Bangladesh is going to be the first country in Asia to receive loan from International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) ‘Resilience and Sustainability Fund’ (RSF). The first country in the world to receive this IMF loan was Barbados, followed by Costa Rica and Rwanda. After that, there are five more countries on the list to receive loans from the RSF. Bangladesh is at the top of the list. Read more: IMF Board could consider approving $4.5bn loan for Bangladesh on Jan 30 The IMF board approved the fund on April 13, 2022, and it became effective on May 1, 2022. The fund was created for low and middle-income countries that are at risk due to climate change. According to the IMF, this fund is for countries with low incomes, high debt burdens, high costs to deal with climate change risks, and deficits in development spending. Read more: IMF to support Bangladesh’s aspirations of becoming a higher-income country by 2041: DMD The global lender says borrowing has increased in many low- and middle-income countries in the post Covid-19 period.
Reformist opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim edged closer to become Malaysia's new prime minister after a political party agreed Thursday to support a unity government following inconclusive general elections. Any agreement must still be approved by Malaysia's king. Last Saturday's divisive election led to a hung parliament that renewed a leadership crisis in Malaysia, which had three prime ministers since 2018. Police have tightened security nationwide as social media warned of racial troubles if Anwar’s multiethnic bloc wins. Anwar's Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope, topped the race with 82 parliamentary seats, short of the 112 needed for a majority. Former Prime Minister Muhyiddin’s Malay-centric Perikatan Nasional, or National Alliance, won 73 seats. The alliance led by the United Malays National Organization, which has 30 seats, hold the key that will tilt the balance. UMNO reversed its decision to remain in the opposition, saying it will heed the king's proposal for a unity government. UMNO's secretary-general Ahmad Maslan said Thursday the party's highest-decision making body has decided to now support a unity government that is not led by Muhyiddin's camp. He said the party will accept any unity government or any other form of government decided by the king. UMNO holds 26 seats and four others are held by component parties in its National Front alliance. It is unclear if the other party members have agreed to go along with UMNO's decision. If all 30 National Front lawmakers support Anwar, he will secure a majority. Anwar already has the support of a small party in Borneo island with three seats. In all, that will give him 115 parliamentary seats. Read more: Former Malaysia PM Mahathir loses ground to poll rivals If Anwar clinches the top job, it will ease fears over the rise of right-wing politics in the country. Muhyiddin's bloc includes the hard-line Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, which has 49 seats — more than double what it won in 2018. Known as PAS, it backs Islamic Shariah law, rules three states and is now the single largest party. Malay Muslims are two-thirds of Malaysia’s 33 million people, who include large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities. King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah is to meet Thursday with royal families from nine states to consult them on the deadlock. Malaysia’s hereditary state rulers, who take turns as the country’s king every five years under a unique rotation system, are highly regarded by the country’s Malay majority as the guardians of Islam and Malay tradition. Anwar’s reformist alliance won 2018 elections that led to the first regime change since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957. But the government collapsed after Muhyiddin defected and joined hands with UMNO to form a new government. Muhyiddin’s government was beset by internal rivalries and he resigned after 17 months. UMNO leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob was then picked by the king as the prime minister. Read more: Malaysian foreign minister, int’l lawmakers demand decisive action on Myanmar Many rural Malays fear they may lose their privileges with greater pluralism under Anwar. Fed up with corruption and infighting in UMNO, many opted for Muhyiddin’s bloc in Saturday’s vote.
Global average temperatures have risen and weather extremes have already seen an uptick, so the short answer to whether it’s too late to stop climate change is: yes. But there’s still time to prevent cascading effects, as every degree of additional warming has exponentially disastrous impacts, experts say. A 2021 report by the top body of climate scientists provided new analysis of the chance the world has to cap warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) or 2 Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times in the coming decades, in line with global climate goals. Although scientists estimated it’s still possible to stay within these limits, they said it would require immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It’s more likely that global temperature will reach or exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, the report said. Without major action to reduce emissions, the global average temperature is on track to rise by 2.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 to 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, scientists say. And researchers warn that the situation will get very serious before then: Once the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold is reached, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons. When the 2 degrees Celsius mark is crossed, critical tolerance levels for agriculture and health will be reached. Read more: UN, ADB to support Bangladesh's fight against climate change But all hope is not lost, they urge. At the time of the report’s release, Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College of London, said achieving the 1.5-degree goal “is still possible from a physical science point of view.” “If we reduce emissions globally to net zero by 2040 there is still a two thirds chance to reach 1.5 degrees and if we globally achieve net zero emissions by the middle of the century, there is still a one third chance to achieve that,” she said. If all human emissions of heat-trapping gases were to stop today, Earth’s temperature would continue to rise for a few decades but would eventually stabilize, climate scientists say. If humans don’t emit any additional planet-warming gasses, then natural processes would begin to slowly remove the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and global temperatures would gradually begin to decline. Read more: Bangladesh a key player in fight against climate change, says British envoy “There is a direct relation between delay and warming, and between warming and risk of what we would call extreme impacts,” said Ajay Gambhir, a senior research fellow at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, based at Imperial College London. “ Unfortunately, we’re already seeing all these extreme impacts — whether it’s extreme heat waves, increased risk of crop failures, forest fires or bleaching coral reefs— already happening.”
Thailand sealed a stunning one-wicket win against Pakistan in the ongoing Women’s Asia Cup on Thursday in Sylhet. It was Thailand’s first-ever win against Pakistan in T20Is. Pakistan won the toss and opted to bat first. They posted a moderate total of 116 runs for five wickets with opener Sidra Ameen hitting 56 runs off 64 balls with six fours. Thailand bowlers were disciplined enough to restrict Pakistan to a moderate total. For Thailand, Sornnarin Tippoch scalped two wickets while Thipatcha Putthawong took one wicket. In reply, Natthakan Chantham guided Thailand to a historic victory. She scored 61 off 51 balls with five fours and two sixes. Read: Women’s Asia Cup: Jemimah, Deepti guide India to stunning win Pakistan pushed the match to the last over. But with only one wicket in hand, Thailand sealed the match with one ball to play. Nida Dar and Tuba Hassan scalped two wickets each, but their efforts were not enough to avoid a loss. It was Pakistan’s third match in the event. They have won the first two matches. The Indian women’s team is on top of the table, with three wins in three matches. Sri Lanka have also played three matches and won two of them while Bangladesh played two matches and won one. Bangladesh is set to take on Malaysia on October 6.
Jemimah Rodrigues and Deepti Sharma smashed a fifty each to guide India to a stunning win against the UAE in the ongoing Women’s Asia Cup in Sylhet. It was India’s third match in the event and they now have three wins in three matches. India batted first on Tuesday and posted a challenging total of 178 for five. Jemimah scored 75 off 45 balls with 11 fours while Deepti scored 64 off 49 balls. India lost wicketkeeper-batter Richa Ghosh in the first over of the match for a duck, but the fifties from two batters helped them post a big total on the board. In reply, the UAE managed to score only 74 runs for four wickets in 20 overs. They failed to offer any resistance to the Indian side. The only positive that the UAE earned in this match was their batting the whole innings against the quality bowling attack of India. Read: Bangladesh suffers big defeat to Pakistan in Women’s Asia Cup In the other match of the day, Sri Lanka beat Thailand by 49 runs. Opener Harshitha Samarawickrama posted 81 to help Sri Lanka to score 156 for five while batting first. In reply, Thailand tumbled for 107 for five in 20 overs. With three wins in three matches, India are now at the top of the table with six points while Pakistan are right behind them with two wins in two matches so far. All other teams in the event have endured at least a defeat.
The queues outside petrol pumps in Sri Lanka have lessened, but not the anxiety. Asanka Sampath, a 43-year-old factory clerk, is forever vigilant. He checks his phone for messages, walks past the pump, and browses social media to see if fuel has arrived. Delays could mean being left stranded for days. “I am really fed up with this,” he said. His frustrations echo that of the 22-million inhabitants of the island nation, facing its worst ever economic crisis because of heavy debts, lost tourism revenue during the pandemic, and surging costs. The consequent political turmoil culminated with the formation of a new government, but recovery has been complicated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the consequent upending of global energy markets. Europe’s need for gas means that they’re competing with Asian countries, driving up prices of fossil fuels and resulting in what Tim Buckley, the director of the thinktank Climate Energy Finance, refers to as “hyper-inflation ... and I use that word as an understatement.” Most Asian countries are prioritizing energy security, sometimes over their climate goals. For rich countries like South Korea or Japan, this means forays into nuclear energy. For the enormous energy needs of China and India it implies relying on dirty coal power in the short term. But for developing countries with already-strained finances, the war is having a disproportionate impact, said Kanika Chawla, of the United Nations’ sustainable energy unit. How Asian countries choose to go ahead would have cascading consequences: They could either double down on clean energy or decide to not phase out fossil fuels immediately. “We are at a really important crossroads,” said Chawla. SRI LANKA: “SLOW GRIND” Sri Lanka is an extreme example of the predicament facing poor nations. Enormous debts prevent it from buying energy on credit, forcing it to ration fuel for key sectors with shortages anticipated for the next year. Sri Lanka set itself a target of getting 70% of all its energy from renewable energy by 2030 and aims to reach net zero — balancing the amount of greenhouse gas they emit with how much they take out of the atmosphere — by 2050. Its twin needs of securing energy while reducing costs means it has “no other option” than to wean itself off fossil fuels, said Aruna Kulatunga, who authored a government report for Sri Lanka’s clean energy goals. But others, like Murtaza Jafferjee, director of the think tank Advocata Institute say these targets are more “aspirational than realistic” because the current electrical grid can’t handle renewable energy. “It will be a slow grind,” said Jafferjee. Grids that run on renewable energy need to be nimbler because, unlike fossil fuels, energy from wind or the sun fluctuates, potentially stressing transmission grids. The economic crisis has decreased demand for energy in Sri Lanka. So while there are still power cuts, the country’s existing sources — coal and oil-fired plants, hydropower, and some solar — are coping. Read: Russia uses suicide drones; Ukraine presses on with counteroffensive CHINA, INDIA: HOME-GROWN ENERGY How these two nations meet this demand will have global ramifications. And the answer, at least in the short-term, appears to be a reliance on dirty-coal power — a key source of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions. China, currently the top emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, aims to reach net zero by 2060, requiring significant slashing of emissions. But since the war, China has not only imported more fossil fuels from Russia but also boosted its own coal output. The war, combined with a severe drought and a domestic energy crisis, means the country is prioritizing keeping the lights on over cutting dirty fuel sources. India aims to reach net zero a decade later than China and is third on the list of current global emitters, although their historical emissions are very low. No other country will see a bigger increase in energy demand than India in the coming years, and it is estimated that the nation will need $223 billion to meet its 2030 clean energy targets. Like China, India’s looking to ramp up coal production to reduce dependence on expensive imports and is still in the market for Russian oil despite calls for sanctions. But the size of future demand also means that neither country has a choice but to also boost their clean energy. China is leading the way on renewable energy and moving away from fossil fuel dependence, said Buckley, who tracks the country’s energy policy. “It might be because they are paranoid about climate change or because they want to absolutely dominate industries of the future,” said Buckley. “At the end of the day, the reason doesn’t really matter.” India is also investing heavily in renewable energy and has committed to producing 50% of its power from clean energy sources by 2030. “The invasion has made India rethink its energy security concerns,” said Swati D’Souza, of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. More domestic production doesn’t mean that the two countries are burning more coal, but instead substituting expensive imported coal with cheap homegrown energy, said Christoph Bertram at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. What was “crucial” for global climate goals was where future investments were directed. “The flipside of investing into coal means you invest less into renewables,” he said. JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA: THE NUCLEAR OPTION Both Japan and South Korea, two of Asia’s most developed countries, are pushing for nuclear energy after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Sanctions against Russian coal and gas imports resulted in Japan looking for alternative energy sources despite anti-nuclear sentiments dating back to the 2011 Fukushima disaster. An earlier-than-expected summer resulted in power shortages, and the government announced plans to speed up regulatory safety checks to get more reactors running. Japan aims to limit nuclear energy to less than a quarter of its energy mix, a goal seen as overly optimistic, but the recent push indicates that nuclear may play a larger role in the country. Neighboring South Korea hasn’t seen short-term impacts on energy supplies since it gets gas from countries like Qatar and Australia and its oil from the Middle East. But there may be an indirect hit from European efforts to secure energy from those same sources, driving up prices. Like Japan, South Korea’s new government has promoted nuclear-generated electricity and has indicated reluctance to sharply reduce the country’s coal and gas dependence since it wants to boost the economy. “If this war continues ... we will obviously face a question on what should be done about the rising costs,” said Ahn Jaehun, from the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement. Read: Russian troops withdrawn after Ukraine encircles key city INDONESIA: DAMAGE CONTROL The war, and consequent rising gas prices, forced Indonesia to reduce ballooning subsidies aimed at keeping fuel prices and some power tariffs in check. But this was a very “hurried reform” and doesn’t address the challenge of weaning the world’s largest coal exporter off fossil fuels and reaching its 2060 net zero goal, said Anissa. R. Suharsono, of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. “We’re sliding back, into just firefighting,” she said. Coal exports have increased nearly 1.5 times between April and June, compared to 2021, in response to European demand and Indonesia has already produced over 80% of the total coal it produced last year, according to government data. The country needs to nearly triple its clean energy investment by 2030 to achieve net zero by 2060, according to the International Energy Agency, but Suharsono said it wasn’t clear how it was going to meet those targets. “There are currently no overarching regulations or a clear roadmap,” she said.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Tuesday announced plans to provide at least $14 billion over 2022–2025 to ease a worsening food crisis in Asia and the Pacific, and improve long-term food security. The assistance expands ADB’s already significant support for food security in the region, where nearly 1.1 billion people lack healthy diets due to poverty and food prices which have soared to record highs this year. Read:Bangladesh’s GDP likely to grow by 6.6% in FY 2023: ADB The funding will be channeled through existing and new projects in sectors including farm inputs, food production and distribution, social protection, irrigation, and water resources management, as well as projects leveraging nature-based solutions. ADB said it will continue to invest in other activities which contribute to food security such as energy transition, transport, access to rural finance, environmental management, health, and education. “This is a timely and urgently needed response to a crisis that is leaving too many poor families in Asia hungry and in deeper poverty,” said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa, in remarks at ADB’s 55th Annual Meeting. “We need to act now, before the impacts of climate change worsen and further erode the region’s hard-won development gains. Our support will be targeted, integrated, and impactful to help vulnerable people, particularly vulnerable women, in the near-term, while bolstering food systems to reduce the impact of emerging and future food security risks.” The situation in Ukraine has disrupted supplies of food staples and fertilizer, straining a global food system already weakened by climate change impacts, pandemic-related supply shocks, and unsustainable farming practices. Asia and the Pacific is vulnerable to food shocks, as some of its countries depend on imported staples and fertilizer. Read:ADB provides assurances of $2 billion in budget support Even before the invasion of Ukraine, nutritious food was unaffordable for significant portions of the population in many ADB low-income member countries. As well as supporting vulnerable people, ADB’s food security assistance will promote open trade, improve smallholder farm production and livelihoods, ease shortages of fertilizer and promote its efficient use or organic alternatives, support investments in food production and distribution, enhance nutrition, and boost climate resilience through integrated and nature-based solutions. A key focus will be to protect the region’s natural environment from climate change impacts and biodiversity loss, which have degraded soils, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. “An important part of our long-term approach is to safeguard natural resources and support farmers and agribusinesses which produce and distribute much of the region’s food, and to promote open trade to ensure it reaches consumers efficiently,” said Mr. Asakawa. Assistance under the program will start this year and continue through 2025. It will be drawn from across ADB’s sovereign and private sector operations, and seek to leverage an additional $5 billion in private sector cofinancing for food security. ADB will apply lessons learned from supporting its members during the global food crisis in 2007–2008 and through the implementation of its food security operational plan the following year. Since then, ADB has provided $2 billion in annual investments in food security. In 2018, ADB identified food security as a key operational priority.
New coronavirus cases reported globally dropped nearly a quarter in the last week while deaths fell 6% but were still higher in parts of Asia, according to a report Thursday on the pandemic by the World Health Organization. The U.N. health agency said there were 5.4 million new COVID-19 cases reported last week, a decline of 24% from the previous week. Infections fell everywhere in the world, including by nearly 40% in Africa and Europe and by a third in the Middle East. COVID deaths rose in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia by 31% and 12% respectively, but fell or remained stable everywhere else. At a press briefing Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said reported coronavirus deaths over the past month have surged 35%, and noted there had been 15,000 deaths in the past week. “15,000 deaths a week is completely unacceptable, when we have all the tools to prevent infections and save lives,” Tedros said. He said the number of virus sequences shared every week has plummeted 90%, making it extremely difficult for scientists to monitor how COVID-19 might be mutating. Read: Covid-19 vaccine consignment for kids arrive in Dhaka “But none of us is helpless,” Tedros said. “Please get vaccinated if you are not, and if you need a booster, get one.” On Thursday, WHO’s vaccine advisory group recommended for the first time that people most vulnerable to COVID-19, including older people, those with underlying health conditions and health workers, get a second booster shot. Numerous other health agencies and countries made the same recommendation months ago. The expert group also said it had evaluated data from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for younger people and said children and teenagers were in the lowest priority group for vaccination, since they are far less likely to get severe disease. Joachim Hombach, who sits on WHO’s vaccine expert group, said it was also uncertain whether the experts would endorse widespread boosters for the general population or new combination vaccines that target the omicron variant. “We need to see what the data will tell us and we need to see actually (what) will be the advantage of these vaccines that comprise an (omicron) strain,” he said. Dr. Alejandro Cravioto, the expert group’s chair, said that unless vaccines were proven to stop transmission, their widespread use would be “a waste of the vaccine and a waste of time.” Earlier this week, British authorities authorized an updated version of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine that targets omicron and the U.K. government announced it would be offered to people over 50 beginning next month.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen had talks with Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in Guwahati on Friday. They discussed issues of mutual interest. Earlier, Industries and Commerce Minister of Assam Chandra Mohan Patowary received him at the airport. Foreign Minister Momen reached Guwahati via Kolkata today to attend the third edition of the Asian Confluence flagship dialogue NADI (Natural Allies in Development and Interdependence) Conclave – "Asian Confluence River Conclave" to be held on May 28-29. The conclave will be inaugurated by Momen, his Indian counterpart Dr S Jaishankar, Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, and Himanta in the presence of high commissioners and ambassadors of several countries, top experts, scientists, and other dignitaries. Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will deliver the valedictory address of the conclave on May 29. Shillong-based think tank Asian Confluence will host the event in collaboration with India's Ministry of External Affairs, the Act East Department of Assam, the North Eastern Council, and other partners. Also read: Momen, Jaishankar to inaugurate River Conclave in Guwahati Saturday
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday said the Asian countries must combine their forces to help address their common challenges for betterment of future generations. “The Asian countries have common development challenges and should face them collectively,” the premier said in a video statement at the 27th International Nikkei Conference on Future of Asia in Tokyo. She said Bangladesh will always work with friends and partners to ensure a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Asia for the future generations. She placed five proposals where the Asian countries can best cooperate for the benefit of the future generations. These include cooperation on best use of ICT, safeguard fairness and justice, sustainable and balanced development and establishing win-win international relations. Also read: PM seeks international support for Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 Hasina once again requested all to contribute and help in finding an amicable settlement of Rohingya crisis. “We are hosting 1.1 million forcibly displaced Rohingyas from Myanmar. They must be sent back to their homeland in the Rakhine State of Myanmar in safety, security, and dignity,” she said. Stressing the role of Asia in the world the PM said “It is imperative to ensure peace among conflicting countries by resolving differences through discussion. Referring to climate change issues she mentioned that Bangladesh has been active and vocal on climate change action in all discourses, including at the recent COP26. Highlighting Bangladesh’s development in the past 13 years and its UN-recognised graduation to a developing nation the prime minister said her government is taking various steps for smooth transition after 2026. In this connection, she requested all, especially Japan and other OECD countries to extend the preferential facilities to Bangladesh at least until 2029 to help it attain the overarching goals of sustainable development by 2030. Also read: PM: Let’s not forget climate crisis amid geo-political tension “Bangladesh is at different stages of negotiations on FTA with several countries, and open to negotiating FTA and CEPA with other countries, including Japan,” she informed. The PM said that Bangladesh, as rest of the world, was heavily affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. She said that before the pandemic in 2019, Bangladesh’s GDP growth rate was 8.15 per cent. “In 2020, we could maintain a positive growth rate of 3.51 per cent followed by 6.94 per cent in 2021. We expect to attain over 7 per cent growth rate in the current fiscal year,” she hoped. While tackling the impacts of the pandemic, she said her government could successfully manage the challenges of the pandemic relatively well. She said Bangladesh’s efforts have been recognized in the Nikkei's COVID-19 Recovery Index for April 2022, where Bangladesh is ranked 5th out of 121 countries, and the best-performing country in South Asia in COVID management and recovery. She told the conference that Bangladesh’s GDP is projected to grow to USD 465 billion, merchandise export income over USD 52 billion, remittance over USD 21 billion and per capita income at USD 2,824 in the Fiscal Year ending in June. She said her government has made development pro-people and inclusive over the last 13 years. Nikkei Inc., Japan’s largest business media group and the publisher of The Nikkei and Nikkei Asia, organised May 26-27 conference. The Future of Asia is an international gathering where political, economic and academic leaders from the Asia-Pacific region offer their opinions frankly and freely on regional issues and the role of Asia in the world.