Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, August 26th, 2016

A tale of an offer you cannot refuse

This week promises to be turbulent. Last Friday tempers flared in Parliament as the head of the opposition started looking for some obscure PWC report, and consequently the debate on the proposed legislation to change the way hotels and other accommodations are licensed was postponed for the 23rd. Today, Parliament is supposed to vote on the Civil Union amendment, eventually leading the way to same sex marriage, and in court this week the MinInfra must defend building on land previously assigned  as a nature reserve, as the environmentalists are taking AZURE condominium to court.

But let’s go back to Friday. The Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association made the MinPres an offer he so-called couldn’t refuse. AHATA basically offered the government an additional income of Awg 35 million florins to get the MinTour off their backs.

The MinTour has been harping for a long time, on the subject of control. Control this, control that, and advocating more government intervention and regulation in private sector affairs.

The private sector has been avoiding the confrontation, and merely shaking its heads at the MinTour’s desire to stick a square peg in a round hole. They dragged their heels, until the situation escalated to a fully fledged war between a sitting minister and Aruba’s tourism industry.

I regret that deeply. I remember similar situations of chronic dissension around the Millennium, during the twilight hours of the first Eman government.

Back to 2016. Finally, at the very last minute before the proposed legislation to change the way hotels and other accommodations are licensed went for vote in Parliament, AHATA produced a proposal.

Do this for me, and I will do that for you!

Dear MinPres, the letter said, just get the MinTour off our backs, give tourism back to tourism professionals, stay out of private sector decisions, and we’ll pay. Handsomely. Some of the room tax considered the Aruba Tourism Authority income which currently goes through the Tax Authority to fund the island’s marketing machine, will be held back, for the government spending pleasure, probably on more green fluff, at the MinPres discretion. That’s a lot of greenbacks, thirty-five million florins.

That letter of proposal, written to address the current difficulties faced by the tourism sector must have dropped like a bomb. While I wasn’t there, I can clearly see the MinTour having a fit, a conniption, an attack of rage and/or total hysterics. He was so close to a parliament vote, but then AHATA upset the apple cart with its letter. The commotion that erupted resulted in a postponement. The lady in charge, the President of Parliament, had to postpone the debate and the vote for another day.

The MinTour labeled the letter attempted bribery.  I see it as a cry for help.

The private sector wants a smaller government footprint. I was under the impression that Aruba is a FREE MARKET economy where prices for goods and services are determined by the open market and consumers, in which the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government, price-setting monopoly, or other authority.

A free market contrasts with a regulated market. Look at Venezuela what a disaster it has become with excessive government intervention in supply and demand.

Anyway, back to the offer. I don’t see the MinPres taking the offer. It is ludicrous to think that he would. Perhaps it’s too late; this should have come up earlier in the game. In retrospect, some of my friends warned me against the Sui Generis status of ATA which converted the island’s marketing machine from a government agency to an independent legal entity within the public sphere. It practically handed the checkbooks and the goose that lays the golden egg over to government, creating a situation where the private sector makes the money, and the public sector spends it. Not good.

It took just over five years for the “new and improved” system to fail.

I don’t know for a fact that the AHATA proposal was written by developer Eduardo de Veer, Meta Corporation, as insinuated by the MinTour, but certain components of the proposal do fit his world view: The search for higher spending visitors, higher RevPar numbers, the need to create market conditions for new airlift, and the need to stop investing in futile, so-called related ventures. These points sound like him, and they are all relevant, so someone’d better listen.

While the MinTour has been at war with the hoteliers, the profile of Aruba’s tourist changed. Completely. The segment of “Other Accommodations” grew exponentially. Proof: Look how much BBO and BAZV are collected from the supermarkets. I really suggest focusing on that, and stepping up collections of the 9.5% government tax and $3 daily environmental fee, from all Airbnb/HomeAway/Flipkey operators. Your time would be better spent on that.

I also suggest spending more time cleaning the beaches, collecting litter off side roads and cactus, and if you have any time left go into the HORECA schools to make sure students are taught what they actually need to know in order to work for the hospitality industry. Play nice with the MinJust to patrol and secure tourist areas. Play nice with the MinInfra to get more street lights around the hotels. I have a long list, I am willing to share!

Regarding FATF

I did not follow the news regarding the new Financial Action Task Force, and asked one of my friends to summarize it for me for the benefit of readers whose Dutch is as good as mine.

This is what he said:

Even though it’s a long speech in Dutch, the most important part deals with new Financial Action Task Force (FATF) legislation that has now also been enacted by the Aruban Parliament.

Basically lawyers now have a legal obligation to ‘snitch’ on their clients by informing the Central Bank of Aruba (CBA) of any business dealings and/or international transactions that their clients may be involved in, whether they are fully legal or not.

This basically goes against hundreds of years of legal democratic principles that establish that all communications between an attorney and a client are 100% confidential.

So, now lawyers in Aruba have become ‘policemen’ on behalf of the government because we don’t know what the CBA will do with this information since the prosecutor’s office and police force can now go on ‘fishing expeditions’ without first having established ‘probable cause.’

And to add ‘insult to injury,’ if and when a lawyer decides to ‘snitch’ on their client they are not allowed to tell the client about it either, or else they may go to jail themselves!!!

Very sad…..

Attorney Hans Sjim Fat called it unacceptable as he addressed a great number of his colleagues during the swearing in of a new judge and a new prosecutor for Aruba. Sjim Fat condemned the politically motivated legislation, compromising the professional conduct of lawyers and their traditional norms and values.

http://www.noticiacla.com/news/6799

POST VOTING DEPRESSION

What people are saying about yesterday’s vote in Parliament

The Boss, 12, the Godfather 8!

The battle ended 12 pro, 8 contra. The legislation to change the way hotels and other accommodations are licensed, was passed. We can rest now. For a while.

WHAT I HEARD SAID:

Twenty Members of Parliament voted against All-Inclusive, and that is how we should see it. The people have spoken. Across the board. All except one, Andin Bikker, voted against All Inclusive. That’s 90% contra. The people of this island object to the introduction of All Inclusive Hotels. MEP says 32% is agreeable.  AVP says 40%, but if AVP would say 32%, MEP would retort with 40%. It doesn’t matter, what matters is the principle that the members of parliament across the board rejected the All Inclusive concept, and we don’t really know where Andin Bikker stands. That said, 8 members of parliament rejected the MinTour’s initiative, not because it was bad, but because it would give him too much authority.

WHAT I HEARD SAID:

I heard from an inside source that AHATA fought the battle so it could later prove in court that it did everything possible to prevent the law from being adopted. Monday morning this lawyer will meet that lawyer in court and continue to argue the case, whether the newly adopted law is binding/legal/constitutional or not. Andin Bikker, says not.

WHAT I HEARD SAID:

The law needs to be ratified first, by the Governor. There is a possibility of course, that it won’t be ratified. But, if ratified, it will be tested by the hotels. At the first infringement on Free Trade it will be challenged in court. There are other scenarios as well.

WHAT I HEARD SAID:

The hotels don’t stand a chance in court. A law is a law, unless you can prove damages.  IF you were going to sell your hotel for X but because of the All Inclusive restrictions you only got Y. IF you prove damages, then perhaps you have a chance in court.

WHAT I HEARD SAID:

The law has loopholes galore. The hotels can continue to sell All Inclusive groups to their heart’s content. There has never been a law written without loopholes.

WHAT I HEARD SAID:

This is not about All Inclusive. I told you already before, this is about the MinTour’s ambition to become MinPres, it’s about power and control. MEP would love to jinks his plans, but he is out to prove that his influence runs far and deep. It is a power play. If I had to describe the MinTour to you, it would be a cross between Boochi Wever, Lily Beke and Tico Croes, and then some!

WHAT I AM SAYING:

I watched the vote on TV, it wasn’t very exciting, though some comments by members of parliament were interesting. Bottom line: Everyone voted according to party line, no surprises. That reminded me of an old concept, that of Realpolitik. Stay with me, don’t yawn. It means real, realistic, practical, and actual politics, in German. And it believes that politics and negotiations of policy are based on circumstances, not ideologies, or morals, or ethical assumptions. In realpolitik you go with the flow, you are pragmatic and you adjust your views to reach consensus. The term Realpolitik was coined in the 19th century, we need a bit of that here in Aruba, to bring all the factions together.  It’s not about winning an argument, it’s about sigui traha y hiba e pais aki dilanti

 White Modern Cuisine at Gold Coast Residence is a fantastic dinner destination

The restaurant in the new club-house of Gold Coast Residence hardly has any walls, it floats in the gorgeous landscape, against the skyline of the Palm Beach Resorts and the salina. The developer Fito Croes reserved his best views for the clubhouse, which we truly appreciate.

The whole just-opened complex is very tastefully decorated by Marisol Croes Marchena. She has great flair, and picked interesting, Aruban-Caribbean accent pieces for all areas, from lobby, to forgive me, very friendly toilets!

We had dinner with a group of friends last Friday night. The girls started out with a delicious White Mojito with Passion Fruit Caviar, in the lounge area, we noticed some other locals and tourists taking the time for a drink before dinner, admiring the sunset.

We were seated in the super cool and nicely air-conditioned Wine room. What can I say, we locals love airco. The room is literally a wine room; it is nicely stocked with bottles from around the globe and the chic community table carries a steel plate top. Industrial, elegant, perfect!

We had everything on the menu and everything was delish: The new Vietnamese Beef Pho with a rich Pho broth, poured over rice noodles, braised beef slices, basil, cilantro, onions, green onions, bean sprouts, and an array of side condiments, red chilli, lime, hoisin and Sriracha sauces. Outstanding. We revisited the old favorite, creamy Corn Chowder served with deep fried polenta, popcorn, roasted corn and olive chips. Yummy. We tried the Peking Duck Tacos, just incredibly enjoyable. The Ceviche Caribeno with red snapper fillets, marinated in Leche Tigre, mango hot sauce, diced mangoes, lettuce, sweet potato crème, cilantro dust, popcorn and sweet potato chips, disappeared in no time.  Of course, we had to order the Lamb Saco, inspired by Aruban street food, with Jerked lamb chops and lamb croquette, served with homemade barbeque sauce, tiny Johnny cakes, Aruban pasta salad with beets, coleslaw, garlic sauce, glazed beans and plantain chips. It lived up to its promise. The Caribbean Braised Lamb Shank cooked in curry coconut served with cashew crumble, pigeon-pea rice, pickled cauliflower, cilantro chips, lemon mint and bell pepper vinaigrette, cauliflower crème and roasted cauliflower, travelled around the table, everyone wanted a taste. And then we ordered some more stuff off the menu; we were tireless eaters!

For dessert the Pina Colada Coconut Panacotta served with a coconut gel, coconut powder, coconut crumble, pineapple vinaigrette, compressed pineapple, pineapple gel and pineapple meringue, hit the right spot! Also a deconstructed Tres Leches, in a surprising presentation was oh-so-good. Everything we ordered went well with a Josh Cellars Chardonnay, as recommended by the adorable wine steward, whose name I can never remember.

Alicia our server contributed greatly to the success of the evening. She is genuinely interested in her guests’ well being and took care of us like we were babies!

Chef-Proprietor Urvin Croes came to greet us at the end of evening, and we kissed his ring and swore allegiance, we are faithful followers, and we will return.

You may drive in via Malmokweg, and then park in the area of the Tennis Courts.

Call them to find out more (+297) 2800280

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August 26, 2016
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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
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster