Our failed monetary union

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During a Kingdom Consultation in 2006 it was decided to create a monetary union between Curaçao and Sint Maarten (CSMU). Not due to any economic arguments, but because The Netherlands didn’t trust Sint Maarten to have its own central bank. I was the only member of government to object but, instead of looking at the merits of my comments, it was suggested I’d be kicked out of the cabinet (Nobo, 1 November, 2006, p. 8). The decision to institute the CSMU defies even political logic. We should remember that Curaçao and Sint Maarten belonged to the Netherlands Antilles which in 2010 was disolved because each island wanted to pursue its own development policies.

The CSMU operates since 10 October 2010. During all this time the same Netherlands Antillean Guilder of the defunct Netherlands Antilles is in circulation even though a new currency was promised since 2008. On many occasions politicians from both islands have threatened to leave the union and or start using the U.S. Dollar. The biggest problem however is that there’re no commitments in this union. For this union -any monetary union for that matter- to be successful, macroeconomic policy coordination is indispensable. Just ask the folks of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union who have been at it since 1983. Despite the strong arguments for such coordination, policy makers take an island rather than a union perspective. Just read the Curaçao Growth Strategy. Yet, nobody seems to care.

The failure to take care of this matter further impedes us to realize our economic potential. I’m not saying that the messy CSMU is the sole culprit for our current malaise. We should however be aware that we cannot afford to postpone this issue and others such as our inability to increase export and modernize our policies. We cannot keep fooling ourselves into believing that our economic situation is due to Venezuela. We all had to see Venezuela coming.  What we should’ve done is to improve our domestic fundamentals to adjust smoothly to possible external shocks, including Venezuela. Let’s stop playing the victim and do what we need to do, no matter how hard it may be. The payoff may not be at the next election, but our grandchildren will thank us for doing the right thing.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Using democracy to destroy democracy: Curaçao is not immune

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The forced removal last week of the brutal Sudanese dictator, Omar al-Bashir, is good news for everyone who wants to see him finally tried for the Darfur genocide. Recently we’ve also seen dictators such as Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Abdelaziz Bouteflika (Algeria), Nursultan Nazarbaev (Kazakhstan), Ali Saleh (Yemen) go. It’s been rough for aging dictators. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that undemocratic rule is not disappearing but changing its appearance. Coups are out. The road to undemocratic rule is rarely marked by overt violations of the law. To the contrary, typically the best way to undermine democracy is to rely on actions within the law. Democratically elected officials are rewriting constitutions to do away with term limits, tinker with press freedom and gut democratic institutions. Uganda’s top court upheld a decision to scrap presidential age limits, paving the way for the 74-year-old Yoweri Museveni to seek a sixth term in office. Hungary’s ever more authoritarian prime minister, Victor Orbán, rewrote the constitution weakening the judiciary and paving the way to trample his opponents. Democratic erosion has followed a similar pattern in other countries (Poland, Venezuela, Rwanda) as well.

Curaçao is not immune to democratic backsliding. From 2010-2012, the government of Curaçao aggressively undermined the Central Bank, the Judiciary and the Intelligence Department. The same group manipulated the public who, rightfully so, is fed up with our current government system of coalition, to justify a constitution change. Thankfully we had people who saw the real intentions of the proposed new constitution: super powers for the executive, weakened democratic institutions and no checks and balances. Similarly, some groups now use the otherwise noble ambition of independence, as a cover to escape oversight by The Netherlands and create a free-for-all for wanna-be dictators.

We realize that Western-type democracy in general is ill-prepared for the fights against “short-termism”, incompetent politicians, disinformation, oppression by the majority, just to name a few. Yet, we shouldn’t give in to apathy. The time is ripe to fix what’s broken. Hopefully politically independent groups, academia and think-tanks will finally step up to the plate. If we don’t, others, inspired by what is going on in many places in the world, will get a free ride to undermine our hard-won democracy.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Ban ta franko ku nos mes

 

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E peliger mas grandi aktualmente ta nos inabilidat pa goberná nos mes i atendé nos asuntunan na drechi lokual ta hasi imposibel pa hasi bon uzo di nos potensial. E situashon aki no a bin den un ‘drumi lanta’; e simiñanan a keda plantá hopi tempu pasá den nos institushonnan i nos ser.

Nos ta keda vota pa kandidatonan kuestionabel ku sero kalifikashon pa goberná, ku partidonan polítiko ta tira den nos skochi. Nos ta preferá keda gañá ku kuentanan di ada i promesanan ku lo no tin medida ounke kon malu e situashon ta pasombra polítikonan sa ku kombersashon franko tokante nos debilidat i fayonan no ta produsí voto manera si ta e kaso ku ser populista. 

Pero no ta solamente polítika. Ta imposibel avansá ora prensa ta pusha nos ku notisia falsu i tendensioso na lugá di informashon konfiabel. Tampoko por buska guia moral di iglesianan ku ta dal tur tipo di buèlta pa tapa abuzo seksual di nan religiosonan. Nos ta sera wowo pa nos hábitonan insaludabel ku ta kondusí na malesanan króniko, adikshon na wega di plaka, prostitushon, ensèst, violensia relashonal i kontra animal. Mientras ta reklamá diskriminashon risibí, nos mes ta diskriminá otronan pa motibu di nan preferensia seksual, status ekonómiko òf orígen. Un chin chan kos nos ta hunga víktima, referí na sklabitut enbes di atendé ku e demoñonan di nos pasado i asumí responsabilidat. 

No ta un sorpesa ku nos ta biba di krisis pa krisis, defendé kos robes, premia polítikonan kriminal, kaba ku nos mes akadémikonan i despresiá tur hende rònt di nos ku ta eksitoso. Nos problema ta mas ku tur kos unu di ìndolé sosial. E no ta Den Haag, nos sistema demokrátiko, CFT òf ku nos ta un pais yòn. Kòrda ku durante e mesun periodo ku nos demokrasia ta eksistí paisnan manera Irlanda, Korea, Mauritius, Singapore a bini for djatras i progresá.

Nos mester un spil dilanti nos mes. Nos mester ta franko ku nos mes. Si nos rekonosé esaki, e proseso largu i arduo pa trese kambio por start. No tin solushon mágiko. Mester planifikashon, trabou duru, strukturanan modèrno polítikonan kapas i onesto i tambe guia moral pa asina nos produsí un kapital humano ku ta mas felis, sigur di su mes i globalmente kompetitivo. Ya nos konosé e resultado di sera wowo pa realidat, keda pegá den pasado i akusá otronan pa nos situashon.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Supstansia deskonosí na kosta

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Esaki ta un foto resien ku klaramente ta mustra un supstansia den awa na e área nort di nos isla ku aktualmente ta presente na nos kosta. Hendenan ku a mira un ke otro bulando den un avion ta konfirmá ku a mira e supstansia aki ta drif ya kaba tambe den laman grandi i por yega kosta di otro nashon. Boneiru no por keda ekskluí di tambe hañé konfrontá ku e supstansia aki. Tene kuenta ku ekspertonan ya a big determiná ku aki no ta trata di sargassum. Kiko sí e ta, ainda ta deskonosí. Ta di spera ku mas rápido posibel outoridatnan ta laga investigá ta kiko e supstansia aki ta i saka afó ken ta responsabel. Mi ta spera ku nos ta manda un mensahe hopi kla ku nos no ta tolerá ku ta hasi nos medio ambiente daño i tampoko peligrá nos turismo ku tipo di aktonan asina aki. Un súplika na nos outoridatnan ta pa nan ta transparente ku pueblo.

Willemstad, Curaçao

70 aña ku nos tur por vota pa tur nos representantenan

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Despues di kambio di nos konstitushon na 1948, riba 17 di mart 1949 pa promé biaha tur hende na Kòrsou por a bai urna i vota pa tur su representantenan. Un logro grandi den e lucha pa emansipashon polítiko. Den kuadro di komemorashon di e fecha aki mi kier a kontribuí ku algun opservashon i pensamentu.

No ta bèrdat ku hende muhé promé ku 1949 no tabatin derechi di voto. Korekto ta ku hende muhé no tabata tin derechi di voto aktivo (actief kiesrecht) promé ku 1949. Pues hende muhé no por a vota pa un kandidato. Sinembargo for di 1937 hende muhé tabatin derechi di voto pasivo (pasief kiesrecht). Pues hende muhé for di 1937 por a keda postulá komo kandidato riba un lista, basta ku e tabata kumpli ku e mesun rekesitonan vigente pa hende hòmber.

E lucha pa derechi di voto no a kuminsá ku Dòktor da Costa Gomez, pero na 1869 tempu ku e promé miembro di koló di Koloniale Raad, Généreux Jacob Richard de Lima a pidi pa derechi di voto pa Yu di Kòrsou. Despues di Sr. de Lima tabata Abraham Mendes Chumaceiro i e promé agrupashon (semi)polítiko di nos pais, Curaçaose Vrijheidsbond, ku a sigi hiba e lucha aki.

Katólikonan no tabata konsiderá pueblo sufisiente madurá pa votomentu universal. Frater Radulphus klaramente a formulá e pensamentu aki bisando: “Ku hòmbernan mes no ta reip, ta kon por papia di votamentu pa hende muhé”? (Hendrik Pieters Kwiers den Ideal Polítiko di Dr. da Costa Gomez). Esaki tabata e rason prinsipal ku Dòktor a bandoná Partido Katóliko.

Mester rekonosé e Damanan di Djarason ku a kana kas pa kas pa kolektá firma di hende muhé, pero tambe pa eduká tokante di nos sistema demokrátiko i responsabilidatnan ku ta bin ku derechi di voto. Un petishon di mi na Gobièrnu di Kòrsou pa onra e Damanan di Djarason, no a prosperá. Un di e kosnan mas impaktante pa mi tabata na 2007 ku mi a akudí na entiero di un pionero di Damanan di Djarason (mi no ta menshoná su nòmber) i ku no tabatin ni sufisiente hende pa karga su kaha hiba santana!

Na mes momentu ku nos wak atras,  mester evaluá kon durante tempu nos a atendé ku nos derechi di voto. Kon bin partidonan ta pone hende sin konosementu i asta ku antesedente kriminal riba lista pa nos skohe komo nos representante? Ta tempu pa introdusí rekesitonan mínimo pa un hende subi lista? Kon nos ta pone mas garantia pa evitá bendementu di voto? Ta tempu pa nos laga residentenan legal di Kòrsou sin nashonalidat Ulandes tambe vota? Pa nos demokrasia keda relevante e mester respondé na e nesesidatnan di awor. I mas importante, nos mester kuid’é. Ta di lamentá konstatá ku e pio enemigu di e lucha di emansipashon polítiko ta nos mes. 

Istanbul, Turkía

One hundred and still counting

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A few days ago a colleague dropped me off at the Kazakh-Uzbek border where I proceeded to walk into Uzbekistan, of course after taking care of all the formalities. And just like that Uzbekistan became the 100th country I’ve visited. It’s been quite a journey. Never was it about racking up stamps in my passport. It’s always been and will continue to be about creating paths in places others have overlooked and never settle for the same old routines. And boy did I learn some interesting life lessons.

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Vegetarian meal, Bhutan

I’ve learned that: flipping the middle finger is not an universal insult (Chad); plain bread with vinegar is delicious (Uzbekistan); eating with your hands improves your eating experience (The Gambia); the new day doesn’t start at midnight but at sunrise (Ethiopia); horse milk can make you sick (Kyrgystan), crickets are delicious (Chad), home made whiskey is not for the faint-hearted (Laos), don’t underestimate the fierce animosity among certain countries (Armenia and Azerbaijan) and having a poster of the 14th  Dalai Lama will land you in jail (Chinese occupied Tibet).

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Roasted, slightly salted crickets, Chad

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Traditional troath singer, Mongolia

I also learned that I’m black (in the USA), white (in Senegal), brown or red (in Curaçao), Brazilian, Lybian, Mexican, Indian, Iranian or Egyptian depending on what part of the world I happen to be. I got to know too much about female genital mutilation, bride kidnapping and sky burial (human corpses are placed on a mountain top to be eaten by birds).

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Beautiful Vientiane, Laos

 

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 Breaking bread, Armenia

At the end of the day however, my most important lesson is that no matter where,  people have the need to feel worthy, relevant and noticed. I’m looking forward to other lands and places, not to tick off items on a list but to fill my bucket with mind-expanding life experiences.

Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Mirror needed

5B9F06D7-23AE-4566-AE94-F59B1B1030CAThe real danger we’re facing is our inability to govern ourselves effectively which makes it impossible to take advantage of our society’s huge potential. This didn’t happen with a bang; the seeds were sown deep within our institutions and psyche, years ago.

We keep voting for candidates with questionable backgrounds and zero qualifications to govern that our political parties throw at us. We prefer being lied to about mega projects and promises of ‘no more measures’, however bad our situation may be. See, politicians know that real conversations about our problems and how to tackle structural shortcomings, don’t produce votes. Populism does. When politicians who ran on a realistic agenda with no tolerance for corruption do get elected, we don’t encourage them to keep their promises but ask them to be our personal ‘fixer’. 

It’s not only politics. We can’t advance if the press keeps feeding us garbage and biased news instead of reliable information. We can’t expect the same churches that go to length to coverup child abuse by their own ranks, for moral guide. Nor does it make sense not talking about incest, the surge of personal bankruptcies, gambling, prostitution, domestic violence and mistreatment of animals. Whilst we fight discrimination by the Dutch, we discriminate others whether they are (potential) refugees or based on their origin, sexual orientation and creed. We prefer to play the victim, misuse the slavery card and not deal with our past demons and assume responsibility for our future. 

No wonder we live from crisis to crisis. No wonder we defend corrupt politicians (“Others have stolen before. Let him steal now”.), make fun of those who warn against destroying the environment and turn a blind eye to transgression. We’ve become a hardened inward-looking group that flaunts apathy for university graduates and never seem able to be happy for each other(‘s success). 

We need people who hold up a mirror to who we are. Only then is change possible. And no, Curaçao isn’t too young to expect more. We’ve been autonomous since 1951 and during this period we’ve seen countries like Korea, Singapore and Ireland rise from the ashes of adversity or sink in poverty like Venezuela. There is no magical solution but hard work, planning, capable politicians and modern structures that will allow us to produce knowledgable human capital that is globally competitive. The choice is ours to make.

Tashkent, Uzbekistan