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Friday:  August 15, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Mozambique (4)

Friday
Apr062012

Malawi's President Dies, Sets Up Possibility of Africa's 2nd Female President (NEWS) 

(PHOTO: Malawi's VP Joyce Banda/Bulawayo24.com)

(HN, 4/6/12) - On Friday it was announced by hospital and government sources that longtime  Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika had died after having a heart attack and collapsing at the nation's State House yesterday morning.

The Nyasa Times, the nation's state newspaper has said that Vice President Joyce Banda will be sworn in as Head of State and is expected to address the nation shortly, though the ruling DPP party has already endorsed the former President's brother Peter Mutharika as their choice for President. 

The constitution says the Vice President is to take over as head of state and even though Banda was booted out of Mutharika's ruling DPP party in 2010 after an argument about succession; though analysts said there would be a smooth transition of power with the army and police respecting  the law of the land.

If Banda takes the Chief Executive spot in the nation she will be only one of two African female leaders - on a continent of 54 nations - along with Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.   Sirleaf was first elected to her nation's highest office in 2005 and has since won re-election in 2011; a year she also was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work" along with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakel Karman of Yemen.

(PHOTO: Malawi's deceased President, Bingu wa Mutharika/Wikipedia) Malawi, located in Southeast Africa is a landlocked country formerly known as Nyasaland.  It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi.

MUTHARIKA'S RULE

The 78-year-old Mutharika had been rushed to Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe on Thursday but is now said to have been dead on arrival. State media had previously said he had been flown to South Africa for treatment.

Mutharika was the President of Malawi from May 2004 until April 5, 2012. He was also the president of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which has a majority in Malawi's parliament as a result of the 2009 general election.

Mutharika's administration presided over a seven-year economic boom that made Malawi one of the world's fastest-growing economies on the African continent - but also led to more authoritative and oppressive rule according to many in the country.

As last night's news broke, few were found to be upset about the President's death.

Many Malawians blamed Mutharika personally for their economic challenges, which stemmed ultimately from a diplomatic spat with former colonial power Britain a year ago. The cause of disagreement was a leaked diplomatic correspondence that claimed Mutharika was being "autocratic and intolerant of criticism" - after which Britain, Malawi's biggest donor froze millions of dollars of aid - exacerbating an already acute struggling economy leading to shortages of fuel, food and medicines.

Malawi's diplomatic isolation worsened in July 2011 when the United States cancelled a $350 million overhaul of the country's antiquated power grid after police killed 20 people in a crackdown on an unprecedented wave of anti-government protests.  Mutharika hit back combatively, telling his supporters last month to "step in and defend their father rather than just sit back and watch him take crap from donors and rights groups".

JOYCE BANDA

Joyce Banda's career has not always been political. She is an educator,  and a grassroots gender rights activist who turned to politics serving as the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2009, as a Member of Parliament and Minister for Gender, Children's Affairs and Community Services.  Additionally she is the founder of the Joyce Banda Foundation and of the National Association of Business Women (NABW), Young Women Leaders Network and the Hunger Project.  She came to the country's Vice Presidency in 2009 and is currently the head of the newly created People's Party.

(PHOTO: Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf/Wikipedia) Banda had been thought to be planning a run for the Presidency in the next general election to take place in 2014 - but she might just get her wish now.

ABOUT MALAWI

Malawi is among the world's least-developed countries with an economy heavily based in agriculture, and a largely rural population. The government depends heavily on outside aid to meet development needs, although this need (and the aid offered) has decreased since 2000 forcing the nation to face challenges in building and expanding the economy, improving education, health care, environmental protection, and becoming financially independent. Malawi has several programs developed since 2005 that focus on these issues, and the country's outlook appears to be improving, with improvements in economic growth, education and healthcare seen in 2007 and 2008.

With progress the nation continues to be plagued by a low life expectancy and high infant mortality. There is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which is a drain on the labor force and government expenditures. There is a diverse population of native peoples, Asians and Europeans, with several languages spoken and an array of religious beliefs. Although there was tribal conflict in the past, by 2008 it had diminished considerably and the concept of a Malawian nationality had begun to form. Malawi has a culture combining native and colonial aspects, including sports, art, dance and music.

There was no official announcement of President Mutharika's death though state media said a statement would be made at midday.

---HUMNEWS

Monday
Jan302012

`Resilient People, Resilient Planet': New UN Report says World is running out of time, resources. 

(PHOTO: Global Greenhouse Warming.com)(HN/January 30, 2012) - A high level Global Sustainability panel organized by the UN released its report on resilient sustainability for both people and the planet today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The report release by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon comes on the sidelines of the 18th ordinary African Union Summit which opened here this weekend.

The report says a “Future Worth Choosing” must be based on true costs to people and the environment and that the world is running out of time to create real solutions to ensure there is enough food, water and energy to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population expected to reach 9 billion by 2040 from 7 billion now, and the number of middle-class consumers which will increase by 3 billion over the next 20 years.  As a result, demand for resources will rise exponentially.

Even by 2030, the world will need at least 50% more food, 45 % more energy and 30 % more water, according to U.N. estimates, at a time when a changing environment is creating new limits to supply. The report warns that if the world fails to tackle these problems, it risks sending up to 3 billion people into poverty.

"The current global development model is unsustainable. To achieve sustainability, a transformation of the global economy is required," the report said.

There are 20 million more undernourished people now than in 2000; 5.2 million hectares of forest are lost per year - an area the size of Costa Rica; 85 percent of all fish stocks are over-exploited or depleted; and carbon dioxide emissions have risen 38 percent between 1990 and 2009, which heightens the risk of sea level rise and more extreme weather.

Among the panel's goals for governments is to agree on a set of sustainable development goals which would complement the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) by 2015 and create a framework for action.

(PHOTO: File) The 22 member panel, established by the Secretary-General in August 2010 to formulate a new blueprint for sustainable development and low-carbon prosperity, was co-chaired by Finnish President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacob Zuma.  The final report contains 56 recommendations to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy as quickly as possible.  “Resilient People, Resilient Planet” calls for the integration of social and environmental costs in how the world prices and measures economic activities. It also calls for a set of sustainable development indicators that go beyond the traditional approach of Gross Domestic Product and recommends that Governments develop and apply a set of Sustainable Development Goals that can mobilize global action and help monitor progress.

The Secretary-General, in receiving the Panel’s report, stated that sustainable development is a top priority for his second term of office. “We need to chart a new, more sustainable course for the future, one that strengthens equality and economic growth while protecting our planet,” said the Secretary-General.  The report of provides a timely contribution to preparations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June 2012.

Addressing the Secretary-General via video, co-chair President Halonen stressed the importance of placing people at the center of achieving sustainable development. “Eradication of poverty and improving equity must remain priorities for the world community,” noted President Halonen. “The Panel has concluded that empowering women and ensuring a greater role for them in the economy is critical for sustainable development.”

(GRAPH: EOLSS.COM)Among the panel’s other recommendations they said that governments should work with partners to create an "evergreen revolution," which would at least double productivity while reducing resource use and avoiding further biodiversity losses, the report said.  Water and marine ecosystems should be managed more efficiently and there should be universal access to affordable sustainable energy by 2030.  Carbon and natural resource pricing should be established through taxation, regulation or emissions trading schemes by 2020 and fossil fuel subsidies should also be phased out by that time. National fiscal and credit systems should be reformed to provide long-term incentives for sustainable practices as well as disincentives for unsustainable ones. Sovereign wealth and public pension funds, as well as development banks and export credit agencies should apply sustainable development criteria to their investment decisions, and governments or stock market watchdogs should revise regulations to encourage their use.  Science should be behind environmental progress and the UN should consider naming a chief scientific adviser or board to advise the organization, and calls on the Secretary-General to lead efforts to produce a regular Global Sustainable Development Outlook report that integrates knowledge across sectors and institutions

The 22 members of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability included current and former heads of states, ministers, and representatives of the private sector and civil society.  In addition to the Co-chairs, the Panel included Sheikh Abdallah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates; Hajiya Amina Az-Zubai, Former Senior Special Assistant and Adviser to the President of Nigeria on the Millennium Development Goals; Ali Babacan, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey; James Laurence Balsillie, former Co-Chief Executive Officer of Research in Motion; Alexander Bedritsky, Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation, Special Envoy for Climate; Gro Harlem Brundtland, Former Prime Minister of Norway; Micheline Calmy-Rey, Former President and former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland; Julia Carabias Lillo, Former Secretary of the Environment of Mexico; Gunilla Carlsson, Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden; Luisa Dias Diogo, Member of Parliament and former Prime Minister of Mozambique; Han Seung-soo, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Green Growth Institute and former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea; Yukio Hatoyama, former Prime Minister of Japan; Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action; Cristina Narbona Ruiz, former Minister of the Environment of Spain, Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Rural Development of India, Susan E. Rice, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations; Kevin Rudd, Minister for Foreign Affairs and former Prime Minister of Australia; Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados; Izabella Mônica Vieira Teixeira, Minister of the Environment of Brazil, and Zheng Guoguang; Administrator of the China Meteorological Administration. Mr. Janos Pasztor was an ex-officio member as Executive Secretary of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability.

The full report is available at www.un.org/gsp.

---HUMNEWS

Thursday
Nov112010

Food Security at Risk: What Do the Mozambican Riots and BHP Billiton Have to Do with Each Other? (PERSPECTIVE)

By Saliem Fakir

The recent Mozambican food and fuel riots raise the spectre, in general, about food insecurity and social unrest in the future.

We certainly have the capability to feed all of the world’s population, but the political economy of agriculture, food production and distribution somewhat has a greater influence as to whether people can feed themselves or not.

Food security though is not limited to good rainfall, soils, or the ingenuity of breeding the right strains of crops. Food security is fundamentally about access to food by the poor in an affordable manner.

For a long time we have been buying cheap food because of cheap oil or the lavishing of subsidies to farmers in Europe and the United States that produced food mountains in the 80’s and 90’s.

Cheap food is no longer guaranteed, as oil prices are likely to rise. Oil is a key ingredient of fertilizer and enables us to move food easily from one part of the world to another in a globalised economy. That privilege is not likely to last for long and governments will be required to intervene more and more in the food market.

Those who can afford it may well easily accommodate cost shifts because they have higher income capabilities.

But, as the Mozambican riots demonstrate, for the poor any sudden shift in prices (for instance a 30% bread price hike alone) without major shifts in income or the state’s ability to caste a wider welfare net is a source of great anxiety and stress. Much of it overflows out into the streets with angry crowds looting and baying for the blood of senior officials.

The control of global food production is the subject of numerous books. It would be fair to say that neither consumers nor farmers have great influence on these chains of supply because they have come under the control of very large agribusinesses and retail outlets.

The average subsidy in the US accounts for 12% of total farm income. In OECD countries, it’s about 26% and in the European Union about 29%. These, in general, have favoured consolidation of farming into large agribusinesses, and in the US, virtually wiped out family farms -- once a strong feature of the US rural scene.

Food costs are also influenced by the movement of input costs and the rent ‘surcharge’ that is exacted by those who control the distribution, marketing and processing of food.

The greater the dependency of the global food system for oil based chemical derivatives and fuel for transport, the more vulnerable everybody is to shifts in prices of these inputs. We were witness to this when oil prices hit $140/barrel two years ago.

The future picture of oil does not look optimistic and despite the decline in the price of oil, it has not gone below the $40-$50/barrel range. This has already lifted the cost of food production. Oil price inflation is slowly seeping its way into the food chain.

However, where inflation of inputs increase the cost burden of food production they also eat away at the purchasing power of individuals and households. Their impacts assault the poor as a double penalty.  Their incomes can’t accommodate the sudden cost shifts and their incomes are unlikely to keep pace with inflation to absorb future cost increases.

And, as we can see from the Mozambican riots much of this was centred in urban areas, in particular, Maputo. Urbanization in Africa is happening at a much faster rate than anywhere else in the world. It makes dependence on the supply of affordable food even more of a strategic challenge for government.

Especially, governments that are dependent on food imports and where the growing urban population starts to delink itself from the agricultural food production chain and base. This urban population will increasingly rely on the markets or state schemes to supply food.

Africa’s own agricultural production has to be boosted in order to facilitate intra-regional trade in agricultural goods to reduce reliance and dependence on imports. These will require considerable investments in new infrastructure and assistance to farmers.

This will not be easily forthcoming in countries that have very depleted state resources or financial means. Even if the money were available, it would take a good few years for the benefits of such infrastructure investment to come through.

A good proportion of food inflation costs have been attributed to rising oil prices, biofuel production and control, by major food suppliers, of the supply chain. There has been little focus on the control of strategic input ingredients.

At the global stage, new acquisitions of critical input resources like potash may not hold a positive portent for affordable food production in general and Africa as a whole. BHP Billiton is making a $39 billion bid for Canada’s Potash Corporation.

The ‘PotashCorp’, as it is known in short, is the world’s largest producer of potash, and the second and third largest producer of nitrogen and phosphate -- three of the critical ingredients for the production of fertilizer. By the end of 2007 the company controlled 22% of the world’s potash industry.

Potash supply, the world over, is controlled by eight large companies who control 70-80% of the potash market and operate in a similar fashion as OPEC does with oil. They operate as a cartel that can manipulate prices.

During the 2008 food crisis, the price of potash went up from $150/tonne in 2006 to $1000/tonne in 2008.  This is possible because potash itself is not ubiquitous. The largest reserves straddle mainly four countries: Canada, Russia, Israel and Belarus.

The use of potash in the fertilizer industry is relatively obscure and known mainly to industry experts for its strategic importance.

BHP seeks market dominance. BHP is one of the largest mining companies in the world and has been seeking to dominate the mining and resource sector in the last five years or so (given that it is cash flush) and has been undertaking mergers and acquisitions left-right and centre.

BHP’s attempt to seek market dominance has not gone unnoticed. China has become wary of BHP’s acquisition strategies, as it may influence the price at which this strategic resource could be obtained from the market.

In an attempt to block BHP’s control over Canada’s Potash Corp, Chinese officials have ordered the state owned company, Sinochem, to launch a counter bid. China is seeking to acquire a blocking bid in order to derail the hostile take-over by the Anglo-Australian miner.

China has also invited the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund, Temasek, to join in on the bid. China did a very similar thing when BHP sought to take a large stake in Rio Tinto. It paired up with the US aluminium producer Alcoa Inc. to buy a 9% stake in Rio Tinto forcing BHP out of the race for the stake in Rio.

The Chinese government, like the Indian government, suspects the bid to control the potash market by BHP is an attempt to milk the Asian market through market dominance as most of the future growth is expected in this region. China is the biggest importer of potash and is concerned about how it will feed its very large population in the future.

The control over PotashCorp is viewed as a strategic buy because it is a swing producer. In other words, it can ratchet production up or down depending on demand and so keep prices relatively high.

The interest in potash by investors is a reflection of a wider interest by big players in the potential of the agricultural sector, which is expected to boom in the next decade because of the growth in the global population. The FAO predicts food demand will jump 70% from now till 2050.

The potash bid and the volatility of other input costs in the agricultural sector is increasingly being viewed with concern by governments and consumer groups.

Between, 2007-2008 when food prices went sky-high, riots were seen from Bangladesh to Mexico. If you start adding other variables like climate change, the unpredictability of oil prices and the degradation of the purchasing power of the poor, the potential for social unrest seems almost certain.

----Saliem Fakir is an independent writer based in Cape Town. South Africa.

Tuesday
Nov022010

(Report) Job scarcity causes gender disparities in Africa, World Bank report reveals 

(HN, November 2, 2010) -- The US-based World Bank said in a study released on Tuesday in Maputo, Mozambique that gender disparities in African labour markets are caused by jobs scarcity and not discrimination while highlighting that investments in education and job creation are key to fostering gender equality.

The study analyses household survey data collected in the early 2000s in 18 countries across Africa, looking into gender dimensions in employment, unemployment, pay gap, as well as the role of educational attainment.

The survey shows that women’s participation rates in the labour market range from under 40 percent in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda, to 80 percent and above in Burkina Faso, Burundi, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

For Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, women’s employment ratio over the survey period is 25 percent lower than for men, respectively at 53 percent and nearly 70 percent.

“We found little evidence to support the idea that labour market discrimination is a key explanation for gender gaps in underdeveloped economies, especially those whose job markets are small and can only supply formal employment for a minority of the population,” says World Bank Senior Economist Jorge Arbache, one of the book’s editors.

Arbache added that disparities are indeed greater in countries that have few job opportunities to begin with and, conversely, countries with the highest job rate for men are also those with the least gender disparities.

Another co-editor of the survey, Ewa Filipiak, project manager at Agence Française de Développement, said “ensuring women’s access to jobs is essential to the fight against poverty and reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)... because it has been shown that well-paid jobs empower them to redirect spending on essential needs, notably in favour of children’s health and education.”

Survey data shows that on average the male-to-female earnings ratio is as high as 2.8 among individuals with no education, and as low as 0.9 among those with post-secondary education.

The authors therefore recommend that policy-makers adopt targeted measures that facilitate women’s access to education, such as conditional cash transfer programmes, that encourage families to enrol girls in schools.

The 18 African countries surveyed are Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Zambia.

Case studies were conducted in the Congo Republic, Ethiopia, Guinea, Madagascar, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania while cross-country studies were done in Benin, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Senegal and Uganda.

- African Press Agency /APA-Maputo (Mozambique)