Bati Bleki Buzz, Weekly Recap, May 3rd, 2020

Please support ‘Ajudo na Aruba’

Annelot and Teddy are now feeding up to 1,000 people a week, having started a grassroots organization Ajudo na Aruba.

Please show them you care. This is a two-girl operation, no overhead, 100% of the products you deliver/donate go to the new poor, those who lost their jobs mid-March, those who were making beds, flipping burgers, and washing dishes in our tourist sector, many illegal, many single-parent families, 60% living around Savaneta and San Nicholas.

Ajudo na Aruba helps the bottom rung, those who get zero help from nobody, supporting small children, out of work, unqualified for subsidy or pension.

If you are reading this column, you must make a donation:

Aruba Bank #2211730390 Pemaxawo NV Sero Biento 23;

www.paypal.me/annelotbbg

NL96 RABO 0110527887 ovv Ajudo na Aruba

@AjudonaAruba

It started with Annelot Muijres, a married mother of one, a popular lactation specialist who began cooking for about 60 people at the start of the pandemic on Aruba, she wanted to help out. Her clients, young mothers all over the island were having challenges feeding their babies, and keeping their heads above water.

Then her list grew to 60 families and then to 100.

She recruited Teddy, a married mother of two toddlers, out of work from Bugaloe, where she happily served tourists a number of times a week while her husband Antoine worked very hard on the banquet team of the Ritz Carlton. Antoine, from Haiti, familiar with poverty from his home island, volunteered to stay home with the kids during Covid19, while Teddy joined Annelot, serving their growing base of desperate locals.

Teddy appealed to Bugaloe and was gratified to find out that every Monday and Tuesday, the popular Palm Beach Bar will be cooking for the needy. The food is then delivered by Annelot and Teddy, supplements by boxes of groceries, all from donations.

This is more than a full time job, says Teddy.

The need is staggering.

The beginning was tough, people did not believe in us, Teddy explains, but having worked for five weeks, many local organizations, Caribbean Overseas, Bright Bakery, Botica di Servicio, Vibrations PR and Cunucu Fresh, turned around and are now contributing willingly to their efforts and volunteers are joining their ranks eager to help.

Fundacion pa Nos Comunidad, Teddy points out, has been catering to people in distress for years. The people Ajudo na Aruba are trying to help are new to this situation, the recently impoverished often don’t know where to turn for help and are emotionally too shocked and raw.  Ajudo na Aruba set out to mitigate their pain.

You may also help by buying sushi: Bugaloe started a project called Sushi on the beach, Wednesday to Sunday, Call Tel 568 5393, for their beautiful sushi platters with proceeds earmarked to Ajudo na Aruba

Our financial situation in a nutshell

One of my girlfriends, a single mother of four, made an application to the bank to postpone her mortgage payment. She admittedly made a mistake on the application. The bank wiped her account out, plus fine.

I called them, she said, to check if my postponement is approved, but they cleaned my whole account including the late fee, so no money left, I have no income, I have no idea how people make it.

I didn’t ask what bank, because it did not matter, they are all the same.

It’s the computer, right?

It is difficult to navigate the life.

 We have a plan, exact dates to be advised

With 7 days of sustained reduction in new cases, the MinPres outlined a plan to partially/carefully kick-start economic activity.

According to experts, now that measures are lifted, the key to public health is expanded testing, and following the detection of new positive cases, the implementation a robust contact tracing, then securing a safe place for isolation for those just-diagnosed, silent-spreaders and/or acute patients, while the rest of us are busy with a responsible economic restart, maintaining the ‘new normal’ rules of masks, gloves, frequent use of soap & water and/or hand sanitizer and in general improved hygiene and sanitation, with continued effort to ensure resiliency.

That’s the plan: Sustained reduction in new cases, expanded testing, robust contact tracing, a safe place for isolation, a responsible economic restart, continued efforts to ensure resiliency.

I talked to DVG about expanded testing since that is the key to a responsible economic restart. Aruba had about 5,000 testing kits, out of which about 1,700 were used so far, which represents a global high testing level per capita. We’re also above average when it comes to ICU beds, per capita.

DVG calls its strategy ‘Search and Destroy.’

From the start, the department instituted a low threshold to testing, with a wide case-definition for eligibility, thus it was and still is easy to get tested: You have symptoms? Just call for an appointment and you will be summoned at a designated time, swabbed, sent into quarantine and given results in 24 hours, sometimes that same day.

Aruba’s PCR machine, Polymerase Chain Reaction, helpful in detecting bacteria and virus by amplifying small segments of DNA, delivers fast and inexpensive molecular and genetic analyses. It picks up the proteins related to Covid19, and gives honest and reliable results.

DVG calls Aruba’s PCR machine sensitive, an efficient diagnostic tool that detects the disease easily. The invention of that clever tool landed its inventor a Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1993.

DVG also employs Sentinel Surveillance, consisting of a crew of data collecting practitioners, who keep an eye on those in isolation and those in quarantine.

The team of Contact Trackers include well-trained professionals from the Infectious disease department, that have many years of experience in that kind of clinical detective work.  

And that is why Aruba was successful in flattening the curve, without Covid19 overrunning the health system. Applause.

These days, the flow of calls subsided because the rate of infection here slowed, but DVG is prepared in case another pocket of infection catches us by surprise. So far so good, no elderly homes, no high risk individuals affected.

Bottom line: While we cannot test the entire population, we can test many. Even asymptomatic people, within little or no symptoms can be tested. And of course, if you have been in contact with a patient. Illegal, or undocumented? No problem, you are covered in the system.

Futile AND Purposeless Contest

I cannot call it by name, because FB will accuse me of profanity, but what we’re seeing in parliament is an ego-driven battle.

Locals are in distress, many of them have not been paid in over a month, there is no money, and our MPs engage in a totally silly exercise, postponing important discussions.

Aruba must submit a proposal to the Netherlands, on May 1st, regarding the Salary Subsidy Program, or the Loonsubsidie.

Then that country’s Council of Ministers must debate, ratify and outline conditions

Then…

You understand it is a process, and meanwhile there is no money in Aruba, everything is on hold because our self-serving representatives feel the urge to parade in front of TV cameras, making drawn-out incoherent statements, regarding obscure amendments, they are proposing.

Which part of ‘Keep Quiet’ don’t you understand?

Where is your sense of urgency?

Don’t you have anything better to do?

Take a 40% salary cut, and move out of the way.

People here have ZERO income and you shoot your mouth.

Grow up.

Our ship is navigating treacherous waters and we just need one experienced captain, ONE to dodge the icebergs, so we don’t sink.

MinPres, MinFec, ok, the Central Bank as well, that’s it, the rest MUST beat it.

Luckily FASE just came through on April 29th for 3,111 locals with more to come today. FASE and the above mentioned Loonsubsidie. when finally implemented will alleviate the distressed situation, that has been acerbated by GOA’s refusal to follow the lead of the other islands, and its wish to reinvent the wheel.

But we are now finally on the right track.

Aruba Salary Subsidy Program – Proposal

Aruba’s proposal for the Salary Subsidy program shall first be reviewed by CAft. After such review it requires approval by the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. If approved, a soft loan shall be granted to Aruba by the Netherlands to finance the program. Aruba’s request is for the program to start retroactively April 1st. 2020.

Eligibility:

Organization is considered vulnerable (list of exceptions is based on those that are not considered to be vulnerable to revenue loss due the COVID-19 crisis).

Revenue drop of at least 25% (measured from current month to same month year prior).

 Conditions:

No employment terminations since March 15, 2020.

Employees get paid 100%, unless mutually agreed to otherwise.

Subsidy is based on monthly salary, as per registration at SVB on March 15, 2020.

 Main aspects of subsidy: 

Subsidy paid to employer is 80% of total gross salary registered at SVB for all employees.

Capped at maximum Awg 5,850 per month per employee.

Weighted by percentage of revenue loss. Minimum loss of 25% required.

 List of exclusions:

Government; AZV and SVB; Educational institutions subsidized by government; Companies and Foundations that receive government subsidy (such as Serlimar, Arubus); State-owned companies and Sui Generis (except those that have tourism-dependent revenue); Healthcare organizations that receive financial support from AZV; Banks, Life Insurance companies, and Pension Funds; Elderly Care organizations; Private companies that are natural monopolies; Notaries; Agriculture; Supermarkets and mini markets. Note: exceptions will be made for mini markets that are not able to open due to location (i.e. inside of hotels); Funeral Homes

GOA’s Small & Medium Business Support

The FinFec announced that 2,733 small businesses received a bank transfer TODAY, via SVB according to the SME plan.

GOA established an emergency fund of AFL 40 Million to support Small and Medium Enterprises with financial aid, courtesy of the Dutch government, starting April 2020 for up to 9 months, to be evaluated every 3 months.

The first financial aid for the first quarter, went out today, Awg 4,000 per business owner.

Those whose business decreased in turnover as of April 1st, 2020, are eligible according to the following criteria:

Companies that fall under SME definition of the CBS, central bureau of statistics.

Companies registered at SVB with a maximum of 50 employees.

The company was registered at the Chamber of Commerce by March 15th, 2020, with certain exceptions.

The company and its employees were registered with SVB by March 15th, 2020.

The company was registered at DIMP by March 15th, 2020 and has a “Persoonsnummer,” a tax ID number.

The company registered at least 25% turnover loss.

The company’s legal status is properly documented:  i.e. sole proprietorship, NV, VBA, VOF, etc.

The company is physically located in Aruba;

The company is not bankrupt.

The company has not filed a petition for suspension of payment to the court.

The aid in the amount of Awg 4,000 will NOT be considered part of the business turnover tax.

Payments are conditional, criteria must apply, companies must be validated by DIMP, the tax authority.

The Finance Department transferred the quarterly amount to SVBs account before the end of April, and will do it again in July and October, 2020. SVB has the digital administration in place is responsible for the implementation of the financial aid.

This morning, FASE subsidy was paid to 3,134 eligible individuals who lost their jobs, and more will be paid tomorrow. Sigh of relief.

No Work, No Pay, an encore.

As I told you yesterday, we are now finally on the right track.

Many were paid, and more still waiting for the FASE payout, and the SME grant, via SVB. It will hopefully show up in our bank accounts by Monday. Meanwhile SVB sent out their invoice for April, payable May 15th. Their collection machine never stops.

Before today, May 1st, the Aruba Salary Subsidy Program Proposal was handed to Dutch officials.

That will help private local companies to cover employee salaries for April perhaps, May for sure, probably June, all financed by the grant.

(We want it to be retroactive, from April 1st, but not sure about that.)

At the end of three months, you should expect GOA to run out of money.

Employee salaries will be paid to the employer at 80%, so it is up to the employer to negotiate a wage reduction with his employees, otherwise he is stuck covering that 20%, against a zero income landscape, that seems impossible. So, super important: Negotiate with your people, reach an agreement for pay cuts.

Then what?

GOA will ask for an extension, for more funds from the Netherlands.

Then what?

Our economy will be slow to recover. Things will not bounce back immediately, it will be a slow and hopefully steady uphill effort to get somewhere, and those of you in the private sector, you’d better take a supper-conservative approach to make your resources last longer.

Expect the worst.

Pray for best, but don’t hold your breath, don’t exercise any magical thinking, people will perhaps be a tad reluctant to travel, and they will also be a tad broke, so recovery will be slow.

Thus in three months, with full staff and no work, what will the business community do?

In reality, the salary subsidy delayed their demise by three months. That’s all it did. It prolonged an inevitable expiration.

The silver bullet to this conundrum?

No Work, No Pay.

GOA must allow flexibility in the labor market, companies CANNOT retain complete crews when work is scarce. GOA must introduce flexibility here, and allow employers to dismiss and hire with increasing/decreasing demand.

Otherwise it’s all for naught.

 On the Up side

One of my friends, a top bank executive, reports their senor staffers have been busy restructuring mortgages to reflect a three-month moratorium on payments, extending the maturation date without interest, thank you!!

On the upside: It taught many bank clients to use the online facilities, no more standing in line!   

Report from the front

I was at Setar St. Cruz, reports one of my friends, there was a line outside, 2M distance. A security man spraying sanitizer. We paid at kiosks, no need to wait in line.

Web: The line outside observed 2M distance. The security man at the beginning of line checked our temperature. Another security man at the entrance door sprayed sanitizer. Two working cashiers and one lady asking if you want some more sanitizer, upon departure.

Elmar: Two lines outside observing 2M distance. One for debit cards, one for cash. A security man inside spraying. Once inside you may sit on a chair, one out of just ten. Three working cashiers and one lady sanitizing the counters each time someone leaves.

Why don’t you all switch to kiosks?? Teach your clients to pay on line??!!

Extraordinary Blog

I have to repeat the FinFec’s mantra: Covid19 came without a manual, we are learning as we go along.

Both MinPres and MinFec recommended patience. The MinSAL – social affairs, labor – talked like a politician, with pink glasses on.

The extraordinary press conference did not reveal anything new.

BUT IT DID

It introduced a new concept, and we have to try to make it work, assuming there is no work, and that no one can claim it is his ‘derecho’ to get paid, so we have to split one slice of bolo into two, and feed two people, where just one feasted before.

UPON AGREEMENT WITH YOUR EMPLOYEES: Cut work days. Pay the same rate, but cut a 40-hour work week, into 32?!

This is a first. They are NOT imposing lowering the number of hours, they ae suggesting to MUTUALLY COME TO AN AGREEMENT. This flexibility is a first, and should also be instituted with GOA’s own employees, instead of just pay cuts.

Back to the press conference. The petition sent on April 23rd to the Council of Ministers was approved this morning, May 1st, 2020, ironically Labor Day.

GOA will receive a soft loan from the Dutch government, one that must be paid back without interest.

Please note: The MinPres did mention, her government will have to come up with a strategy to raise the money, to pay it back, which means there is no free lunch, all monies received as grants, and/or subsidies will have to be paid back.

The MinPres was upbeat and positive. She thanked everyone involved, working hard on proposals.

The MinFec talked well, of course, she should have been a school-teacher, the more she explained, the more complications revealed themselves, but at the end I did figure it out with the help of some learned friends.

What I understood is the following, and forgive me if imperfect: Upon qualifying, employers get 60% of their payroll, they must pay their employees 80% of their salaries. Employees ‘contribute’ at 20%.

Then if you do the math, you see employers must kick in 20%.

How? I hear you asking. We have zero income.

From reserves or overdraft??

If you have no resources to cover the 20% you come to a mutually agreed arrangement with your employees to cut the number of days worked, or being available to work.

You need a lawyer to word that agreement/waiver and you must sit your people down. Everyone must take a smaller slice of bolo, work, or be available for work, 4 days for example instead of 6.

How will it work??

This week, employers will be OFFERED the subsidy, by mail, via SVB.

Employers are not obligated to take the offer. You can say, thanks, no thanks, and close shop.

DEAR LAWYERS: Please come up with options, some employers have no reserves, and there is no work, and their employees are unreasonable. If employers reject the aid, then what??

So, SVB, will get in touch, and offer money, and as employers we then pay our people 60% of their salaries, having cut the number of days. Employers ARE liable for the payment of all SVB/AZV premiums.

This is for MAY 2020.

We will have to submit a report to the Council of Ministers, on how well we spent the money, 49.6 million, in order to qualify for a soft-loan in JUNE.

GOA: Got to anchor those reductions by law, it is impossible to negotiate with employees, look how far you got with the unions

(One of my depressed friends write: It’s like being caught in a bear trap. You have the option to stay put, your arm and leg clamped, allowing good-natured passer-bys to feeds you, and keep you alive, or you chop off the arm and the leg and continue your life handicapped.)

Construction may restart

Small & medium size construction projects were invited to resume, between May 4th and May 17th, 2020, as part of GOA’s level one, out of four, economic restart phases.

For phase one, MinJust published specific Instructions.

You would find them interesting, so bear with me:

The required registration for the restart of construction/maintenance projects in phase one, starts May 4th, for residential and commercial jobs.

Work may start May 6th, with a maximum of 15 workers, obeying physical distancing rules and hygiene.

Developers must present the following docs in order to be approved: Business Chamber of Commerce registration; Description of project; Names of up to 15 workers; DIMAS CRV numbers of any workers with valid permits; Copy of the building permit; Persoonsnummer or tax ID. The company must be registered at AZV, SVB, DIMP, DAO.

Workers who have applied for their 1st work permits, will not be approved for phase one.

On the surface it all seems reasonable. If you are a legit business, then you have it all on file, the Chamber of Commerce registration, the description of project, the names of all your workers, and a copy of their Dimas work permits and CRV numbers for people you employ who are foreigners, and by nature of being a law abiding citizen, operating a respectable, legal company registered at the tax department AZV, SVB, DIMP, and DAO, you naturally also have a building permit.

SO WHY do all these contractors and sub-contractors have to apply for a GOA permit, and GOA badges, generating MORE BURAUCRACY.

I thought we wanted a smaller government and no waste, of time and resources post Covid19.

Can you just tell us your requirements and then random check compliance???

If we comply, fine.

If we don’t, then exercise your authority, to fine, to jail, whatever

Of course we see your point.

You want to make sure construction/maintenance projects are compliant, which is noble and right.

But running all jobs through your already inefficient and congested funnel is counterproductive.    

Didn’t we agree to do things differently from now on?

An old song, dedicated to MP Arthur DOWERS

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run

We don’t want to hear what you have to say, we have just ONE leader now, and you should all fall in line behind her!

Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep,

You had your turn in government for 8 years, and we’ll be mopping after you for the next twenty years.

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May 03, 2020
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