Curaçao needs to cushion COVID-19 pain but, without real changes we’ll be back to square one


The nasty falling out among the members of the Boards of financial supervision (CFT) regarding Curaçao’s request for financial assistance boils down to one question. Will we regret not sticking to our previous commitments which according to the chairman of the CFT are carved in stone, or will we regret the death of many people and companies? It’s pretty obvious what the worst-case scenario is. We’re dealing with pandemic economics not ordinary economics.

People need money, or they will die. Companies need cash, or they’ll go bankrupt. If we don’t invest in health security policies, including mental health, we’ll soon realize that many social issues we’re dealing with will linger long after this pandemic is over. The new rules of pandemic economics are meant to keep us afloat during a few months, not years. Having established that, let’s turn to the merits of the plans that have recently been presented by the Government of Curaçao (GoC).

What will make or break any stimulus (aid) package is how well we target those who are the most vulnerable. If not, funds can be misallocated, or lost through corruption and all kind of technical bureaucracy. The GoC’s emergency fund needs a clearly defined role otherwise thousands of people who most urgently need it, risk being excluded. We need relevant data (which at best are mediocre), we need transparency, efficient execution, and quantifiable benchmarks. This may be a hard task -far harder than writing a cheque, but it’s the surest way to target the needy. Additionally,  it’s very important that Parliament creates a temporary committee (assisted by external experts) with the authority to oversee the execution of the stimulus package.

I strongly advise against government(entities) and civil servants that don’t have relevant experience, administering loans to small enterprises. Instead, I propose the following. These businesses should be able to go to their own banks, take out a much bigger loan than under normal circumstances or refinance existing loans at a very low interest which the GoC then ensures hundred percent. Banks (which we know are highly liquid) could immediately extend the loan with a government guarantee. The loan would be for a long time and it would enable businesses to lower operating costs, to pay employees and bills and make investment possible. Businesses won’t be starved for cash after two or three months. If we allow small businesses to fail en masse, the damage will spread quickly throughout the economy. They won’t be able to pay their debts which will cause banks to suffer catastrophic losses. In that scenario nobody would want to lend anybody money.

The GoC has put the economy into an artificial coma to save lives. Now it must keep the patient alive. The question is whether we can sustain the recovery after the stimulus measures come to an end. According to ordinary economics, weak economic structures will make it less likely that any stimulus package will enable smooth riding once the economic lights are switched on again. Let’s be honest, even before covid 19 Curaçao’s economy was struggling. Mainly because we’ve failed over the past three decades to implement a structural package of policies to modernize our economic fundaments and make them more flexible in order to maximize the huge potentials of global trade. We need to address these issues pronto and for real this time.

For the time being we need to realize that there’s no such thing as an ordinary economy until covid 19 is contained via physical distancing and simple hygiene. But if we can’t contain the virus, we might not have anything normal to return to. The stimulus is an important emergency measure, but without real changes, our economic performance won’t be improved.

Willemstad, Curaçao

The author is scheduled to join a regional project to revamp the economies of some small Pacific islands in light of Covid 19 and tycoon Harold.

A US invasion of Venezuela unlikely


The US recently announced across-the-board indictments of Venezuelan President Maduro and some of his inner circle on federal drug-trafficking and is sending Navy ships to beef up counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean Sea. Does this mean an invasion is imminent? Highly unlikely.

This anti-narcotics mission has been months in the making but has taken on greater importance following the above-mentioned indictments. It’s to be supported by 22 partner nations, including Brazil (which sent its President to visit the US Southern Command in Florida on 9 March 2020). This is relevant since Brazil is opposed to any military intervention by the US in Venezuela (Reuters).

The US has never camouflaged its desire to topple Maduro. Invading Venezuela wouldn’t be much of a problem for the US since Venezuela’s military has only limited combat value. But what then?

Democracy as we have seen in Iraq, can not be copied and then pasted. The US can ill afford creating another mess without a clear exit plan. It also risks losing hard-won support among Latin American and Caribbean governments. China, Russia and even Iran would eagerly fill up the vacuum left behind by Washington in this region.

It could be argued that China and Russia are less inclined to keep supporting Maduro as before. China for the time being will certainly be focused to revamp its post-covid 19 economy. Russia faces uncertain times with a rapidly aging population, plunging oil prices which will push it further down on the list (currently nr 11 behind Italy and Canada) of the world’s largest economies. The decision by Russian oil firm Rosneft, the biggest economic ally of Maduro, to cease operations in Venezuela and sell all of its assets in the country to an unnamed company that is wholly owned by the Russian government was simply stunning. Whatever Kremlin’s new strategy, Rosneft’s exit will further crumble Venezuela’s economy as the flow of hard currency and supply of gasoline will disappear for the time being.

Could this Kremlin move mean that the US, Russia (and China) are coming to a point that each will respect the other’s right to have and defend its own vital interests in the various corners of the World? (I will dedicate an article on this issue later). Could be, but the arguments against a US invasion of Venezuela are overwhelming as we have seen above.

Will this show of force topple of Maduro? Difficult to say. I believe that the US tough statements and actions are not a sign of an imminent military attack. It’s rather a signal to the Venezuelan opposition and military that the US would support an internal coup. It could also push Maduro in a corner forcing him into negotiating a bloodless exit. Hopefully those often elusive cooler heads will prevail.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Covid 19: will we learn?


While not showing any covid 19 symptoms, I’m in mandatory quarantine at home since arriving from the USA as instructed by our health service. This pandemic is endangering an essential public good, human health and life. Whilst I’m confident that we’ll get through this together, what keeps me up at night is whether this pandemic will get us to think about our behavior to one another and our relationships with the environment and all living things. 

According to The consequences of human actions on risks for infectious diseases: a review (Infection Ecology and Epidemiology, 2015), emerging infectious diseases are on the rise, causing losses in both human and animal lives, as well as large costs to society. Many factors contribute to this hike, but most are caused by humans. These include urbanization, human induced climate change, deforestation, global pollution, an increasing demand for exotic (bush) meat as the foodie culture gains in popularity. Unmistaken is also the fact that marginalized populations who live with poverty, health inequities, and other burdens, take the brunt of infectious diseases as a consequence of greed, war, and ill-conceived political priorities and policies.

We need to realize that what affects one person anywhere affects everyone everywhere. We have seen genuine acts of kindness of people and heroic healthcare workers. Yet we’ve been stockpiling toilet paper and antibacterial wipes without thinking of the rest of the population. We’re willing to put each other at risk by making “hand sanitizer” at home. The covid 19 apparently has given us carte blanche to step up discrimination of Chinese (and Asians in general). In London an Asian Singaporean student was recently accused of being responsible for covid 19 and beaten up. 

We must continue the briefings here emphasizing personal hygiene and physical distancing (social distancing means something else). What’s missing from the conversation however is the need to deal with issues that this disease has laid bare: greed, unequal opportunities, disdain for our environment, unhealthy lifestyles and more. Finding a vaccine may stop this strand of covid, but will not eliminate future catastrophes which may be occurring with an accelerated speed if we don’t change our ways. This pandemic is holding up a mirror to society.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Ke hubo di diskriminashon di muhé kontra muhé?


Mi no ta gusta daña fiesta, pero un dia despues di Dia Internashonal di Hende Muhé, mester di reflekshon. Un bista riba vários ekspreshon hasí na Kòrsou ta bisto ku e movementu di feminismo te ainda ta definí komo un lucha di hende muhé kontra hende hòmber.

Hende muhé ta gana ménos ku hende hòmber. Bèrdat. Hende muhé ántes no por a sigi traha ora e kasa mientras e hende hòmber kasá si tabata por. Meskos ta konta pa votamentu, sierto profeshon, aktividat religioso i di Iglesia. Hende muhé ta e género ku mas ta sufri di pobresa i abuzo fisiko. Ami pues ta e último pa ninga ku hende muhé tabata i ainda ta viktima di inhustisia i dikriminashon institushonalisá.

Lokual mi ta puntra sinembargo ta na unda e hende muhé ku ta lucha pa derechi igual entre hòmber i muhé ta pará pa loke ta trata derechi di e muhé lesbiana, transseksual, e muhé ku ke disidí riba abòrtus, e muhé ku ke ta liber pa duna propio kontenido na su género. E muhé ku tin miedu di ta asertivo pa no keda yamá un kachó femenino. E muhé ku ke sali òf biaha su so sin keda keda denominá ku ta hòmber e ta buska òf ku e ta bruwá.  E muhé ku ta sinti ku otro muhé ta huzg’e pa su peso, kabei i otro aspektonan nan físiko.

Segun Psychology Today di Aprel 2019 awe e muhé ta mas prekupá pa keda husgá i diskriminá pa un otro muhé.

Muchu largu e movementu di hende muhé a konsentrá riba viktimisashon di e muhé dor di e hòmber. Pa hasi manera no tin diskriminashon kontra hende muhé dor di hende muhé mes, no ta yuda e kousa. Òf a kaso ora un muhé diskriminá un otro muhé esei no ta inhustisia manera si ta e kaso si e keda diskriminá pa e ser maskulino?

Sundance, Wyoming (Merka)

From crisis to crisis

Curaçao’s greatest challenge ahead is going to be how it manages change. Truth be told, we are stuck in our old ways. We could either let change happen and then scramble to find solutions, or we could face them head on.

Are we going to push for climate protection into our consciousness or do we keep ignoring the numbers and proclaim environmentalists “enemy of the people”?

Do we keep parliamentary democracy which according to some members of Parliament gives them almost divine powers, or do we need another system and mindset where not politicians but the constitution plays the central role in order to guarantee those democratic ideals we hold dear?

Are we going to stay complacent with hard-fought gains like women’s rights and universal suffrage or are we going to challenge all sorts of inequality that affect groups of people and structures across societies?

Do we keep teaching our children the ropes of the past even though it has been proven that curiosity, compassion, critical thinking and imagination -important predictors of and contributors to success- should be front and center in the classroom?

How are we going to deal with cultural transformations, matters of right and wrong, fairness-based morality versus authority-based morality, gender identity, eutanasia, racism or abortion, just to name a few?

Do we stop chasing projects that seem too good to be true (which is always true), betting on outdated economic models or do we start taking the necessary steps to make our economy resilient, competitive, productive and outward looking?

It’s up to us, not others in far away places across the ocean. We need to decide if we’re going to keep electing candidates with questionable backgrounds and zero qualifications to govern. We, voters, need to realize that politicians who keep giving us political rallies with alcohol and music but, are unwilling to have real conversations about our problems, won’t come up with solutions either. How are small, narrow-minded politicians who relish at every opportunity they get to denigrate others, going to shape any future? No wonder we live from crisis to crisis.

Sundance, Wyoming (USA)

Introductie ABB: we volharden in onze dwaling mbt handelsbeleid


Binnenkort wordt de algemene bestedingsbelasting (ABB) ingevoerd op Curaçao. Dit betekent dat als goederen ons land binnenkomen een tarief wordt geheven. Ik wil het niet hebben over de hoogte van het tarief of dat de wetgeving (te) complex is. Ik waarschuw echter dat het invoeren van de ABB onze afspraken binnen het wereldhandelsysteem schendt, fikse financiële consequenties zal hebben en ons verder zal beletten handelsverdragen te sluiten (op dit moment hebben wij nul handelsverdragen). Het ergste is dat wij al eerder soortgelijke blunders hebben gemaakt.

Kort na de Tweede Wereldoorlog werd besloten tot een verdrag ter bevordering van vrije handel. Dit hield o.a. in dat landen onderhandelen over de maximale tarieven van import die voor (een deel) van hun goederen gelden. Dit verdrag is de Gereral Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). Als GATT-lid hebben de Nederlandse Antillen in 1947 één kwart van hun goederen gebonden aan maximale tarieven.

De meeste GATT-landen hebben gedurende de jaren (mede door veranderde economische omstandigheden) hun afspraken lijst veranderd door tarieven te verhogen of te verlagen. Om dit te verwezelijken hebben ze onderhandeld met voor hun de belangrijkste handelspartners conform Artikel XXVIII van het GATT verdrag. In de loop der jaren hebben wij ook onze tarieven verhoogd boven het niveau van de overeengekomen GATT-afspraken en daar bovenop hebben wij fikse economische heffingen in het leven geroepen maar, zonder daarover onderhandelingen te voeren en onze handelspartners hiervan op de hoogte te stellen.

De internationale gemeenschap heeft een aantal jaren dit door de vingers gekeken, tot op het moment dat landen, waaronder de Nederlandse Antillen, in Marrakech eind 1994 zijn samengekomen om de Wereldhandelsorganisatie (WTO) op te richten. Ons land werd toen flink op de vingers getikt. De slapende honden werden wakker gemaakt in de Noord Afrikaanse hoofdstad. De Antilliaanse delegatie werd medegedeeld dat onze schendingen kunnen resulteren in monetaire sancties ter hoogte van de op illegale wijze verhoogde tarieven.

Na deze mislukte poging om goedkeuring te verkrijgen voor onze gewijzigde tarieven, zijn de oorspronkelijke tarievenschemas van 1947 blijven staan, wat natuurlijk al lang niet meer strookt met onze (economische) realiteit. Door onze internationale afspraken te schenden zijn we niet GATT/WTO-conform waardoor wij geen handelsverdrag kunnen sluiten wat juist broodnodig is voor economische opleving en verbetering van de deviezenreserve. Als Staatssecretaris heb ik op enkele tarieven na een voorlopig akkoord bereikt met de VS (onze belangrijkste handelspartner) die conform afspraak ook door andere GATT-leden overgenomen zou worden. Andere regeringen hebben jammer genoeg van dit vergevorderde voorstel afgezien. Van mijn contacten in Genève heb ik begrepen dat een tarievenakkoord nog 10 jaar op zich zal wachten.

Curaçao is autonoom om ABB te introduceren. Maar volgens internationale regels die ook voor ons gelden, moet daarover wel worden onderhandeld met onze belangrijkste partners (vooral VS en Canada). Terwijl we binnenkort onze afspraken met onze internationale handelspartners weer gaan schenden met de introductie van ABB, zijn er berichten dat wij met diezelfde partners willen gaan praten over een onafhankelijk WTO lidmaatschap (i.p.v. onze status nu als lid via het Koninkrijk). Bonter kunnen wij het niet maken. De geloofwaardigheid van Curaçao op het vlak van internationale handel is al jaren zoek doch volhardt een groep in zijn dwaling hierover.

Minnesota, VS

Na 1978 tambe barku ta dal den brùg


E daño ku a keda hasí na brùg Juliana awe mainta a kousa bastante konsternashon. Sinembargo esaki no ta promé biaha ku nos brùg nobo a keda alkansá pa un barku.

Riba djamars 8 di ougùstùs 1978, e “boortoren” yamá Western Offshore VI a dal brùg Juliana na momento ku esaki tabata drenta haf. E daño kousá a keda kalkulá na Naf 110,000 (awe: Naf 450,000). E ”boortoren” tabata propiedat di un kompania prestigioso di Texas den negoshi di petroli i gas.

Despues di un investigashon a resultá ku falta di e aksidente tabata serka kapitan di e barku Merikano. A sali na kla ku e kapitan a informá outoridatnan di nos haf ku e ta kalkulá haltura di e “boortoren“ na 173 pia. Dor ku brùg Juliana ta 185 pia haltu, e barku a haña pèrmit pa drenta haf. A resultá sinembargo ku haltura di e “boortoren“ a surpasá 185 pia. E kapitan a duna informashon robes na nos inspektor di haf lokual a kousa e aksidente.

Outomobilistanan ku na e momentu di e aksidente tabata trafiká riba brùg a bisa di a tende un zonido espantoso i a eksperiensiá un “sakudimentu” bastante violento.

Poko despues di e insidente, e kompania doño di Western Offshore VI ta entregá un garantia di banko na Teritorio Insular di Kòrsou i ta bandoná nos isla.

Willemstad, Kòrsou

Fuente: Archivo Nashonal