World experiencing one of the deepest recessions since Great Depression due to COVID-19: World Bank

Agencies
October 15, 2020

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Washington, Oct 15: The world is experiencing one of the deepest recessions since the Great Depression in the 1930s owing to the novel coronavirus, World Bank President David Malpass has said, terming the COVID-19 pandemic a "catastrophic event" for many developing and the poorest countries.

He told reporters that given the extent of the economic contraction, there was a rising risk of disruptive debt crises in countries.

So that has got a lot of focus here at the meetings, Malpass told the media on Wednesday at the start of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

"The recession has been deep, one of the deepest since the Great Depression. And for many developing countries, and for the people in the poorest countries, it is truly a depression, a catastrophic event. It is continuing to add to the ranks of those in extreme poverty," he said.

That is the focus of this meeting and the focus of their actions, he said, adding that the World Bank was building as big a growth programme for countries as they can in this fiscal year.

A day earlier, the Board approved the extension of the health emergency programmes to up to USD 12 billion for vaccines and therapeutics and distribution of those in countries that do not otherwise have access.

Responding to a question, Malpass said that the world was currently experiencing a K-shaped recovery.

That means that the advanced economies have been able to provide support, especially for their financial markets and for people that have jobs that can be done by working from home. But people that are in the informal economy have lost their jobs, and are depending on social protection programmes, he said.

For the developing countries, and especially the poorest developing countries, that downward leg in the K is an increasingly desperate recession or depression that is facing people in the poorest countries because of the loss of jobs, the loss of income, and also the loss of remittances coming from workers, working outside the country, Malpass said.

"What we're trying to do at the World Bank is recognise that problem and provide extra support for social protection for the poorest in countries, also recognising the agricultural challenges," he said.

The president welcome countries that are keeping open their export markets, and also countries that are able to change their subsidy systems in order to allow more food availability within their economies during this very challenging time.

Malpass said that the first priority was saving lives, people's health, and safety.

That involves procedures that have been widely discussed of social distancing and masks and proper health care if people contract the virus, strengthening of hospital systems and so on. All of those are important, he asserted.

"And then, as we look at the next stage, what I think we can be talking about is that it's going to be a prolonged downturn for many of the countries, there won't be as fast a rebound in tourism, for example, as many would like to have," he said.

There will need to be flexibility in economies, so that people can move to new jobs and positions, and the country can be prepared for a post COVID-19 global economy, Malpass said.

Acknowledging that it is going to be different from the pre-COVID-19 economy, he noted that one does not know exactly how and that will only evolve over time.

"And so, having countries preserve some of their core industries and businesses, and then keeping families together. We're providing social safety nets to try to help provide cash grants for people, for example, in Brazil, we have a sizable programme. In Jordan, we support Jordan's sizable programme and elsewhere around the world, he said.

The World Bank is encouraging countries to spend in the first instance on health programmes, on social programmes, and on education, Malpass said, adding that a critical step for countries is to reopen schools.

"We think there are as many as a billion children still out of school in the developing world. And in those cases, learning goes backward, which has a huge future cost for countries. This is particularly true for girls that are left out at a critical point in their lives, left out of school. That's a high priority, he said.

Now, looking longer term, infrastructure is a very important part of a country's growth, he said.

"We have a large undertaking through the IFC that works on infrastructure that helps provide electricity and low carbon ways, for example, that helps provide clean water, that helps provide global public goods, meaning helping the country reach a balance with the environment and with the climate that benefits themselves and their neighbours. All of those are key priorities, he said.

On infrastructure, one of the challenges is they have a very low interest rate environment, and it should be an environment that provides much more infrastructure investment than is currently occurring, Malpass said.

"A key step in this is the documentation and the standardisation of the quality of the infrastructure projects. It's vital that the world move toward a financing structure where multiple infrastructure projects can be pooled in order to reduce the risk to the entire package, and that's difficult right now because of the difference in the contracts.

"So, one of the things we've wanted to do is try to help standardise some of the contracting and make it much more transparent. This will help the infrastructure build up, he said.

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News Network
September 5,2021

Kabul, Sept 5: Over 600 Taliban fighters have been killed in Afghanistan's northeastern province of Panjshir, Sputnik reported quoting the Afghan rebel forces on Saturday.

"About 600 Taliban have been liquidated in various districts of Panjshir since morning. More than 1,000 Taliban have been captured or surrendered themselves," the rebel forces' spokesperson Fahim Dashti tweeted.

The spokesperson further added that the Taliban had problems with getting supplies from other Afghan provinces, Sputnik reported.

Meanwhile, the Taliban offensive against Panjshir rebels has slowed down due to the presence of land mines in the area.

A Taliban source said fighting is continuing in Panjshir but the advance had been slowed by landmines on the road to the capital Bazarak and the provincial governor's compound, reported Al Jazeera.

Panjshir is the stronghold of the so called ‘National Resistance Front’, led by Ahmad Massoud, the son of late ex-Afghan guerrilla commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, and ex-Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who had declared himself caretaker President.

In Panjshir, former Vice-President Amrullah Saleh holed out alongside Ahmad Massoud, admitted the perilous position of the National Resistance Front.

"The situation is difficult, we have been under invasion," Mr Saleh earlier said in a video message. "The resistance is continuing and will continue."

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News Network
September 18,2021

The US military has admitted killing 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children, in a drone strike last month. Washington has previously claimed that those who killed were terrorists.

The Pentagon had maintained the August 29 strike targeted a Daesh-K terrorist who posed an imminent threat to American troops at the Kabul airport, with Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley calling it a "righteous strike.”  

But on Friday, General Frank McKenzie, the top general of US Central Command, announced at the Pentagon that the military investigation has found it killed 10 civilians and the driver and that the vehicle targeted was not a threat associated with Daesh-K, a shadowy terrorist group that emerged following the last month bomb blast at the Kabul airport.  The attack killed scores of Afghans and over a dozen Americans.

McKenzie told reporters that the US military drone strike was a "mistake" and offered an apology.

"This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport, but it was a mistake and I offer my sincere apology," he said.

McKenzie added that he is "fully responsible for this strike and this tragic outcome."

Some media outlets had reported that the US drone strike apparently targeted the wrong man, killing an innocent Afghan aid worker along with members of his family, but the top US general described the attack as "righteous".

"At the time of the strike, I was confident that the strike had averted an imminent threat to our forces at the airport," McKenzie told reporters. "Our investigation now concludes that the strike was a tragic mistake."

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News Network
September 6,2021

Kabul, Sept 6: The Taliban has taken complete control of Panjshir province, the last area in Afghanistan held by rebel forces, says the group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid.

Pictures on social media on Monday showed Taliban members standing in front of the gate of the Panjshir provincial governor’s compound.

There was no immediate word from Ahmad Massoud, the leader of the opposition group resisting Taliban forces.

Earlier on Monday, the last anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan acknowledged suffering considerable battlefield losses and called for a ceasefire, as a top United States diplomat flew to Qatar to try and handle the chaotic aftermath of the US withdrawal.

The National Resistance Front (NRF) proposed in a statement “that the Taliban stop its military operations in Panjshir … and withdraw its forces”.

“In return, we will direct our forces to refrain from military action,” said the statement, according to a report by the AFP news agency.

The NRF includes local fighters loyal to Massoud, the son of the famous anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, as well as remnants of the Afghan military that retreated to the Panjshir Valley.

The group said separately in a tweet on Sunday that spokesman Fahim Dashty, a well-known Afghan journalist, and General Abdul Wudod Zara had been killed in the latest fighting.

The NRF has promised to fight the Taliban but also said it was willing to negotiate with the group. But initial contact did not lead to a breakthrough.

The Panjshir Valley is famed for being the site of resistance to Soviet forces in the 1980s and the Taliban in the late 1990s, but observers have said the NRF is struggling.

Bill Roggio, the managing editor of the US-based Long War Journal, on Sunday said while there was still a “fog of war”, with unconfirmed reports the Taliban had captured multiple districts, “it looks bad”.

Former Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who is holed out in Panjshir alongside Ahmad Massoud, has warned of a humanitarian crisis, with thousands “displaced by the Taliban onslaught”.

The Taliban is yet to finalise their new government after rolling into Kabul three weeks ago.

Afghanistan’s new rulers have pledged to be more “inclusive” than during their first stint in power, which also came after years of conflict, first the Soviet invasion of 1979, and then a bloody civil war.

They have promised a government that represents Afghanistan’s complex ethnic makeup.

Women’s freedoms in Afghanistan were sharply curtailed under the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule.

This time, women will be allowed to attend university as long as classes are segregated by sex or at least divided by a curtain, the Taliban’s education authority said in a lengthy document issued on Sunday.

But female students must also wear an long robe and face veil, as opposed to the even more conservative burqa mandatory under the previous Taliban rule.

As the Taliban comes to grips with their transition from armed uprising to government, it is facing a host of challenges, including humanitarian needs for which international assistance is critical.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths has arrived in Kabul for several days of meetings with the Taliban leadership, which has promised to help.

“The authorities pledged that the safety and security of humanitarian staff, and humanitarian access to people in need, will be guaranteed and that humanitarian workers – men and women – will be guaranteed freedom of movement,” a statement from UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The Taliban spokesman tweeted that the group’s delegation assured the UN of cooperation.

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