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Buoyant South Asian Economies Can Revive Global Demand and Spur Growth

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With its vast workforce, strong growth and expanding purchasing power, South Asia will be the key to reviving global demand, Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry of India, said at a session on Harnessing Regional Cooperation in South Asia at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. “The world cannot afford to ignore the region that will be key to reviving demand,” the minister said.

Despite the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) annual summit being cancelled in 2016 because of a terrorist incident in India, Sitharaman said, it is important to remember that the South Asian Free Trade Agreement is still going strong and has achieved major gains in intra-regional trade in the past few decades. She cited border haats, or markets, on the India-Bangladesh border and the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway as other examples of increasing regional integration.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh added that the India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal motor vehicles agreement signed two years ago is another sign of closer ties within South Asia. She said better connectivity of this kind will be an indispensable part of any strategy aimed at bringing nations and people together.

With 1.8 billion people, 7% GDP growth rate and 25% of the world’s middle class, South Asia offers trade and commerce that can improve people’s quality of life while also keeping the peace in a volatile region, the panellists agreed. Manvinder S. Banga, Operating Partner, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, United Kingdom, said that as the world begins to de-globalize, there will be more opportunity for intra-regional trade within South Asia.

He added that countries must set aside political irritants and improve connectivity – a huge advantage for trade – as well as build common physical and social infrastructure, which can be a source of catalytic growth and enable countries to meet the common challenge of fighting hunger and poverty and providing education and healthcare to their people.

Business can help catalyse social infrastructure, particularly through digital technology, Banga said, citing the example of education where information technology offers the opportunity to transform educational reach while reducing the need for brick-and-mortar schools and teachers. Through digital technology, an entrepreneur needs much lower investment and even education to set up a business, Banga said. “There is an opportunity for digitally supported businesses at an unprecedented scale,” he added.

Mosharraf Zaidi, Founder and Campaign Director of Alif Ailaan – Time to End Pakistan’s Education Emergency, Pakistan, highlighted the need for better education for the under-25 population that gives South Asia its unparalleled demographic advantage over other regions. However, he warned that countries’ oversized emphasis on defence spending is leaving little to invest in building the region’s social capital.

Also underlying the discussion was the subtle acknowledgement that political issues such as state-supported terrorism and the legacy of mistrust between nations cannot be wished away.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, admitted that Sri Lanka prefers to deal bilaterally with its larger trading partners outside South Asia as well as those within the region. Nevertheless, he said, intra-regional relations of various kinds continue to thrive between his country and other South Asian countries – such as the “camel trade” between southern India and Sri Lanka in which traders commute daily between the two places. “There is a crisis only when you stop playing cricket with each other,” he said on a lighter note.

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Health & Wellness

World’s richest countries damaging child health worldwide

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Over-consumption in the world’s richest countries is creating unhealthy, dangerous, and toxic conditions for children globally, according to a new report published on Tuesday by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“Not only are the majority of rich countries failing to provide healthy environments for children within their borders, they are also contributing to the destruction of children’s environments in other parts of the world,” said Gunilla Olsson, Director of the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti.

Urgent policy shift

The latest Innocenti Report Card 17: Places and Spaces compares how 39 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and European Union (EU) impact children’s environments.

Indicators include exposure to harmful pollutants, such as toxic air, pesticides, damp and lead; access to light, green spaces and safe roads; and countries’ contributions to the climate crisis, resource consumption, and e-waste dumping.

The report states that if the entire world consumed resources at the rate of OECD and EU countries, the equivalent of 3.3 earths would be needed to keep up with consumption levels.

If it were at the rate at which people in Canada, Luxembourg and the United States do, at least five earths would be needed, according to the report.

Not in your own backyard

While Spain, Ireland and Portugal feature at the overall top of the list, all OECD and EU countries are failing to provide healthy environments for all children across all indicators.

Based on CO2 emissions, e-waste and overall resource consumption per capita, Australia, Belgium, Canada and the United States are among other wealthy countries that rank low on creating a healthy environment for children within and beyond their borders.  

Meanwhile, Finland, Iceland and Norway are among those that provide healthier environments for their country’s children but disproportionately contribute to destroying the global environment.

“In some cases we are seeing countries providing relatively healthy environments for children at home while being among the top contributors to pollutants that are destroying children’s environments abroad,” attested Gunilla Olsson, Director of UNICEF Office of Research

In contrast, the least wealthy OECD and EU countries in Latin America and Europe, have a much lower impact on the wider world.

Harmful exposures

Over 20 million children in this group, have elevated levels of lead – one of the most dangerous environmental toxic substances – in their blood.

In Iceland, Latvia, Portugal and the United Kingdom, one in five children is exposed to damp and mould at home; while in Cyprus, Hungary and Turkey, that number rises to more than one in four.

Many children are breathing toxic air both in and outside of their homes.

More than one in 12 children in Belgium, Czech Republic, Israel and Poland and are exposed to high pesticide pollution, which has been linked with cancer – including childhood leukaemia – and can harm vital body systems.

We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to create better places and spaces for children to thrive,” Ms. Olsson said.

Improve children’s environments

Children in poor families tend to face greater exposure to environmental harm –entrenching and amplifying existing disadvantages and inequities.

Mounting waste, harmful pollutants and exhausted natural resources are taking a toll on our children’s physical and mental health and threatening our planet’s sustainability,” said the UNICEF official.

As such, UNICEF has urged national, regional, and local governments to improve children’s environments by reducing waste, air and water pollution, and ensuring high-quality housing and neighbourhoods.

Children’s voices count

Governments and businesses must immediately honour their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. And climate adaptation should also be at the forefront of action across various sectors – from education to infrastructure.

Child-sensitive environmental policies must ensure that children’s needs are built into decision making and that their perspectives are considered when designing policies that will disproportionately affect future generations.

UNICEF’s report outlines that although children are the main stakeholders of the future and will face today’s environmental problems for the longest time, they are the least able to influence the course of events.

“We must pursue policies and practices that safeguard the natural environment upon which children and young people depend the most,” Ms. Olsson said.

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UNICEF urges leaders to keep schools safe following deadly Texas shooting

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Governments must take greater action to ensure school remains a safe place for boys and girls, the head of the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, said on Wednesday, following the latest deadly school shooting in the United States. 

At least 19 children and two teachers were killed on Tuesday when 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos opened fire at Robb Elementary School in the small city of Uvalde, Texas, located near the border with Mexico. 

How many more? 

Catherine Russell, UNICEF’s Executive Director, said there have already been “horrific attacks” this year on schools in Afghanistan, Ukraine, the US, West Africa and beyond. 

“Tragedy after tragedy, shooting after shooting, young life after young life: how many more children will die before government leaders act to keep children and their schools safe? Because until they do, these horrors will continue,” she said in a statement. 

Ms. Russell emphasized that outside of their homes, school is the one place where children should feel safest. 

She noted that in addition to the lives lost, “many more children, teachers and school staff who witnessed the carnage will bear the emotional and psychological scars for the rest of their lives.” 

Shock and sadness 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres was deeply shocked and saddened by “the heinous mass shooting”, saying it was particularly heart-wrenching that most of the victims are children.  

Mr. Guterres has extended his heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims and to the entire community, his Spokesperson said in a statement issued on Tuesday. 

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed expressed her outrage in a post on Twitter. 

“When children go to school, they should only be concerned about learning,” she wrote.  “Children should not go to school fearing for their lives!” 

Ms. Mohammed said her heartfelt prayers are with the families, classmates and teachers who are mourning this “devastating loss”. 

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Finance

How to Prepare for Your First Year in College

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Securing college admission is an achievement you should be proud of. It feels even more fulfilling if you are admitted to your dream college. Many people were interested in the opportunity, and getting it is the best thing that can ever happen to you. Therefore, you shouldn’t take the opportunity for granted.

However, the transition isn’t always easy for students. Most of them do not know what to expect in college, which makes them anxious. For others, moving away from home for the first time is intimidating. Besides, some individuals may not know how to deal with the financial and academic challenges they may face in college.

Are you done with high school, and you’re now looking forward to college adventures? Here are excellent tips to help you prepare for your first year in college.

Schedule a Tour and Get to Know Your College

Most students wait until the admission day to have a college experience. If you do that, it may take you a lot of time to understand the environment. Consequently, you may not focus on your studies early on. Checking out the outline of the campus on online platforms may also not help as you may miss many details.

You should schedule a tour of the campus and have a first-hand experience with the environment. During the tour, confirm the location of important offices. Moreover, you should know the class venues and the library. It will make your life easy when you finally begin to study.

Work on Your College Budget in Advance

Financial issues are among the serious challenges collegians face. While the expenses are limitless, there are limited sources of income. If you’re not careful, you may run out of money before the end of a given study period. You may get carried away by the daily shopping, luxury items, and the push to spend on entertainment.

Before you begin your first college semester, create a functional budget. Identify your sources of income. After that, list your college expenses. Allocate money to all your expenses, beginning with the basic needs. The luxuries should come last.

Sharpen Your College Writing and Study Skills

College life isn’t all butterflies and rainbows. There is serious work to do, and you may have to study more than you used to when in high school. The grades you’ll attain in different papers like essays, dissertations, and case studies will determine if you’ll move to the next level or not. So you have to sharpen your writing skills, or you’ll find yourself seeking essay help online.

Read journals, books, and essays written by experts. It will help improve your study skills and your ability to read fast. Besides, you can mimic the styles you see in these materials when completing your college assignment. The chances of getting good grades in college increase when you are a good writer and reader.

Set Realistic College Academic Goals

The main reason for going to college is to acquire skills that can help you in life. Professors do not award grades randomly. You should convince them that you understand the course concepts by submitting excellent papers. Otherwise, you may fail to graduate at the right time.

Some people begin college education without a plan. If you do that, you may not achieve what you want. Set realistic goals and specify the level of competence you intend to achieve at the end of your course. You should have short-term, medium-term, and long-term academic goals to act as a motivation to work harder.

Improve Your Time Management Skills

Time is one of the most critical aspects of a college education. If you do not organize your activities perfectly, you may become overwhelmed. Remember, it will not always be about academics; you’ll have extracurricular activities to participate in, you’ll also need to socialize, and may be you’ll have a part-time job. Therefore, it will be important to balance everything.

Look at the college academic and activity schedule in advance. Assess the deadlines and purpose to begin working on important tasks early. You’ll have higher chances of college success if you work within deadlines.

Excellent ways of enhancing time management include:

  • Working on the most important tasks first
  • Avoiding distractions
  • Avoiding procrastination
  • Creating time to relax

Take-Home Point

Although your first college semester may be scary, you can make things easier for yourself. Touring your college of choice will help release some tension as you’ll not be a total stranger to the new environment when you finally get admitted. Creating a budget will also help avoid financial problems, thus making your life easier. Lastly, you should set realistic goals and work on your time management skills.

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