Aruba Dushi Tera and Speculations on the Identity of the Next Island Governor

Last night at the historic, 218 year old, Fort Zoutman, at the big reveal of Aruba Dushi Tera, the symphonic new version of the island’s anthem, the Governor spoke. As the island’s representative of the Dutch King Willem Alexander the Governor never ad-libs in public, he occasionally reads solemn speeches in Parliament, and he publishes seasonal messages in press releases but he rarely addresses the community in an informal manner, and it happened last night, before the much-loved anthem was played and after a moving tribute to an island musical legend who passed way, Hildward Croes.

The Governor spoke in a measured, deliberate, fatherly manner, expressing his gratitude for the new contemporary and ear-pleasing version of the anthem, recorded with a symphonic orchestra in NY by 40 of the island’s top musicians. He thanked producer Jonathan Vieira expressly, for his creative talents and for the bold initiative. Jonathan, who is the island’s modified version of the prodigal son, was very emotional, fighting back tears as he described the process of putting the recording together with funds raised from private patriotic donors. The elegant crowd was equally moved and thrilled about the musical outcome. Standing side by side in the old courtyard were dignitaries, the Prime Minister, various government ministers, press members, musicians, and the frail but nevertheless responsive to the music Father of Aruba’s Culture Padu Del Caribe, the co-writer of the anthem.

Hearing the governor speak, about giving people a second chance, and standing by our creative talents in good and bad times, the only thought that came to my head was the realization that everyone needs a father, no matter what age or stage in life, it was great to hear a temperate, compassionate and humane voice of the former teacher, turned our Governor, asking us all to believe in the young generation, and allow it room to sometimes err.

The question who will succeed the popular Fredis Refunjol was on everyone’s mind this week. A few names were bounced around. He or she, we heard a rumor the Kingdom would welcome a woman, cannot be too young, perhaps mid-fifties so that the Governor’s position would be his last assignment, and he could retire having concluded his six year term, which can be extended for another six. As far as qualifications he/she must have an impressive resume, integrity, intelligence, and solid knowledge and wisdom in many areas. Most importantly he/she must assume a neutral position, representing clients, the Island Government and the Kingdom. One of my smart friends summed it up as: What’s right for the community should be his/her first priority.

While looking for that superman, Refunjol who was scheduled to retire, agreed to stay on longer, until the Kingdom and the Aruba Government reach a consensus as to who will be his successor.

Here on planet earth, Aruba’s MinPres is eager to find a man not easily impressed and swayed by the Kingdom. The Kingdom on the other hand is eager to find an easy to get along with partner in the tropics, a person who could follow instructions and perhaps not display too much of a mind on his/her own.

Wikipedia says that the governor’s duties are twofold: he/she represents and guards the general interests of the Kingdom and is head of the Aruban Government, accountable to the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherland. That said, the Governor does not have political responsibilities and is not part of the cabinet, but he plays a major role during the formation of a cabinet. Incidentally, the Governor, and his secretariat, his support team, are paid for by the Kingdom, not the island’s treasury!

So midweek, the MinFin whose name was mentioned as a possible candidate for the Governor’s position confirmed he was asked, and then publicly accepted his candidacy. A small flurry of press releases and statements followed because he jumped the gun, the process of electing the Governor is supposed to be secret, first the Island’s Government checks around for suitable candidates, then the list is presented to the Kingdom, then the Kingdom makes a decision, but the MinFin who was recruited as a professional, not a politician, was presumably eager to ditch his finance portfolio and move on to a better job. P.S. At the time he confirmed he was asked, and then publicly accepted his candidacy, he was shopping for 100 million dollar loan, making the rounds of financial institutions in the US.

I cannot blame him. The job of straightening out the island’s finances is a mammoth undertaking. One of my friends weighed in on the conversation saying: I’m not so concerned about Angel Bermudez becoming the next Governor, he is smart, has work experience, which most don’t, and given his background he knows more about numbers than most, I’m more concerned who will become the next Minister of Finance. This will be the 4th Minister of Finance in two election terms for Mike Eman. Mike De Meza, Juan David Yrausquin, Angel Bermudez, and who’s next?? Besides, Bermudez might not be acceptable to the Dutchies, because he has too much of a mind of his own…..

Back to the island’s finances, courtesy of another smart friend: Some time ago someone posted the US government budget/spending and reduced the sum to a simple household budget/ income / spending scenario. The results were scary. Here is the same exercise as it applied to Aruba’s finances:

2014 Numbers from Central Bank

Total Government Revenue: Awg 1,118,000,000
Total Government Expenditures: Awg 1,490,400,000
New Debt: Awg 372,400,000
National Debt by the end of 2014: Awg 3,882,000,000, it’s much higher in 2016.

Remove five zeros:
Household Income: Awg 11,180
Household Spending: Awg 14,904
New debt on Credit Card: Awg 3,724
Total debt on Credit Card, by end of 2014: Awg 38,820

Hmm – and the party still goes on!! The question to ask ourselves, how can we sustain such overspending without serious consequences? This is without 2015 results.

Batten down the hatches, rough weather expected!

But we have a freshly recorded National Anthem, and today at 12noon, the eighteen years old beautiful version of the song by singer C-Zar Olarte, will be replaced on Magic 96.5FM with the version recorded recently by 40 of the island’s best voices, celebrating the Anthem’s 40th birthday.