Played by GZE, what now?

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If you know the history of the American ‘gold rush’ you’ll remember that as many as 300,000 people moved to California from 1848-1855 to try to find gold after someone had found the shiny metal on his land. Many of the gold miners had zero mining background however. Not surprisingly the greatest fortunes were not made by those who were searching for gold, but by those who sold shovels, alcohol and sex to the gold searchers.

In China, the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were urged by the Communist Party to go abroad as a prelude to The One Belt One Road initiative (launched in 2013) which aims to connect China to the world via networks of roads, railways, ports and other infrastructural projects. Many of the Chinese firms that went abroad looking for new opportunities had little or no experience, just like the gold seekers. But unlike the gold seekers, the Chinese do bring their own tools and don’t offer much opportunities to locals.

One of those SOEs was Guangdong Zhenrong Energy (GZE). Although it had never built a refinery, GZE managed to convince one of the world’s most repressive dictatorships in Myanmar in April 2016- one day before power was handed over to another government- to build the largest Burmese refinery. GZE, I’ve been told, had been telling Myanmar about the multibillion deal in Curaçao in order to score points with the Burmese. In Curaçao, just days before the elections of September 2016, GZE showed a flashy film about its plans in Myanmar minutes before signing a MoU with the Whiteman Administration. 

Somehow the Curaçao committee in charge of the future of the Curaçao refinery (MDPT) was totally smitten with GZE. I say ‘somehow’ because the MDPT’s dealings with GZE were never transparent as I told the MDPT President in Parliament back in 2015. In the end GZE played us and Myanmar with the same domino tile. Changá (double play) in Papiamentu. Not bad for a group of rookie oil connoisseurs.

It did not stop however with the Whiteman Administration as some actors (including media outlets) would like us to believe. Subsequent Administrations (Koeiman, Pisas and Rhuggenaath) were not only persuaded by GZE, but considered it a celestial solution to our economic malaise. GZE signed MoUs with the most important actors of the local energy sector and convinced unions that thousands of new jobs were imminent. Unchallenged by politicians, GZE during a Parliament meeting professed its love for Curaçao, promised to build hotels, theme parks and yes, bail out a troubled local commercial bank while somehow finding time to build a new refinery.

Conspicuously most of the independent press was silent on this matter. Undoubtedly it had to do with an all expenses paid China trip to show off GZE which many media workers eagerly accepted.

Looking back I’m proud to have been one of the few people who’s gone against the current to voice my deep preoccupations, even after being ‘seriously warned’ by some local (ex)government people who I later on learned were paid GZE’s consultants, to keep quiet. Upon my return after a project in Myanmar I wrote extensively in 2017 on the dealings of GZE in that country and the investigations of the UN into their corporate behavior. In July 2018 I wrote that GZE would disappear from the map. This finally happened last month. Before that, GZE was kicked out of Myanmar. 

No more GZE. The questions surrounding the GZE-Curaçao-MDPT saga have not gone away however. We need answers, accountability, no business as usual. However painful it may be, it’s always better to be up front than leave questions unanswered.

Brașov, Romania

Proklamashon Dia di Outonomia basá riba ignoransia

 

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Un bon amigu di mi gusta mi ekspreshon: “Laga e stòf baha promé ku opiná”. Despues ku Gobièrnu a deklará 10 di òktober Dia di Outonomia ta eksaktamente lokual mi a hasi. Mi a trata di tur manera pa komprondé, pero mi no por yega na otro konklushon ku esnan enbolbí den e desishon aki sea no konosé nos historia òf konsientemente ta burla di dje.

Riba 10-10-10 Kòrsou a bira outónomo den Reino despues ku for di 1951 e tabata outónomo, pero den e bachi di Antia Hulandes (AH). Kòrsou no a haña mas outonomia ku AH. Es mas, riba 10-10-10 Kòrsou a bira ménos outónomo ku AH tabata. Loke nos a hasi riba e fecha ei ta sali for di AH. Mester kòrda ku tabatin sigur tres otro fecha akordá dor di Konseho di Minister pa desmantelá, pero ku no a logra. E fecha 10-10-10 a subi mesa na momentu ku un konsehero di Gobièrnu a kombensé algun minister ku e fecha ta “zona bon”. Mi sa pasombra mi ta tei den e reunion en kuestion.

E proklamashon deskabeyá aki ta ignorá e kuantioso akshonnan di nos antepasadonan den e lucha pa outonomia. Outonomia no tabata un pakete ku a surgi riba un dia i sigur no riba 10-10-10. Bo tin e promé Parlamento ku a keda instalá den aprel 1938. Interim Regeling, nòmber di nos Konstitushon na e momentu ei, a sòru pa outonomia interno na febrüari 1951. Despues di esaki e a keda refiná i Statüt a keda firmá na desèmber 1954. Na 1948 un lei nobo a proklamá ku tur hòmber i muhé por a vota. I asina tin hopi mas momentu den nos historia ku a kontribuí na outonomia inkluso loke Staten na 1946 a yama “e promé paso pa gobernashon propio”, esta nombramentu di un representante di nos pais na Ulanda.

Yama 10-10 Dia di Outonomia ta un falsifikashon di historia i un sla den kara di esnan ku a lucha pa mas ku 150 aña pa loke nos tin awe. Ban spera ku Gobièrnu ta rektifiká e vupá bergonsoso aki. Bo ke selebrá 10-10 na 2019? Yamé Dia di Desmantelashon di Antia Ulandes.

Bucharest, Romania

 

Independent New Caledonia? Why we should pay attention

66CDF441-B733-489C-A2CD-45D470EF902COn 4 November 2018 an independence referendum will be held in New Caledonia giving its voters the choice of becoming an independent country. Its flag is probably among the prettiest I’ve seen (see photo). OK, but why should we care? After all New Caledonia is a French overseas territory consisting of various islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean.

New Caledonia is also an EU Overseas Country and Territory (LGO) just like Curaçao. If we’ve been paying attention at all, the long held assumption that the LGO status is carved in stone as some local politicians are claiming, is anything but true. Besides New Caledonia, we must face the fact that because of Brexit the status of 11 British OCTs is on the line. See complete list of OCTs below. Greenland, the sole Danish LGO, is gradually assuming control of the handful of policy areas still controlled by Denmark before taking the step towards independence. Other LGOs, including Bonaire, Statia and Saba, but also Falkland Islands may soon become an integral EU territory, the so-called ultra-peripheral regions (UPG) like Guadeloupe and Madeira.

Government authorities in Paris have stated that they will recognise and abide by the results of the referendum next week. Curious is that if voters fail to support independence this time, New Caledonians will have opportunities to vote again in 2020 and 2023. 

It’s striking how little attention both government and academia in Willemstad are paying to these types of world developments. Apparently we’re not aware that we can ill afford to be eternal bystanders in a world that’s rapidly changing. Not surprisingly China is paying lots of attention. That Asian giant is even cheering some of these LGOs to drift away from their old colonial masters. This while the Chinese are brutally suppressing any kind of freedom in their own backyard, Tibet and Taiwan. Chinese state-backed firms have been eagerly pouring money into Greenland’s rare-earth mines. 

Curaçao needs to be alert. Whatever the result of the independence referendum in New Caledonia.

 Bucharest,  Romania

 

Anguilla (UK), Aruba (NL), Bermuda (UK), Bonaire (NL), British Antarctic Territory (UK)*, British Indian Ocean Territory (UK)*, British Virgin Islands (UK), Cayman Islands (UK), Curaçao (NL), Falkland Islands (UK), French Polynesia (FR), French Southern -and Antarctic Territories (FR)*, Greenland (DK), Montserrat (UK), New Caledonia (FR), Pitcairn (UK), Saba (NL), Saint Barthelemy (FR), Sint Eustatius (NL), Sint Maarten (NL), South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (UK)*, Saint Helena, Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha (UK), St. Pierre and Miquelon (FR), Turks and Caicos Islands (UK), Wallis and Futuna Islands (FR). (*) OCTs without permanent local population.

Heredero di Dòktor su trabou

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Moises Frumencio da Costa Gomez, a nase 111 aña pasá riba 27 òktober. E mucha di Ser’i Klip, Otrobanda, mihó konosí komo Cheche Bikker (ta despues di basta aña e a haña e fam da Costa Gomez di su tata) ku a bai skol di pòrnada i a kolekshoná piedra di koló den su hubentut. E Yu di Kòrsou ku a dòktorá na Ulanda i keda (at)mirá semper di su bida komo Dòktor i a dediká su bida pa kibra barera pa tur yu di tera.

Sin Dòktor lo no tabatin derechi di voto universal na 1948. Sin Dòktor outonomia interno lo no tabata posibel for di 1951. Banda di esakinan, Dòktor tabata e polítiko mas popular den nos historia hañando 36% di tur voto na 1963. Mi no ke para ketu solamente na e hechonan di pasado, sino mas bien e kaminda di emansipashon i demokrasia ku e a deseá pa nos kana.

Na momentu ku Dòktor a akseptá Statüt na yüli 1954, ela bisa ku “Statüt no ta pa semper. Esaki ta e promé mitar i pronto lo bin p’e di dos mitar”. Segun Dòkter pueblo mester mustra ku e por dirigí su mes” (Boletin Oficial di Gobiernu di Corsou, 19 december 1966). Esaki kier men prinsipalmente karga responsabilidat propio. 

Pa nos ku ta konsiderá nos mes heredero di e trabou di Dòktor, ta bon pa rechasá kompleho, ideanan populista i asta rasista ku un grupo kier asosiá ku emansipashon. Emansipashon no tin ke ber ku sembra rabia riba otro pais(nan) o tipo di hende. Emansipashon no tin ke ber ku buska independensia pa djis pa nos hasi i deshasí, aktua iresponsabel i deskabeyá sin ku otronan por hala nos atenshon.

Emansipashon, esun ku Dòktor a para p’e, tin ke ber ku empoderashon di e hende, amplia su konosementu i eskoho. Emansipashon di Dòktor ta para pa alsa e kalidat di hende ku ta manehá nos gobernashon, institushonnan (demokrátiko) i introdusí mas ‘checks and balances’. Ehèmpel ta un Korte Konstitushonal ku Dòktor a proponé den De Proeve van een Grondwet voor Curaçao (1946). T’esaki ta e fórmula pa bo yega na un pueblo digno, orguyoso ku ta kapasitá pa alkansá su potensialnan. 

Komo Gomista mi deseo ta pa nos hasi di nos parti i komplementá Gomez su trabou.

Istanbul, Turkey

Brexit na plaka chikí

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Un di e notisianan ku mas ta dominá ta Brexit. Brexit ta un abreviashon pa British Exit ku ta salida di Reino Uní (United Kingdom) for di Union Oropeo (EU). E artíkulo aki ta splika Brexit su komienso, status i posibel konsekuensianan  pa Oropa, mundu en general i asta pa e área di Karibe.

(1) Reino Uní, Gran Bretaña, Inglatera? Kua ta e diferensia?

Pa komprondé Brexit ta nesesario distinguí Reino Uní, Gran Bretaña i Inglatera ku hopi biaha nos ta brua den otro. Kada un ta un. Gran Bretaña ta un isla ku ta konsistí di tres (3) teritorio atministrativo esta Inglatera, Wales i Eskosia. Reino Uní (UK) ta un pais ku ta konsistí di e teritorionan atministrativo Inglatera, Eskosia, Wales i ademas Nort Irlanda. Den e artíkulo aki nos ta referí pues na UK. No brua esaki ku Inglatera òf Gran Bretaña. Wak foto.

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(2) Kon a yega na Brexit?

Riba 23 yüni 2016 suidadanonan di UK a vota den un referèndum kontestando lo siguiente: UK mester keda den EU òf UK mester bandoná EU? 52% a vota na fabor pa bandoná EU i 48% a vota pa keda den EU. Un komplikashon ta e echo ku na dos parti di UK, esta Eskosia i Nort Irlanda e opshon pa UK keda den EU a sali viktorioso. Esaki a lanta atrobe e deseonan Eskosés pa sali for di UK, bira un pais independiente i asina keda den EU. Enkuestanan despues di Brexit ta demostrá ku mas hende di Nort Irlanda ta preferá djòin Irlanda, pues sali for di UK, i asina keda den EU. Kon esaki lo desaroyá, tempu lo bisa.

(3) Kua ta e rasonnan pa kua a vota pa Brexit

E rason prinsipal pa sali tabata basá riba sentimentunan mas bien emoshonal ku UK a pèrdè relevansha den mundu dor ku EU tin muchu kos di bisa den UK. UK a sinti ku nan no tabata baas den nan kas mas. Pues un nostalgia pa un pasado glorioso ku polítikonan a alimentá ku populismo. Nashonalistanan populista  básikamente a kombensé e votadonan ku tur lokual no tabata kana bon den UK (prinsipalmente ekonomia stanká, desempleo haltu) tabata falta di Oropa. Ademas tin e tema di imigrashon. A usa estranheronan pa kombensé votadónan ku UK lo pèrdè su identidat i kultura.

(4) Kua tabata e argumentonan pa keda den EU

Esnan na fabor di EU nunka a ninga ku siendo den EU ku esei ta nifiká ménos outonomia. Nan argumento tabata ku e bentahanan pa keda aden ta muchu mas ku e desbentahanan. Tambe nan a bisa ku un salida lo kosta UK karu: ekonomia lo bai atras, empresanan lo bai establesé den otro parti di EU i UK lo keda sin ningun tratado komersial.

(5) Ki dia UK ta sali for di EU?

Ofishalmente riba 29 mart 2017 UK a usa Artíkulo 50 di e Tratado di Lisboa pa sali. Esaki kier men ku UK i EU tin eksaktamente dos (2) aña pa yega na un akuerdo kon e salida lo tuma lugá. UK lo mester sali riba 29 di mart 2019. En bista di e falta di progreso te ainda di e separashon di UK i EU, for di sierto skina di tantu UK komo EU a sali e deseo pa ekstendé e periodo aki. Sinembarglo ekstenshon ta posibel solamente si tur miembro di EU bai di akuerdo. No ta tur hende ke ekstendé e periodo i ta eksihí pa UK ‘bai pa kaba’.

(6) Kiko UK i EU ta negosiando?

Tin diskushon i negosashon riba hopi tereno manera: kuantu plaka UK mester paga promé ku e sali, derechi di suidadanonan di EU ku ta biba na UK, kuota di peska, seguridat ku tabata kai bou di EU, supsidio di EU pa kunukeronan di UK ‘LGO Besuit’ pa e LGOnan Britániko di kua vários ta den Karibe. E batata kayente prinsipal ta keda e aspekto di komersio liber entre di e miembronan di EU i ‘netwerk’ di tratadonan komersial entre EU i hopi partner den mundu. UK no tin tratado komersial e mes ku ningun otro partner. 

(7) Kiko ta Hard Brexit i Soft Brexit?

Un salida nogoshá ta keda yamá ‘Soft Brexit’. Un situashon kaminda tin un salida sin ku a yega na un akuerdo ta keda yamá ‘Hard Brexit’. Tur dos banda ta na mesa ainda pues tin speransa pa un resultado negoshá.

(8) Kiko ta e problema ku e frontera di Irlanda i Nort Irlanda?

Irlanda ta miembro di EU i ta komparti un frontera ku Nort Irlanda. Nort Irlanda te na momentu aki tambe ta miembro di EU ya ku UK ainda ta miembro. Problema ta kiko ta bai pasa ku e frontera na momentu ku UK (pues tambe Nort Irlanda) sali for di EU. Prinsipalmente si ta trata aki di un ‘Hard Brexit’. Mester tene na kuente ku ta teme ku sin un solushon pa e frontera menshoná por peligrá e tratado di pas di 1998 entre di e dos teritorionan aki ku a konosé konfrontashonnan ku a kousa morto di vários mil hende. E konfrontashonnan sangriento promé ku 1998 na Nort Irland tabata entre di e grupo pro-djòinmentu ku Irlanda (prinsipalmente Katóliko) i e grupo pro-UK (prinsipalmente Protestant).

(9) Brexit i Karibe

Manera Kòrsou komo LGO Ulandes, tin vários LGO Britániko den Karibe. Un Brexit lo trese hopi insertidumbre pa loke ta trata nan status i spesialmente e areglo komersial ku nan tin ku EU, LGO-Besluit. Dor ku te ainda no ta kla ki resultado final di Brexit lo ta, no por bisa kiko lo pasa ku e LGOnan Britániko i e posibel konsekuensia/oportunidatnan pa nos. Ta konsehabel pa Kòrsou mònitòr e proseso aki i tene kontakto ku e.o. CARICOM ku ta hasiendo su mes estudionan riba Brexit.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

The economy: less cheers, more action

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The longest meetings I’ve experienced in my professional life are those between the economic unit and staff of the United Nations office in Chad.  Everyone had an opinion, even those who’ve never had a single economics class. Curiously, meetings about how to contain the expansion of the Sahara desert never took long as discussions on this matter were left to the experts. But, I digress. I want to discuss the economic malaise of Curaçao.

I’ve recently heard that we’ve to be optimistic for the economy to grow. Optimism is key, but it’s a result of current or future expectations which, in turn, depend on good pro-grow policies. Optimism is not a policy.

We’ve heard that people have to spend more (plaka tin ku lora in Papiamentu). Again, correct. But nobody will spend more money, and the private sector will remain reluctant to take risk and invest if people do not expect things to change. Real change comes with a good policy mix by the Government, not with ad hoc ideas that sometimes fly a bit too close to the sun.

Others say we need to export more. True. Our balance of payments has been screaming for a solution for years now. Yet we have no trade policy, we don’t comply with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and don’t have a single trade agreement. Yet, we don’t even talk about this.

Finally, popular with politicians: we need to attract fresh foreign investments and do something about the projects that are, sometimes for decades, in the pipeline. A big yes. Yet we seem not to realize that the reason it’s difficult to attract investments is because we lack the policies and infrastructure that make us attractive for investments. Secondly, so many projects are in the pipeline because of our stiffing regulatory environment and inflexible, antiquated policies. Talking about investments won’t cut the mustard. Good policies will.

With all due respect to the people who have been talking about resolving the economy with pep rallies: it’s about policies, stupid. We need to streamline and automate procedures, eliminate unnecessary red tape, make the labour and capital markets more flexible, get our act together with the WTO, design a trade policy, negotiate trade treaties and have a demographic policy to counter our shrinking and aging population. 

It’s not easy, but we need less cheering and more action to make it happen.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Travel, let magic happen

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I grimace at the thought of all-inclusive cruise packages and tours that take you from their point A to their point B in a frenzied compression of time to complete predetermined itineraries. Traveling like that may be comfortable for some, but it will invariably keep you in a bubble that prevents you from having magic happen to you, something to write home about. Why would you travel to stay in a fenced resort, far away from the local community where your contact with the local people is reduced to superficial talks with the cleaning lady and bartender? 

This is my take on allowing yourself to be blown away while traveling. It’s not a one-size-fits-all to do list.

Leave excess baggage home

Travel light. It allows for flexibility which will come handy if you decide to take a side trip especially on public transportation. Most importantly, dump all mental baggage you may have. Stereotypes and preconceived ideas about places, people and their customs will cloud your ability to immerse yourself in the unknown.

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Avoid jam packed schedules

Avoid whirlwind and punishing schedules of “must-see tourist stops” which will surely prevent you from having a real time. Instead of visiting every city, choose to know one or two places well. When people see you a few times in their neighborhood or establishment they will open up to you and have normal conversations of their daily lives. 

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Let your curiosity run wild

Horse milk, wolf blood, crickets, worms may be just a bit too adventurous, but eat at the local market, try the street food. Go watch a local show in the park, visit a karaoke bar, find out where the locals hang out. See the beauty in the strange or unknown. Be proud to say that you were the only tourist around.

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 Plan time to just sit and watch 

Don’t rush time. Instead of burying your face in your mobile phone or tablet sit down, have a cup of tea and just watch people go by. There is a lot of fun in people watching.

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Widen your world

A major airline uses ‘widen your world’ as its slogan. I think it’s genius. Let’s create our own paths in places others have overlooked. Don’t settle for the same old routines but find joy in the unfamiliar. Dream more, dare more, dig in and let magic happens during your travels.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia