, because of the coronavirus, according to a recent study.

We can laugh.

But the World Health Organization increased its risk assessment to very high, Pandemic? Not quite.

A notch below.

Closings, cancellations, and delays are all we get.

The WHO is covering its derriere, of course. Remember what it did to travel with the Zika virus, but we cannot take the responsibility to ignore them.

So the world does its best to curtail the spread of Convid-19, by taking drastic measures.

ITB cancelled in Berlin. One of the biggest travel fair.

The Olympics in Japan are in question.

Airlines, governments and destinations are reacting with travel bans which spread to over 50 countries, with closings of land and sea borders.

In Aruba the Department of Public Health and the Crisis Management Office, RBA, are gearing up with standards and procedures, what to do in case a patient is identified, because it is our responsibility to be prepared.

I understand RBA is responsive.

Jamaica jumped right in, so this is an interesting read

They said …” visitors will be subject to immediate screening by the Department of Public Health, and the same will decide if these passengers/crew will be quarantined or isolated”

If visitors originate from countries where the virus has been over-active.

The countries so far added for travel restrictions: Italy (322 cases, 11 deaths); South Korea/Republic of Korea (1,261 cases, 12 deaths); Singapore (91 cases, no deaths); and Iran (95 cases; 15 deaths), and more added to the list if needed.

Will Aruba do the same?

For any questions regarding COVID-19, please contact Infectious Disease Services tel.: 522 4224 / 522 4236 / 522 4237 / 522 4261 / 522 4264 or the Department of Epidemiology and Investigations Tel.: 522 4285.

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March 01, 2020
Rona Coster