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Deputy Prime Minister Reginald Austrie

Government minister wants debate on decriminalisation of marijuana

ROSEAU, Dominica, Jun 1, CMC – A senior government minister says he remains baffled as to why Dominicans are afraid of debating the issue of decriminalisation of marijuana whether it is or medicinal or other purposes.

“There’s a debate on marijuana…the whole world is debating marijuana, whether it is for medicinal purposes, whether it is for religious purposes. Are we going to remain in our little world and afraid to take about marijuana? It is a discussion we need to have,” Deputy Prime Minister Reginald Austrie said.

Deputy Prime Minister Reginald Austrie

Austrie, who is also the Minister of Agriculture, told a farmer’s consultation in Salisbury on the island’s west coast that Dominicans needed to discuss and debate the issue.

“In St. Vincent (and the Grenadines) they talking about it, CARICOM (Caribbean Community) has taken a decision to begin to talk about it. Why are we not talking about it more in Dominica?

“That’s the question I am asking. Are we prepared as a country to begin to talk about it. It is too much like a big stick within Dominica when the rest of the world is already talking about it,” Austrie said.

He told the consultation that Dominica “should start talking about it” adding “as to what we decide is another matter.

“But you can only make a decision after discussion. So let us start with the discussion and we will see where the discussion is going and if the discussion is let us end that talk about marijuana, we will end it. If the talk is we continue the discussion until some decisions are taken in that regard..”

“We live in a modern and enlighten world and maybe we may have a comparative advantage,” Austrie said, telling the consultation “I am not saying to use it, I am not saying to smoke it, I am not saying to sell it, but if we can grow it for medicinal purposes , the guys can come down here, they can buy it, we can package it, we can sell it, let us have that discussion on those subject matters,” Austrie said.

At least two CARICOM countries –Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda- have advanced plans for the decriminalisation of marijuana for medicinal purposes in their respective countries.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said the initiative would be undertaken in a controlled environment.

“I want to make it abundantly clear that my government is not advocating the use of cannabis, we are against anything that is smoked.

“We do accept, though, on the other hand, that marijuana utilised in different forms has significant medicinal benefits and certainly we’ll move pretty quickly to ensure that we legalise the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes,” he said.

However, the executive director of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Dr James Hosepdales, urged regional countries to “proceed with an abundance of caution” when it come to the decriminalisation of marijuana.

Hospedales said there is much discussion on the decriminalisation issue and that there have been several times in history where populations and societies have gone very liberal with substances of abuse.

“The Americans are in the middle of a big opioid crisis and some many decades ago they had a huge problem with addiction and especially among white women,” he said.

“We in the Caribbean have a problem with marijuana and clogging up of the courts and the justice system and that’s understandable to try and reduce that side effect. I think though, in introducing these kinds of public policies, consideration has to be given to the full range of impact, he said, noting that if marijuana had to be decriminalised, there may be repercussions.

Posted in Health, International, Legal, Local, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

Summer Grilling Could Expose Your Skin to Cancer-Causing Chemicals

Summer Grilling Could Expose Your Skin to Cancer-Causing Chemicals

https://www.livescience.com/62640-bbqs-skin-cancer-causing-chemicals.html?utm_source=notification

 
 

Credit: Shutterstock

Summer barbecues may expose you to potentially cancer-causing chemicals in a surprising way: The chemicals may literally get under your skin, a small new study from China suggests.

The study found that people who sat around a grill were exposed to chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) through their skin. PAHs can be produced from the burning of organic substances, such as coal, gasoline and wood; they also form when meats are cooked using “high-temperature methods,” such as panfrying or grilling, according to the National Cancer Institute. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked with an increased risk of certain cancers.

But most previous studies have focused on exposure to PAHs through food or the air, rather than through the skin.

The new study, however, found that during grilling, people absorbed higher amounts of PAHs through their skin than through the air, the researchers said. Still, the greatest levels of exposure to PAHs occurred through eating the barbecued meats, the researchers noted. [9 Disgusting Things That the FDA Allows in Your Food]

It’s known that exposure to smoke can put people into contact with carcinogens, including PAHs, that can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled, said Dr. Kenneth Spaeth, chief of occupational and environmental medicine at Northwell Health in Great Neck, New York, who was not involved with the study. But barbecues probably don’t represent that great a risk for most people, he said.

In general, there’s no level of exposure to carcinogens that’s completely safe, although the lower a person’s exposure, the better, Spaeth said. However, most people probably don’t need to be overly worried about absorbing cancer-causing chemicals through their skin while attending a barbecue, if they don’t do this frequently.

“For the average person, it’s not likely to end up being a real major worry, since most people don’t engage in this activity all the time,” Spaeth told Live Science. But moderation is “prudent” when it comes to how much barbecue smoke people are exposed to and how often, and how much they eat meats cooked with these high-temperature methods, Spaeth said.

In the new study, the researchers looked at data from 20 men who attended a barbecue for 2.5 hours in Guangzhou, China. The participants were divided into three groups: One group ate barbecued meats and took no special precautions to avoid exposure to smoke through the air and through their skin; a second group didn’t eat any meat, but was exposed to the smoke through the air and through their skin; and a third group didn’t eat any meat and wore a special mask to prevent inhalation of smoke but was still exposed to smoke through their skin.

The researchers collected urine samples from the participants before and after the BBQ and also collected air samples during the BBQ, to analyze for PAHs. The scientists also calculated estimates of each participant’s uptake of PAHs through food, the air and their skin.

As the researchers expected, consuming the grilled meat was linked with the greatest level of PAH exposure. But the researchers estimated that absorption through the skin was the second-highest PAH-exposure route, followed by inhalation.

The study also found that people’s clothing may lower the amount of PAHs that are absorbed through the skin over the short term. But once clothing is saturated with smoke, the skin may absorb larger amounts of PAHs, and so the researchers recommend washing clothes soon after leaving the grilling area to reduce exposure.

Spaeth said he agreed that wearing clothes like long sleeves and long pants would be one way to reduce exposure to PAHs at a BBQ. In addition, the type of fuel a person uses can affect the amount of PAHs produced, with propane producing much lower doses of PAHs compared with charcoal, he said. Finally, barbecuing in a well-ventilated area, such as outdoors as opposed to inside a tent or confined area, could lower exposure to PAHs, Spaeth said.

The study was published today (May 23) in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Original article on Live Science.

Posted in Education, Environment, Health, International, Local, News, Opinions, Regional, Science/Technology0 Comments

WHO

Caribbean health ministers attending WHO Assembly

GENEVA, May 22, CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) health ministers are attending the 71st World Health Assembly here discussing various public health issues and its effects on the global population.

The assembly, which has brought together delegations from the 194 member-states of the World Health Organization (WHO) is taking place against the backdrop of a new outbreak of Ebola in central Africa.

WHODuring the Assembly, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) said a range of issues will be discussed including, WHO’s work-plan for the next five years.

“This plan will ultimately seek to save 29 million lives by 2023 through a series of strategic actions designed to support countries in achieving the health targets of the ([United Nations] Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” PAHO said.

The World Health Assembly will also discuss WHO’s role in health emergencies, polio, physical activity, vaccines, the global snakebite burden and rheumatic heart disease, among other issues.

PAHO said the Americas region will participate in the Assembly through their country delegations, as well as a delegation from PAHO, the regional office of WHO in the Americas, led by the director, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne.

The World Health Assembly is the supreme decision-making body of WHO.

We are transforming how we work to achieve our vision of a world in which health is a right for all. We are changing the way we do business… too many people are still dying of preventable diseases, too many people are being pushed into poverty to pay for health care out of their own pockets and too many people are unable to get the health services they need. This is unacceptable,” said WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“This is a pivotal health Assembly. On the occasion of WHO’s 70th anniversary, we are celebrating seven decades of public health progress that have added 25 years to global life expectancy, saved millions of children’s lives, and made huge inroads into eradicating deadly diseases such as smallpox and, soon, polio,” said Ghebreyesus, who is attending his first Assembly following his election last year.

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My Glendon Hospital Stay: A Good Experience

My Glendon Hospital Stay: A Good Experience

By Gracelyn Cassell

About a month ago, April 10th to be exact, I ended up at Glendon Hospital for emergency surgery.  I left four days later and friends are astounded when I say that I actually enjoyed the experience.  I’ve had medical issues for years but kept hoping that the new hospital would be in place before things came to a head.  That was not to be.

Glendon Hospital

So there I was on Tuesday evening April 10th, listening to the Nurse on duty in Casualty telephoning the many persons needed for my surgery.  As each person arrived, I quickly apologised for ruining plans for the evening.  I felt particularly bad that Dr. Braimah Kassim, who, after a full day of surgery, would not have the pleasure of a break. Everyone, however, hastened to reassure me that it was okay, it was all part of the job.  Blood had to be drawn for testing, x-rays taken and other unmentionables done in preparation. I discovered that my recent manicure/pedicure would present a problem for monitoring during the operation, so the polish had to be removed.  I must admit that being surrounded by seasoned nurses like Sister Noleen Meade, Nurse Anaesthetist Brenda Daley, and others who prepared me for theatre, actually helped me to relax.    

It is funny how in life we take so much for granted. Sister Icilda Stanley, a former schoolmate, took charge of my personal belongings, and I realise now that I would not have had that level of comfort in an overseas facility.  In fact, immediately after I was back on the ward just before 2 am on Wednesday April 11th, I noticed my bag waiting for me near to what would be my bed for the next several days.  My cell-phone was registering the concern of relatives and friends who needed to know how the operation had gone.

Fortunately, my brother Joseph, the first person I recognised once the anaesthesia wore off, and who I had instructed not to wait around, answered all of the queries. It was really nice to wake up and see him! He explained to me later that I was complaining about being hungry and in pain but I only remember being very calm and collected.  So, it’s good that he was there as a witness to the true state of affairs.  I do remember being offered a cup of bush-tea and that was like music to my ears.  I also received a pain injection and that was it. 

I slept soundly until late afternoon when, my youngest brother, Norman, came and without my knowing, took a photo of me which was sent to the family ‘whatsapp’ group.  They found that photo most reassuring but now seeing Kate Middleton all bright and glowing after giving birth to a third child, I realised that I should have included a make-up kit in my hospital bag!

However, the team that came to check on me the next day didn’t seem worried by my lack of makeup.  They explained what had transpired the night before and seemed happy to see me awake and in good spirits.  I shared a vague recollection that I might have been protesting at some point and they laughingly told me that when I was returned to the ward and placed in bed on my back, I made several attempts to roll on to my side complaining that “I always sleep on my side!”

I was placed on a liquid diet which I actually enjoyed because there were interesting items on the menu like arrowroot porridge which I had not had in years. The plantain porridge reminded me of my student days in Jamaica when I first savoured banana porridge prepared with coconut milk.  In fact, once I was allowed to move to a more solid diet, I actually refused to leave the hospital when Dr. Kassim gave the all clear for me to be discharged on the Friday.  I told him that the menu on Saturday was far too interesting to be missed.  So I went home after supper the following evening.  Little did I know that a hot meal was waiting there for me!

My fears about the post-crisis, makeshift hospital which has no private ward were not realised.  I always felt that noise and light would prevent me from resting but I had the best sleep that I had enjoyed in years and many visitors kept saying that I didn’t look like someone who had undergone surgery.  Once I got home, however, I was thrown off schedule with both rest and medication because I’ve never really liked alarms!  I actually missed having the nurses wake me up when it was time for meds.  And of course, at home, you end up doing all kinds of things which get in the way of sleep or taking meds!

But I can hear you asking – How was this a good experience?  First of all, I am deeply appreciative of all that was done by doctors and staff to facilitate my surgery and make my stay comfortable. They work daily with many challenges. I am impressed that the team includes nutritionists who have incorporated local produce and traditional dishes on the menu.  This assures me that once there is cheaper electricity, if the geothermal project ever comes on stream, there are people who will ensure that the many many seasonal fruits and vegetables that now go to waste, will be put to good use.  I also feel strongly that the proposed hospital plan, developed with the input of this dedicated staff, will be the best for Montserrat. I sincerely hope that someone will dust it off and make the business case for its implementation.  Medical tourism could certainly provide an income stream since I am sure others would love to have my experience.

I was really touched by the many persons near and far, friends and family, who went out of their way to demonstrate their love and caring during my hospital stay and after. I had all kinds of offers: to do my laundry, prepare meals for me, get me fruits, coconut water and jelly, do my shopping and more. This outpouring of support also contributed to my very positive experience.  To be honest, I am trying to resist the temptation to prolong the recovery period.  My sincere thanks to all and kudos to the staff at Glendon! 

Gracelyn Cassell
Head
The University of the West Indies
Open Campus Montserrat

Posted in Columns, Features, General, Health, Letters, Opinions0 Comments

crimmee

Secondary school student in brutal attack on mother

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Apr 20, CMC –Education Minister Anthony Garcia said that the necessary resources and experts from the Student Support Services Division of the Ministry of Education will be sent to a secondary school, south of here, after a student is reported to have severely injured his mother in a fit of rage over school work earlier this week.

crimmeeGarcia said that the Ministry had received a report regarding the incident in which the 15-year-old Presentation College student allegedly chopped his mother almost severing one of her arms, and also inflicting multiple wounds to her head, chest and arms.

The student has since been taken into police custody following the incident on Wednesday night.

Police said that the woman had been found at the house by her husband on his return from work on Thursday and that the student had been found in a nearby village after fleeing the house.

The mother has since undergone emergency and the Head of Central Division, Senior Superintendent,  Inraj Balram described the incident as very disturbing.

“It is appalling for a 15-year-old who is attending a prestigious school to resort to that kind of violence against his own mother. I am pleading with people who have troubled children to seek counselling for them,” Balram is quoted in the Friday edition of the Trinidad Guardian newspaper.

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marijuuu

Former health minister renews call for decriminalising marijuana

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Apr 20, CMC – Former health minister Dr. Fuad khan Friday renewed his call for the decriminalisation of marijuana for medical purposes.

“Trinidad and Tobago needs to join the march towards decriminalization of marijuana, particularly for medical use” Dr. Khan, an opposition legislator, said in a statement in which he noted that as of this year several countries including Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, India, Israel, Jamaica, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Uruguay, and some U.S. jurisdictions, had done so.

marijuuuThe global community is Friday observing International Day of Cannabis, commonly referred to as “420’ and Dr. Khan said “on the occasion of 420, I once again renew my call for the decriminalization of the use of marijuana”.

The opposition legislator, a medical practitioner, said that in his contribution to the budget debate last year “ I pointed out the many benefits to the economy by legalizing marijuana, its medical uses and the need to desist from criminalizing young men in particular for using small amounts.
“ I went to great lengths to show the benefits but the current government has constantly ignored all calls for changes to the law. Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley when asked about the legalization of marijuana in 2015 said that while the issue might be “fashionable” at the moment, it isn’t a priority for his government.”

Dr. Khan said that the government’s “continuing failure to broach matters of national importance has become a serious drawback when it comes to our society evolving based on science, pragmatism and common sense.”.

He said Trinidad and Tobago has some of the highest rates of cancer, hypertension and diabetes in the region and if marijuana licences are granted, the country can begin to benefit from the positive medical benefits.
“Patients with epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome and other conditions will be able to have access to legal marijuana, not having the added burden of trying to evade law enforcement,” Khan said, noting that while the debate continues on the efficacy of medical marijuana, several major research have been undertaken to understand the positive effects of the marijuana.

He quoted the findings of several research studies on the issue insisting that Trinidad and Tobago must move swiftly to separate marijuana from the very real and dangerous illegal drug trade and allow the people who use it as medicine to do so without being incarcerated.

“Marijuana smokers are not second class citizens. Adults have the legal right to consume alcohol, tobacco and other legal drugs but are criminalized if they choose marijuana, a natural herb. That is neither reasonable nor fair,” Dr. Khan added.

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Michael-Peyrefitte

Belize Attorney General has advice for United States on drug problems

BELMOPAN, Belize, Apr 20, CMC –Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte has a few words of advice for the United States, particularly as it relates to dealing with its drug problem.

“I have …said that the US also needs to work on their demand, maybe if they will stop using so much drugs, we wouldn’t be selling any, according to them,” Peyrefitte told television viewers here on Thursday night after acknowledging that he had now fully read the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released by the US State Department late last month.

Michael-Peyrefitte
Michael Peyrefitte

In the report, Washington named four Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries as major illicit drug-producing countries. It noted that the Bahamas, Belize, Haiti and Jamaica were also major drug-transit countries.

According to Washington, a major illicit drug-producing country is one in which 1,000 hectares or more of illicit opium poppy is cultivated or harvested during a year; 1,000 hectares or more of illicit coca is cultivated or harvested during a year; or 5,000 hectares or more of illicit cannabis is cultivated or harvested during a year.

But Peyrefitte said that the United States has ‘not presented to us any evidence why is it they believe that.

“It’s based on what? Based on what they are saying we are a major transshipment point of drugs? We don’t have any information from them as to what is the foundation of that analysis. They don’t share any information with us.

‘If they know, if the US knows who is bringing drugs into Belize, then let us know and we will arrest those people because drugs are illegal. So, what information do they have that they are not telling us about? We don’t know.

“But like I said, that is their opinion. It is a black eye, yes, because they are an elephant and we are a flea in world politics and geo-politics. But at the same time I think it is very unfair and very cowardly that you would pass a judgment like that on Belize without any evidence to show on what based that opinion on,” the Attorney General said.

He said that the Dean Barrow government has daily contact with Washington but that “they tend to want information but don’t give information.

“As long as we are not treated equally or operate on an equal footing, then what can we do? All we can do is to try and fight crime the best that we can.
“If there is an illegal activity, we go to stomp it out and we bring the people to court, they have their day in court and the justice systems decides. But until then, I do not accept any other country’s assessment on my country without at least trying to do some good with that assessment,” Peyrefitte added.

Several other Caribbean countries have also disputed the US report.

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disability

Four Caribbean countries to benefit from CDB project to aid disability community

 
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Mar 23, CMC – Four Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries will benefit from a project aimed at providing reliable data to inform and strengthen their programming targeting the disabled community.

The CDB said that its board of directors had approved the project to support disability assessments in Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

disability“Under the project, these countries will benefit from workshops designed to train participants in the conduct of disability assessments, disseminate assessment findings and obtain feedback on those findings, and discuss strategies for more effectively addressing disability in the region,” the bank said.

“We know that persons with disabilities continue to face stigma, discrimination and exclusion, and are vulnerable to poverty, despite their ability to function in the society and the economy.

“It is therefore imperative that we invest in creating enabling environments for disabled persons, in order to reduce these vulnerabilities and advance multidimensional progress in the Region,” said Daniel Best, CDB Director of Projects.

He said this developmental focus forms an important part of fulfilling regional and national commitments, and is a critical linchpin of the ‘no one left behind’ principle that underpins the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

People with Disabilities (PWDs) as defined in Article 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disibilities, include “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments, which, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”

The CDB said that these barriers include inaccessible infrastructure, inaccessible communication, limited reasonable accommodation and assistive aides, stereotypes, and weak enforcement of treaty, legislative and policy commitments.

CDB said through the disability assessment project, seeks to minimise these barriers by addressing disability data deficits in the region.

The region’s premier financial institution said it aims to achieve this by providing robust disability data in social, economic and political domains; examining the differential impact of disability and its intersection with other vulnerabilities associated with sex, age cohort, – children, youth, elderly and working age), ethnicity, and race (as relevant – and identifying constraints and enablers to equal participation of PWDs compared with persons without disabilities in growth sectors of the formal and informal economy.

In addition, it will also be examining vulnerabilities to natural disasters, economic shocks and climate change.

The first phase of the intervention is scheduled to commence in 2018 and is expected to be implemented over a 30-month period. The findings of the assessments will enable CDB to develop more targeted evidence-based projects and knowledge products and services to support disability mainstreaming in the Region, and will identify opportunities for development cooperation between CDB, its BMCs and other development partners.

The CDB said that the other countries in the Caribbean will benefit under a subsequent phase of the project.

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Hon Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Health, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

National AIDS programme managers, civil society leaders and development partners commit…

 

 

 …to support country ownership for HIV response sustainability  – stakeholders call for more attention to be paid to vulnerable groups in the context of declining external support

Hon Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Health, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana)     The Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), the mechanism that provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic, concluded the Sixth Meeting of National AIDS Programme (NAP) Managers and Key Partners in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday, 14 March 2018. The meeting came two years ahead of the 2020 deadline for reaching the 90-90-90 targets—90% of people living with HIV diagnosed, 90% of diagnosed people on treatment and 90% of those on treatment virally suppressed.
 
The forum opened on Monday March 12 with a Feature Address by the Honourable Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Health, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Minister Deyalsingh noted that in light of reduced technical and financial support from international partners, the region must collectively mobilize domestic resources especially for the support of prevention and the elimination of HIV-related stigma and discrimination among key and vulnerable populations.
 
These sentiments were echoed by the participants including National AIDS Programme (NAP) Managers, Chief Medical Officers, Permanent Secretaries, development, and implementing partners, including civil society organizations that work with people living with HIV and key population groups and youth.  
 
In closing remarks, Dr. Nikkiah Forbes, Director, National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Diseases Programme at the Bahamas Ministry of Health, proposed integration of HIV care into other healthcare services in order to assure sustainability of the HIV response.  She highlighted that participants recognized integration as one potential solution for improving the accessibility of health services and suggested that it could help countries meet the demand for increased HIV-related treatment, care and support services in the context of scaling up to “Treat All”. (“Treat All” involves offering treatment to all people diagnosed with HIV regardless of CD4 count.)    
 
“Caribbean countries are diverse and integration will need to be tailored for each country context,” stated Dr Forbes, “HIV should never have been completely separated from the health agenda and synergies need to be fostered with sexual reproductive health services”.
 
She further stated that integration requires healthcare worker training on “Treat All” as well as the meaningful and sustained involvement of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). For example, there should be leadership and inclusion of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and key populations on the prevention, treatment and care needs of their communities.  Dr. Forbes noted that there should be a focus on quality of care, with steps taken to ensure that members of key populations can access sexual and reproductive health services including HIV and AIDS prevention. 
 
She posited that to achieve integration the region should conduct south-to-south collaborations and draw on regional expertise for training healthcare workers on the front-line response.   
 
Dr Forbes emphasized the integral role of civil society organizations, “CSOs we have not forgotten you”, she stated. “You must be placed and supported in the planning and implementation process which only strengthens the argument for the need for social contracting and crystalizing this in policy.  This is how we will sustain the regional response”.  
 
She concluded with an urgent plea for heightened government involvement in funding the HIV response. She advocated that governments need to own the HIV response and in owning it, they need to make the investments needed to reach the prevention, testing and treatment targets that will set the region on course to end AIDS by 2030.
 
“I make a respectful but urgent plea to our governments to commit to, as well as finance, their National and Regional AIDS response”, stated Dr Forbes. “Without an urgent strategy to sustain the response we risk leaving many vulnerable groups behind and undoing the gains we have made in reducing HIV transmission”.  
 
 

 

 

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Mott McDonald

De Ole Dawg – Part 1: 2018 – What are Montserrat’s Economic realities, challenges and opportunities?

How can we build on the research published in the December 15, 2017 Mott-MacDonald Draft Economic Growth Strategy document?

BRADES, Montserrat – As we all know, Montserrat’s economy took a very hard blow from the volcano disaster. That was multiplied by gaps and delays in emergency management response and the resulting loss of 2/3 of our population. We also lost access to 2/3 of our land, much of our key infrastructure and therefore a big slice of our productive capacity. So, if 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:

This table tells our economic story by making a comparison between our economy in 1994 and in 2016, with a telling side-light from the Antigua Economy:

  • Our economy (in “real” terms) as indicated by Gross Domestic Product (GDP)[2] is just over half as big as it was on the eve of the volcano disaster.
  • Apart from Finance and Transport, the private sector collapsed well beyond the 50% or so that would imply just a scaling down; in some sectors it is less than 20% of what it was.
  • The structure of our economy has clearly changed drastically, due to a dramatic collapse of key productive sectors.[3]
  • It has stayed there for many years because of a want of investor confidence and lack of key growth-enabling infrastructure that we are still fighting to put in place over twenty years later.
  • The public sector has more than doubled as a percent of our economy, moving from 19.3% in 1994 to 45.8% in 2016. (This reflects the impact of the annual UK grants under the legally binding UN Charter Article 73 obligation to “ensure . . . advancement” and to “promote . . . development.” As the 2012 FCO OT’s White Paper shows, this is the main reason for the longstanding UK policy that “reasonable assistance needs” of OT’s have “a first call” on the UK’s International Development Budget. [Cf. pp. 13 and 17.])
  • 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 same level of public sector to being 20% of our economy in 20 years, our economy would have to more than double, from EC$153 millions to EC$ 350 millions.
  • A compound interest calculation (yes, CXC Maths is good enough) will show 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]
  • A comparison with Antigua and Barbuda will show that on a per person (“per capita”) basis, our average income has increased by 13%. However, while in 1994 we were at 105% of the Antigua figure, by 2016 we fell to 98% of the increased Antigua figure. (As, Antigua’s GDP/Capita rose by 21% in the same twenty-two years whilst ours rose by only 13%.)
  • this strongly suggests that DfID has had a basic yardstick for annual support under “reasonable assistance needs,” keeping us on a comparable level to Antigua.
  • DfID Ministers and Officers have also repeatedly made it clear that unless they see sound proposals, credible capacity and sound governance reforms (including of financial management) they will not have good reason to invest in major infrastructure projects.
  • This brings us back to the need for a charter of good governance working with a development partnership memorandum of Understanding that will lay out how we are going to move ahead together.

With that in hand, let us briefly look at a modified SWOT table from the Mott-MacDonald study:

Glorified common sense, almost a no-brainer once we see the sort of data we now have in hand. Any economic development framework going forward must reckon with these issues and opportunities. That means we have a basis for national consensus, so let us now move forward together. 

[1]           See GoM: http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Growth-Strategy-Delivery-Plan-2017-DRAFT-.pdf

[2]           See Investopedia: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/gdp.asp

[3]           See TMR reference resource:  https://ia902707.us.archive.org/11/items/EconomicsForDummies_/EconomicsForDummies.pdf

[4]           See TMR, DoD: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/22132-2/

[5]           See TMR, DoD: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part10-contribution/

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