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  1. #1
    Senior Member SanNic44's Avatar
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    Aruba elections coming soon!

    Arubalisa asked me to comment about the coming election in Aruba. First, let me say I consider myself a visitor to the island. While I own a home here, I do not pretend to be a local or a native. Many Arubans have welcomed me here, including the late Charles Brouns, Jr., as many of you know. I'm grateful to enjoy all this island has to offer, including its people. Thus, I will not comment on the issues directly from a political perspective but rather an economic one.

    I have friends on both sides of the aisle and this can be very difficult at times. The various opinions they tell me, plus my own observations, leave me in a tough spot, as I can not vote. Plus, I have a mostly outside perspective in that I grew up in the United States of America. While I've spent a good deal of time in Aruba, the government's policies more directly affect citizens. Certainly they will impact us visitors, but not in the same way. For example, if income taxes go up in the US, Aruban tourists to New York will not be directly affected. The same is true on the island for visitors from America. Yes, there is some effect, but typically not an immediate, direct one.

    I will say the election appears to be slugfest, most between the two largest parties: AVP and MEP. MEP currently holds the most seats in Parliament and is led by prime minister Nelson Oduber. AVP is the challenger, whose front man is Mike Eman. There are other parties, including Democracia Real whose most noted member is Andin Bikker. MPA is also there but I am not familiar at all with their candidates. (There are other parties, too. Sadly, I know even less about them.)

    I posted a series of photos on my blog showing the various heraldry of the parties. Take a look, it's lots of fun, at: http://bentpage.wordpress.com/2009/0...e-aruba-style/

    There are also frequent rallies, parades, and such that will affect traffic, business hours and such. Call ahead, ask locals if they know what's happening, and stay tuned in so you don't waste time idling.

    In a few following posts on this thread I'll discuss some topics I think are important. These are only my opinions and should not be construed as anything more. As mentioned previously, I only want the best for the island and would be honored to help in any way I can. If my posts cross the line of the purposes of this board, I invite the moderators to delete them at their discretion.
    Aruba's Novelist in Residence (sometimes)
    http://www.bentpage.wordpress.com/

  2. #2
    Senior Member SanNic44's Avatar
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    WARNING: This may bore you to tears.

    Following up on the previous post, here's a commentary about some issues in Aruba at present.

    Recently the oil refinery in San Nicolaas has stopped operating. There are maintenance crews about but no real production. This has been a contentious issue as the refinery has traditionally enjoyed a tax holiday, which goes back to previous agreements between government and operators. There are other issues related to operating the refinery including employment, pollution, and permits to name a few.

    For my part, I think industry is important to any economy. Oil refineries are not beautiful the way a pristine landscape is. Well, the energy has to come from somewhere. (The AVP party is promoting alternative energy in a big way; they have a small windmill at their headquarters, the power from which goes to an older woman's house next door. They also hosted the University of Michigan's electric car to stir up interest. I don't know the other parties' policies in this area.) Back to the refinery. While Aruba is one of the best destinations in the Caribbean, if the refinery goes away, they will lose a fair number of jobs. They will also lose the diversification of their employment base and be more dependent than ever on tourism. This is an economically risky course; the current reduction in visitors proves this out.

    Is the refinery pretty? No. Does it offer a wider selection of opportunity. Yes. Even if not directly employed by the refinery, there are countless skilled professionals that work for sub-contractors, everything from welders, electricians, and surveyors, to pipe fitters, equipment operators, and mechanics. These skills apply to any industry and are necessary for smooth, reliable operations.

    It's obvious I'm partial to industry; I don't hide it. I worked around these types of businesses my entire life and appreciate what it takes to produce a drop of gasoline from a dollop of crude oil. Like it or not, it's what fuels the planes and ships that bring us to the island and will for a long time to come. Are there other ways, of course!

    If you're interested in THAT, check out the next post.

    The challenge for the Aruban government and people is to find a worthy operator of the refinery. Concessions will have to be made in light of the present world economy. These concessions will most likely be fuel for political fights. Those fights will expose individual prejudices which are more or less like arguing over whose going to lap up the spilled milk. In the end, a couple of people might consider sitting down in a room and hammering out a deal in order to put the issue out of the limelight and thus pave the way forward. If not, the jobs will be gone, the refinery will be scrap, and who is better off then? Is that easy? No. Is it worth it. Yeah.
    Aruba's Novelist in Residence (sometimes)
    http://www.bentpage.wordpress.com/

  3. #3
    Senior Member SanNic44's Avatar
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    Also potentially boring.

    A note on alternative energy in Aruba.

    So, Aruba has that sunshine and tradewinds most of the livelong year. My beloved refinery suffers through oil shocks like a bungee jumper. A solid alternative energy plan, including windmills, solar arrays, and small (household size) installations must be on the docket. And it is. But nothing seems to happen. The reasons for this have less to do with the power of oil companies then with entrenched bureaucracy. The details of the delay are irrelevant and only fodder for barroom pontification. The good news is that a few small independent companies have cropped up on the island, providing installation services to homeowners and business. They don't need the government to do much other than provide inspectors to certify the safety of the installation, which would be wise with any electrical equipment.

    As for the larger scale generation of power via wind turbines, I've heard of the system to be built on the windy side. It should be a no-brainer. It should be financed privately. It should be economically feasible given the quality and quantity of the wind. Will back-up power from oil/gas plants be necessary. Yes. The wind doesn't blow all the time and those big turbines go down for maintenance. Thus, the smokestacks remain. But Aruba now uses several large reciprocating units (think big diesel engines) to make power in addition to the boilers. Therefore, the experience and infrastructure is in place for the backups.

    Finally on this particular subject. Aruba's cash outflow for energy represents a serious strain on the economy. Dollars (and euros) come in, mostly via tourists, and a serious quantity of them go out to buy fuel for the power and desalinization plant. Naturally, a desert island requires most everything to be shipped in, which means cash flows out for food, vehicles, clothing, etc. However, energy (I'm guessing) is the single biggest outlay and perhaps the most critical one. Hence, any reduction in cash outflow means the Aruban economy has more dollars in the bank. By producing a significant portion of its electricity using wind/solar, the Aruban economy will achieve this goal. Yes, there is the initial outlay to purchase the equipment; after that, it's maintenance and savings for replacement. And, the economy would be better shielded from price spikes.

    (Given the current world situation and rising US deficit, more are on the way, especially since the dollar is bound to inflate, causing oil prices to rise.)

    Well, if the Aruban economy accumulates more outside currencies, it becomes a net lender of those currencies as opposed to a net borrower. This is the position of China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. What it means is that the standard of living can increase in Aruba because they have more purchasing power with those extra dollars. Imagine if the florin was 1.25 to the dollar instead of 1.75. That's a 17% pay raise for every Aruban. (I know this is a simplification but the principal holds out.)

    There are plenty of private capital firms looking to finance such operations. I met with a fellow involved in such before I came to Aruba this time. Aruba could be a showcase for alternative energy, possibly become a research center, and lead the way.

    It has the resource; it only needs the will. That will has to come from the bottom up. The people have to do the math. Prices for electricity in Aruba are much higher than I pay in Philadelphia. I gave the rates to a person who designs household alternative systems and he laughed himself silly. He calculated the return on a fair-sized household system at less than seven years, and that assumed the prices didn't go up. Does anyone think their energy bills will be going down over the next seven years?

    And wouldn't you like to have a rise in your standard of living? And an improvement in the environment? And be the envy of the world when the price of oil goes through the roof?

    Any politician can jump on this bandwagon. He doesn't have to write checks that can't be cashed. He just has to show a graph with two lines: one for the cost of electricity the way its being produced now, and the other showing the cost of doing it the other way. Of course that might knock a few of the monopolists out of job.

    Just my $0.02.
    Aruba's Novelist in Residence (sometimes)
    http://www.bentpage.wordpress.com/

  4. #4
    Aruba since 1979
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    Andrea J.'s Avatar
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    your posts are anything but boring.
    i especially enjoyed #3.
    my son is a nuke engineer but his true love is wind turbines.
    he'll be on island in december at christmas for his delayed honeymoon (getting married on sat aug 15)
    dan, he'd love to meet you.
    he is a charlies bar fan and i bet he'd be thrilled to sit and throw back a few and chat energy.
    andrea

  5. #5
    Senior Member Arubalisa's Avatar
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    Thank you for your thoughtful insight. There is a good deal to digest.

    Were you a homeowner on the island in 1985 and Exxon closed "Lago"? How wide of an impact did it have on the island's economy?

    I can see how the "welders, electricians, and surveyors, to pipe fitters, equipment operators, and mechanics. " would all contribute to the economy by purchases made for their everyday living expenses, not to mention short term or long term real estate investments.

  6. #6
    Senior Member SanNic44's Avatar
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    Andrea,

    It would be fun (not to mention educational) to hang out with an honest to God nuclear engineer. I'd like to gain some first hand understanding from your son. Plus, nuclear power is muy fuerte as my Spanish speaking friends would say.

    Arubalisa,

    I didn't own a home in 1985 but my local and "Arucano" friends tell me that the refinery closing back then was a serious economic crisis. Their descriptions reminded me of the closing of the coal mines and steel mills in the area where I grew up. It would be sad to see people go through that again.

    44
    Aruba's Novelist in Residence (sometimes)
    http://www.bentpage.wordpress.com/

  7. #7
    Senior Member Arubalisa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanNic44 View Post
    I didn't own a home in 1985 but my local and "Arucano" friends tell me that the refinery closing back then was a serious economic crisis. Their descriptions reminded me of the closing of the coal mines and steel mills in the area where I grew up. It would be sad to see people go through that again.

    44
    So then I guess my next question is: If the Aruban government is unable to muster the big $$$ to install an alternative energy itself or find a private investor who they could tax high enough to replace any economic loss of the refinery, would it be devastating to their economy?

  8. #8
    Senior Member SanNic44's Avatar
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    Arubalisa,

    During a cocktail party with some political types here, it was mentioned that Aruba is able to raise funds on the international market in a very reliable way. Plus, there is the steady revenue stream of people paying their utility bills, including the hotels and other big users.

    My far out suggestion is to offer the hotels and other big users of electricity and water an option to "buy in" to an alternative system. In other words, if they invest, they get a better return in the form of fixed rates for a given period. This would be difficult to manage but could be another way to involve those most affected. Or, a separate company could be formed and capitalized like any other: with money from willing investors be they outside, inside, or whatever. The shareholders get the returns like any other business. Just an idea and I'm sure there are others and better ones.

    44
    Aruba's Novelist in Residence (sometimes)
    http://www.bentpage.wordpress.com/

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