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The IMF has lowered its global economic outlook due to the Delta spike and a vaccination split




The International Monetary Fund (IMF) modestly lowered its global economic outlook on Tuesday, citing the “great vaccination divide,” supply bottlenecks, and inflation risks as reasons for the COVID-19 spike.

“The global recovery is continuing, but progress has slowed due to the epidemic,” IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath said during a virtual news conference held during the IMF and World Bank Group’s annual meetings.

The IMF forecasted worldwide growth of 5.9% in 2021 in its recently issued World Economic Outlook, down 0.1 percentage points from July’s prediction, while warning that the “small headline revision” for the global economy “masks considerable downgrades” for individual nations.

Gopinath said the outlook for low-income developing nations, in particular, has “darkened considerably” due to worsening pandemic dynamics, noting that overall risks to economic prospects have increased and policy trade-offs have become “more difficult.”

According to the report, low-income developing countries are on track to grow by 3.0% this year, down 0.9 percentage point from July’s prediction.

Gopinath said the “big vaccination difference” and substantial variations in policy support are the causes of a “dangerous divergence” in economic prospects among countries, which remains a major concern.

In a remote video interview with Xinhua on Tuesday, Petya Koeva Brooks, deputy director of the IMF’s Research Department, said, “We are really concerned (about the vaccine difference) and we are doing everything we can to make the case to be clear on the numbers, which are worrying.”

“Roughly 60% of the population in advanced economies and about a third in emerging markets are completely vaccinated, but the corresponding figure for low-income countries is less than 5% of the population,” Brooks added.

The IMF asked the international community to step up efforts to guarantee that every country has equal vaccine access, to eliminate vaccine reluctance where there is sufficient supply, and to improve everyone’s economic prospects.

Recent contributions in that regard by China, the Group of Seven developed nations, and other countries are “welcome,” according to the report, though donations should be increased to quickly fulfill the obligations.

“I believe there have been promises of surplus vaccines being shared and other similar things. I believe the logistics side of things has been slow “Brooks went on to say that it’s critical to see that these donation pledges are fulfilled.

The IMF official also urged countries to implement “complimentary” measures such as treatments, testing, and contact tracing, stressing that the global lender has asked policymakers to fund $20 billion in assistance for low-income countries.


Source: Xinhua News Agency

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Rihiveli Island reopens under new management while dispute case continues at High Court of Maldives.





The Rihiveli island has reopened under a new management while a dispute case over its ownership is ongoing at the High Court.

Rebranded as the “Rihiveli Maldives Resort”, the island welcomed its first guest last Friday after undergoing several renovation projects since its previous management, Save the Dream Pvt Ltd was removed by the owner, Mahaal tours Pvt Ltd.

According to the legal representatives of Save the Dream Maldives Pvt Ltd, a director of Mahaal Tours had embezzled money meant for Save the Dream Maldives Pvt Ltd. They state that except for Mohamed SHiam and Ali Shiham, the rest of the Board of Directors have confirmed by written letter that Mohamed Shiham is not the Managing Director and that the termination of the sub-lease agreement between Mahaal Tours Pvt Ltd and Save the Dream Maldives Pvt Ltd was not legitimate.

They also accuse Director Ali Shiham of embezzling $50,000.00 by funneling $550,000.00 meant for Save the Dream Maldives Pvt Ltd through his Blue Ciel Pvt Ltd, with the beneficiary receiving only $500,000.00.

The legal representatives also note that Mahaal Tours had previously even engaged in sub-lease fraud, referring to Antrac Pvt Ltd vs Mahaal Tours Pvt Ltd. The case has also drawn significant political attention as a Parliamentarian is among the Directors of the new operator.

While the High Court of Maldives is yet to schedule the next hearing, they have confirmed that they would be passing a verdict at the next hearing.

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Italy imposes antitrust fines on Apple, Google





The Italian competition authority fined Apple and Google $11 million each for violations of the consumer code, including failing to provide enough information to customers.

Italy’s antitrust watchdog imposed 20 million euros ($22.5 million) in fines on Apple and Google on Friday, the second time the regulator has sanctioned US tech giants this week.

European countries have cracked down on the business practices of Big Tech in recent years, while the EU is moving forward with legislation to tighten regulation.

The Italian competition authority said it fined Apple and Google 10 million euros ($11 million) each for violations of the consumer code, including failing to provide enough information to customers and resorting to “aggressive methods” in the use of their data for commercial ends.

“Neither Apple nor Google provided clear and immediate information on the acquisition and use of user data for commercial ends,” the statement said.

The regulator imposed a 200-million-euro ( $225 million) fine on Apple and e-commerce giant Amazon earlier this week for restricting access for certain sellers of Apple products on Amazon.

Meanwhile, European Union member states on Thursday agreed their common position on two landmark legislations that could set unprecedented oversight on Big Tech.

READ MORE: Google to pay German media for online content under ”milestone” deal

Regulating big tech companies

The European Union’s second-highest court has previously upheld a $2.8-billion (2.4-billion-euro) fine on Google by anti-trust authorities in Brussels for search engine dominance.

Lost month’s decision was considered a major win for the bloc’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager in the first of three court rulings that will strengthen the EU’s push to regulate big tech.

The court said the commission correctly found that Google’s practices harmed competition on comparison shopping service and swatted away the company’s argument that the presence of merchant platforms showed there was strong competition.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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New coronavirus variant Omicron triggers market sell-off





New concerns over the variant pummelled financial markets, especially stocks of airlines and others in the travel sector, and oil, which tumbled by about $10 a barrel.

The discovery of a new coronavirus variant named Omicron has triggered global alarm as countries rushed to suspend travel from southern Africa and stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic suffered their biggest falls in more than a year.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday Omicron may spread more quickly than other forms, and preliminary evidence suggested there is an increased risk of reinfection.

Those worries pummelled financial markets, especially stocks of airlines and others in the travel sector, and oil, which tumbled by about $10 a barrel.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 2.5 percent, its worst day since late October 2020, and European stocks had their worst day in 17 months.

Cruise operators Carnival Corp, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line plunged more than 10 percent each, while shares in United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines slumped almost as much.

READ MORE: Global remittances to drop 20 percent amid coronavirus – World Bank

Too late for travel curbs?

Epidemiologists warned travel curbs may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating globally.

The new mutations were first discovered in South Africa and have since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

The United States will restrict travel from South Africa and neighbouring countries effective Monday, a senior Biden administration official said.

Going further, Canada said it was closing its borders to those countries, following bans on flights announced by Britain, the European Union and others.

But it could take weeks for scientists to fully understand the variant’s mutations and whether existing vaccines and treatments are effective against it. Omicron is the fifth variant of concern designated by the WHO.

The variant has a spike protein that is dramatically different than the one in the original coronavirus that vaccines are based on, the UK Health Security Agency said, raising fears about how current vaccines will fare.

Scientists issued similar warnings.

“This new variant of the Covid-19 virus is very worrying. It is the most heavily mutated version of the virus we have seen to date,” said Lawrence Young, a virologist at Britain’s University of Warwick.

“Some of the mutations that are similar to changes we’ve seen in other variants of concern are associated with enhanced transmissibility and with partial resistance to immunity induced by vaccination or natural infection.”

Several other countries including India, Japan, Israel, Turkey, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates also toughened travel curbs.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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