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US envoy seeks Chinese help to ease Korea crisis

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 4:12 am

A top U.S. envoy sought China’s help Thursday in easing the threat of war on the Korean peninsula, hoping to gain insights about a Chinese official’s recent meeting with North Korea’s absolute leader, Kim Jong Il.


Stephen Bosworth met with Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun, Senior Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei and Wang Jiarui, director of the International Department of the Communist Party’s Central Committee. Bosworth was expected to travel to Japan later Thursday.


“Ambassador Bosworth and Chinese counterparts had useful consultations on how to coordinate moving forward in dealing with North Korea,” a U.S. Embassy statement said.

A body guard, left, tries to shield off journalists while U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Bosworth, second right, walks out of an exit upon arrival at the Capital Airport in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei confirmed Bosworth’s meetings. “The sides agreed to remain in contact on maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and over the six-party talks,” Hong told a news conference. The talks on North Korea’s nuclear program involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, but have been on hold for nearly two years.


Bosworth had been expected to ask China for information on last month’s talks in Pyongyang between North Korean leader Kim and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, Beijing’s top foreign policy official. China has come under growing pressure to push North Korea, its close ally, to change its behavior after the communist country shelled a South Korean island late last year, killing four people.


North Korea will be a key issue during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington later this month.


Bosworth met Wednesday in Seoul with South Korean officials and said he was hopeful for “serious negotiations” soon on the North.


In Washington on Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi held “lengthy discussions” on North Korea and ironed out details of Hu’s visit Jan. 19, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.


Crowley said both the United States and China want stability on the Korean peninsula. “Neither one of us wants to see the emergence of a North Korea that is a nuclear state,” he said. “We hope that coming out of the visit and the discussions with President Hu Jintao we would have a consensus on the best way to move forward.”


Also on Wednesday, North Korea called for “unconditional and early” talks with South Korea to end months of tensions. Seoul quickly dismissed the offer, carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, as insincere and said it was waiting for an apology for two deadly attacks blamed on Pyongyang.


Tensions between the two Koreas have been at their highest level in years since North Korea showered artillery on a South Korean-held island near their disputed maritime border in November, killing four South Koreans. The attack was the first on a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War, and occurred in waters not far from the spot where a torpedo sank a South Korean warship eight months earlier, killing 46 sailors.


The attack on the warship was also blamed on the North — an allegation the country denies.


But North Korea has made some conciliatory moves recently. On New Year’s Day, the government issued a lengthy statement calling for warmer ties and the resumption of joint projects with South Korea. Pyongyang, eager for food and fuel assistance, has said it wants stalled nuclear disarmament talks to restart.


Washington and Seoul have said the North must first fulfill past nuclear disarmament commitments before talks can resume.

Source: SGGP

HCM City bids to ease traffic flows

In Uncategorized on November 12, 2010 at 1:57 pm

French workers take to the streets as airport fears ease

In Uncategorized on October 17, 2010 at 10:26 am

French trade unions staged another massive day of protests Saturday to defend their right to retire at 60, but fears of fuel shortages crippling Paris airports eased as supplies resumed.


Although government estimates of the turnout at the rallies suggested the movement might be losing steam, unions warned that strikes are spreading to more businesses and that a new nationwide protest would be held Tuesday.


Tension has been building since record demonstrations earlier this week with strikes in refineries cutting off fuel supplies to Paris airports and with high school students joining older workers to condemn pension reform moves.


But fears that planes would be grounded at France’s main hub Charles de Gaulle eased as pipelines resumed supplies.


“The fuel supply of the Paris airports resumed Saturday afternoon, which keeps the threat of a shortage away from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle,” said the head of the French civil aviation authority, Patrick Gandil.

People demonstrate in Paris as part of a national day of mass rallies against pension reform.

Nantes in western France became the first airport in the country to cancel flights due to shortages, Gandil said, although a Nantes airport official said there had been no cancellations due to fuel shortages.


According to the interior ministry, 825,000 people took to the streets of towns and cities across the country on Saturday, the lowest official total since protests against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan began in September.


Unions estimated the turnout at “around three million”, arguing that the numbers were around the same as a previous protest on a Saturday two weeks earlier, and labour leaders insisted the campaign would go on.


“The movement is taking root and growing in terms of the number of companies hit by various forms of strike as in the number of employees taking part in the action,” the powerful CGT union said in a statement.


Sarkozy’s works and pensions minister, Eric Woerth, insisted however that there had been a “significant drop-off” in the number of people taking part from the 1.2 million the government said had marched on Tuesday.


“There were, nevertheless, still lot of protesters. That underlines the government’s duty to explain this reform better,” he said.


Labour wants to force Sarkozy into backing down on his plan to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, which is in the final days of its journey through a parliament in which the right wing leader enjoys a comfortable majority.


“We’re prepared to demonstrate under the snow if it takes that long,” Airbus worker Stephane Thibault, 37, told AFP at a demonstration in the southern city of Toulouse.


“We’re mobilised, everyone seems motivated. With right-wing governments, we know you have to resist,” he said.


Around 30 people were arrested in central Paris after a group of several hundred anarchists set rubbish bins on fire and threw smoke grenades, but they were prevented from interrupting the main march.


Strikes have shut down 10 out of France’s 12 oil refineries, despite riot police being dispatched to fuel depots to protect deliveries amid panic buying.


The government has given oil companies permission to tap into their own emergency stocks, but has resisted calls to use government-controlled strategic reserves.


Finance Minister Christine Lagarde told RTL television that only 230 service stations out of 3,000 had run dry of fuel. “We have several weeks of fuel stocks,” she insisted.

Nevertheless, reporters found several filling stations shutting down.

“We don’t have any left and we don’t know when the next delivery will come,” said a petrol station worker at a hypermarket outside Paris who gave his name as Jean-Claude. “Petrol reserves are also extremely low.”

Strikes against pension and port reforms at oil depots in the south of the country since September 27 have left 63 oil, gas and chemical tankers waiting off the Mediterranean coast on Saturday, Marseille port authorities said.

French truck drivers are also set to join the protests. “There’s impatience, the guys are saying ‘let’s go’,” said transport union chief Maxime Dumont.

Railway operator SNCF said that on average two out of three high-speed TGV trains were running in and out of Paris, although only one TGV in four outside the capital. The Paris metro was running normally.

Source: SGGP

King’s rainmakers take to skies to ease Thai drought

In Uncategorized on August 18, 2010 at 7:23 am

HUA HIN, Thailand, Aug 18, 2010 (AFP) – High above Thailand’s parched landscape the kingdom’s fleet of intrepid royal rainmakers work their meteorological wizardry.


A squadron of 20 aircraft plunges through the clouds firing a cocktail of chemicals that they hope will provoke a downpour to alleviate the effects of drought on the country’s crucial agriculture sector.

A picture taken on July 28, 2010 shows Thai Agricultural officials seeding chemicals in the sky during a rainmaking operation on the outskirts of the Hua Hin resort.

The annual cloud seeding operation is something of a personal crusade for Thailand’s King Bhumibol, who has earned the title “Father of the Royal Rainmaking” for his half-century project to persuade clouds to rain on cue.


Not content to leave the weather in the hands of nature, the octogenarian monarch developed the programme to support the country’s farmers and has even patented his own cloud seeding technique.


In a manoeuvre known as the “sandwich”, the king’s rainmakers fire chemicals at different altitudes — such as sodium chloride above and dry ice below — to induce rainfall from warm clouds.


The “super sandwich” adds another aircraft to the operation, releasing silver iodide from about 20,000 feet — around 6,000 metres — to initiate rain from formations of varying temperatures.


Pilot Major Phumintorn Undhisote flies from the rainmaking centre in Hua Hin, where the king has his holiday home.


Seeding in this narrow strip of the country between the Gulf of Thailand and the Myanmar border takes a high level of precision.


And while Major Phumintorn believes in the effectiveness of his missions, they are not without risk.


“According to the flying textbook, in bad weather pilots have to fly away… or land, but rainmaking means we have to fly into the clouds,” he said.


He is one of 522 people — including scientists, engineers, pilots and technicians — involved in the Bureau of the Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation’s efforts to manipulate Mother Nature.


More than 5,500 cloud seeding flights were made from eight centres in 2008 and around 870 million baht (27 million dollars) was spent on the project.


This year the rainy season — normally from about May to October depending on the region — got off to a weak start.


While Thailand has a tropical climate and suffers floods as well as drought, the size of the agriculture sector and growing consumer demand for water makes the country particularly sensitive to the vagaries of the wet season.


Figures from the country’s central bank suggest agriculture accounted for almost 10 percent of the economy last year and nearly 40 percent of the labour force.


Wathana Sukarnjanaset, director of the Hua Hin cloud-seeding centre, said there had been “quite a crisis” this year, with water in some of the country’s biggest dams falling to critical levels, although the situation is improving.


In the most recent dry season, from November through April, 6.4 million people in 52 provinces were affected by drought, according to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.


In the past, cloud seeding was dismissed by some as little more than meteorological alchemy as scientists struggled to assess whether rainfall would have happened regardless of chemical assistance.


But it has gained a mainstream following in many countries, including the United States and China, while Thailand recently gave Australia permission to use the king’s techniques.


Wathana said Thailand’s own research suggested cloud seeding can increase precipitation by 109 percent.


He said there was usually “quite a change in the weather” after the flights, which operate from February to October.


“Farmers come to ask us to make rain in that area so we tell them ‘go back and wait’ and it is raining in the afternoon (or) in a short time, one or two days mostly,” he added.


One of those who relies on the cloud seeders is Siriwan Boonngarm, whose farm nestles deep in the Phetchaburi countryside.


She started out in 2005 after retiring as a teacher and now focuses on growing pineapples, bananas and rubber trees, which require less water than Thailand’s thirstier rice crops.


But the former maths tutor said she still finds herself calling on the king’s rainmakers — sometimes as often as every four or five days.


“This year is the worst drought. The rains did not come on time. The weather was hot and there was not enough water,” she said.


Siriwan, whose rural home is festooned with royal flags, has no doubt who she has to thank when the clouds darken and the rain falls.


“Humans cannot survive without water,” she said. “His Majesty helps us with everything, gives us love, gives us life.”

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Source: SGGP

Israel approves plan to ease Gaza blockade

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 4:30 am

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel on Thursday approved a plan to ease its blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip following weeks of international pressure, but provided few details on what new goods would be allowed in.


The security cabinet’s decision came in the wake of mounting international calls to ease the four-year blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory in the wake of a deadly raid on a fleet of aid ships on May 31.

United Nations trucks carry supplies into Rafah town after crossing the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip on June 16. AFP

Under the plan, Israel would “liberalise the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza (and) expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision,” the government said in a statement.


But it also stressed that Israel would “continue existing security procedures to prevent the inflow of weapons and war materiel.”


Hamas swiftly rejected the plan, which senior leader Ismail Radwan dismissed as an attempt to “relieve the pressure” following the flotilla incident.


“We in Hamas reject the Zionist decision, which is an attempt to obscure the international decision to completely lift the siege on the Gaza Strip,” he told AFP.


The plan is reportedly based on understandings reached in recent days by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair that call for switching from a list of allowed items to a list of banned goods.


It would also allow the entry of more building materials for UN-sponsored construction projects.


Israel was reportedly considering a plan to station EU and Palestinian Authority inspectors at the border to inspect incoming goods, but that proposal did not appear to be included in Thursday’s decision.


Currently thousands of products — some as banal as toilet paper and ginger — are listed by Israel as constituting a “security” risk and prevented from reaching Gaza.


The list also includes construction materials, like metal pipes and cement, which Israel fears could be used for building makeshift rockets and constructing underground bunkers and tunnels.


On Wednesday, Israel allowed eight trucks loaded with kitchen equipment to enter Gaza for the first time since 2006, following recent decisions to allow in snack foods and other household items that were previously banned.


Blair had earlier this week told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that the plan would “allow us to keep weapons and weapon materials out of Gaza, but on the other hand to help the Palestinian population there.”


Blair had negotiated on behalf of the Middle East peace Quartet consisting of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.


He said the ultimate aim was to eradicate the need for smuggling through a network of tunnels running under Gaza’s border with Egypt, through which thousands of goods are brought daily and sold at inflated prices.


Netanyahu has insisted, however, that Israel’s naval blockade remain in place — a measure he says is crucial to prevent Gaza from “turning into an Iranian port” through which arms would flow freely.


Israel has faced mounting calls to lift the siege following its deadly raid on an aid flotilla trying to run the blockade, in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead by navy seals.


It has argued that the closures — imposed when an Israeli soldier was seized by Gaza militants in a deadly June 2006 raid and tightened a year later when Hamas took over — are needed to contain the Islamist movement.


In the cabinet decision Israel said it “expects the international community to work toward the immediate release of Gilad Shalit,” now 23 years old, who is believed to be held by Hamas at a secret location in Gaza.

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Source: SGGP

Israel moves to ease four-year siege on Gaza

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 4:29 am

United Nations trucks carry supplies into Rafah town after crossing the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip on June 16

Israel approved on Thursday a plan to ease its blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip after weeks of international pressure, but provided few details on what new goods would be allowed in.


The security cabinet’s decision was a response to mounting calls to ease the four-year blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory following a deadly May 31 raid on a flotilla of aid ships.


Under the plan, Israel would “liberalise the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza (and) expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision,” a brief government statement said.


Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would maintain its naval blockade and inspect all goods entering by land.


“The intention is to ensure that more goods can enter, but always after an Israeli check, which will ensure that there is no weaponry, no arms and no materials which could be used for warfare,” he said in a statement.


Hamas swiftly rejected the move, which senior leader Ismail Radwan dismissed as an attempt to “relieve the pressure” on Israel after the flotilla incident.


The Western-backed Palestinian Authority also rejected the move, with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat calling it a “public relations ploy.”


“President Mahmud Abbas demands the complete lifting of the siege on the Gaza Strip,” he told AFP. “He believes there are no partial solutions.”


The plan is reportedly based on understandings reached by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair that call for switching from a list of allowed items to a list of banned goods.


It would also allow the entry of more construction materials for UN projects to rebuild homes and infrastructure destroyed during a devastating 22-day war Israel launched on Gaza in December 2008 to halt rocket attacks.


Blair called the decision an “important step” and said in the coming days he would help thrash out the details on behalf of the Quartet, which consists of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.


The United States and the United Nations also welcomed the move.


White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called the easing “a step in the right direction.”


UN chief Ban Ki-moon was “encouraged” by the decision but wanted a fundamental change in the Jewish state’s posture, his spokesman said.


Currently thousands of products — some as banal as toilet paper and ginger — are listed by Israel as constituting a “security” risk and prevented from reaching the territory’s 1.5 million residents.


The list also includes construction materials, such as metal pipes and cement, which Israel fears could be used for building rockets and constructing underground bunkers and tunnels.


Raed Fatuh, a Palestinian official who coordinates shipments, said he had been told Israel would allow in kitchen and office supplies, toys, mattresses and towels starting on Tuesday.


Israeli authorities had already expanded the list of permitted goods in recent weeks, allowing in snack foods, condiments and other household items.

Until now most such goods have been brought into Gaza through smuggling tunnels beneath the border with Egypt and sold at inflated prices, while Gaza’s own private sector and factories have almost completely shut down.

An Israeli group that has closely tracked the closures said it was unclear whether the new plan would allow the kind of regular commerce needed to revive the economy in Gaza, where 80 percent of residents rely on foreign aid.

“I am definitely underwhelmed. Our concern is that Gaza residents have a right not just to consume but to produce and to travel,” Sari Bashi, the director of the Gisha Centre for Legal Aid, told AFP.

“We don’t need cosmetic changes, we need to allow the free passage of goods and persons into and out of Gaza, subject only to reasonable security checks.”

The border closures came under renewed criticism after Israel’s deadly commando raid on ships trying to run the blockade, in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead.

Israel has argued the closures — imposed when one of its soldiers was seized by Gaza militants in a deadly June 2006 raid and tightened a year later when Hamas took over — are needed to contain the Islamist movement.

In the cabinet decision, Israel said it “expects the international community to work toward the immediate release of Gilad Shalit,” now 23, who is believed to be held by Hamas at a secret location in Gaza.

Source: SGGP

HCM City takes measures to ease traffic congestion

In Uncategorized on May 13, 2010 at 12:55 am




HCM City takes measures to ease traffic congestion


QĐND – Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 21:5 (GMT+7)

HCM City’s Department of Transport has mapped out urgent measures to ease traffic congestion in the city.


The department is working to create a list of congested areas where new business registration certificates should not be granted to enterprises. The proposal will then be sent to the municipal People’s Committee for approval.


The department will also install additional road signs on crowded routes, according to the department’s report that was submitted to the municipal People’s Committee on May 10.


Creating one-way streets and accelerating the progress of construction work in order to remove safety fences that cause additional congestion will be carried out until the end of the year.


An inventory of schools with constant traffic jams at their surrounding areas will be completed and submitted to the city’s Department of Education and Training so that measures can be implemented to deal with the congestion.


The department’s inspectors will conduct more patrols and stricter fines will be given to street racers, particularly near the East-West Highway and Thu Thiem Bridge.


Source: VNA


Source: QDND

Agencies mull solutions to ease trade deficit

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2010 at 8:30 pm




Agencies mull solutions to ease trade deficit


QĐND – Monday, May 03, 2010, 20:46 (GMT+7)

Trade deficit control has been ineffective as Vietnam’s trade deficit in January-April reached US$4.65 billion, or 23 percent of the export earnings in the period, agencies said. 


Export turnover in April was $5.7 billion, up 1.9 percent from March, while imports hit $6.95 billion, up 3 percent, the General Statistics Office (GSO) reported.


As a result, the trade deficit in April was US$1.25 billion, compared to $1.16 billion in March, $1.33 billion in February, and $945 million in January.


In the first four months of this year, Vietnam’s exports rose 8.9 percent year on year to $20.16 billion, while imports soared 35.6 percent to $24.81 billion.


Major imports in the period were machinery and equipment; petrol and oil; steel and iron; electronics, computers and accessories thereof; and plastic products.


Of the January-April trade gap, the foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) accounted for $700 million. It spent $10.2 billion on imports, posting an expansion of 55.6 percent, and earned $9 billion from exports, gaining a growth of 44 percent.


To help FIEs boost exports and reduce trade deficit, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has asked the Ministry of Industry and Trade to work with other ministries to remove unreasonable regulations that has hindered their operation.


Commenting on whether increasing import duty should be a measure to help ease trade deficit, Vu Van Truong, head of the Tax Policy Office under the Finance Ministry, said such a measure is only a short-term one.


This measure needs to be given a due consideration, as it may push production cost up and consequently give rise to an increase in prices of some commodities on the market.


To increase export turnover and reduce trade deficit, the Ministry of Industry and Trade called on businesses to seek new outlets for exports and strengthen their marketing efforts in Asian, EU and North American markets.


Hard to keep trade gap under 20 percent


The country expects to earn about $72 billion worth of exports this year, an increase of 5.6 percent from 2009, and keep trade deficit under 20 percent of export earnings.


However, the ministry said the trade gap target is unlikely to be met, since the country has to import as much as 80 percent of its demand for materials, fuels, machinery, and equipment for production of goods for export.


For instance, the textiles and garment sector earned around $3 billion from exports in the last four months, but it had spent about $2.6 billion on imports of cotton, cloth, and other materials to make products for export, he said.


According to the GSO, trade deficit control has proved ineffective as products subject to import controls, such as seafood, fruits and vegetables, steel, gems and precious metal, increased by 59 percent in the past four months.


Goods subject to import limitation, such as consumer goods, motorbikes, and under-nine seat cars that are fully assembled, also rose 41 percent.


Meanwhile, trade deficit control has been efficient only in reducing imports of luxury consumer goods and machinery and equipment that the country can manufacture, said Nguyen Thanh Bien, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade.


However, he pointed out that those commodities accounted a modest proportion, about 17 percent, in the total volume of imports in the last four months. Therefore, their influence on reducing trade deficit is inconsiderably.


Source: SGGP


Source: QDND

Agencies mull solutions to ease trade deficit

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2010 at 8:29 am

Trade deficit control has been ineffective as Vietnam’s trade deficit in January-April reached US$4.65 billion, or 23 percent of the export earnings in the period, agencies said. 

Export turnover in April was $5.7 billion, up 1.9 percent from March, while imports hit $6.95 billion, up 3 percent, the General Statistics Office (GSO) reported.

As a result, the trade deficit in April was US$1.25 billion, compared to $1.16 billion in March, $1.33 billion in February, and $945 million in January.

In the first four months of this year, Vietnam’s exports rose 8.9 percent year on year to $20.16 billion, while imports soared 35.6 percent to $24.81 billion.

Workers at 100 percent Japanese-owned Nidec Tosok (Vietnam) Co., Ltd in Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone, Ho Chi Minh City (Photo: SGGP)

Major imports in the period were machinery and equipment; petrol and oil; steel and iron; electronics, computers and accessories thereof; and plastic products.

Of the January-April trade gap, the foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) accounted for $700 million. It spent $10.2 billion on imports, posting an expansion of 55.6 percent, and earned $9 billion from exports, gaining a growth of 44 percent.

To help FIEs boost exports and reduce trade deficit, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has asked the Ministry of Industry and Trade to work with other ministries to remove unreasonable regulations that has hindered their operation.

Commenting on whether increasing import duty should be a measure to help ease trade deficit, Vu Van Truong, head of the Tax Policy Office under the Finance Ministry, said such a measure is only a short-term one.

This measure needs to be given a due consideration, as it may push production cost up and consequently give rise to an increase in prices of some commodities on the market.

To increase export turnover and reduce trade deficit, the Ministry of Industry and Trade called on businesses to seek new outlets for exports and strengthen their marketing efforts in Asian, EU and North American markets.

Hard to keep trade gap under 20 percent

The country expects to earn about $72 billion worth of exports this year, an increase of 5.6 percent from 2009, and keep trade deficit under 20 percent of export earnings.

However, the ministry said the trade gap target is unlikely to be met, since the country has to import as much as 80 percent of its demand for materials, fuels, machinery, and equipment for production of goods for export.

For instance, the textiles and garment sector earned around $3 billion from exports in the last four months, but it had spent about $2.6 billion on imports of cotton, cloth, and other materials to make products for export, he said.

According to the GSO, trade deficit control has proved ineffective as products subject to import controls, such as seafood, fruits and vegetables, steel, gems and precious metal, increased by 59 percent in the past four months.

Goods subject to import limitation, such as consumer goods, motorbikes, and under-nine seat cars that are fully assembled, also rose 41 percent.

Meanwhile, trade deficit control has been efficient only in reducing imports of luxury consumer goods and machinery and equipment that the country can manufacture, said Nguyen Thanh Bien, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade.

However, he pointed out that those commodities accounted a modest proportion, about 17 percent, in the total volume of imports in the last four months. Therefore, their influence on reducing trade deficit is inconsiderably.

Source: SGGP

World Bank calls on Israel to ease West Bank restrictions

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2010 at 8:52 am

The World Bank warned on Monday that continued economic growth in the occupied West Bank would depend on Israel taking further steps to lift restrictions on movement.

Israeli border guards check Palestinian women?s IDs as they head to Jerusalem at a checkpoint in Bethlehem, 2009.(AFP)

“The fiscal position of the (Palestinian Authority) remains precarious. Despite evidence of economic growth in the West Bank, its sustainability remains in question,” the Bank said ahead of a donors conference in Madrid.


The warning came a day after the International Monetary Fund said the West Bank economy grew 8.5 percent in 2009 following Palestinian reforms, the easing of some restrictions, and nearly two billion dollars of foreign aid.


Both bodies have cautioned that those gains could be in danger if Israel does not remove more of the hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints it maintains in the West Bank, which it says are necessary for security.


The World Bank recommended “that continued easing of the economic restrictions on the West Bank, and lifting the Gaza blockade, remain a top priority for the government of Israel.


“Specifically, it urges unlocking of the economic potential of Area C in the West Bank,” it said, referring to the more than 60 percent of the territory that is under complete Israeli civil and military control.


It also urged the “liberalising of economic linkages with east Jerusalem,” which Israel seized in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed in a move not recognised internationally, and which the Palestinians view as their capital.


Both the World Bank and the IMF called for the lifting of sanctions on Gaza imposed after the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in June 2007, which have crippled the private sector and spawned an informal smuggling economy based on tunnels beneath the Gaza-Egypt border.


“All parties must bear in mind that economic integration of the West Bank and Gaza is critical to the viability of a Palestinian state in the medium and long terms,” World Bank regional vice president Shamshad Akhtar said.


“The current political and security uncertainty, as well as the movement restrictions, pose substantial impediments to the necessary integration of the Palestinian economy within the Middle East as well as globally.”

Source: SGGP