the Clowns

Curaçao Island

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clownThe Showclown

Shiny Mercedes-money to burn
Rignald Lak, one of those wanting to fight poverty, plans to lease Mercedes Benz cars to drive our dignitaries around in. He says these are just as cheap to lease as Volkswagen Passats, and I'm convinced he has that black on white to prove it. One little problem, though - our Isla refinery cannot produce the low-sulfur diesel fuel these babies need before late 2005, so the engines will burn out after 25,000 kilometers (15,000 miles). One of the rare instances where public uproar finally caused those on top to give up: No Mercedes (and also, no Benz).
The cars are now sitting in the dealer's parking lot awaiting buyers, as an over-enthusiastic leaser had ordered them a bit too soon; they had arrived by April 1, 2004. Price tag ANG80K/each ($45K); sure beats a VW Passat!

Foreign allowance and public loans
As government business is so fine, the ministers decided to double their allowance for foreign visits to €200/day (just about what senior citizens get for welfare a month). For their cronies, too. Then, most of them went off right away to start spending it. That could be hard, because their hotels and dinners have been paid already, but surely there are ways. Like formerly, they are supposed to settle the surplus with the accounting institute Rekenkamer; but nobody ever bothered.
At the same time that the public turned out not to be interested in buying government bonds, MCBank and Banco di Caribe stated they would stop buying bonds until proper measures would be taken to stop the free-for-all spending - the originally "planned" deficit for 2003 of ANG 30M had already climbed to ANG115M with three months to go. (That's over $1000/taxpayer this year). But not to worry: there has also been a statement that, as government expenses have been cut to the bone already, they will take ANG50M out of medical welfare. And you thought bush was Bad!
After the government finally had fallen because of the machinations by justice minister Komproe to keep Nelson Monte out of jail, the daily allowance was about halved. Maybe our dignitaries are worried as new elections may be coming up much sooner than they bargained for.

Investigating the investigators
As the Public Prosecutor is busily investigating politicians, Orange leader and minister of justice Komproe (whose brother and whose two bosses are among the convicted suspects) has announced the prosecutor's office will now be investigated. By politicians, one can only presume? In January 2004 Komproe started talk about firing the prosecutor; something which, as he ought to know, only the queen of the Netherlands can do.

Bully Blue
Champion Clown "Baby Godett" AKA "Papa Jr." in a Staten (Parliament) meeting with Dutch government representatives unannounced started delivering a speech in Papiamento, a language the Dutch guests can't be expected to understand. He had to be interrupted and wait for an interpreter, before he could finish his speech (with the words: "you have been addressed by the greatest politician of the Netherlands Antilles." No kidding!) Question: Government workers need a clean police record; how about a psychiatric report? To the layman, this does sound like a dangerously severe case of acute megalomania.

Solar Street Lights
This made clear why ex-PM Peters wanted the modest post of Public Works (or something like that) in the Bully Blue cabinet. A Florida company has been selling us solar street lights for twice the price you could get them elsewhere. This must leave a good margin to give away some money, say $500 a light, and still make an extra profit of $500 per. The trick here is that these road maintenance funds are not subject to public accounting. She now wants to change all the Curaçao street lights for solar ones; this would be much cheaper because of energy savings. No such cost comparison has actually been made, but I can tell you this: I use solar energy myself and it works out at about 10 times the price of what I'd pay the utility company.
Later, there were allegations that she received a salary of ANG5000/month from a road building company - while she was P.M.! She denies, naturally - but the public prosecutor said he would investigate, anyway. Now we're also getting curious how much has been paid for those cat's eyes that suddenly came out like a rash all over Curaçao's pot-holed roads in the recent past.
August 2003

This new office should have started functioning by the end of June 2003. However, as it turns out the island government has neglected to reserve funds. It is not clear as yet when the office can be opened. There are strong indications Those in Power are using all delaying tactics they have.
I'll let you know when he starts working, but don't hold your breath.
Ombudsman Fred Wiel, Amigoe, 2003/07/29
(By August 2004, over a year later, he was still only getting his salary. Good for him, true, but all good things come to an end:
Opening of his office was finally announced on August 25, 2004.)

National Debt
During the PAR administration, led by two former Tax persons Pourier and IJs, the national debt has grown from 65% to 90% of the Gross Interior Product. It took them a mere five years. One factor was the completely tax-free operation of the oil refinery. Government finances deteriorated with 20-25% (ANG 1 billion) and the government debt now is over US$ 2.5 billion. In this period, several financial reform programs were undertaken but never finished. Every increase in income was followed by an increase in spending. The 1996 yearly deficit of ANG 256 million was reduced to ANG 76 million in 1997, to start climbing again right away. It will have reached ANG 376 million by the end of this year. Before the next elections are due, yearly inflation will have climbed to 15%.
Without the present cabinet adopting proper measures, which seems unlikely, this will lead to a national debt of $ 5 billion by 2010, with a yearly interest of $ 1.2 billion.
Central Bank director Ensley Tromp, Amigoe, 2003/07/28/29.
As it turns out now, when the Central Bank has come out with a statement: In 2003, they advised the FOL government to re-finance the national debt as interest rates were at a record low. The yearly interest of ANG200M ($11M) would have been reduced to ANG150M. No action was taken; now, of course, it's too late.

Lay-off Law/Ontslagwet
There used to be a law where you could not fire a worker without going to court. This had some slight disadvantages when you want to attract foreign investors. The former government abolished it, much to the chagrin of trade unions. It didn't help so you'd notice, either. Before the elections, at least one of the present coalition parties promised to re-introduce the law.
But now the trade unions feel that some care should be taken here! Hmmm. Well, what do you think? Our Clever Clowns went ahead and re-installed the self-same 30-year old law—with no changes. Regardless.
Roland 'Nacho' Ignacio (CGTC), Sidney 'Bicho' Justiana (Kamara Sindikal), Amigoe, 2003/07/28.

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