Covid-19: ETD Consulting MD addresses the importance of international collaboration in rebuilding the economy
ETD Consulting is a consultancy firm in Leatherhead, Surrey, which provides technical consulting to power and processing plants worldwide and receives 90 per cent of its business from overseas work. Like most other businesses in the UK and the wider world, it too has been affected by the large-scale impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. In conversation with The Parliamentary Review, managing director Dr Ahmed Shibli offers his views on the pandemic thus far and elaborates on why international collaboration going forward will be vital to maintain control of the virus and stimulate the economy.
How did we get here?
Exactly how the UK has found itself in its current position is one of the key questions of the Covid-19 pandemic, not solely among business leaders but also the general populace. Addressing this, Dr Shibli believes that a number of factors are responsible for the fact that the nation tallied up one of the highest death rates in Europe.
Dr Shibli said: “Some root causes appear to be obvious and are being discussed in the media every day. These factors include chronic under-funding of the NHS; a staggered start in preparing for most, if not every, aspect of the pandemic; the idea of herd immunity; and, last but not least, our dependence on modelling.
“As a scientist I know that modelling is as accurate as the data you put in. Modelling is only accurate if there is a lot of relevant and accurate data available. We try to fit the models to the existing data and work out the ‘constants’ that go into the modelling to fit the actual data, to be able to make reliable predictions. Cynics call these constants ‘fudge factors’, so if a model does not fit the available data, then you change the constants until the model agrees with the available data.”
What is the issue with modelling?
It begs the question, therefore, as to why modelling has encountered issues. Elaborating on this problem, Dr Shibli explained: “When a disease is new and a large database does not exist, then being able to carry out accurate modelling becomes more troublesome.”
Crucially, in Dr Shibli’s view, it is important that such new data is made available to other experts so that they are able to challenge it.
He added: “In any case, in national emergencies like these it is important to open up such data so that other experts can challenge it or propose suitable improvements. Authenticity and reliability of science depends on how it stands up to detailed scrutiny. Simply saying that the professor who modelled it is an eminent authority in the world, is just not good enough.”
Why is international collaboration vital for the economy?
Dr Shibli told of his belief that international collaboration and control of Covid-19 will be essential to how the disease is handled in the UK in future, owing to the impact the virus will have and indeed has already had on the economy of a trading country which relies on the wider world opening its own economies for business.
Dr Shibli explained: “Worldwide control of the disease is important for the health of the UK economy. As a trading nation, our economy largely depends on the rest of the world opening-up for business. For example, our company, European Technology Development Ltd, has two large projects in Bangladesh worth about a quarter of a million pounds. It also has another project in Malaysia worth £60,000 and two in the Philippines worth about £200,000.
“The execution of these projects depends not only on UK opening up for business but our international customers also opening up for business.”