Home' Greymouth Star : June 11th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Thursday, June 11, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1727 - King George I, first Hanoverian
king of Great Britain (1714-27), dies and is
succeeded by his son George II.
1907 - In England ’s cricket county
championship, Northamptonshire equals the
record lowest score of 12 against
1955 - Eighty people are killed
and more than 100 injured when
three cars crash on the Le Mans
racetrack and plough into a
1979 - Death of film legend John
Wayne (born Marion Michael Morrison),
1985 - Karen Ann Quinlan, a comatose
patient whose case prompted a historic right-
to-die court decision, dies, aged 31.
1987 - Margaret Thatcher becomes the first
British prime minister in 160 years to win a
third consecutive term of office.
2001 - Timothy McVeigh is put to death by
lethal injection for the deaths of 168 people
in the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
John Constable, British artist (1776-1837);
Julia Margaret Cameron, British photographer
(1815-1879); Millicent G Fawcett,
British suffragette (1847-1929);
Richard Strauss, German composer
Cousteau, French under water
explorer (1910-1997); Gene Wilder,
US actor (1933-); Jackie Stewart,
British motor racing champion
(1939-); Hugh Laurie, English actor
(1959-); Geoff Ogilvy, Australian golfer (1977-
); Joshua Jackson, US actor (1978-) .
“Neither in the life of the individual nor in
that of mankind is it desirable to know the
future. ” — Jakob Burckhardt, Swiss historian
“...as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God
from the heart.” — (Ephesians 6.6).
The Grey Valley ’s
volunteered information since the answer
to a correspondent inquiring into its cause
yesterday. It has a good deal more technical
name than ‘barber’. It is caused by a ‘katabatic’
wind. The explanation offered yesterday by
Greymouth harbourmaster captain
H J Gordon, however, proved correct. The
characteristic mist is caused by the cold air
from the hills meeting the warm air on lower
Katabatic is from a Greek word and though
in some dictionaries is spelled with an initial
‘C ’, in meteorologhy it has the initial ‘K’. It is
a wind caused by air flowing downwards or
a down-draft wind. It occurs where there are
high mountains or hills close to flat areas, and
barbers similar to Greymouth’s occur especially
The barber is particularly noticeable in
this area because its main outlet is through
a residential area. Similar phenomena occur
elsewhere but usually in uninhabited areas.
“ Work on the south breakwater required
41 tons of concrete for the month, with the
pouring of concrete roadway and kerbing,”
said the engineer-manager Mr J M McRae in
his report to the Greymouth Harbour Board
last night. He stated that the area fronting the
Blaketown bridge is now being reclaimed by
dragline and dozer as the Preston Road strip
was now virtually complete.
Fortunately the dragline had some days free
from river dredging operations during the
month and reclaimed 5000 cubic yards of fill
for the Preston Road area.
uFood for thought
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If it had only happened once, I
could have written it off as a simple
overstatement. Politics lends itself to
exaggeration, and there was a lot of that
associated with the Labour Party’s review
of the 2014 general election.
But, what I am describing was not the
usual bluff and bluster of the instant
commentariat. What I was hearing was
coming from ‘civilians’ — people without
a platform — ordinary folks. What they
have been saying to me, over and over
again, in the week or so since the review
was leaked to TV3’s Paddy Gower, is the
same statement-cum -question: “I think
Labour’s finished as a major party — what
do you think?”
Now, this is a not the sort of statement/
question that political parties ever want
to hear. Because it is not just another
complaint about this leader, or that
policy. No, this is an existential query, and
existential queries get made only when the
subject has already got at least one foot
(and a good portion of leg) in the political
I recall people saying very similar things
about the Alliance after it split apart over
Afghanistan. They have been writing
off Act as a zombie party for at least
the past six years (quite correctly, in my
opinion). Some people were even moved
to question National’s future after its party
vote plummeted to 20.9% in the general
election of 2002.
The difference between National’s
response to its electoral nadir and Labour’s
reaction to its worst result since 1922, is
that the former took its thrashing seriously
and Labour is not. Long before the review
was complete, Labour insiders were already
speculating on whether or not it would be
big enough to make a passable door-stop.
National looked upon its defeat as a
catastrophic market failure. National
Incorporated’s share price had crashed, the
bank was ready to call in its overdraft, and
the receivers were hovering. Time was of
the essence. The board of directors had to
What did they do? Well, they did
what every big business in trouble does.
They called in the political equivalent
of McKinsey and Co — consultants in
extremis — and ruthlessly refashioned the
National Party into a lean, mean electoral
machine. National’s review panel did not
just lop-off the dead wood, they fed it into
the wood chipper, mixed it with the blood
and bones of several sacred cows, and
spread it over their flower beds.
This sort of ruthlessness is not an option
for Labour. National’s whole purpose,
from the moment it was founded in
May 1936 (less than 12 months after the
election of the First Labour Government)
is to remove Labour from office whenever
voters have been incautious enough to
put it into government; and to remain
in government for as long as humanly
possible whenever Labour is in opposition.
Labour’s purpose is — or should be —
very different. It is supposed to be about
ideas, and change, and nationhood. It is
supposed to be socialist, social-democratic
party, the workers’ party.
Except it is not. Has not been since
the mid-1980s. A workers’ party, that is.
Labour is still a party of ideas — even
if they are not the sort of ideas ordinary
working people cotton on to (that does
not seem to matter any more). The
changes Labour is promoting? Well, they
do not find many takers either. Not that
a distinct lack of voter support is likely to
persuade the party to do things differently.
Because, whatever Labour has lost in the
trust and confidence of its electoral base,
its rank-and-file members have more than
made up for in democratic constitutional
Democracy is one of those things (like
fairness) that National tends to honour
more in the breach than the execution.
Indeed, it is the Tories’ iron chain of
command that allows them to campaign
so effectively. Labour, on the other hand, is
just one big tangle of chains: pull on one
and, instantly, a dozen others jerk violently
in the opposite direction.
Perhaps Labour could be saved if, like
the ancient Romans, they were willing
to install a dictator to “save the republic ”
from its enemies. (In the case of Labour’s
membership that would be themselves).
Someone capable of turning the party into
a lean, mean electoral machine.
Except, of course, Labour is never going
to do that. Which is why so many people
are telling me “Labour is finished” — and
why, regretfully, I am agreeing with them.
Chris Trotter is a left-wing political
Is Labour finished as a major political party?
Daniel Trotta and Marc Frank
newfound interest in
foreign capital has its
limits, as Philippe Pouletty
A French doctor, venture
capitalist and founder of biotech company
Abivax, Pouletty is working with Cuba’s
Centre for Genetic Engineering and
Biotechnology to develop a therapeutic
vaccine to treat chronic hepatitis B that
could be on the Asian market in two years
and in Europe after that.
But when he pitched the idea of floating
a company on the pan-European stock
market Euronext with the Cuban state as a
shareholder, that was clearly too much, too
“I told him in a half serious, half joking
mode, that I had a capitalist proposal,”
Pouletty said of his conversation with
Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro’s
eldest son, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, a
science advisor to the government.
“His response after more than 30 seconds
was ‘ That ’s indeed very intriguing, but if
you want us to reach an agreement quickly,
that ’s not the fastest route. It’s a few years
Instead, Abivax agreed to buy vaccines at
a predetermined price and pay royalties to
Cuba when the product is on the market.
Pouletty’s story offers a peek into the
mindset of Cuba Inc.
Convinced their country needs capital,
Cuba’s leaders are welcoming businesses
under a foreign investment law passed a
year ago, but they want tight control over
the pace of change.
United States business interest in Cuba
has exploded since December, when
President Barack Obama and Cuban
President Raul Castro announced they
would restore diplomatic relations after
decades of hostility.
“In the morning on December 17, Cuba
was still a word spoken in US business
circles with hushed tones. By the afternoon,
half of corporate America was rambling
around forming a Cuba team,” said Mark
Entwistle, a former Canadian ambassador
to Cuba and now a partner at Toronto-
based merchant bank Acasta Capital who
advises companies interested in Cuba.
Among those joining a recent New York
state delegation to Cuba were executives
from Jet Blue Airways Corp, Pfizer Inc and
Master Card Inc.
Most US companies are still blocked by
the 53-year-old trade embargo, although
Obama has relaxed it for some imports,
travel and telecommunications. That has
allowed for minor deals such as Netflix
streaming movies in Cuba and Airbnb
listing Cuban rental properties on-line.
If Obama can convince Congress to end
the embargo, US firms would be free to do
business here, though they would still face
major obstacles, including a multi-layered
bureaucracy, an unpredictable legal system
and highly regimented labour market.
Many foreign companies have thrived
over the years. They run hotels, build ships,
refine oil and pack meat. Some have a share
in bottled water, beer, soda, rum and cigar
Canada’s Sherritt International is perhaps
the most vested. It has been here since 1992
and generated 73% of its revenues in 2014
from Cuba-related businesses.
Sherritt mines nickel in Cuba and refines
it in Canada in a 50-50 joint venture with
Cuba’s government. It also produces 20,000
barrels a day of oil that it sells to Cuba and
has a one-third interest in an electricity
Even in a business subject to price swings,
Sherritt says it has always made a profit or
at least broken even with Cuban nickel.
“ We would tell others that Cuba’s a
great place to do business,” said Sean
McCaughan, vice-president for investor
relations, even though the embargo means
top Sherritt executives are banned from
setting foot in the United States and the
company is cut off from US capital markets
or shipping through US territory.
Other companies have failed miserably
in Cuba and were forced to leave or had
their executives imprisoned and their assets
confiscated. Petty bribery can land people
And at least one billionaire real estate
mogul came away from a recent trip to
“I didn’t find there were lot of great
opportunities. It was like going back in
time,” Stephen Ross, chairman and founder
of The Related Companies, told CNBC
television. “ You need a government that
really wants change, that really wants
business, and really wants to see growth,
and you don’t really have any of that feeling
Those who have been successful have
simple advice: be flexible and listen to
Cuban officials, because they will tell you
exactly what they want.
“There are foreigners who come here
with an attitude of superiority. In other
words, ‘ We’re going to show the Cubans.’
In general, those are the ones who fail
spectacularly,” said Alexandre Carpenter,
co-president of cigarette-maker Brascuba,
a joint venture between Cuba and the
Brazilian subsidiary of British American
There is no escaping the state’s central
planning. Foreign firms in joint ventures
must order raw materials a year ahead of
time. Property is leased from the state, it is
not up for sale.
Cuba regularly draws up a portfolio of
projects it wants foreigners to help with.
The latest one, issued in November, outlines
246, most of them joint ventures, that need
investments totaling $8.7 billion.
In one of the most attractive sectors,
tourism, the portfolio lists five hotel
construction projects; two golf resort
developments; and contracts to manage 33
But the government rarely tries to force
its Marxist ideology on foreign partners as
long as Cubans do not get rich.
“ To the contrary. They demand that the
business grow and generate more profits
every year,” Carpenter said.
One of the largest foreign firms in Cuba
is Brazil’s Odebrecht, which built a $900
million port at Mariel, the centrepiece of
an economic development zone designed
to attract capitalist ventures with a more
liberal import-export regime.
Odebrecht wants to build a plastics
factory there and it also has deals to expand
Havana’s international airport, operate a
sugar refinery, and build two hotels.
Mauro Hueb, head of Odebrecht ’s
operations here, says the advantages of
operating in Cuba include an educated,
low-cost workforce and low logistical costs,
and that to take advantage a company
needs to learn and respect local customs.
“ You have to have the capacity to adapt,”
said Hueb. “Here in Cuba, we consider
ourselves a Cuban company.”
Other successful ventures, some with US
stockholders, include Sherritt and French
builder Bouygues. Swiss conglomerate
Nestle has a bottled water and soft drinks
business. Spanish hoteliers Melia Hotels
International, Iberostar and NH have
established footholds in tourism and global
beer giant Anheuser-Busch In Bev brews
Cuba’s communist government first
opened to international firms in the 1990s
amid economic crisis caused by the collapse
of the Soviet Union, its main ally and
Results have been mixed. Cuba says
around 60% of foreign investment projects
begun since the 1990s have had to close.
Sometimes it kicks foreign partners out,
saying they failed to live up to their side of
the deal. Sometimes the companies leave
on their own.
The corporate landscape is still sparse,
with only around 100 direct investment
projects and a similar number of deals in
which foreigners manage a Cuban company
without an equity stake.
While US firms hope the normalisation
of relations and economic reforms under
way in Cuba will improve the investment
climate, experts say change will be gradual.
For years, foreigners’ biggest complaints
have been the lack of control over labour,
the uncertain legal environment, and the
multiple layers of bureaucracy to get a
“Forget owning a piece of the rock. The
most you can hope for is a 50-50 venture
with a state-run partner,” a European
economic attache said. “And that will be
the exception. The rule remains a minority
British-D utch consumer goods giant
Unilever became the first major corporation
to enter Cuba after the fall of Soviet
Desperate for hard currency and consumer
products, Cuba agreed to a 50-50 venture on
a factory complex but when the 15-year deal
came up for renewal it insisted on majority
ownership. Unilever left the country although
it is now in discussions on returning, several
sources familiar with the talks said.
When business goes wrong, it can be dire.
An extreme example is that of Canadian
businessman Cy Tokmakjian, who served
three years in jail for bribery and other
charges before being freed in February.
Tokmakjian had done business in Cuba
for 20 years, then suddenly was arrested
in 2011 and his company shuttered as
prosecutors accused him of wooing officials
and their families with gifts. His company
called it a ‘travesty of justice’.
Stephen Purvis, the former development
director of British investment fund Coral
Capital who built hotels and planned a golf
course in Cuba, was arrested in 2011 in a
crackdown on corruption.
Pur vis said he was falsely accused by a
rival, interrogated for five days, and denied
a lawyer for a month. He was eventually
deported after being convicted on a minor
“There is a virtual 100% conviction
rate,” Pur vis said. “Once detained you will
be charged and found guilty. It’s just a
question of what for.” — Reuters
Cuba Inc with limits
Philippe Pouletty, French doctor and founder of the biotech company Abivax, outside Cuba’s Centre for Genetic Engineering
and Biotechnology in Havana
Sremski Karlovci (Serbia)
Legend has it that Roman Emperor
Marcus Aurelius Probus never let his
soldiers sit idle, so in peacetime he put
them to work planting vineyards in the
rolling hills of Alma Mons, present-day
Fruska Gora in northern Serbia.
Over the centuries, winemaking
became a noble and lucrative business
across the western Balkans. Two world
wars, Communist-era neglect and a
decade of turbulence at the close of the
20th century devastated the industry,
but in Serbia there are green shoots of
Exports of award-winning Serbian
wines are soaring.
“Serbian wines are returning to
markets. In the past 10 or 15 years we
made big steps for ward in production
and quality,” said Miroslav Kovacevic,
47, a portly, third-generation
winemaker from the northern town of
Irig, where his family vineyards employ
around 120 people.
Last year master sommeliers at
the Decanter World Wine Awards
competitions in London awarded
Serbian wines 25 medals and
recommendations, up from two in
It is a hard-won success after years
of war devastated the industry. When
Serbia finally emerged from the ashes
of Yugoslavia with the fall of strongman
Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, the
country had lost three-quarters of its
Reformists who replaced Milosevic
introduced grants of 12,000 euros per
hectare of new vineyard, favourable
loans and subsidies.
Winemaking is now one of the
fastest growing branches of Serbian
agriculture, employing around 100,000
households in the country of 7.3 million
Rare trades associated with wine are
being revived, like making wine barrels,
said Dejan Zivkoski, head of Serbia’s
Association of Sommeliers.
“A decade ago you could hardly find
a cooper (barrel-maker) in Serbia; now
there are more and more,” he said.
But winemakers still import most of
their needs including bottles, corks,
stainless-steel machinery and vessels.
Taxes and duties on wine and land
remain too high, he said.
Lacking in confidence Serbian
winemakers need to promote
themselves more to grab a bigger slice
of a global market estimated at
$292 billion, said Marko Babsek, a
Belgrade-born New York sommelier
who created a portfolio of wines for
export called The Balkan Wine Project.
He said Serbian producers could find
a niche in international markets if they
focused on domestic grape varieties
that set them apart from western
Tipple of emperors returns
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