Sri Lanka aims to stop money printing as inflation nears 60%

Sri Lanka aims to stop money printing as inflation nears 60%
Consumer prices rose 54.6 percent in June from a year earlier, with transport surging 128 percent from the previous month and food 80 percent. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 July 2022

Sri Lanka aims to stop money printing as inflation nears 60%

Sri Lanka aims to stop money printing as inflation nears 60%
  • Government is working on debt-restructuring plan for IMF bailout

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will stop printing money completely to control a rapid increase in the prices of commodities, its prime minister said on Tuesday, with inflation expected to reach 60 percent this year.

The cash-strapped country of 22 million people is battling its worst economic crisis in decades and has been unable to pay for essential imports for months because of a severe dollar crunch caused by economic mismanagement and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic on its tourism-dependent economy.

Extreme shortages of petrol, food and medicines have led to the closure of many services, and triggered mass protests that have been ongoing since March. The island nation has been forced to shut schools and stop providing fuel to all but essential services.

Consumer prices rose 54.6 percent in June from a year earlier, with transport surging 128 percent from the previous month and food 80 percent.

“Our plan is to control inflation. By the end of this year, inflation will rise to 60 percent,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliamentarians.

“In 2023, we will have to print money with restrictions on several occasions. But by the end of 2024, it is our intention to stop printing money completely.”

Wickremesinghe announced the planned measures after last week’s complicated bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund.

The premier, who took office in May and is also the finance minister, said the plan was aimed at reducing the inflation rate to reach between 4 and 6 percent by 2025.

Sri Lanka is facing negotiations with the IMF as “a bankrupt country,” Wickremesinghe said, as he outlined a roadmap to get out of the crisis. The government is planning to submit its debt-restructuring plan for the IMF’s approval by the end of August.

Stopping the printing of money is in line with the fund’s expectations.

“The IMF will not like printing of money; if they have to abide by the IMF, (the) printing of new notes will have to be avoided,” Murtaza Jafferjee, economist and chairman of the Colombo-based think tank Advocata Institute, told Arab News.

“Printing money means the central bank is funding the government; under the IMF agreement we will have to enact the new monetary law act which will restrict funding the government so it will automatically stop.”

The inflation rate, he said, could be even higher than projected.

“It can get worse if we have further supply chain blocks or fuel prices will increase further.”

One solution that could bring quicker relief than the IMF bailout loan — which may take months — could be tourism, a key source of Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves.

In 2019, the South Asian country welcomed over 1.9 million tourists. As COVID-19 restrictions upended the hospitality industry, the number dropped to less than 200,000 last year. But it is slowly picking up again, as 380,000 tourists have already arrived in the country in the first half of 2022, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.

“We have to ensure that tourism makes a strong recovery in the second half of the year,” Jafferjee said.


Super Typhoon Noru leaves 5 rescuers dead in north Philippines

Super Typhoon Noru leaves 5 rescuers dead in north Philippines
Updated 9 sec ago

Super Typhoon Noru leaves 5 rescuers dead in north Philippines

Super Typhoon Noru leaves 5 rescuers dead in north Philippines
  • The victims drowned in rampaging waters after a collapsed wall hit the boat they were using to help residents trapped in floods
  • President Marcos orders supplies be airlifted and clean-up equipment be provided to most-affected communities

MANILA: Typhoon Noru blew out of the northern Philippines on Monday, leaving five rescuers dead, causing floods and power outages and forcing officials to suspend classes and government work in the capital and outlying provinces.

The most powerful typhoon to hit the country this year slammed into the coast in Burdeos town in Quezon province before nightfall on Sunday then weakened as it barreled overnight across the main Luzon region, where thousands of people were moved to emergency shelters, some forcibly, officials said.
Gov. Daniel Fernando of Bulacan province, north of Manila, said five rescuers, who were using a boat to help residents trapped in floodwaters, were hit by a collapsed wall then apparently drowned in the rampaging waters.
“They were living heroes who were helping save the lives of our countrymen amid this calamity,” Fernando told DZMM radio network. “This is really very sad.”
On Polillo island in northeastern Quezon province, a man was injured after falling off the roof of his house, officials said.

More than 17,000 people were moved to emergency shelters from high-risk communities prone to tidal surges, flooding and landslides in Quezon alone, officials said.
More than 3,000 people were evacuated to safety in Metropolitan Manila, which was lashed by fierce wind and rain overnight. Classes and government work were suspended Monday in the capital and outlying provinces as a precaution although the morning skies were sunny.
The entire northern provinces of Aurora and Nueva Ecija, which were hit by the typhoon, remained without power Monday and repair crews were at work to bring back electricity, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla told President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in a televised meeting he called to assess damages and coordinate disaster-response.

Marcos Jr. praised officials for evacuating thousands of people to safety as a precaution before the typhoon hit which prevented large number of casualties despite the Noru’s potentially disastrous force. He ordered supplies be airlifted and clean-up equipment be provided to most-affected communities.
“The point at which we can stand down is when the majority of evacuees are already back home,” Marcos said at a news conference with disaster management officials on Monday, referring to the 74,000 people who were forced into evacuation centers by the storm.
Luzon, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy and roughly half of the country’s 110 million population, started clean-up operations as floods in the capital region had started subsiding, officials said.
Noru underwent an “explosive intensification” over the open Pacific Ocean before it hit the Philippines, Vicente Malano, who heads the country’s weather agency PAGASA, told The Associated Press on Sunday.
From sustained winds of 85 kilometers per hour (53 mph) on Saturday, Noru was a super typhoon just 24 hours later with sustained winds of 195 kilometers (121 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 240 kph (149 mph) at its peak late Sunday.
By Monday morning, Noru had sustained winds of 140 kph (87 mph) and gusts of 170 kph (105 mph) and was moving westward in the South China Sea at 30 kph (19 mph), according to the weather agency.
About 20 storms and typhoons batter the Philippines each year. The archipelago also lies in the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” a region along most of the Pacific Ocean rim where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the Southeast Asian nation one of the world’s most disaster-prone.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest recorded tropical cyclones in the world, left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened entire villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than 5 million in the central Philippines — well to the south of Noru’s path.

(With Reuters)


Giorgia Meloni’s far-right triumphs in Italy vote

Giorgia Meloni’s far-right triumphs in Italy vote
Updated 26 September 2022

Giorgia Meloni’s far-right triumphs in Italy vote

Giorgia Meloni’s far-right triumphs in Italy vote
  • Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which has neo-fascist roots, has never held office but looks set to form Italy’s most far-right government

ROME: Far-right leader Giorgia Meloni won big in Italian elections on Sunday, the first projections suggested, putting her euroskeptic populists on course to take power at the heart of Europe.
Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which has neo-fascist roots, has never held office but looks set to form Italy’s most far-right government since the fall of dictator Benito Mussolini during World War II.
Projections published by the Rai public broadcaster and Quorum/YouTrend both put Brothers of Italy on top, at between 24 and 26 percent of the vote, with Meloni favorite to become her country’s first female prime minister.
The result must still be confirmed but risks fresh trouble for the European Union, just weeks after the far-right outperformed in elections in Sweden.
Meloni, who campaigned on a motto of “God, country and family,” has abandoned her calls for one of Europe’s biggest economies to leave the eurozone, but says Rome must assert its interests more in Brussels.
Her allies, Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, lagged behind her. But the coalition was forecast to win around 43 percent, enough to secure a majority in both houses of parliament.
Brothers of Italy and the League “look to get, together, the highest percentage of votes ever registered by (far) right parties in the history of Western Europe since 1945,” Italian electoral studies center CISE said.
The center-left Democratic Party, the coalition’s main rivals, later conceded defeat, with vice president Debora Serracchiani saying it was a “sad evening for the country.”

Congratulations came in quickly from Meloni’s nationalist allies around Europe, from Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to Spain’s far-right party Vox.
“Meloni has shown the way for a proud, free Europe of sovereign nations,” Vox leader Santiago Abascal tweeted.
Turnout was lower than in the 2018 elections, at around 64 percent, down from 73 percent.
Meloni had been leading opinion polls since Prime Minister Mario Draghi called snap elections in July following the collapse of his national unity government.
Hers was the only party not to join Draghi’s coalition when, in February 2021, the former European Central Bank chief was parachuted in to lead a country still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
From a “very aggressive” opposition strategy under Draghi, Meloni then chose a “very cautious, very reassuring campaign,” CISE head Lorenzo De Sio told AFP.
“Her challenge will be to turn this electoral success into a governing leadership... that can last,” he said.
Italian politics are notoriously unstable, with nearly 70 governments since 1946, and Meloni, Salvini and Berlusconi do not always agree.
Meloni’s “dissatisfied and essentially defeated allies” would likely be a “problem,” the Corriere della Sera newspaper said.
The League and Forza Italia looked to have performed poorly, taking eight percent each, down from 17 and 14 percent respectively in 2018.
Salvini, who has been eclipsed by Meloni, was the first to react to the coalition’s projected win, tweeting “Grazie! (Thanks!)“

Meloni — whose experience of government has been limited to a stint as a minister in Berlusconi’s 2008 government — has major challenges ahead.
Italy is suffering rampant inflation while an energy crisis looms this winter, linked to the conflict in Ukraine.
The Italian economy, the third largest in the eurozone, is also saddled with a debt worth 150 percent of gross domestic product.
Brothers of Italy has roots in the post-fascist movement founded by supporters of Benito Mussolini, and Meloni herself praised the dictator when she was young.
She has sought to distance herself from the past as she built up her party into a political force, going from just four percent of the vote in 2018 to Sunday’s projected triumph.
Her coalition campaigned on a platform of low taxes, an end to mass immigration, Catholic family values and an assertion of Italy’s nationalist interests abroad.
They want to renegotiate the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, arguing that the almost 200 billion euros Italy is set to receive should take into account the energy crisis.
But the funds are tied to a series of reforms only just begun by Draghi.

Despite her euroskepticism, Meloni strongly supports the EU’s sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, although her allies are another matter.
Berlusconi, the billionaire former premier who has long been friends with Vladimir Putin, faced an outcry this week after suggesting the Russian president was “pushed” into war by his entourage.
A straight-speaking Roman raised by a single mother in a working-class neighborhood, Meloni rails against what she calls “LGBT lobbies,” “woke ideology” and “the violence of Islam.”
She has vowed to stop the tens of thousands of migrants who arrive on Italy’s shores each year.
The Democratic Party had warned Meloni would pose a serious risk to hard-won rights such as abortion and will ignore global warming, despite Italy being on the front line of the climate emergency.
 


China’s Communist Party has elected delegates for congress

China’s Communist Party has elected delegates for congress
Updated 26 September 2022

China’s Communist Party has elected delegates for congress

China’s Communist Party has elected delegates for congress
  • Nearly 2,300 delegates representing all provinces and regions will pick members of the party’s Central Committee of around 200 members
  • The Central Committee will then vote for the 25-person Politburo and its all-powerful Standing Committee, currently comprising seven people

BEIJING: China’s Communist Party said Sunday that it had elected all the delegates attending a key political meeting starting October 16, where President Xi Jinping is expected to secure an unprecedented third term.
The twice-in-a-decade conclave will also see a shuffle of personnel on the party’s powerful decision-making body, the 25-member Politburo.
“Each electoral unit across the country convened a party congress or party representative meeting and elected 2,296 delegates to the 20th Party Congress,” state broadcaster CCTV said.
The delegates must adhere to Xi’s political ideology in addition to the party constitution, CCTV said.
The representatives include women, ethnic minority party members and those specializing in various fields, such as economics, science and sports, CCTV said.
The congress in the capital Beijing comes as Xi faces significant political headwinds, including an ailing economy, deteriorating relations with the United States and a strict zero-Covid policy that has accelerated China’s inward turn from the world.

The congress is the most important date on China’s political calendar. It offers signposts on the direction the world’s second-largest economy will take in the near term and the extent of the sway that Xi has over the party with millions of members.
The nearly 2,300 delegates representing all provinces and regions will engage in a highly choreographed exercise to pick members of the party’s Central Committee of around 200 members.
The Central Committee will then vote for the 25-person Politburo and its all-powerful Standing Committee — China’s highest leadership body and apex of power, currently comprising seven people.
Voting is mostly a formality — the pecking order of the Politburo and its Standing Committee is likely to have been decided well in advance. The overall duration of the congress is not yet clear.

Xi’s decade-long tenure has seen crackdowns on corruption within the party — which analysts say served to take down his political rivals — as well as the crushing of a democracy movement in Hong Kong and strict lockdowns on cities in the name of curbing the coronavirus.
He has faced harsh human rights criticism from the international community over repressive policies in the northwestern Xinjiang region, where an estimated one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorites have been detained in a sweeping crackdown ostensibly targeting “terrorism.”
He also ushered in an assertive “Wolf Warrior” foreign policy that has alienated Western democracies and some regional neighbors, and has pushed for closer ties with Russia while stoking nationalism at home.
He abolished the presidential two-term limit in 2018 — originally set up by former leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s to prevent another Mao-like dictatorship — leaving open the possibility of him becoming leader for life.
 


Police clash with anti-Iranian regime protesters in London and Paris

Police clash with anti-Iranian regime protesters in London and Paris
Updated 26 September 2022

Police clash with anti-Iranian regime protesters in London and Paris

Police clash with anti-Iranian regime protesters in London and Paris
  • Similar rallies in support of Iranian women have occurred around the world
  • Macron’s talks and public handshake with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at UNGA upset French activists

PARIS: Police clashed with demonstrators trying to reach Iran’s embassies in London and Paris on Sunday.
French police used tear gas and employed anti-riot tactics to prevent hundreds of people protesting in the capital from marching on Tehran’s diplomatic mission, AFP reporters and eyewitnesses said.
In London, police said they made 12 arrests and five officers were “seriously injured” as demonstrators tried to break through barriers protecting Iran’s UK embassy.
The protesters in Paris had gathered for the second day running to express outrage at the death of Mahsa Amini following her arrest by Iran’s morality police — and to show solidarity with the protests that have erupted in Iran, at a cost of at least 41 lives.
Similar rallies in support of Iranian women have occurred around the world.
The demonstration had began peacefully at Trocadero Square in the center of the French capital. Some protesters chanted “Death to the Islamic Republic” and slogans against supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But police in full anti-riot armor, backed by a line of vans, blocked the path of the protesters as they sought to approach the Iranian embassy a short distance away.
Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.
In a statement, Paris police said that “on several occasions groups tried to break through the roadblock set up near the Iranian embassy. The police used... tear gas to repel them.”
They said about 4,000 people had gathered for the demonstration. One person was arrested for “outrage and rebellion” and one officer was slightly hurt, said police.
The use of tear gas angered activists already upset by President Emmanuel Macron’s talks and public handshake with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last week.
“Police used tear gas to disperse Iranian protesters in Paris in an effort to protect the Islamic Republic embassy,” tweeted the US-based Iranian women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad.
“Meanwhile, @EmmanuelMacron shook hands with the murderous president of Iran.”
Protesters also repeated the viral Persian chants used by protesters inside Iran such as “zan, zendegi, azadi!” (woman, life, freedom!) and also its Kurdish equivalent “jin, jiyan, azadi!” Amini, also known as Jhina Amini, was Kurdish.
“In view of what is happening, we Iranians are fully mobilized,” said Nina, a Paris-based French Iranian who asked that her last name was not given. “We must react given that we are far from our homeland, our country.
“It’s really time we all come together so we can really speak up so the whole world can really hear our voice,” she added.
Similarly tense scenes took place in London, where images posted on social media showed protesters seeking to break through police security barriers outside the Iranian embassy there.
London’s Metropolitan Police said “masonry, bottles and other projectiles were thrown and a number of officers were injured. At least five are in hospital with injuries including broken bones.”
Earlier, police said a large number of protesters had gathered outside the embassy “with a substantial group intent on causing disorder.”


US warns of catastrophic consequences if Russia uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine

US warns of catastrophic consequences if Russia uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine
Updated 26 September 2022

US warns of catastrophic consequences if Russia uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine

US warns of catastrophic consequences if Russia uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine
  • Warning follows Russian threats to use nuclear weapons amid Ukraine's battlefield successes
  • Third day of voting in referendums in Ukrainian regions seized by Russia

KYIV, Ukraine: The US warned on Sunday of “catastrophic consequences” if Moscow were to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, after Russia’s foreign minister said regions holding widely-criticized referendums would get full protection if annexed by Moscow.
Votes in four eastern Ukrainian regions, aimed at annexing territory Russia has taken by force, were staged for a third day on Sunday. The Russian parliament could move to formalize the annexation within days.
By incorporating the areas of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia into Russia, Moscow could portray efforts to retake them as attacks on Russia itself, a warning to Kyiv and its Western allies.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday the United States would respond to any Russian use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine and that it had spelled out to Moscow the “catastrophic consequences” it would face.
“If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia. The United States will respond decisively,” Sullivan told NBC’s “Meet the Press” television program.
The latest US warning followed a thinly veiled nuclear threat made on Wednesday by President Vladimir Putin, who said Russia would use any weapons to defend its territory.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the point more directly at a news conference on Saturday after a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York in which he repeated Moscow’s false claims to justify the invasion that the elected government in Kyiv was illegitimately installed and filled with neo-Nazis.
Asked if Russia would have grounds for using nuclear weapons to defend annexed regions, Lavrov said Russian territory, including territory “further enshrined” in Russia’s constitution in the future, “is under the full protection of the state.”

’Bogus threats’
Ukraine and its allies have dismissed the referendums as a sham designed to justify an escalation of the war and a mobilization drive by Moscow after recent battlefield losses.
British Prime Minister Liz Truss said Britain and its allies should not heed threats from Putin, who had made what she called a strategic mistake as he had not anticipated the strength of reaction from the West.
“We should not be listening to his saber-rattling and his bogus threats. Instead, what we need to do is continue to put sanctions on Russia and continue to support the Ukrainians,” Truss told CNN in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
Russian news agencies quoted unidentified sources as saying the Russian parliament could debate bills to incorporate the new territories as soon as Thursday. State-run RIA Novosti said Putin could address parliament on Friday.

Russia says the referendums, hastily organized after Ukraine recaptured territory in a counter-offensive this month, enable people in those regions to express their view.
The territory controlled by Russian forces in the four regions represents about 15 percent of Ukraine, an area roughly the size of Portugal. It would add to Crimea, an area nearly the size of Belgium that Russia claims to have annexed in 2014.
Ukrainian forces still control some territory in each of the regions, including around 40 percent of Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia’s provincial capital. Heavy fighting continued along the entire front, especially in northern Donetsk and in Kherson.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who insists that Ukraine will regain all its territory, said on Sunday there had been “positive results” for Kyiv in some of the clashes. “This is the Donetsk region, this is our Kharkiv region. This is the Kherson region, and also the Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia regions,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address.
The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said in a statement on Facebook that Russia had launched four missile and seven air strikes and 24 instances of shelling on targets in Ukraine in the past 24 hours, hitting dozens of towns, including in and around the Donetsk and Kherson regions.
Reuters could not independently verify the accounts.

Protests in Russia over drafts
Putin on Wednesday ordered Russia’s first military mobilization since World War II. The move triggered protests across Russia and sent many men of military age fleeing.
Two of Russia’s most senior lawmakers on Sunday addressed a string of complaints about the mobilization, ordering regional officials to swiftly solve “excesses” stoking public anger.
More than 2,000 people have been detained across Russia for protesting against the draft, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info. In Russia, where criticism of the conflict is banned, the demonstrations are among the first signs of discontent since the war began.
In the Muslim-majority southern Russian region of Dagestan, police clashed with protesters, with at least 100 people detained.
Zelensky acknowledged the protests in his video address.
“Keep on fighting so that your children will not be sent to their deaths — all those that can be drafted by this criminal Russian mobilization,” he said. “Because if you come to take away the lives of our children — and I am saying this as a father — we will not let you get away alive.”