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New Zealand economy sees record recession amid virus pandemic

Monitoring Desk

WELLINGTON: New Zealand has fallen into its deepest economic slump on record in the second quarter as its battle against the coronavirus pandemic paralysed business activity.

Gross domestic product contracted a seasonally adjusted 12.2 percent quarter-on-quarter, its sharpest quarterly contraction on record and largely in line with forecasts of a 12.8 percent decline from economists polled by Reuters. GDP fell 12.4 percent year-on-year, official data showed on Thursday.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand had forecast a quarterly and annual GDP decline of 14 percent in its August statement.

Growth has been hit by a standstill in economic activity as a strict nationwide coronavirus lockdown in April and parts of May forced almost everyone to stay at home and businesses to shut.

The GDP data confirms New Zealand’s worst recession, defined as two straight quarters of contraction, since 2010, with GDP in the March quarter falling 1.6 percent.

Record breaking rise ahead?

In comparison, second quarter economic growth in neighbouring Australia which enforced a less stringent Covid-19 lockdown fell 7.0 percent, while the United States recorded a 9.1 percent drop.

But economists say New Zealand will bounce back faster, while other nations are still struggling to contain the coronavirus.

“We expect the June quarter’s record-breaking GDP decline to be followed by a record-breaking rise in the September quarter,” said Westpac Senior Economist Michael Gordon.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government, which faces an election on October 17, has said success in suppressing the virus locally is likely to help recovery prospects.

Treasury forecasts released on Wednesday showed that while New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 helped lessen the short-term economic shock, massive debt and continuing disruptions will delay a full recovery.

Economists say the GDP data will have little impact on the central bank’s policy, which is expected to hold interest rates at a record low of 0.25 percent at its meeting on September. 23.

Coronavirus pandemic

New Zealand has recorded only 25 coronavirus deaths in a population of five million and cases have been largely contained since late May, aside from a flare-up in Auckland last month.

But the opposition National Party said Ardern’s centre-left government had failed New Zealanders by failing to keep the economy moving.

National’s finance spokesman compared the response to Australia, which recorded an economic contraction of seven percent in the June quarter after adopting a more flexible approach to lockdowns and border controls.

“The lack of pragmatism and a clear plan from (Ardern’s) Labour has made the economic hole deeper and the impact harder than it needed to be,” he said.

“This economic damage was recorded in three months but will last for decades to come, this is the deepest recession in living memory.”

New Zealand most recent recession was in 2008-09 and until the first three months of this year it had recorded non-stop quarterly growth since 2010.

Kiwibank chief economist Jarrod Kerr said the scale of the June quarter decline was unprecedented.

“We’ve never seen anything like this. It was traumatic,” he said.

“Service exports were stonewalled, and down 40 percent in the quarter, consumption was down 12 percent, and investment was slashed by 20 percent.”

But he said the figure was a one-off that was set to be followed by a growth surge of 10 percent in the September quarter, which would also be a record.

“Businesses and households have clearly adapted to trading in a world with limited face-to-face contract,” he said.

Courtesy: (TRTWorld)

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Pompeo to meet Surinamese President Chandrikapersad

F.P. Report

WASHINGTON: Secretary Pompeo will travel to Paramaribo, Suriname, on September 17.  He will meet with Surinamese President Chandrikapersad “Chan” Santokhi and key members of his cabinet to discuss opportunities to broaden and deepen ties between the United States and Suriname.

A partnership bases on shared values and strategic interests

The U.S. has had diplomatic relations with Suriname from its independence in 1975.  The bilateral relationship is based on shared democratic values, joint economic interests, and strong people-to-people connections.

In May, the people of Suriname voted in free and fair elections, repudiating corruption and signaling they wanted to chart a new path based on transparency, rule of law, and democracy.

The United States supports Suriname’s new direction. We are working hard to identify ways to increase trade and investment, deepen our security relationship, and support Suriname’s economic growth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Safeguarding the economy while protecting resources

The United States stands ready to assist Suriname and its engagement with the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions as it revitalizes its economy in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and public debt incurred by previous governments.

Recent finds of offshore oil promise future income, but Suriname’s leaders and civil society need to establish sustainable models for extracting natural resources transparently and safely, with the proceeds benefiting the Surinamese people. U.S. investment in Suriname’s gold sector, a chief source of income for the country, offers a model.

The United States is Suriname’s biggest import partner, with more than 25% of Suriname’s imports coming from America’s businesses.  In 2018, imports from the U.S. totaled around $388 million, and included poultry, food products, chemicals, petroleum products, electronics supplies, excavating machinery, materials handling equipment, and industrial machines.

In 2018, Suriname exported around $86 million worth of goods to the United States, mainly fish and shrimp products. Together we are working to strengthen Suriname’s ability to fight corruption to ensure all investors and businesses can compete on an even playing field.

U.S. assistance to fight drug trafficking, combat COVID-19

Suriname participates in a number of programs funded by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) in an effort to end the ability of illicit traffickers to use the country as a waypoint for drugs and other contraband.

Each year, Mission Paramaribo sends 35 Surinamese officials to training sessions at the International Law Enforcement Academy in El Salvador.  Since 2017, more than 100 police officers have attended these U.S. funded training sessions.  The Department of State purchased equipment to give Suriname the capability to screen travelers on private and commercial flights in the region improving our region’s security.

The Department of State has supported training for Suriname’s Port Control Unit, which seized more than 3000 kg of cocaine in 2019, including a 2,300 kg seizure, one of the largest in the country’s history.

The U.S. government also committed more than $600,000 towards an anti-money laundering risk assessment, which identifies vulnerabilities in the nation’s anti-money laundering regime and is an essential part of the effort to assist Suriname in meeting regional and international standards.

Most recently, the United States, through USAID, provided $2.2 million in regional support to Caribbean nations to address the COVID-19 pandemic.  The funding has advanced infection control efforts in Suriname by multilateral organizations, including UNICEF.

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CEO Alez Cruz says British Airways ‘fighting for survival’

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: British Airways must take every measure possible to make it through the winter because a fear of flying during the pandemic has destroyed any hope of a rapid return to normality, its boss said on Wednesday.

BA CEO Alex Cruz told a parliamentary select committee that the airline was running at 25 to 30 percent of its normal flight schedule, prompting it to cut thousands of jobs because “fewer flights means fewer people required to actually service them.”

“This is the worst crisis that British Airways has gone through in its 100 years of history,” he said. “We’re still fighting for our own survival.

“We are taking every measure possible to make sure we can actually make it through this winter. We do not see a short-term coming back of our passengers. All the feedback we get … is still pointing at a slow recovery process.”

Britain’s leading airline has been heavily criticized by politicians and unions for laying off 13,000 staff and renegotiating the contracts of many of its remaining employees.

The airline says it has no choice, because it is burning through £20 million a day and straining the finances of parent company IAG which is in the process of raising €2.74 billion from shareholders.

Cruz has cut his own pay by around a third.

UK-based airlines have benefited from government employment retention schemes and loans, but have not had the kind of industry-specific support deployed in France and Germany to bail out Air France-KLM and Lufthansa.

Cruz said a return to flying had been hampered by the weekly changes to quarantine rules and the lack of a testing system at airports. A two-stage testing system, where passengers are tested on arrival and five days later could remove the need for 14-day quarantines, he said.

“We remain worried with regards to the evolution of the rest of the winter season. People are still afraid of traveling and we are having weekly changes to the quarantine list, we don’t have a testing solution yet.

Courtesy: (Reuters)

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Women University Mardan unlock gates with strict enactment of SoPs

F.P. Report

MARDAN: Women University Mardan on Tuesday has been opened for the faculty members and M.Sc Students in the first phase with strict implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In this regard, Vice Chancellor Prof Dr. Ghazala Yasmin visited main entry gate, Classrooms, Library and laboratories of various departments to monitor execution of SoPs .

The Staff Proctors are assigned the task of implementing SOPs. Prof . Dr. Ghazala Yasmin warmly welcomed the students after almost six months closure and instructed them to follow SoPs.

According to University spokesperson Hazrat Bilal, WUM has issued SOPs for the students and to execute them The University has constitutes two committees i.e. SOPs Execution Committee & SOPs Monitoring Committee headed by the Hon.

Vice Chancellor. Masks will be mandatory for all teachers and students, while university administrations will ensure sensitizers at the entry gates. If a student feeling sick or having temperature will be relieve to stay at home, a quarantine room is also established in hostel to tackle any worse situation. Daycare, cafeteria & book shop will remain closed.

The administration has advised all the sections and the students to wear masks properly and maintain distance among each other.

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Johnson City police searching for suspect after demonstrator hit by car during rally

Monitoring Desk

JOHNSON CITY: The Johnson City Police Department says one demonstrator was hit by a car during a downtown rally Saturday, CBS/ABC affiliate WJHL reported.

WJHL reported, the incident occurred around 7:20 p.m. near State of Franklin Road. A viewer submitted a video to WJHL of the incident where you can see the man getting hit by the vehicle and falling to the ground.

JCPD said there were around 10 people at the rally.

According to WJHL, police reported the person has non-life threatening injuries, including a broken leg. The victim’s current condition is unknown.

No one has been arrested. The driver of the vehicle has been found and believed to be from out of state.

WJHL reported, the driver potentially faces a felony aggravated assault charge.

Johnson City police are working to find the suspect in an ongoing investigation.

Courtesy: (WVLT)

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Pakistan, China to sign agreement of Rashakai SEZ

F.P Report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China will sign the first development agreement of China Pakistan Economic Corridor’s Rashakai Special Economic Zone, in Islamabad on Monday.

This was stated by Chairman Board of Investment, Atif R. Bokhari in a press release issued in Islamabad on Sunday.

Rashakai Special Economic Zone will provide conducive business environment for bringing Foreign Direct Investment in the country.

Atif said the signing of this agreement would realize the vision of special economic zones’ development in the country.

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Signing of an Enhanced Consular Privileges and Immunities Agreement with the UAE

F.P Report

Washington D.C: According to the sources of United States State Department, an agreement has been signed between US and the United Arab Emirates. The agreement involves “enhanced consular privileges and immunities” between the two allies.

This will in return strengthen the relationship of two countries and will enhance ability of the consular staff, the citizens and their interests in the foreign countries. This agreement will also allow two countries to protect their national interests and achieve their objectives by increased close ties.

This agreement will benefit the consular staff as it will ensure their protection and safety in the host countries.

In addition, this agreement is a demonstration of the loyalty and value of US and UAE for their consular staff and depicts the importance of safety of the consular staff for both countries said the US State Department spokesperson.

The spokesperson of US State Department further added that, UAE is an important strategic partner for US. As it pivotal in maintain stability and peace in the Gulf region.

He added, UAE is also essential for protection and achieving US interests in the Middle East by ensuring uninterrupted flow of commerce through the region. He expressed gratitude towards UAE authorities for establishing strong bilateral partnership in the spheres of economy, defense and security. He added that US looks forward to continue and build up partnership with UAE in future.

Both the countries have established strong bilateral ties chiefly after the recognition of Israel as a state by UAE. The Emirates has faced ruthless backlash by many Muslim states that are reluctant to recognize Israel as state because of the Palestinian conflict.

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KPD investigating shooting near Fort Sanders Medical Center

Monitoring Desk

KNOXVILLE: Knoxville Police Department are investigating a shooting that occurred near Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center Sunday morning.

According to KPD, officers responded to numerous gunshots in the area of White Avenue between 19th and 20th Street around 2:20 a.m.

Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center reported that a male gunshot victim had arrived at the ER for treatment.

According to KPD, officers were able to locate the crime scene on both the north and south sides of White Avenue west of 19th Street.

The victim spoke to officers who stated that he was involved in an altercation at the Shell gas station on Cumberland Avenue prior to the incident.

The victim was stabilized and transferred to UT Medical Center for further treatment.

KPD Violent Crimes Unit is investigating the incident.

Courtesy: (WVLT)

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Michael Bloomberg to spend $100 million in Florida to help elect Joe Biden

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON: Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who spent $1 billion on his 2020 Democratic presidential bid before dropping out, plans to inject at least $100 million to help Democrat Joe Biden’s effort against Republican President Donald Trump in the important swing state of Florida.

The decision comes as Trump’s initial financial supremacy over former Vice President Biden earlier this year has largely evaporated after high spending from the campaign and a surge in fundraising by Democrats.

Florida is one of the biggest prizes on Election Day, and it is also the most expensive of the expected battlegrounds in which to campaign. But polls there show a race that is effectively tied.

The Republican president, who trails Biden in national opinion polls before the Nov. 3 election, told reporters last week that he would spend his own money if needed.

“I thought Mini Mike was through with Democrat politics,” Trump said on Twitter in reaction to the news. “Save NYC instead.”

Trump’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee on Wednesday said they raised a combined $210 million in August, falling far short of matching Biden’s record-breaking haul of $364.5 million for the month.

“Mike Bloomberg is committed to helping defeat Trump, and that is going to happen in the battleground states,” said Bloomberg adviser Kevin Sheekey, who said the spending “will mean Democrats and the Biden campaign can invest even more heavily in other key states like Pennsylvania, which will be critical to a Biden victory.”

Courtesy: (Reuters)

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Casualties as landslide sweeps through three Nepal villages

Monitoring Desk

KATHMANDU: A landslide triggered by overnight rainfall has swept through three Nepalese villages, killing at least six people while 26 were reported missing and believed to be buried by debris.

Rescuers and villagers at Sindhupalchowk district, about 120 kilometers east of the capital, Kathmandu, managed to pull out the six bodies from underneath houses, government administrator Baburam Khanal said on Sunday.

They were searching for the others who went missing after the incident, Khanal added.

Monsoon season

Landslides are common in mountainous Nepal during the monsoon season that usually ends in September.

According to the Home Ministry, monsoon-related deaths this year have reached 351 with 85 missing.

Courtesy: AFP