UN report says Myanmar poverty could double from coup chaos

UN report says Myanmar poverty could double from coup chaos
The research agency Fitch Solutions has forecast that the economy will contract 20% in the current fiscal year, which ends in September. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 April 2021

UN report says Myanmar poverty could double from coup chaos

UN report says Myanmar poverty could double from coup chaos
  • The UNDP said conditions could deteriorate by early 2022 to a level of poverty last seen in 2005
  • The Feb. 1 coup wrested power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi

BANGKOK: Political turmoil and disruptions following the coup in Myanmar could undo years of progress and double the number of its people living in poverty to nearly half the population, a United Nations report said Friday.
The report by the UN Development Program, or UNDP, said 12 million people could fall into dire economic straits as businesses remain shuttered in a standoff between the junta and a mass civil disobedience movement.
“The hardest hit will be poor urban populations and the worst affected will be female heads of household,” Kanni Wignaraja, the UNDP’s assistant secretary-general for the region, told The Associated Press via a Zoom recording.
The Feb. 1 coup wrested power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained along with more than 3,400 other people. Since then, the military has severely restricted Internet access and gradually stepped up violent repression of protests. More than 700 have died in the violence.
Many factories, offices, banks and other facilities have closed and trade has been disrupted by work stoppages and other disruptions at ports, economists and others familiar with the situation inside Myanmar say. That has worsened already bleak conditions due to the pandemic, which have caused people affected to lose an average of about half their wages.
The UNDP said conditions could deteriorate by early 2022 to a level of poverty last seen in 2005. A more optimistic assessment would require a rapid end to the political crisis, which looks unlikely.
The economy grew rapidly after a previous military regime initiated a partial transition to a civilian government in 2011 while keeping control of key ministries and industries and seats in parliament.
Foreign investment in garment manufacturing, tourism and other industries helped create millions of jobs, providing a lifeline of support for many families living in rural areas.
But that progress has ground to a halt as the coup added to troubles from the pandemic. People displaced by ethnic conflicts and the urban poor are the most vulnerable, and many will cope by going hungry, the UNDP said. It put the poverty line at 2,385 Myanmar kyats (about $1.50 a day).
“With the effects of the political crisis, we could see these gains removed in just a few months,” Wignaraja said.
The research agency Fitch Solutions has forecast that the economy will contract 20 percent in the current fiscal year, which ends in September. In a report released last week, economist Jason Yek noted that food insecurity is rising due to hoarding and inflation, while people struggle to access cash to pay for necessities due to the closure and cash limits put on ATMs.
A weakening of the Myanmar kyat to about 1,600 kyat per dollar from about 1,350 kyat before the coup also hinders the country’s ability to import much needed medicines and other supplies.
“We really cannot rule out any worst-case scenario,” Yek said in an online briefing.
So far, foreign governments and businesses have sought to levy pressure on Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and others in the junta through targeted sanctions meant to cut off financial support to the army, or Tatmadaw.
The UNDP report’s findings suggest that ordinary people already are suffering regardless of sanctions.
The magazine Nikkei Asia Review said Thursday that the group Independent Economists for Myanmar issued a report urging the targeting of sources of foreign exchange, such as Myanmar’s exports of natural gas, its biggest revenue earner, and of gems and jade.
Sanctions could freeze deposits linked to the state-owned Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank and Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank, it said.
It said targeting the junta’s sources of hard currency with international sanctions could reduce its revenues by roughly $2 billion annually.
It said the military was prioritizing spending on weapons and security operations over providing desperately needed public services.
The US recently ordered sanctions against the company that controls most of Myanmar’s gems, pearls and jade sales, though a huge share of that trade is done illicitly.
So far, foreign energy companies involved in Myanmar’s natural gas industry have resisted calls for them to stop paying revenues to the government, saying such moves might endanger their employees and hurt access to already scarce electricity.


Egyptian prime minister discusses industry localization with US firm Bechtel

According to a statement issued by the Egyptian government, Madbouly said that the Bechtel delegation’s visit to Egypt was part of a strategy to enhance Egyptian-American cooperation. (AFP/File Photo)
According to a statement issued by the Egyptian government, Madbouly said that the Bechtel delegation’s visit to Egypt was part of a strategy to enhance Egyptian-American cooperation. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 10 May 2021

Egyptian prime minister discusses industry localization with US firm Bechtel

According to a statement issued by the Egyptian government, Madbouly said that the Bechtel delegation’s visit to Egypt was part of a strategy to enhance Egyptian-American cooperation. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Mostafa Madbouly said the country was currently localizing industrial production with the aim of rendering it more sustainable

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly held discussions with US construction firm Bechtel on ways to increase the use of local products and components in the development of projects in Egypt.

According to a statement issued by the Egyptian government, Madbouly said that the Bechtel delegation’s visit to Egypt was part of a strategy to enhance Egyptian-American cooperation across a number of sectors.

The prime minister said there were several projects in Egypt being developed in cooperation with American companies, like the petrochemical complex in the Ain Sokhna area. He added that he is following up on these megaprojects.

Madbouly also said that he welcomed the cooperation proposed by Bechtel in constructing a sixth metro line and in managing new cities.

Bechtel’s Infrastructure Global Business Unit President Shaun Kenny expressed his enthusiasm to work with the Egyptian government on megaprojects currently being implemented, especially the metro line.

The Egyptian prime minister stated that the country is currently localizing its industrial production with the aim of rendering it more sustainable.


Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals bid to buy Alameda Healthcare halted

Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted. (Cleopatra Hospitals Group)
Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted. (Cleopatra Hospitals Group)
Updated 10 May 2021

Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals bid to buy Alameda Healthcare halted

Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted. (Cleopatra Hospitals Group)
  • The proposed deal was originally announced by Cleopatra in late December 2020

RIYADH: Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted.

It made the disclosure in a filing to the Egyptian Stock Exchange on Monday.

The proposed deal was originally announced by Cleopatra in late December 2020, with an estimated value of about $500 million.

But it was quickly followed by an announcement from the Egyptian Competition Authority saying that it did not agree in principle to the acquisition.

It highlighted the potential consolidation of Cleopatra’s dominance over hospitals around Cairo and Giza.

Alameda Healthcare’s network includes four tertiary care hospitals in Cairo, two of which are currently being constructed. Once the facilities are fully commissioned Alameda Healthcare will have a capacity of 890 beds, according to its website. The network also includes facilities in Kuwait and London, outpatient clinics, diagnostic centers, specialist centers, pharmacies, and a rehabilitation center.


Saudi Kafalah small business loan program expands rapidly in Q1

Some 215 private sector business women benefited from the scheme during the first quarter of this year, compared to 64 during the year-earlier period. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Some 215 private sector business women benefited from the scheme during the first quarter of this year, compared to 64 during the year-earlier period. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 10 May 2021

Saudi Kafalah small business loan program expands rapidly in Q1

Some 215 private sector business women benefited from the scheme during the first quarter of this year, compared to 64 during the year-earlier period. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Businesses in Riyadh, the Eastern Region and Makkah claimed the lion’s share of assistance

RIYADH: The Saudi SMEs loan guarantee program ‘Kafalah’ helped 1621 businesses during the first quarter of 2021 — up 162 percent year-on-year, Al Eqtisadiah reported.

Guarantees increased by about 150 percent to SR2.9 billion and financing reached SR3.6 billion, the newspaper said.

Some 215 private sector business women benefited from the scheme during the first quarter of this year, compared to 64 during the year-earlier period.

The value of guarantees during the first quarter amounted to SR142 million and the value of financing reached SR157 million.

The most prominent sectors benefiting included the wholesale and retail trade, construction, accommodation services, food, and manufacturing industries, according to Kafalah.

Businesses in Riyadh, the Eastern Region and Makkah claimed the lion’s share of assistance.

The program will mostly target the tourism and entertainment sectors this year, in addition to the communications and information technology sectors, said Kafalah Director-General Homam Bin Abdulaziz Hashem.

The program was founded in 2006 as a joint initiative between the Kingdom’s ministry of finance and Saudi commercial banks to help overcome SME financing constraints.


A bamboo bat? That’s just not cricket old boy

A bamboo bat? That’s just not cricket old boy
Updated 10 May 2021

A bamboo bat? That’s just not cricket old boy

A bamboo bat? That’s just not cricket old boy
  • Faster growing Bamboo seen as a more sustainable alternative to Willow

Cricket is a sport defined by tradition, but change may be in store after research suggested bamboo could be an attractive alternative to willow in the manufacture of bats.
The Cambridge University study said its prototype bamboo bat was cheaper to produce, more sustainable and stronger than traditional willow blades and could grow the game worldwide.
The article, published in the Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology on Sunday, also found the laminated bamboo bat possessed a larger sweet spot, making it “a batsman’s dream.”
Willow trees take 15 years to mature enough to produce cricket bats, whereas bamboo only requires five to six years and abounds in China, South America and southeast Asia as well as cricket-obsessed India.
Bamboo bats could increase participation in lower-income countries thanks to lower production costs and make cricket much more sustainable without compromising quality, the study claimed.
Co-author Ben Tinkler-Davies said: “Whether you’re playing or spectating, you wouldn’t notice much of a difference.
“Because laminated bamboo is so strong, we’re very confident we can make a bamboo bat light enough, even for today’s fast-scoring, short forms of the game.”
The study found that bamboo is 22 percent stiffer than willow and that its sweet spot performed 19 percent better.
The prototype bat’s sweet spot — the point where the ball is hit most effectively — is larger than a traditional bat’s and located closer to the toe.
That allows it to transfer more energy to the ball, the researchers said.
Bamboo bats would be “a batsman’s dream,” according to co-author Darshil Shah, who played cricket for Thailand at youth level.
“The sweet spot on a bamboo bat makes it much easier to hit a four off a yorker for starters, but it’s exciting for all kinds of strokes,” he added.
Bamboo’s higher density means that the bat’s shape would have to be redesigned to make a lighter product before batsmen can blast bowlers with their new weapon.
The London-based Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) — the conservative custodian of cricket’s laws — must approve any change to the material used to make bats.
Cricketers have long experimented with different types of bat, from the length of the handle to thickness of the blade and weight, to try to gain a competitive edge.
In 1979, Australia’s Dennis Lillee caused controversy by using an aluminum bat, which was then banned.
Cricket’s current laws — brought in after the Lillee incident — state that bats must be made of wood, but bamboo is a type of grass.
“Playing with a bamboo bat would be within the spirit of the game because it’s a plant-based material. Cane, a type of grass, is already used in the handle,” said Shah.
“Tradition is important but think about how much cricket bats, pads, gloves and helmets have already evolved.
“If we can go back to having thinner blades but made from bamboo, while improving performance, outreach and sustainability, then why not?“


Saudi-owned ACWA Power starts to build Africa’s biggest renewables project

Saudi-owned ACWA Power starts to build Africa’s biggest renewables project
Updated 10 May 2021

Saudi-owned ACWA Power starts to build Africa’s biggest renewables project

Saudi-owned ACWA Power starts to build Africa’s biggest renewables project
  • ACWA Power’s co-shareholders in the $825 million project that will have the capacity to generate 100MW of power

DUBAI: ACWA Power has started construction on the Redstone concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in South Africa, the biggest renewables project on the continent.

ACWA Power’s co-shareholders in the $825 million project that will have the capacity to generate 100MW of power, include the Central Energy Fund, Pele Green Energy and the local community.
Located in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, the Redstone plant will be equipped with a 12-hour thermal storage system that will deliver clean and reliable electricity to nearly 200,000 households round the clock, the company said. Commencement of operations is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2023.
“Redstone CSP adds another superlative to our budding record in South Africa, being the largest renewable energy investment to date,” said CEO Paddy Padmanathan. “As grid links are improved, the ingenuity of the private sector together with the great support of experienced finance partners has the potential to spark lasting impact for local communities and address the threats of climate change.”
Redstone CSP will displace an estimated 440 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year, ACWA said.