GZE goes belly-up in Myanmar, are we next?

The multi-billion-dollar oil refinery that was to be constructed by Guangdong Zhenrong Energy (GZE) in Myanmar failed miserably. This was confirmed last week by the Myanmar Investment Commission. Myanmar decided to cancel the project after it has seen “absolutely no progress at all” in the two years since GZE was awarded the contract to build the refinery in the South Eastern Burmese city of Dawei. GZE’s failure to comply was due to its severe financial problems according to last Thursday’s edition of the Myanmar Times. This refinery would have been the first refinery built by GZE.

At the signing ceremony of the MoU between the Government of Curaçao (GoC) and GZE, the Myanmar refinery was presented in a film in the auditorium of the Curaçao Renaissance Hotel by the members of the Chinese State and Communist Party as the ultimate proof that they were serious and able to take on the refinery in Curaçao. According to additional information I received from my sources in Myanmar, the Burmese knew about the financial problems of GZE a little more than a year ago. This means that at the time we were signing with GZE, this company was already in deep financial problems half way across the world. Question is what kind of financial due diligence if any, was done by the Multi Disciplinary Team (MDPT). Quoting my aforementioned sources, GZE has proven to be some “oil refinery wanna-be experts”.

Obviously we have failed at the financial due diligence. Another due diligence we have to do -assuming the GoC maintains GZE as partners-  is about the alarming human rights violations of GZE regarding the forceful displacement of many residents in surrounding villages should the construction have taken place in Dawei. Thousands of residents have been agitating for almost two years against the refinery plans. The GZE’s intentions even captured the attention of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar as I mentioned in an earlier article*. Obviously the MDPT ignored or chose to ignore these alarming human rights abuses. Hopefully we will not only check the financial books, but also GZE’s lack of good corporate behavior as was the case in Myanmar. Only Willemstad can prevent a Myanmar repetition.

Willemstad, Curaçao

*https://alexdavidrosaria.blog/2017/08/24/lessons-from-myanmar/

 

Travel is fatal for narrow-mindedness

The first time I travelled I was seven when my parents took my sister and I to Holland. I remember when the plane got mechanical problems in Portugal and we had to stay on for two whole days, proudly telling my father that when we returned to Curaçao I could tell my classmates that I have been to not one but two European countries. The travel bug was planted. Today, at fifty one, I have visited 86 countries.

I’m telling you this becauseI traveling the world opens your mind to new things. How else would you know that in Ethiopia day change doesn’t start at midnight like everywhere else, but at sunrise? That the nomads who cross the Sahara desert only drink 4 cups of hot tea with lots of sugar instead of water despite the scorching heat. Or, that in Tibet sky burial -cutting up of the bodies of deceased human beings and feeding them to vultures high in the mountains- is popular. And finally, that at the South Korean side of the DMZ with North Korea all military personnel (South Koreans and Americans) have to be at least 6 feet tall to show their superiority compared to the shorter North Koreans.

Traveling enables you to experience things outside of your bubble of comfort. You see that the world is so much bigger than your perspective on it and soon realize it doesn’t revolve around you. You lose the callousness and superiority attitude that can sometimes develop when you can’t relate to the outside world. Now, that doesn’t mean you aren’t still important, but it does change your perspective to be more open to learning from other people and situations and showing compassion for others that differ from you. I believe that’s a good thing to learn at any age, but you can apply it longer throughout your lifetime if you start early. Do not put off traveling believing that you are guaranteed old age. And please realize that traveling is much more than those malls in Miami, the all inclusive packages to Punta Cana and cruises in the Caribbean. Choose unbeaten paths, small towns, let go and challenge yourself. There is a world out there waiting for you to taste.

Lhasa, Tibet

 

A ninga dera Dòktor den santana katóliko

 

Riba 22 di novèmber, 2017 ta kumpli 51 aña ku e gran estadista mr. dr. Moises Frumencio da Costa Gomez (Dòktor) a muri na edat di 59 aña. Poko konosí ta ku iglesia katóliko a nenga retundamente pa dera Dòktor -un katóliko-  den un santana katóliko. A dera Dòktor den santana protestant na Otrobanda. Na su entiero dominé Meerberg a resa:

Ziet, een koning zal regeren in gerechtigheid, en de vorsten zullen heersen naar recht.
En die man zal zijn als een verberging tegen den wind, en een schuilplaats tegen den vloed, als waterbeken in een dorre plaats, als de schaduw van een zwaren rotssteen in een dorstig land.
En de ogen dergenen, die zien, zullen niet terugzien, en de oren dergenen, die horen, zullen opmerken.
En het hart der onbedachtzamen zal de wetenschap verstaan, en de tong der stamelenden zal vaardig zijn, om bescheidenlijk te spreken.

E echo ku a ninga di dera Dòktor den un santana katóliko a kousa konsternashon. E iglesia a bisa ku e negashon ta pasombra e defuntu a kasa, parti i bolbe kasa. Konosedónan sa sinembargo ku e aktuashon aki tabata unu netamente polítiko i no religioso. Dòktor huntu ku Monseñor Verriet a lanta e poderoso Curaçaosche Rooms Katholieke Partij, CRKP na 1935 (ku no ta KVP manera hopi ta bisa) ku a gana e promé dos elekshonnan pa Staten na 1938 i 1942. Na 1944 Partido Demokraat ta lanta i den e siguiente elekshon ta gana di CRKP. Esaki a pone ku Dòktor kier a modernisá CRKP dor di e.o. redusí e influensia di iglesia katóliko den CRKP. Esaki no a kai den bon tera serka e iglesia i a pone ku eventualmente Dòktor a bai ku su asiento i lanta Nationale Volkspartij (NVP). CRKP a desaparesé i e iglesia nunka a pordoná Dòktor, ni despues di su morto.

Un dia promé ku konmemorashon di 100 aña natalisio di Dòktor riba 26 di òktober 2007, Pader Amado Römer den su predikashi den katedral di Santa Ana a pidi pordon pa e manera ku su amigu a keda tratá. No ta konosí si Pader Römer a papia na nòmber di su iglesia òf komo persona.

Na 1997 a saka e restonan di Dòktor for di e santana protestant na Otrobanda i a hiba esakinan pa Bottelier, un santana katóliko, pero ku no ta kai bou di régimen di Obispado.

Pas eterno na e mas ilustre emansipadó polítiko di nos pais.

Thimphu, Bhutan

Tres poesia dediká na Dòktor

E gran estadista mr. dr. Moises Frumensio da Cosata Gomez (Dòktor) a muri riba 22 di novèmber 1966 na edat di 59 aña. Tabata riba un mainta ku Dòktor tabata prepará pa bai serka su dentista ku e a haña un ataka di kurason na kas. Nos ta kompartí tres poema di tres diferente outor ku a keda dediká na e gran hòmber aki.

SIN TÍTULO

Na de dood van ons Doktoor
Zingt het volk luid in koor
Melodieen een der groten
Uit Antillen voortgesproten.

Telegrammen bloemen, kransen
televisie, radio, kranten
Kondigen zijn meesterwerk
Tot de poort van zijn grafperk.

Uitingen van medeleven
Hoog tot laag die nu toegeven
Doktoors grootste hartewens
Zijn volk dienen zonder grens.

Maar Doktoor kan niets meer horen
Hij heeft zijn leven al verloren
Naam en roem kan niet meer baten
Slechts zijn ideaal is nagelaten.

Ach, Doktoor was ook een mens
Hij had ook zijn hartewens
Naam en faam heeft hij verworven
Tragisch, is hij toch gestorven.

Doktoor Gomez, rust in vrede,
Is waarachtig onze bede
Uw ideaal zal altoos leven
Dat hebt gij uw volk gegeven.

U.A. Melfor

EPITAFO PA UN AMIGU

Postrá riba bo tumba tibio,
yen di rekuerdo ku ainda
ta sigui sípel sánger bai,
m’a kaba ‘i laga un rosa;
un rosa so, sunú,
kòrá, di karni bibu,
manera e kurason kibrá
ku kua b’a yama ayó
pa n’ bolbe nunka mas
sino kambiá,
ku hende lo n’ rekonosebu!

Bo kurpa ya n’ tá nada;
pero mi sâ ku abo,
– e abo mes, esun di sémper –
ta biba intensamente…
P’esei, maske mi n’ t’ei,
ata mi a kaba ‘I pone un rosa
kaminda mi ta suponé
bo pechu mester tá …

Atá m’a kumpli ku bo deseo
di tantu an’ pasá!
Un epitafio símpel i seku
Ku, bíbliko, bo nòmber
sin título, sin nada mas
Ku un frase bou djé bisando:
“ku a stima su país i pueblo!”

Luis Daal

Meditashon

Hey dòktor, bo ta kòrda?
kon abo a sinja nos
ku nos tambe tin derecho
i ku si mester, por kambia ley
i tuma hustisia mas na pechu?

Hey dòktor, bo ta kòrda?
Kon pa logra nos bunita meta
mester a lanta komishon i bond
i despues pa yega na un partido
hasta mester a bai ondergrond?

Hey, dòktor, bo ta kòrda?
Kon b’a bringa pa nos muhénan,
ku sea ta katibu of sea Shon
i maske bao di “saya ‘i pader”
por a bai vota den un elekshon?

Anónimo

Bèrgwensa nashonal pa nos éroe

Ponementu di bòshi di dekorashon di fin di aña rondó di e estatua di Pedro Luis Brion riba nos plenchi nashonal ta un bagmunderia di marka mayó. Danki na Clarson Gomez ku a publiká foto di e bochincha aki riba su muraya di Facebook. Superlativo no ta sufisiente pa splika e asko ku esaki a kousa serka mi i hopi hende. No por trata un éroe di e forma aki. Pa esnan ku a puntra “Kiko Brion a hasi?” manera ku ta trata di un ken-ku-ta, lo siguiente.

Pedro Luis Brion a nase riba 6 yüli, 1782 den Otrobanda. Brion durante su estadia na Ulanda komo studiante a lucha kontra di Ruso i Inglesnan ku a forma un menasa pa Ulanda. Aki na Kòrsou e tabata instrumental den derotá e Inglesnan invador. E a sigui lucha asta ora e Komandante Ulandes Schwartsz a bati retirada. Na Aruba tambe e a kore ku e Inglesnan. Legendario ta su kontribushon den e lucha pa libertat di paisnan Bolivariano di Sur Amérika. Pedro Luis Brion no solamente ta un éroe di Kòrsou, pero un suidadano di mundu ku a lucha kontra di opresornan tur kaminda ku e tabata por. E a muri na Kòrsou riba 27 sèptèmber 1821.

Na 1921, selebrando un siglo di su morto, a inougurá Plenchi Brion i a pone un plachi di marmer na su onor i despues un busto. Na 1950 a pone un estatua (ku awe ta na Museo di Kòrsou) remplasando e busto i despues, na 1956 a pone e estatua aktual. Na 2021 nos ta selebrá un siglo di Plenchi Brion.

Ta inkreibel ku nos por tin algun ‘barbaar’, sostené pa Gobièrnu, sin noshon di nos historia ku ta destruí esun tiki di ‘nation building’ ku ta asina nesesario. Boso a pone kara di Kòrsou, e legado di Brion na bèrgwensa. Foei! Gobièrnu, asumí bo responsabilidat.

Nepal, 12 novèmber 2017

GZE, a wake-up call we’d better answer

Not now, but as Member of Parliament in 2015 and since July 2017 as an independent consultant, I have been sending red flags about our dealings with the Chinese State Company Guandong Zhenrong Energy (GZE) regarding the future of the refinery in Curaçao. I had mentioned China’s and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CPC) modus operandi and geopolitical ambitions in these types of projects and the lessons learned in Myanmar. This, to enable us to determine what price we are willing to pay for GZE. These warnings have been met with both positivism and disgruntlement by members of the current Council of Ministers. So while it is good to know that the Government of Curaçao (GoC) has now warmed up to the idea that GZE is not the celestial solution it was purported to be, it is nevertheless disconcerting that not all the political parties in the GoC are on the same line. Believe me, in China all relevant parties talk the same language. Let’s not forget that there is no opposition in that country and that the CPC rejects the principle of separation of power. As a matter of fact, a few years ago senior CPC member, Mr. Zhang, at the end of an official party gathering on promoting ‘communist cultural development’ said of the GZE boss, Mr. Xiong:  “In the past I thought Mr. Xiong was just a brilliant entrepreneur. Now I find that he is also a  [..] true communist.”

The second point I want to make is that unbeknownst to many, yesterday, 6 November, 2017, a dispute over a US$500 million railway contract between the Philippine government (GoPh) and a large Chinese state-owned company, SINOMACH, was settled outside of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre. This costly row had been going on for years after the Chinese first contended that the GoPh made a contractual breach by discontinuing the project. This begs the following observation. Now that GZE is pointing fingers at the GoC and the MDPT (Refinery Project Team) claiming contractual breach, what can we expect? What kind of arbitration have we agreed on in the documents we have signed? We know that for China, Hong Kong is the pre-eminent choice of arbitration involving mainland Chinese parties. How impartial can Hong Kong be? Singapore for example has it that Hong Kong is too close to China. Have we negotiated arbitration in Hong Kong, New York, the ICC International Court of Arbitration? Another venue? Is the fact that we are not WTO-compliant going to play a role in an eventual arbitration case? Independent from the GZE’s accusations, how much thought have we given to the proper mode of dispute resolution as well as the choice of venue? I am not saying they will surely take us to court since it is not unusual for the Chinese to shelve controversial projects or settling out of court. But as Myanmar can attest when it cancelled the Myitsone Hydro Dam due to environmental concern, such actions come with a heavy price tag with China pressuring for preferential treatment in other projects. In any case we received the wake-up call in Curaçao. Next, we should answer it.

Kathmandu, 7 November 2017

Previous articles on this topic:

https://alexdavidrosaria.blog/2017/10/11/the-devil-is-in-the-details/

https://alexdavidrosaria.blog/2017/08/24/lessons-from-myanmar/

https://alexdavidrosaria.blog/2017/07/31/what-price-are-we-prepared-to-pay/

That elusive silver bullet

Like many, I too was ecstatic by the prospect of having two YdK (Curaçaoans) in the 2017 MLB World Series: Yankees’ Didi Gregorius and Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen. We know by now that only YdK Jansen made it. What caught my attention leading up to the Fall Classic however, was the presumption by a multitude of people -including politicians- that an avalanche of tourists, money and growth would come to our island by having our stars Didi and Kenley promote tourism. That simple. Yes, there we go again. In search of the ever elusive silver bullet instead of tackling the real problems. Of course these ball players would do an excellent job promoting our island, but that’s not the point. No country is prosperous because of some magic. It’s the result of hard work and sacrifice. If we don’t believe this let’s ask Didi and Kenley how they got to be at the top of their games.

My point is not baseball however, but tourism.

Measuring Labor Productivity in Curaçao, a working paper written by Shekinah Dare (Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten, July 2017) estimates that the average productivity growth rate of the main actors in tourism was negative in the periods 2009-2012 and 2012-2015, registering -1.1% and -0.8%, respectively. The author also calculated that tourism as a sector scored below the average negative productivity growth for all sectors. This is very disconcerting because we have been advancing tourism as the most important economic pillar and asking for more money to promote this sector. Given the conclusion of this paper, are we on the right path? Should we keep thinking that by pumping more money into promotion without even touching the topic of labor productivity, we can grow our tourism and economy? Shouldn’t we be jumping into action?

This is not the first time I talk about the importance of labor productivity and a dynamic labor market. When I do, some politicians and union representatives cry foul for in their minds flexibility somehow is equal to labor abuse. A popular idea in the 1950s all around the world. Labor productivity is not about ‘hire and fire’ as some fear. It is certainly not about ludicrous proposals such as 80-20. It is a multifaceted approach: improving the employability of our human capital, investing in innovation and bettering of our migration policies. It’s time that we read and discuss the above mentioned paper. Hopefully at least one Member of Parliament -as was the case with my article about OECD noncompliance- picks this up. It is worth a Parliament discussion. People, the writing is on the wall and we must take action. Fact is that we are not going to unlock our economic potential if we don’t tackle these problems. If not, good luck finding that silver bullet.

Kathmandu, 5 november 2017