Saturday, September 08, 2007

Freeloaders to reduce Air Travel in interests of Planet! Like hell they will!

Dipak Patel, former Zambian Minister of Commerce, Trade & Industry - - The Irish brought 21 civil servants to Hong Kong - more than five times Patel's trade division staff total and the Irish had little of substance to do. Some of the 40-person Irish delegation, were there to "represent" the poor of the developing world.

In December 2005, 30 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) flew to Hong Kong to "monitor" progress in the Doha trade talks, where they demanded almost daily updates from Peter Mandelson, EU Trade Commissioner, despite the fact that as parliamentarians they had no role in the negotiations. The total of trips by official parliamentary delegations in 2005 was 43.

It's easy to be generous to yourself, with business class travel and top-notch hotels, when someone else is paying.

Three Irish Ministers brought an entourage of 21 civil servants to the same meeting.

The 24 Irish officials were joined by 16 other Irish freeloaders from lobby groups such as IFA (farmers) and IBEC (business) and representatives from groups working for the world's poor.

Conor Lenihan, then (Junior) Minister for Overseas Development, was there also to "defend" the interests of the poor of the world while the Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan was there to ensure that Mandelson would not concede anything to developing countries that would damage the interests of Irish farmers.

It must have been some donnybrook with Ireland one of the149 member countries of the World Trade Organization with delegations there and we had 40 from a country of 4 million people.

A French chef who worked at the Saudi State Guest House in Jeddah in the early 1990's, told me that Pakistan' then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had brought 85 freeloaders on a trip to Saudi Arabia with her.

However, not everyone can play that game.

Dipak Patel, Zambian Minister of Commerce, Trade & Industry in 2005, who was the Chair-Co-ordinator for the Least Developed Countries WTO negotiations Jan-Dec 2005 has said: "...the Financial Times has a bigger trade team than our entire trade division."

The FT's Alan Beattie, in an article titled: Dipak and the Goliaths (unrestricted), wrote in December 2005: It is late at night in a bar by the Zambezi river when Dipak Patel, trade minister from the impoverished southern African state of Zambia, finds the perfect way to illustrate how hard his job is. “So how many people does the Financial Times have covering trade?” he says. Well, I say, there’s me (the world trade editor), a reporter in Geneva who spends most of her time on trade, someone in Brussels, someone in Washington, and of course our bureau chiefs and reporters around the world spend a fair amount of their time writing about it. “God,” Patel says, contemplating the rows of luxury cognac bottles behind the bar, waiting for the rich tourists. “The FT has more capacity to do trade policy than we do.”

When asked on RTE's Morning Ireland what all the Irish were doing in HK - the reality of course was sfa - Conor Lenihan provided an example of his endeavours for Ireland (besides the poor of the world of course). He had ran into a man from China who had expressed a desire to invest in Ireland!

Three Irish officials at most would have sufficed for the trip to HK and the staff at the Consulate could have been on hand to roll out the red carpet.

So in an age of concern about climate change, don't be foolish and expect anything to change even with the appendage of the Green Party at the Cabinet table.

A press release issued last month by the Department of Environment stated: Minister Gormley, at the request of the Taoiseach, will be travelling to the UN in New York next month to represent Ireland and address a heads of State meeting which will be discussing climate change.

There will also be heads of government at the meeting, we assume!

How many bag carriers will Ahern and Gormley bring to New York?

In true Hollywood style, the Government will buy compensatory carbon credits - a salve-conscience routine that is the modern equivalent of the poor box.

So most of the 185 heads of government or State will drone on about climate change in an almost empty chamber, but the serious work will be at the UN climate change conference in Bali in December, which aims to lay the groundwork for a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol on curbing emissions.

Progress in Bali will not be helped by hordes of the usual freeloaders/hangers-on scrambling to get to the island.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the Irish Independent carried a report on a super-junket by Irish local politicians.

Years ago, to reduce the opportunities for corruption, councillors were left with one real power - land rezoning!

Besides their involvement in creating an artificial scarcity of land for development, in a country that is 4.0% urbanised, Irish councillors are also well known for their overseas 'fact-finding' missions.

A few decades ago, a local government conference in Brighton in Southern England had 150 attendees and about 120 were Irish.

The Independent reported that a group of 25 county councillors are on a 'secret mission' to investigate landslide fencing in Austria.

The Mayo councillors flew out Thursday from Dublin Airport for a four-day trip which is shrouded in mystery.

Mayo county secretary John Condon refused to reveal how many councillors were on the trip or what its purpose was.

"I don't have time because I have more important business to attend to. Next week you'll get all the information you need," he said, before hanging up.

However, the Irish Independent said that the purpose of the trip is to visit a factory in Austria which supplied the council with €900,000 of landslide barriers.

They are also scheduled to visit Salzburg, the historic town where the 'Sound of Music' was filmed.

The 'fact-finding' mission to Austria has accounted for 25 of the county's 32 councillors, as well as local authority officials and local newspaper reporters.

Some of the councillors are also believed to have been on a delegation sent by Mayo County Council to Argentina last March.

They attended ceremonies to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of Admiral William Browne, the Mayo-born founder of the Argentinean Navy.

The newspaper reported that it is understood that Mayo County Council organises a 'fact-finding' mission to Europe every year, with recent trips including a walking tour in England.

So expect lots of actionless action on climate change issues ahead but don't expect freeloaders in Ireland or elsewhere to imperil the global aviation and hotel industry.