Libyan coast guard rescues over 520 Europe-bound migrants

Photo showing rescuers carry a bag containing the dead body of a migrant, Tajoura, east of Tripoli, Libya June 20, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 22 June 2018
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Libyan coast guard rescues over 520 Europe-bound migrants

CAIRO: Libya’s coast guard has rescued three groups of more than 520 African migrants, including at least 10 women and 49 children, and recovered four bodies in the Mediterranean Sea east of the capital, Tripoli, over two days, a spokesman said Thursday.
One group of some 300 people embarked on the perilous trip for Europe on rubber boats but their engines broke down, coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim said in a statement, adding the rescue operation was “very exhausting” for the coast guard due to limited resources and the large number of migrants.
Another group of some 140 migrants, whose bought was damaged, were also rescued and three bodies were recovered, the coast guard said in a separate Thursday statement.
In a statement late Wednesday, the coast guard said it had rescued around 80 other people and recovered one body in a separate incident in which a migrant boat was damaged, forcing people to remain at sea for about four hours before the coast guard arrived.
All migrants were given humanitarian and medical aid, and were handed over to anti-migration authorities, Gassim said.
Libya has emerged as a major transit point to Europe for those fleeing poverty and civil war elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East. Traffickers have exploited Libya’s chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Libyan authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of migrants, with assistance from European countries, who are eager to slow a phenomenon that far-right wing parties have seized upon to gain electoral support.


Jordan approves new IMF-backed tax law after introducing changes

Updated 3 min 20 sec ago
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Jordan approves new IMF-backed tax law after introducing changes

AMMAN: Jordan’s lower house of parliament approved a new IMF-backed tax law on Sunday after introducing some changes in a move to help the cash-strapped economy move ahead with crucial fiscal reforms to ease record public debt.
A majority of deputies in the chamber approved a series of amendments in the 36-article bill that include raising family exemptions to mitigate any impact on middle class income earners.
The bill will still need to go to the upper house or senate for approval before it is enacted as law. It is expected to be effective early next year, officials said.
Earlier on Sunday, Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar al Razzaz said the Kingdom will pay a heavy price if parliament failed to approve new IMF-backed tax legislation.
Razzaz told deputies who were debating the legislation that failure to approve the bill would mean the Kingdom would have to pay even higher interest rates on its substantial foreign debt.
Razzaz said the law promotes social justice by targeting the wealthy and combats long-time corporate tax evaders, but opposition deputies argue it will hurt the already stagnant economy and diminish middle-class incomes.
“The individuals who will be affected are the top 12 percent income earners, it won’t affect middle and low income earners,” Razzaz told deputies.
The government sent the bill to parliament in September after withdrawing an earlier draft submitted by a previous government that triggered protests over the summer.
Earlier this year, Jordan increased a general sales tax and scrapped a subsidy on bread as part of a three-year fiscal plan agreed with the International Monetary Fund, which aims to cut public debt of $37 billion, equivalent to 95 percent of gross domestic product.
The debt is at least in part due to successive governments adopting an expansionist fiscal policy characterized by job creation in the bloated public sector, and by lavish subsidies for bread and other staple goods.
Rejection of the tax legislation would push even higher the cost of servicing over 1 billion dinars ($1.4 billion) of foreign debt due in 2019, raising the prospect of rating agencies downgrading Jordan’s credit ratings, Razzaz said.
“We will pay a heavy price if we don’t approve this law,” he said.
The government has also echoed IMF concerns that without these reforms public external debt will spiral.
Debt service would peak in 2019-2020 at about 6.5 percent of GDP with the Eurobonds that will be due.
The country’s economic growth has been hit in the last few years by high unemployment and regional conflict weighing on investor sentiment and as demand generated from Syrian refugee receded, according to the IMF.
Economists said Jordan’s ability to maintain a costly subsidy system and a large state bureaucracy was increasingly untenable in the absence of large foreign capital inflows or injections of foreign aid, which have dwindled as the Syrian crisis has gone on.