Bati Bleki, July 6th, 2014

AN ISLAND OF ESCAPE ARTISTS. Life as we knew if, came to a complete stand-still during the FIFA World Cup 2014 games, as we all escaped into the bars, surrendering to a soccer addiction. You should have seen the celebration at the Moomba Beach arena at the conclusion of the Netherlands Vs. Costa Rica match. Incredible. I visited Amazonia Bar & Lounge just as the action started and recognized an astounding number of friends, kicking back over beer and finger foods. I had no clue they were all such soccer buffs. I watched the game off and on, at the Bushiribana Gold Mines, yes, it’s true, as the Radisson GM’s Challenge Race was in full swing, in the comfort of a tent, on a 70″ plasma TV! The day before, I popped my head into Herman’s Sport Bar & Grill in Noord, for the historical Brazil Vs. Colombia game. Wow, I didn’t know that Michel van Leeuwen, the former Sales & Marketing Manager of Red Sales Sports was Colombian. I thought he was Dutch. But I am married to a Colombian, he said. Ok, that explains it. That place was packed to the gills, and fun, if you can stand such congestion! For the next showdown on Wednesday, I suggest you find an Argentinean-owned business to watch the game at. I have two spots in mind: Dushi Bagels at Playa Linda, and / or Ché Bar, the little grill at the outside corner of Paseo Herencia Mall.

NO CEDULA, NO WATER, NO MINISTER. I called the office of the Censo recently for an appointment for a new ID card. Mine had the audacity to expire. I got a scheduled time for last week, no problem, they told me to bring a recent passport picture and gave me a time-slot for Friday. On Thursday, a friendly voice called from the Censo to cancel. They no longer offer the ID card service, it has been discontinued, they don’t know for how long. Call back in a few weeks, the voice suggested, perhaps a month. I suspect the cancellation of my much-anticipated exchange with the government department in charge of identification cards was postponed due to the budget/no budget talks and that they simply ran out of money for small plastic sleeves, heated then sealed around the picture I took at Checkpoint Color. Then my girlfriend Monique Ecury, a legal eagle by profession and a gardener at heart told me how she tried to negotiate with Santa Rosa to trade diesel at Awg 400 a tank in exchange for irrigation water at Awg 35 a tank, for her plants. She called the green-thumbed team in Santa Cruz in need of some agricultural water and was told they would deliver, with great pleasure, if they had any diesel for their trucks. She offered to pay for the diesel in exchange of 12 water deliveries this year, but that confusing mathematical procedure could not fly, because they had no provision for barter economy in their by-laws. So you see the fact that our handsome, presidential-looking, dashing and dynamic minister of finance, Juan David Yrausquin, just resigned his position has far flung, widespread implications, which trickled down even before he resigned. When I first heard about his letter to the Governor, handing back his keys and apron, I had a short-lived sense of disappointment laced with a touch of disillusionment, as if it was all pre-arranged, I had a déjà-vu: He was too good to be true anyway, the task was too gargantuan, the obstacles too ridiculous, the mess left by the previous Minister of Finance too big, the opposition too sneaky and indirect, publicly supporting budget-cuts, but not in their departments! Then reality sunk in, and I realized I would go home too, to my adorable wife, to my cute kids, loving sisters and brothers, solid family business, I would ditch that ungrateful government job in a heartbeat. Honestly, I would be so relieved that the opportunity presented itself and that I could go home! And poor Freddy, such heat, such pressure. In my mind, Governor Fredis Refunjol is an exceptionally kind man who would never abuse his power. After all, someone just had to tell us to stop spending money like crazy! If I were you, Freddy-Daddy, I would go home too, to baseball and fishing. Ok, so now we have two lucrative positions, wide open. Who would lead this country into the future? Who would arrange for small plastic sleeves at Censo, and diesel for the Santa Rosa trucks?! I dunno. True leadership is the world’s rarest commodity, and we suffer from shortages too.

BARBULET CONCIERGE. Freya Kraag, is now the Managing Director at Barbulet Concierge. Apparently Freya recognized the growing niche market of Vacation Rentals and is now going to provide concierge services to visitors staying in alternative accommodations, the small boutique hotels and guest houses. I think she is onto something because that market experienced a 30% growth between February 2013 and February 2014, with 348,963 visitors staying in apartments and private homes in that period. Freya is determined to reach each one of them and provide them with a service such as dinner reservations, food shopping, or sharing activity recommendations. As good-looking as she is smart, we wish her success.

FRESH NEWS PORTAL, NOTICIACLA. News ferret Tito Lacle hosted a press conference this week introducing his just-launched news portal with clearer, shorter, concise, and more frequent news designed to keep those who are busy and distracted on top of today’s events. Shorter and concise is great, because we all have the tendency to go on and on forever. Tito dedicated the news portal to his late father, Edgar Lacle, which added an emotional touch and real content to the gathering at Windows on Aruba, for the Noticiacla reveal.

DELOITTE, SHARES THE BOUNTY. Michael-Leo van Romondt, the tax department partner, Deloitte Dutch Caribbean, and Geert Weber, the hip tax department manager, co-hosted a Friday afternoon lecture on tax developments, because tax must go on, regardless of the FIFA World Cup 2014 schedule. Totally dedicated to what they do, the two asked Professor Peter Kavelaars, on the Deloitte Dutch Caribbean team, to talk to an audience of select local experts about the recent developments in the field. The almost two dozen thirsty-for-knowledge consultants listened to the quirky Dutch professor intently, you could hear a pin drop, in the conference room of the Surfside Marina. Professor Kavelaars enjoyed the full attention of fiscal geniuses from various companies, including Luzina de Greef, who is herself a Deloite-University graduate, now self-employed. I asked the professor about his beach-combing habits and he assured me he never goes to the beach, because when you are dealing with the new Aruban legislation regarding chains, hired personnel and directors’ liability and the BRNC, the recent tax agreement between the Netherlands and Curacao regulating pensions, you can never take any time off to go to the beach! At the end of the session, over cocktails at the lovely sunset deck, I agreed it is true what Benjamin Franklin said, there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. RC@visitaruba.com