Yankee Dollar

The new measures which came into effect on Saturday, were not well received. The restaurants held a peaceful, walk-out protest.

They protested the 9pm closing time, and asked to reverse that, extending their business hours to 11pm, like before.

Both our hotels and our restaurants have been doing an excellent job at stopping the virus spread, and you must have been impressed by the orderly, well-spoken, and polite manifestation, wearing masks, at a social distance.

That was the poster-child for a grassroots protest.

It started at the Cove where over 250 employees, working in various Food & Beverage outlets joined together to express their desperation.

Their hours have been cut, they are being paid by the loan subsidy at 60% of their original salaries – remember, minimum wages, since in the good days, they were paid minimally, but kept their own tips which amounted to decent money.

Living on Awg 500 a month is impossible with Island Finance, WEB, SETAR, ELMAR, and the banks calling you every day.

We are now seven months into the crisis, all savings are gone, and a few more hours of operation make a difference in their pockets.

It is good to keep in mind that those making the decisions, have taken just a tiny salary cut, their world remained undisturbed, protected by our politicians, while the little people who pay taxes, covering GOA’s bills have been driven to the brink of poverty, in an island I used to foolishly say, was the richest in the Caribbean.

Today, Monday at 11am, GOA is having a meeting with the restaurants and I am confident that early closing hour will be revised, it made no sense, the restaurants are the only ones making yankee dollars for the treasury, why restrict their operation, our economy must turn, the CBA desperately needs foreign currency in order to pay for imports of food, fuel etc.

And talking about the Central Bank, Attorney Michelle Wever wrote a good column in the Amigoe di Aruba regarding currency restrictions in times of crisis, in which she explains that the Aruban foreign exchange atmosphere has been infected by the corona crisis.

She noted, there is no end in sight for the restrictions imposed on foreign currency exchange March 17 and 27 March 2020, by the chairwoman of the CBA. Those restrictions were imposed as a two pronged strategy, one, to safeguard the Aruban florin and two, to freeze the permanent link between the Aruban florin and the US dollar. 

The measures affected almost all outgoing capital transactions. In this way CBA actively protected our in-house stash of dollars, making sure we have enough foreign exchange to import goods needed and that the 1.78 exchange rate between the florin and the dollar remains steady.

But a growing number of people are having problems with that, and the business community can provide you with many examples because no foreign exchange can leave, without the bank’s approval, and special exchange permits are hard to come by.

This is how it relates to the restaurant walk out: Aruba experienced a severe decline in tourist receipts, when the island emptied and is now trying to recuperate, but if GOA minimizes opening hours, the enormous pressure on foreign exchange reserves, will NOT be alleviated. We need those tourist dollars to keep coming in, GOA was banking on a good tourist season to be able to delay signing the reform and aid-agreement with the Dutch.

Michelle writes: “The measures are particularly obstructive for international business operations, but also for business operations within the Kingdom…. The guidelines of the CBA that have been set since March 17, 2020 remain in full force, without any indication when the restrictions will be lifted, and we can assume that exchange restrictions will remain in place until confidence in the Aruban economy is restored. Who knows how long that will take? One year, three years, longer? The question is currently whether the economy of Aruba can survive the Covid-19 crisis.

The financial package offered by the Netherlands has been refused by the Aruban government under the current conditions. Nobody knows or can quantify what the financial damage will be as a result of the current crisis or what to expect for Aruba. What people do know is that without further funding there is no way to bridge these times of economic crisis, and if the Country of Aruba does not make it financially, then the Arubans will not make it either. The exchange restrictions will then be partly to blame for this.
If this ship sinks, we all sink together.

Silly question: Did the CBA employees take a salary cut?

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September 21, 2020
Rona Coster