Medical Moneybags

When Prince Charles cut the ribbon on the new Neath Port Talbot Hospital on February 3, 2003, it was time to celebrate – particularly for the building’s private contractors.
A report in the Western Mail today reveals the hospital, which cost £66m to build, will end up costing taxpayers more than £300m as they pay back the PFI investors.
One winner, I note, was the Kier Group – motto ‘Working Together For Growth’.
It sold its interests in the hospital to private equity firm Secondary Market Infrastructure Fund less than two years after the Prince cut the ribbon.
It got £5m for its 25 per cent stake – twice the size of its initial investment.

St Athan latest

There have been plenty of questions – both moral and economic – about the St Athan training academy.
Yesterday, we learnt the latest developments.
Read here how the UK’s Ministry of Defence is “reconsidering the award of the second stage of a massive defence training contract to a consortium led by QinetiQ Group PLC because it will not deliver the expected efficiencies”.
And here’s the piece from the Western Mail.

Grand Old Party

Good to see that while Iraq burned, Condoleezza Rice was being well looked after by the British government.
What Is Wales? is delighted to report that the Foreign Office admitted yesterday that the UK taxpayer spent more than 9,500 dollars (£4,682.73) on a 50th birthday party for the US Secretary of State in 2004.
The party, hosted by the British ambassador to the United States David Manning at his official residence in Washington, saw Rice presented with a dress as a gift.
Labour MP Harry Cohen uncovered the cost of the celebration in a written question to the Foreign Office.
Foreign Office minister and Pontypridd MP Dr Kim Howells responded yesterday: “The dinner in question was held in honour of US Secretary of State Rice and attended by the President, First Lady and other senior figures.
“There were 111 guests and the cost was US$9,512.05.”
I’m sure George W and his wife Laura had a wonderful time. The Republicans aren’t nicknamed the GOP (the Grand Old Party) for nothing.
According to the AFP news agency, Dr Howells’ reply follows
an article in the September 6 issue of the New Statesman which criticised the Rice birthday party as a “ludicrously lavish extravaganza”.
The article also described British attempts to woo “George W Bush’s disastrously inept national security adviser and now his equally feckless secretary of state.”
Soon after the party, the piece claimed, London’s perception that Condie had the ear of the president quickly changed when they realised Bush was more influenced by former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and vice-president Dick Cheney and the “full extent of the Iraq catastrophe” became clear.
No presents for Rumsfeld and Cheney at that party, then. Perhaps Britain will help them help themselves to a little something from oil-rich Iraq?

Wise and Foolish Dreamers exhibition

“I am here because I know that these fellows fought not only for Spain but for me and the whole world. It is my duty to be here.”
Those were the words of Paul Robeson on the return to their homes of the South Wales veterans of the Spanish Civil War in December 1938.
Seven thousand people heard him speak. The communities felt an affinity to the people of Republican Spain in their fight against Franco.
And the names of the Valleys volunteers live on. Among them, Alun Menai Williams, of Gilfach Goch, who I knew for a short time before his death last year.
Alun had been at his friend Harry Dobson’s side when he was mortally wounded.
He never forgot that moment.
The Rhondda has not forgotten Alun, Harry or the others.
And for the next few weeks (until November 4) an exhibition called Wise and Foolish Dreamers will take pride of place at the Rhondda Heritage Park.
As Robeson noted all those years ago, it is our duty to remember them.

Meanwhile, Paul Robeson Junior comes to Wales this week to meet more than 100 pupils from Neath Port Talbot comprehensive schools at the official opening of an exhibition on racial equality.
Mr Robeson will take questions from the pupils at the opening of the
Croeso Project at the Princess Royal Theatre in Port Talbot.

Iraqi Oil

In this week’s Big Issue Cymru I mention in passing the Iraq Petroleum conference which took place in Dubai recently and was attended by representatives of most of the major multinationals.
I didn’t know though that a parallel meeting took place at the same time in Basra under the banner, “Oil wealth belongs to the Iraqi people”.
Tomorrow night Ewa Jasiewicz, UK rep for the Basra Oil Workers Union, comes to Cardiff to explain how Iraqi trade unions are determined not to let the oil giants have it all their own way.
If you can’t make it to the meeting, Ewa explains all in this article.
:: Ewa Jasiewicz is at the Wallace Lecture Theatre, Main Building, Cardiff University, Park Place, Cardiff on Tuesday October 2 at 7pm.

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