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Inadequate response to Ebola should not be repeated with chickungunya
Published: 
Thursday, November 27, 2014

The good news is that a prophylactic vaccine against chickungunya, developed by the Austrian biotech company Themis Bioscience GmbH, is reported to induce a significant neutralising immune response to the disease and is confirmed as safe.

The not so good news is two-fold: first, none of the major health authorities of the world have yet endorsed the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine; and second, even if the vaccine is validated, it might be some time before it is produced in sufficient quantities and at a price that could make it available to regions of the world where chikungunya is a growing problem.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes chikungunya as: “a viral disease (genus Alphavirus) which is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes, including Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. The name chikungunya originates from a verb in the Kimakonde language, meaning “to become contorted.” This refers to the stooped appearance of those suffering with joint pain.”

Since late 2013, chikungunya has become a serious problem in the Americas with more than 780,000 reported cases to date. It has spread rapidly through the Caribbean islands creating problems for the economies of these small states as the operations of small and medium-sized business are adversely affected by illnesses amongst key workers. 

The economic problem is worsened by reports in the international media that tourists in the Caribbean “are being struck down by a debilitating and potentially deadly virus carried by mosquitoes.” That scary language and the naming of several Caribbean countries, based entirely on unofficial sources, are likely to have a deleterious effect on tourism which is the mainstay of the majority of the economies.

In any event, Caribbean governments should be doing all in their power to arrest the spread of the disease in the interest of the health of their local populations and to protect their fragile tourism industries. 

All of them are trying to do so with the limited financial resources they have, particularly at a time of a protracted economic downturn following the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. 

The private sector in the region also has to become involved in tackling the problem. Businesses have much to lose if chickungunya debilitates their workforce and frightens away tourists. In this connection, a point made by Dr Isabelle Nuttall, the director of global capacities, alert and response at the WHO, is instructive. 

She observes that: “The key to stopping the international spread of this disease is global vigilance.” That same observation is valid in the domestic context where the key to stopping the spread of the disease should be local vigilance. 

Part of that vigilance should be a meaningful contribution by the private sector to a joint fund with governments to combat chickungunya. It is a special problem requiring special action.

Vigilance also requires education about the problem at a mass level. Denying the existence of the disease or playing-down the number of people it has affected is unhelpful to educating the public about the measures that each person should put in place to protect themselves, help contain the spread of the disease and eradicate the mosquito carriers.

If the problem intensifies hemispheric and international organisations should step-up to help deal with it before it becomes graver than it is, placing heavier burdens on already over-stretched budgets. 

It is noteworthy that the problem of Ebola in Sierra Leone especially is getting worse not better. 

The WHO has reported that Sierra Leone confirmed 533 new cases in the week up to November 16, with 63 deaths in five days between November 14 and 19. In part, this is due to the poor response of the international community, mainly the rich countries, when the disease erupted in West Africa. A delayed response, allowed Ebola to take root and to spread in poor and built-up areas. And, the international response occurred only after it became clear that the disease could penetrate the best erected customs and immigration barriers of every country. 

The WHO says 5,420 people have died of Ebola in eight countries out of 15,145 cases of infection since December 2013. But while this figure is alarming, it is small in relation to the almost 5,000 persons a week, mostly children in poor countries, who die from diseases like malaria.

The capacity for diseases, such as malaria, chickungunya and dengue fever, to spread is far greater than Ebola. These diseases are undetected global travellers, and once landed they become national residents. The current figure of 780,000 reported cases of chickungunya in the Americas is more than likely to rise, unless every country implements the measures necessary to eradicate the mosquito carriers. For the smaller and less resourced countries to act effectively they will need both a comprehensive national effort and international support in the form of money and technical support.

In the words of the WHO’s Dr Nuttal: “If the world wants global security, we have to work together to ensure poor countries have stronger health systems, including early warning systems to report outbreaks earlier.”

But, the experience with Ebola is not encouraging. The leaders of the G20 met in Australia in mid-November just days before a date set by the UN for commitments to combat the dreaded disease. 

At first, Ebola was not even on the agenda for discussion. Only intense pressure from representatives of civil society in major countries caused it to be included at the last minute. But the separate statement on Ebola issued by the leaders was long on encouraging words with no specifics of sums of money or dates for delivery. 

Developing countries in the Americas, particularly the small states of the Caribbean, cannot afford to wait for an unmanageable emergency to seek international help. 

While intensifying their own national efforts to cope with the predicament of chickungunya and dengue fever, which has affected people whose numbers are the equivalent of the entire population of Guyana or the combined inhabitants of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts-Nevis, Dominica, St Lucia, Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines, they should also make the case to the international institutions for the resources needed now to prevent a crisis.

Invest in a new venture
How to decide…
Published: 
Thursday, November 27, 2014

To do, or not to do; that is the question. Business leaders get paid big bucks to make smart, informed decisions about whether or not to take the plunge on a potential venture, yet there is no science or advice anyone can offer that will help new entrepreneurs to make similar choices.

Such decisions could never be programmed into a computer. It’s more like sitting on a jury: All reasonable doubt must be removed before you can pass a verdict one way or the other. (Thankfully, though, corporate decisions seldom involve matters of life and death!) That said, I have found that a few general rules often help me to arrive at a decision within the appropriate timeframe about whether to approve a project.

For me, first impressions always matter a great deal, but I don’t let that thought process influence my decision-making when it comes to business matters. I’ve learned that even when an idea immediately strikes you as a really good one, you must push aside that first reaction and carefully and objectively weigh the potential new business’s pros and cons. If no significant cons come to mind when you first evaluate an idea, that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Almost every startup encounters unforeseen problems, so be sure to devote a lot of time to figuring out what they are and assessing solutions before you move forward; if you learn of a major problem after the launch, you’ll be in a much worse position to deal with it.

This kind of caution becomes doubly important if everyone on your team is unanimously in favor of going ahead with a project. No idea is perfect, so be on your guard and work hard at exposing the hidden problem areas. 

Find and address them, and you’ll only build a better business. Avoid making a decision in isolation about whether to launch a venture: You must also consider how the project will affect the overall functioning of your company. Every choice you make as an entrepreneur will impact, to some degree, your ability to explore future opportunities; this is what the experts call the “decision stream.”

You might feel that the venture you’re considering might be too good to pass up, but you have to keep in mind how it will affect your other projects down the road. If it appears that now is not be the best time to move forward, consider what risks, if any, there would be in putting the venture on hold for an agreed-upon length of time. In those situations where you cannot take on a project because another is waiting in the wings, think about why one should get the nod and the other not, and what that says about your priorities.

Finally, do everything you can to limit your exposure to risk; protect the downside. Wise investors go to great lengths to limit their potential losses when it comes to stock portfolios, and you should employ a similar strategy when setting up a new business.

For example, when I was starting up Virgin Atlantic, the only way I got my business partners at Virgin Records to begrudgingly accept the risks involved in running a new airline was by getting Boeing to agree to buy back our 747 airliner after a year if things didn’t work out as we’d hoped. Ever since then, whenever we are looking into starting up a giant, capital-intensive venture like Virgin Galactic or our upcoming Virgin Cruises, our team always spends a lot of time finding inventive ways to protect the downside.

These are just a few tips that I have used to help me make smart business decisions, and I hope that they will help you too. A final hint: If you have the time to take an approach that involves orchestrated procrastination, then do so. Doing more homework on a project is seldom a bad thing; as long as you don’t let the opportunity pass you by!

(This column was adapted from Richard Branson’s latest book, “The Virgin Way.” For more information, go to virgin.com/richardbranson/books.)

(Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at www.virgin.com/richard-branson/blog. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn more about the Virgin Group: www.virgin.com.)

(Questions from readers will be answered in future columns. Please send them to RichardBranson@nytimes.com. Please include your name, country, e-mail address and the name of the Web site or publication where you read the column.)

Ambassador Jose Maria Fernandez Lopez de Turiso: Building on Spain’s history with T&T
Published: 
Thursday, November 27, 2014

The declining international oil price as predicted by the International Energy Agency, is not an obstacle for Spain said 51-year-old Jose Maria Fernandez Lopez de Turiso, Spain’s ambassador to T&T. The Ambassador who took up his appointment in November 2013, said Spain wants to deepen its footprint in T&T’s energy sector and can provide services in renewable energy to support T&T’s energy sector. 

Trade volumes between Latin American countries and Spain is euro €131 billion but Spain is not satisfied and wants more. Lopez de Turiso said trade volumes between T&T and Spain need to increase first, then it can increase volumes in the Latam and OECS countries including the United States. 

The ambassador’s statement comes on the heels of a courtesy call made in mid-November, to T&T’s Trade Minister Vasant Bharath, in which the ambassador signalled Spain was ready to do business. Business Guardian spoke to Lopez de Turiso on November 20, 2014 at the embassy’s Tatil building, Maraval Road headquarters to find out what strategies are going to be adopted to deepen trade between the two countries. Already a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed so Spain can obtain funding to provide renewable energy to T&T and then its neighbours, said Lopez de Turiso.

“The European Union, Spain and the Inter-American Development bank, we signed an MoU so as to promote the use of renewable energy in the Caribbean region. We know that T&T does not have an energy problem because it’s an oil and gas producer. But sooner or later the use of renewable energy should be more intense because of international commitments, may be oil reserves would start diminishing.” 

“Every country in the world is paying attention to the development of renewable energy, we have an interest in helping T&T develop that. There is a commitment from Spain within the international community partnering with the EU and the IDB. We are going to pool resources so as to finance projects in the area of renewable energy, not only in T&T but in the rest of the Caribbean.”

He added T&T and Spain would not only share expertise in renewable energy but would develop projects in this area. He could not disclose the final amount of funding which was granted through the MoU.

The business environment

Before investors set up a business, they investigate the level of bureaucracy in the targeted country. In T&T, there have been improvements as stated by the World bank in the Ease of Doing Business report released in October. The report ranked T&T at 79 and its Caribbean counterpart Jamaica, at 58. Commenting, Lopez de Turiso said he was satisfied that T&T had improved in the report. 

“Any investor who wants to come here in T&T would find that energy is relatively cheap. For the moment, I think this (ranking) is a tremendous achievement. I think there are many investments (to be made) in T&T, (but have not been made), not because of the red tape involved but may be because of a lack of tradition of doing business with T&T.”

“Spain has been doing a lot of business with the LAC countries we still are the second largest investors in Latin America after the US. Taking into account our companies are in every sector in Latin America - in banking, water and sanitation, in energy, civil construction, maritime and others, our companies have been working in Latin American countries.”

He added trends have shown that T&T has traditionally “maintained its regular trade partners like: Canada, United States and some in Europe but not much. There is no tradition of doing business between Spain and T&T. This is something I would like to reconfigure. People in Spain have not been looking carefully to T&T, I think it is because of the lack of information.” 

Asked whether he believed the difference in language was a barrier to trade, he said most business people in Spain speak both English and Spanish and therefore that was not a factor.

Grading T&T’s labour force as “good” the ambassador said, the labour force is “prepared” and is not terribly expensive. Frequent protesting by members of the labour force does not pose a problem for Spanish investors, as its not unusual for that to happen.

While there is no direct flight between T&T and Spain, movement between the two countries involves departure from T&T to London and then connecting there, with Spain as the final destination. The entire journey is about seven hours.

“I haven’t heard of a direct flight between Madrid and Port-of-Spain. The idea was suggested. We have a group of carriers in Spain, those are private companies so if there is a market for that, they should have a look at the figures and see if there is a possibility. I think it would be a good idea taking advantage of the opportunity to attend the Tourism fair to meet with the airlines, may be to tell them about the T&T market and how it can be lucrative. It would then be up to those companies to decide if its worth it in terms of economic viability or not.”

Regarding visas to travel between the destinations, he said Spain is “pressing hard” to get a visa waiver so T&T nationals can go to Spain and other parts of Europe without a visa. He added that T&T and Spain are partners and therefore T&T nationals should be able to visit Spain “hassle free.”

“We have been working on that. There was a delegation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that has been to Brussels and held technical meetings on November 12. It is a full process to waive the visa requirements for citizens of T&T. We expect this agreement is to be concluded soon, maybe the beginning of next year citizens of T&T can go to Spain without a visa.”

On November 7, 2012 the European Commission announced in a statement that T&T nationals would be able to travel to 29 countries in Europe without a visa for up to 90 days. The EU had stated that T&T was among 16 nations whose citizens would benefit from the elimination of visas now needed to travel to 26 members of the Schengen area, plus three European countries that are not as yet full Schengen members. The EU stated: ““The move is aimed at simplifying travel to the Schengen area, as well as to Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania. A national from one of these countries would no longer require a visa for short stays (up to 90 days) if he/she is in possession of a passport, be it for business, touristic or family visit purposes.” 

Concerning the granting of French visas, according to the Spanish embassy, from July 1, any citizen of T&T who is travelling to France should request their visa through the Spanish embassy in Tatil building, 7th floor. The French visa is handled the same way as a Spanish visa since the same documents are needed for processing the visa to both destinations. 

Bilateral relations

Referring specifically to the visit of T&T’s Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran to Spain in December 9, 2013 he said it was an opportunity to discover how the two nations can further support each other’s economies. The ambassador said Dookeran was able to get a firsthand look at what Spain can offer T&T. He suggested a good political partnership and solid economic relations. The ambassador added that Spain has excellent relations with all the LAC countries therefore it can assist T&T to further develop its political ties with those countries.

Just 11 months on the job, the ambassador said his vision is to increase bilateral ties between T&T and Spain politically, economically and culturally. “I have been specifically tasked with the idea to propose exchanges between the two countries.”

Confident about T&T, he added that T&T has a solid foreign policy and is the leading economy in the Caribbean. “we are very much interested in working with T&T in the promotion of certain agenda items that are of interest to T&T and Spain.” He said Spain is supporting T&T in its effort to be the secretariat of the Arms Treaty.

Tourism 

T&T should partner with Spain to market destination T&T. He said it makes no sense having a good product and no one knows about it.

“The world should know about the potential of T&T, as a place for doing business and for leisure. In the case of Spain, T&T is not a well known destination and this is why we are partnering with the Minister of Tourism. I thought it might be a very good idea to use Fitur which is the second largest tourism fair in the world, may be as a platform for a marketing effort so as to convey a certain image of T&T as a tourism destination. It is important that people associate T&T not only to oil and gas, but that they can explore possibilities of other interests, like tourism for instance, the possibilities are enormous.”

Spainish Ambassador to T&T, Jose Maria Fernandez Lopez de Turiso PHOTO BY Clyde Lewis
Ambassador Nikolay Smirnov: T&T, Russia trade small but growing
Published: 
Thursday, November 27, 2014

The current trade between T&T and Russia is still small but it is growing, says Nikolay Smirnov, Russian Ambassador to T&T. Smirnov has a slew of plans that will see relations grow between both countries in the area of trade, aviation and tourism.

“Concerning bilateral relations between Russia and T&T, people may know that diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on June 6, 1974. Taking into account the vast distance between two countries there is not much of bilateral trade. For the first half year of the current year, export from Russia to T&T equalled US$154,000. T&T mainly exports bituminous materials, mineral wax, ferrous metal. Russia imports cacao beans, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, vinegar, some pharmaceutical and medical products which in total came to US$82,000,” he told the Business Guardian via an e-mailed statement last Friday.

Smirnov was also a guest speaker at a public lecture at the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies (UWI) two Fridays ago.

He is a non-resident ambassador to T&T, Barbados, Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines and began his career as a diplomat in the then Soviet Union during the 1970s.

The Russian Embassy for the southern Caribbean is based in Guyana.

Today, Russia is part of the “BRICS” group of emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, some of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies.

Geo-politically, Russia is also reasserting itself for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Within this context, Russia is seeking new trade and allies in the Latin American and Caribbean region and Russian President Vladimir Putin was part of the 6th BRICS Summit in Brazil in July.

Although shunned by Western leaders who have imposed sanctions on the Russian economy over the problems in Ukraine, Putin was warmly welcomed by BRICS and regional leaders.

To facilitate economic and commercial ties between Russia and T&T, Smirnov said Russia has an Honorary Consul of Russia in T&T, who is David Dulal-Whiteway, the managing director of Republic Bank. 

“Soon we will finalise the process of appointing an Honorary Consul of T&T to Russia. Both of them will hopefully promote economic co-operation and cultural ties between T&T and the Russian Federation. There are Russian professors working in UWI.”

T&T and BRICS

Smirnov noted that T&T is diversifying its trading patterns away form traditional North American and European ties to the BRICS countries.

He pointed out that the vibrant BRICS economies have already laid the foundation for a new development bank, which some argue will one day rival the US dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

“T&T is developing its relations with China and other countries of BRICS. At the last BRICS summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, the group of emerging economies signed the long-anticipated document to create the US$100 billion BRICS Development Bank and a reserve currency pool worth over another US$100 billion.”

He wants to see closer co-operation among T&T and the Caricom region and Russia and the BRICS countries.

“In the upcoming 2015, Russia will be host of the next BRICS summit. We hope we will continue to cooperate with T&T and other Caricom countries.”

Energy

Information on the Ministry of Energy’s Web site (consolidated monthly bulletins of June 2014) indicates that Russia supplied Petrotrin with 2,163,514 barrels of crude oil between January and September, 2014, representing about 14.07 per cent of total imports for the nine-month period, which amounted to 15,372,415 barrels.

The data also reveal that Russia is the third largest supplier of crude to T&T in 2014 following Gabon (with 46.8 per cent or 7,109,870 barrels) and Colombia (with 16.2 per cent or 2,486,759 barrels). 

Smirnov said Russia, like T&T, is an oil and gas producing country.

In October, Bloomberg quoted Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine as saying he had halted oil purchases from Gabon which had been T&T’s only African supplier of crude oil for the past 20 months. 

This followed the refusal by Petrotrin workers, represented by the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), to offload the MV Overseas Yellowstone which arrived from Gabon last week with half a billion dollars worth of oil. 

Ramnarine said Russia would continue to be one of the places that T&T would import oil from.

“We cooperate in the frame of Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) and support our candidatures in different international fora. Recently, the Minister of Energy Kevin Ramnarine visited Moscow to participate at World Petroleum Congress. He was leading a delegation from T&T,” Smirnov said.

Aviation

Smirnov is also hoping that Caribbean Airlines (CAL) purchases Russian-made passenger planes.

Speaking at UWI two weeks ago, he described some of CAL’s planes as “ageing” and said Russia would be happy to sell aircraft to the airline.

“We are proposing co-operation in the aviation sector. One of the major Russian aircraft companies, Sukhoi Aviation Company, has proposed selling a civil Superjet 100 to CAL. We already sell them to different countries, including Mexico.”

Media

In the area of the media, he wants the Caribbean region to follow the increasingly popular Russia Today (RT) news channel in English.

Over the last few years, many in the English-speaking world have diversified their news sources away from traditional US media and now RT has a global reach of over 700 million people in more than 100 countries.

“RT news covers the major issues of our times for viewers wishing to question more and deliver stories often missed by the mainstream media to create news with an edge. RT provides an alternative perspective on major global events, and acquaints an international audience with the Russian viewpoint.”

Tourism

Speaking at UWI two weeks ago, he said the next World Cup in Russia will give both countries a chance to develop ties in tourism.

“I hope that T&T is preparing to take part in the World Cup in Russia in 2018. We know that T&T has already taken part in one World Cup in the past and we will be happy to see not only the T&T football team but many T&T nationals as tourists in our country in 2018. Over five billion people all over the world look at the World Cup and this helps build bi-lateral ties between the two countries.”

Russian economy

The economy of Russia is a mixed economy with state ownership in strategic areas of the economy. Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 1.3 per cent in 2013 and Russia’s Economic Ministry estimates 0.5 per cent growth in 2014. 

Market reforms of the 1990s privatised much of Russian industry and agriculture, with notable exceptions in the energy and defence-related sectors. Abundance of natural resources, including oil, natural gas and precious metals, make up a major share of Russia’s exports. As of 2012, the oil and gas sector accounted for 16 per cent of the GDP 52 per cent of federal budget revenues and over 70 per cent of total exports.

It is still left to be seen how Western sanctions will affect Russia’s economy. On Monday, a BBC report indicated that Russia’s Finance Minister, Anton Siluanov said falling oil price is costing Russia up to US$100 billion a year, while Western sanctions have hit the country by US$40 billion.

Nikolay Smirnov, Russian Ambassador to T&T. Photo: Shirley Bahadur
Will mega merger mean growth in T&T’s GDP, jobs and productivity?
Published: 
Thursday, November 27, 2014
BG View

On Sunday, Cable & Wireless Communications and Columbus issued a fact sheet, which indicated that approval of the transaction would lead to a new company that would be able to offer customers new, world-class services such as:

• Blazing fast broadband at 100 Mbps along with fibre roll-outs and wider coverage 

• Anytime, anywhere, anything TV to your mobile

• New bundles that bring fixed and mobile together

• Improved mobile data experience

• Access to 300-plus channels in more markets along with 85 high-definition channels

The two companies also stated that “our shared infrastructure will drive jobs and growth in the region” and to support that proposition, they argued that an IDB study had indicated that a ten per cent growth in broadband penetration in the region is equal to 67,000 new jobs and a three per cent growth in GDP (gross domestic product). 

The study to which the companies referred is an Inter-American Development Bank report titled Socio-economic impact of broadband in Latin American and Caribbean countries. The paper was published in November 2012, its authors are Antonio García Zaballos and Rubén López-Rivas and it used data from 26 LAC countries, analysed year over year from 2003 to 2009. 

The paper argues that Latin America and the Caribbean is “characterised by low broadband penetration, costly Internet connection, low usage and sporadic adoption of mobile technology.” 

The authors presented an econometric model which shows that, in Latin America and the Caribbean, on average, a ten per cent higher broadband penetration is associated with 3.10 per cent higher GDP, 2.61 per cent higher productivity, and 67,016 new jobs.

“A complementary finding is that the higher the broadband penetration rate, the greater the multiplier effect of an additional increase of broadband on GDP, productivity, and employment,” according to the authors.

The report stated: “Our model, tested in different time frames, posits that, on average, a ten per cent increase in broadband penetration in 2005 was associated with a 1.34 per cent increase in GDP; in 2007, with a 2.29 per cent increase; and in 2009, with a 3.19 per cent increase. 

These findings corroborate that the greater the number of broadband subscriptions per capita a country has over time, the greater impact that an additional increase in the number of broadband subscriptions will have on that country’s GDP.

“However, the pace of GDP growth decreases over time, which implies that the impact of broadband on GDP will reach a saturation point at some point in time.”

When I read the paper on Monday, my immediate reaction to it was that a study that attempts to derive an average from countries as diverse as Belize, T&T and Brazil is going to be a little problematic. 

That’s because Belize has a current population of 331,900 people and a labour force of 130,717, T&T has a population of 1.3 million with a labour force of over 600,000 people while Brazil has a current population of 200 million and a labour force of over 100 million. 

It seemed to me that the impact of a ten per cent increase of broadband penetration in Belize, which has a GDP per capita of US$4,834.29, as of 2013, would be different to T&T with its per capita GDP of US$18,372,90 in 2013 and to Brazil, with its per capita GDP of US$11,208.08 in 2013.

Anxious to get some clarity on the issue, I reached out to one of the co-authors, Antonio García Zaballos, who is the telecommunications lead specialist (and leader of the broadband programme in the Capital Markets and Finance department of the IDB).

Garcia Zaballos said on Monday afternoon: “It is important to keep in mind that this paper is not showing causality….Rather than talking about causality, we are talking about co-relation.

“This implies that in those circumstances where the penetration rate has been increased by ten per cent, it happens to be that the GDP has increased by 3.2 per cent and the productivity by 2.6 per cent.

“This is showing co-relation in all the terms and circumstances. It does not matter whether it is the IDB, the World Bank or the International Telecommunications Union.

“But we cannot say that if a country invests in broadband infrastructure, it is going to have a direct impact on GDP. It is not as simple as that, otherwise the solution would be for countries to invest in broadband infrastructure.

“By corelation we mean that those countries where the penetration rate of broadband is increasing somehow correspond to countries where the GDP is increasing as well. If broadband increases, then the GDP is increasing as well, but the broadband increase does not cause the increase in GDP.

Asked how the average should be interpreted among the Caribbean members of the IDB, the telecommunications economist said: “In all the cases, we are talking about an average for the entire region. We did not do a specific exercise for each and every country. This is the average that we have observed in the 26 IDB members.”

Asked about the relevance of a 67,016 growth in employment and a 3.19 per cent growth in GDP in a Caribbean context, Garcia Zaballos said: “I understand your point that it may be that in the case of small islands of the Caribbean where the total population may be close to the stated increment in the paper’s employment rate. Here we are considering an average for countries the size of Brazil and the size of Haiti. We are not considering a weighted average.

“For the case of the Caribbean, I can tell you that there should be an effect and we can conduct the same study if we have access to that information from the Caribbean countries.”

The paper also indicated that the impact on job creation and GDP growth in higher-income countries would be less than in lower-income countries.

Garcia Zaballos said that assumption would pertain to the Caribbean for the following reasons: “Here we have what is known as economies of scale. If we are talking about a country that already has a high level of penetration of broadband service, the increment of a further ten per cent is not going to make such a difference. Moving from 40 per cent to 44 per cent penetration is not going to make such a big difference.

“However in those countries that are jumping from zero penetration to ten per cent, the impact would be greater taking into account that the digital economy is starting to move, creating economies of scale, thereby generating growth, jobs and increases in productivity.”

Just as a matter of interest, T&T had 230,000 fixed broadband subscriptions, as at the end of June 2014, and a penetration rate of 53 per cent. Both the total number of subscriptions and the penetration rate decreased by one per cent in June 2014, compared with June 2013.

The fixed broadband to consumer market in T&T is currently divided between Flow and TSTT (with Green Dot as a niche player), while the corporate fixed broadband market has a number of additional players, including Digicel, which has already started selling its fibre-to-business offering to business clients in T&T’s main urban areas.

If the merger is approved, it seems to me that the enlarged Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) will be the leading player in the fixed broadband to consumer market.

Will that position lead CWC to an attempt to drive fixed broadband penetration even further or does T&T’s income distribution create a ceiling for broadband penetration at this time?

Is there a correlation between higher broadband penetration and growth in T&T’s GDP, jobs and productivity? 

It might be helpful if regional regulators were to hire the IDB’s Antonio García Zaballos and his colleagues to conduct a study of the implications of the proposed mega merger on these issues.

Professional boxing continues Saturday
Published: 
Thursday, November 27, 2014

The success of the recent October 24 professional boxing card has sparked interest in several professional boxers who have now seen a glimmer of hope in the sport.

While there are a number of new professionals on the local scene, there are also those who have been training religiously and have been waiting for the opportunity to fulfill their dreams of becoming a champion.

One such young man is Joel McRae who will headline the November 29 card at the Cosmic Boxing Gym in Marabella, as he takes on Earl Niles in the Light Heavyweight (175lbs) category. After a successful contest in October against Selwyn Guy, McRae is hopeful that he will score another victory which will propel him towards a shot at the National Super Middleweight title next year. His opponent for the title bout is likely to be Nigel Edwards. Both men have good records and are seen as good prospects for the future.

The promoter of the event, Bharrath Ramoutar, head of Fine Line Fight Factory Promotions, is hopeful that the continuation of regular professional bouts will revive boxing and bring it to its truest potential.

Ramoutar said: “Last month’s card was somewhat difficult to promote with all confirmations happening almost last minute, but the success of it has truly given the boxing fraternity a lot of hope. The victory of Prince-Lee Isidore, capturing the WBC Cabofe Super Lightweight title has certainly encouraged trainers and boxers alike. Many boxers have been calling and asking for the chance to compete. We are now trying very hard to host a card at least once a month. Other promoters will also be promoting so I think the possibility of boxing reaching a high is very likely within the next year.”

There are also indications that a show-down between undefeated Denzil Salazar and the hard-hitting Kerston Manswell is very likely. Salazar defeated Kenneth Bishop a month ago and has said he is willing to take on Manswell for a national title.

The professional boxers are now training with a purpose and the many young men and women who have been waiting to turn professional will have the opportunity to grow and develop through the monthly promotions. The amateur boxers will also be showcased on the cards as they too will continue to hone their skills.

Events

Main Event

Joel McRae vs Earl Niles: Lt Heavy Wt (175 lbs)

Supporting Bouts

Nigel Edwards vs Agan Roberts: 

Super Middle Wt (168 lbs)

Selwyn Guy vs Sheldon Lawrence: 

Lt Heavy Wt (175 lbs)

Michael Maloney vs Duke Brooks (pro debut)

Amateur Bouts: To Be Announced 

No drug cheaters at UWI half marathon
Published: 
Thursday, November 27, 2014

Random drug testing was conducted at this year’s staging of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Sport and Physical Education Centre (SPEC) International half marathon and the findings will inspire the sporting fraternity, says Major David Benjamin, director of the programme.

Speaking at Tuesday’s awards ceremony held at UWI-SPEC’s Auditorium at the St Augustine Campus, Major Benjamin said, “For the first time in our event history, we conducted random drug testing, post event, and I am happy to report that all persons tested returned a negative result. For the first time the event saw a massive registration of 1,200 runners. 

“Three weeks before the event, it was sold out and we were inundated with call for a ‘squeeze in’ as we will say in local parlance or rather accommodated. 

“Twelve hundred runners, and persons were still knocking on the doors of our event—phenomenal.”

He added: “And, yes, we started on time. With military precision at 5.20 am, the wheelchair athletes started and then his Excellency President Anthony Carmona sounded the starter’s pistol at 5.30 am. 

“We have and are still receiving very positive feedback from this time adjustment and indeed this is here to stay.”

He said the inclusion of entertainment: steelpan, tassa and African drumming along the route was a good move. Major Benjamin said athletes have asked for it to remain.

He said he believed this feature helped the athletes maintain a good rhythm along the 13.1 mile event.

However, he said, the day’s event did not go off without hitches.

Major Benjamain said: “Everything did not go as flawless as we would have liked, but, it is said that the true strength of a man’s and woman’s character is not tested under normal circumstances, but it is when one faces adverse situations that call for immediate action and decision. I think that collectively the management team of the event accomplished that.”

Volunteers on the day received high praise, too. Had they asked for financial remuneration, said Major Benjamin, there would be no money to allocate prizes.

Having included categories for persons with disabilities over the years, Major Benjamin said his team learnt that did not necessarily include persons with physical disabilities.

“This year, we recognised the omission and invited Special Olympics to partner with us. Special Olympics (of T&T) cater for persons with Intellectual Disabilities. SOTT participated in a relay marathon,” he said.

Major Benjamin added: “Today is a celebration of the success of every one that competed and completed the 13.1 mile event. It is a celebration of your success. You have trained and committed many hours towards this pursuit of excellence, and for this, today you reap the rewards of your success. 

“But you have, I’m sure, learned many vital life lessons along this journey, the manifestation of your toughness, your mental agility and resilience and all traits, which I’m sure have been developed, if not enhanced along the journey,” he said.

Charles Spooner, 90, right, winner of the 80 and above category accepts his award from Cheridan Woodruffe, president, UWI Student Alumni.
BpTT Mayaro Netball League developing young talent
Published: 
Thursday, November 27, 2014

The bpTT Mayaro Netball League is creating a solid platform for the discovery and development of young talent in the sport.

This assertion was made by former national player Bridget Adams, who currently serves as the netball head coach for the University of T&T (UTT).

Adams, who hails from the south-east region, said: “The region has a lot of young talent and the Mayaro league gives young players an opportunity to develop and enhance their abilities. In fact, four of the players on the UTT team are from the Mayaro/Guayaguayare area. Overall, this is a wonderful opportunity and I hope that these young players make the most of it.”

Celebrating its 20th year, the Mayaro Netball League is organised by the Mayaro Netball Association and is sponsored by energy company bpTT. 

The league facilitates participation in march past, league, knock-out and round-robin competitions, where experienced and amateur players pit their skills against each other in providing growth for the sport as well as entertainment for the community, who gather at the Mayaro Indoor Sports Facility to support the games.

Matthew Pierre, bpTT’s community liaison officer, was proud of the accomplishments of the league: “This competition has grown to encompass teams from across the south-eastern region, and even others from as far as San Fernando and Toco.”

Lynette Duncan, Public Relations Officer of the T&T Netball Association urged players and officials to work together for the benefit of this national sport. “Our senior national team has been very successful over the years and the future of national netball success is in the hands of young people like those who play in this league. I look forward to seeing this league produce even more national players and I urge everyone involved to work hard toward that goal,” Duncan noted.

Mayaro Netball Association President, Allison Philbert-Acosta, expected the 2014 season to be extremely exciting and competitive, bolstered by the participation of top-notch teams from different parts of the country.

Teammates look on as players from the University of T&T and a Combined League team vie for the ball during an exhibition game during the 2014 bpTT Mayaro Netball League.
One bad move KOs challenger
Published: 
Thursday, November 27, 2014
DOUBLE ROOKS

Ordinary players may find Vishy Anand’s loss in the 11th game of his World Chess Championship match with Magnus Carlsen hard to understand. 

Clearly, sacrificing his rook for a bishop on move 27 was a fatal miscalculation, virtually handing the return match in Sochi to his celebrated rival. 

In this respect, however, the observation of GM Susan Polgar, world’s greatest female player, may be relevant. 

Before the game she tweeted: “99 point 99 per cent of fans at home can’t understand the amount of pressure Carlsen and Anand are going through right now. Very intense! I can tell you from experience playing in a WC match. So much pressure at this stage, no matter if you’re leading or trailing by one point.”

Polgar says a mouthful. But does it explain everything? After all, we are dealing with two of the world’s best, and therefore most experienced, players vying a second time for the world’s premier chess title. Pressure yes, but even ordinary players will tell you that’s an expected, if not inevitable, part of the game.

DR, however, hesitates to make a categorical judgment. He prefers instead to have the opinion of readers, and the experts, on the “value” of this controversial sacrifice. Here is the critical eleventh game with Anand playing Black: 1: e4 e5; 2: Nf3 Nc6; 3: Bb5 Nf6; 4: 0-0 Nxe4; 5: d4 Nd6; 6: Bxc6 dxc6; 7: dxe5 Nf5; 8: Qxd8+ Kxd8; 9: h3 Bd7; 10: Nc3 h6; 11: b3 Kc8; 12: Bb2 c5; 13: Rad1 b6; 14: Rfe1 Be6; 15: Nd5 g5; 16: c4 Kb7; 17: Kh2 a5; 18: a4 Ne7; 19: g4 Ng6; 20: Kg3 Be7; 21: Nd2 Rhd8; 22: Ne4 Bf8; 23: Nef5 b5; 24: Bc3 bxa4; 25: bxa4 Kc6; 26: Kf3 Rdb8; 27: Ke4 Rb4; 28: Bxb4 cxb4; 29: Nh5 Kb7; 30: f4 gxf4; 31: Nhxf4 Nxf4; 32: Nxf4 Bxc4; 33: Rd7 Ra6; 34: Nd5 Rc1; 35: Rxf7 Bc5; 36: Rxc7+ Rxc7; 37: Nxc7 Kc6; 38: Nb5 Bxb5; 39: axb5+ Kxb5; 40: e6 b3; 41: Kd3 Be7; 42: h4 a4; 43: g5 hxg5; 44: hxg5 a3; 45: Kc3 Resigns.

In a sense, the game is a genuine tragedy. At move 26 all the chess experts gave Anand a clear advantage. According to their consensus, if the challenger moved Be7, then it would be very difficult for the champion to take advantage.

At this point, Indian GM Ramesh announced, “Anand in the driver’s seat!” Polgar gave three “reasonable choices” - Be7, Bg7 or Rab8, with Be7 as the strongest. Instead, Anand chose to play Rab8. 

What followed, said commentators, was a major surprise: “When the whole world was expecting Anand to put his bishop to good use (Be7) and push Carlsen to his limits, he sacrificed his rook!” 

This one ill-considered move turned the game upside down. The champion saw the chance to end the challenge in game eleven and instinctively went for the kill. In his live commentary, Anand’s former trainer GM Pravopeen Thipsay noted: “Vishy has lost the initiative exchanging that powerful rook.” 

After the sacrifice, Polgar declared, “Anand went crazy.” He lost his patience and self destructed.

Later, at the press conference, Anan recounted move 27 as “a bad gamble,” probably a nervous decision. “I wasn’t thinking very clearly at this point,” he admitted.

In his turn, Carlsen considered the move a blunder. “I don’t think the sacrifice was justified,” he added.

In giving up his rook for the bishop, Anand’s plan was obvious but inaccurately conceived. He hoped to push his pawns down the flank on a journey to queenhood. But there were too many pieces left on the board, particularly Carlsen’s centralised rook and king. After a series of astute changes, the game was virtually over. 

A close study of the champion’s play, however, will greatly reward the learner—his rapid development, centralisation of rooks, emergence of his king after the strategic exchange of queens. 

Inevitably, the challenger’s age became a talking point. According to GM Thipsay, it has been “a decisive factor along the tournament,” adding, “we have watched games in which Anand has fallen several times in tactical fallacies.” Finally, a reporter asked him the question which many Indians were waiting for: Are you considering leaving chess? Anand answered with an emphatic no. 

This was followed by a huge round of applause from the crowd which had gathered for the press conference.

The glory that the former world champion has brought to India and his immense influence on the sport at home have assured his immortality.

Finally, DR would like to reply to Anand’s critics: those snipers who believe he is now past the age of greatness. Remember Emmanuel Lasker? He won the world title in his sixties. In any case, Anand earned his second challenge not by chance, but by again outclassing all contenders in the preliminaries. 

Vishy Anand, challenger, left, and Magnus Carlsen, World Champion.
Crown Point, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO Weather :: 26C Mostly clear

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