Who decides what it means to be YdK?

 

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I’m a born and raised Curaçaoan, a Yu di Kòrsou (YdK), but when I returned to my island after nearly 15 years in the US, Chad, and Nicaragua, I was seen as a ‘local foreigner’ with ‘strange views’ on some issues compared to those who mostly never left the island. Did I change? Absolutely. Did I have (still have) ideas that were conceived by what I’d call best practices abroad that could be implemented or discussed here? Yes. Wait, hasn’t it been proven that a balanced influx of new people and ideas contribute to growth, dynamism and progress? 

It’s mind boggling how our young minds who every year embark on their studies abroad are told “to soon return” yet we don’t exactly roll out the red carpet when they do. The same politicians who waved them away lambast them for having earned a title, for having acquired a different take on life, music, eating habits and what not. How are we going to convince them to return? Remember, we’re in a population crisis with rampant depopulation and aging. (I haven’t even talked about the financial and housing issues that hamper our diaspora from returning). 

We need a strategic policy on immigration and diaspora. As part of this strategy we have to have a conversation about how much we expect the (returning) immigrants to give up of themselves to fit in. Can they keep their heritage, culture, language, (acquired) eating habits, taste in music and sports? Who has the recipe, who decides? Do we want assimilation, integration or a common set of values (unconditional love for this island) that unite us? 

It’s obvious that we can’t afford to hold on to antiquated ideas and definitions of the YdK regarding skin color, origin or whether he can dance tambú or not. History has taught us that those who blindly cling to tradition, unwilling to change or open up to the world, eventually perish. George Lichtveld nailed it when he said that we can’t go on practicing small-town syndrome. We need to celebrate our diversity, open up to new things and have a global focus.

Willemstad, Curaçao

 

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Guera Saudi Arabia i Yemen spliká den 7 punto

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E guera na Yemen ku a start na 2015 no a haña mashá kobertura te awor.  Kos a kambia sinembargo. E atake ayera di instalashonnan petrolero di Amranco (doño di Motiva anteriormente interesá den Refineria Isla) na Saudi Arabia ya a sòru pa subida di preis di petroli i un krísis. E atake no ta un sorpresa, pero resultado durante tempu di geopolítika i eksklushon polítiko.

Algun detaye di Yemen

Yemen ta un union (1990) di: Yemen Arab Republic (Nort Yemen) i People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (Sur Yemen), den Asia na e parti suit di e península Arabia. Sur Yemen tabata komunista i dominá pa Union Soviétiko. Nort Yemen,  neutral ku bon relashon ku Saudi Arabia i mundu oksidental. Sr. Ali Abdullah Saleh, anteriormente presidente di Nort Yemen a bira e promé presidente di Yemen.

Divishon religioso

Pa komprondé e konflikto Yemení mester bai na e divishon entre Musulman Sunni i Shia ku a originá despues di morto di Profeta Muhammad. E Sunninan tabata ke un susesor skohé a base di tradishon tribal. Segun e Shianan e susesor mester ta un famia di e Profeta. Ku tempu e diferenshanan entre nan dos a krese. Awe 80% di tur Musulman ta Sunni. Na Yemen tin 55% Sunni i 43% Shia di kua e mayoria ta Shia Zaidi. Kontrali na tur skol Sunni i Shia ku ta ambishoná unidat, Zaidinan ta konsiderá nan obligashon religioso di bringa esnan korupto/inhustu ounke esaki trese divishon.

Primavera Yemení

Inspirá pa e moveshon “Primavera Árabe” na Tunesia i Egipto pa mas demokrasia (2011) a surgi protestanan na Yemen pa presidente Saleh (un Zaidi) baha. Pueblo a kulp’é pa korupshon, pobresa i diktatura prinsipalmente ora a lèk ku Saleh tabata prepará su yu pa tuma poder. Bou di preshon na 2012 Sr. Saleh ta pasa poder pa Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi (un Sunni) ku despues ta haña 99% di voto den un elekshon komo úniko kandidato.

Di primavera pa pesadia

Sr. Hadi tabatin un mandato di 3 aña (pero a keda sinta mas largu) pa trese kambio i mas partisipashon Shia. Na 2015 Zaidinan ku for di añanan 90 a lanta e grupo Houthi pa protestá kontra poder Sunni, a logra kore ku Hadi pasombra pa nan e no a kumpli ku e reformanan primintí. Sr. Hadi, ku ta rekonosé pa komunidat internashonal komo presidente, ta den eksilio na Saudi Arabia.

Gera 

E konflikto a eskalá ora Saudi Arabia i algun pais Sunni, sostené pa Merka na 2015 a kuminsá bombardeá posishonnan Houthi pa asina reestablesé Sr. Hadi. Ta akusá Iran di ta sostené Houthi pero nan ta ninga. Tuma nota ku Zaidinan ta independiente di e dogma Shia di Iran, Irak i Libanon. Miéntras tantu Sr. Hadi i e Houthinan ta konsiderá nan mes e gobièrnu legítimo. E guera sivil a kousa vários mil morto i tin un falta agudo di alimentashon. E Houthinan tambe ta kontribuí na e krísis (no na eskala di Saudi Arabia) strobando yudansa humanitario i maltratando oponentenan.

Houthinan ganando un bataya kostoso

Apesar di bombardeo, Houthinan no solamente ta sobrebibí pero ta atministrá e pais. E poder militar superior di Saudi Arabia riba papel no a stòp e Houthinan. Ademas, demasiado di e bombardeonan ta mal ehekutá lokual a resultá den morto di hopi mil sivil inosente. Tin tur indikashon ku e atrosidatnan di Saudi Arabia mas bien ta unifikando Yemen tras di e Houthinan. Tambe, mas debilitá e Houthinan, mas ta empoderá e gruponan terorista ISIS i al Qaeda ku ya kaba ta presente na Yemen. Otro komplikashon ta ku e region di antes Sur Yemen, ta konsiderando pa opta pa independensia loke por empeorá stabilidat den hinter region.

Kiko lo pasa?

Saudi Arabia ainda no a kulpa Iran p’e atakenan, pero si a bisa ku e armanan usá ta Iraní. Iran a ninga kulpabilidat mientras e Houthinan ta asumí responsabilidat i ta atvertí pa mas atake. Merka ta kla pa drenta akshon militar. Un kos ta sigur, e atake aki ta un ‘game changer’ den sentido ku aparentemente un grupo sin un (1) avion militar por efektuá atake ku drone ku ta kousa miles di mion dòlar na daño. Mientras tantu produkshon di petrolí a keda afektá. Esaki i e menasa di eskalashon a pone preis di petroli subi (i lo por sigi subi) lokual por aselerá un krisis mundial i un reseshon ekonómiko na Merka ku tin algun luna kaba ta vislumbrá.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Noncompliant Curaçao unable to increase export

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Yes, we need to export more as the Curaçao government informercial tells us daily on television, obviously referring to the “Growth Strategy”. What we need to realize however is that (increasing) export is not a random event. First, you need goods and services that have a competitive advantage and that other people want. Competitiveness in turn depends on above all, productivity, flexible labor and capital markets and cost of doing business. In this area we don’t score well. In order to export you also need a good trade network. Here we score zero.

According to the World Trade Organization (WTO) there are 524 trade agreements in existence in the world. Curaçao has none and is among a handful of nations without one. A trade agreement means that participating countries phase out tariffs on merchandise trade, reduce restrictions on trade in services and foreign investment. A Curaçao product for lack of a trade agreement with let’s say Canada will be more expensive in Canada due to tariffs and non tariff barriers compared to an identical product exported from Barbados into Canada if there is a trade agreement between Barbados and Canada.

You could say that all we need to do in this case is negotiate a trade agreement with Canada. Wrong. Not only don’t we have trade agreements with anyone, but we are unable to enter into one. This, because we have broken our international obligations and are noncompliant. No country will even negotiate with us without facing repercussions. We can still export, but our goods and services face steep barriers and tariffs.

Reason for our trade isolation and noncompliance stems from the 70s when we introduced a very strict protection policy with levies of up to 90%, costing consumers dearly and making some people very rich. While protection in those days was used in some countries to temporarily stimulate infant industries, here it lasted for more than 40 years and became a ‘right’ protected by some politicians. On the eve of the creation of the WTO in 1994 we were told in Marrakesh that we were violating our GATT (General Agreements on Trade and Tariffs) agreements from 1948. No steps were taken to correct this however. Since we are noncompliant WTO members could impose trade sanction on us which could end up costing us millions.

In 2005, the first decision I took as Minister of Economic Affairs was to scrap protection. We protected an internal market of 150,000 for decades instead of looking for export markets via trade agreements. The price we are still paying for this failed policy is trade isolation and possible sanctions.

The first priority is to engage with our partners to become compliant. I held two high-level meetings with the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to resolve this matter. In a letter dated 14 March, 2007 the USTR informed me that: “We feel that your offer is in the right direction. There are just two outstanding issues.”

Since 2009 the Curaçao government chose however not to build on the progress made. After “10-10-10” a brand new ball game started due to the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles. Since Curaçao government has opted for a totally different and complicated path, it seems according to an internal memo that it will take at least 10 years for Curaçao to become compliant in 2029.

It’s a specialized matter and not easy to wrap your head around it. What’s not complicated to understand is that in a world with an ever-growing amount of trade agreements, not having one will increasingly make us isolated whilst our economy, balance of payments and foreign reserves continue to deteriorate. Let’s not continue to fool ourselves into thinking that increasing export can be achieved without a definite plan or purpose.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Salida for di Oropa di Reino Uní tin konsekuensia pa nos

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Pueblo di Reino Uní a skohe pa sali for di Union Oropeo (Brexit) dos aña pasá. Nunka a indiká kon e salida aki lo tuma lugá loke a kondusí na hopi konfushon i drama polítiko. Brexit tin konsekuensia global, pero tambe pa Karibe i spesífikamente pa Sint Maarten i Kòrsou. Tin seis (6) Teritorio Ultramar Britániko (LGO) den Karibe. Un Brexit (sin negosashon) lo pone bareranan entre di e LGOnan Britániko i e LGOnan Ulandes. Den e kaso aki mester nota ku Anguilla ta dependé di Sint Maarten pa kasi tur servisio, inkluso turismo, i merkansia. Si Sint Maarten pa motibu di Brexit no por sigi hasi  negoshi ku Anguilla manera ta e kaso awor, esaki lo por tin konsekuensia ekonómiko pa Sint Maarten i tambe Kòrsou ku huntu ta forma un union monetario.

In June 2016 the United Kingdom voted to exit the EU, but failed to identify what sort of exit it wanted leading to confusion and uncertainty. This is already being felt in the Caribbean as six British Overseas Territories (BOT) brace for Brexit, especially Anguilla that’s so dependent on Sint Maarten for its services and goods. Barriers after a (no-deal) Brexit will be felt not only by Anguilla, but also Sint Maarten with which Curaçao shares a monetary union. 

The potential political implications shouldn’t be minimized either. Brexit could easily embolden the Eurosceptic movements that are plotting to use it as blueprint to exit the EU, like Austria, Denmark and The Netherlands. 

Brexit’s global impact will probably be mostly felt in the financial markets. A Brexit will push capital toward the US lowering market interest rates, making the US dollar stronger and putting pressure on an increasingly weak US economy. A strong dollar could negatively affect tourist arrivals here from Europe. No wonder Brexit and a possible US recession were high on the agenda of a recent gathering of experts in Barbados.

A large part of Anguilla’s transport, health services and food comes from Sint Maarten. Anguilla’s tourists invariable arrive via Sint Maarten. If Sint Maarten as result of Brexit is restricted from free movement of people, goods and services with BOTs, this will certainly mean a setback for the island’s economy, foreign exchange and our monetary union. These restrictions could also lead to contraband among neighbors who depend on each other.

Yet these concerns have not been flagged up enough by our policy and opinion makers. We currently have lots of pressing problems. I get it. But when we look carefully we will realize that many of today’s problems are yesterday’s issues we failed to deal with. 

Willemstad, Curaçao 

Brexit: What it could mean for us

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In June 2016 the United Kingdom voted to exit the EU, but failed to identify what sort of exit it wanted leading to confusion and uncertainty. This is already being felt in the Caribbean as six British Overseas Territories (BOT) brace for Brexit, especially Anguilla that’s so dependent on Sint Maarten for its services and goods. Barriers after a (no-deal) Brexit will be felt not only by Anguilla, but also Sint Maarten with which Curaçao shares a monetary union. 

The potential political implications shouldn’t be minimized either. Brexit could easily embolden the Eurosceptic movements that are plotting to use it as blueprint to exit the EU, like Austria, Denmark and The Netherlands. 

Brexit’s global impact will probably be mostly felt in the financial markets. A Brexit will push capital toward the US lowering market interest rates, making the US dollar stronger and putting pressure on an increasingly weak US economy. A strong dollar could negatively affect tourist arrivals here from Europe. No wonder Brexit and a possible US recession were high on the agenda of a recent gathering of experts in Barbados.

A large part of Anguilla’s transport, health services and food comes from Sint Maarten. Anguilla’s tourists invariable arrive via Sint Maarten. If Sint Maarten as result of Brexit is restricted from free movement of people, goods and services with BOTs, this will certainly mean a setback for the island’s economy, foreign exchange and our monetary union. These restrictions could also lead to contraband among neighbors who depend on each other.

Yet these concerns have not been flagged up enough by our policy and opinion makers. We currently have lots of pressing problems. I get it. But when we look carefully we will realize that many of today’s problems are yesterday’s issues we failed to deal with. 

Willemstad, Curaçao 

Bende Kòrsou i hasié kapital di Venezuela, 1877

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Presidente di Venezuela, Guzmán Blanco, na 1877 a informá  Parlamento di su pais ku su pasenshi a kaba ku Kòrsou i ku no a keda nada otro pa kumpra nos isla. E a bisa di ta dispuesto pa paga “muchu mas plaka ku Kòrsou tabata bal.” No esei so, e kier a hasi Kòrsou kapital di Venezuela i a predisí ku siendo Venezolano, Kòrsou lo bira e suidat di mas grandi, riku i limpi di Karibe.

Blanco tabatin problema ku su enemigunan polítiko tabata haña refugio aki i por a kumpra arma. Loke mas a irit’é ta ku Kòrsou no kier a ekstraditá algun di su oponentenan. Kòrsou a para ariba ku no tabatin prueba si e hendenan aki a hasi algu robes. Mester remarká ku dia Blanco tabata den oposihon i kier a bin na poder, e ora ei si Kòrsou tabata un bon amigu ku tabata bende su hendenan arma i duna nan refugio.

Promé ku Blanco lansa su idea pa kumpra  Kòrsou, Venezuela ya a kibra relashonnan diplomátiko ku Hulanda (konsekuentemente nos tambe) i tabata trata na tur manera pa boikotiá Kòrsou ekonómikamente. E kompra di nos isla den wowo di Blanco tabata pa evitá ku kontra-revolushonarionan ta usa Kòrsou pa destabilisá su pais. Na 1877 mes Blanco a keda bahá, i relashonnan a keda reestablesé. Na 1879 Blanco ta bolbe bin na poder i ta keda insistí pa kumpra Kòrsou.

Ni Kòrsou ni Hulanda a tuma Blanco i su plan na serio. E konosido Yu di Tera, Abraham Chumaceiro, tabata un di e pokonan ku a mete i a skibi un dokumento titulá “Is Curaçao te koop?”

Den un entrevista  publiká den Amigoe di Curaçao di 4 yüni 1982, Konsul General na Kòrsou, José-Angel Oropeza Ciliberto, a deklará ku nos no mester mira e “oferta” e tempu ei komo un menasa. E a bisa ku tabata mashá normal pa paisnan kolonial kumpra teritorio. Komo ehèmpel e a bisa ku Inglatera a kumpra Trinidad i Tobago, lokual nos sa ku ta un mentira flagrante. E korant briyantemente a titulá e entrevista komo “[El] Hermano bedoelt het weer goed” referiendo na e lema “Somos hermanos” ku te awe sierto hende ta kere siegamente.

Willemstad, Kòrsou

We need a local think tank

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Last month some of the brightest Caribbean and regional minds gathered in Barbados to talk about the most important issues in terms of risk confronting our region. Six big concerns were identified and discussed: 1. The no-deal Brexit; 2. A potential US recession; 3. Venezuela; 4. The new cold war in the Caribbean; 5. Climate change and 6. Derisking (the withdrawal of correspondent banking relations from Caribbean banks by US banks).

I’m not going to discuss these topics even though I’ve written extensively in the past about the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis and the new Cold War in the Caribbean involving the US, Russia, China and Taiwan. The point I want to make, or rather the question I want to pose is why we on Curaçao are not publicly discussing these matters? It baffles me that we, not only government but also NGOs, academics and the media have failed so far to create awareness about the changes and challenges our nation and region are facing.

I get it, in the beginning some of these challenges may seem negligible and remote from our lives. Politicians here are therefore more likely to postpone policy response because of the periodic cycle of elections which makes them focus on short term, day-to-day matters only. These neglegted topics could however easily end up turning into a full-blown crises.

But don’t politicians in the Caribbean and elsewhere also have to face elections periodically? That could not be the reason why rarely our Parliament discusses the future. I think it’s safe to say that politicians in general here are more involved with gossip and conversations about other people than with the shaping of our future.

We are in dire need of an independent think tank which performs research, advocacy and encourages public conversations regarding the national strategic vision, new ideas that anticipate global trends. I’m not saying that there’s no brainpower locally, but that brainpower is organised for different ends. In the civil service brainpower is engaged in mostly administrative tasks. In the private sector it’s devoted to enhancing profitability. In the university it’s devoted to academic research and teaching. We need an independent think tank to be able to tap the ideas and imagination of Yu di Kòrsou at home and abroad, as well as friends of Curaçao. Let’s stop blaming everyone  and everything we can think of  for our state of affairs. We need to challenge the status quo.

Willemstad, Curaçao