Archive for the ‘Bureaucracy’ Category

EU throws money at unnecessary, “ghost” airports

December 14, 2014

No EU country refuses funds for infrastructure, no matter how useless or unnecessary that particular project is. After all it is wonderful for domestic consumption and for creating some jobs during the construction of the project. The contractors are usually quite happy as well. Infrastructure projects in Europe – in my experience – generally have about a 10% net profit margin for the contractors. Consultants involved in such projects usually make some 30%+ as profit margins. Consultants help in making the forecasts to attract the funds and are usually involved in some part of implementing the project as well.

Of course, local politicians champion specific projects and specific consultants and local contractors. They help in getting the appropriate EU bureaucrats and those in their own countries to select the projects and the contractors. And so what if the merits of the project are a little exaggerated. So when I see a story like this one, I am not too greatly surprised.

It seems that the EU has spent some €2 billion on airports in member states. A third of this money has gone just to Poland. Projects are selected based on forecasts of future usage (made by consultants and local politicians and bureaucrats) and these rosy forecasts are nearly always grossly exaggerated.

Reuters: EU funds help Poland build ‘ghost’ airports

The European Union has given Poland more than 100 million euros ($125 million) to build at least three “ghost” airports in places where there are not enough passengers to keep them in business.

The result is gleaming new airport terminals which, even at the peak of the holiday season, echo to the sound of empty concourses and spend millions trying to attract airlines.

Poland is not the only country in Europe to have built airports that struggle to attract flights. Around 80 airports in Europe attract fewer than 1 million passengers a year, and about three-quarters of those are in the red, according to industry body Airports Council International. Some cost much more to build than the Polish projects. One airport in eastern Spain, open for three years, has so far received not a single flight. 

Poland received 615.7 million euros in EU support for airports between 2007 and 2013, according to figures supplied to Reuters by the European Commission. That was almost twice as much as the next biggest recipient, Spain, and more than a third of all member states’ money for airports. The government declined to provide all the information on which it based its decisions to invest in the airports, but Reuters has reviewed data on three sites where traffic fell dramatically short of forecasts. …….. 

…… Between 2007 and 2013, the European Union promised funding to help build and upgrade 12 Polish airports. Some of the projections underlying the plans were highly ambitious.

The government declined to detail its predictions for passenger numbers. But figures for three of the airports – Lodz, Rzeszow and Lublin – are contained in letters on a related topic sent by the European Commission to the Polish foreign minister. The letters show Polish authorities projected combined passenger numbers for the airports to be more than 3 million passengers a year. In 2013, the actual number was just over 1.1 million.

Together, the investments in the three airports totaled about 245 million euros. Around 105 million of that came from the European Union. The rest came from central government in Warsaw, local governments and the airports themselves.

About Lodz, Reuters reports

The airport commissioned a feasibility study from advisory firm Ernst & Young (EY), published in November, 2009. EY predicted a minimum of 1.042 million passengers in 2013 for Lodz. That was less than the government forecast but many more than the 353,633 who actually passed through the airport last year. EY declined to comment.

Low cost airlines also get much benefit from the money spent on promoting the airports.

The state also has indirect methods of helping the airports, in particular by giving money to the airlines – mainly low-cost carriers like Ryanair.

“In practice, these payments serve as an incentive for airlines,” CEE Bankwatch Network, the non-governmental watchdog, said in its report.

Lodz and Rzeszow airports did not respond to questions about how much they pay airlines. A spokesman for Lublin airport said only that it was successfully boosting communications to help the local economy.

But public records for Podkarpackie, the mountainous, forested region where Rzeszow airport sits, show that between 2011 and 2014 its government paid 5.7 million euros to Ryanair in exchange for advertisements promoting the region, which appeared on Ryanair’s web site and in its in-flight magazines. Podkarpackie spent another 3 million euros to advertise with Polish carrier Eurolot over a three-year period. ……. 

In all, 70 percent of the region’s 2013 promotional budget went to airlines that fly into Rzeszow airport. These payments are problematic, say several people involved in Polish aviation, because the airports are at the mercy of the airlines. With so many airports to choose from, airlines can easily shift routes.

A woman walks in front of the check-in area at the airport in Lodz October 10, 2014.   REUTERS-Kacper Pempel

The busy check-in area at Lodz airport on 10th October 2014 CREDIT: REUTERS/KACPER PEMPEL

Interestingly another report today is about one of the CIA’s rendition airports which is to get an expensive make-over

EU funds help Poland re-fit CIA rendition hub

Poland’s next big European-funded airport project is at Szymany, a remote airfield which the CIA used just over a decade ago to transport al Qaeda suspects to a secret interrogation center it ran in Poland. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, was probably among detainees who landed at the airfield en route to the CIA facility, code named “Quartz,” in a nearby forest, according to a Council of Europe report.

…… Now, a 48.6 million euro ($60 million) project is underway to create an international airport on the site of the airfield. Just over half the cost will come from the EU. The airport’s operator, Warmia i Mazury Sp., says it expects 80,000 passengers in 2016, the first full year of operation, and about 250,000 passengers a year by 2035.  ……..     “That part of Poland needs an airport, but not there,” said Jacek Krawczyk, a former chairman of Polish airline LOT who has a senior role at the European Economic and Social Committee, which advises the European Commission. “It’s a complete mistake.”

When EU funds are at stake common sense tends to leave the scene.

Hollande’s France is dragging down the Eurozone and the world

November 15, 2013
Photo - AFP

Photo – AFP

Francois Hollande is a socialist of the old school and about a century behind the times. Fundamentally he has few new ideas beyond tax the rich and create more public sector jobs. He is not even very popular at home just now – but the French have only themselves and Sarkozy’s excesses to blame for having him there. Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s sexual excesses also helped. He makes impossible promises with a straight face. He promises to cut state spending without reducing public sector jobs. He will improve competitiveness without  reducing state subsidies. And he has promised to reduce unemployment by the end of this year. Nonsense promises are not doing much for his credibility.

France’s credit rating is falling and even The Guardian has little good to say about his administration:

The GuardianFrance’s second credit-rating downgrade by Standard & Poor’s in less than two years is as damaging politically for the socialist François Hollande as it was for his rightwing predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, who lost the election shortly after France lost its AAA rating in January 2012.

S&P directly attacked Hollande’s economic policy, questioning the socialist government’s capacity to repair Paris’s stuttering economic motor. It said the problem with France was that the government’s tentative reforms were not enough to lift growth in the eurozone’s second largest economy.

Hollande, recently found to be the most unpopular French president on record in a poll by BVA, was already struggling to sell his economic measures to the nation. “The recovery is here,” Hollande declared in August after a small rebound in growth following months of stagnation. But real, sustained growth is expected to be slow in returning. …… 

And now the economy of France, along with that of Italy, is actually shrinking. The global recovery needs Europe  – and not just Germany – to do its bit. Instead, Hollande’s schoolboy economics are not just threatening the Eurozone recovery but actually threatening to postpone the recovery.

ReutersThe euro zone economy all but stagnated in the third quarter of the year with France’s recovery fizzling out and growth in Germany slowing. The 9.5 trillion euro economy pulled out of its longest recession in the previous quarter but record unemployment, lack of consumer confidence and anaemic bank lending continue to prevent a more solid rebound.

In the three months to September, the combined economy of the 17 countries sharing the euro grew by a slower than expected 0.1 percent. In the previous quarter it rose 0.3 percent – the first expansion in 18 months. The euro fell to a session low in response.

The French economy contracted by 0.1 percent, snuffing out signs of revival in the previous three months. It had been expected to post quarterly growth of 0.1 percent and has now shrunk in three of the last four quarters. ……. 

Unemployment is still increasing even though the number of French seeking jobs outside the country is also increasing. The rich have been fleeing Hollande’s swingeing taxes in droves.

The Telegraph: 

France’s economy has buckled once again amid official warnings of an explosive political mood across the nation that threatens to spin out of control.

French output fell by 0.1pc in the third quarter and Italy remained trapped in recession, dashing hopes of a sustained recovery in Europe. “It is no longer a question of whether the eurozone can achieve ‘escape velocity’, but whether it can grow at all,” said sovereign bond strategist Nicholas Spiro.

The latest data show a continued erosion of France’s industrial base and export share. It risks shattering the credibility of President François Hollande, who has been talking up recovery for months. A YouGov poll showed his approval ratings have dropped to 15pc, the lowest recorded for a French leader in modern times.

While the risk of a eurozone bond crisis has greatly receded since the European Central Bank agreed to act as a lender of last resort in July 2012, this has been replaced by slow economic attrition. It resembles the mid-1930s slump under the Gold Standard and is fuelling political crises in a string of countries.

Le Figaro said loss of confidence in the French government is turning dangerous, citing a confidential report based on surveys by “prefects” in each of the 101 departments. “All across the country, the prefects described the same picture of a society that is angry, exasperated and on edge. A mix of latent discontent and resignation is being expressed through sudden eruptions of fury, almost spontaneously,” said the document. The report warned that people were no longer venting their feelings within normal social structures. Increasing numbers are questioning the “legitimacy” of taxes. …… 

But there is no sign that Hollande will change from his classic policies of more taxes to support a profligate state sector and a bloated welfare system. Regulated austerity is called for but Hollande’s approach will only lead to an unregulated, painful and enforced austerity as in Greece and Spain.

I still believe in Europe and in many French firms but I have taken the precaution of shifting some of my (small) savings out of French stocks. France has not reached its bottom yet!

Boeing’s PR upsets Japanese Civil Aviation Board – and this will delay the Dreamliner flying again

March 16, 2013

Boeing’s upbeat announcement that the Dreamliner could be flying in a matter of weeks has upset the Japanese Civil Aviation Board. It would seem that Boeing did not clear their PR blitz in Tokyo in advance with the CAB. Their optimistic statements about the Dreamliner flying again “in a matter of weeks” to try and reassure the market place may prove to be a PR blunder and could backfire.

ET: Japanese regulators immediately warned that the timetable was impossible to predict, in part because investigators still do not know what had caused lithium-ion batteries to overheat on two 787s. 

“At this time we are not yet in a position to say when flights will restart,” said Shigeru Takano, the air transport safety director at Japan’s Civil Aviation Board (CAB), which will assess and approve Boeing’sproposed fix. …

…. “If we look at the normal process and the way in which we work with the FAA, and we look at the testing that’s ahead of us, it is reasonable to expect we could be back up and going in weeks, not months,” the 787’s chief engineer, Mike Sinnett, said at an earlier briefing in Tokyo. 

But the CAB, the FAA’s counterpart in Japan, dismissed Sinnett’s prediction, saying it was too early to predict when 787 operations could resume, since regulators in the United States and Japan are still investigating. Takano, the air transport safety director at the CAB, said Sinnett’s comment on the battery probe was “inappropriate.”

To call Boeing’s statement “inappropriate” is tantamount to an outright rejection. I think Boeing has shot itself in the foot since the CAB clearly perceives their role being usurped by Boeing’s PR pronouncements. There is now no way that the CAB can or will allow any “fast-tracking” of approvals.

Reuters: Japan is Boeing’s biggest customer for the fuel-efficient aircraft, which has a list price of $207 million. JAL and ANA combined account for almost half the global Dreamliner fleet. Japanese firms also build 35 of the aircraft.

And until the CAB approves, other countries will also hold off their approvals. It is going to be at least 2 months now before Dreamliners fly again commercially.

Haiti response inadequate and UN Head of Mission seems incompetent

November 20, 2010

The UN after having introduced cholera to Haiti – which will now remain for many decades – is providing an “inadequate response” according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says the BBC.

MSF said that despite the huge aid agency presence in Haiti, urgent needs were not being met. MSF’s chief in Haiti, Stefano Zannini, said the charity had treated more than 16,500 people but that there had been “no real and efficient response from other organisations. This is alarming in the sense that we haven’t reached the peak yet, that might take some time, and so the number of patients might still go up while we still don’t see actions on behalf of other people,” he said.

In a statement, Mr Zannini said more help was urgently needed to treat the sick and implement preventative measures. “There is no time left for meetings and debate – the time for action is now,” he said. Cholera was previously unknown in Haiti, so MSF said much work had to be done to reassure the population, particularly of the low risk and positive benefits of having treatment centres close to areas where people live.

Haiti - Insecurity : The alarmist statements of Edmond Mulet !

Edmond Mulet: image

But the need for this reassurance to the local population is apparently not something understood by Edmond Mulet, the head of MINUSTAH (the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti). He seems to be mainly engaged in justifying the UN deficiencies by blaming the lack of action on “the violent protests by people who blame peacekeepers for the spread of the disease (who) were wasting time and costing lives”.

But local Haitians are incensed by the alarmist posturing of the UN head of mission Edmond Mulet who is accused of not taking action. He is busy blaming everybody else and seems to be incompetent at basic public relations.

Judging by the response to his statements in he is providing little reassurance and only succeeding to alienate the local population. They write

The alarmist statements of Edmond Mulet !

The perpetrators of these “criminals and irresponsible” acts said Mr. Mulet, “prevent the delivery of medical and sanitary assistance to the thousands of patients recently hit by the cholera epidemic, thus condemning to an unquestionable death.”

It is time to stop speaking and start acting Mr. Mulet before it is too late and that violence will spread throughout the country. 12,000 men strong, very well equipped and (with) armored vehicles, what awaits Minustah to release these roads and to restore the order in the zones concerned ? If Minustah’s mission is to maintain peace, she must first begin by eliminating the causes of these disorders, not with dramatic speeches.

If M. Mulet can only respond to the fear of people by blaming them instead of addressing their fear and anger then his competence is in question.

Et tu IAC? Time for Pachauri to exit.

August 30, 2010

The IAC report is in.

And this is a report by a “friend”.

It is time for Pachauri to leave the reform and the improvement of the IPCC (assuming such a politically charged body can ever be reformed) to somebody else since he has clearly not been up to the task.

The Telgraph: The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should only make predictions when it has solid scientific evidence and avoid straying into policy advocacy, a group of national science academies has warned in a report.

The report said the chairman of the IPCC should be limited to one six year term. Its current head Rajendra Pachauri of India, is in the middle of his second term. It called for an overhaul of the panel’s management, including the creation of an executive committee that would include people from outside the IPCC. Regarding the errors that appeared in the IPCC reports, the review group’s report called for stronger enforcement of the panel’s scientific review procedures to minimise future mistakes.

Professor Mike Hulme, a professor of climate change at the University of East Anglia, is due to deliver a keynote lecture to the Royal Geographical Society Annual conference this week in which he will call for a dramatic changes to the way the IPCC operates. Speaking ahead of his lecture, he said: “The IPCC has not sufficiently adapted to the changing science and politics of climate change, nor to the changing expected and demanded role of science and expertise in society. “The IPCC’s approach of seeking consensus obscures and constricts both scientific and wider social debates about both knowledge-driven and value-driven uncertainties that surround climate change politics.”

Rajendra Pachauri

The BBC: UN climate body ‘needs reforms’, review recommends.

Among the IAC committee’s recommendations was that the UN body appoint an executive director to handle day-to-day operations and speak on behalf of the body. It also said the current limit of two six-year terms for the chair of the organisation is too long. The report also suggests the UN body establish an executive committee which should include individuals from outside the IPCC or even outside the climate science community in order to enhance the UN panel’s credibility and independence.

The use by the IPCC of so-called “grey literature” – that which has not been peer-reviewed or published in scientific journals – has been subjected to particular scrutiny of late, partly because this type of material was behind the glacier error. The committee said that such literature was often relevant and appropriate for inclusion in the IPCC’s assessment reports. But it said authors needed to follow the IPCC’s guidelines more closely and that the guidelines themselves are too vague.

Bishop Hill:Furthermore, by making vague statements that were difficult to refute, authors were able to attach “high confidence” to the statements. The Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers contains many such statements that are not supported sufficiently in the literature, not put into perspective, or not expressed clearly.”

Mild rap on the knuckles likely for IPCC / Pachauri from friendly IAC

August 29, 2010

The Hindustan Times reports that former railwayman Pachauri will likely get away with a mild rap on his knuckles from the Inter Academy Council (little known)-  an establishment body tasked with defending another establishment body.

There is speculation that Pachauri might get away with just a rap on the knuckles for IPCC’s assessments that the Himalayan glaciers will be gone by 2035, and the Amazonian forests were in danger too. The Wall Street Journal quoted an unidentified member of the probe team to say the report will merely suggest that IPCC “should beef up its capacity to ferret out errors in its scientific assessments”.

The Telegraph comes out a little stronger and suggests that the IPCC could actually be “warned”. But when the IAC report is presented to Ban Ki Moon tomorrow it is unlikely to find much fault with one of its own.

The United Nation’s climate change organisation faces a warning over how it uses scientific facts in its influential reports, following the discovery of a series of embarrassing errors in its work.

Professor Robert Watson, the chief scientific adviser to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and a former chair of the UN’s IPCC, told the InterAcademy Council’s review committee that more needed to be done to prevent errors appearing in the panel’s reports.

He described the way the IPCC handled the mistakes as “totally and utterly atrocious” and suggested that the panel should consider hiring additional staff to check through the sources of information, or references, to ensure the accuracy of statements made in future reports.

Eureka!! Turning Off the Air Conditioning Helps Save Fuel

June 29, 2010

The wonders of what now passes as SCIENCE (no doubt peer-reviewed).

Science Daily reports on major insights resulting from a study by “Empa – a Research Institute of the ETH Domain” on behalf of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN).

This ground-breaking study shows that Automobile air conditioning systems do not run “free of charge.” The article reminds us that Car air conditioning systems require energy to compress the cooling agent, and the greater the degree of cooling required the more energy (i.e. fuel) they use.

This is good strong stuff. I need more coffee.

The article continues. The study, the results of which have just been published in the scientific journal “Environmental Science and Technology,” shows that the fuel consumption of the test vehicles with air conditioning systems in operation increases with rising ambient air temperature and humidity, reaching a value of some 18 per cent on a typical Swiss summer day with an air temperature of 27 degrees and relative humidity of 60 per cent.


This highly significant peer-reviewed, CO2 related (what else) paper is referenced as:

Martin F. Weilenmann, Robert Alvarez, Mario Keller. Fuel Consumption and CO2/Pollutant Emissions of Mobile Air Conditioning at Fleet Level – New Data and Model ComparisonEnvironmental Science & Technology, 2010: 100608141025002 DOI:

What is not reported is how much this nonsense cost. But since it has CO2 in the title it must be worth every penny.

EU Idiocy: My “3 egg” omelette is to be banned

June 27, 2010

One would hope that idiots in Brussels would have better things to do.

Sorry — My mistake. They are only idiots after all…….

photo credit

“Shoppers are to be banned from buying eggs by the dozen under new regulations approved by the European Parliament. For the first time, eggs and other products such as oranges and bread rolls will be sold by weight instead of by the number contained in a packet. The new rules will mean that instead of packaging telling shoppers a box contains six eggs, it will show the weight in grams of the eggs inside, for example 372g. Or that a bag of white rolls has 322g inside instead of half a dozen. The rules will not allow both the weight and the quantity to be displayed”.

Breakfast in future will have to be a 106g omelette with a 52g bread roll!!!! But perhaps if we can get all hens to be the EU standard they can all begin producing eggs of a constant weight.
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