CUA Business Networking Event, a success.

From CUA’s Point of View: The event was professionally organized at the Hyatt Place Conference Center. It started on time, provided great networking opportunities and mostly showed trust in, and support of,  CUA’s leadership, business people Frans Ponson and Francis Saladin.

The heart of the Aruba business community was in the room. CUA managed to bring together the engine of this island’s economy. Kudos, and pa bien, you started small, but you picked up steam, you are now a force to be reckoned with, growing in influence and power. Next meeting will surely unfold in a larger room, so not to turn anyone down.

CUA also offers an interactive App where the community can exchange views, and raise concerns, no Red Tape there.

Thank you sponsors and organizers for a job well done.

From the Central Bank’s Point of View: The invitation featured just two speakers on the bank’s behalf, Giancarlo Croes and Lorraine Tromp. But surprise, the first to make lengthy remarks was Executive Director Prakash Mungra, who summed up nicely what most of us already know about the local and international banking scene.

He assured us we were solid, and that the resilience of Aruba’s financial sector is evident, in regards to capital, assets and liquidity. Between the conservative banks and the prudent insurance companies, we are in fantastic shape and our pensions are secure. We’re more than covered.

In his closing remarks he reiterated the country must work on reducing its national debt; We must bear in mind our aging population which is problematic; We must make investments to mitigate Climate Change that is  threatening our happy-go-lucky existence; We may have to establish a Resilience Fund to prepare for future calamities and make sure we have sufficient liquidity buffers to absorb any shocks. BUT…. While we are in a super-duper position there is always room for improvement and strengthening.

I expected someone from the audience to ask: What about dollarization, but the venerated banker did not make room for Q&A. He was not going to allow the question to pop, because that would spell the end of his organization – at least half of the staff would lose their nicely-renumerated jobs.

Mungra concluded his remarks, and invited two analysts, who filled the next hour and a half. They also proved to their audience, beyond shadow of a doubt, with graphs and charts, that all is well in paradise.

From My Point of View: Next time, invited speakers must share their speeches with the hosts and time themselves, stick to a timetable, because the Central Bank ate up more than two hours, while CUA members wanted to talk about the upcoming, rushed and opaque BBO at the border, and other burning issues.

In reality, not all is well in paradise. GOA is collecting more money because it raised taxes. Inflation is slowing down because oil prices decreased; utilities consumption is up because UTILITIES NV is resisting decentralizing the production and dragging its feet on solar; there are no new investment projects because of excessive red tape and bureaucracy, and yes, investment conditions are challenging mostly because of over-scrutiny of the real estate market here which was the chicken with the golden egg.

Our only growth is in tourism, labor intense mass tourism, which is not sustainable.

Real GDP is forecasted to contract, in 2023, with weak consumption – we have less money, and little investment – a combination of no money and red tape.

After two slow hours with the Central Bank, Minister Geoffrey Wever took to the stage and told us what we already know, that we must diversify, we cannot rely on mass tourism alone, and the Minister of Tourism cannot flog that horse forever, without great damage to our nature, our social fabric and our people.

Wever talked very well.

He is after all the Minister of Economic Affairs, Communication and Sustainability.

And he does speak that way to his fellow-ministers who are exploiting tourism, short term, with no long term sustainable strategy, but they don’t listen.

During the networking hour, over cocktail and hors d’oeuvres, most members agreed there is poverty and hardship in Aruba, and building more hotels and importing more people, will further burden the already crunched education/health/utilities/housing/waste systems, without making us richer. On the contrary, we are getting poorer and poorer. The numbers show that the quality of life for locals is deteriorating.

On my way out, one of my friends explained that charging BBO at the border is still half-baked. GOA is still formulating the rules, he said, then it would spring it on its target audience, in June, with very little prep time. GOA should remember, he added, that the business community is smart and if GOA makes it one-sided and arbitrary, the business community will find a way around it!

 

 

Share on:

March 24, 2023
Rona Coster