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Oxfordshire’s plan to become smoke free is yet another example of state overreach

In February of last year, Ansaf Azhar, the director of public health for Oxfordshire county council, unveiled the “Oxfordshire Tobacco Control Strategy”. Azhar had decided that the proportion of people living in Oxfordshire who smoke – 12 per cent – was too high and needed to be slashed. When fewer than five per cent of people smoke, an area can be considered “smoke free”. Azhar made it his mission to make Oxfordshire England’s first smoke-free county.

The Oxfordshire Tobacco Control Strategy was signed offby the county council in principle in May last year. You would be forgiven for thinking that since then, the director of public health at a local authority might have had more pressing matters to attend to than smoking. But Azhar has apparently continued his crusade against cigarettes undeterred.

He has now horrified right-thinking people up and down the country by declaring the council’s intention to ban smoking for outdoor hospitality. Although the plan currently lacks an implementation timetable or any other firm commitment, the fact that it is part of the plan at all says some very worrying things about the direction we’re heading in.

In the new world order of the nanny state, everything can be neatly categorised into good and bad. Everything is black and white – it’s all either vital or morally reprehensible. Once it is accepted that an activity is objectively “bad”, who could possibly oppose its being banned?

Of course, the real world, outside the offices of “directors of public health”, is rather different. It is not all black and white. There are lots of shades of grey. But nuance and freedom of choice aren’t all that fashionable these days.

Unfortunately for smokers, cigarettes have been deemed a social evil. Their existence is so objectively awful that the reasoning behind drastic measures to wipe them from the face of the earth doesn’t even need justifying. The result is that ludicrous policy proposals like the Oxfordshire Tobacco Control Strategy can be signed off and made reality with startlingly little scrutiny from those we elect to represent us and safeguard our civil liberties.

If you can bear it, I recommend a cursory read of the offending document, for novelty value if nothing else. It talks not of blanket bans, sweeping restrictions and ill-thought-out curbs on our freedoms, but instead of “creating smoke free environments”, as though we are being given a gift of something new to enjoy and ought to be grateful.

Most troubling is the way the document’s authors seem to be in complete denial that they are wielding the tools of the state at all. They write: “The interventions required to successfully de-normalise smoking and achieve a smoke free Oxfordshire may be considered as “nanny statist” or an assault on personal choice by some people. The whole system approach to make smoking less visible is not banning the choice of people who choose to smoke. It aims to create smoke free environments in more places in our communities, protecting the free choice of the nine out of ten residents of Oxfordshire who choose not to smoke.”

Oh, you thought our harsh new restrictions on what you can and can’t do in public were an assault on your freedom, did you? Don’t worry – if you look carefully, you’ll find that bans on common activities actually give you more freedom, not less.

The counter-factual logic behind the introduction of new regulations in the name of “public health” knows no bounds. If the council actually wanted to make Oxfordshire healthier, it would see that the answer is not to put yet more unnecessary strain on the hospitality industry at this impossibly difficult time.

Instead, the council should throw all its efforts behind supporting vaping as an alternative to smoking. More than half of Britain’s e-cigarette users – around 1.7 million people – are former smokers. Those nine out of ten Oxfordshire residents who don’t smoke won’t have to worry about any health risks from second-hand e-cigarette vapour. Even Public Health England concedes – with a great deal of reluctance – that vaping is 95 per cent less harmful than smoking.

And yet, in the 24-page Oxfordshire Tobacco Control Strategy, there is not a single mention of vaping, the most effective instrument for tobacco control we have. That begs the question: what do the public health authorities actually want, if it is not to make people healthier? When they flagrantly eschew proven harm reduction tools in favour of gratuitous centralised policy interventions, it becomes impossible to sympathise with their motives.

This problem stretches much further than Oxfordshire. In fact, the county is only a few years ahead of national public health outcomes. Its strategy mimics that of Public Health England, which is working towards Matt Hancock’s target of making England smoke-free by 2030.

The attack on effective harm reduction methods and the swing towards a new age of nanny statism comes from the very top. Last week, the World Health Organisation honoured the health minister of India for his work on “tobacco control” which notably includes banning vaping. A new APPG, chaired by Mark Pawsey, the Conservative MP, seeks to bring to a halt the WHO’s pernicious influence in areas like this. That task becomes more difficult with each passing day.

Originally published here.

Pesan Inovasi dari Peringatan Hari Vape Sedunia

Sejumlah aktivis dan ilmuwan dari berbagai belahan dunia menghadiri peringatan Hari Vape Sedunia pada 30 Mei 2021. Salah satu topik utama dalam pertemuan virtual ini adalah pentingnya pemahaman mengenai dampak positif inovasi produk nikotin, yang terdiri dari vape, tembakau yang dipanaskan (HTP), snus, dan kantong nikotin atau lebih dikenal di Indonesia dengan sebutan Hasil Pengolahan Tembakau Lainnya (HPTL). Produk-produk tersebut berpotensi lebih rendah risiko dan dapat membantu perokok untuk berhenti. Namun, kurangnya pemahaman para pembuat kebijakan akan produk-produk tersebut membuat perkembangannya melambat.

“Inovasi pada produk nikotin sudah terbukti memberikan dampak yang positif. Inovasi teknologi yang ada pada produk HPTL bersifat netral dan lahir dari kebutuhan pengguna akan alternatif produk tembakau yang lebih minim risiko. Sayangnya, terkadang hal ini belum didukung dengan regulasi yang sesuai, sehingga prosesnya terhambat,” kata Yael Ossowski, Wakil Direktur Consumer Choice Center.

Ossowski menambahkan, masih banyak pihak yang menganggap bahwa vape dan rokok konvensional merupakan hal yang sama. Ini merupakan salah satu alasan utama mengapa produk HPTL belum mendapatkan regulasi yang sesuai. Selain itu, temuan ilmiah masih belum dijadikan acuan utama dalam merumuskan kebijakan. 

Kondisi ini dinilai sangat disayangkan, di mana penelitian terkait produk HPTL saat ini semakin banyak dan berkembang. Profesor Bernd Mayer, Ahli Toksikologi dari University of Graz, Austria mengatakan “Berbagai penelitian sudah membuktikan bahwa vape lebih rendah risiko daripada rokok konvensional. Oleh karena itu, upaya mendorong para perokok untuk beralih ke produk alternatif merupakan hal yang tepat.”

Pada kesempatan yang sama, Cristiana Batista dari Asosiasi Vape Portugal (APORVAP) menjelaskan bahwa vape merupakan salah satu hasil penemuan terbesar karena dapat membantu perokok untuk berhenti. Menurutnya, inovasi ini harus disambut dengan insentif dari segi regulasi yang dapat membuat produk ini lebih berkembang dan berdampak positif. Batista menambahkan, “Saya sangat optimis dengan vape karena produk ini dapat membantu saya berhenti setelah menjadi perokok selama 16 tahun.”

Mendukung bukan menghentikan 

Forum turut mendiskusikan tentang pendekatan baru dalam mengontrol prevalensi merokok di sebuah populasi. Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) atau pengurangan dampak buruk tembakau adalah pendekatan yang menitikberatkan pada pentingnya memberikan alternatif yang lebih rendah risiko untuk para perokok. Untuk menerapkan pendekatan tersebut, pemerintah perlu mendukung produk-produk HPTL melalui berbagai instrumen regulasi. 

Sebaliknya, melarang produk-produk tersebut merupakan pilihan yang kurang tepat. Menurut Ethan Nadelmann, Pendiri dan mantan Direktur Eksekutif (2000–2017) Drug Policy Alliance menjelaskan bahwa pelarangan terhadap opsi-opsi alternatif yang rendah risiko justru dapat melahirkan konsekuensi-konsekuensi yang tidak diinginkan. “Ketika Anda melarang sesuatu, hal tersebut tidak membuatnya menghilang begitu saja, permintaan pasar akan tetap ada dan itu membuat jutaan orang kembali ke pasar gelap untuk mendapatkan apa yang mereka butuhkan,” tambah Nadelmann.

Originally published here.


The Minderoo foundation released a report outlining the multinational corporations they claim are responsible for producing and financing single-use plastic products globally.

The report, which was internationally covered, calls for additional regulations to help curb the issue of mismanaged plastic waste. Unfortunately, their proposals largely ignore the immense consumer costs associated with increased regulatory efforts.

 “The Minderoo Foundation’s report on plastic waste completely ignores the additional costs to consumers that arise from heavy-handed regulations. Their suggestions, in addition to what has already been proposed by Congress, are a recipe for disaster that will significantly increase the prices paid by consumers”, said David Clement, North American Affairs Manager for the DC-based Consumer Choice Center.

“The Foundation’s report seems to ignore the fact that the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, and CLEAN Future Act, set the stage for a moratorium on permits for advanced recycling facilities. This is important because a polymer recycling mandate, like the one proposed in the report, is not feasible if Congress simultaneously bans the creation of new advanced recycling facilities.

“If Congress were to act on the Minderoo Foundation’s report, they would create a recycled content mandate while at the same time significantly limiting the ability of advanced recycling facilities to keep pace. That will cause demand for recycled plastics to skyrocket without creating the necessary infrastructure needed to increase the supply of recycled plastic, which will put tremendous upward pressure on prices. It would be a terrible outcome for consumers, especially given the financial uncertainty forced upon so many Americans because of the pandemic,” he added.

Originally published here.

Ukraine is the least pandemic resilient country in the world

One of my best friends is an infectious disease doctor in Lviv, and throughout the pandemic, I had a chance to learn a lot about Ukraine’s preparation for the pandemic. From the shocking lack of protective equipment, unwillingness to get vaccinated to a late start of and insufficient testing, malfunctions of our health system have been blatantly exposed by the COVID-19 crisis. 

Time will tell what and when exactly went so wrong, but one thing is clear: we could have done better. In fact, according to the Consumer Choice Center’s Pandemic Resilience Index 2021, which I co-authored, we did the worst in the world.

To demonstrate global preparedness for the pandemic which was by and large foreseeable, we examined 40 countries through the prism of the following factors: vaccine approval, vaccination drive, as well as the number of intensive care beds, and the pace of testing. The said indicators are crucial components of health resilience as the ability to envisage COVID-alike threats, recognize them early on, respond without resorting to panic and rushed decision making, avoid shortages, identify and tackle regulatory barriers, and sustain the state of preparedness.

Based on the findings, the resilience of countries was assessed as the highest, above average, average, below average and lowest. Israel and the United Arab Emirates topped the list, while most EU countries showed average preparedness. Britain and the United States are above average.

New Zealand and Ukraine have shown the lowest resilience. In the case of New Zealand, its lag can be explained by its location and the strict closure of borders. Due to a small number of cases, the health system As a result of very few cases, its health system did not quite face the emergency test of the sweeping gravity.

Instead, in the case of Ukraine, the reasons are different. As a post-Soviet state trying to make its way into the European Union, Ukraine has failed to uphold effective healthcare system reform. Combined with corruption, regulatory barriers to vaccine approvals, and inefficient management, Ukraine had not only failed to recognize the rising rates of the infection early on and act on it, but also to quickly adapt its health system to the needs of the day. 

Let’s look at some numbers. It took Ukraine 84 days longer than the UK and more than 50 days longer than the EU to officially start vaccination. The delays are largely the result of short-sightedness and a lack of anti-COVID strategy. Only Australia, which started vaccination on February 25, 2021, a day later than Ukraine, has a worse result than Ukraine in this indicator of the index.

Furthermore, the issue wasn’t only the vaccine approval process per se but also its distribution. ensure the first and second stages of vaccination, 347 mobile teams are needed, according to the Public Health Center. In the future, it is planned to create a total of about six hundred such teams. All these steps take time, as workers involved in vaccination must first undergo special training from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation. In times of the pandemic, the time costs are higher, and lags are, as a result, very costly.

The fight against the virus is also undermined by low support for vaccination among the Ukrainian population. According to a survey conducted by the National Kharkiv Institute of Sociological Research, as of December 2020, only 21 percent of Ukrainians wanted to be vaccinated – 40 percent were against.

The average number of daily tests conducted in Ukraine per 100,000 population (as of March 31, 2021) – 0.51 – is one of the lowest in the world. This figure is 4 times lower than Britain, 14 times lower than Slovakia, and 11 times lower than Cyprus. According to the Index, only India and Brazil test less than Ukraine. Furthermore, it is likely because of the lack of testing that Ukraine hasn’t made headlines as India 2.0. By now, every Ukrainian knows someone who died of COVID, or at least had it once, so the numbers are very misleading. 

In contrast, countries such as South Korea and UAE enforced drive-through testing. Abu Dhabi Health Services (SEHA) and Abu Dhabi Department of Health put in place drive through testing services to stop the spread, and testing every two weeks has been encouraged.

Regarding intensive care bed capacity, Ukraine here is also at the rock bottom of the ranking. Before the start of the pandemic, there were 4.1 beds per 100 thousand population in Ukraine. For comparison, Poland had 10.1, and Russia – 8.3.

Ukraine has a lot to learn from other countries, and our Index is a clear indication that the Indian pandemic scenario is quite real for Ukraine if we do not solve the fundamental problems in the health system, and learn to plan for the future better.

Originally published here.

Philippine gov’t exerts all-out effort for ‘Bangkota’ pavilion in Expo 2020 Dubai

Though the global pandemic has led to a slew of major changes in the forthcoming Expo 2020 Dubai, the construction of the Philippines’ ‘Bangkota’ pavilion remains unhampered and key plans formulated by its team prior to the emergence of COVID-19 stay on, said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

DTI Assistant Secretary for the Trade Promotions Group and PH Expo 2020 Dubai, Alternate Commissioner General Rosvi C. Gaetos said the ‘Bangkota’ is nearing its full completion rate and will soon be ready to captivate the curiosities of the world in the post-pandemic era.

“We are 97% complete with the pavilion; we’re lucky to have a very good building contractor and also a very good project management team,” said Gaetos. “By August 30th, the fully completed pavilion will be turned over to us. That’s the time we can start the technical rehearsals in preparation for the opening this October. So, we are very much ready.”

“I’m glad that with this Dubai Expo, the Philippine government has done all out, in support for budgetary and otherwise. If not for the pandemic, we would have really accomplished everything as early as last year,” she added.

Although the construction, she said, is progressing on all fronts, and in no time would be ready for the much-vaunted largest event ever to be staged in the Arab world, the process had not come easy stemming from the limitations of mobility, especially during the height of the pandemic last year when mutual isolations between countries had dawned.

While they were trying to mount the re-imagined 4,000 years story of the Philippines through the pavilion, the Assistant Secretary said the DTI also had to ‘re-imagine’ ways to supervise the mega-project remotely to ensure that the contractors were bringing to life the designs, true to the vision and ideas of the creative team.

“We were off-site when the pandemic hit; we just came back [from Dubai] to Manila. So it was a big challenge. [Nonetheless], it appears that the vision of the architect and of the government has been met. The only thing that’s missing now would be putting together the Visitors’ Journey to the exhibits. It’s actually the last piece that we are finalizing now,” she said.

“The postponement [of the Expo last year],” she added, “was also good for us because it gave us an opportunity to fine-tune many things. But everything was being done virtually because we could not travel to Dubai to inspect the pavilion onsite. It really became a test of our patience and a test of our creativity to be able to build the pavilion with us here.”

Going to many great lengths just to keep the ground running and meet what had seemed to be impossible during the extraordinary global circumstances set this enormous overseas endeavor apart from the various Philippines’ expo participations in the past, indeed.

Targets remain big as before

The DTI Assistant Secretary admitted that uncertainties had come into play resulting from the disruptions that spiraled during the pandemic.

“The biggest impact of the pandemic is the uncertainty created in our plans. We may have been successful in delivering the pavilion according to our vision and to our goals, but how sure are we that visitors will come and visit it? How sure are we that people will appreciate what we have done? Again, this is the most expensive Philippine pavilion that the government has ever undertaken. I guess that’s the biggest question mark that the pandemic brought to fore,” she related.

“The responsibility for delivering rests largely on the shoulders of the organizers, but they had assured us that the number of target visitors remains. If they can deliver that, we will be incredibly happy customers.”

With the UAE achieving milestone after milestone even amid this global crisis, however, DTI expressed confidence that the visitors target of 25 million during the six-month-long mega-event would be hit, bolstered by Dubai’s proven mantra: ‘Build it and they shall come’.

In the middle of this month, the UAE placed on top of the global rankings in terms of vaccination rate, overtaking Israel, after it administered more than 120 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine per 100 people.

Before this, the Gulf country’s major push to inoculate its nationals and residents alike had proved to be an effective booster shot in gaining the confidence of consumers across the globe. It was named the No. 1 most resilient country in the world for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Middle East and No. 2 worldwide by the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), a non-for-profit organization representing the rights of consumers in over 100 countries.

Taking all these into consideration, the sight of Expo’s success is imminent proving the world once more the other mantra of Dubai that ‘nothing is impossible’ with a bold vision and optimism.

Originally published here.

Perlindungan Hak Kekayaan Intelektual dan Royalti untuk Pekerja Seni

Perlindungan Hak Kekayaan intelektual dan pekerja seni adalah dua hal yang sangat terkait dan tidak bisa dipisahkan. Melalui perlindungan hak kekayaan intelektual, maka para pekerja seni, seperti musisi dan sineas, bisa menikmati manfaat dari karya yang telah mereka buat.

Tanpa adanya perlindungan terhadap hak kekayaan intelektual, hal tersebut tentu akan sangat merugikan para pekerja seni. Para pekerja seni tersebut berpotensi akan semakin sulit untuk mendapatkan manfaat dari karya yang mereka buat untuk menafkahi kehidupan mereka, karena setiap orang dapat bebas membajak atau menampilkan karya-karya mereka tanpa harus membayar para pekerja seni yang membuat karya tersebut.

Di era digital, perlindungan hak kekayaan intelektual terhadap pekerja seni tentu memiliki tantangan baru. Seiring dengan perkembangan teknologi, setiap orang dapat dengan mudah membajak dan memasarkan produk-produk karya seni yang dibajak tersebut di dunia maya, untuk dinikmati dan disaksikan secara gratis oleh jutaan orang di seluruh dunia.

Namun, tantangan perlindungan hak kekayaan inteletual, khususnya di Indonesia, bukan hanya dari perkembangan dunia maya. Di sektor pelayanan, seperti rumah makan, kafe, karaoke, dan klub malam, kita bisa dengan mudah menemukan para pengelola tempat tersebut menampilkan musik atau lagu tertentu untuk menghibur para pengunjugnya, namun tanpa memberi bayaran kepada para musisi yang membuat berbagai lagu yang dimainkan.

Hal ini tentu merupakan sesuatu  yang perlu untuk diselesaikan. Terlebih lagi, karena yang menampilkan musik tersebut adalah tempat usaha yang bertujuan untuk mencari keuntungan.

Untuk mengatasi persoalan tersebut, pada tanggal 30 Maret 2021 lalu, Presiden Joko Widodo mengeluarkan Peraturan Pemerintah Nomor 56 Tahun 2021 tentang Pengelolaan Royalti Hak Cipta Lagu Dan/ Atau Musik. Dalam Pasal 3 ayat 1 peraturan tersebut, tertulis secara eksplisit bahwa “Setiap orang dapat melakukan penggunaan secara komersial lagu dan/atau musik dalam bentuk layanan publik yang bersifat komersial dengan membayar royalti kepada pencipta, pemegang hak cipta, dan/atau pemilik hak (cnnindonesia, 5/4/2021).

Dalam peraturan tersebut, dijelaskan secara eksplisit juga dituliskan berbagai penggunaan musik atau lagu yang diharuskan untuk membayar royalti kepada para musisi yang membuat lagu tersebut. Diantaranya adalah seminar, konser, transportasi umum, pameran, nada tunggu telepon, pertokoan, bank, dan kantor, pusat rekreasi, penyiaran televisi dan radio, serta fasilitas hotel (cnnindonesia, 5/4/2021).

Adanya peraturan tersebut tentu merupakan hal yang patut kita apresiasi. Diharapkan, dengan adanya peraturan pemerintah yang mewajibkan para pemilik usaha, seperti rumah makan, untuk membayar royalti kepada para musisi, maka kesejahteraan musisi dapat lebih terjamin, dan hak kekayaan intelektual yang mereka miliki terhadap karya yang mereka buat juga dapat semakin terjaga.

Hal ini semakin penting terutama pada saat pandemi COVID-19. Pandemi COVID-19 telah membuat industri musik di Indonesia menjerit, karena para musisi tidak bisa tampil di depan publik seperti tahun-tahun sebelumnya (, 16/7/2020).

Diharapkan, dengan adanya peraturan pemerintah tersebut, maka para musisi yang saat ini sedang mengalami kesulitan dapat terbantu,. Membuat musik, terlebih lagi yang sangat populer dan bisa dinikmati oleh banyak orang, bukanlah sesuatu yang mudah, dan dibutuhkan banyak usaha. Sudah selayaknya, para musisi tersebut bisa mendapatkan manfaat dari karya yang mereka buat.

Selain itu, argumen lain untuk membenarkan kebijakan pengelola usaha untuk memutar musik atau lagu tanpa royalti kepada para musisi adalah, tidak sedikit dari para pengelola yang memutar musik tersebut melalui media streaming yang berbayar, seperti Spotify misalnya. Karena sudah membayar layanan streaming tersebut, maka dianggap hal tersebut adalah sesuatu yang cukup sehingga pembayaran royalti adalah sesuatu yang kurang diperlukan.

Pandangan ini merupakan sesuatu yang sangat keliru. Berbagai layanan streaming tersebut secara eksplisit menyatakan bahwa layanan mereka hanya bisa digunakan untuk tujuan personal, dan bukan kegiatan usaha. Berdasarkan ketentuan dari layanan streaming Spotify misalnya, dijelaskan secara eksplisit bahwa layanan mereka hanya bisa digunakan untuk hiburan pribadi dan bukan untuk penggunaan komersial. Dengan demikian, layanan streaming ini tidak boleh digunakan secara publik di tempat usaha, seperti radio, toko, dan rumah makan (, 15/4/2021).

Melalui ketentuan tersebut, maka sudah jelas bahwa ketentuan tersebut sejalan dengan peraturan pemerintah yang dikeluarkan oleh Presiden Joko Widodo pada bulan Maret lalu. Menggunakan layanan streaming untuk kepentingan komersil merupakan sesuatu yang tidak bisa dibenarkan.

Sebagai penutup, hak kekayaan intelektual, termasuk juga tentunya karya-karya seni seperti musik, merupakan hal yang patut dilindungi oleh negara. Oleh karena itu, adanya peraturan pemerintah yang bertujuan untuk menegakkan perlindungan hak kekayaan intelektual adalah sesuatu yang harus kita apresiasi, agar para pekerja seni bisa mendapat perlindungan atas karya yang mereka buat. DIharapkan, industri kreatif, termasuk juga industri musik, di Indonesia dapat semakin berkembang di masa yang akan datang.

Originally published here.

UAE and Israel’s COVID success: lessons for the EU

Now with the pandemic hopefully approaching its end, it is time for reflection and thorough analysis of emerging case studies.

Both the US and EU had hard time adjusting their health systems to the COVID-19 crisis, effectively scaling up testing early on and overcoming the pre-existing regulatory burdens. Countries such as Israel and the UAE avoided such mistakes though.

Based on the findings of the recently published Consumer Choice Center’s Pandemic Resilience Index 2021, Israel and the UAE were found to be the most pandemic resilient countries. Both countries lead the global vaccination and testing efforts. As of March 31st, 2021, the average number of daily tests conducted in the UAE was 8.29 which was almost three times higher than France, Finland, Ireland, and Portugal.

Since the start of the pandemic, testing services have been extensively available across the UAE. Using the most up to date facilities and testing systems, Abu Dhabi Health Services (SEHA) and Abu Dhabi Department of Health put in place drive through testing services to stop the spread, and testing every two weeks has been encouraged. In March 2020, a massive laboratory was built in just 14 days to scale up the testing.

The UAE has also successfully leveraged digital technologies to tackle the pandemic. Chat-bots as well as various apps were developed and introduced to mitigate the consequences of a health disaster. For example, the “Doctor for every citizen” app was made available to facilitate communication between the public and doctors.

Israel is a clear winner when it comes to the speed of vaccinations. As of March 31st, 60.64 per cent of the population of Israel received at least one dose of vaccine which is mainly the reason why Israel heads the Pandemic Resilience Index, Israel’s COVID-vaccination campaign kicked off 17 days later than that of the UK (the first country in the world to authorise Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine). For comparison, it took most EU countries more than 20 days more than the UK to do that. In the case of the Netherlands – 37 days longer.

Israel, on the other hand, has neither the highest number of ICU beds per 100k people nor a very high average number of new COVID tests per thousand people. However, the number of ventilators available per 100k people in Israel is 40, which is much higher than, for example, Poland, Greece, Latvia, Malta, Ireland.

The United Arab Emirates comes in second mainly because of its vaccination rate. As of March 31st 2021, UAE administered 84 doses of vaccines per 100 people. Regarding the start of the vaccination, the UAE took over the EU in terms of vaccination by about 10 days. The UK and the US (53 and 45 doses respectively) follow the UAE. The remainder of the countries analysed, are significantly behind.

However, no one is truly out of the pandemic unless everyone is out. Israel and UAE are the pandemic success stories but the rest of the world needs to catch up so that we can all get back to some normality. Health resilience, and in particular, the ability to foresee future crises and make the necessary precautions are crucial, and EU’s mistakes such as slow vaccine rollout and testing, have proven to be costly. Moving forward, the Union and member states need to act in a smarter way, following the example of Israel and the UAE.

Originally published here.

Propiedad intelectual, el derecho que se debate en el mundo por la liberación de patentes de las vacunas

Organizaciones internacionales rechazaron las medidas propuestas por la OMC. Si se aceptaran y aplicaran, sería contraproducente: profundizaría la crisis y debilitaría las bases de sustentación ante una futura pandemia.

El debate sobre el derecho de propiedad intelectual se puso al rojo vivo con la pretendida iniciativa de liberar las patentes de las vacunas.

Sin embargo, una acción de tal magnitud podría traer aparejado un efecto contrario al deseado ya que se vulneran los esfuerzos de empresas tras haber invertido cientos de millones de dólares en investigación y desarrollo.

Sobre este tópico, la Fundación Libertad y Progreso junto con otras 26 organizaciones internacionales rechazaron las medidas propuestas ante la Organización Mundial del Comercio (OMC), tendientes a anular los derechos de propiedad intelectual (DPI). El resultado de estas medidas, si se aceptaran y aplicaran, sería contraproducente: profundizaría la crisis en la que nos encontramos y debilitaría las bases de sustentación ante una futura pandemia.

Según el Global Health Innovation Center de Duke University, el mundo se encamina a producir 12.000 millones de dosis de distintas vacunas necesarias para brindar inmunidad de rebaño (70% de la población mundial). Una vejación masiva sobre los derechos de propiedad intelectual afectarán los incentivos para esta producción y futuras investigaciones para el bienestar de la humanidad.

El respeto por los derechos de propiedad intelectual es fundamental para acabar con la pandemia de la Covid-19 y reactivar la economía. La seguridad jurídica garantizará no sólo la producción, sino también el acceso a vacunas.

Libertad y Progreso suscribe a la declaración conjunta que establece los siguientes puntos:

*Los DPI son fundamentales para la producción a escala sostenible de vacunas;
*Los DPI son esenciales para la I&D para futuras pandemias;
*La competencia mundial, no la producción local forzada, será la que mantenga los precios bajos de las vacunas;
*Una suspensión de los DPI no tendrá efecto sobre la producción de vacunas sin una transferencia tecnológica forzada, la cual sería demasiado lenta, estaría llena de problemas legales y causaría mucho daño económico.

Al 20 de abril del 2021, había 217 vacunas anti-Covid (además de más de 600 tratamientos antivirales y terapéuticos) bajo desarrollo a nivel mundial. Este mercado competitivo e innovador se encuentra bajo riesgo con las iniciativas multilaterales anti-DPI. La escasez de vacunas en la Argentina y en otros países, no se hubiera producido o hubiera sido transitoria si los gobiernos respectivos hubieran actuado con diligencia.

Las organizaciones abajo firmantes, hacemos un llamado a los gobiernos para que protejan el sistema de innovación que ha suministrado múltiples vacunas y medicamentos anti-Covid en tiempo récord. De no ser así, la inversión futura para nuevos desarrollos para enfrentar las nuevas cepas de Covid-19 y futuras pandemias será menor y, por ende el costo humano será superior.

La declaración fue firmada por la   Asociación de Consumidores Libres de Costa Rica, Alternate Solutions Institute de Pakistán, Austrian Economic Centre de Austria, Bay Area Council Economic Institute de los Estados Unidos, Centro Mackenzie de Liberdade Econômica del Brasil, Center for Global Enterprise de los Estados Unidos,  Competere de Italia, Consumer Choice Centre de Bélgica, Free Market Foundation de Sudáfrica, Fundación Eléutera de Honduras, Fundación IDEA de México, Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy de Malasia, Geneva Network de Reino Unido, Imani Centre for Policy and Education de Ghana, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation de los Estados Unidos, Instituto de Ciencia Política de Colombia, Instituto de Libre Empresa del Perú, Istituto Bruno Leoni de Italia, Istituto per la Competitivà (I-Com) de Italia, KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific de Malasia Libertad y Desarrollo de Chile, Libertad y Progreso de Argentina, McDonald-Laurier Institute de Canadá, Minimal Government Thinkers de Filipinas, Paramadina Public Policy Institute de Indonesia, Prime Institute de Pakistán y Property Rights Alliance de los Estados Unidos.

Originally published here.

Ending liquor monopoly in Ontario would be win-win-win

Rethinking the LCBO could save taxpayers a tremendous amount of money

Ontario is teetering on the edge of a fiscal cliff. Under its previous Liberal government, the province became the most indebted sub-sovereign unit in the world. Unfortunately, poor policy-making and the COVID-19 pandemic have only worsened its situation. Ontario’s debt is now over $404 billion, which means each Ontarian’s share of that debt is a whopping $27,000.

As the pandemic ends, Ontario will need bold policy-making to dig itself out of the hole it’s in. One bold policy that would help is privatizing the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), or at a minimum capping its expansion and ending its monopoly status.

Scrapping the LCBO and shifting to a private, preferably uncapped, retail model would benefit consumers by offering them more choice and convenience. Ontario currently has the worst alcohol retail density in Canada, mostly because the combination of a government monopoly (LCBO), with a government-sanctioned private monopoly (The Beer Store) has limited the scalability of retail access. As a result, Ontario has only one alcohol retail outlet for every 4,480 residents. In comparison, British Columbia has one store for every 2,741 residents, Alberta one for every 1,897 residents, and Quebec one store for every 1,047 residents. Ending the LCBO’s monopoly would help bring Ontario onto a par with other provinces.

More importantly, rethinking the LCBO could save taxpayers a tremendous amount of money. The LCBO’s operating costs are bloated. Based on its 2019 annual financial statement, the average sales, general and administrative (SG&A) cost per store is $1,515,000 per year. With 666 corporate stores, that is a considerable expense to taxpayers. Private alternatives, like high-inventory private retailers in Alberta, cost significantly less to operate. Based on Alcanna’s 2019 annual financial report, the average SG&A for a private outlet comparable to an LCBO, is just $676,000 per year. If we could snap our fingers right now and fully transition the LCBO out of the government’s operating model, taxpayers would save an astounding $559 million per year. If the Ford government is looking for low-hanging fiscal fruit, this is it.

Labour unions and other supporters of nationalized alcohol distribution would obviously have an issue with the complete elimination of the LCBO. They will argue that privatization would threaten the well-paying jobs of the thousands of Ontarians who work for the LCBO. This could be true, as it’s unlikely that private retailers would require their workers to be members of OPSEU, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which has negotiated wages well above the market rates for comparable jobs. That said, there is a compromise solution that both expands consumer choice, maintains those LCBO jobs, and saves taxpayers millions of dollars. It is to stop the LCBO from expanding its operations and let the private sector fill the void.

Each year, on average, the LCBO, makes a net addition of seven new stores in Ontario. If the province were to simply stop the LCBO’s expansion, and have the private sector fill the gap, taxpayers would cumulatively save $88 million after five years. At the 10-year mark that figure would be $323 million. And these savings are only the ongoing operational savings and don’t include the tens of millions of dollars the LCBO spends to acquire storefronts for expansion.

This compromise solution would allow the LCBO’s existing outlets to remain operational, while also allowing for more retail access and a hybrid model moving forward. On top of the cost savings, there might well be revenue gains. Hybrid and private retail models for alcohol sale (as in B.C. and Alberta) actually generate more alcohol tax revenue per capita, a further benefit for the public purse. Politically, this compromise solution is a no-brainer. Increasing access, fuelling private business opportunities, generating more revenue, and all the while maintaining current LCBO employment would be a win-win-win.

The Ford government has already laid the groundwork for such an approach. Buried in the licences and permits schedule in the 2019 budget, the province effectively cleared the way for a truly free and open alcohol market in Ontario. The bill states that “A person may apply to the Registrar for a licence to operate a retail alcohol store, operate as a wholesaler, or deliver alcohol.”

Ontario has opened the door for a consumer-friendly retail model for alcohol that would finally end the LCBO’s monopoly. Full privatization would be best but if that is too great a stretch politically, a free-entry compromise would still benefit all Ontarians. The government has created the possibility of such a change. For the sake of consumers and taxpayers, it should now follow through.

Originally published here.

Sustainability: the European word-battle

It will mean something different to everyone.

The Farm to Fork Strategy of the European Union attempts to foster sustainability in the agricultural sector. While sustainability is a laudable goal in a general sense, it has a wide range of possible meanings and applications. EU institutions have adequately defined the word. 

It is necessary to establish a clear and precise definition of what we mean by sustainability, as only this will allow us to set concrete goals and objectives and develop clear and precise metrics to track our progress in achieving them.  The implication from the European Commission seems to be that organic agriculture is essentially synonymous with sustainable agriculture. But that is a mere assumption, made without reference to a host of practical concerns and obviating any real scientific examination of the facts. 

The European Commission’s web page for sustainable agriculture lauds the improvements on sustainability made by the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), yet it has not established a definition that matches the goals met by the policy. The Farm to Fork Strategy is a political roadmap that outlines certain numerical goals, yet the claim that these goals are sustainable is merely implied. In order for European consumers to understand the objectives of the European Union in the realm of sustainable agriculture, we need to establish definitions that concisely describe what sustainable agriculture is.

In any given webinar or even the word sustainability can be thrown meaninglessly, often supporting the speaker’s agenda. That speaker is often a supporter of agro-ecology or the food production system that rejects the advancements of modern agriculture. And that is fair game; those advocates have to have their voice in the democratic process. That said, they are often co-opting a term that has yet to be well-defined. You can take the test: stop an average consumer in the street and ask whether we should want more sustainable food. Who would possibly disagree with that? As to whether we should support sustainable food without defining what that means, is much like asking whether or not we should want “good” food. We will have different understandings of what that implies. In the organic sector, standards of sustainability would not be met.

Credible research has established that moving all current farming to organic farming would increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 70% . Researchers analysed the hypothetical move of Welsh and English farm production to organic, and found that reduced crop yields in organic farming increased the need to import food from overseas. Including the GHGs emitted growing that food abroad — a part of the equation often ignored advocates of organic agriculture — otal GHGs emitted would increase between 21% in the best-case scenario to an astounding 70%, depending on how much natural habitat and forest had to be cleared to make up for the decline caused by England’s and Wales’ switch to organic production. For the European Union, which aims at a 25% organic production target in Europe, the impact of overseas imports would be even more considerable. While the study assumed England and Wales would import the majority of the extra food they needed from Europe, a 25% organic EU would be making up its production deficits by importing food grown in less developed countries with considerably less efficient farming methods, which would significantly increase emissions.

So while we’re in the business of defining sustainability, why don’t we deal with the facts and only the facts?

Originally published here.

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