Guangdong Zhenrong Energy (GZE) is being presented by some politicians as a celestial answer to the economic standstill we’ve been confronting for some decades now. Actually it makes sense because it’s politically easier to bet on GZE than to tackle our structural deficiencies that cause this stagnation (rigid labor market and immigration policies among others). Digressing, we shouldn’t forget that GZE ultimately answers to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) whose most important goal is ensuring its monopoly on power. For the last decades Beijing has enunciated a clear set of foreign policy goals to achieve it.
First, Chinese territorial integrity and unification. We have seen China successfully using its checkbook in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean to convince countries not to recognize the Republic of China (Taiwan). In 1970 a total of 71 countries recognized Taiwan. Today only 19 do. Second, creating world clout through its Development Model of providing loans without questioning human rights, corruption or money wasting programs in the receiving countries unlike the West and multilateral organizations. The Chinese model has proven attractive for governments desperate for money and short term successes without having to deal with badly needed structural adjustments.
This model comes with a price tag however. Too good to be true promises of local jobs often echoed by local politicians, are just that. Despite Beijing’s claim that China’s assistance is totally selfless, the reality is different. Chinese aid is tied aid meaning that an overwhelming majority of the money is spent on personnel, goods or services from China. The Mombassa-Nairobi railway in Kenya financed by China was built by Chinese companies and laborers. Lack of transparent bidding and corruption (two Chinese senior managers were arrested in Kenya on corruption charges) made this project twice as expensive as similar ones in Africa. Unfortunately, the Kenya case is not an exception. Similar instances are taking place in Jamaica, The Gambia, Laos and other Southeast Asian countries. Another danger is the sub-standard work delivered by these Chinese companies. The Luanda General Hospital (Angola) built by the Chinese had to be closed down due to poor work done, sending patients to tents. Closer to home, Trinidad had to demolish an apartment building due to faulty work. Too many Chinese buildings prove to be less sturdy than a house of cards.
China’s doings are not unique. I’m convinced that China has the same intentions as empires and world powers which is increasing its power and influence in the world. Let us, especially our policy makers not be naive but carefully assess the Chinese intentions. The question we have to answer is what price are we prepared to pay for GZE?
As I grow older the urge to know the stories about my ancestors, and what their lives were like, grows stronger. Who were they? Where did they come from? And especially how did they impact my life?
I wanted to go beyond the traditional family tree, which as we know is as good as the information collected, archived and passed down orally throughout the years. So I opted to have a DNA test done by a leading U.S. genealogical institute. I knew years ago from ‘known facts’ told by my family that I had Jewish ancestry and that our family came from slaves taken from the African continent. Nothing more. That is why many times I felt tongue-tied when asked “what are you exactly?” Usually my answer was “mixed”. But if the follow-up question was “what kind of mix”, I had no answer, that is until last week when the somewhat surprising results popped up in an email.
Turns out I am very mixed: my ancestors came from a total of 17 ethnicity regions. I am 35% African (including North Africa). The majority of my African DNA comes from the region of Mali, then Benin, Togo, Algeria and Nigeria. I am 26% European Jewish primarily located in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Israel. West Asia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran) is 12% responsible for my DNA; 10% from the Iberian Peninsula; 7% comes from the Middle East; 5% indigenous people of the Americas. The rest of my DNA according to the test is probably traceable to Ireland, Southeast Asia and Italy/Greece. Heck, the only regions that have not contributed to my DNA are West Europe, Scandinavia, Polynesia and Melanesia.
In 1925 Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi predicted that the man of the future will be of mixed race. Turns out he was right, but I guess my ancestors were multiracial pioneers to have started this process a few centuries before his prediction. But seriously, being multiracial should teach us to respect and understand the ethnicity, religion and culture of others. We should collectively do this as a multiracial society. Nationalistic fanaticism further increased by politicians who preach racial and ethnic politics, only to obtain votes has taught us that race and religion are powder kegs that when lit, are difficult to contain. We should be proud to say that comparatively we here in Curaçao have a peaceful multiracial country. We should not let anyone gamble with it. Most importantly, each citizen has an obligation to promote understanding and harmony across races and religions.
“Mini what are you?” Unfailingly the most common reaction I get when I tell people that I’m a minimalist. A minimalist – at least the way I give content to this somewhat unusual behavior in today’s world – is to rid yourself of life’s material excess and the idea that you can buy your way to happiness. As a minimalist I only own stuff that I actually use and add value to my life.
So how did it start? In the summer of 1989 a group of eager students from a couple of dozen U.S. Universities gathered on the campus of Hofstra University on Long Island NY. We were getting ready to go to The Gambia to do voluntary work for about three months. Our mentor started the first meeting by telling us that the most important thing to do in order to prepare ourselves for our trip was to dump our excess baggages. He said it was important to let go of all preconceived ideas we had about Africa and allow ourselves to experience our stay without any self imposed barriers. Secondly, he told us we could only take a big backpack with us, meaning that we had to leave behind everything that did not add any value to our mission. Mind you, we were going to Barracunda, a village with a population of 500, no electricity, no running water, no toilet facilities. The first human reaction in those circumstances is to take as much amenities as possible. Our mentor did not tell anyone what to bring or leave behind. As long as it all fitted in the backpack. I can tell you that after packing my pharmaceutical medicines, syringes, large quantities of iodine, salt and what not there was little room to spare. What I learned at the end was that all that stuff that we are told daily we must buy, does not lead to happiness. Having an alarm clock in a village that wakes up when the sun rises and goes to sleep when it’s dark, was for example a waste. Having pictures of your country and family to share with the village people at the other hand, was gold. My quest for minimalism started and I am still perfecting it by living deliberately with less. During my most current two-month trip to Southeast Asia, my suitcase weighted only 8.7 kilograms.
Minimalism does not know rules. It is not a club or association that imposes sanctions when you go astray. You can do it at your own pace. See, I am not trying to impose minimalism on you. Consider me trying to share a recipe which I like a lot with you. You may like it. You may like only a few of the ingredients or you may want to add your own special sauces. What I do know is that by getting rid of the excess in our lives, we will feel uncluttered, be less stressful and happier. In addition, nothing is more responsible than lowering our footprint on this planet by deliberately living with less stuff. I hope I have triggered something in you. Look it up, do your research and give it a try.
In my article The World Is Not Waiting For Trump (January 30, 2017) I predicted that the inward looking, ‘my-job-is-not-to-represent-the-world’ Donald Trump will not make America great again, but will hasten the passing of the superpower relay baton from the U.S. to other nations eager to fill the vacuum left behind. This thursday Mr. Trump announced that he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on Climate. One thing is certain, you cannot accuse him of reneging on his campaign pledges. This is the same person who in November, 2012 tweeted: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” And talking about the Chinese, picking up the slack after the U.S.’ departure from Paris is China that promised to work with other countries to achieve the objectives of the Climate Agreement.
In 2005 the U.S. with Japan, Australia and (later) India and South Korea – all of them very suspicious of China’s increased assertiveness on the world stage – started the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement to compete with China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) a proposed free trade agreement that will account for 3.4 billion people (about 47% of the total world population) and a combined gross production of USD 21.4 trillion (about 30% of the world’s GDP). Skillfully the Obama Administration kept the RCEP playing second fiddle to the TPP. That is until Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the TPP. Under China’s leadership and without any U.S. participation, the RCEP is bound to now become the quintessential free trade agreement of the 21st century, a title previously held by the TPP. Mr. Trump’s action has also revived the interest in a China-led Free Trade Area for the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) which includes Russia. As a third pole, China’s One Belt One Road initiative consisting of a maze of road, rail and port projects to connect Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe is picking up momentum. China is on track to reviving an ancient network of land and ocean silk trade routes of centuries past. And China found an unlikely partner to make it great again: the President of the United States. Next week the Shangri-La Dialogue on Asia’s new strategic order will be held in Singapore. Traditionally these annual talks promote policies to strengthen US regional leadership. The signs so far suggest that Mr. Trump has no policy and most importantly no appetite to contest China’s growing global power.
Awe riba Dia Anti Tabako, laga nos realisá kuantu daño tabako i nikotina ta kousa nos prohimó, sernan kerí i nos mes. Tabako ta mata 7 mion hende na mundu tur aña i si nos no hasi algu, e sifra aki lo sigi subi. Tras di e sifranan aki tin hopi sufrimentu, tristesa den kasnan di famia, apsentensmo na trabou i gastunan haltu den e sektor di kuido.
Nos mester subi akseins riba produktonan di tabako, mester bin regla kon ta merkadiá e produktonan aki, prinsipalmente pa loke ta trata nos hóbennan, i mester bin pa lei, atvertensia di e peliger di huma riba empake di produktonan di tabako.
Mi ta orguyoso di a subi akseins riba sigaria komo Sekretario di Estado i a pusha e lei pa prohibí humamentu den lugánan ku un dak komo Parlamentario. E lucha no a kaba. E frontera nobo ta e sigaria elektróniko ku no ta reglamentá i ku keta bai ta venená nos ku nikotina. Pronto lo mi presentá un proposishon pa kon atendé ku e fenómeno di sigaria elektróniko.
Ta di spera ku gobièrnu, eksperto i formadónan di opinion ta konsiente ku e ‘problema di karni’ ta simplemente un manifestashon di un problema mas grandi ku tin ke ber ku falta di regulashon, no-eksistensia di (sufisiente) standàrnan tékniko, sanitario, fito-sanitario, asuntu di importashon paralelo, dòbel OB ku a mata distribudornan, nos merkado chikí i solushon pa desperdisio di kuminda. Esaki ta esnan mas importante i mi no ta deskartá ku tin mas. E pió kos ku por hasi ta kere ku tanten nos tira tur produkto ku a pasa fecha, afó sin atendé ku e problemanan menshoná, ku tur kos ta ‘koek en ei’.
Mientras tantu nos ta importá outo di Hapon ku a keda eksponé na radiashon nuklear haltu despues di e desaster na Fukushima, outo di Merka ku ta téknikamente “afgekeurd”, aparatonan eléktriko ku no ta kuadra ku nos “cycle”, matanan dañino pa nos sistema ekológiko, aparatonan ku no ta kumpli ku standàrnan pa ku emishon di sierto gas, produktonan empaketá ku etikèt den idioma ku no ta pèrmitibel.
Nos por sigi. Pero mester ta kla ku si tin un kos ku nos no ta hasi, ta protehá nos hende, flora i founa di produktonan dañino. Loke nos mester no ta ‘road show’ ku kámara, ounke kòntròlnan mester sigi. Prinsipal ta ku nos ta wak e problema den tur su faseta ku e meta – sin stroba inneserariamente ekonomia i komersio – pa sòru ku nos hendenan, flora i founa no ta kore peliger ku por keda evitá dor di regla, regulashon i kòntròl. E tarea aki no ta imposibel. Paisnan mas chikí ku nos den Karibe ta muchu mas leu ku nos. Ta fásil pa papia solamente di karni. Ta mas difísil atendé ku tur faseta di e problema. Den polítika nos gusta skor, hunga popular miéntras hopi di e problemanan ku nos ta enfrentá por a keda resolvé ku un aserkamentu total dia nan a presentá. Laga nos no sigi ripití e fayonan di semper.
On Friday, 12 May 2017, a large cyber-attack referred to as WannaCry infected over 230,000 computers in 150 countries around the world. The attack has been described by experts as unprecedented in scale. A preliminary tally shows that WannaCry has affected among others Telefónica in Spain, the British National Health Service, Russia’s Ministry of the Interior, FedEX and France’s Renault auto industry. It is expected that by Monday morning many more companies and institutions will notice that they have been attacked as the work computers are turned on.
Unfortunately, there is a view that somehow we are immune or unlikely to be of interest to cyber criminals. However, when we consider the large amounts of money transferred through our financial institutions, the sensitive documents held in the offices of lawyers, doctors, pharmacies, notaries public and even information pertaining to the pending negotiations regarding the future of our refinery, the dangers of cybercrime suddenly become clear. While no one I have talked to has addimitted being a victim of cybercrime, experience tells us that because of the perceived reputational damage, there are ample or no reports of the existence of cyber-attacks. In an evaluation published last year by the Inter-American Development Bank, the vulnerability of the Latin America and Caribbean region is painfully highlighted. See https://publications.iadb.org/bitstream/handle/11319/7449/Cybersecurity-Are-We-Prepared-in-Latin-America-and-the-Caribbean.pdf?sequence=1
We have a small window in which to develop strong and integrated cybersecurity networks before attackers begin infiltrating. Government has to form a Taskforce to respond to attacks and provide a framework for cybersecurity. Regarding the legal environment, Government and Parliament have to review our criminal code to more effectively fight this type of crime. Existing legislation needs to be reviewed and new laws need to be drafted. We need to create more awareness regarding the consequences of cyber-attacks for our daily lives (ATMs that could be rendered inactive, air trafic control that could be disrupted, the Tax Department, the hospital, Aqualectra that could be compromised). The need for technical infrastructure and capacity building to prevent these attacks is vital as is the awareness that we by ourselves cannot adequately deal with these challenges. We need to engage in regional and international coordination. I strongly suggest this point to be included in the next IPKO (Meeting of the Parliaments of the countries of the Kingdom of The Netherlands). Time is not on our side.