No more free money?

Last week we heard from CAft, our financial supervisors and from the tone and the music we could understand pressure is on for GOA to mend its ways.

We were supposed to hand in the 2022 budget to Parliament, by September 1st, then in turn for financial oversight by December 15th, so it is finalized before the end of the year, but, alas, Aruba has made it a habit to be late in submission.

And we don’t seem to be able to balance the income and output ledger columns.

Prof. dr. dr. RHJM Gradus, the chairman of the Board of Aruba’s financial supervision, visited here last week. He always talks about shortfalls and financial gaps, and late reports, rising health care cost and sloppy accounting, he keeps talking and talking and nothing changes, he also writes repetitive letters, and that must be exasperating, I don’t want his job.

What else did he say? He was of the opinion that our economy is gaining strength at a satisfactory level and we could do away with FASE, still supporting 2,700 recipients, and wage subsidies, and tell all those receiving free money, to go back to work.

He also nixed a plan that was hatching to mutate FASE into TIO, to be able to support those still out of a job. According to Gradus, there is enough work, and tourism has rebound and is performing well — this double dipping – reportedly by taxi drivers — working in the gray economy and collecting from the government, must stop. And we must start paying back some of our debt, hovering somewhere between 5 and 6 billion florins.

In a press conference on Monday, MinPres offered her perspective.

She disagreed with that assessment, that Aruba can now stand on its own feet, and thus she will maintain a dialogue with the Dutch, so that Aruba qualifies for liquidity support.

She assured us a number of times that GOA is conducting negotiations in an effort to reach an understanding. She explained that by the end of the year, we would only recover 70% to 75% of our pre-Covid economy, and that we are cutting costs. A ban on travel has been introduced, and other austerity measures, such as a ban on overtime, yet despite the almost 14% growth to GDP in 2021, we are not over the hump, we’re not there yet, we still need aid from the Dutch in the 4th quarter.

Our MinPres definitely understates what Gradus overstates, and announced that Aruba could be considered in full recovery ONLY when it reaches 100% of its pre-Covid production.

According to MinPres, the November deadline for the elimination of FASE and salary subsidies is premature, we are going to ditch these programs, eventually, down the road, but not yet. However, she did agree that those subsidies if awarded to failing companies as lifelines, maintain their heads above water, artificially.

In her Covid briefing at the beginning of the conference – 177 active cases — MinPres beseeched us all to behave so that High Season, and tourism, will not be compromised, and warned us the hospital will be moving departments around, losing beds in the process — we might as well safeguard our health while that is happening.

While she didn’t offer a silver bullet solution for our health care rising cost crisis, she indicated raising premiums and dumping services is not what she wants to see. Instead, the ministry is developing long, medium and short term plans to reduce the expenses.

She did call on everyone to go back to work, and she described a number of programs initiated by the ministry of labor and the ministry of social affairs to facilitate job conversions, such as the upcoming “Aruba Wants to Work.”

She did finish the conference on a high note, reminding us to be cordial, empathetic and pleasant-sounding, especially around the Venezuela-Aruba closed border situation – will remain closed for now — and the tragic fate of the Venezuelan people.

Hanging in there, buying time, playing both sides of the fence, elevated to a form of art.

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November 02, 2021
Rona Coster