Mint Lite | Lebanon, capital spending, Hong Kong lawmakers, Popa Langur & others4 min read . Updated: 11 Nov 2020, 10:40 PM IST
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Lebanon, a country of 5 million, is battling an acute shortage of essential medicines, made worse by panic buying and hoarding after the central bank governor warned the government won’t be able to keep subsidies, including on drugs, as its foreign reserves had dwindled. Lifting subsidies will potentially send prices soaring and leave the currency battered in a country where more than half the population has been pushed into poverty. The central bank’s announcement has spurred people to hoard medications, concerned they will no longer be able to afford them.
States to cut capital spending: ICRA
Indian states will likely cut their capital spending by $33.61 billion to $36.3 billion because of the revenue shock that the coronavirus pandemic has pushed them into, according to rating agency ICRA. The agency also said that states' debt levels were expected to deteriorate sharply to 28.9% of gross state domestic product in the fiscal year to March 2021 compared with 21.9% in 2018-19 and an estimated 22.3% in 2019-20. With the sharp drop in revenues, most of their enhanced borrowing would go towards funding the deficits. States would have no option but to substantially compress capital expenditure. According to ICRA, the centre is expected to provide only ₹5 trillion rupees to states in FY21, versus the budgeted amount of ₹7.8 trillion. Though central government collects the bulk of the taxes, it is the states which do most of the expenditure, including on education, healthcare, law and order.
Hong Kong lawmakers resign en-masse
China under President Xi Jinping is determined to crush all dissent in Hong Kong. The crackdown on pro-democracy lawmakers and rights groups has been relentless since Beijing imposed a draconian national security law on the city in June. On Wednesday, the city assembly’s pro-democracy members quit en masse to protest Beijing’s removal of four of their colleagues. The stunning move came after the Chinese parliament earlier in the day passed a resolution allowing Hong Kong’s executive to dismiss legislators who were deemed to be colluding with foreign forces, endangering national security or advocating the city’s independence. The latest Chinese manoeuvres would deepen concerns about the level of Hong Kong’s autonomy that was to be maintained until 2047 under the “one country, two systems" formula when Britain ended its colonial rule and handed Hong Kong back to Beijing in 1997.
RCEP talks begin in Hanoi
South East Asian leaders will start talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership today. The deal will progressively lower tariffs across many areas and could become the world’s biggest trade agreement. The participating RCEP countries make up nearly a third of the world’s people and account for 29% of global gross domestic product. The deal is said to be the most significant agreement in this year’s ASEAN summit being held in Hanoi. Analysts believe, it cement China’s position more firmly as an economic partner with Southeast Asia, Japan and Korea, and puts it in a better position to shape the region’s trade rules. In November last year, India decided against joining any trade deal with Beijing in light of the ongoing border stand-off with China.
The problem with pandemic pods
Parents of school children in America have found a unique solution to virtual schooling—pandemic pods. These pods are essentially small groups of students learning together with a teacher or parent, allowing children to socialize in a safe manner. The growth of these pandemic pods has been rapid—some of the new facebook groups have got over 41,000 members in less than four months. But these pods, according the World Economic Forum, can be expensive, complicated to organize, self-selecting, and reinforce racial and economic divides. A sample program can cost as much as $12,500 per student per school year. This is 20% of the average American family's income, and a prohibitive cost for most parents. Parents, particularly mothers, have been forced to make difficult choices during this time to look after children. This is likely to hit the US labour market and economy in the long run.
Rare Langurs now face extinction
The Popa Langur, a newly discovered species in the remote forests of Myanmar, is already facing extinction. The count for the spectacle-eyed, leaf eaters have dwindled down to only 200 individuals. This, scientists believe, is due partly to hunting but mostly because of habitat loss. The discovery of this species had taken a while as well. Early explorers to Burma collected the droppings, which had never been examined in detail. Once researchers extracted DNA and measured physical features such as tail and ear length and compared that with those of wild populations, a new species was found. Most of the Popa Langurs live in a wildlife sanctuary park on the slopes of Mount Popa. Myanmar has been collaborating with international scientists for the last decade or so. This has led to the discovery of several species new to science, including reptiles and amphibians. But the discovery of a new primate is rare.
Curated by Sohini Sen. Have something to share with us? Write to us at feedback@livemint or tweet to @shohinisen