D’Urban Park controversy…Finance Minister tells them to “take it or leave it”Contractors are likely to be majorly underpaid for works done at the D’Urban Park complex and Finance Minister Winston Jordan told them they can either “take it or leave it.”Finance Minister Winston JordanThe Minister added that those contractors who are dissatisfied with their underpayment, are free to file lawsuits against the building company, Homestretch Development Inc (HDI) – which was clandestinely registered for the purpose of collecting monies for the D’Urban Park Project.Artist’s impression of the proposed D’Urban Park ProjectThe D’Urban ParkJordan told the yearend press briefing on Monday that the company still owes approximately $298 million to contractors but he noted that Government will not be releasing any more monies.Government on December 14 approved an additional $500 million to be paid out from the Consolidated Fund to a number of contractors and other persons owed varying amounts for works done on the controversial Jubilee Park Project.But the $500 million is inadequate to meet the debts of the company, which owes contractors some $798 million altogether.“Government indicated that it can only accommodate the $500 million as the full and final settlement. What that means is that HDI will have to pay some apportionment relative to the debts owed. This is a ‘take it or leave it’ situation. If you were owed $2 million by HDI, and it works out that you will only get paid $1.2 million, then you could either accept $1.2 million as the full and final settlement or you could sue HDI,” the Finance Minister explained.The Minister refused to expand on his proposal for the disgruntled contractors to file a lawsuit against the building company, shutting down further questions on the matter.“I don’t want to answer any more questions on this,” he expressed, noting that he will only disclose information relative to the financial aspect of the D’Urban Park scandal.It is assumed that the company does not generate its own revenue since it relied on monies from donations and from the public purse for the construction of D’Urban Park.President David Granger had described HDI as a “special purpose” company, setup with the sole purpose of overseeing the D’Urban Park development.It is therefore puzzling regarding the source of the finance for legal proceedings if HDI is sued for underpaying the contractors.Government already pumped $400 million into the D’Urban Park Project, which has been shrouded in secrecy since its inception in 2015.Only several weeks ago it was finally disclosed that a private company was registered in January to collect donations which were given since the previous year towards to D’Urban Park development.Questions still abound regarding which entity collected the monies that were donated before HDI was established. Concerns were also voiced about the absence of public tendering for a project that amounted to close to $1 billion.Education Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine is a director of HDI but Government never disclosed this information.Following a motion brought by Opposition parliamentarian Bishop Juan Edghill, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson finally announced to the National Assembly the list of those who sat as directors of the company.He failed to disclose that his cabinet colleague was a director, and the coalition Administration is yet to offer an explanation regarding why this information was withheld and what process was undertaken for the Education Minister to be sitting as a director.Other affiliates of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government including Larry London is also a director of HDI.Patterson’s Ministry subsequently took over work of the D’Urban Park Project after Government realised that HDI had run out of resources to complete the arena in time for the country’s 50th Independence anniversary celebrations.Government also cited the shoddy works done as reasons for the Public Infrastructure Ministry to take over the project.Meanwhile, Minister Patterson had told the House that a total of $27.7 million was received in the form of donations from private individuals and entities, while another $37 million came about ‘in kind’. As it relates to the donations, the Minister provided a list to the House.The Opposition is calling on the Auditor General to conduct an immediate forensic audit into all revenues, expenditure and donations received. It contends that the coalition Government attempted propagate the impression that D’Urban Park was privately funded when only less than 10 per cent of the financing was from private individuals. (Devina Samaroo)
Source:https://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2018/study-suggests-shifts-in-afghan-attitudes-towards-increased-education-and-delayed-marriage.html Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Dec 19 2018In Afghanistan’s most underdeveloped regions, attitudes towards education and child marriage appear to have changed significantly since the overthrow of the Taliban government in 2002, according to a study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.The study, published online November 22 in the Journal of Adolescent Health, included interviews with nearly 1,400 Afghans aged 12-15 and their parents, in relatively poor rural districts of the country. The responses indicated that in just one generation, getting married and leaving school in childhood have become much less favored options. Virtually all of the adolescent respondents were unmarried, and about 75 percent were still in school–in contrast to their parents, who commonly married in their mid-teens and usually had no formal education.”This study was conducted in some of the most educationally and socially disadvantaged provinces in Afghanistan, and yet we found that there have been remarkably positive shifts in attitudes among boys and girls and their parents,” says study senior author Robert Blum, MD, PhD, professor in the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health and director of the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute.At the time of the Taliban’s defeat in 2002, early marriage and minimal formal education were the norms in rural Afghanistan. The United Nations Development Program estimated a mean educational attainment of just 6.5 years of school. Girls in particular were discouraged from pursuing much formal education, and frequently ended their brief education by getting married.The fall of the Taliban allowed modern, liberalizing influences into Afghanistan, from television and the internet to global nongovernmental organizations. Blum and colleagues undertook the study to get a better picture of how cultural attitudes have been reshaped in the least developed parts of the country, particularly with regard to education and child marriage. For the study, surveys were conducted by a team of experienced Afghan social researchers in Kandahar and five other rural provinces–some of which still simmer with Taliban insurgent activity; insurgents in Badghis province twice tried unsuccessfully to capture the research team.The final sample used for analysis included 910 Afghans aged 12-15 and 454 parents. The findings generally suggested that a liberalizing shift has been underway. Most boys and girls indicated that they consider education valuable, not just for themselves but also for the opposite sex. The parents, though they mostly had no formal education themselves (66 percent of the men, 93 percent of the women), were also virtually unanimous in indicating that they expect their children–both boys and girls–to at least complete high school.Related StoriesMaking Bacterial Infections a Thing of the Past for Chronic Respiratory ConditionsAn active brain and body associated with reduced risk of dementiaPittcon is looking for short course instructors for 2020As for child marriage, about 38 percent of parents indicated that daughters should postpone marriage until after high school, while about 32 percent replied that they would be supportive of earlier marriage. Fathers were more likely to advocate postponement (51 percent) than mothers (28 percent). These current parental attitudes appeared to indicate a shift from the time when the parents were teens themselves–their average age at marriage was just 16 for the women and 20 for the men.Among the young people interviewed, only six in the entire sample–all girls–were already married, and there seemed to be widespread awareness of the drawbacks of early marriage, including the limiting of future educational opportunities and increases in the risk of domestic violence for girls.”Behaviors tend to change more slowly than attitudes, but attitudes are the precursors of behavioral change and I think there is a lot here to inspire optimism,” Blum says.Somewhat less positive results were found in the conclusions of a second study examining attitudes towards interpersonal violence, which to some extent has long been embedded in Afghan culture. Based on the same interviews by the same research team, the study was published online in the American Journal of Public Health on October 25.Although large majorities of the interviewed adolescents and their parents indicated that violent behaviors were unacceptable when they were simply listed by the researchers, most did find them justifiable when specific circumstances were mentioned. About 71 percent of the adolescents considered it acceptable for a husband to hit his wife–if she went out without her husband, for example, or refused to have sex with him–though far fewer (48 percent) endorsed a wife’s hitting her husband.Here again, parents’ responses closely matched their children’s: About 68 percent found acceptable, for at least one scenario, a husband beating his wife, and most also accepted parents hitting sons or daughters (71 percent) and teachers beating students (58 percent). Curiously, wives were more likely than their husbands to find justification for wife-beating (75 percent vs. 59 percent), while husbands were more likely than wives to justify husband-beating (44 percent vs. 35 percent).To the researchers, the findings suggest a continuing need for programs starting in childhood to make Afghans less tolerant of interpersonal violence and less likely to resort to it.
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