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Afghanistan Needs to Safeguard Recovery

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Afghanistan’s recent economic recovery may be at risk, according to the World Bank’s latest Afghanistan Development Update.

Released today, the twice-a-year Update states that following the economic shock of the withdrawal of international troops, the associated decline in aid and deterioration in security, and the period of political instability after the 2014 elections, the Afghan economy has slowly regained momentum as reforms have been implemented and confidence restored. From a low of 1.5 percent in 2015, real GDP growth accelerated to 2.3 percent in 2016, and reached 2.7 percent in 2017 .

However, this trend now appears to be at risk, with increasing election-related violence, declining business confidence, worsening drought conditions, and apparent slowing of economic activity. Growth is projected at 2.4 percent in 2018, with substantial downside risks arising from the prospects of political instability around upcoming parliamentary and district council elections and presidential and provincial council elections, scheduled for October 2018 and April 2019 respectively.

“At the current juncture, the most important priority for the government and its international partners is to maintain public confidence to support growth and job creation,” said Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. “More than half of Afghans now live in poverty. We cannot afford to see the current momentum lost.”

According to the World Bank, government macroeconomic policies remain appropriate in the current conditions. The fiscal deficit for 2017 was low at around 0.5 percent of GDP, and a similar deficit is expected in 2018. The deficit will be financed largely from cash reserves, which remain at comfortable levels. Revenues remain strong, with domestic revenues reaching a new high of 12.3 percent of GDP in 2017. Consumer price inflation remained moderate in 2017, at around 3.1 percent, and is expected to remain at moderate levels through 2018.

According to Chaudhuri, sustaining the recent recovery will require enhanced government efforts to improve the business environment and catalyze private investment and job creation while ensuring smooth election processes. He noted that the international community also has a key role to play: “Sustaining international support is critical to overall confidence and underpins the capacity of the government to implement the reforms we all view as vital.”

Assuming a relatively smooth election process, no further deterioration of the security environment, and the absence of political instability that followed 2014 elections, the World Bank is projecting a gradually accelerating growth over coming years. Growth is expected to reach 2.8 percent in 2019 before accelerating gradually to 3.6 percent in 2021. Chaudhuri noted that much faster rates of growth would be required to make a substantial impact on poverty. “Significantly faster growth could be achieved by mobilizing investment in extractives, energy and connectivity, building and harnessing the skills of Afghanistan’s youth and women, and taking steps to realize the job-creation potential of agriculture and agribusinesses” he said.

Development

‘Global learning crisis’ continues says Guterres; millions still hit

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Students at a primary school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on the second day after their school reopened. The students, teachers and school administrators wear masks while at the school and maintain physical distancing. UNICEF/Seyha Lychheang

Almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, school closures continue to disrupt the lives of over 31 million students, exacerbating what the United Nations’ Secretary General called “a global learning crisis.”

“Unless we take action, the share of children leaving school in developing countries who are unable to read could increase from 53 to 70 per cent”, António Guterres warned in a video message marking the International Day of Education, on Monday.

The UN chief remembered the “chaos” that COVID-19 caused in education worldwide, noting that, at the pandemic’s peak, some 1.6 billion school and college students had their studies interrupted.

Despite the improvement, he believes the crisis is “not over yet”, and the turmoil goes beyond questions of access and inequality.

World changing

The theme for the day this year, is “Changing course, transforming education”. 

For Mr. Guterres, the world is “changing at a dizzying pace, with technological innovation, unprecedented changes in the world of work, the onset of the climate emergency, and a widespread loss of trust between people and institutions.”

In this scenario, he believes conventional education systems are “struggling” to deliver the knowledge, skills and values needed to create a greener, better and safer future for all.

Because of these challenges, he is convening a Summit on Transforming Education in September. 

“The time has come to reignite our collective commitment to education”, he said. 

For him, that means “putting education at the heart of broader recovery efforts, aimed at transforming economies and societies and accelerating progress on sustainable development.”

It also means financial solidarity with developing countries and understanding how national education systems can be reformed, between now and 2030.

Mr. Guterres noted the Summit will be the first time that world leaders, young people and all education stakeholders come together to consider these fundamental questions.

Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, also stressed the need to reflect on the impact of two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Highlighting the challenges created for the empowerment of children and youth, Mr. Shahid mentioned a UN joint publication showing that students worldwide could lose a total of $17 trillion in lifetime earnings as a result of these constraints.

For him, this number is a call to close the digital divide, to empower girls and boys, in particular those in rural and isolated areas, and to strengthen support for persons living with disabilities, as well as other vulnerable groups.

In a world of increasing complexity, uncertainty, and precarity, knowledge, education and learning need to be reimagined”, he argued. 

Mr. Shahid also believes the world needs “an education system that could leverage humanity’s collective intelligence.”

“A system that advances, rather than subverts, our aspirations for inclusive education based on the principles of justice, equity and respect for human rights”, he concluded. 

Lessons learned

According to new data released by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Monday, schools are currently open in 135 countries, and in 25 nations, it has been temporarily suspended by extending the end-of-year break.

Only a dozen countries have opted to close schools and pivot to fully remote rather than in-person learning since the outbreak of the Omicron variant.

This is in stark contrast with the same period last year when most schools were closed, and learning was fully remote in 40 countries.

For the UN agency, this shows that a large majority of countries are using lessons from the past two years to keep classrooms accessible, with reinforced health and safety protocols.

“Education continues to be deeply disrupted by the pandemic, but all countries are now keenly aware of the dramatic costs of keeping schools closed as UNESCO said for the past two years”, said the agency’s Director-General, Audrey Azoulay.

Changes

A dozen countries surveyed – including Brazil, France, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Palestine and Ukraine – now use traffic light monitoring systems that trigger different measures according to levels of infection: mask wearing, hand washing, ventilation, but also indoor and outdoor distancing, and class closures on a case-by-case basis to avoid impacting all students.

Other countries, including Canada, France, United Kingdom and Italy, are also using mass rapid test-to-stay policies.

Once again, UNESCO called for more efforts to vaccinate educators, noting teachers were not included in any priority group in up to a third of countries.

Students underperforming

For the UNESCO chief, more action is needed to bring back to school all the children who have moved away from it and to recover learning losses.

“Without remedial action and focus on the most vulnerable students, the COVID-19 pandemic will carry dramatic long-term consequences”, Ms. Azoulay warned.

In fact, more than 50 per cent of teachers state that students had not progressed to the levels expected, according to a large-scale survey conducted by UNESCO and the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.

In the study, conducted in 11 countries, most teachers agreed that it was difficult to provide necessary support for vulnerable students. And over 50 per cent of students said they were anxious about the changes taking place.

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Finance

How Twitter can help your business

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Twitter is easily one of the leading online platforms which encourages networking on a global scale. The number of users, more than 300 million, is staggering and this is not through sheer luck on their part. The virtual destination provides many advantages including a delectable smorgasbord of ideas for your business. Avoid it at your peril. Here, you can in very little time, easily and cost-effectively develop your brand, its awareness, relationships with customers, past, present, and future, especially if you decide to buy real Twitter followers. A tweet is a post, Twitter style. It will include content, copy and visuals are possible, which captivate your followers. Playstation, Starbucks, and Chanel are among the most popular brands, with a combined following of 42 million people. Brainstorm these ideas as relates to your business and upon implementation, you’ll enjoy their effects.

1. Brand Story
The story about your multi-faceted business should be diligently threaded across your content calendar. Whether your business is complex in its offering or not, your tweets must be diverse in their topic. Impress with accolades received, ooze humility sincerely with a question about a product color you’re grappling with, showcase team member achievements, or the fun on offer at the trade expo you’re attending. Your followers will be converted to loyal and long-term customers if you bear all, professionally.


2. Generate Traffic
Social media content calendars often include a call to action, usefully encouraging a specific activity and how and where to do so, which very often will direct the individual to your website, blog, or perhaps an insightful video. Twitter generates traffic to your other important locales, which is one or more steps closer to a purchasing decision. This is what you want and lots of it!


3. Tweet from Anywhere
If your launch strategy includes activity on Twitter next Wednesday, while you’ll be basking in the sun on a beach in the Mediterranean, finally enjoying a long overdue vacation, execute it from your lounger, on your mobile device. You don’t need your larger devices to navigate Twitter and enjoy success. The ease with which you can communicate with followers easily categorizes this platform as one of enormous convenience.


4. Massive Reach
You have never had this number of people quite literally at your fingertips. Be crystal clear about who your target audience is. That your offering has a 250km radius limitation, is crucial information. If you have a limited quantity of an item, your content must reference this. You do not want to disappoint someone continents away, who thinks that what you offer is theirs for the taking when that is not the case. You have an opportunity for massive reach. Plan well and your bottom line will impress all stakeholders.

5. Research Competitors
Know what your competitors are doing. Follow their Twitter profiles and make note of what type of content tends to elicit the greatest level of engagement, good or bad. Follow some of their more active followers, which may lead you to more like-minded prospects. Keep a close eye on their influencer activity. All this research will provide a useful understanding and may inform some of your future choices. However, Twitter has over 350 million monthly users, so avoid focusing your efforts on trying to out-perform them. Focus instead on doing what you do, to a level of excellence and soon enough, your competitors will be following your lead.

Twitter must be included in your comprehensive marketing campaign. Its statistics are indicative of an organization that understands very well what it can do for you and it supports your success, with continual enhancements, all of which will continue to generate traffic, conveniently.

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Tech News

Maintenance Tips for Second-Hand Cars

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With a shortage of semiconductors continuing to plague the automotive industry, many are instead turning to the second-hand market to source a bargain on their next car purchase – resulting in a boom in second-hand car sales. Second-hand cars, while cheaper to purchase initially, can present problems quicker without proper maintenance. Here are some simple ways to maintain your second-hand vehicle.

Read the Manual and Service History

The first thing you should endeavour to do with any second-hand car purchase is to scrutinise your car’s service history book and user manual. The former will give you crucial information on prior issues that have cropped up with the car, either giving you an idea of what may fail next or what not to worry about, while the latter gives you important details regarding points of maintenance on your car: where your oil pan is, where the safe anchor points for trolley jacks are, and the location of various parts of the engine.

Keep Your Oil Fresh

One key way you can ensure the longevity of your second hand vehicle’s engine is to learn how to replace its engine oil, and to replace its engine oil regularly. The oil cleans and lubricates the engine, preventing debris from clogging moving parts and causing wear. Over time, the oil becomes dirty with this debris, and can eventually pose a threat to the engine’s safe running itself. New oil ensures the engine stays clean, and keeps it running for longer.

Keep a Regular Service Schedule

As with any vehicle, taking your second-hand car in for regular appointments with a mechanic can keep on top of potential problems before they cause more issues; booking a car service online makes managing your car’s service schedule easy, and can make sure that your car remains healthy and well-maintained thanks to regular check-ups via a professional pair of eyes. Regular servicing can also reduce the potential incurred costs from failed MOTs.

Clean Your Interior

Keeping your car’s interior clean might seem like a relatively insignificant task with regard to your car’s overall maintenance, however taking car of the surfaces and fabrics in your car can increase their lifespan, reducing the need for potential re-upholstery and preserving your personal comfort while driving. Regularly vacuuming footwell mats and seat cushions can stave off wear and tear, while regularly cleaning and polishing trim can preserve their condition.

Drive Safely

Lastly, but by no means least, your driving habits can have a profound effect on the life span of your vehicle. Those who drive fast and brake hard are sure to encounter more issues quicker than those who adopt safe driving techniques and approach the road with a sense of calm. Simple things like coasting into corners and accelerating at a steady pace can ensure your brakes, suspension and engine live their longest possible life, giving you a great run with your new second-hand vehicle.

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