29 cases of swine flu confirmed in Trinidad
[Trinidad Express] – Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh yesterday confirmed 29 cases of the H1N1 (swine flu) virus, and three known related deaths in Trinidad and Tobago so far.
He also disclosed local healthcare workers in public facilities are declining vaccination against the virus.
Deyalsingh, who chastised local media for creating panic over the illness, said public healthcare workers were being urged to take the vaccine, but many of them have refused.
They cannot be forced to accept the vaccine, which is included in the annual “flu shot” available to the public at health centres, the minister said.
Brazil replaces Finance Minister
[BBC] – Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has replaced her finance minister as Latin America’s largest economy struggles to recover from recession.
Joaquim Levy has decided to leave after disagreements with the president and the governing Worker’s Party over his austerity policies.
He is being replaced by a close ally of Ms Rousseff, the current Planning Minister Nelson Barbosa.
Brazil is facing its worst recession in 25 years.
In a statement, Mr Levy said he remained confident that the economy could recover in 2016.
“Time will show that we will reap the results of all that has been done this year, putting the Brazilian economy back on track,” he wrote.
The economy shrank by 1.7% in the third quarter of the year compared with the second quarter. Compared with a year ago, the economy is 4.5% smaller.
Inflation is also on the rise, with the annual rate hitting 10% in November.
Mr Levy’s resignation is a huge blow to those who advocated tougher budgets and limited austerity to tackle Brazil’s deepening economic crisis, says the BBC’s Wyre Davies in Rio de Janeiro
His attempts to tighten government budgets were repeatedly blocked by Worker’s Party stalwarts in Congress, adds our correspondent.
But the new minister says he will keep a tight control on public spending.
“If we control government spending we will manage to control public debt and we will eventually be able to reduce public debt,” said Mr Barbosa.
Inflation is expected to begin falling next year, he added.
The president gave no reason for Mr Levy’s departure.
The change comes amid a serious political crisis in Brazil.
HDC $9.4B disappears
[TT Newsday] – CLAIMING that $9.4 billion disappeared from the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) during 2006- 2009, when the People’s National Movement (PNM) was in power, corporation Managing Director Jearlean John said she is anxious for the passage of whistleblowing legislation by Parliament so she can tell all that has gone on at the institution.
She is also urging that any internal audit into the affairs of the HDC should focus on the periods 2000 – 2004 and then 2005 – 2009, when she said $9.4 billion could not be accounted for.
In a televised interview yesterday, an angry sounding John said audits between the years 2004 and 2009 were done by KPMG and earned a “disclaimer of opinion” which she said meant “all is lost…there is nothing to hold on to.”
There were no records, there were no processes, there was no procedure, nothing was posted anywhere, you know the money just spent, she added.
“Between 2007 and 2009 they (the PNM) burnt through $9.3 billion without any accountability.” John said a “disclaimer of opinion” is the worst comment an auditor could make on the accounts of an entity. “It means the auditors are not even going to attempt to audit it.”
She added that for the last two and a half years she established a complement of 20 full time HDC staff to examine 20,600 client files and 500 contractor’s files, “to find out where the money gone.”
John said she is looking forward with great interest and anticipation to the passage of whistleblower legislation, “because I would be the first in line to seek the protection of that whistleblower legislation”, to tell what she knew about what went on at the HDC.
John and seven senior staff of the HDC were ordered on administrative leave on Thursday to facilitate an internal audit.
The others are chief legal officer, Indira Mc- Farlane-Lee; Corporate Secretary, Anne Mahabir; Chief Construction Engineer, Aaron Chadee; Divisional Manager estate management, Amalie Carter; Manager, settlements, Renatta Jones and Communications external, Rory Moses.
Contacted by Newsday yesterday, John said she had no further comment to make since she was “tired.”
But she was quite vocal to media on Thursday when she was sent on administrative leave along with the other HDC executives and again yesterday morning on television.
John alleged there were persons already selected to replace her and those affected by yesterday’s action.
“I have been hearing they have already chosen their person. I know the name of that person,” she said.