GZE is gone, questions linger

Debt-ridden Guangdong Zhenrong Energy (GZE) faces the possibility of completely disappearing from the map or getting absorbed by another Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE). This, as a result of a thorough overhaul of many SOEs by the powerful Chinese State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) which embarked on a revamp of its SOEs in 2015 to tackle rising corporate debt and also to make them more profitable. A leading financial newspaper of Southeast Asia has quoted Mr. Xiao Yaqing, the SASAC chairman, wanting “to reduce a lot of ‘zombie enterprises’ and improve the management efficiency”. Whether GZE is specifically considered a zombie SOE cannot be confirmed, at least not at this time. One thing is for sure however, GZE was not at the top of its game when it comes to China’s ambitious One Belt One Road Strategy to make it the world’s strongest economic powerhouse. Far from that. They messed up big time in Myanmar as I reported long before it became news in Curaçao after returning from an assignment from that country at the end of 2016. Funny thing is that GZE showcased its involvement in Myanmar as its visit card to get involved in Curaçao. Most shocking was that I got firsthand knowledge of GZE’s involvement in grave human rights violations by driving people off of their farm lands in order to build what would’ve been a multi-billion dollar refinery in Myanmar.

Yet the Curaçao project team responsible for finding the best international partner to modernize the Curaçao refinery, MDPT, somehow pulled GZE out of a hat and had the Whiteman Administration happily sign on the dotted line. Did the project manager fool everyone? Or, did the whole team get played by the Chinese? Or, did it purposely look away from the ugly facts? Were the Administrations from 2016 onward so eager to score politically (and maybe personally) that they were willing to make a deal with some wannabe refinery experts? Where was the independent press? Did some media outlets feel they had to keep quiet and go with the flow after the GZE paid for a plush trip to China for a group of local media people?

I don’t know if these questions will ever get answered. Hopefully we’ve all gained from these lessons learned. We cannot have the fate of our refinery continue to be in hands of people on solo tours or who consider themselves some kind of superhero. That’s how we lost a lot of valuable time with GZE in the first place. We need transparency. We need politicians who don’t get involved in the technical nitty gritty. We need people to look into the corporate and social behavior of all would-be candidates to run our refinery in the future. We need an independent project team that looks into the real possibilities of redeveloping the prime location that the refinery currently occupies on our island. Nothing is forever, surely not the refinery.

Istanbul, Turkey

2 yüli 2018, 67 aña gobernashon propio

2 di yüli ta un dia históriko. Riba e dia aki na 1951 nos ta marka komienso di gobernashon propio. Kontrali na lokual hopi ta keda ripití sin buska drechi, outonomia no a kuminsá na 1954 ku firmamentu di Statüt, sino ku introdukshon di un konstitushon nobo, yamá Interimregeling riba 7 febrüari 1951. Basá riba e kambio konstitushonal aki, nos promé Konseho Insular a sinta, despues di elekshon riba 4 di yüni 1951 spesialmente pa skohe e representantenan pa e órgano nobo. Pues 2 di yüli ta mas ku solamente Dia di Bandera. E ta selebrashon di 67 aña di gobernashon propio.

E promé elekshon pa Konseho Insular a konosé e siguiente resultado: Partido Nashonal (NVP) ta gana elekshon ku 9 asiento, Partido Demokrat (DP) ta saka 8, Partido Katóliko di Pueblo (KVP) ta saka 3, Partido Independiente di Kòrsou (COP) ta saka 1, i Arbeiderspartij (AP) mihó konosí komo ‘Partido Warawara’, no ta saka ningun hende. AP a sali for di miembronan malkontentu di DP i ta risibí solamente 148 voto. E nòmber ‘warawara’ a keda duná na AP pasombra segun un pamfleta di DP di e tempu ei, warawara ta konosí pa su holó stinki.

E promé 21 miembronan di Konseho Insular di Kòrsou. Pa NVP: Sr. Hendrik Pieters Kwiers, Sr. Ernesto Rozendaal, Sra. Angela de Lannoy-Willems, Sr. Benjamin Römer, Sr. Philip Cohen Henriquez, Sr. Edward Broos, Sr. Romano Tschumie, Sr. Heraclio Henriquez i Sr. Charles Voges. Pa DP: Sr. Efraim Jonckheer, Sr. Ciro Kroon, Sr. Ramez (Ronchi) Isa, Sr. Steef v.d. Meer, Sr. Cornelis (Nene) Hueck, Sra. Louisa Van der Linde-Helmijr, Sr. Julio Rosario i Sr. Tjerk Petzoldt.  Pa KVP: Sr. David Capriles, Sr. Elias Morkos i Sr. J. ‘Jonchi’ Jonckhout. Pa COP: Sr. Philip Evertsz.

E promé diputadonan di Kòrsou tabata: Sr. J. (Jonchi) Jonkhout (KVP), Sr. Philip Cohen Henriquez (NVP), Sr. Ciro Kroon (DP) i Sr. Gerald Sprockel (NVP).

S.E. Gobernador Anton Struycken a hasi e apertura ofishal di Konseho Insular riba 2 yüli 1951 durante un reunion solèm ku a tuma lugá den edifisio di Staten di Antia Ulandes. Den su diskurso e a bisa ku: “Een eigen orgaan voor de behartiging van zijn belangen schept voor Curaçao grotere mogelijkheden dan ooit tevoren om de lens scherper in te stellen op de eigen problemen en mogelijkheden”.

Sr. Michael Gorsira, e promé Presidente di Konseho Insular di Kòrsou, a resumí e importansia di gobernashon propio na final di su diskurso splikando den idioma Papiamentu: “Laga nos tur rekordá ku di awor en adelante nos lo haña e gobièrnu ku nos mes trese na poder i ku nos mes lo mester karga tur responsabilidat pa tur e loke e gobièrnu aki hasi. Laga nos demostrá responsabilidat. Esei lo ta e mihó prueba ku nos por duna ku nos meresé e outonomia ku tantu nos a anhelá”. Historia pues ta mustra ku Sr. Gorsira a na Papiamentu na 1951 den Konseho Insular!

E arkitekto di nos gobernashon propio indudablemente tabata mr. dr. Moises Frumensio da Costa Gomez ku inkansablemente a lucha pa nos outonomia for di dia ku e a regresá su isla natal riba 31 desèmber 1934 despues di a optené su título universitario na Ulanda. E mes no a tuma asiento den Konseho Insular riba 2 di yüli 1951 (e a hasi esaki mas despues) pasombra e kier a konsentrá su mes riba
perfekshoná nos status konstitushonal ku a resultá den nos Statüt.

Yerevan, Armenia

Foto: Nationaal Archief

Government places the economic cart before the horse

You know there’s something terribly wrong when your country starts facing the real possibility of capital flight. This is a process that usually takes place quietly as people export their savings to foreign countries. It wouldn’t surprise me that soon we’ll get to the point when the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten will have to shed some light on this issue. Certain is that some key figures of our supreme monetary authority are aware of these disconcerting developments. This would confirm what you frequently hear on the main streets of Curaçao regarding a total lack of trust in our policies, government and even scarier, little hope that things will change in the future.

Stronger economic growth in our country at this point is not about lack of money to invest. Some large local commercial banks have an unhealthy high liquidity ratio as they are finding practically no viable large new projects to finance. We are however in dire need of modern and flexible structures that make it possible to take advantage of the ever-changing global markets. We should embrace innovation and the use of digital platforms. We need to harvest the ‘blue’ economy, the coastal waters surrounding our islands and should understand the potential we have as a producer of renewable energy. We must be able to reach new customers via a network of tax and trade treaties. It’s painfully obvious that heavy reliance on tourism has not led to the desired prosperity.

Government should enable these alternative options, making our island attractive for developing and finding investors for these alternative sectors. Our politicians however, believe that turning around the current economic tide is not to double down on the need to bring about structural changes, but to go across the ocean and go look for investors in The Netherlands. Talk about putting the cart before the horse!

In my opinion, before inviting investors -local and foreign- you’d better have a solid and coherent story on why these investors should even consider you in the first place. What are you going to say about our antiquated and inflexible labor markets? What’s your sales pitch going to be regarding our stifling cost of doing business, low labor productivity, insufficient attention for skilled immigration and brain drain? And while you’re at it, tell them when our deficient monetary union will be fixed and when we’ll stop using the currency of the Netherlands Antilles, a country that since 2010 doesn’t exist anymore. Be prepared when asked why we don’t comply with the World Trade Organization and why we’re about the only ones left in the world without one single trade agreement.

Big structural adjustments are not easy. The eliminating of protection policies for which I was responsible, got a lot of resistance. It was a necessary step, yet by itself it doesn’t even come close to all we need to undertake. But, by making us belief that a trip to Holland to invite investors to come on down will solve our problems is just naive.

Yerevan, Armenia


Café Santa Rosa, the oldest existing bar in Curaçao turns 75

Established on 8 June, 1943, Café Santa Rosa is the oldest existing bar of Curaçao. The bar is situated in Santa Rosa and is known by the older generations as ‘Martins Oranjeboom’ because the founder, Mr. Martins Mademilia, was the importer of Oranjeboom which at that time was a very popular beer. Congratulations to the current owner José ‘Shon Ma’ Mademilia with this anniversary.

The bar was constructed at the height of the Second World War to provide for entertainment at a time when the possibilities for recreation were scarce. It quickly became a resting area for walkers, travellers on donkeys and horses, bus drivers and a meeting point for the population of the greater Santa Rosa.

I grew up not far from Café Santa Rosa. I walked by it everyday on my way to and from school. Entering the bar was out of the question as it was ‘no place for children’. As a matter of fact, I grew up hearing that a lady should never set foot inside. Times have changed. Yet I was never able to convince my mother to come visit the bar when I managed it in 2012.

When the bar turned 65 years the owner gave me green light to look into the possibilities of having the bar assigned the status of monument. Although the process was anything but easy, Café Santa Rosa in 2011 officially became a historic cultural monument. My fears that this piece of historic gem could be converted into a hair and nail salon or something totally weird were put to ease. That’s what I thought at least.

Since 2013 this bar has been managed by people who did not care about its traditions. Not surprisingly traditional bars like Montaña Bar, Welgelegen Bar, Semikòk Bar and Langulé Bar don’t exist anymore precisely because of our shifting values. Café Santa Rosa’s patrons were driven out by the managers who thought the bar should become a Dutch-type bar. The typical local delicacies such as sùlt (pickled pig ear strips) and what were probably the best tentalarias (cashew or peanut sweets) on the island disappeared as did the festive Sundays with kaha di orgel (cylinder piano) music. More disgusting is however that Café Santa Rosa was physically trashed beyond belief: invaluable original pieces of furniture and the interior have damaged beyond recognition.

There is however a light at the end of the tunnel. The owner told those who were running the place to hit the road (they were not even paying rent) and after a long period of cleaning and repairs, Café Santa Rosa will soon be open again. I’m happy to hear that there are some candidates who do care about our history and traditions are willing to start a new chapter in the long tradition of this traditional bar in Santa Rosa. Hopefully there are many people who just like me, are impatient to go back to Martins Oranjeboom to down a yoshi di ròm bèrdè (traditional local green rum served in a traditional measurement glass) and to nibble on some sùlt.

Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia

The legacy of Anthony Bourdain

If he were alive today he would have turned 63 today, 25 June, 2019. Anthony Bourdain inspired millions of people to take another look at how we travel and what we do when we are abroad. This article is based on a piece I wrote last year in Tbilisi when I learned that he had passed away.

In an era where we seem to be fascinated with how fast people can visit every town and existing country in the world, Anthony Bourdain taught me that traveling should be about life-changing experiences and the ability to step out of  comfort zones. It should not be a self-punishing obsession to pack as many activities as possible in a week.  Mr. Bourdain literally changed the way I travel. I guess that’s why I’m not surprised by how personal his loss still feels to me.

Since we humans are the only species that cook our food, his approach was to show food as the single unifier of our humanity. He also made us aware that good and interesting food can be found all over the world and not only in a handful, mostly European countries as we have been told by many other food programs. Most importantly, he always let the locals talk, explain their culinary choices while other important issues naturally came up.

In a world that’s painfully divided, Mr. Bourdain taught us that difference and otherness whether it’s eating habits, culture, religion or worldview should not be something to be feared, but instead to be embraced. He had a way of making the world much smaller and happier than what we have been told. Through cooking, eating rituals and the desire to share food with family, friends and strangers, he made us aware how truly connected we human beings all are. That will be his lasting legacy in my mind. May he rest in peace.

Tbilisi, Georgia – Willemstad, Curaçao

Café Santa Rosa, e bar mas bieu di Kòrsou ta kumpli 75 aña

Establesé riba 8 yüni 1943, Café Santa Rosa ta e bar eksistente di mas bieu na Kòrsou. E bar ta keda den Santa Rosa i ta mihó konosí pa hopi hende di bario komo Martins Oranjeboom. Esaki pasombra e promé doño, Martins Mademilia tabata importá serbes di marka Oranjeboom ku e tempu ei tabata popular.

Un pabien pa José ‘Shon Ma’ Mademilia (yu di Martins) i su famia ku e aniversario aki.

E bar a keda konstruí durante di e periodo mas intenso di e di Dos Guera mundial ku e meta pa ofresé algu di entretementu den un periodo skur ku no tabatin tin posibilidat pa rekreá kasi. Rápidamente e lugá a bira un sentro di enkuentro pa hendenan di Santa Rosa i alrededor. Tambe e tabata un lugá pa sosiegu di hendenan trafikando na pia, riba kabai òf buriku i tambe shofùrnan di bus.

Mi a lanta no muchu leu for di Café Santa Rosa. Mi tabata pasa su dilanti tur dia ora pa bai skol i kas despues. Drenta e bar si tabata algu estriktamente probibi pa mucha. Asta mi a lanta tende ku un hende muhé respetá no ta bishita tal lugá. Tempu a kambia sinembargo. Tòg nunka mi por a kombensé mi mama pa bishitá e bar dia mi tabata manehá esaki na aña 2012.

Tempu e bar a kumpli 65 aña na 2008, mi a kombensé e doño pa lagami start e proseso pa haña rekonosementu pa e bar komo monumentu. Ounke ku e proseso aki no tabata fasil, na 2011 ofisialmente Café Santa Rosa a keda designá un monumentu históriko kultural. Mi miedu ku e bar lo por a keda kombertí den un lugá di hasi kabei i uña òf algu ku no ta kuadra ku intenshon di su doño a keda kalmá. Por lo ménos asina mi a kere.

For di aña 2013 e bar a keda manehá pa hendenan ku no tabata tin interes òf sentimentu pa e tradishon i kustumbernan sosial importante di e bar. No por ta un sorpresa ku barnan tradishonal manera Montaña Bar, Welgelegen Bar, Semikòk Bar i Langulé Bar no ta eksistí mas netamente pasombra nos no a interesá pa konservá nan tradishon. Klientenan ku hinter nan bida a bin Café Santa Rosa no a sinti nan mes na kas den un ambiente ageno Ulandes Oropeo. Nan a sinti nan mes menospresiá i kasi tur a bai i no a regresá. Ayó e ambiente di sùlt, tentalaria (probablemente esnan di mas sabroso na Kòrsou) i e fiestanan di djadumingu ku e tradishonal müsik di ka’i òrgel. Mas horendo ta e echo ku mobilario original i parti di e interior di e monumento a keda dañá i asta kibrá di tal manera ku esnan ku semper a bai Martins Oranjeboom lo no por kere nan wowonan

Sinembargo tin un lus na horizonte. Ya esnan ku tabata manehá e bar no tei mas. Banda di e destrukshon asta ta asina ku nan no a kumpli na tempu ku pago di hür. Despues di un periodo largu di drechamentu i renobashon, Café Santa Rosa pronto lo habri su portanan manera mi a komprondé. Mas kontentu ainda mi ta ora mi a tuma nota ku tin algun kandidato ku sentimentu pa e balor históriko kultural di e bar ku ta dispuesto pa kuminsá un kapítulo nobo den e tradishon largu i glorioso di e bar di Santa Rosa. Meskos ku ami tin hopi hende ansioso pa dal un yoshi ròm bèrdè i ches riba poko sùlt.

Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia

*Translation in English of this article can be found under: “Café Santa Rosa, the oldest existing bar turns 75”


Kòrdando e promé elekshon Konseho Insular

Ta 67 aña pasá riba 4 yüni 1951, ku pa di promé biaha nos a vota i skohe nos representantenan di Konseho Insular di Kòrsou. Hopi hende te ainda inkorektamente ta bisa ku nos a haña outonomia na 1954, miéntras ku esaki a tuma lugá for di 1951. Ta bon pa nos repasá un ke otro, pero promé ku esei, algun detaye di e elekshon históriko kasi 7 dékada anterior.

Un total di sinku (5) partido a partisipá. Nationale Volkspartij (NVP) ku Moises Frumensio da Costa Gomez (Dòktor) na kabes; Demokratische Partij (DP) ku Efrain Jonckheer komo lider; Katholieke Volkspartij (KVK) ku David Capriles na kabes; Curaçaose Onafhankelijke Partij (COP) liderá pa Phillip Evertsz i finalmente Partij van de Arbeid (P vd A) bou di liderasgo di Castelar da Costa Gomez.

NVP a saka 9 asiento, DP a saka 8, KVK 3 i COP a saka 1. P. vd A no a logra sufisiente voto pa asiento. Remarkabel ta ku 85% di esnan ku por a vota, a bai vota. Algun di e miembronan di e promé Konseho Insular tabata Tjark Petzoldt, Romano Marcario Tschumie, Heraclio Henriquez, Aloisio Emilio Panneflek, Edward Broos, Juancho Evertsz, Hendrik Pieters Kwiers i Moises da Costa Gomez. Nos promé Konseho Insular tabata konosí pa e kantidat grandi di miembronan ku un tras di otro tabata baha pa otro subi.

Konseho Insular a bira posibel ku kambio di nos konstitushon na 1950. Esaki a hasi posibel ku na 1951 a introdusí responsabilidat parlamentario kompleto, a bin ku Eilandenregeling Nederlandse Antillen (ERNA) den kua a desentralisá tareanan manda teritorionan insular. Riba 2 di yüli 1951, e promé Konseho Insular ta keda instalá den e sala di reunion di Staten, 3or di atardi den un reunion emoshonante.

Emoshonante pasombra miéntras tur otro isla di Antia Ulandes pa mas di 100 aña tabatin un tipo di konseho insular kolonial riba nan isla i ku por a skohe pa nan representantenan, ounke ku hopi limitashon, ta na Kòrsou so esaki no tabata posibel. Den pasado e poder kolonial semper a haña ku si riba e mesun isla bo tin tantu gobièrnu sentral pa tur e seis islanan komo pa e isla di Kòrsou tambe, ku esaki lo trese bruashon. Mester bisa ku pa un periodo kòrtiku (1828-1833) a eksperimentá ku un ‘Gemeente Bestuur Curaçao’. Esaki a frakasá pasombra konstantemente tabatin konfliko entre di Gemeente Bestuur i Fort Amsterdam. Ku e elekshon riba 4 yüni 1952 a bin un fin na e diskriminashon ku Kòrsou a sufri di dje kompará ku e otro 5 islanan. Esaki tabata e inhustisia ku Généreux de Lima, un di e tatanan di nos demokrasia i e promé hòmber di koló den Koloniale Raad, a protestá kontra di dje pa di promé biaha na 1863.

Willemstad, Curaçao

More than oil; why Venezuela matters

Late Venezuelan President Chávez said in 2012 that his country had finally regained it’s independence from the evil Yankee empire when it signed a total of 8 oil cooperation agreements with Russia. He predicted then that by 2019 Venezuela would be producing 6 million barrels of oil per day. Today oil production which accounts for 90% of the country’s domestic product is about 1,4 million per day. In 2019 it will most likely be below 1 million, making it impossible to reverse the economic and social meltdown that’s taking place.

The love affair between Russia and Venezuela is not only based on oil, but especially on a set of shared beliefs and ideas on how they view the world. Both have an aversion to democratic governance, they like ruling by sidelining opposition candidates and to enrich their inner circles at the expense of the masses. Both have an anti U.S.-stance blaming U.S. sanctions for their economic problems and using them to whip up domestic support. And, as long as Chavismo is the law of the land, Russia will continue making loans in exchange for stakes in Venezuela’s oil and geopolitical influence. So it seems that the worse things get, the more influence Russia gains in Venezuela and the better its chances become to secure a foothold in the whole region.

Nothing pleases Putin more than flexing his muscles in a traditional U.S. sphere of influence, Latin America. Putin may never be able to forgive the U.S. entanglement in the nineties in the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia, Russia’s backyard. Most embarrassing was when the U.S. military ordered the seizure of the airport outside the capital, Pristina to prevent the Russian troop planes from landing.

Chavismo welcomed Russia with open arms since 1999. During the last decades Russia has built a cozy relationship with the Venezuelan army with Venezuela becoming a major purchaser of Russian military hardware, including fighter jets. The Cuban and Chinese influence on the Venezuelan army is also on the rise, while the U.S. has none.

Russia has already made the first attempts to strengthen relations with the ALBA states -a coalition of left-leaning states in the Western Hemisphere, although that alliance’s influence has waned somewhat. Russia, now that President Trump is backing off the Obama’s opening to Cuba, is eager to return to Cuba and its military bases.

Barring an unexpected surprise, there will be no change of government via democratic elections. If we are willing to entertain the idea of a military coup against Maduro, like some in the U.S. and elsewhere seem to favor, this could backfire and pave the way for the creation of a Russian satellite with Moscow arming para military groups that support President Maduro. In the event of strong U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, where do we think Maduro will turn to for supplies, capital and technology? Russia is the obvious answer.

Whatever happens, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao will remain a stone’s throw away from Venezuela. So far the dialogue about Venezuela here has centered around oil and refugees. It’s not that simple however. Hopefully we are taking the necessary steps to not be caught off-guard.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Viktoria di Maduro, futuro skur pa Venezuela

Elekshon presidensial ayera ku oposishon Venezolano i komunidat internashonal a kalifiká komo ilegítimo, a produsí komo ganadó indiskutibel, Nicolás Maduro. Esaki kier men ku Chavismo, ku a start for di aña 1999, probablemente lo keda prolongá ku seis (6) aña mas serka nos bisiñanan na Sur.

Lokual ta prekupante ta ku e kampaña ku Maduro a hiba a demostrá ku no tin plan òf pèrspèktiva pa drecha e situashon horibel ku Venezuela ta aden. E produkto interno brutu Venezolano a bai atras ku 50%, inflashon ta 13,000%, entre 2-3 miyón hende a bandoná e pais, tin skarsedat di kuminda i remedi, i e ader ekonómiko mas importante, esta sektor petrolero, ta den chokompé ku un produkshon mínimo. I no papia mes di kriminalidat. Demokrasia i estado di derechi no tei práktimente i lidernan prinsipal di oposishon ta prisonero polítiko. Den un palabra, Venezuela ta un estado frakasá. Apesar ku maneho di e pais ta den man di Chavismo pa dos dékada, Maduro ta tira tur falta riba otronan, asta Kòrsou, Aruba i Boneiru.

Viktoria di Maduro ta habri kaminda pa mas Venezolano buska refugio pafó di nan pais kreando ainda mas doló di kabes pa bisiñanan, inkluso nos islanan. E viktoria lo intensifiká esfuersonan internashonal pa imponé sanshonnan mas pisá ainda. Mirando e estado di kiebro práktikamente di e sektor petrolero Venezolano ta pone na duda ku -apesar di e sentensia ku a kai den Korte siman pasá na Willemstad- PDVSA SA por kumpli pa manda sufisiente petroli pa Refeneria Isla BV drei efisientemente aki na Kòrsou.

Speransa pa trese un kambio bèrdadero na Venezuela dor di akshonnan internashonal manera sanshon ta improbabel pasombra paisnan manera Nicaragua, Cuba, Rusia i China lo no lag’é kai fásil. Konsekuensia lo ta sinembargo ku mas i mas e grep ekonómiko Chino riba Venezuela lo krese. Rusia, yudá pa e maneho di America First, ta haña kaminda pa kana sin masha resistensia i lo oumentá su dominio geopolítiko na Venezuela. Kurioso ta ku Maduro su plataforma ta “soberania” mientras ku tin tur indikashon ku e ta hustamente entregando soberania Venezolano kada biaha mas na China i Rusia.

Un di dos opshon pa kambio ta via e ruta no-demokrátiko (golpi di estado) ku tampoko lo kumbiní. I sigur no si esaki ta orkestrá pa paisnan estranhero.

Por lo pronto ta parse ku e futuro di Venezuela ta skur i ku e krísis lo intensifiká i sufrimentu humano lo oumentá promé ku yega na un solushon.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Recycled cow plans and the economy

During the 1999 Copa America which was held in Paraguay, the Minister of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands Antilles decided to go to .. Paraguay on an economic mission. “Pure coincidence” he stated. While I don’t want to question his genius stroke of luck, I will address his trade agenda/wish list in the Southern Cone.

First, start an air connection between Willemstad and Asunción for the now defunct state-owned airlines, ALM. Second, since Paraguay was resurfacing a great deal of it’s 10,000 km paved roads, the Minister thought it to be a good idea to offer the authorities our asphalt from the asphalt lake. Third, impressed with a visit to a slaughterhouse where they butcher about 800 cows a day, an idea was born to start a Paraguayan-Antillean cow breeding initiative on our islands.

While probably no one is surprised that none of these wishes became reality, it still amazes me how we insist that economic growth is about picking the right miracle project out of a bowl. A huge mall that will attract shopping tourist and create 2,000 new jobs, a commercial space project, export of rice and sugar to the EU, a Las Vegas-inspired strip with casino’s and what not by the same company once in the running for upgrading the refinery. And who can forget the recycled cow breeding plan of the late nineties to feed “hungry cows from Colombia”.

I want to emphasize again that it’s impossible to have sustainable economic development based on one project here and another there. Sustainable economic growth that will lift the middle class and the poor is viable only when we make structural changes to modernize our economic foundations. Under my watch the inward-looking protection policy was overturned, a fair competition authority was institutionalized and many tax treaties were signed. But these changes are far from sufficient. We need to make our labor market flexible so it reflects the age we live in, we need to invest in innovation, automatization and productivity raising initiatives. We need to engage in negotiating trade agreements, since we are one of the only ones left in the world without a trade agreement.

Do we listen? This week the Ministry of Economic Development kick-started an activity to promote export. Yet, not even our affairs in the World Trade Organization are straightened out which are a prerequisite to negotiate any trade agreement.

We have a choice. Keep waiting for the illusive silver bullet. Or, we modernize our economic foundations which will automatically attract good and solid projects that create welfare and new jobs.

Willemstad, Curaçao