Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, Sept. 24th, 2017

Elections coming up on Friday, but before you vote you should read this:

Last week a significant number of intelligent people congregated in the ballroom of the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino for a three day symposium regarding Good Governance and the lack thereof on the island, for the past 31 year, since Status Aparte.

It would be difficult to summarize the 9 interactive lectures given over the span of 3 days, but some things stand out mostly the interesting findings of Armand Hessels, who took it upon himself to actually read the reports generated by government advisory agencies, over 2,000 pages in small print.

According to Armand we have a pretty good system of checks and balances in place but because of our ever-influential political parties, our parliament, government and various advisory bodies, are rendered powerless and ignored.

And when you ignore sound advice, there are dire financial consequences. The following is a list of failed and/or suspicious projects, that cost the island over 1 billion  florins in the past 31 years.

Sit back and enjoy the memory lane ride:

Aruven,  the Venezuelan-Aruban partnership involved in resort development, and its later cousin Dutchco. Sace, the Italian contractor who siphoned a fortune pretending to build Plantation Bay, the Beta and the Ramada Hotels.  The failed Airport Radar project; the cost overrun associated with building our  Airport, Reina Beatrix 2000, and the humiliating failure of Air Aruba.

The list of disasters goes on, with public money disappearing by the millions, including the Port, the Post office, Setar/Fabela association, ATES project, the notorious Race Track, where Aruba ended up paying damages to Sanchez, Motorsports Americas, Inc, Interbank/CSS, Air & Sea Letters, Aruba Bunita NV, the operation and closing of the Bushiri Hotel School, the Ostrich project, that was funny, raising ostriches for meat, the reopening and consequential closing of the Bushiti Hotel School, Dividend Special, the bankruptcy of Interbank and its adoption by the FCCA, the investigate and elusive FDNSN, designed to revive San Nicholas, the never resolved hazardous issue of the Dump and recycling, Trias Resort, at Isla Di Oro, where the developer was paid off, the upcoming PPP Projects, among them the ridiculous Bridge, and the elephantine Watty Vos blvd, Bo Aruba, Lotto pa Deporte, that was a juicy scandal, the Hedging debacle and the latest ongoing drama: CITGO and RDA.

Armand compiled the above list but says there are other countless projects characterized by suspicious procedures & heavy cost overruns.

Before you vote, keep in mind, that ONLY Sace (Afl. 200 million) + Hedge-deal (over Afl. 250 million) + Dump (Afl. 28 million) already cost Aruba  ±Afl. 0,5 billion

Which means a minimum loss of AFL. 1 BILLION IN 31 YEARS = AVERAGE ±AFL. 30 MILLION loss per YEAR.

Then we also have to keep in mind the financial deficits due to deficient financial administration and the stuff that takes us by surprise when lack of control leads to waste and fraud. Examples? The Ministry of Education Scholarships, Arubus disappearing funds, and Airport irregularities, the Afls. 10 million missing from the laboratory, and at least 20 persons average/year with ‘integrity-issues, creating losses.’

MOST OF ALL: The repeated recommendation to change the tax system, and the chronic refusal to do so, though CAFT promises it will save us Afl. 100 million a year.

Well, if you arrived to this point, you read it, now you can go vote to change the system.

 Second column in a series: Elections are coming up on Friday, but before you vote you should read this:

You must already know that last week a significant number of intelligent people congregated in the ballroom of the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino for a three day symposium regarding Good Governance and the lack thereof on the island, for the past 31 year, since Status Aparte.

It would be difficult to summarize the 9 interactive lectures given over the span of 3 days, but some things stand out mostly the interesting findings of Armand Hessels, who took it upon himself to actually read the reports generated by government agencies, over 2,000 pages in small print.

One of the slides which was the most painful to digest in his power point presentation was one regarding the DECREASED funding for social organizations.

Apparently because the Dutch imposed financial sobriety, enforced by CAFT supervision, the island could no longer borrow money on the international markets, no more loans, so it turned on its own budget items and cannibalized them, taking chunks out of the education budget, the social affair budget, the health budget, the justice budget, the infrastructure budget, plus imposing higher taxes.

Example:  Social organizations received Fls. 122.234.600 in 2014,  82.825.600 in 2015 and, and just 52.878.000 in 2016, that’s a total of 43% of what they got in 2014.

It means that in order to finance its extravagant spending, including  the election campaign, social organization will get even less, this year.

Consequently, we have kids who go to school hungry, kids who don’t have glasses to see what’s scribbled on the blackboard, yes, we still use blackboards, our elderly survive on a shoe string budget in barrack-like homes, and there is no money in the contingency fund, in the event of a natural god forbid, disaster. Our MinPres flew to Sint Maarten to offer encouragements – think a two-day private-plane charter, plus expenses, entourage and social media specialists, $30.000 out of our pocket?! —  it got him in the limelight for 20 seconds, but in reality he cannot do anything to ease these people’s suffering and pain, acting like Superman was just a photo opportunity.

And all the funds wasted by all parties on ridiculous parades – think Fls 50 per car in gasoline – could have been sent to Sint Maarten as our relief contribution, or put toward a new middle and high school in Noord, so hundreds of kids get a chance at an education.

Taking a break from politics

Curtain Call

I dropped in for coffee at Curtain Call, on Schotlandstraat 66, in front of Romar Trading. My dining room chairs have been talking to me, come on woman, we need new fabric, new stuffing, nuf already, how ‘bout the tiniest refresh?

The surprising store definitely offers visitors a delightful experience, from delicious coffee with cookies, down to the incredible selection of window treatments, fabrics, and beddings.

Against Aruba’s often boring business landscape, this is not your usual store, this is a super cute, creative and colorful boutique designed to serve you, and your window, bed and sofa needs.

You have no use for any of these? Never mind, just drop in for a visit, the bold colors, the whimsical wall paper, the recycled knickknacks and the company of Elsje, Agnes, and Zchajaira, is enough to keep you informed and entertained about the subject of hard and soft treatments for windows.

Here they customize everything. Once you make a down payment and order, the countdown begins and before long your home is upgraded with paper, wood, faux-wood, bamboo, aluminum or fabric shades, in every style and color, some don’t even require drilling, they just snap into place. Some are reversible, upside down, and downside up, blackout, or see-though, or made out of fiberglass fabric, most importantly many kinds of solar shades are available, to block out the sun. Then they also have shutters, in every style and color, and a forest of fabric rolls, but I ran out of steam.

The business by Eljse Lacle started in 2007, checking into a corner at the now defunct Teak House. It then went on to develop a substantial private-client following. Later on, the showroom resided for a while at the same Schotlandstraat address, upstairs. It recently moved downstairs, into the fun, and spacious atelier, reflecting Elsje’s Technicolor taste and joyful personality.

I found a piece on Elsje’s Facebook that explains it all:

At Curtain Call we take great pride in our work. We want to be the best window treatments company – not just in Aruba, but anywhere! We know we are only as good as our reputation, and that`s why we`ll work with you until you`re happy with the outcome.
These are just a few reasons why Curtain Call is your only choice when you need window treatments, fabric or bedding.
Quality of finish: We use only the highest quality materials that fit within your budget, and ensure that they are exquisitely finished.
Service and installation: Our professional, friendly installation is without equal. We show up when we promise and work quickly and discreetly until the project is completed. And we`ll make sure to do a complete cleanup after the work is done.
Product selection: We`re proud to offer the widest product selection of fine fabrics and fixtures in Aruba, ranging from budget to premium. We offer residential and commercial grade materials for interior or exterior use, in a huge range of colors, textures, and patterns.
Friendly, responsive service: We love what we do, and it shows. Nothing gives us greater pleasure than taking care of your window treatment needs in a speedy and friendly manner. And we’re always available to our clients by cell phone (well, when we’re not sleeping…).
Personal consultation: We’ll work closely with you to ensure that your rooms look 100% to your liking. You can visit our showroom and browse our gigantic selection of fabrics. We’ll visit your home or office for a custom measurement. And we’ll combine your ideas with our resources to come up with the solution that’s just right for you.
Our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee: You must be totally satisfied with the window treatments, fabrics, and installation services we provide. We believe people should stand behind their work, and that’s exactly what we do. If you’re not completely satisfied, we’ll make it right.

A Betico story I heard yesterday. We’re still talking about Betico.

A MEP old timer told me an anecdote yesterday, naïve but clever, about yesteryears. He was a young man then, in his early 20s when Betico was a senior advisor, never a minister or deputy.

The story goes the following: Betico liked to hang out with his cronies after work at some favorite local places, Hong Kong Restaurant, El Gaucho, Brisas del Mar. He sat around drinking, eating and brainstorming with his political allies. Then towards the restaurant’s closing hour, he used to get some of his colleagues out of bed, pressuring them with late evening phone calls, alternating between Nel Oduber, Daniel Leo & Efraim de Kort, urging them to get dressed and join him, in time for the bill.

As soon as they walked in, sat down, ordered a drink, the waiter use came around with the bill for the night, which the just-arrived minister dutifully signed.

Betico liked to spread his expenses around to the various departments of finance, tourism, and land administration, maintaining his personal expense account at a moderate, inconspicuous level.

His son later tried to pull off the same trick, only it did not work as well, and Glenbert is/was the only politician in the island’s history to answer for charges in court, to be found personally liable, and to be obliged to pay back, public funds spent frivolously. I believe he is still paying.

End of story.

The war of the Borchis

Simple Mathematics:  So the green machine enjoyed 33,114 votes in the last election, but over time, with attrition and the loss of some candidates, including OO, PC, MHW, JDY, RH and MP, a total of 10.046 votes went by the sideways. So let’s assume that the party delivered 100% satisfaction, and managed to hug and hold its remaining flock, that brings us to 23.068 AVP voters. We have to keep in mind that some of those cheering in the videos were members of the island’s Latin community, who have no voting rights, yet. Then the new voters, a total of 4,611, were out for grabs.

Who grabbed them?

According to a table on page 23 of a magazine I received in the mail yesterday, the green machine has been growing since 1977, with a dip in 1983, then considerable growth until 2001, when it experienced a dip, then 40% growth in 2005, then another 20% growth in 2013.

As for MEP, the party remained constant from 1975, some peaks and some dips, but the total number remained amazingly the same. In 1977 they scored 17,112 voters, and in 2013, 17,653 voters, while the island population doubled in size. Did the party manage to acquire new voters now that it added a number of ambitious, forward-thinking fresh politicians to its ranks?

If AVP wins a majority in today’s elections, I am hopeful that the OM investigation will serve as a warning, curbing the party’s appetite for favoritism and opaque practices.

A joke I heard recently described how the MEP government was like Robin Hood stealing from the rich to give to the poor and how the AVP government is like Bernie Madhoff, stealing from the poor to give to the rich! It’s a joke! But every joke has a grain of truth in it.

If MEP wins a majority in Friday’s election, I hope they don’t nix all projects began by the previous government. I hope they take inventory and proceed to finish the work began in a more sober, controlled and deliberate manner.  The naked scar carved into the island’s middle, the path of the bombastic Watty Vos Blvd, would look ugly, abandoned desperate if the project is killed.

Will POR recuperated after the 16 page biblical-proportioned shitstorm filled with “poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps,” the PORkeria circulating in our mail boxes?

Will all of those educated, well-spoken individuals I have spoke to really vote RAIZ in the privacy of their electoral booth??

I walked out of Santa Anna School this morning, after voting, they were still stapling a new billboard of the former MinPres across from the church on the Romar Trading billboard, this morning at 10am. Campaigning long past deadline.

All we have to do is sit and wait…

Relieved, exhausted

We made it past September 22nd.

The green machine got a well-deserved whopping. We told them, they did not listen. And fought even harder in the last weeks, screaming louder, paying off more men, bringing in more horses, all in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding, and put humpty-dumpty together again.

Kids, fifty kids at a time, in the MinPres’ entourage, earning as much as Awg 7 an hour, walking around with the sweaty politician in the barrios. Almost 200 people, on his pay roll, fervently working social media to tell us how valuable #1 is. Not. You spent too much money. You lost control of your minions. Nepotism only gets you so far.

So from 33,103 voters in 2013, to 22,609 in 2017, that’s a substantial loss.

And a bit after 1am this morning the former MinPres announced he was going to the opposition benches. That’s a lesson in humility. He also said he was going to retire his post and allow the party to reorganize.

The people have spoken.

We will have a female MinPres next.

One of my friends explained to me why MEP did not grow over the past years and continues to linger around a certain mark, 21,298, in 2017. That is because voters who were born outside Aruba and the Dutch Islands, do not vote for MEP. Why? The answer lies in MEP’s slightly xenophobia, homophobia narrative,  and its anti-foreigner sentiment. If you change your tune, and show some more love to strangeros, you might get their vote next time.

The surprise of the evening: The rivalry between POR & RED. I never saw them as rivals. One with a mega marketing budget and the other with a zero marketing budget, both achieving similar results. PaBien Ricardo Croes, you won a seat in Parliament on the wings of popular support, 4,015 votes, no flags, no stickers, no jingles. Your job is to keep them honest now, in Parliament.

POR with just 2 seats? All that star power, Otmar Oduber, Marisol Tromp and Andin Bikker, and the voters did not materialized, just 5,344 in total. The politicians must all be secretly disappointed, by the party’s underperformance. Nevertheless, POR is the natural coalition partner, and holds the key to the formation of our next government.

Next time, keep the polls open until 9pm, as the heat subsides. Many people couldn’t face the temperatures and remained in air-conditioning. You should have closed the polls at a later hour.