News, June 3rd

Asian countries urged to honor right to freedom of expression, over pandemic fear

According to the UN human rights office, 14 individuals remain in detention, including 10 associated with the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the main opposition party that was dissolved in 2017.

More generally, the High Commissioner noted that many of the countries she highlighted already had laws to stop alleged “fake news” and online media that raised human rights concerns.

This legislation had also been used in other contexts to deter legitimate speech, especially public debate, criticism of government policy and suppress freedom of expression, she added.

In Myanmar, the Kayin State Court had convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment the chief editor of the Dae Pyaw News Agency, on charges of wrongly publishing an article stating that one person died from the virus, the High Commissioner said.

He was arrested, charged, tried, and convicted in under one week after being accused of making a “statement that could cause or incite public fear or mutiny”.

While recognising the need to restrict misinformation or disinformation to protect public health – or incitement of hatred towards minority groups – this should not result in censorship, either purposeful or unintentional, Ms. Bachelet insisted.

“While Governments may have a legitimate interest in controlling the spread of misinformation in a volatile and sensitive context, this must be proportionate and protect freedom of expression”, she said.

Australia in its first recession in 29 years as March quarter GDP falls

Sydney, June 3 (People’s Daily Online) — GDP figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Wednesday show the Australian economy fell a seasonally adjusted 0.3 per cent in the March quarter 2020.

This makes it certain that Australia will suffer its first recession in 29 years, as the full impact of coronavirus-related shutdowns occurred during the current June quarter, according to Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The last time Australia recorded two consecutive negative quarters for GDP was March and June 1991.

The Australian economy was impacted by a number of significant events this quarter, starting with bushfires and other natural disasters, followed by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent imposition of restrictions. The government responded with the introduction of economic stimulus and support packages.

Public demand contributed 0.3 percentage points to GDP, driven by a 1.8 per cent rise in government final consumption expenditure.

Private demand detracted 0.8 percentage points from GDP, driven primarily by a 1.1 per cent fall in household final consumption expenditure. Spending on services fell significantly, particularly where restrictions impacted most severely, such as air transport services, hotels, cafes and restaurants, recreation and culture. Spending on goods rose, most notably in food and pharmaceuticals, as households prepared for the introduction of restrictions.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said, “Treasury were contemplating a fall in GDP of more than 20 per cent in the June quarter. This was the economists’ version of Armageddon.”

“Seen in this context, the fact that the Australian economy only contracted by 0.3 per cent shows the Australian economy’s remarkable resilience”, he added.

Chief Economist for the ABS, Bruce Hockman, said: “This was the slowest through-the-year growth since September 2009 when Australia was in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis and captures just the beginning of the expected economic effects of COVID-19.”

Germany seeks 5-fold increase in offshore wind power by 2040

BERLIN — The German government wants to increase offshore wind power capacity five-fold by 2040 as part of its plan to wean the country off fossil fuels.

The Cabinet on Wednesday agreed on a bill that would set a goal of 40 Gigawatts of installed offshore wind power capacity in 20 years, from about 7.5 Gigawatts at present. It also raised the target for 2030 from 15 Gigawatts to 20.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said the new offshore wind target for 2030 would help Germany achieve its goal of meeting 65% of its gross electricity consumption with renewable energy in a decade. The longer-term target would provide businesses and coastal regions with planning certainty, he added.

Germany’s offshore wind generation is dwarfed by the number of turbines installed on land, which already have a combined capacity of 54 Gigawatts.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she supports the goal of making Europe ‘climate neutral’ by 2050 to curb global warming. This ambitious target will require the world’s biggest economic bloc to phase out the use of fossil fuels.

Because renewable energy generated by wind and solar plants fluctuates depending on the weather, one proposal is to use excess electricity to produce hydrogen that can be easily stored, transported and burned without releasing greenhouse gases.

IDA Continues to Build Track Record with USD 1 Billion 7-year Benchmark Bond

WASHINGTON, DC, June 3, 2020 – The International Development Association (IDA, Aaa/AAA) returned to the US dollar market with a 7-year benchmark bond that raised USD 1 billion.  The bond matures on June 10, 2027.

The bond offers a semi-annual coupon of 0.750% per annum and semi-annual yield of 0.839%. It was priced at +24.75 basis points over the 0.5% US Treasury dated May 31, 2027.

BofA Securities, Deutsche Bank, HSBC,and RBC Capital Markets are the joint lead managers for the transaction.

This transaction is IDA’s fourth benchmark issuance and its second in US dollars. It is part of IDA’s strategy to build its investor base and offer benchmark bonds in various currencies and maturities to expand its yield curve. IDA’s previous bonds were issued in April 2018 (5-year USD 1.5 billion), October 2019 (7-year EUR 1.25 billion) and January 2020 (5-year GBP 1.5 billion).

IDA raises funds to support member countries in their sustainable development activities and has been engaging with investors on efforts to address the human and economic impacts of COVID-19.

“IDA has a sixty-year track record of achieving positive development impact around the world, and is now stepping-up in critical areas to help countries respond to COVID-19,” said Jingdong Hua Vice President and Treasurer, World Bank.  “As we continue to build IDA’s presence in the capital markets with this transaction we are especially appreciative of the many first-time, as well as returning investors that participated.”

IMF Executive Board concludes the third review under the IMF’s Extended Arrangement under the Extended Fun Facility for Barbados

The Executive Board of IMF concluded the third review of the IMF’s extended arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) for Barbados. The completion of the review allows the authorities to draw about US$139 million.

Program implementation is strong, with all performance criteria for end-March met.

The economy faces a major challenge owing to the global coronavirus pandemic. Access under the extended arrangement has been augmented by about US$91 million (70 percent of Barbados’ quota in the IMF) to help accommodate the shock.

Since May 2018, international reserves have increased from a low of US$220 million to more than US$850 million at end-April 2020.

Measures devised to revive tourism industry

NDO – The world tourism industry has witnessed itslargest decline since the 1950s, with growth figures falling by 70%. Although in recent days, many tourist sites have gradually reopened, many countries have launched measures to stimulate tourism. It is forecast that the recovery of the “smokeless industry” will not be easy in the “new normal”.

Contributing to about 10% of global GDP and providing 10% of jobs in the world, tourism is considered not only as one of the most affected sectors, but also an industry that will take a long time to recover after the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), restrictions on travel and the closure of airports and national borders have pushed the international tourism industry deep into its worst crisis for the past 70 years.

The UNWTO predicts that the number of international tourists may decrease from 60% to 80% this year. The number of arrivals fell by 22% in the first three months of this year and by 57% in March alone, with the sharpest declines in Asia and Europe.

Enterprises dependent on the tourism industry are also struggling to maintain operations. The National Statistics Institute of Spain said that no visitors came into the country in April due to the lockdown. The revenue of Spain’s tourism industry, the world’s second most popular tourist destination after France, decreased by 50% in the first four months of this year compared to the same period in 2019.

UK’s Johnson condemns George Floyd killing, calls for ‘lawful’ protests

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday condemned the killing of George Floyd by police in the United States but declined to say whether he had spoken about the issue with key ally Donald Trump.

“I think what happened in the United States was appalling, inexcusable,” Johnson told lawmakers in parliament, in his first public comment on the case.

“We all saw it on our screens and I perfectly understand people’s right to protest what took place,” he added.

“Obviously I also believe that protests should take place in a lawful and reasonable way.”

But Johnson avoided answering questions as to whether he had raised the matter with the president, as Britain eyes a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States.

Floyd, an unarmed African-American, died last week after a police officer in the US city Minneapolis knelt on his neck, an incident captured on video by a witness. The officer concerned has been charged with third-degree murder.

The killing has prompted waves of angry and sometimes violent protests in cities across the country and around the world.

Johnson’s comments echoed those of British police chiefs Wednesday.

“We stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified by the way George Floyd lost his life,” they said in a joint statement.

“Justice and accountability should follow.

“We are also appalled to see the violence and damage that has happened in so many US cities since then.”

The police chiefs appealed for people in Britain to “work with officers” as protests mount over Floyd’s killing, just as a nationwide coronavirus lockdown is being eased.

Hundreds of people defied the virus restrictions and rallied in the British capital on Sunday, including outside the US embassy and in Hyde Park.

The Metropolitan Police said it arrested 23 people, and issued a further 10 people with fines for breaching the rules.

WTO report examines impact of COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses

The WTO Secretariat has published an information note looking at how micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It notes the impact of supply chain disruptions on MSMEs and the extent to which smaller businesses are represented in the economic sectors hardest hit by the crisis.

The report notes that supply chain disruptions can have a particularly severe impact on MSMEs because sourcing from new suppliers or absorbing price increases is more challenging for a smaller firm with limited supply options and capital. 

The report looks into a wide range of measures taken by governments to support MSMEs. These include measures to address cash flow issues, to expand trade opportunities for MSMEs and to make them more resilient. According to the report, 44 WTO members had introduced such measures by the end of April 2020.

The note describes how international trade provides MSMEs with opportunities to diversify revenue streams and better navigate the COVID-19 crisis.

It outlines that work at the WTO can support small business by promoting the importance of transparency, facilitating the exchange of best practice, highlighting the need for increased access to trade finance and encouraging full implementation of the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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