World Bank: Floods could disrupt Balkans’ power supplies for at least six months

admin   •   May 27, 2014   •   2327

A man is silhouetted against the logo of the World Bank at the main venue for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank annual meeting in Tokyo October 10, 2012.
CREDIT: REUTERS/KIM KYUNG-HOON

(Reuters) – Devastating floods in the Balkans this month mean economic growth in the region will be lower than forecast this year and power supplies could be disrupted for at least six months, the World Bank said on Monday.

More than 50 people were killed by flooding and landslides in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia after the heaviest rainfall in more than a century caused rivers to burst their banks, sweeping away roads, bridges and homes.

Serbia and Bosnia were worst hit and say the damage inflicted runs to hundreds of millions of euros each, a huge blow to their cash-strapped economies.

Serbia’s electricity production has been cut by 40 percent as a result of power outages caused by the floods and power supplies have been disrupted in Bosnia and to a smaller extent in Croatia as well.

“I believe that in the short run, within 2014, the floods will have a downward impact on growth,” Ellen Goldstein, the World Bank’s country director for southeast Europe, told Reuters.

“The larger problem will be in supplying the power plants with necessary fuel in the longer run … because of flooding of the mines,” Goldstein said.

Power supplies knocked out by the waters, including mines supplying Serbia’s biggest power plant, Nikola Tesla, were a particular problem, she said.

Goldstein was speaking after the bank presented its bi-annual economic report for the western Balkan region, projecting average growth of 1.9 percent in 2014 and 2.6 percent in 2015.

She cautioned that the report was compiled before the floods and declined to specify how far the flood damage might effect those figures. However, she said that reconstruction and a rebound in consumption could drive economic recovery in 2015.

“One could very easily see a more difficult recovery in 2014 followed possibly by faster growth as the countries pull back out of the floods,” Goldstein said in an interview.

“But we really don’t know the magnitude of that.”

The World Bank will work with the United Nations and the European Union on assessing the flood damage.

Goldstein said the bank would move quickly to restructure its existing portfolios in the three countries and re-allocate funds toward immediate recovery needs, which includes up to 40 percent of retroactive financing.

“This means that governments can go ahead and begin spending on well established priority needs today, and we can use 40 percent of reallocated funds to reimburse governments once the procedure issue is completed. That can be a matter of days.”

Another possibility is that the bank prepares a specific emergency recovery operation, using its IDA crisis response window, which would finance priority goods and services such as imports or repairs in key sectors.

“It will be done extremely quickly, we’ll need approval from our Board of Directors before the end of June so that money can begin to flow within a matter of weeks,” Goldstein said.

“Overall we can have very cautious optimism and if reforms are pursued and with recovery from the floods, I think we can expect to see a positive growth trajectory and job creation coming forward.”

(Editing by Matt Robinson and Susan Fenton)

PHL, World Bank ink $370-M loan deal for titling of lands to CARP beneficiaries

Robie de Guzman   •   July 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has signed a $370-million loan agreement with the World Bank for a project that aims to speed up the process of the country’s program to redistribute land to farmer-beneficiaries, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

In a statement issued on Monday, the DOF said the loan will be used to expedite the splitting of about 1.4 million hectares of land covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and provide individual titles to these parcelized lots to some 750,000 farmer-beneficiaries.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Mr. Achim Fock, who was then the World Bank’s Acting Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand, signed the loan agreement last July 14, the department said.

Dominguez said the project called Support to Parcelization of Lands for Individual Titling (SPLIT) of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) will improve the bankability of farmers and enable them to access credit and government assistance.

“It will support our economic recovery program by intensifying assistance to farmers and making agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) more resilient to the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic,” Dominguez said.

Under the project, the collective certificate of land ownership awards (CCLOAs) will be divided into individual titles for some 750,000 ARBs to help fulfill the completion of the decades-old CARP.

The government has redistributed about 4.8 million hectares of land to some 2.8 million ARBs under the agrarian reform program, but only 53 percent were in the form of individual land titles.

The remaining 47 percent or about 2.5 million hectares are CCLOA titles that were issued to groups of ARBs in the 1990s as a temporary measure to fast-track the distribution of land to farmer-beneficiaries, the DOF said.

“Through the project, ARBs will be provided security of tenure by way of issuance of individual titles. If ARBs or members of their family fall ill, clear and valid documentation of their property will allow them to mortgage their land, sell, or pass it on to their family members through inheritance,” it added.

The total cost of the SPLIT Project is US$473.56 million, of which US$370 million will be funded by the World Bank, while the government will provide the counterpart financing for the balance of US$103.56 Million.

The loan deal carries a 29-year maturity period, inclusive of a grace period of 10-and-a-half years, the DOF said.

Trump urges U.S. to halt most social activity in virus fight, warns of recession

UNTV News   •   March 17, 2020

President Donald Trump urged Americans on Monday (March 16) to halt most social activities for 15 days and not congregate in groups larger than 10 people in a newly aggressive effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

Announcing new guidelines from his coronavirus task force, the president said people should avoid discretionary travel and not go to bars, restaurants, food courts or gyms.

As stocks tumbled, Trump warned that a recession was possible, a development that could affect his chances of re-election in November. The Republican president said he was focused on addressing the health crisis and that the economy would get better once that was in line.

The task force implored young people to follow the new guidelines even though they were at lesser risk of suffering if they contract the virus. Older people, especially those with underlying health problems, are at the greatest risk if they develop the respiratory disease.

Reporters staggered their seating, sitting in every other seat in the White House briefing room, to follow social distancing measures.

Trump said the worst of the virus could be over by July, August or later. He called it an invisible enemy.

The president has taken criticism for playing down the seriousness of the virus in the early days of its U.S. spread. On Monday, when asked, he gave himself a good grade for his response.

“I’d rate it a 10. I think we’ve done a great job,” he said.

Trump said a nationwide curfew was not under consideration at this point.

Normally a cheerleader for the U.S. economy, he acknowledged the possibility of a recession while brushing off another dramatic decline on stock markets as investors worried about the virus.

“We’re not thinking in terms of recession, we’re thinking in terms of the virus. Once we stop, I think there’s a tremendous pent up demand, both in terms of the stock market and in terms of the economy,” Trump said. The president has long considered soaring stock markets to be a sign of his administration’s success.

Trump said the administration had talked regularly about domestic travel restrictions but hoped not to have to put such measures in place.

He said he thought it would still be possible for G7 leaders to meet at the Camp David retreat in Maryland in June. Trump upset European countries, which make up a large part of the G7, by instituting travel restrictions from European countries without consulting with them first. (Reuters)

(Production: Katharine Jackson)

Streets deserted in Milan during coronavirus lockdown

UNTV News   •   March 11, 2020

A handful of people were seen on the streets of Milan on Wednesday morning (March 12) following stringent measures imposed to contain the coronavirus.

Shops and restaurants closed, hundreds of flights were cancelled and streets emptied across Italy on Tuesday (March 10), the first day of an unprecedented, nationwide lockdown imposed to slow Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus.

Just hours after the dramatic new restrictions came into force, health authorities announced the death toll had jumped by 168 to 631, the largest rise in absolute numbers since the contagion came to light on Feb. 21.

The total number of confirmed cases rose at a much slower rate than recently seen, hitting 10,149 against a previous 9,172, but officials warned that the region at the epicentre, Lombardy, had provided incomplete data.

The government has told all Italians to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel until April 3, radically widening steps already taken in much of the wealthy north, which is the epicentre of the spreading contagion. (Reuters)

(Production: Marissa Davison)

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