Coronavirus-hit Afghanistan gets $200 million World Bank grant

Firefighters spray disinfectant on a street as a preventive measure against the spread of coronavirus in Kabul on June 18, 2020. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 10 July 2020

Coronavirus-hit Afghanistan gets $200 million World Bank grant

  • Country’s war-ravaged economy has been severely impacted due to a months-long lockdown
  • Virus first spread to Afghanistan as infected migrants returned from neighboring Iran

KABUL: The World Bank has approved $200 million in aid to help Afghanistan tackle economic losses from the coronavirus pandemic, as confirmed cases top more than 34,000 in the conflict zone.
The country’s war-ravaged economy has been severely impacted due to a months-long lockdown, with thousands of people losing their jobs in the economic fallout.
Afghanistan has also grappled with increased militant violence in recent months that has diverted vital attention and resources away from the fight against the disease.
“The program will provide vital fiscal resources to manage the impacts of the pandemic in the context of rapidly slowing economic growth and declining government revenues,” Henry Kerali, the World Bank head for Afghanistan said in a statement on Thursday.
Afghanistan has so far declared just over 34,000 cases of COVID-19, with nearly 1,000 deaths.
“In the cities, the cases are steady but we are worried the cases may spread in rural areas,” Abdul Qadir, a senior official at the health ministry told AFP on Friday.
Qadir said the World Bank funds will be used to help mitigate the impact on health care, social and business sectors.
The virus first spread to Afghanistan as infected migrants returned from neighboring Iran, the region’s worst-hit country.


Sri Lankan leader appoints Cabinet, state ministers

Updated 13 August 2020

Sri Lankan leader appoints Cabinet, state ministers

  • Spotlight on economy, security as 67 officials take oath in palace ceremony

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa administered the oath of office to 28 new Cabinet ministers and 39 state ministers on Wednesday during a swearing-in ceremony at the Kandy Royal Palace, a week after the Aug. 5 general elections.

“The Cabinet has been formed in a pragmatic and a realistic manner to implement the national program. Special attention was paid to national security, economic development, infrastructure, education, health and sports,” a Presidential Secretariat statement said.

While President Rajapaksa retained the defense portfolio, his brother, Namal Rajapaksa — the 34-year-old son of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa — was named minister for youth and sports.

Several senior politicians, including former president Maithripala Sirisena, were left out of the new Cabinet.

The ninth parliament is set to meet on Aug. 20.

Only two members from minority communities, Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda and Justice Minister Ali Sabry, were appointed from the Tamil and Muslim communities, respectively.

“I’m delighted to get this portfolio in recognition of my services to the nation, particularly to the legal field,” Sabry said.

He is the second Muslim justice minister to assume office after Rauff Hakeem of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, led by PM Rajapaksa, polled 6,853,690, or 59 percent of votes, and secured a total of 145 seats in parliament, including 17 of the National List seats.

Sabry said government efforts to limit the coronavirus pandemic had “impressed the nation enough to vote them into power.”

Lawyer Razik Zarook said: “It’s a great victory for the Muslim community. The era of mistrust and suspicion is over, and the foundation is laid to build the bridges of friendship and amity.”

However, international political lobbyist Muheed Jeeran told Arab News that though the Cabinet is promising, it is “full of confusion.”

“Sabry’s appointment has disappointed the nationalist group who want to implement one nation, one law,” he said.

“But it is a joyful moment for Muslims who supported the SLPP. However, it will be difficult for Sabry as justice minister. Will he become the wooden handle of the axe to chop the tree of traditional Muslim laws as per the nationalist agenda, or will he stand for Muslim rights?”