US president denies derogatory remarks against migrant countries

In this Jan. 8, 2018 photo, Mateo Barrera, 4 originally from El Salvador, whose family members benefit from Temporary Protected Status, TPS, attends a news conference in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Updated 13 January 2018
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US president denies derogatory remarks against migrant countries

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump tweeted a denial on Friday after he was quoted as describing African and other states as “sh**hole countries,” amid an international furor over the remarks.
Trump, who reportedly made the comment during a meeting with legislators Thursday on immigration reform, drew charges of racism.
“Why are we having all these people from sh**hole countries come here?” Trump said, people briefed on the meeting told The Washington Post.
The New York Times later reported the same comment, citing unnamed people with direct knowledge of the meeting.
“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” Trump tweeted early Friday.
The reference was to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields from deportation nearly 800,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
Thursday’s meeting was to discuss a compromise under which DACA would be preserved but a visa lottery and a policy allowing legal immigrants to bring family members into the country would be ended.
“I want a merit based system of immigration and people who will help take our country to the next level,” Trump said in another tweet.
“I want safety and security for our people,” he added, criticizing the proposed bipartisan deal.
“USA would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime countries which are doing badly,” Trump tweeted.
The Post and the Times said Trump’s vulgar remark on Thursday was in reference to African countries and Haiti. The Post included El Salvador on its list.
Trump suggested the US should instead welcome immigrants from places like Norway, whose prime minister met with Trump on Wednesday.
UN rights office spokesman Rupert Colville said “there is no other word one can use but ‘racist’” to describe Trump’s remarks.
Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez called Trump “a racist who does not share the values enshrined in our Constitution.”
The 55-nation African Union condemned Trump’s reported remarks while the southern African state of Botswana hauled in the US ambassador to complain.
The comment “truly flies in the face of accepted behavior and practice,” said Ebba Kalondo, spokeswoman for AU chief Moussa Faki.
“This is even more hurtful given the historical reality of just how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, and also terribly surprising as the United States remains a massively positive example as just how migration can give birth to a nation,” Kalondo said.
The comments were “clearly” racist, Kalondo said, but stressed the US was “much stronger than the sum total of one man.”
Botswana summoned the US ambassador to the country to “clarify if Botswana is regarded as a ‘sh**hole’ country,” according to a Foreign Ministry statement which called Trump’s comments “irresponsible, reprehensible and racist.”
This is not the first time Trump has rubbed Africans up the wrong way — he was widely derided last year after he twice referred to Namibia as “Nambia.”
Many Africans reminded the US of its historic role in the continent’s woes.


Pakistan opposition takes prime minister to task over IMF deal

Updated 57 min 17 sec ago
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Pakistan opposition takes prime minister to task over IMF deal

  • The daily dithering has paralyzed the economy and precipitously devalued the rupee, says Sen. Sherry Rehman
  • Govt has instilled a sense of 'comfort and confidence' in the markets, says official spokesman

KARACHI, Pakistan: Questioning the government’s lack of perspicacity to avoid “painful economic decisions,” Pakistan’s opposition said on Monday that it was shocked at Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inability to avert a crisis, if any.  

“We have serious questions about this kind of strategy, where just the daily dithering has not just paralyzed the economy and precipitously devalued the rupee, but hugely compounded the crisis in the country’s public finances,” Sen. Sherry Rehman, former leader of the opposition in the Senate, told Arab News.

The reaction follows Finance Minister Asad Umar’s comments on Saturday wherein he said that “the government will have to take tough decisions that would be painful for people,” signaling a possible hike in utility prices, following Pakistan’s decision to approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout program. 

Opposing the decision, Rehman said: “We are shocked at the lack of a plan for a crisis we all saw looming. Now the slash and burn of utility prices is going to cause severe economic hardship. It’s one thing to have promised a completely different Pakistan, but another to not present alternative plans at least to manage the inflationary impact…on the most socially vulnerable sectors of Pakistan.”

Defending the move, Dr. Farrukh Saleem, government’s spokesman on economy and energy issues, said that the government has instilled a sense of “comfort and confidence” in the markets, not only within Pakistan but outside the country too, which was not possible without approaching the IMF for financial help. “IMF gives one prescription to those who avail its program, which includes an emphasis on increasing exports and curtailing imports and an end of subsidies,” he said.  Adding that the country’s “circular debts have gone up to 1.3 trillion rupees” — inherited from previous governments in the past 10 years — Dr. Saleem said that it was up to Imran Khan’s administration to do away with the liabilities as otherwise “the burden would eventually be shifted to consumers.”

“The government did not raise the gas rates for the last four years despite repeated requests from the concerned departments. Someone will have to swallow bitter pills of last 10 years,” he said. 

The stock market was jubilant following Pakistan’s decision to approach the IMF. However, investors’ newly acquired confidence was quickly replaced with concern as details emerged about the terms and conditions attached with the bailout program, resulting in a 750-point plunge in the benchmark KSE 100 index on Monday.

“Panic selling continued in the quarter earnings season amid a major fall in global equities and investor concerns for likely surge in interest rates and rupee depreciation with the potential IMF loans bailout package,” said Ahsan Mehanti, chief executive of Arif Habib Group. 

Pakistan has devalued its currency for the fifth time by 27 percent since December 2017, with analysts and stakeholders expecting another markdown as the IMF deal gathers steam.

“Its first impact would be in the currency market and the currency would be further devalued. With the devaluation of the Pakistani rupee against the US dollar, the prices of almost everything would start increasing especially those of imported goods,” Zafar Paracha, general secretary of Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan, told Arab News.  Another community that is expected to bear the brunt of the decision is the country’s industrialists and traders who said they could foresee an impact on the price of inputs and raw materials.

Junaid Esmail Makda, president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “The finance minister should take the country’s business community into confidence before taking the ‘painful decision’ because if the government comes up with harsh decision without taking us into the loop it would have a disastrous impact.” 

He further warned that such a decision would be unfavorable not just “for foreign investors but for local investors too” who might move their assets to other countries.  

However, Dr. Saleem continued to remain optimistic.

Reiterating the fact that the steps taken by the government to mitigate the impact of the IMF’s conditions would yield results, he said: “The government is working to increase exports to stabilize foreign exchange and starting a housing project that would spur economic activities in the backdrop of a growing demand of allied industries.”