4 Feb 2016

Zika

Just in time for Carnival, Trinidad and Tobago is set to import the Zika virus wholesale. Apparently, the Ministry of Health is willing to spray fete avenues, but not to screen incoming persons at the ports. 

The Zika virus is not a 'now generation' transgressor. Indeed, the symptoms may be milder than dengue, yellow fever or several other mosquito-borne diseases

"The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Now it also appears that the disease may be spread via sexual intercourse, as one case in the USA seems to suggest

Sadly, those who will be affected the most are those of the next generation, as the disease affects foetuses of pregnant women who become infected. The babies are born with smaller heads, a condition known as microcephaly. 

"The severity varies, but it can be deadly if the brain is so underdeveloped that it cannot regulate the functions vital to life.
Children that do survive face intellectual disability and development delays.
The World Health Organization is worried that Zika is spreading far and fast, with devastating consequences.
Declaring Zika as a "public health emergency of international concern" singles the disease out as a serious global threat. It puts it in the same category of importance as Ebola."
Sadly, I think that despite the 'reassurances' of health authorities of Trinidad and Tobago , the country is and will be unprepared for this, like Swine Flu and other diseases before it.

25 Jan 2016

Ish and Steve fail at Privy Council

The test case regarding the (in)famous section 34 – of The Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 has failed. The Privy Council has ruled today that the grounds argued at the Privy Council all fail and the appeals by Steve Ferguson, Ameer Edoo, Maritime Life (Caribbean) Limited, Maritime General Insurance Company Limited, Fidelity Finance and Leasing Company Limited are dismissed. Oviously, the decision also affects Iswar Galbaransingh as well as many other persons.

The judgment is clear, well-reasoned and gives very precise reasons for the dismissal of the appeals.

It’s worth repeating

In a news report, headlined “Thieves target vacant HDC units” in last Sunday’s Express, the Minister of Housing, Marlene McDonald, when contacted for comment, said she was not aware of the looting and thievery taking place until she was told so by the Sunday Express. “Now that you tell me, I will have to look into it,” she is reported to have said, notwithstanding the fact she has been on the job for close to five months.

Also, recently the Minister of National Security, Edmund Dillon, when asked by reporters whether the surveillance cameras and scanners were installed and functioning at the Port of Spain Prison, replied he had to find out from the Commissioner of Prisons, despite the serious issue of prison security being in the news for months, sometimes under banner headlines.

Similarly, an irritating habit of many ministers of the previous government, when questioned on matters of public concern by the media, invariably replied that “ah looking into it”, or “I am being advised”, or “I am awaiting a report”, or “my hands are tied”.

These responses are symptoms of deep underlying problems which have ingrained themselves in ministerial office in this country: malaise, incivility, incompetence, indifference, ignorance, complacency, contempt for citizens once in office, slackness and general lack of awareness of how to discharge one’s duties and responsibilities as a Government minister.

Close to five months in office and a minister does not know what is taking place in her area of responsibility! This is appalling and unacceptable. Ministers McDonald and Dillon, both of you should have been summarily dismissed.

In efficient organisations there are control or feedback mechanisms in place to ascertain and be informed of what is taking place in a timely manner and whether goals are being achieved or not; that’s how you keep on top of things. If I may, I will explain how these basic mechanisms work.

Many ministries have various State agencies, corporations and limited companies under their purview. These entities have specific mandates or purposes for which they were formed which are spelt out in law, ie, their act of incorporation.

Furthermore, the mandate of each entity together with appropriate strategies and action plans for achieving the entities’ mandates within an appropriate time frame form a central part of their strategic and other plans. Monthly progress reports are prepared and submitted to the entities’ line ministries.

Are these progress reports reviewed by ministers and permanent secretaries? Every minister should be thoroughly familiar with the plans and programmes of all agencies under their control and the progress being made toward their achievement.

In addition, other monthly, quarterly and annual reports on key area such as operations, finance, human resource, internal audit, communications and administration are prepared which are reviewed by the board of directors of these entities and some subject to scrutiny by parliamentary oversight bodies such as the Public Accounts (Enterprises) Committee and the Auditor General.

Is it demanding too much of ministers and permanent secretaries to ask for and review these reports, especially the monthly reports, so that timely action could be taken to remedy any deficiencies identified? The operative words here are “timely action”.

Had Minister McDonald been doing this, most likely she would have been informed of the lack of effective security. After all, the Housing Development Corporation has thousands of unoccupied properties all over the country and the provision of adequate security must have been an ongoing concern.

Just as effective as timely reports are common-sense approaches: site visits, discussions with heads of departments and use of knowledge gained from information in the public domain and Parliament.

Are there any other ministers who are not fully au courant with what is transpiring in their ministry or agencies under their control and direction? Do they know how to be informed? Do they know how to do their job? Are they waiting for another LifeSport or exposé in the media, or until the anger and frustration of citizens boil over into violent protests before action is taken?

All this talk about being in charge is pure political bombast. Indeed, we have merely changed a Tweedledum government for a Tweedledee Government. I am not sanguine that there will be any improvement in the lives of citizens over the next five years.

Bhagiratty Boodhan

Avocat

24 Jan 2016

Gov’t losing goodwill fast

THE EDITOR:

It appears there are many people in sweet TT who are fast becoming fedup with that insurmountable wall of arrogance that surrounds this Government. At least the previous government listened when we spoke and responded. It amazes me how fast this Government is losing the goodwill that was extended to it.

The Government promised consultations, but states unequivocally that there will be no revision on its new policy for VAT on food items, books or computers and no compromise on the new policy for foreign used cars.

We are told that we will become the most sought-after tourist destination in the Caribbean but the Government will spend $90 million of our tax dollars, from our lower revenues and higher taxes, on a useless stadium.

We have a $1.2 billion chicken bill and consume 140 million eggs a year, but we will plant teak.

We are confused when Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley emphatically states that he promises that public servants will not lose their jobs but contract workers are terminated without a second though. And we cringe when he instructs us to go back to peeling our own cassava and kneading flour. The disconnect is frustrating but also frightening.

Our leaders are so mired in their own mud that they can’t see that we have to move into the new world, like the US and India, where there is great emphasis on holistic training and other initiatives, in a properly designed framework, to support the startup sector.

In the absence of proper leadership and poor management, what can we possibly do in the face of this frightening future that is rapidly unfolding before us? I don’t have an answer. But I do know we need to raise ourselves from the apathy in which we live …to the knowing that we own our future.

Nisha Singh, Curep [sic]

I have to say, I completely agree with the headline of this article. This government, barely 5 months old, is already showing signs of the hubris that caused the downfall of Patrick Manning. Certainly it is clearly present in abundance in Colm Imbert.

That is not to say I agree with everything the writer says also… I may not know the policies of the present regime but I think 5 months is too short a period jump into a final judgment. Still, back to the hubris that is rising – I for one believe Marlene McDonald should go, and not be a judge in her own cause. Or her lover’s.

Once again, I have to point out, I am not bashing a political party because I am politically against it. I am an equal opportunity basher – I took umbrage with Panday, with Manning, with Kamla and now with Rowley’s PNM, whenever I see corruption, waste and stupid policies. I am pro-country, not anti-(insert name of political party here).

I am a firm believer that doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do is a policy that shold be adopted across the board by every government elected. It’s a pipedream I know, but you might remember that 0.01% hope I always have…

I predict things will get worse and the arrogance shown will become the downfall of this regime just like every other. We don’t vote IN governments, we vote governments OUT.

15 Jan 2016

Mired in mud

Murder in Trinidad and Tobago contines unabated. 20 deaths in 15 days. No amount of ‘action’ (more like inaction) on the part of the police worked in the past 10 years I’ve been writing this blog. The only ‘tool’ in the ‘arsenal’ of police dunceys remain the road block, used for everything from hospital to prison escapes. And catching 15 (or less) persons who are drving back drunk or without valid permits from Maracas Beach is touted as a ‘great breakthrough’.

Unfortunately, what I’ve always said remains true. Police ‘officers’ at the highest levels of the police service were the ones who entered the service with school leaving certificates. The evidence bears me out. They were promoted through seniority rather than merit and qualifications.

Abraham

From bad language (”He don’t know…”) to a deep incapability to learn modern policing methods, the senior police officers are now the ‘bosses’ of more highly edicated police officers… but not by much. The minimum requirement is 5 ‘O’ level subjects. People who have ‘A’ levels and degrees have been reportedly turned away at the recruitment drives for being ‘over qualified’. It’s also a place where a person with 8 medium graded ‘O’ levels and 2 ‘lowest-pass-allowed’ ‘A’ levels can become head of the Security Intelligence Agency.

The recruitment process for a new Commissioner of Police (CoP) is therefore only to pick the best out of a bad lot.

Corruption is never-ending. Even the elected government officials aren’t above it.

I don’t expect improvement any time soon. The country is mired in mud.

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