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Liberia to Power its Economy Through Improved Energy Access and Job Creation

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Liberia’s efforts to transform the lives of poor people have received a huge boost with financing approved today by the World Bank. Two new operations will increase access to sustainable, reliable and affordable energy, and boost economic recovery by providing employment opportunities and business skills training to vulnerable Liberians.

Funded by the International Development Association (IDA), these projects aims at improving Liberia’s economy and helping to build resilience for vulnerable households that are greatly at risk of falling into poverty due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Poverty remains widespread in Liberia and is now on the rise. An estimated 44% of Liberians were living with less than $2 a day in 2016 and is now projected to reach 52% in 2021. Access to healthcare, education, and basic utilities like energy, are also particularly low compared to the rest of the region.

“Given the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the economy and people’s livelihoods, improved energy access will  stimulate inclusive economic growth while support to the informal sector will help the most vulnerable Liberians to recover from the loss in incomes,” said Khwima Nthara, World Bank Country Manager in Liberia.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on Liberia’s economy and people’s livelihoods and poses a major threat going forward. When the global pandemic emerged in early 2020, Liberia was already facing a challenging domestic and external environment. Weak consumption and declining output had caused the Liberian economy to contract by an estimated 2.3 percent in 2019 and a further 2.9 percent in 2020. According to the High-Frequency Phone Survey of Households conducted by the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, more than 70 percent of households reported experiencing food shortage and increased food prices. This call for a comprehensive response focusing both on the need to protect the poor and vulnerable in the short term, as well as support economic recovery in the medium term.

“This is a demonstration of the Bank’s strong commitment to Liberia. The approved package of support will be a big boost to our Covid-19 recovery efforts and our vision to transform the economy through infrastructure development,” said Samuel D. Tweah Jr, Liberia’s Minister of Finance and Development Planning.

The support program includes the following:

The Liberia Electricity Sector Strengthening and Access Project (LESSAP) is the first project of a multi-phase programmatic approach (MPA) with a goal to provide sustainable, reliable, and affordable electricity to 632,500 Liberians.  The project will rehabilitate and expand electricity infrastructure and provide sustainable solutions for electricity access.  The LESSAP will target mainly two key areas – grid electrification in the greater Monrovia area and provide for a sustainable business model for scaling up renewable energy based mini-grids and stand-alone solar systems in remote areas.  It will also deliver off-grid solar electrification to about 200 health facilities in particular to help build resilience against COVID-19. The total financing envelope for the MPA is $180 million in IDA support with the first phase commitment of $44 million in IDA credit and IDA grant of $15 million.  The project also includes grant support of $2.5 million from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) and $2.7 million from Japan Policy and Human Resources Development Fund (PHRD), both of which will be administered by the World Bank.

The Recovery of Economic Activity for Liberian Informal Sector Employment Project (REALISE) will increase access to employment opportunities for some of the most vulnerable households in the informal sector who are at risk of falling deeper into poverty. The project will provide grants and business skills training to 4,000 vulnerable households to revive or start small businesses, as well as temporary employment and wages to 15,000 poor individuals, half of whom will be women. It will target low-income communities and poor families in Greater Monrovia. REALISE project will be implemented by the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment, utilizing implementation capacities developed under the ongoing Liberia Youth Opportunities Project. The project will be financed through IDA concessional terms of $5 million credit and $5 million grant.

*The International Development Association (IDA) is the World Bank’s fund for the poorest. Established in 1960, it provides grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 76 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. IDA resources help effect positive change in the lives of the 1.6 billion people living in the countries that are eligible for its assistance. Since its inception, IDA has supported development work in 113 countries. Annual commitments are constantly on the rise and have averaged $21 billion over the past three years, with about 61% going to Africa.

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FOCUS magazine: This is how war becomes U.S. business

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Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert (Courtesy Image)

Former President Calvin Coolidge’s sentence has been applicable for centuries: “After all, the main business of the American people is business.”

The United States supports Ukraine like no other country in the world. But this help is not entirely disinterested. Because even Joe Biden has nothing to give away, notes Gabor Steingart, one of the most famous German journalists in his article at FOCUS magazine.

The President of the United States is betting on “armament on credit.” Germany, on the other hand, can only hope that the war will soon end not far from its front door. Since the beginning of the war, the United States has provided more than $50 billion in military, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Much more than in any other country.

In May 2022, the Senate passed a law allowing the US government to quickly and without bureaucratic delays provide military equipment to Ukraine – the Lend-Lease Act for the Defense of Democracy in Ukraine of 2022. Approximately US$23 billion in military support has not been wasted. It states that “any defense loan or lease to the Government of Ukraine is subject to return, reimbursement and repayment.”

Arms on credit, which is what it is, was invented during World War II when Winston Churchill found he could not defend Britain alone. The government has now remembered the procedure for selling weapons against bills. The fact is that the United States is strict in these matters. Britain delayed its Lend-Lease contributions until 2006, when the World War was already 61 years old.

An analysis by Foreign Policy magazine found that the United States nearly doubled the number of approved arms sales to NATO allies in 2022 compared to 2021, from $15.5 billion to $28 billion. This is how war becomes business.

Economic sanctions—trade restrictions, asset freezes, payment system bans, or oil export bans—have isolated Russia. This will irrevocably disrupt the old German-Russian trade for a very long time. American energy companies offer themselves as helpers in an emergency.

LNG imports from America doubled in 2022. U.S. oil is also suddenly in demand, with about 500 U.S. oil tankers heading to Europe since February 2022, according to data provider ‘OilX’, and helped push U.S. crude oil exports to a record high last year. Between December 2021 and December 2022, US exports increased by 52 percent.

In the medium term, the concentration of uncertainty in Europe will also benefit the US capital market, which is perceived by investors as a safe haven. The outflow of capital from Europe in the first months of the war was significant.

BASF reported a loss of billions of dollars, which was mainly caused by the write-down of the Russian business, which has since ceased.

The Europeans, and Germany in particular, have a primary strategic interest in ending the conflict as soon as possible, or at least freezing it, and in no case in the direction of the Western European metropolises.

The stronger and more intense the war rages in Europe, the more pessimistic are investment conditions both in the real economy and in the capital markets in London, Paris and Frankfurt.

Conclusion: Trading partner Russia is de facto exchanged for trading partner America. Thus, the Americans are also strengthening their negotiating position for negotiations on future free trade agreements and a strategy for China.

If there were a planning headquarters in the Ministry of Defense, then it would write down the following paradox for the minister in the summary: Russia is at war with Ukraine – and America is winning.

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Zelensky regime’ war against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

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Armed SBU officers seize an Orthodox church in Kyiv. Image source: International Affairs

The American Conservative’ published a very detailed story about what kind of war the president Zelensky unleashed to destroy the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. It’s very important to mention that the information was signed by a person from Kyiv, who is aware of all the events, but he can’t reveal his name and chose a pseudonym Yevhen Herman – Yevhen Herman is the pseudonym of a journalist in Kyiv, – notes ‘The American Conservative’. The  story is very accurate and detailed:

“The religious situation in modern Ukraine is complicated.

The country has been considered Orthodox since 988, when the bishops of Constantinople baptized this land, which was then ruled by the Kievan Rus. The Russian Orthodox Church originates from Kyiv. The first metropolitans of this church had their sees there, and only centuries later were they transferred to Moscow.

The emergence of independent Ukraine in 1991 and the activation of Ukrainian nationalism plunged the Orthodox environment into turmoil. Filaret, the ruling bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), broke away from the church, with the help of the new Ukrainian authorities, and founded a new church structure, which he called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP). Several other priests founded another structure, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC).

So the split of Orthodoxy in Ukraine was provoked and took place…

The rest of world Orthodoxy never recognized these structures. The fact is that there are very strict rules called canons in the Orthodox Church. For ecclesiastical crimes, Filaret was in 1992 deprived of his episcopal dignity and of divine power in the performance of church sacraments.

However, bishops, like all people, live in the modern world and are affected by outside influences. This is what happened with the head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Bartholomew. In 2018, the multimillionaire and then president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko went to Istanbul to Patriarch Bartholomew and requested a legalization document (tomos) for the unrecognized Ukrainian churches, the UOC-KP and the UAOC. At the same time, pressure was put on the UOC so that it would join these breakaway structures.

Thus, at the end of 2018, Bartholomew revoked the act of 1686 transferring the Kyiv Metropolis to the Russian Church. He reinstated Filaret in his priesthood and retroactively recognized all rites performed by the anathematized metropolitan. The two churches were united under the name the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU).

At that time, the UOC was twice as big as the OCU. Millions of Ukrainians call themselves parishioners of the UOC throughout the country. However, this did not bother either Bartholomew or Poroshenko. The latter began to implement a campaign throughout the media where the UOC was called the “Moscow Church” and the OCU the “Ukrainian,” although there are only Ukrainians in both denominations.

If you think that the United States stood aside while this was unfolding, you are mistaken. The State Department and politicians of both parties carried out work to promote the new church. Two months before the creation of the OCU in 2018, Filaret and Epifaniy met in the United States with Joe Biden, who declared his gratitude for their work. State Department Ambassador for Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and special representative for Ukraine Ambassador Kurt Volker declared their support for this project.

For a time, it seemed that the seizure of UOC churches was at an end. However, the Russian Special military operation in Ukraine, alongside the support for that invasion by the leadership of the Russian Church in Moscow, changed everything. Seizures of UOC churches resumed, carried out by the forces of radicals without the participation of the central government. And this was only the calm before the storm.

Zelenskyy and Ukrainian officials brought down repressions on the UOC; in comparison, Poroshenko’s methods seemed like child’s play.

Cathedrals and monasteries were searched by Ukrainian SBU officers (photo), who reported that they allegedly found evidence of collaboration between bishops and priests of the UOC and ‘the enemy’.

These findings were often ridiculous. Security officials exhibited photos of children’s bibles, prayer books, old liturgical books, archival collections of newspapers and magazines featuring the words “Russian,” and Christmas or Easter sermons of the Russian Church patriarch. In cases where there was nothing to find, the special services planted compromising evidence themselves.

Fox News journalist Tucker Carlson assessed the situation accurately: “Zelenskyy’s secret police have raided monasteries across Ukraine, and even a convent full of nuns, and arrested dozens of priests for no justifiable reasons whatsoever and in clear violation of the Ukrainian Constitution, which no longer matters. And in the face of this, the Biden’s administration has said nothing. Not one word. Instead, they continue to push to send Zelenskyy more tax dollars.”

Carlson is absolutely right. The president, in violation of Ukrainian laws, imposed sanctions against Ukrainian bishops and then revoked the Ukrainian citizenship of some other bishops, despite the fact that this clearly contradicts the Constitution.

However, it seems that Zelenskyy is set to completely outlaw and destroy the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. On January 20, a bill on the de facto ban of the UOC was submitted to parliament.

It marks a return to a shameful era when a state in the center of Europe intends to crack down on the religion of its own people.

International Affairs

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Burkina Faso: Former colony orders French troops to leave

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A soldier from Burkina Faso stands guard along the border with Mali and Niger during a military operation against terrorist suspects.(file photo) © Michele Cattani

Burkina Faso has demanded the withdrawal of French troops stationed on the territory of the West African nation, local media reported, citing a government decision. Relations between Paris and its former colony have been on a downward spiral for months now, with the local population blaming France for their security problems.

Agence d’Information du Burkina (AIB) reported that the government of Burkina Faso had suspended a 2018 agreement with France, which regulated the deployment of its service members in the country. Paris now has one month to remove its soldiers, the agency said.

France currently has 400 troops in the African country, who are stationed there as part of efforts to combat Islamist terrorist groups in the region.

In November 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron officially announced the end of anti-insurgent ‘Operation Barkhane’ in the Sahel region, which has been largely viewed as a failure. In doing so, France also vowed to “reduce the exposure and visibility of [its] military forces in Africa.”

The Sahel is a region in northern Africa that includes Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, and a number of other neighboring countries.

Paris ended another military mission in neighboring Mali last August after relations went sour, with the government calling France’s military involvement “not satisfactory.”

Hundreds of people protested in the Burkina Faso’ capital Ouagadougou against the French military presence, chanting anti-French slogans.

Mohamed Sinon, one of the main leaders of the collective that called the demonstration, said it was to show support for junta leader Traore and the security forces fighting jihadists. “We are a pan-African movement and we want cooperation between Burkina Faso and Russia, but also the strengthening of friendship and of cooperation with Guinea and Mali,” he added.

Protesters carried huge posters showing the presidents of Mali and Guinea — both of whom also came to power in coups — as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A source close to the government clarified it was “not the severance of relations with France. The notification only concerns military cooperation agreements”.

Sources familiar with the matter told AFP that France’s preferred option would be to redeploy its forces in the south of neighbouring Niger, where nearly 2,000 French soldiers are already stationed.

French troops withdrew from Mali last year after a 2020 coup in the former French colony saw its rulers also inch closer to Russia.

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