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Covid-19 vaccination challenges

Covid-19 vaccination challenges

Should we shame and pressure people to take the [“experimental”?] Covid vaccine?

Part 109/2021 (Contribution)

BRADES, Montserrat, February 28, 2021 – On Wednesday, February 23, Montserrat’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Greenaway-Duberry unexpectedly appeared in our media. She announced that based on new findings, it is now recommended that the second dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for Covid-19 should be taken eight weeks after the first dose, as that gives a superior result to the previously recommended four-week point. This puts several questions on the table, starting with: just how experimental is the cluster of emerging Covid-19 Vaccines?

A key clue is found in a February 12, 2021, Gina Hawkins report on Military dot com, “Navy Will Make COVID-19 Vaccination Mandatory ‘As Soon as We Can:’ 3-Star Admiral” which cites Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, U.S. Second Fleet Commander and US Defense Department Officials:

“ ‘We cannot make it mandatory yet,’ [Admiral] Lewis said. ‘I can tell you we’re probably going to make it mandatory as soon as we can, just like we do with the flu vaccine’ . . . . Defense Department officials have previously said that the COVID-19 vaccine would remain voluntary while it’s under emergency-use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. That designation is expected to last up to two years while the FDA assesses the vaccination’s efficacy and side effects.”[1]

Taking account of testing already undertaken in recent months, this tells us that it may take up to two or three years “[to] assess . . . efficacy and side effects.” That easily explains why our CMO has had to make a change in the recommended waiting time to take our booster shots: globally, we are still studying and learning about the vaccine, the “science” has not settled down yet.

In a related Defence dot gov  report, “Military, Medical Leaders Discuss COVID-19 Issues With Service Members,” Terri Moon Cronk cites[2] US Army General and then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark A. Milley, who:

“. . . noted that the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration have declared the vaccines as “safe and highly effective” but he acknowledged that getting the vaccine is a personal decision. “We . . .  encourage you to consult your primary care physician to address any concerns . . .  so you can be well-equipped to make the right decision for you and your family,” Milley said. “Protect yourself, protect your families and protect our communities. Together, we can all lead the way for the nation in the fight against COVID-19.”

We see here a clear recognition that while there is good evidence of vaccine effectiveness, we are responding to a global, fast-moving pandemic and are strictly speaking still in a somewhat exploratory phase of testing and evaluating the vaccines. The challenge being faced by officials here and overseas is that the epidemic is outracing the usual pace of new drug development, testing and certification so it is necessary to act on good enough but not complete evidence, in hopes of saving lives, net.

But what about the AstraZeneca vaccine in use here?

A copy of the official “Product Information as approved by the CHMP on 29 January 2021, pending endorsement by the European Commission,” tells us:

“COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca is indicated for active immunisation to prevent COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2, in individuals 18 years of age and older.  The use of this vaccine should be in accordance with official recommendations . . . . The safety and efficacy of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca in children and adolescents (less than 18 years of age) have not yet been established. No data are available . . . .Appropriate medical treatment and supervision should always be readily available in case of an anaphylactic event [i.e. strong allergic reaction] following the administration of the vaccine. Close observation for at least 15 minutes is recommended following vaccination. A second dose of the vaccine should not be given to those who have experienced anaphylaxis to the first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca . . . . The duration of protection afforded by the vaccine is unknown as it is still being determined by ongoing clinical trials . . . . Currently available clinical trial data do not allow an estimate of vaccine efficacy in subjects over 55 years of age.” 

In short, the AstraZeneca vaccine is also still being evaluated through “ongoing clinical trials.” It is credibly effective but clearly, points of concern remain. Therefore, we should recognise that while it is generally advisable to take it, any significant medical treatment should be taken under the advice of a doctor familiar with one’s medical history and current circumstance. That is simple, basic medical ethics and professional standards. (That’s part of why when we first go to a doctor she or he will normally take our general medical history, blood pressure etc. and will set up a patient file.)

Similarly, it is common sense that people prone to strong allergic reactions or who have significant medical challenges should be extra careful to get advice from their doctor.

Finally, what about “herd immunity”?

It is commonly reported that the AstraZeneca vaccine is about 70% effective.[3]  Where, we can see from a Healthline dot com article by Noreen Iftikhar, MD, “What Is Herd Immunity and Could It Help Prevent COVID-19?”[4] that:

“For some diseases, herd immunity can go into effect when 40 percent of the people in a population become immune to the disease, such as through vaccination. But in most cases, 80 to 95 percent of the population must be immune to the disease to stop its spread.  For example, 19 out of every 20 people must have the measles vaccination for herd immunity to go into effect and stop the disease. This means that if a child gets measles, everyone else in this population around them will most likely have been vaccinated, already have formed antibodies, and be immune to the disease to prevent it from spreading further.”

“Herd immunity” happens when on average an infected person is so unlikely to pass the disease on to someone without antibodies that it begins to “die out.”  That can come from enough people catching then recovering from a disease, or from vaccination. Now, we know that Covid-19 is fairly contagious so the 80% estimate some have suggested is reasonable. But if 100% of our population is vaccinated with a vaccine estimated to be 70% effective, then by simple Arithmetic we cannot make the 80 – 95% of population threshold; herd immunity may not be achievable using AstraZeneca, not only from “doing our sums” but especially as we can see that it is not recommended for children under 18

Where, too, the other vaccines that are said to be 90+% effective in immunising (Moderna, Pfizer), are based on novel technologies never before used with people. That means they are far more experimental than AstraZeneca.

Obviously, there is room for different opinions and for different people to make up their minds on the balance of medical risks they face given issues such as allergic reactions.


[1]           See: https://www.military.com/daily-news/2021/02/12/navy-will-make-covid-19-vaccination-mandatory-soon-we-can-3-star-admiral.html

[2]           See https://www.defense.gov/Explore/News/Article/Article/2493366/military-medical-leaders-discuss-covid-19-issues-with-service-members/

[3]           For example, see https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/covid-vaccine-how-effective-astrazeneca-pfizer-moderna-vaccination-efficacy-compared-what-meaning-845136

[4]           See https://www.healthline.com/health/herd-immunity

Posted in COVID-19, De Ole Dawg, Health, International, Local, News, Regional, Science/Technology0 Comments

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Premier Taylor-Farrell’s 15-year time-frame for economic independence

Part 01/2020 (Contribution)
January 24, 2020

What can we do to move beyond 60% dependency on the UK for our recurrent budget?

BRADES, Montserrat, January 17, 2020 – In his Monday, January 13th opening remarks for the annual DfID Financial Aid Mission (FAM), Montserrat’s new premier, Hon Mr Easton Taylor-Farrell, announced a policy goal that by 2035 (i.e. in fifteen years), Montserrat should be able to pay its own way. That is, he hopes that by that time our economy will have grown sufficiently strong through tourism, trade and investment that we will no longer need the current 60% UK subsidy to carry our recurrent budget; without, over-burdening our economy through over-taxation.
What would that take?

For one, Government and our economy are largely continuous (never mind what politicians tend to say around election time). So, let’s look at a January 2017 article in this series:
“[I]f we are to soundly rebuild Montserrat’s economy we need to soundly understand what happened to us. This makes the December 15, 2017, Mott-MacDonald Draft Economic Growth Strategy document[1] doubly important. Here, let us look at an adjusted version of one of their tables, with some additional calculations:

[ . . . ]

[Due to the volcano crisis and UK aid under the UN Charter, Article 73, the public sector has more than doubled as a percent of our economy, moving from 19.3% in 1994 to 45.8% in 2016 . . .

As a result, our GDP is not a “natural” one driven by a buoyant private sector, it reflects this annual support to our economy. Such is not sustainable

In simple terms, if we are to return the . . . public sector to being 20% of our economy in 20 years, our economy would have to more than double, from EC$153 million to EC$ 350 million . . . this requires an average growth rate of 4.2%.

So, it is reasonable for Mott-MacDonald to target a 3 – 5% annual GDP growth rate. ECCB would prefer to see 5 – 7%.

However, if Montserrat is to move ahead, we must put in place key infrastructure, build our productive capacity,[4] provide incentives and reassurance that will rebuild investor confidence, and support a wave of enterprises that take advantage of our major opportunities: tourism, geothermal energy, the rising global digital services economy, and the like.[5]”

Of course, to do that in fifteen years instead, we would have to grow even faster, 5.7% on average.

What about tourism (and the digital sector)?

That is a bit complicated. As, while we can see that we are surrounded by several islands with 600,000 and more tourists per year, so there is obvious room for growth, in the longer term, the main-spring of global economic growth is shifting to Asia.

As this series noted on July 5th 2018, “China and India . . . combined will contribute over forty percent of global economic growth this year, 3.3%.  By contrast, the UK contributes only 1.4% and the US only 12.3% to current global growth.  By 2023, the UK may contribute 1.3% and the US, 8.5%.”

Where, “Chinese and Indian tourists will find it far more convenient to go to neighbouring destinations, instead of regularly flying to the Caribbean. So while slow-growth Europe and North America will still be prosperous and will be sources for tourism, the North Atlantic Basin is gradually turning into a low-growth, already-been-there, saw-that, got-the-tee-shirt, mostly cruise-ship visitor driven tourism market. So, it would be a mistake to put all of our economic eggs in the tourism basket. Yes, tourism is indeed Montserrat’s fastest “quick win” driver for growth, but we have to be realistic about setting up our strategic moves beyond tourism.”

That points to the digital sector, and to the significance of the sub-sea, terabit per second class fibre optic cable project, for which the contract was signed by former premier Romeo on October 24th – which is why we just saw a visit by RV Ridley Thomas, which surveyed the proposed route for the cable. We can catch a glimpse into the significance of this by eavesdropping on what St Helena is saying about their own fibre optic cable. As TMR recently reported:
“According to the Government of St Helena, ‘[c]onnecting to Equiano meets SHG’s timing and budgetary requirements for the European Development Fund and supports the Digital ICT Strategy for St Helena.’

According to their Financial Secretary, Mr Dax Richards: ‘[s]ignificant additional economic development on St Helena is conditional on improved connectivity and accessibility, and therefore the delivery of the Fibre Project is crucial to economic growth . . . The delivery of the Fibre Project is a key action in the Sustainable Economic Development Plan – in order to develop the satellite ground stations, financial services, work from home, academia research and conferences, film location and tourism sectors.’”
All of this calls for long-term, consensus based national strategic planning. Such should build on the Mott-McDonald Economic Growth Strategy (EGS) that was recently shepherded through by consultant economist Mr Raja Kadri, on the 2008 – 2020 Sustainable Development Plan, the current 10-year Physical Development Plan, the past two energy policies and other similar initiatives.

Perhaps, it would also be helpful to again look at the SWOT chart for the EGS, as a reminder that a balanced growth framework has been put on the table for over a year now, through a process of national consultation:

Perhaps, then, a very good place to begin building on the foundation that is already in place would be with the successor Sustainable Development Plan, which is technically due this year. (It may be wise to extend the current SDP for a year or so, to give us time to build its successor.)

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Good Governance, the BVI, and Montserrat’s development challenge

Part 108/2021 (Contribution)

Should we pass a Charter of Good Governance Resolution in our Assembly?

BRADES, Montserrat, January 25, 2021 –  In recent days, UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab has called for a Commission of Inquiry in the BVI. It is to be led by British judge Gary Hickinbottom and is to report its findings in six months’ time. According to Reuters, the Minister wrote to the UK Parliament that[1]:

Rt. Hon. Dominic Raab MP

“The UK is extremely concerned about the state of good governance in the British Virgin Islands”  . . . Raab listed several concerns [raised by local, BVI institutions and the community], including misappropriation of funds set aside to cope with the pandemic, political interference in public appointments, intimidation of people in public service and misuse of taxpayers’ money . . . [also] citing a November 2020 discovery of a 2.35-tonne haul of cocaine worth more than [US] $250 million. [“UK ‘very concerned’ overrunning of British Virgin Islands – Raab,” Jan. 18, 2021.]

Sobering, and we hope that all works out well for the Virgin Islanders.

However, as they say, when your neighbour’s house is afire, wet your roof. Especially, if there is concern that our own government has failed to make an adequate case for pandemic relief and stimulus, with concerns swirling that even the tiny amount of aid received has not been well handled.

For a half-year now, neither struggling people nor businesses worried about keeping their heads above water have received any Covid-19 relief; the token relief packages in the March to June 2020 period, of course, have long since dried up.  And all too many were locked out because of how the aid distribution criteria were set. The Government Minister responsible for Education, Health and Social Services, Hon. Charles Kirnon, who got support, has been dismissive in the Assembly when issues of poverty and hardships have been raised.

There has been no stimulus package, and to date, there has been no adequate explanation regarding how a projected $22 millions hole in revenues was revised to $3 million, given those concerns. Attempted questions on this in parliament have been road-blocked.  When a popular morning call-in show became a platform where community members voiced concerns, it was threatened with a shut-down.

All of these are good governance concerns.

BVI Premier Andrew Fahie

Let us recall, the pledge on p. 13 of the 2012 FCO White Paper on OT’s[2]:
The UK Government’s fundamental responsibility and objective is to ensure the security and good governance of the Territories and their peoples. This responsibility flows from international law including the Charter of the United Nations. It also flows from our shared history and political commitment to the wellbeing of all British nationals. This requires us, among other things, to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the people of the Territories, to ensure their just treatment and their protection against abuses, and to develop self-government and free political institutions in the Territories. The reasonable assistance needs of the Territories are a first call on the UK’s international development budget.

The key bit of International Law is Article 73 of the UN Charter[3] – which actually says that the UK is to “ensure”  political, economic, social and educational advancement and is to “promote” constructive measures of development. All of these lend focus to the long-delayed December 17 – 20, UN Decolonisation Committee visit to Montserrat December 17 – 20 2019,[4] which was postponed so that it would not have a direct impact on our November 18th 2019 General Election. According to the UN, the field mission’s objective was:

 “ . . . gathering first-hand information on the situation in  Montserrat,  focusing  on  the  Territory’s  political,  economic,  social  and environmental  development  and  the  challenges  to  sustainable  development, particularly the impacts of the volcanic eruptions since 1995.” [p. 4.]

Premier, Easton Farrell, Montserrat

This is of course exactly what the FCO White Paper acknowledges as having force of International Law. It is worth pausing a moment to note the view of a “constitutionalist”:

 “It had taken the administering  Power  25 years to realize that Montserrat needed basic infrastructures such as a hospital, schools, a port and housing. Programmes to assist returnees, especially young people, were lacking. Incentives had been provided to go to the  United  Kingdom but not to return. The reality  was that  the  Department for International  Development  was the  only  entity supporting the island.” [p. 14.]

These views are not strictly true, but they reflect widespread frustration and want of a viable, credible agreed programme of action to expedite projects with clear accountability over proper management and similarly clear management of disbursed funds.  Roots of the frustration can be seen in the report’s remarks on the new CIPREG programme for infrastructure projects:

“The Montserrat Capital Investment Programme for Resilient Economic Growth [= CIPREG] was a five-year plan for the period from 2019 to 2024. Funded by the United Kingdom Department for International  Development,  it included projects to improve critical infrastructure by building a  new hospital  (a priority for the previous and current Administrations), installing a subsea fibre-optic cable, and improving the only airport. The total cost of the Programme was estimated at £30 million, and funding for the period after 2024 had not been determined.” [p. 8.]

Why did it take twenty-four years to mobilise an obviously needed infrastructure rebuilding programme of projects?  Why is it so small? (Where, it has come out that there is an error of scale and scope in the Port Project, which needs to be addressed.) Why is there not a follow on programme already in the works?

Especially as, we can also see that:

“The economy,  which had shrunk to just over half its former size  [c. 1994] by 2016,  is dominated by the Government of Montserrat, which accounts for 46 percent of output and employs about  40 percent of the workforce.  The public sector in  Montserrat remains dependent on budgetary aid from the United Kingdom, which provides over 60 percent of the Territory’s current income [= recurrent budget];  the proportion is higher if capital is included. The Territory also benefits from an allocation of approximately €18.4 million for the period 2014–2020 under the eleventh European Development Fund.” [p. 5.]

There is an obvious point to the longstanding complaint that we have been in the Economic ICU for twenty-five years now, and have been on slow drip basic life support. That is not good enough.

The ghost in the middle of the room has been a concern on good governance and related want of a properly agreed comprehensive development partnership MoU, with a properly set up, credible, agreed long term programme and project management framework with a strong capacity-building component. The current Programme Management Office and the earlier initiative stopped under questionable means in July 2017, which are just a first step. The Project Implementation Unit was not broad enough or sufficiently established to carry forward the needed program. The MDC, after seven years, was under clouds regarding concerns on financial and general management and regarding how it had failed to deliver on its intended targets of major partnerships with investors. Want of key infrastructure likely played a part in that failure.

We have the CIPREG and the current, cut-down PMO. They are a start, we need to broaden the scope of both. That points to a comprehensive agreed Development Partnership MoU that grows out of a broad-based participative stakeholder consultation process. If we can get the UN Facilitator for Development requested by the former premier, that would help. But we need more, we need a strong Charter of Good Governance, preferably passed by our Assembly as a Resolution, with the Development Programme as an agreed component. This should set our policy framework to address the sound governance challenge; including, not only our long term development programme and the usual issues on financial management but also how various governance concerns up to and including constitutional matters are to be handled. On fair comment, the 2010 Constitution Order is grossly defective.

Before we even get there, we desperately need pandemic relief, business rescue support and a serious stimulus package. Especially as, now it is clear that there is no end in sight.

Let us continue to see how we can work together to find a good way forward.


[1] See https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-bvi-idUKKBN29N1NO

[2] See https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/32952/ot-wp-0612.pdf

[3] See, https://legal.un.org/repertory/art73.shtml

[4] See https://www.undocs.org/pdf?symbol=en/A/AC.109/2020/20

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Could this be the reason for abuse by offended parties?

Could this be the reason for abuse by offended parties?

December 6, 2019
Reprint – December 11, 2929

The electorate showed their expectations in the result

This Editorial is reprinted because of some strange comments directed at the Editor during following a press conference held in Seprember past. The comments were in response to an inquiry to which no direct response was given but a reference to an article/editorial in “November or just following the 2019 general elections.”
There is also reprinted a column article in an effort to discover if that might have been the offending article.
These are presented as as they were before and we contend that like almost always the opinions, analysis, and facts presented are intended as presented. We then challenge the offended party or parties to present to us after a second read exactly what they have found offensive, untrue or even disagreable.

There aren’t many who think of the seriousness, or of the importance of the election of men and women who will represent and lead them in the affairs of governing them and their land.

But when one reads the following from one of a series of articles which have appeared in TMR over the past several months, again it would take those interested in the seriousness and the reality of the men and women of whom this refers to understand that a general election is indeed a serious thing.

The few lines read: “…if our “permanent government” – the senior civil service – is “not fit for purpose” (as former Governor Carriere said in an unguarded, frank moment) then we are going to be hampered every step of the way by lack of capacity, foot-dragging, outright incompetence, and even corruption. And if many candidates for election are cut from the same roll of cloth,[1] that will only multiply the problem.

“For elections to work, we need to have a choice of credible, competent, good-character candidates with sound policy proposals, and if policies are to be implemented, our senior civil service will need drastic reforms led by Cabinet. We will have to fix the DfID-FCO side of the problem, too.“

This part of the problem is why, over the past several years, months and weeks, here at TMR we have looked at the needed Charter of Good Governance and Development Partnership MoU with the UK; which have actually been on the table for several years but were obviously road-blocked. Such agreements and such Resolutions of our Assembly would give us tools to drain the murky waters so beloved of swamp-dwelling chaos-dragons . . . that’s how they can lurk in ambush.

A capacity-building component would help us build a new generation of policy and political leadership. The creation of a priority transformational programme with agreed “catalytic” infrastructure-building projects supported by designated expediters and sound PRINCE2-style governance systems would then move us beyond the stop, study, start, stop, restudy pattern. For sure, without a protected seaport, without an improved airport, without fibre optic cable digital access and without developed geothermal energy, we are a poor investment and growth prospect.

We would like to offer that although towards the end of the PDM government’s term in office the Legislature was divided 5-4 just as the incoming MCAP government will experience, it is in many ways not the same as that experienced by the former MCAP government of 2009-2014. The Reuben T Meade’s government had three newcomers to his government to the six members at the beginning but ended up with two newbies as this government begins with. This government has four experienced parliamentarians in opposition.

The expectations for this new MCAP team can be reflected in the outcome of the election particularly that during this campaign there were some very key issues that were barely mentioned if at all. Good knowledge of all of which will be very vital to any future success or progress that this struggling island could enjoy.

We hope to take the lead in bringing these seriously to the fore in a brand new and hopefully challenging way as the early months of this new Legislature’s reign.

[1] TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/we-need-a-new-politics-of-truth-soundness-and-national-consensus/

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9066069/Woke-folk-beware-Freedom-speech-includes-right-offend-say-judges-landmark-ruling.html

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MNI: Post-Election reflections and challenges, 2019MNI: Post-Election reflections and challenges, 2019

How will we best manage our development partnership with the post-Brexit UK and the upcoming UN Charter Article 73 C24 visit?

BRADES, Montserrat, Dec. 2, 2019 –  The November 18, 2019 elections are over, having delivered a five-seat majority to the leading opposition party, MCAP; led by Montserrat’s newly elected third Premier, Hon. Mr. Easton Taylor Farrell. Congratulations and best wishes for good success in leading Montserrat in the coming days, starting with the upcoming UN Decolonisation Committee visit under the UN Charter, Article 73; which is expected around the middle of this month.

We also note that, with a split opposition, the former administration PDM team is now the bulk of the opposition, three seats led by Hon Mr. Paul Lewis. Former Premier Romeo sits as the fourth opposition member, having been elected on an independent ticket. We wish the new opposition well too, not least because a good opposition that is credible as the potential next government is a key part of our democratic system.

That said, it is interesting to observe that there was a fall in turnout rate for the 2019 election as compared with the 2014 one: 2,410 of 3,858 registered voters [62.47%] as opposed to 2,747 of 3,866 [71.06%].

That is, while registered voters fell slightly [8 voters], the voter turnout fell by 337.

The total 2019 MCAP vote was 8,512 and the total, PDM – counting “seven plus one” – was 7,029. In 2014, MCAP had 8,193 votes and PDM had 11,591. The MCAP support grew by 319 and the PDM fell by 4,562. This election was more of a loss for the PDM than a triumph for MCAP.

However, as the margin of victory was one seat, for purposes of analysis, let us ponder the effect of just three hundred disaffected PDM supporters turning out and supporting their party. Where, the ninth past the post candidate in the actual 2019 election [Hon Mr. Hogan] garnered 873 votes. (In 2014, Hon Mr. Willock was 9th, with 1,117 votes.)

In our hypothetical “+300 PDM” Election 2019, for instance, Hon Mr. Lewis (with + 300 votes) would have had 1,551 votes. Hon Mr. Romeo (the “plus one”), would have had 1,360 votes. The “seven plus one” PDM vote total would also have shifted to 9,429.

More importantly, Mr. Hixon would have had 1,162 votes, switching the election to the other side.

Comparison: voting patterns 2014 (HT: Wikipedia)

The new 9th past the post would – for the moment – be Hon Mr. Kirnon, at 970 votes. But, if we add 300 votes to Mr. Emile Duberry, he would now have 998 votes, matching Hon Deputy Premier Dr. Samuel Joseph, so Mr. Kirnon would have been defeated.

That is, the election would have likely swung the other way, 5:4 or perhaps even 6:3.

(Recall, the “+300 PDM” model is only a hypothetical estimate to help us understand the actual election’s outcome.)

An obvious lesson from this comparison is that a party leadership “coup” six weeks before an election is not a well-advised electoral strategy. A slightly less obvious one is that allowing hostile messaging to dominate for years on end is also not a well-advised electoral strategy, especially when one’s party is obviously trending towards splits. Doubtless, our politicians, pundits, and public relations gurus have taken due note.

However, there is a further issue, one that carries such urgency that it needs to be put on the table now, for national discussion. Yes, even during the traditional new government honeymoon period.

For, in the next few weeks, we expect to see a UN Committee of 24 visit under the UN Charter, Article 73. However, skepticism on the relevance of the UN and similar skepticism on the UN Charter, Article 73 (thus the FCO commitment that the OT’s have a “first call” on the UK’s development budget) were a major part of MCAP’s messaging over the past several years and so such skepticism has become entrenched in much of popular opinion.
This is in a context where the UK is in a Brexit-dominated General Election. One, where newly incumbent Euro-skeptic Prime Minister the Hon Mr. Boris Johnson seems likely to handily win re-election. (Where, the previous UK Prime Minister, Hon Mrs. May, resigned several months before the election.)

Further to this, the UK press has shown for months, that Hon Mr. Johnson has pushed to reduce DfID to being a Department under FCO. For example, as a July 24, 2019, Guardian article reports, on becoming Prime Minister, Hon Mr. Boris Johnson:
. . . spoke of the “jostling sets of instincts in the human heart” – the instinct to earn money and look after your own family, set against that of looking after the poorest and neediest, and promoting the good of society as a whole. The Tory party has the “best instincts” to balance these desires, he said:

This balancing act will be tested soon after he moves into No 10 . . . . The UK’s £38bn defense budget is just 2.5 times greater than the £14bn aid budget.

After leaving his job as foreign secretary, Johnson spelled out his thinking over foreign aid, telling the Financial Times that if “Global Britain” is going to achieve its “full and massive potential” then we must bring back the Department for International Development (DfID) to the Foreign Office. “We can’t keep spending huge sums of British taxpayers’ money as though we were some independent Scandinavian NGO.”

The Guardian article adds, how:
In February, [Hon. Mr. Johnson] went further. Writing the foreword of a report by Bob Seely, a Tory member of the foreign affairs select committee, and James Rogers, a strategist at the Henry Jackson Society thinktank, he suggested aid should “do more to serve the political and commercial interests” of Britain.

That report “called for the closure of DfID as a separate department and argued the UK should be free to define its aid spending, unconstrained by criteria set by external organisations.” It went on to assert that DfID’s purpose “should be expanded from poverty reduction to include ‘the nation’s overall strategic goals’,” and that “the Foreign Office should incorporate both DfID and the trade department.” Which, is precisely what has been put on the table.

While, the UK cannot unilaterally redefine what Development Aid is [the OECD defines that], it is clear that there will be strong pressure to reduce UK aid from the 0.7% of national income target level that has been met since 2013/14 and which is actually mandated by current UK law. And, mixing in trade and strategic goals is likely to raise questions on the quality of aid offered under such a reduced budget. (Perhaps, too, it may be advisable for the UK to ponder that timely aid that addresses root causes of conflict is a lot cheaper and far less risky than major wars are.)

What this means for us, is that the importance of the UN Charter as a cornerstone of International Law since 1945 has suddenly shot up as the UK moves towards Brexit. In that context, Article 73 mandates that the UK is legally bound to “ensure [our political, social, educational and economic] advancement” and to “promote constructive measures of development” that are of particular value.

Especially, where £30 million under the CIPREG programme and another £14.4 million for the seaport under the UKCIF are on the table. And where these sums are programmed into existing projects, so that attempts to re-open the negotiations may well carry significant risks of further delay or even loss of funding. (Let us recall, that for years, sections of the UK press have decried £400+ million in cumulative aid to Montserrat as a “fiasco” and worse.)

[1] See UK Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/jul/24/trade-foreign-aid-boris-johnson-dfid

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Columns, De Ole Dawg, International, Local, News, Opinions, Politics, Regional, UK - Brexit0 Comments

Sauce for de Goose...But, not for de Gander?

Sauce for de Goose…But, not for de Gander?

Part 107 – 06/2020 (Contribution)

BRADES, Montserrat, December 14, 2020 –  In Britain, the Bird served at table for Christmas Day was often a Goose, not a Turkey. The male Goose (the Gander), of course, can be cooked up just as nicely, and it makes sense to use the same sauce. That’s where the saying comes from. Here in the Caribbean, we might note that the same knife used for a sheep can be used for a goat too; and both can be used to make our national dish, Goat Water.

Those of us who have monitored political commentary for the past few years will of course immediately spot the point. For years, members of our present Government hammered away at the last Government, week by week, even accusing it of “bamboozling” the Budget.  That’s another way of saying, fraud; a pretty serious charge.  Meanwhile, we are yet to hear a sound, detailed explanation for the nineteen ($19) million dollar reduction in the hole in the budget, but that was dealt with by TMR last time.

What we need to look at today is the reaction of the new government to, much milder criticism than what it dished out, week by week, year by year, when somebody else was in the hot seat. For, there has been talk of threats to shut down a popular call-in show which has become a place where various members of the public have aired their displeasure with the new government and its handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Admittedly, could be a difficult challenge.

Even more interesting was the sudden rediscovery by members of the public that indeed, the UK has confirmed that the reasonable assistance needs of Overseas Territories have a first call on the UK Development budget. That, used to be laughed to scorn, and the counter-point that sixty percent [60%] of salaries of members of the legislature and civil servants came from the UK, honouring that commitment, was typically sidestepped.

Perhaps, we can learn from how it feels when the shoe is on the other foot. (This saying likely comes from the 1700s where the fashion was to have both shoes looking the same, so after a time, one needed to swop over which foot one put a given shoe on, lest it becomes misshapen. Ouch! We have long since learned that it is a better idea to have left foot and right foot shoes.)

In an oddly related development, the UK’s now-former Development Minister in the newly fused FCDO – DfID is no more – resigned due to the Government’s declared intent to cut the 0.7 percent development aid target to 0.5 percent[1]:

Elizabeth Sugg, who was minister for overseas territories and sustainable development and special envoy for girls’ education — a priority area of government development policy — said she “cannot support or defend” the decision to lower the aid budget to 0.5% of GNI.

In her resignation letter, she wrote: “I believe it is fundamentally wrong to abandon our commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on development. This promise should be kept in the tough times as well as the good … The economic downturn has already led to significant cuts this year and I do not believe we should reduce our support further at a time of unprecedented global crises.” [Devex dot com]

As Devex continued, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, “pledged to return to spending 0.7% on aid ‘when the fiscal situation allows.’ ” 

It added that “prime ministers, secretaries of state, and backbench Conservative MPs were among those who kicked back against the government’s decision, saying it was a breach of the party’s commitments — maintaining the 0.7% spending target was a Conservative manifesto pledge — and would undermine the U.K.’s international position. ”

Indeed, former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who resigned when he lost the Brexit referendum, said “[the 0.7 percent pledge] said something great about Britain . . . we were actually going to do something about [global challenges], we were going to lead, we were going to show the rest of the world . . .  and I think it’s sad we’re standing back from that.”

In short, there is some seriousness about the development aid pledge. 

Similarly, when the “poverty reduction” criterion is given an exception for OT’s in Section 2 of the UK International Development Act, 2002,[2]  it sets up what was pledged ten years later on p. 13 of the 2012 FCO White Paper on OT’s[3]:

“The UK Government’s fundamental responsibility and objective are to ensure the security and good governance of the Territories and their peoples. This responsibility flows from international law including the Charter of the United Nations. It also flows from our shared history and political commitment to the wellbeing of all British nationals. This requires us, among other things, to promote the political, economic, social, and educational advancement of the people of the Territories, to ensure their just treatment and their protection against abuses, and to develop self-government and free political institutions in the Territories. The reasonable assistance needs of the Territories are a first call on the UK’s international development budget.

This is actually a longstanding pledge and is a key plank for our development aid negotiations. Especially, as we are not generally eligible for aid from other donor agencies. Under UN Charter, Article 73, the UK is our main development aid partner.  This is a key point for any future Premier to bear in mind.

Also, what Article 73 of the UN Charter[4] – which the UK here acknowledges as having legal force – actually says is that the UK is to “ensure” political, economic, social, and educational advancement and is to “promote” constructive measures of development. All of this, was always only a few clicks away on the Internet. There is no excuse for the dismissive rhetoric and ridicule for several years; rhetoric that now stands in the way of acknowledging that this is the way forward to sound relief and stimulus to break out of Covid-19 stagnation.

(A year later, we can also see why the UN Article 73, Committee of Twenty-Four decolonisation visit that was fought for so hard by the previous government was absolutely pivotal. But due to much the same ill-advised rhetoric, it was dismissed by too many of our political voices. What a difference a year makes!)

Let us see how we can work to find a good way forward.

Yes, it is clear that sauce for the Goose is sauce for the Gander, too.


[1] See, https://www.devex.com/news/uk-minister-resigns-as-senior-conservative-mps-condemn-end-to-0-7-aid-budget-98643

[2] See, https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/1/part/1

[3] See https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/32952/ot-wp-0612.pdf

[4] See, https://legal.un.org/repertory/art73.shtml

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, De Ole Dawg, International, Local, News, Politics0 Comments

derez-a-hole-in-di-budgit

Dere’s a hole in de Montserrat 2020 Budget

Contribution, Part 106 – 5/2020

With what, shall we fix it?

BRADES, Montserrat, November 12, 2020 – In June, Hon Premier and Finance Minister, Easton Taylor Farrell presented the annual budget after a three-month delay due to the Covid-19 emergency. However, there is a gap in the recurrent side, EC$ 22 million (about £6.3 million). He expressed confidence, that DfID would be willing to provide support for the gap, and so he was confident that the hole would be filled.

The Recurrent Budget Schedule, Supp. Appropriation Bill,
Sept 2020

A month later, after four months of delay, answers to parliamentary questions showed that the hole was still there. Then, from August to September, we were told that revenues performed better and there were cuts, the hole was now EC$ 3 million. However, the schedule to the supplementary budget did not explain, and after fiery exchanges with Opposition MLA Member, Mr. Don Romeo, the Government has evaded giving a detailed, transparent explanation of the $19 million hole reduction.

Why?

For months, the answer to that has been sealed behind tight lips; a sure sign the news is bad.

The logical guess is that factions in DfID – now FCDO – are yet again pushing for staff cuts and other devastating cuts. Which would not do any good to an already struggling economy further hit by pandemic lockdowns. Perhaps, we can agree that the better approach is to grow our way out of the post-disasters stagnation?

Now that we have all seen the ship laying the fibre optic cable, and have seen the inland trenches cut, new terrestrial cable connected, and the trenches filled in, isn’t digitalisation an obvious opening for the economy?
Yes, we are to have faith and confidence and we must always pray, but we must also be well-informed, prudent, and guard our liberty. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

Posted in De Ole Dawg, Features, International, Local, News, Opinions, Regional0 Comments

COVID-19-attacks-a-cell

COVID-19 hits Montserrat

Contribution, Part 104 – 4/2020

After BA Flight 2157 on Tuesday, March 10, COVID-19 is here.  How can we cope?

BRADES, Montserrat, March 22, 2020 –  On Tuesday, March 17, the Government of Montserrat called a press conference, scheduled for 5:00 pm. During the conference, Hon. Minister of Education, Mr. Charles Kirnon, announced that we have a confirmed case of COVID-19 here in Montserrat. This person had flown into Montserrat the previous Tuesday on British Airways, Flight 2157, along with the first confirmed case for Antigua and as one of the  “eighty-plus” traveling to Montserrat announced on Saturday, March 14th by Hon Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell. 

The Covid-19 virus on the attack. In an infection, the virus binds to cell surfaces, allowing penetration. The cell is then hijacked to replicate and distribute further copies of the virus (Cr: Australian Pharmacist & US CDC)

(NB: The number traveling here on BA 2157 was later revised to 104, without explanation. For a week, these exposed travelers – and likely others exposed overseas and locally – were freely circulating in our community. By St Patrick’s Day, only 88 of these had been reached by authorities trying to manage the epidemic. Officials asked the others to contact them. Where, also, if we add to March 10, 14 days for incubation we can see that March 24 on will be a key time to see if a surge of further cases will emerge here. Hopefully, not.)

Immediately, such developments underscored just how ill-advised it had been to proceed with the St Patrick’s festival “as usual,” despite warnings and pleas by Lawyer Jean Kelsick and others. To date, no clear explanation for this decision has been given.

And no, it was not simply “a matter of time” before the pandemic reached our shores.

For, by proceeding with “business as usual” for St Patrick’s, we brought here perhaps 2,500 people [a 50% jump in our population], many coming from countries where the epidemic had already broken out of containment and was spreading rapidly. Obviously, too, passenger screening measures here, in Antigua and in the UK failed.  So, now, we must prepare to try to manage a pandemic with our temporary hospital, lack of equipment and inadequate staff numbers.

Then, on Friday, March 20, His Excellency, Governor Andrew Pierce announced in the name of the UK FCO, that British Nationals were to expedite their return to the UK. This hints that the sort of travel bans and restrictions already headlined for the USA and other countries may likely impact the UK; where perhaps 7,000 volcano crisis-displaced Montserratians live.

How can we cope?

For one, we must recognise that we face a pandemic spread by a highly contagious and deadly virus that (on estimates of death rate being suggested by experts) likely will kill 1 – 3+ percent of those who catch it; it thus seems to be over ten times as deadly as the common yearly influenza. Where the aged are particularly vulnerable, the disease is highly contagious during its a-symptomatic incubation stage of up to 2 – 3+ weeks, and it seems that deaths on average happen 17 days after onset of symptoms. Those who recover – which takes longer on average – may suffer permanently diminished lung functionality.

Also, the epidemic models suggest that if it is unchecked, over the course of several months to about a year, it can infect 20 – 70+ percent of a population, with perhaps 50 – 80% of cases being mild or even asymptomatic.

Obviously, such a disease can easily overwhelm health care (and especially critical care) facilities, equipment and staff in advanced countries, much less in a country with a temporary hospital that is struggling to recover from a volcano crisis. It is vital, that we find a way to flatten out and diminish the spike of new cases if we are to prevent overloading of our health care facilities; which can trigger the much higher death rates we are seeing in Italy and saw in Wuhan, China.

That means, “social distancing” is key.

That is, we need to break the transmission cycle for the disease. A good approach has been suggested by Dr. Sanjay Gupta: assume you have the disease and now try to prevent passing it on to others. Hand washing, stopping from touching your face and surfaces others will contact, sanitising surfaces, keeping six feet away from others (so particles from our noses and mouths will settle towards the ground), avoiding groups, only going to where one must go, etc.

It may even be necessary to lock down our community for several weeks to break the spreading cycle, isolating and treating cases that emerge in the interim.

Then, after that, we will have to be far more vigilant about border protection and social distancing until the global surge in cases dies away. Unfortunately, pools of the virus will remain and its rapid mutation rate may well mean that we face further global surges. As a comparison, the 1918 “Spanish Flu” came in two to three waves, with the deadliest strain being in wave 2.

Is there any good news?

Yes. Credible initial reports suggest that a cocktail of [Hydroxy-]Chloroquine and  “Z-Pack” [ i.e. azithromycin, an antibiotic for bronchitis] has been especially effective in suppressing the viral infection, in initial studies in France, Australia and China. Bayer, who discovered Chloroquine [an anti-Malaria drug] in 1934, has donated three million chloroquine phosphate tablets to the USA and testing is on the fast track. Apparently, many doctors are already prescribing it. Other drugs are being investigated, blood plasma from survivors has been used to provide antibodies and various initiatives are underway to develop a vaccine. However, vaccines will take time.

What about economic fallout and bailouts?

The USA, the UK, and other countries are unveiling pandemic economy stimulus packages meant to restore confidence and to provide businesses and households with some emergency cash. This is because a breakdown of economic activity and investor confidence could easily trigger a recession or worse. Indeed, some have suggested a possible 24% decline in GDP, great depression-level numbers; but that is likely to be extreme. Worse for the Caribbean, Tourism is our only globally competitive industry; pandemic triggered drop-offs in tourism arrivals will obviously hit us hard.

For Montserrat, that means that we will have to go hat-in-hand to the UK, appealing for further help under the force of the UN Charter, Article 73 which the UK acknowledges to be legally binding. It is under this, that 60% of our recurrent budget and up to 90% of our capital budget has been funded over the years.  (Yes, this also means that those who have dismissed the UN Charter and the linked C-24 visit last December did Montserrat no favours.)

We will also need to see if we can expedite and expand the £30 million CIPREG capital programme negotiated by the former Donaldson Romeo-led PDM administration. For example, the case for a purpose-built, world-class standard local hospital has been strengthened and we obviously urgently need a significant upgrade for equipment, training and staffing our health care services.

More subtly, we may notice how digitally based work from home, distance education, teleconferencing, telemedicine, e-cash and more have been given a step-change boost through the pandemic.

This points to the relevance and urgency of the Fibre Optic Cable project that is also part of the CIPREG project. Where, already, ducting is being installed and the survey has been done.

Thus, too, we must bend every effort to expedite fibre optics and digitalisation, as the global digital sector just got a huge push. Onward, we have to seriously upgrade education and training for our people to be ready for digital productivity in the coming, even more digitalised world economy.

So, yes, there is hope.

Yes, we have to face and fix our stumbles.

Yes, we are to have faith and confidence and we must always pray, but we must also be well-informed, prudent and we must act soundly in good time.

END

Posted in CARICOM, Columns, COVID-19, De Ole Dawg, Health, International, Local, Regional0 Comments

Cross-section-of-a-Corona-virus

The Corona Virus pandemic reaches the Caribbean

After BA Flight 2157 on Tuesday, March 10, could it be here in Montserrat? (What should we do?

BRADES, Montserrat, March 14, 2020 –  Over the past several days, first we learned that the Corona Virus had been confirmed in several regional territories. Then we learned how the UN Agency, the World Health Organisation, declared a pandemic – a globe-spanning epidemic.  Along the way, we heard of a Jamaican woman who flew home from the UK on March 4th to attend a funeral, and how authorities were taking steps to contain a possible outbreak. Since then schools have been closed as a second case then six more cases were diagnosed, totaling eight. Then,  it was confirmed that someone flying into Antigua from the UK on March 10 (on British Airways 2157), has been diagnosed with the virus.  Over eighty [80] passengers on that same aircraft came on their way to Montserrat, for the St Patrick’s Festival. (UPDATE: There is also a suspected case here, reported on ZJB.)

The Covid-19 virus attacks a cell,in an “isolate” from a patient(Cr: Australian Pharmacist & US CDC)

Suddenly, the Covid-19 Pandemic – global epidemic – is at our doorstep.

As a result:

After this news hit our airwaves on Friday, March 13th, a call went out for these passengers to contact health authorities.

On Saturday the 14th the recently elected Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell summarised this development, stated that the passengers were traced, contacted and told to self-isolate, adding that events with more than fifty people were restricted.

Many churches announced that worship services are suspended.

Schools (which often serve as places where viral infections spread rapidly) are closed until Friday, April 3.

Such measures are to be extended if necessary.

In effect, the 2020 St Patrick’s Festival has been shut down. That’s why promoters for some events then went on radio to announce the cancelation.

Covid 19 is indeed at our doorstep.

Cross-Section of a Corona Virus. In an infection, the S-protein spikes bind to cell surfaces, allowing penetration. The cell is then hijacked to replicate and distribute further copies of the virus using the RNA in the virus (Cr: Wiki & Scientific Illustrations)

What will we do?

Why did it take a case of possible transmission on an eight-hour transatlantic flight to trigger such measures?

(On the worst-case – let us hope, such will not be actual! – that could be shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted.)

Especially as, before the event, prominent local Attorney-at-Law, Mr. Jean Kelsick publicly advised us all on February 28:

he virus has surfaced, is spreading and has already killed people . . . . Should our visitors introduce the virus to Montserrat

will have to face some very hard questions over any deaths that may ensue . . . .  the financial cost and disappointment to the island and visitors [if the Festival were to be canceled] would be very unfortunate but a price cannot be put on lives.”

We are now in danger of both possibilities, the worst of both worlds. For, on the facts admitted by Premier Taylor-Farrell, [a] visitors have come who may be exposed AND [b] we are forced to restrict gatherings of more than fifty people. That suggests, that we did not act with sufficient prudence in good time.

Now, given the Covid-19 incubation period of up to two weeks (or possibly more in some cases) we will have to wait to see if the epidemic is here already where this virus can be spread by people before they have obvious symptoms. Also, many mild cases may be confused with an ordinary cold or could even go unnoticed.

In a further complication, there seem to be two strains, L and S. As ABC reports[1]:

“Scientists from China said they’ve identified two strains of COVID-19 linked to the recent outbreak.  Coronaviruses are a large family of RNA viruses, and when RNA viruses replicate quickly, they often mutate. Researchers analyzed 103 sequenced genomes using strains from China, and found that 70% of strains were one type, which they called ‘L.’ The ‘L’ strain was more aggressive than the remaining 30% of strains, which were dubbed ‘S.’”

There is some suggestion that it is possible to catch one strain then the other, in addition to the familiar problem of relapsing if one has not fully recovered from an infection. NewScientist gives background[2]:

Viruses are always mutating . . . When a person is infected with the coronavirus, it replicates in their respiratory tract. Every time it does, around half a dozen genetic mutations occur, says Ian Jones at the University of Reading, UK. When Xiaolu Tang at Peking University in Beijing and colleagues studied the viral genome taken from 103 cases, they . . . identified two types of the virus based on differences in the genome at these two regions: 72 were considered to be the “L-type” and 29 were classed “S-type” . . . . The first strain is likely to have emerged around the time the virus jumped from animals to humans. The second emerged soon after that, says the team. Both are involved in the current global outbreak. The fact that the L-type is more prevalent suggests that it is “more aggressive” than the S-type.”

Further, in a preprint article for the New England Journal of Medicine,[3] researchers have confirmed that “viable virus could be detected in aerosols up to 3 hours post aerosolization, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel . . .   Our results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of HCoV-19 is plausible, as the virus can remain viable in aerosols for  multiple hours and on surfaces up to days.”

These specific experimental results are generally consistent with earlier reports that the virus can survive in the air for hours and on surfaces for up to a week or more. That immediately means that we have to be particularly vigilant to protect ourselves. Pix 11 of New York summarises some typical advice[4]:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

A distance of 6 feet can protect you from droplet transmission via coughs and sneezes.

Stay home if you feel you are sick.

Cough and sneeze into your elbow, or cover [your mouth and nose] with a tissue and immediately wash or sanitize your hands.

They add the US CDC instructions on proper handwashing:

Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.

Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

We can also note that for typical disinfectants, a “dwell time” of three to five minutes is advisable, to ensure maximum effect.

Of course, by definition a disinfectant can be hazardous, so we should follow instructions. Chlorine Bleach and Ammonia are particularly so, and must not be mixed. Mixing Bleach and detergents is also not advisable as chemical reactions that give off toxic gases are possible.

Alcohols are also toxic – yes, ethanol too . . . drunkenness is actually a first stage toxic reaction. Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol and Methanol (wood alcohol) should not be consumed; even though they look, taste and smell almost like White Rum. Again, follow instructions on the label.

Of course, a good newspaper is the people’s college, so we need to step back up to the policy level. Fair comment: twenty-five years ago, we were imprudent in managing the volcano crisis, often dismissing warnings as likely to cause a panic. Sometimes, we thought or even said that we needed to exercise faith that nothing bad would happen, trotting out scriptures on faith. On June 25, 1997, nineteen people died needlessly. Videos taken a few days before the fatal ash flows show people harvesting ground provisions in a field while hot ash ran down the ghaut next to them. Some of those people died in fatal flows.

We need a sounder approach: yes, we are to have faith and confidence and we must always pray, but we must also be well-informed, prudent and act in good time.


[1]           See ABC https://abcnews.go.com/Health/scientists-identified-strains-covid-19/story?id=69391954

[2]           See NewScientist https://www.newscientist.com/article/2236544-coronavirus-are-there-two-strains-and-is-one-more-deadly/

[3]           See van Doremalen of US NIH et al https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.09.20033217v1.full.pdf

[4]           See PIX11: https://www.pix11.com/news/national-news/coronavirus-how-to-protect-yourself-amid-covid-19-concerns

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Columns, COVID-19, De Ole Dawg, Education, International, Local, Opinions, Regional, Science/Technology0 Comments

Pilatus-PC-12-theoretical-range

Montserrat’s new Air ambulance service – implications

Part 103 – 02/2020 (Contribution)

What does the provision of a St Barths-based Pilatus PC-12 suggest for our air access?

BRADES, Montserrat, February 7, 2020 –  A few days ago, many Montserratians spotted a strange new aircraft in our sky as it flew in to land at our Airport in Geralds. This was a Swiss-built Pilatus PC-12 air ambulance, which has a single, six-blade turboprop engine.  Montserrat has made an agreement for new air ambulance services, with an eye to accessing Guadeloupe (said to be 12 minutes) as well as Antigua (perhaps 5 minutes) in the first instance.

a Pilatus PC-12 on its way to land (Cr. St Barths Executivedot.com

However, the Pilatus is quite fast, can seat up to ten passengers, can fly with a single pilot and has a long-range. Indeed, the air ambulance service has posted online a map of its ability to reach the eastern seaboard of the USA in five to six hours from its St Barths Base.

That’s because the Pilatus 12 family of aircraft is capable of up to 330 miles per hour cruising speed, with a ceiling of 30,000 ft. Payload is 2,236 pounds, just under one standard ton.  Its range with six passengers (“executive” configuration) is up to 1,800+ miles.  It can seat up to ten passengers (plus one pilot), but six is preferred (hence, “executive”). The aircraft which came here was set up for four passengers and a patient. A reported current price is US$ 3.3 million.

What about the single-engine? According to St Barths Exec:

Pilatus PC-12 theoretical range

“Multi-engine aircraft have no advantage over single-engine turboprops when it comes to safety. . . The argument that single-engine aircraft are less safe than multis is based on the presumption of engine failure. However, modern turbine engines are so reliable they are rarely the primary cause of an accident or incident. This never happened for the PC12 world fleet (1800 aircrafts) after almost seven million flight hours.”

So, perhaps, we need to re-think our assumptions on the safety of small aircraft that have modern turboprop engines, sophisticated navigation equipment, autopilot, and computerised controls.

Let’s compare the famous Twin Otter, in its modern form:

The DeHavilland 6-400 Twin Otter Medium Turboprop is manufactured by Viking Air since 2010. The cabin measures 18.5 feet long by 5.3 feet wide by 4.8 feet tall giving it a total cabin volume of 475.9 cubic feet making it comfortable for up to 19 passengers. The baggage compartment can hold up to 17.6 bags assuming your average piece of luggage is less than 5 cubic feet. The DE Havilland 6-400 Twin Otter has a maximum range (not including headwinds, high altitude, hot temperatures, or higher capacity) of 811 miles and a maximum speed of 181 mph . . . . Service ceiling 25,000 feet.”  [Source: prijet dot com]

Also, a current version Twin Otter (19 passengers twin turboprop, 25,000 ft ceiling, cruising air speed 170 – 180 mph, range up to 1,000 mi) is on offer for US$ 6.4 millions,[1] and other sources suggest that old models may possibly go for US$ 1 – 2 millions. For comparison, the Britten Norman Islander is usually piston-engined but a turboprop version is available. As a piston-engined aircraft cruising speed is up to165 mph, ceiling is 13,600 – 19,700 ft and range is up to about 620 miles. Currently, a Turbo version is on sale for US$ 1.3 millions, and piston-engined versions from US$ 195,000 (it has 15,000+ flying hours).[2] Of course, a key advantage is that the Islander requires just one pilot, the Twin Otter (as we will remember) normally flies with two.


[1]           See: https://www.globalair.com/aircraft-for-sale/Twin-Otter-DHC-6-400

[2]           See https://www.controller.com/listings/aircraft/for-sale/list/manufacturer/britten-norman

Posted in Columns, De Ole Dawg, Health, International, Regional0 Comments

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