Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, September 11th, 2016

Costa Linda celebrates 25th anniversary

Time flies by fast when you’re having fun, and this is especially true for the resort which sold its first unit to Robert & Shirley DeLong on December 17th, 1990, even before it was established, which came later, on November 1st, 1991.

Robert and Shirley took a leap of faith at a construction site, some walls were up, the pool was a hole in the ground, but the couple of dreamers were gratified at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, on May 16th, 1992, when their decision to invest in Aruba was recognized and appreciated by the island’s Prime Minister, the resort developers, and more than 300 island dignitaries and guests, at the Grand Opening.

I was there, I remember it was a well-attended event which started in the parking lot in front of the lobby; it was a moment of glory for Raymond Maduro and his team. Raymond took the opportunity to announce his next step, saying, and I am quoting: “There’s a great deal of satisfaction in a BIG job well done…but I also have to admit “looking ahead,” and that’s just as exciting, and a great deal scarier… we’re going to break ground for Tierra del Sol, Aruba’s first master-planned golf community…we feel it will add a new dimension in tourism.”

It did, and it still does. Costa Linda Beach Resort is still BIG after twenty-five years, you never hear a peeps from them, that’s how I know they’re doing well, and Tierra del Sol is still relevant, currently developing a new neighborhood, Paseo de Playa, a land sale project offering various lot sizes, from 400 m2  to 900 m2, with home site prices starting at $140.000

Back to Costa Linda: The resort is situated on Punta Brabo, the brave point, at the beginning of famed Eagle Beach, and it occupies approximately 6.5 acres of great ocean views from the terraces and balconies of almost all units.

General Manager Luigi Heredia, at the helm for 8 years, reports that a lot has happened in the past 25 years, and it has all been exciting, positive growth. Having endured a members’ coups d’état, a putsch, or an overthrow of the old management, the resort continues to be owned and governed by the Costa Linda Beach Resort Cooperative Association which is made up of all its timeshare owners.

Since February 2008, it has been under a management agreement with the Royal Resorts Group of Cancun, Mexico. It was one of the timeshare owners who owns at a Mexican Royal run resort who referred the board to that group, and it has been an excellent match since then, resulting in multiple TripAdvisor Certificates of Excellence for consecutive years, and countless Interval and RCI commemorative plaques. And don’t you think it’s an easy feast to run a resort with thousands of owners, who each has an opinion. It’s like having a board of directors times infinity!

Three years ago, extensive renovations were undertaken, including the complete u-shaped five story pyramid building with its 155 units, 139 two bedroom and 16 three bedroom suites. The renovations introduced energy saving smart systems, and other efficient strategies, streamlining the operation and paving the way for the upcoming BIG NEWS, the Frangipani Suites, five additional units on the ground floor, featuring 3 bedroom/3 bathroom and 2 bedroom/2 bathroom luxury accommodations. Get yours this week, before they run out.

Heredia is proud to state that while maintenance and upgrades are a way of life at the resort –when they set up the sales office, they allowed one week a year for maintenance, which makes a big difference in the life of an aging property — the one asset which remains constant and untouched is the much-loved beach, measuring over 700 feet, delivering a 250 feet long sand box, for the members to play in, year round.

The success of the property has been mostly due to its dedicated people, Heredia adds. It is with great pride that Costa Linda Beach Resort acknowledges and values the fourteen staff members, at the helm at the resort since the November 1st, 1991, soft opening.

A water obstacle course coming to Surfside Beach

A new family fun attraction anchored off shore on the Surfside Beach, is being installed right as we speak. The inflatable water sports park allows kids and adults to run, jump, swing and swim.

The attraction, the first of its kind in Aruba, is low tech, and environmentally friendly, as it doesn’t require great infrastructural work. The pop up playground is an added sporty, beach activity and targets both tourist and the local market.

Randy Geerman who is the motor behind the initiative says it’s a cross between a bounce house, and a trampoline, but it’s floating in water, and while it requires no special athletic skill or preparation, it is still challenging as a recreational sport, and excellent as a fitness option which kids would love, best of all, away from their phones and computers.

Randy Geerman, a FIU graduate in the hospitality field, and a teacher in the local EPI Hospitality & Tourism College is venturing out to present his first entrepreneurial effort. The floating inflatable water obstacle course has a number of trampolines, monkey bars, flippers, slides, hurdles, rockers, rollers, a climbing wall, and a swing.

Groups and individuals are invited to explore the course, beat the obstacles, race with friends & family, and watch the wipe outs, as they happen, live!

My bet is that it will liven Surfside Beach up with companies and individuals getting wet and wild. If we could only teach them to park in the lot and NOT on white sand, it would be a positive addition to the menu of island fun. Randy says the facility will offer other related activities as well, I will report when he tells me.

Get your tickets to the Bartenders’ Brawl from me today!

Island Temptations Magazine is hosting a Bartenders’ Brawl, a cocktail competition, on the beach between Divi & Tamarijn beach resorts, Saturday evening October 15th, 2016, 7pm to 10pm

CALL ME FOR TICKETS: #593 1774, $52 PER PERSON

Or for credit card purchases go to:

https://ticketbud.com/events/5821be5a-6acf-11e6-8bf9-17bb75ab37fc

Location: Across from Divi Village Golf Resort, you may park at Alhambra and catch a shuttle to the beach!

What’s included?

Romar Trading, Arion Wine Company, Pepia Est, Aruba Trading Company and Tropical Bottling Company confirmed participation!

So, our island’s top bartenders will compete with an original craft cocktail, under the stars with a Bohemian chic vibe.  Ticket holders get to try all the cocktails and there will be heavy hors d’ oeuvres, including an hors d’ oeuvres station from Food Network’s celebrity star Seamus Mullen, an award-winning New York chef, restaurateur and cookbook author who will be there, working with the Divi Aruba staff to prepare the featured specialties.

Tickets are on sale now.

Divi is providing a cool-lounge-beach set up with bars, and the food stations.

Get your ticket today before we sell out!

We’re expecting about 300 people, and we will promote the beach party to locals and tourists.

THE PUBIC WILL VOTE ON THE DRINK OF THEIR CHOICE, that night.

The winning Iron Bartender gets a handsome trophy, and the recognition he/she deserves.

The event will be covered by Island Temptations Magazine in the Fall/Winter edition, also in the local media, social media, and the winning cocktail will be promote through every channel.

Divi’s cocktail village on the beach, with music, will deliver a chilaxing, elegant ambiente!

The Bartenders’ Brawl is design to promote bar excellence, it is part of ARUBA RESTAURANT MONTH, and we will have a great number of ATA food bloggers and foreign press present.

Get your tickets today for Saturday evening October 15th, 2016, 7pm to 10pm

 

Ferry to/from Venezuela, true or false

The consul of Venezuela, Luis Cardenas, recently invited for a press conference at the Holiday Inn with more than 70 Venezuelan businesses offering a variety of products, prepared to connect with their counterparts in Aruba.

Immediately after that conference the officials of Naviera Paraguana announced they are ready to offer ferry service to Aruba in late October/November.

The announcement delivered an avalanche of reactions on social media in here, mostly negative and fearful. Many expressed their concern over the prospect of receiving 600 Venezuelans on a daily basis, without the proper controls in place and without official screening/vetting.

Apparently Naviera Paraguana expressed its desire to offer the service, and assumed that that is all that’s required – after all it was included in their 2016 business plan.

Then yesterday the government official in charge Carlyle de Coteau, clarified that the Aruba Port Authority, and the local Customs and Immigration are unprepared, as far as a terminal and personnel, and that this is not a done deal, no petition filed, no permits granted.

End of story.

On the other hand, I feel that if well managed, a regular ferry service between the ABC islands would be a welcome development. Mobility is the source of progress and many locals would certainly want to take advantage of the opportunity to travel to Venezuela; many Venezuelans would do too, and both countries could benefit, providing again, arrival on the island is processed and supervised.

I have a friend who arrived on Aruba by ferry more than two decades ago; she remembers the goats and the cars being transported and reports it was an adventure!

I personally remember a rust-bucket named Almirante Luis Brion that offered ferry service from Venezuela to Aruba from 1973, until she was taken out of circulation in 1994.

The Ling Family introduced the Jordan Ling Foundation

The Lings, as in Ling & Sons IGA Supercenter, retired from the food business in 2012 and I still miss them every day. They left a legacy of excellent service, and personal sacrifice. They lived and breathed the business, and the buyers of the store still haven’t filled these big shoes completely.

The Lings started the store as a family business in 1949, and sold it to Albert Heijn, having served six generations in their Savaneta, San Nicolas and Oranjestad outlets.

Last year, the family endure a terrible blow when Jordan Ling, a highly educated, promising young man, put an end to his life, following a long bout with mental illness. The family announced this week that they established the Jordan Ling Foundation, dedicated to his memory, and that their first project was an awareness conference on mental health at the Renaissance Convention Center, October 22.

The family said their initiative is designed to break the stigma associated with the subject, and to open channels of communication regarding mental health, a silent killer, across demographics. The family will be working closely with PAAZ, the psychiatric ward at the Dr. Horacio Oduber Hospital.

The general public is invited to attend the conference.

Celebrity Chef Pablo Ranea from Argentina will showcase his prowess at AWD restaurants

Celebrity Chef Pablo Ranea from Mendoza, Argentina, will be going all-out on Thursday, September 15 and Saturday, September 17 at two charity functions, held at Tango Argentine Grill and Hadicurari restaurant. The chef, who has been teaching workshops at prestigious restaurants in Lima, Peru, San Francisco and New York, among others, will be coming to Aruba to host a workshop for EPI students and teach the culinary team of Aruba Wine and Dine. Proceeds of the 4-course lunch & wine pairing and dinner & wine pairing will be going to the foundation for homes for the elderly on the island, SABA.

Earlier that week a group of 15 students and two teachers of EPI will be taught the celebrity chef’s take on mise-en-place, ingredients, appetizers, entrées and desserts during a workshop. The Pop-Up Lunch at Tango Argentine Grill is held on Thursday, September 15. The event, which is open to visitors and locals, is made up of a 4-course lunch and wine pairing. As Chef Pablo is at the forefront of contemporary food and wine pairing, this might provide some amazing pairings. His New Argentinian cuisine is a fusion of traditional recipes with a flirty Latin American wink. A maximum of 40 guests will be able to savor this extraordinary food and wine pairing.

The Pop-Up Dinner, held on Saturday, September 17, is held from 7 – 10 pm. Visitors and locals will be able to mingle with local VIPs and press members at Hadicurari restaurant. The 6-course menu includes very good, carefully selected top wines. Decorations at Tango and Hadicurari are works of art made by local artists; everything will be for sale. At Hadicurari a maximum of 50 guests can register.

 Sponsors of this unique event include Compra, Romar Trading and Pepia Est.

 Chef Pablo Ranea’s personal motto is ‘great wines demand great food’, so prepare yourself for a showcase that will blow your mind.

A recent interesting article from the Amigoe di Aruba

Reporter Bobby Muscle who doesn’t mince any words, reported some interesting facts in the Amigoe.  I translated the article from Dutch to English, thank you Mr. Google, and edited it a bit.

Here it is:

Apparently the current staffing practices of our government are characterized by what Bobby Muscle calls political patronage — you would call it favoritism or nepotism, and it manifests as a financial burden for the country, according to a report by Armand Hessels the Presidents of Corporate Governance of Aruba Foundation (SDBA).  The report states that an estimated 43% of our government employees are redundant, representing an unnecessary burden on OUR economy, to the tune of 250 million florins a year.

Upon reading that devastating statement I consulted one of my smart friends for feedback, and he said: I agree 100%. However, one of the reasons that it has been so hard to REDUCE the number of Aruba’s Civil Servants is because if you fire them, where will they go then….how will they feed their families? Isn’t every one of these redundant 2,500 people responsible for at least 3-4 dependent family members…

Ok read on, from the Amigoe:

The forty-page SDBA report focusing on our government’s staffing is the first in a series of upcoming reports by SDBA, who denounces the dire financial consequences of improper government hiring. It also aims at educating us and encouraging critical thinking.

The foundation shows that our advisory and controlling bodies such as the Social & Economic Council (SER), the Court of Audit (ARA), the Advisory Council (RvA) and the Central Bank of Aruba (CBA), divide our government employees’ distribution into three categories: 1. Political Patronage or Nepotism 2. Pathetic Financial Management and 3. Questionable Projects, which consistently lead to, and this is a quote “massive waste of money and an intolerable debt burden.”

The foundation reiterates that it is not about a few millions, but about billions of florins, spent irresponsibly  over the past thirty years since the onset of Status Separate. According SDBA this loss cannot be attributed to only one political party. Both MEP and AVP have practiced improper governance since 1986 and contributed to the national debt now at 4 billion florins.

The problem has been a growing one. At the onset of Status Aparte, 1988, Aruba had 3,800 government employees, 25% of them redundant. Then about 2,000 additional ones were hired, and in 2014, we were blessed by over 5,750, at a huge cost, according to SDBA. Take out your calculators, that represents perhaps 100 million a year, over the past 30 years.

In comparison to our sister island Curacao, SDBA shows that benchmarking with Curacao with similar infrastructure and facilities, is convenient, and he comparison goes the following: In 2015, Aruba had 106,795 residents and 5,757 government employees. Curacao is bigger, 154 843 residents, with only 4,617 government employees.

SDBA calculates that Curaçao has nearly 30 government employees per 1,000 residents, and Aruba has about 54 per 1,000 residents, that times an estimated cost of 100,000 florins per employee based on salary, benefits and bonus,  adds to 250 wasted million florins to our budget, which accumulates to 1 billion, in just a few years.

The document states that the government has ignored inspection and introspection for years, ignoring attempts by SER, RvA, CBA and NAB to curb spending, resulting in serious financial consequences.

SER is not shy about its findings, it states that the recurrent shortage of public finance ‘is mainly due to the increase in government personnel costs.’ It recommends reorganization. SER also pointed out that employee files were incomplete, missing diplomas and certificates of good conduct and generally demonstrate a flawed hiring process. The report also complains about fictitious services, that require a great and costly number of employees.

Of course, the situation has grown worse in the past five years as supplementary budgets were required to satisfy the needs of the payroll. While the Minister of Finance for example supplemented his office by the fewest employees,  just 5, the Minister of General Affairs, added 137 staffers.

The College of Financial Supervision is also critical saying that civil service employment in Aruba is ‘disproportionate’ and ‘big’, especially in comparison with other countries, and warns that despite the current hiring freeze the situation is uncontrollable! Besides with automatic annual increase in wages and salaries as a result of a set remuneration system and associated indexation of wages, in place till 2018, the situation doesn’t stand a chance to improve.

To summarize, political patronage is the main reason for the unbridled growth of our civil service network. Employment is what politicians use to barter with their voters. Voters provide materials and benefits in exchange for political power. That system has a very bad effect on the quality of governance on our island and to some extent even on the mentality of our people, who, no longer see the relationship between personal effort and personal progress. Personal progress is now a given regardless of the effort put into it.

The government’s refusal to cut in personnel, is rooted in fear of losing votes , and fear of a union uprising. As it stands right now, partisan affiliation is the decisive qualifying factor on employment.

After three decades of nepotism we now have a completely distorted workforce, hampered by serious financial and economic implications. Our political parties have developed into agencies where the membership and activities on behalf of the party guarantee a well-paid job in government. At the end, Aruba and its tax payers are paying the price for that policy, and the political parties gain strength at the expense of the state.

Those interested in the complete report, can refer to www.deugdelijkbestuuraruba.org under ‘our investigation.

At Cas Di Cultura, join TEDXAruba on September 23rd

At a preview meeting on Wednesday, TEDxAruba presented its list of speakers and special offers to a room packed with business community invitees, eager to get a taste of what the event would be like!

I am a fan of the TED App, I play talks all the time on a variety of subjects and the second annual TEDx here thinks globally, but acts locally; the theme of this year’s TEDx is: What if?

What if you would do something unexpected?

What if the world were color blind?

Blanca Peters and Marlon Kock opened the morning at the ATIA facility in Oranjestad and emceed two hours of innovation snippets, with a number of speakers given just 10 minutes to describe their specialty in the TED arena, Technology, Education and Design. We also heard from some sponsors Digicel, ATA, which was interesting anyway.

Brian Monpellier of Digicel raised the issue of Big Data, according to which every word I post on line, every picture, every article, doesn’t belong to me once posted, but to my internet service provider. And this is not a What If, this is a reality. Imagine the complications this creates.

Diane Escalona concluded her talk about the Aruba Tourism Authority by asking, what if Aruba wasn’t there, what would the world be missing? Which was the cue to sing this island’s praises.

Why should you go to TEDx? To sharpen your saw; to meet speakers, experts and influencers; to experience a unique networking event with an event App; to acquire new tools; to break out of your comfort zone; to get new tips and learn new tactics; to gain a greater focus; to absorb the energy of like-minded people; to invest in yourself AND to have fun.

If you buy 10 tickets you get a 20% discount. If you have tickets left over, please donate them to the university, they will send an eager-to-learn student. If you buy a ticket today, free lunch is included!

Smuggling Gasoline Across the Border

I was entertained by a recent story in the local online newspapers reporting on an Awg 1,000 fine imposed on a speed boat returning to Aruba with smuggled gasoline bought cheaply in Venezuela.

Which by the way is a known practice here, making a fast run south of the border, on ‘almost empty,’ and returning fully tanked, so to speak. On a number of occasions the ‘almost empty’ turned into ‘empty’ and major challenges ensued as boats with dead motors drifted, lost, forcing the local Coast Guard and Dutch Marines to mount extensive searches in order to find them. Saving smugglers at the public’s expense of course.

In last week’s case, the boat, Ki-Diaa, registered to the former minister Candelario Booshi Wever, who was a senator in Aruba and a minister for 27 years, was caught red handed. Incidentally, Booshi also served in the government’s legal department for 6 years before becoming a senator. Are you speechless?

The boat left Aruba illegally, without clearance, at around 3am and attempted to sneak in unnoticed at about 6am, with full barrels of gasoline on board. The Coast Guard radar detected the law-breakers and sent BP-2 out to meet them. Customs and the General Prosecutor imposed the fine, relatively low for ‘first offender,’ though according to everyone involved the boat runs the route regularly and is no first offender.

Just to add to your outrage, the former minister, now the owner of a gasoline smuggling boat, was in charge of Immigration here, granting stay and work permits. His most famous brain child, the Swiss Model, introduced in 2002, tortured many good people, for quite a few years, I have no clue what happened to it, as I think it was even written into a law. Notorious for a number of frivolous law suits, the minister was/is incredibly self righteous and pompous. I was upset about the incident the newspaper described, I waited for an explanation or an apology, but nothing published to sooth my discontent with the picture this paints about our officials in retirement.