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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said there were visible signs of revival in the economy but the GDP growth may be in “negative zone or near zero" in the current fiscal. This is primarily because of a 23.9% contraction in the economy between April and June, she added. She said the lockdown imposed from 25 March had put lives before livelihood, but now macroeconomic indicators show signs of revival, she said. The festival season will further spur the economy, rekindling hopes of positive growth in third and fourth quarters, she said. For more updates, here’s Mint Lite.

Protests in Dhaka over French laws

Around 10,000 people gathered in Dhaka in Bangladesh on Tuesday to protest against French president Emmanuel Mac-ron, who has said his country’s secular laws deem caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad as protected under freedom of speech. Protesters carrying ‘Boycott France’ posters walked toward the French Embassy, but police intercepted the march, which ended without violence. The issue is in the news again following a beheading of a French teacher who showed caricat-ures of the Prophet in a class near Paris. Bangladesh’s government has not criticised France, while Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have. In Kuwait, stores removed French water and cheese; Qatar University cancelled a French culture week, and calls to stay away from French-owned stores were trending on social media in Saudi Arabia and UAE. France, meanwhile, warned its citizens living in other countries to take precautions.

200 EU airports at bankruptcy risk

About 193 airports in Europe will face insolvency in the coming months if passenger traffic does not start recovering by the end of the year, airports body ACI Europe said on Tuesday. The airports contribute to economic activity that creates 277,000 jobs and $14.66 billion of European GDP, Reuters reports. Airports at risk are mainly smaller regional ones with fewer than five million travellers each year, where closure would have an outsized impact on local jobs. Larger European airports are also burning through cash at an unsustainable rate, with the top 20 European airports having added 16 billion euros ($18.91 billion) of debt—equivalent to nearly 60% of their revenues in a normal year. Data from ACI showed passenger traffic at European airports decreased 73% year-on-year in September. The total volume of lost passengers since January 2020 is now 1.29 billion.

Source: NASA, HowIndiaLives
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Source: NASA, HowIndiaLives

This year, farm fires are worse

A DAY after the Centre told the apex court it plans to introduce draft legislation to control air pollution in Delhi-NCR by the end of the week, a Mint analysis shows 2020 is worse than the past two years when it comes to farm fires. Wind patterns around this time of the year result in the region being shrouded in smoke from the fires lit by farmers in neighbouring states to dispose of crop residue. This year, close to 15,000 fires have been set in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan (see chart), double the fires each year in 2018-19 (see Plain Facts). Slower economic activity due to the pandemic was expected to make the air more breathable, but clearly that didn’t happen. A week ago, the State of Global Air 2020 said India registered 980,000 deaths attributable to PM2.5 in 2019.

The other worrying crisis in Japan

The pandemic has resulted in reduced pregnancies and marriages in Japan, deepening a demographic crisis in the nation. Japan has the world’s most aged society, with over 35% of its population expected to be 65 and over by 2050, a trend that poses risks for economic growth, reports Reuters. Official data shows the number of notified pregnancies in the three months to July fell 11.4% from a year earlier, while the number of marriages over the same period dropped 36.9%. The sharp decline because the majority of babies in Japan are born in wedlock. Covid-19 has exacerbated a pre-existing downward trend in the birthrate, which former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a “national crisis." The number of births in 2019 was down 5.8% to around 865,000, the lowest annual figure ever. The International Monetary Fund has forecast global economic growth of 5.2% in 2021, but expects Japan’s growth to be 2.3%.

Kazakhstan takes to Borat’s catchphrase

Rather than take out ads to counter exaggerations like the nation did last time a Borat film was released, Kazakhstan has adopted the catchphrase of the fictional Borat Sagdiyev, “Very nice!", for its new tourism campaign. In the recent Borat Subse-quent Moviefilm, the character played by Sacha Baron Cohen depicts the country as misogynistic, homophobic and anti-Semitic. Kazakh Tourism has decided that Borat’s catchphrase “offers the perfect description of our tourism potential in a short, memorable way." The ads show tourists hiking (“Very nice!"), drinking horse milk (“That’s actually very nice!"), admir-ing architecture (“Wow, very nice!") and posing with Kazakhs in traditional dress (“That’s very nice!"), reports The Guardian. The idea came from an American who travelled on an exchange programme, and now lives in Almaty. During the pandemic, he pitched the idea to the tourism board and made the ads.

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