India: West Bengal Gets $125 Million to Help Citizens Access Social Protection Services
The World Bank’s Executive Board of Directors today approved a $125 million loan to the Government of West Bengal to support the state’s efforts to help poor and vulnerable groups access social protection services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to focus on building capabilities of state governments to deliver inclusive and equitable social protection in times of crisis. India’s eastern state of West Bengal runs more than 400 programs that provide social assistance, care services, and jobs. Most of these services are offered through an umbrella platform called Jai Bangla. The West Bengal Building State Capability for Inclusive Social Protection Operation will support these interventions at the state level, with particular focus on vulnerable groups such as women, tribal and scheduled caste households and the elderly, as well as households in the state’s disaster-prone coastal regions.
A recent survey found that while food and in-kind transfers reach most poor and vulnerable households in West Bengal, the coverage of cash transfers is weak. Access to social pensions by elderly, widows and disabled persons, in particular, is also weak due to cumbersome application processes and lack of automated systems for application and eligibility verification.
Over the next four years, the operation will help strengthen the state’s capability to expand coverage and access to social assistance and to deliver cash transfers for the poor and vulnerable through a consolidated social registry.
“With its fast-growing urban population and pockets of urban poor, West Bengal has recognized the need to move from a fragmented, scheme-based social protection system to providing an integrated basket of social protection benefits and services to its most vulnerable citizens,” said Junaid Ahmad, the World Bank’s Country Director in India. “The project will support and strengthen the state’s capability in this area to ensure that it can deliver social protection services — both cash and in-kind — to all its vulnerable citizens.”
West Bengal faces challenges related to manual data entry, inconsistent beneficiary data across departments, and lack of data storage and data exchange protocols. The operation will help digitize the state’s unified delivery system, the Jai Bangla platform, to help consolidate disparate social assistance programs and speed the delivery of social pensions to vulnerable and poor households.
The project will also support the creation of a tele-consultation network for social care services, complemented by a cadre of case management workers who can help households with advice on eldercare and links to health services and facilities.
It will also create an institutional platform to improve coordination and effectiveness of government interventions to address the state’s low participation of women in the labor force.
“Lack of coordination among departments leads to duplication of efforts in service delivery. The project will assist in overall system improvements, helping to significantly improve the capacity of the state government to identify beneficiaries faster, track expenditures, and plan and monitor benefit delivery for the vulnerable,” said Shrayana Bhattacharya, Qaiser M. Khan and Ambrish Shahi, World Bank’s task team leaders for the project.
FORBES: Where is the Russian banking crisis?
“Sanctions were supposed to kill the Russian financial sector. It did, and it didn’t. Where is the Russian banking crisis?” – FORBES is perplexed.
Yes, sanctions have hurt Russia’s financial institutions. But a Russian banking crisis, one that looks like we have seen in the U.S. recently with Silicon Valley Bank and in Switzerland with Credit Suisse, has not occurred.
There were never any runs on Russian banks. The ruble strengthened. And while most banks are protected by the state – led by Sberbank and VTB – the Russian Central Bank has spent much of the last decade working to clean up the financial system.
For this reason, Russian banks have survived the West’s sanctions regime and stock market delistings better than anyone would have imagined. For a cynical Russian, watching Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse burn down while their bankers are gainfully employed is like smirking before the camera lens in front of a burning building.
Had the sanctions come at the time when the Russian Central Bank was cleaning up its “zombie banks” – all hell would have broken loose. But seeing how much of that mess was swept away prior to the 2022 sanctions regimes taking hold, Russia’s banks remain safe and sound, even if Russian investors in those banks have lost their shirt.
The sanctions policy, the hardest ever taken out on Russia, is 13 months old. New ones pop up regularly. It is unclear what can possibly be next, as Russia’s financial institutions have already been largely cut off from the Western system.
Russia’s financial sector, and its banks at home, aren’t making headlines like banks in the U.S. and Europe are. They have withstood the onslaught of sanctions.
They’ve lost their European and U.S. assets, which will not be recovered for years to come, if ever. Sberbank CEO Herman Gref said in press reports that Sberbank is “the most attacked entity” in the country, which experiences “unprecedented challenges in terms of complexity and power.” He said Sberbank lost nearly all of its assets abroad, leading to massive write-downs.
Yet, Russian president Vladimir Putin smirks at the burning buildings of Credit Suisse and the lost $200 billion in Silicon Valley Bank deposits, needing unprecedented FDIC support to protect account holders. The bank is now insolvent. His biggest banks remain only because most of Russia’s banks over the years have been folded and rendered insolvent. And a danger to the Russian financial system was liquidated.
“Thanks to the professional actions of our banking community, government agencies, and the efforts of the central bank, I want to emphasize that we managed to overcome all these (sanctions) difficulties in general,” Putin reportedly said in Moscow earlier this month after meeting with Sberbank’s CEO. He said that Sberbank’s current stable position was “a good signal for the whole economy.”
With sanctions expected to remain for a long time to come, will Russia’s heavily sanctioned banks fold one day, too?
“Who knows what will happen in Russia, because we all only know what we read in the press and what we read in the press is that Russia did a smart job handling their banks pre-sanctions and so after sanctions they have managed okay,” says famous commodities investor Jim Rogers from his home in Singapore, who has been a director of Russian fertilizer company PhosAgro. “We saw the ruble go down when sanctions were first imposed, then it went up. So in that case alone, the market tells me that somebody in Russia did something right,” he says.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Funeral Chairs for Memorial Services
The loss of a loved one is devastating for the entire family. For churches providing funeral and memorial services, it’s important to ensure grieving family members are as comfortable as possible throughout the service. The right funeral chairs can help you achieve this goal. To find the right chairs, there are several factors that you must consider.
Comfortable Seating: Enhancing the Memorial Experience for Attendees
Comfort is of the utmost importance when choosing chairs for funerals and memorials. Grieving attendees are already facing hardship. Providing a comfortable place to sit during the service will provide them with some comfort during this difficult time. Comfortable seating will also enhance the memorial experience because attendees can stay fully focused on the service.
Look for chairs with foam seating and comfortable fabrics. Chairs that offer full back support will allow attendees to rest or reflect without being distracted by discomfort.
Dignified Seating: Reflecting the Importance of the Occasion
For first memorial funeral services, it’s important to choose seating that is dignified and respectful of the occasion. Choose plain, solid fabrics. Patterned fabrics can be distracting or distasteful in some cases.
Acceptable colors for funeral chairs include (but are not limited to)
- Gray or charcoal;
- Dark plum;
- Beige or brown;
- Dark red;
Choose your color and style wisely to ensure you’re providing dignified seating for attendees.
One advantage of choosing these colors is that it allows you to use these chairs for a variety of purposes. Rather than having to invest in a new set of seating for services and events, you can use the same seating for all occasions.
Improved Concentration: The Impact of Comfortable Seating on Focus
Those who attend funerals and memorial services should remain focused on the service and nothing else. Providing attendees with comfortable funeral chairs will allow them to stay focused on the service. During the funeral and memorial services, family members often share stories and thoughts about their lost loved one. A formal service may also be given.
Often, services last between 30 minutes and one hour – sometimes more. Because attendees will be asked to sit for long periods of time, it is crucial to ensure they have a comfortable place to sit.
When chairs are poorly constructed or have uncomfortable seats, attendees will be more concerned about their discomfort than listening to the service. They may become distracted or find themselves fidgeting and distracting others in the process.
However, when you invest in comfortable seating, attendees can sit quietly, reflecting on the words being spoken during the service.
Health Benefits: The Positive Impact of Comfortable Seating on Physical Health
One thing that is often overlooked when selecting funeral seating is its impact on physical health. Pain and discomfort are two common complaints when funeral attendees sit in pews.
If you have the option to offer individual seating, attendees will be much more comfortable. Cushioned seats will also ensure that guests with mobility issues can be present during the service without feeling uncomfortable.
Comfortable seating is an essential part of a memorial service; it not only provides guests with places to sit but also helps create a warm and inviting atmosphere where people can come together to honor the memory of their loved one.
When seats are uncomfortable or poorly made, guests may experience pain or other forms of discomfort that will make it difficult to be present during the service. Seats with foam padding can provide much-needed support and cushioning, allowing guests to sit comfortably even for long periods of time.
Chairs with solid, durable metal frames will also ensure that your seating stands up to frequent use. Providing safe seating is essential, and quality, durable chairs will help you achieve that.
Customizable Seating: Personalizing the Experience for Attendees
Another important factor to consider when choosing funeral seating is customization. Providing a personalized experience for attendees will allow them to experience the service in the way they envision.
Individual chairs will allow the family to choose the layout for the seating. Some chairs interlock to form pews, and some families may prefer this more traditional option.
Traditionally, the family of the deceased sits in the first row or first few rows. If the family wishes to maintain this convention, chairs of different colors can be provided, or additional space can be placed between these rows and the remainder of the seating.
When chairs are provided instead of traditional pews, there are more opportunities for customized layouts and seating for attendees. Being able to provide this level of customization may bring a small amount of comfort and peace to the family.
When providing funeral and memorial services, churches and sanctuaries should not overlook the importance of providing comfortable seating for attendees. The right chairs will ensure attendees are comfortable during the service, allowing them to stay more focused on the message and less focused on discomfort or pain.
What is your experience with choosing and providing funeral chairs? Share your thoughts and comments.
Credit Suisse Collapse – this is a robbery of Arab investors
Riding an oil-price boom last year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directed government-backed Saudi National Bank to make a $1.5 billion investment in Credit Suisse. Now, the Saudi investment is almost wiped out after Credit Suisse’s emergency merger with UBS Group AG, ‘The Wall Street Journal’ claims.
Credit Suisse’s meltdown also erased billions of dollars in investments made by Qatar’s sovereign fund and the Saudi-based Olayan family, making the Persian Gulf one of the biggest losers from a slide in financial stocks since the collapse of two U.S. banks last week.
The Saudis struck the deal when oil prices were just below $100 a barrel, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine juiced energy markets.
The steep losses are a reminder of how Gulf states were burned investing in Western banks and hedge funds during the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008. The value of foreign assets in portfolios of the Gulf Cooperation Council states in 2008 fell by $100 billion to a total of $1.2 trillion, not counting the vast personal holdings of their ruling families, the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations reported in 2009.
Michael Klein, a former Citigroup Inc. banker who has long worked with Middle East clients, connected the $600 billion PIF with Credit Suisse last fall, some of the people said. The troubled bank needed billions of dollars to fund a turnaround plan that would move it away from investment banking toward wealth management. Mr. Klein was working on the overhaul as a Credit Suisse board member.
PIF connected Credit Suisse and Saudi National Bank, the kingdom’s largest bank with close ties to the government, some of the people said. Prince Mohammed gave the green light for the Saudi bank to make the Credit Suisse investment, some of the people said.
The investment made Saudi National Bank the biggest shareholder in Credit Suisse, with just less than 10% ownership.
“The Saudi market [is] the 700-pound gorilla economically in the region, and just getting them to engage with us in Saudi Arabia would be more than good enough,” Mr. Khudairy said of Credit Suisse.
The Gulf region has deep ties to Credit Suisse. Tiny natural gas-rich Qatar began snapping up shares of Credit Suisse as markets wobbled in 2008, and led a group of private investors who pumped billions of dollars into the company in the weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, ultimately building up a stake worth more than $3 billion.
Qatar and the Olayan family together plowed another $6.2 billion into the company in 2011 through a special type of debt. In 2013, Qatar converted over $4.5 billion of that debt into bonds called Additional Tier 1 capital notes — which are poised to be wiped out as part of Credit Suisse’s deal with UBS.
Investor confidence in Credit Suisse began wobbling last week after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in the U.S. On Wednesday morning, Mr. Khudairy told Bloomberg TV his bank would “absolutely not” be willing to assist if Credit Suisse needed more capital.
According to the people familiar with the matter, Saudi National Bank officials felt out of the loop, finding out about the talks with UBS via the news media.
A group led by Saudi National Bank proposed injecting around $5 billion into Credit Suisse, ‘The Wall Street Journal’ previously reported. Under the plan, “Credit Suisse bondholders would have been fully protected.” But Swiss ministers rejected the offer.
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