Quite a few of my friends shared their secret wish with me lately, “Let us be like Bonaire” or even Statia, where the education and health systems have recently received great upgrades. Bonaire even got a new jail, something Aruba cannot afford.
Both Bonaire, and Statia, Sint Eustatius, formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles, became special municipalities within the kingdom of the Netherlands in 10/10/10, together with Saba to form the BES islands.
So what would happen if Aruba turned the keys over and said, I can’t do it anymore, you do it?
What is holding Aruba back? Pride? An old-fashioned, misguided, 19th century patriotic sentiment? The belief that we are so special and unique and as such must strive for an exclusive and separate identity, which is expensive to keep up, because as a mini state we then need a prime minister, numerous ministers, lots of government employees, a central bank, and other trappings of autonomy, that in a global kind of world just cost us money and do not deliver value to the individual citizen.
We all know that many of Aruba’s residents avoid paying taxes, and hide their income in the famous gray economy because they do not see value in the current arrangement, and refuse to sustain it.
At the onset of the crisis, the MinPres/Minfec asked for 1.3 billion florins as a gift or loan, to help us keep our heads above water. Can you wrap your mind around that number? That means that zero thought was given to making us more efficient and/or sustainable, that means a freeze, we remain crazily bureaucratic and top heavy, living in an alternative universe that only benefits the party in power.
(Effective yesterday, things started moving and the MinPres outlined changes, I will report in my next blog)
One of my friends had solar panels installed on December 4th, 2018. She was told by DOW director YESTERDAY, that Elmar is not cooperating and will not finish the solar installation work to connect her panels, indefinitely.
Another friend who moved a mini market and asked for the liquor license to be relocated to a new address in the tourist area, was answered recently after 18 months, that the law changed and additional paper work is required.
Last week, Setar had 500 clients in Aruba without phone, internet or cable, 8 days without service, as they are not working with a full staff, but will nevertheless charge the same.
This non-existing level of service in the public sector, DIP, SIAD, DIMP, DOW, requires 1.3 billion to save. Is it worth to preserve this Kafkaesque world, where GOA’s employees receive 17 salaries and year and private sector workers get bubkes, the least amount.
We don’t want that anymore. This cannot go on anymore.
I listened to the POR press conference, they went around and around, paid lip-service to the current government, praised leadership, bla-bla, but never discussed any meat and potatoes. It was a waste of my time.
I later read their report and indeed they do mention that the reduction of government operational expenses and income increase are crucial, in the effort to mitigate the impact of Covid19.
ALAS, this impact is so tremendous nothing will mitigate it, just hand the key over, you failed to navigate this ship with 98% hotel occupancy, you cannot do it in crisis.
And the idea of selling assets off is a good one, but moving them around from one GOA entity to the other is cosmetic and will just create more opportunities for friends & family to make money from the internal transactions.
Beside any sale of these entities now, equals a fire-sale, you will never get the asking price, but will be offered 50 cents on the dollar.
If you do sell off utility companies, Setar, Serlimar, you must keep in mind that water, electricity and communications are very important consumer rights, and must remain accessible and affordable, at all times. How would you make sure of that? By letting go of the monopoly and including very strict conditions into the concessions/licenses. That will also force these semi-government entities to streamline, cut costs and synchronize or merge where possible. New shareholders will also insist on modern governance, efficiency and market/merit based salaries.
As this time, however, it is easier to invite Rijksdienst Belastingen in. We’re past the tipping point, we cannot make it on our own.