© Reuters. Afghan women carry water containers through the debris of damaged houses after the recent earthquake in Wor Kali village in the Barmal district of Paktika province, Afghanistan, June 25, 2022. REUTERS/Ali Khara
By Charlotte Greenfield
KABUL (Reuters) -Afghanistan’s Taliban administration on Saturday called on international governments to roll back sanctions and lift a freeze on central bank assets following the earthquake that killed more than 1,000 people and left thousands homeless.
The 6.1-magnitude quake that struck the east of the country early on Wednesday destroyed or damaged 10,000 homes and injured about 2,000 people, straining the country’s fragile health system and posing a major test for the ruling Taliban. [L1N2YC094]
“The Islamic Emirate is asking the world to give the Afghans their most basic right, which is their right to life and that is through lifting the sanctions and unfreezing our assets and also giving assistance,” Abdul Qahar Balkhi, foreign affairs ministry spokesman, told Reuters in an interview.
While humanitarian aid continues to flow to Afghanistan, funds needed for longer-term development were halted when the Taliban seized control of the country in August 2021 as foreign forces withdrew.
The administration of the hard line Islamist group is not formally recognised by international governments.
Billions of U.S. dollars in Afghan central bank reserves remain frozen overseas and sanctions hamper the banking sector as the West pushes for concessions on human rights.
Western governments are particularly concerned about the rights of women and girls to work and study under Taliban rule. In March, the group stopped high schools for girls from opening.
Asked about the issue, Balkhi said Afghans’ right to life-saving funds should be the priority, adding that the international community handled concerns over human rights differently depending on the country involved.
“Is this rule universal? Because the United States just passed an anti-abortion law,” Balkhi said, referring to the Supreme Court’s overturning on Friday of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that recognised a woman’s right to an abortion.
“Sixteen countries in the world have taken away the rights of religious minorities, especially Muslims … are they also facing sanctions because they are violating rights?,” he asked.
White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Saturday the U.S. government was working on “complicated questions about the use of these (frozen central bank) funds to ensure they benefit the people of Afghanistan and not the Taliban.”
She added that the U.S. Agency for International Development was providing assistance with humanitarian organisations.
Italy says can exceed 3.1% growth target for 2022 despite energy prices
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People walk along the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall in Milan, August 25, 2015. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo
ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s Treasury said the country’s economy could grow this year by at least as much as Rome’s official target of 3.1% set in April, despite the negative impact of surging energy prices.
Italy grew 0.1% in the first quarter from the previous three months, national statistics bureau ISTAT said last month, revising up a preliminary estimate of a 0.2% contraction.
This left Italy with so-called “carryover” growth of 2.6% this year, assuming gross domestic product was flat in the remaining three quarters, ISTAT said.
Announcing on Monday the bond issuance programme for the third quarter, the Treasury said it expected growth to accelerate in the second quarter, compared with the first three months.
This still makes it plausible to reach or exceed the 2022 growth target of 3.1%, it said in its debt issuance report.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government in April revised down its 2022 economic growth forecast to 3.1% from a 4.7% projection made last September.
The government has budgeted since January more than 33 billion euros ($34.90 billion) to soften the impact of sky-high electricity, gas and petrol costs.
($1 = 0.9456 euros)
French consumer confidence falls more than expected in June
© Reuters. A woman shops at a fruit and vegetables shop in Paris, France, June 10, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
PARIS (Reuters) – French consumer confidence fell more than expected in June, hitting a near nine-year low as concerns about the economic outlook surged in the face of high inflation and political uncertainty, a survey showed on Tuesday.
The INSEE official statistics agency said its consumer confidence index fell to 82 in June from 85 in May and the lowest level since July 2013.
A Reuters poll of 14 economists had an average forecast of 84 with the lowest estimate for 83.
Although households’ concerns about future inflation remained well above the long-term average, they eased in June for the third month in a row.
However, household sentiment about the general economic outlook continued to worsen, falling to the lowest level since May 2020 when France was in the second month of its first and most strict COVID-19 lockdown.
While surging inflation has stressed households in recent months, France’s political situation has added to uncertainty about the economic outlook since President Emmanuel Macron’s party lost its ruling majority in legislative elections this month.
Peru truckers, farmers to strike over fuel and fertilizer costs
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People walk next to parked trucks during a national transportation strike against fuel prices, in Lima, Peru March 18, 2021. REUTERS/Angela Ponce/File Photo
By Marco Aquino
LIMA (Reuters) – Peru’s truckers and some farm groups will go on strike on Monday after failing to reach agreements with the government seeking measures to reduce the impact of steep global price rises of fuel and fertilizer, sector leaders said on Sunday.
Union leaders met on Friday and Saturday with government representatives, with demands including considering freight transport a “public service” that would reduce costs and curb competition from truckers from neighbor countries.
“We are firm in plans to strike with all our bases nationwide,” the leader of the heavy load haulage and drivers union Marlon Milla told radio station RPP. The union has 400,000 cargo transport units in 14 of the 25 regions of the country.
High global fuel prices linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have stoked unrest in Peru, the world’s No. 2 copper producer, while shortages of fertilizer have raised fears over food supply with the government struggling to secure shipments.
The government of leftist President Pedro Castillo, who has seen his popularity tumble since taking office last year, has taken measures to curb the rising cost of living, but the annual inflation rate remains at around 8%, its highest level in 24 years.
Some farming unions also announced strikes on Monday, in protest at the rise in fertilizer prices and shortages.
Latin American leaders are grappling to bring down spiraling prices despite major interest rate hikes. Trucking protests over fuel costs have hit Argentina while Ecuador is being roiled by protests in part linked to gas prices. [L4N2YB27W]
“The dialogue has not been exhausted, we are in a permanent session of ministers to avoid protest,” Justice Minister Félix Chero told reporters on Sunday. The government is offering subsidies for road tolls and fertilizer costs.
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