Posts Tagged ‘health’

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Chernobyl reactor entombed at last

November 29, 2016

A very short entry to firstly acknowledge a major piece of engineering, and secondly the symbolic entombment of a toxic Soviet legacy within a western funded and built sarcophagus – (Sarcastic readers are now pondering whether the Verkhovna Rada should be next perhaps?)

chernobyl_shell1

The full facts and figures can be found at the EBRD website, together with a video showing the final settling of the sarcophagus in place, outlining what a major feat of engineering the project has been.

Bravo to all concerned.  A truly significant achievement.

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Ukraine to deregulate food pricing

October 1, 2016

In 1996 Government Decree 1548 regulated the price of foods across Ukraine, and theoretically has done ever since.

From baby foods to eggs, and from bread to sunflower oil (and much, much more in between) it sought to regulate food pricing.

With effect from 1st January 2017 Decree 1548 will cease to apply.  Market forces will quite literally take control in the markets, supermarkets and corner shops of Ukraine.

A radical upward shift in food prices awaits?

Probably not.

bag

Although there may perhaps be a slight upward movement, to be quite blunt as with many laws, decrees and resolutions bestowed upon the Ukrainian nation by its feckless political class, Decree 1548 has long, long ago been circumvented by the biggest producers and retailers, and simply ignored by small outlets.

The net result of this Decree being canceled will not be a significant rise in food prices, but will be one less pointless bureaucratic nonsense on the official books that Ukrainian business has had to spend time, money and effort to circumvent (or simply ignore) almost since the day the Decree came into force.

By extension where there is less bureaucracy there is less corruption – or more perhaps accurately stated there is reduced opportunity for corruption.

That a widely ignored Decree from 1996 is still de jure 20 years after is was made despite 20 years of ineffective implementation and enforcement may make a reader ponder just how much unenforced, unimplemented, unnecessary post-Soviet flapdoodle and codswallop still clutters the legal framework of the nation that could and should simply be canceled or repealed.

Perhaps Ukraine should create a Government Ministry for Cancelling Retarded Administrative Policy – aka the Ministry of CRAP?  (As opposed to having a lot of crap Ministries.)

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The road to Romania (The Odessa Oblast presentation)

April 25, 2016

Having mentioned recently (again) the necessity of maximising the relationship between Romania and Ukraine, the 25th April saw the Oblast Administration release estimates for a new 4 lane road from Odessa to Reni – and beyond into Romania, entering at the Orlovka-Isakchea border point.

There are 3 phases to the construction of this road.

Phase 1 is the Odessa to Shabo road, approximately 81 kilometers in length, including a bridge of almost 6 kilometers over the Dniester.  This cost has been estimated at $700,000 for the road – $400,000 for the bridge.

The second phase is a stretch of road to Orlovka of approximately 180 kilometers at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion.

The final stage, which seems likely to be part funded by Romania (and/or perhaps the EU via one of its many regional development budgets) is a 10 kilometer stretch of road, including a bridge over the Danube of approximately 4.5 kilometers in length.  The total cost $1.7 billion.

A grand total of approximately $4.6 billion for approximately 260 kilometers of 2 dual carriageways with a combined road width of approximately 29 meters, two substantial bridging projects, about 22 minor structures and an approximated usage of between 16,000 – 22,000 vehicles per day.

Aside from some Romanian (and/or EU funding) at the Isakchea end, the funding appears to be currently sourced from central government and customs duties payments allocated from those collected at Odessa Port (presuming the current transparent workings of Odessa Part are not toppled by the usual suspects/vested interests in the immediate future and the “old nefarious ways” return with a vengeance.)

Odessa Reni

$4.5 – $5 billion does seem a lot of money.  Questions will undoubtedly be asked about such a sum – and quite rightly.  Every single possible US$ return, both tangible and intangible, will have to be squeezed out of such a project.

To be blunt the existing road has long exceeded its lifespan, and to continue to employ “bodge it and scarper” patching contractors employing inferior materials and accompanying poor tradesmanship is financially self-defeating too.

That said, the new road, as Rome, is not going to be built in a day, ergo the budgetary costs will not have to be met in one budgetary period, but planned across several.  Construction is supposed to begin at the end of May 2016.

The new road is also about more than infrastructure and facilitating 22,000(ish) vehicles with a swift and quality trade/transport route.

The road is also clearly a political project too.  It ties Odessa as a city to the southwest of Odessa Oblast, and then onward to Romania and thus the EU not only physically, but also psychologically.  It is thus important to make the most of the proposed new infrastructure not only economically and politically, but also socially within and without the Oblast and national borders.

Courtesy of LB.ua

Courtesy of LB.ua

Briefly considering the above factual information, a reader may ponder whether there has been, is, or will be any thought toward a cycle lane.  In dropping this anchor into the Romanian and European infrastructure, then surely it should accommodate all the existing Romanian and European infrastructure that already exists at the other end.

There are numerous official Eurovelo routes across the EU.  One of those routes is Eurovelo 6.  This particular cycle route runs from France to Romania and could easily be afforded an official spur along the new road into Odessa city.

Indeed this blog was approached about just that, and whether there would be the interest and political support by the political class of Odessa.   If not could such interest and political support be generated?

Such things are not a problem.  A few words with a longtime good friend Petr Obyhov then of the Odessa Oblast Rada, and Odessa MP Alexie Goncharenko, et voilà –

_20160202_16335001

The only prerequisite required in getting such documentation swiftly is knowing which of the local political class are keen cyclists and which are not.  Knowing both Messrs Goncharenko and Obyhov are extremely keen cyclists guarantees the support.  Official political support as requested for the Eurovelo planning people in Brussels duly delivered (and “brownie points awarded to the blog for accomplishing such a simple task).

From a local societal perspective, as this blog occasionally glances at unpublished yet official opinion polls, there is a demand from the local constituency for an expansion of city-wide dedicated cycle lanes.  A most recent (official but unpublished) opinion poll had 5% of the city population “very keen” for the expansion of dedicated cycle lanes in the city.  (A percentage that can influence election results for any would-be Mayoral candidates in a city of 1 million plus.)

Ergo, cycling to and from Odessa – Romania (and vice versa) is likely to become quite popular, and also benefit the local economies of the towns and villages along the route in south-west of the Oblast.   Indeed when the Eurovelo people approached the blog, they had already completed the ride despite an existing road surface as cratered as the lunar surface.

E6

EV6 (Pink)

 

EV6

EV6

In summary, a reader may wonder how thorough the thinking by the Odessa Oblast Administration as to how to maximise the cultural and societal ties the proposed $4.6 billion Odessa-Reni road can bring.  What else lurks the other side of the Romanian border that can spur toward Odessa?  To squeeze every last intangible societal and cultural US$ from this political and economic investment, in pursuing the official EV6 spur to its bureaucratic conclusion, perhaps a marked cycle lane on the new road, and a few “EV6” signposts will go a little way in doing so.

When many within the Odessa community engage in 100 kilometer fun rides, cycling 260 kilometers on a quality surface into Romania will probably seem like a fun weekend for quite a few (perish the thought)!

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Polluting the civil society space

March 11, 2016

It is no secret that the Ukrainian health care system is in desperate needs of reform – which governmental ministry or institution of State is not?

It is an issue that is in no way assisted by the long-term absence of a Minister of Health to drive, be responsible and accountable for, those reforms.

A strategy does exist, but in the absence of “ownership” of this reformation plan – and it would be foolish to expect the Cabinet of Ministers or Prime Minister Yatseniuk to take any responsibility for its implementation over and above the “easy” parts (for the health care system is a poisoned chalice) in the absence of a Minister of Health – implementation, no differently than leadership, is severely lacking.

Without leadership, ownership, responsibility and accountability, the Ministry of Health remains as vulnerable to corruption and theft as it was under former Health Minister Raisa Bohatyriova, who as part of the Yanukovych regime stole tens of millions of dollars from the budget through several schemes.

Earlier this month Ms Bohatyriova was removed from the EU sanctions list of Yanukovych thieves having repaid the Ukrainian State the monies stolen, making good the financial losses attributed to her.  Needless to say she remains wanted by Ukraine for the crimes committed despite the return of the stolen funds.  Mens rea and all that.

However, one very sensible reform to occur within the Ministry of Health was to purchase medicines directly from international organisations and producers, eliminating intermediaries that traditionally in Ukraine add no value, but are simply used nefariously to steal budget funds.

Whilst Ms Bohatyriova and Alexander Yanukovych, both allegedly prime beneficiaries of such scams within the Ministry of Health, are no longer in Ukraine seeking to avoid due process/justice, not all of those whose acts were more than preparatory to the commission of such crime, and indeed were active accomplices in such crime, have left Ukraine.  Nor sadly, have they left their positions and roles within the Ukrainian health system – be those roles direct or indirect.

The blog having previously attempted to raise awareness over the ever-increasing attempts to muddy, clutter, pollute and/or antagonise the domestic civil society space, notwithstanding the obvious dubious NGOs such as Firtash’s “Agency for the Moderisation of Ukraine” (AMU), or Medvedchuk’s “Ukrainian Choice”, Messrs Kuchma, Pinchuk, Nefjodov et al, will throw, and are throwing, entities into the NGO soup too.  An oligarchical fight back within the now very influential domestic civil society space is perhaps underway.

Thus it becomes evermore necessary to understand who sits behind and/or funds/heavily donates to civil society entities and the specific causes/sections of society they purport to represent.  Likewise the relationships of the nefarious, odious and scandalous to those leading civil society entities is occasionally worth a little investigation too.

Only last week the National Medical Chamber, an NGO with 69,000 doctors throughout a network of 25 regional offices, decried the attempts of other NGOs to reverse the current policy of avoiding intermediaries in procurement of drugs.

Yet such NGOs as MedKontrol, are associated with people such as former Health Minister Bohatyriova and clearly lobby on behalf of “nefarious schemes past” and the avoidance/delay in meeting EU standards and mechanisms for registration of medicines – Satire perhaps demands that warning labeling of “health care” NGOs be applied no differently to the labeling upon medicines themselves.

Warning on prescription bottle about nitrates and erective disfunction tablets

With so many positives being orated and written regarding Ukrainian civil society – and rightly so, for it will lead Ukraine to a better place despite the political class – it is perhaps timely once again to remind readers of the creeping oligarchisation and criminalisation into the civil society space by the vested interests against which the vast majority of Ukrainian civil society has taken into battle.

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Traffic calming – City planning, Odessa

January 2, 2016

“I have not felt so much at home for a long time as I did when I “raised the hill” and stood in Odessa for the first time. It looked just like an American city; fine, broad streets, and straight as well; low houses, (two or three stories,) wide, neat, and free from any quaintness of architectural ornamentation; locust trees bordering the sidewalks (they call them acacias;) a stirring, business-look about the streets and the stores; fast walkers; a familiar new look about the houses and every thing; yea, and a driving and smothering cloud of dust that was so like a message from our own dear native land that we could hardly refrain from shedding a few grateful tears and execrations in the old time-honored American way. Look up the street or down the street, this way or that way, we saw only America!” – Mark Twain

Needless to say, no matter how sentimental the prose of Mark Twain upon first seeing and setting foot in Odessa, the quality of his wordsmithery is not the point to the above quote – his observations are.

Indeed the relevance to this entry is but “fine, broad streets, and straight as well“.  A Twainian nod of appreciation to the designers of Odessa – and in particular the twice Prime Minister of France, Armand Emmanuel Sophie Septimanie de Vignerot du Plessis (the 5th Duke de Richelieu).

There is no denying that through an architectural and aesthetic lens the proportions of the wide city streets and low old buildings of the centre are pleasing to the eye (despite the requirement for local campaigners to continually battle with the city authorities to restrict the height of modern buildings in the historic city centre).   Wide main streets, despite the exceptionally ugly, concrete, Communist apartment constructions outlying the historic centre, was a theme that continued as the city expanded for all main thoroughfares.

The noticeably broad width of the main roads in and around Odessa however, still fails to deal with the quantity of traffic at rush hour, despite affording two lanes of traffic, sometimes more, in any direction – plus tram and trolley-bus track.

Also any minor traffic accident, due to how they are dealt with in Ukraine, can cause serious delays.  Whereby most sensible traffic policing would work on the priority system of COW – casualties, obstructions, witnesses – the speed at moving obstructions from the carriageway seems not to register, regardless of the often lengthy delays caused by leaving vehicles in situ far longer than it takes to mark the scene and move the vehicles to the curb to allow normal traffic flow once again.

The wide streets however, aside from rush hour congestion, also allow for drivers to drive as though they are piloting an exocet missile – aiming to find the gaps between fellow drivers at great speed with no consideration for the hazards – be they pedestrian, vehicular, road surface condition, or inclement weather.

The lack of, or complete disregard of, speed, environment and hazards has been somewhat unwittingly facilitated by the decision of Odessa to stop the use of “speed guns” by the police.  The reason for doing so, which is entirely understandable, was to reduce corruption and bribery.  If no drivers can be stopped for speeding (whether they were or were not), then no roadside soliciting of small bribes to avoid speeding protocols can be either offered or demanded.  It is a decision that most definitely led to a very significant reduction in roadside bribes.

Sergey Dubenko, head of the Odessa City Council working group to improve traffic management group has now announced that Odessa will adopt “European norms” regarding the speed limits within the city.  The maximum speed will be officially reduced from 60 kph (as used in Russia and Belarus) to 50 kph (as used by almost all of Europe).   Mr Dubenko stating – “The speed limit of 60 kmh – is 1 km per minute. The standard distance for the residential districts of the city heading for the center is 10 km away, with straight roads, without traffic lights and traffic jams it takes 10 minutes.  With a speed of 50 kmh, the same distance takes 12 minutes. Two minutes difference! Two minutes, due to which the number of traffic accidents is anticipated to drop by 30%, including pedestrians accidents!  The time you are waiting in traffic jams, congestion and at traffic lights, we will adjust based on metered traffic.

In addition to the installation of speed limit signs will be used by the standard adopted worldwide traffic calming methods: narrowing of the road near the pedestrian crossings, traffic islands at pedestrian crossings, pedestrian crossings and lifting etc.”

Well bravo – sensible traffic calming measures and pedestrian protection.

However, considering the main streets of Odessa are so wide, is there any consideration for another “European norm” – such as dedicated bus/taxi lanes?

What of cycle lanes?

EV6

EV6

EV Cycle routes

EV Cycle routes

There is a something of a push among the cycling community in Europe and some political quarters in Odessa to officially extend the trans EU EuroVelo 6 (EV6) cycle route, adding a spur to the route that begins in France and currently ends in Romania, with an option to end in Odessa.  A friend of this blog, and local politician, Peter Obyhov is currently involved at this end.  There is a meeting in Brussels this month regarding the proposed “Odessa spur” to EV6 that seems unlikely to meet much resistance.

Are such issues, if not able to be financed now, at least planned for now, when adding the much desired traffic calming measures throughout the city?

Will fixed speed cameras appear at “hot spots” to prevent the return of the police officer with the speed gun soliciting bribes, if and when drivers that ignore the current 60 kph speed limit, also ignore the 50 khp limit?  It will have to be enforceable somehow beyond the physical calming measures soon to begin appearing.

Nevertheless, a little bit of traffic calming in the city would appear to be only a welcome development – prima facie at least.

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Goncharenko candidacy for Minister of Health?

December 15, 2015

It has been quite some time since anything local to Odessa has been mentioned – simply due to the on-going entertainment provided by the national theatre of the absurd called the Verkhovna Rada.

However, it transpires that Odessa MP Alexie Goncharneko, a politician known to this blog for many years, has thrown his hat into the ring to become the next Minister of Health for Ukraine.

gonch

His chances of success?

Well it appears there are thus far at least 50 Solidarity MPs that would back his appointment – and considering that ministerial appointments within the coalition agreement are on a party quota basis, with the Health Ministry being part of the Solidarity quota, his chances are perhaps not too dismal, although not necessarily especially good either.

(For any that once held hopes of a competent technocratic government – they were dashed when the ministerial party quota agreement formed part of the coalition agreement.)

Indeed that last Minister of Health resigned from the role many months ago – albeit his resignation has not yet been accepted by the Verkhovna Rada.  Indeed, over the past week several current ministers have also resigned from their ministerial positions – pending Verkhovna Rada acceptance.

The general grievance/reason given – lack of reform and/or speed of reform.

As far as your author is aware, and throughout the years of knowing Alexie Goncharenko, his only association with health and matters medical comes via a degree and specialisation in pediatrics if memory serves – not that it particularly matters when  so few national governments worldwide appoint ministers with relevant qualifications to the ministries they oversee.  It is, after all, arguably irrelevant to whether a minister for infrastructure is a construction/civil engineer, or whether a minister for defence ever served in the armed forces.

What is more important is their grasp on policy, policy implementation, problem solving, and political fleet of foot within the corridors of power in order to get the most for their ministry.

However, the Ministry of Health is often a poisoned chalice for many nations and can be a career maker if got right, or more often a career breaker when got wrong – and Alexie Goncharenko is most definitely a very ambitious politician.

Why therefore would he pick up a chalice that in Ukraine is certainly not without its possibly politically fatal dose of hemlock or strychnine?  It is perhaps because it is Ukraine, and thus when no political career ends because of small matters such as $ multi-million theft and/or corruption, failing to radically improve any particular retarded ministry whilst remaining reasonably clean of graft will certainly not end a political career.

He is, as an individual (and not as a politician) a man that is seemingly without much fear for his own physical wellbeing.  Discounting numerous historical assassination plots and death threats to which he has been subjected to/threatened with (as have many politicians from Odessa historically – he is not unique on that score), he is not one to shy away from taking “holiday sports” to the extreme of the extreme – to the point where control is replaced by good fortune when it comes to remaining in one piece.

Secondly, politically, he is not one to shy away from a challenge – even if the challenges presented are not necessarily those that he would choose to have to face.  Thus far, by hook or by crook, by skill or good fortune, he remains politically secure.

There is of course the question of whether he could make the existing Health Ministry function any worse than it already does – and the answer is probably not, for that would take a degree of ineptitude far beyond any shortcomings Mr Goncharenko has.  Could he make it function any better (and would the budget allow it)?

This brings about perhaps the most important question of whether Alexie Goncharneko actually wants to be Minister of Health, or whether his hat is in the ring as somebody else wants him to be Minister of Health?  No doubt he would accept it if offered the role, as he wants to progress his career rather than refuse to be a candidate for the position and perhaps hurt his career through any such refusal.

There will be other candidates for Minister of Health, and hopefully some of those candidates will be of high quality and ability.  As already stated he is not a “sure thing” for the position – far from it.

Thus all of the above considered, perhaps Alexie Goncharenko is simply happy for clear support of his 50+ colleagues behind his candidature and the PR that being a candidate brings.  It will do no harm to be seen to be prepared to sup from a poisoned chalice, even if ultimately it turns out he won’t have to do so, graciously accepting the appointment of another (whilst perhaps secretly breathing something of a sigh of relief).

However, Alexie Goncharenko is also not one to waste PR when it is dumped in his lap.  Ergo, whether he officially “wants” or truly “wants” the Minister of Health position will probably dictate just what he will try to do with the PR his candidacy brings.

Will it be used as a platform to begin a slow-burning campaign in case of early Verkhovna Rada elections?  Would he need to use it for that when he sits high enough on the Solidarity Party list to be almost guaranteed return to the Verkhovna Rada?  Could it become the foundation of a slow-burning campaign that should early elections come (to the angst of the EU and US), and which would see Governor Saakashvili quickly form or join a “reformist party” to propel himself into the higher echelons of national legislature, thus leaving an opening for an Odessa Governor.  Could this PR be used to convince President Poroshenko that Alexie Goncharenko is Mr Saakashvili’s rightful replacement in Odessa?

Is there another ministerial/deputy ministerial position that has caught Alexie Goncharenko’s eye and which this PR can be used to project himself toward that (perhaps preferred) role?

It has to be said, of the ministerial positions your author expected Alexie Goncharneko to one future day fill, the Ministry of Health was not one of them.

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Project Managers Wanted – Reforms Ukraine

March 29, 2015

It’s not often this blog advertises job vacancies – however these job vacancies are more worthy than most for some additional promotion, simply due to the fact that should those successful candidates succeed in fulfilling their appointed roles robustly, the author, together with the rest of Ukrainian society, is likely to benefit.

Despite this blog’s ineptitude at promoting job vacancies, it does appear that some websites are now being built in an attempt to fill that void – specifically in relation to what the DCFTA may or may not bring to Ukraine.

During July 2014, a Presidential Decree created the National Council and Executive Committee for Reforms.  In order to support it – or to be blunt, add the middle management and workforce to walk the talk of the enlightened thinkers – the Project Office for the Coordination of Development and Implementation of Reforms was necessarily born.

Having duly talked since July 2014, it is now time to walk.  Thus there are now vacancies for Project Managers, with an anticipated start date of late April/early May to insure the walk actually matches the talk.

Initially the roles are expected to last 12 months – although to be honest, it seems likely that the roles will be required to continue beyond a 1 year contract.  A wise candidate may anticipate at least another 12 month extension considering the scale of the tasks ahead.

The easy part will be providing defined coordination, analytical, and communications support, together with assistance in strategic planning reforms, responsibilities for the development of specific reform plans, and monitoring implementation.

(Getting things implemented and consolidated will be far, far more difficult than any planning.)

The Project Office naturally works in cooperation with the National Council and Executive Committee, but also with the EBRD – who will jointly assess candidates.

PMAs to candidate abilities:

Project manager:

Coordinates the reform work of the Task Team

Develops Task Team reforms

Monitors and controls the implementation of the Reform Plan

Makes regular reports to the Reform Plan Manager and the public.

 

Experience:

A minimum of 3 years experience in managing complex projects.

Proven change implementation success.

Minimum of a Master’s Degree (or equivalent).

Fluency in Ukrainian and English – both spoken and written.

Strong communication and negotiation skills

Ability to build consensus.

Be able to handle large quantities of data.

Capable decision maker.

 

Project Areas:

Electoral legislation reform

Public Procurement reform

Anti-corruption reform.

Judicial Reform

Decentralisation of Public Administration

Deregulation & Business Development reform.

Law Enforcement reform.

National Security & Defence reform.

Health Care reform.

Tax reform.

Agriculture reform.

Education reform

Financial Sector reform.

Public Property reform

Energy (& Energy Independence) reform.

 

Thus, having such a large number of erudite and highly educated readers, many of whom undoubtedly would be able to meet the requirements above, it is now a matter of informing you of how to apply.

Interested parties, please email you resume, together with a 1 page covering letter outlining which area of reform you feel you are best suited to project manage, to pmo@apu.gov.ua no later than 7th April.

Naturally any of you that apply and whom are ultimately successful, as and when you find yourself in Odessa battling with the regional fiefdom, then meeting for a coffee and a chat would be delightful.

 

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