IMF cuts global and eurozone growth outlook
The euro area’s economy is now expected to grow by just 0.5% in 2023 as factors including the war in Ukraine, record inflation and the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic weigh on the outlook, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday. The 19-country eurozone – which will grow to 20 members from January 1, 2023, with the adoption of the single currency by Croatia – is now projected to post the slowest growth of any region worldwide next year after the IMF cut its forecast by 0.7 percentage points from its previous outlook delivered just three months ago.
Germany, Italy slated for inflation
Germany, the European Union’s economic powerhouse, is now expected to post negative annual growth (-0.3%) as is Italy (-0.2%). The outlook for France and Spain remains positive although lower than the July forecast with annual GDP now seen at 0.7% and 1.2% respectively. The Washington-based financial institution kept its projection unchanged for the US which is seen growing by one per cent while Asia is expected to post the highest growth of 4.9%. The Fund said Russian GDP fell but Moscow’s economy did not collapse with sanctions and the weight of the war in Ukraine, contrary to what many had assumed. The Russian gross domestic product is in fact expected to decline by 3.4% this year and by 2.3% next year.
Putin ‘miscalculated’ Russia’s ability to occupy Ukraine – Biden
US President Joe Biden said Tuesday he believes his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is a normally rational actor who badly misjudged his prospects of occupying Ukraine. The president spoke out in a rare televised interview as his administration looks for what he has described as an “off-ramp” for Putin to de-escalate his invasion of Ukraine before he resorts to weapons of mass destruction. “I think he is a rational actor who has miscalculated significantly,” Biden told CNN after Moscow’s shelling of civilian targets across its neighbour marked an escalation in the seven-month conflict. “I think he thought he was going to be welcomed with open arms, that this was the home of Mother Russia in Kiev, and that where he was going to be welcomed, and I think he just totally miscalculated,” Biden said.
Biden doesn’t rule out meeting with Putin at G20 summit
President Biden left the door open Tuesday to diplomacy with Moscow to end the invasion of Ukraine, refusing to rule out talks with President Putin at the meeting of G20 nations in Bali in November. “If he came to me at the G20 and told me he wanted to talk about the release of Brittney Griner, the American in prison in Russia, I would meet him. It depends. I have no intention of negotiating, and no one is ready to negotiate with Russia over Ukraine, about keeping part of Ukraine. So it would depend. specifically what he wants to discuss.” Biden explained the negotiations for a solution to the war must involve Kiev. “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine,” he said.
Zelensky requests ‘air shield for Ukraine’
Biden spoke to CNN hours after meeting virtually with members of the Group of 7 industrialised nations, who heard from Zelensky on the need for intensified efforts to “create an air shield for Ukraine” amid the barrage of Russian cruise missile and drone attacks. Zelensky told the G7 “millions of people would be grateful” for help fending off attacks from the sky, and he warned Russia “still has room for further escalation”. The US and Germany have vowed to urgently deliver advanced missile defence systems to Ukraine: while the US didn’t publicly specify which systems would be sent, Germany announced it would deliver four MLRS systems – reportedly capable of defending against missiles at a range of up to 40 km.
“With long-range missiles in Kiev, it would be world war’ – Medvedev
Meanwhile, Russian Security Council vice president Dmitry Medvedev has described the possibility of supplying long-range multiple launch missile systems (MLRS) to Kiev as the fastest way to escalate the conflict to the level of a world war. “The fastest way to escalate the conflict in Ukraine to the irreversible consequences of a world war is to provide Kiev psychopaths with a long-range MLRS,” Medvedev wrote on his Telegram channel on Tuesday.
NATO to go ahead with nuclear exercise
NATO will push ahead with long-planned nuclear exercises next week despite rising tensions over the war in Ukraine and President Putin’s insistence that he is not bluffing about using all available means to defend Russian territory, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday. The exercise, dubbed “Steadfast Noon”, is held annually and usually runs for about a week. It involves fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear warheads but does not involve any live bombs. Conventional jets, and surveillance and refueling aircraft also routinely take part. Fourteen of the 30 NATO member countries will be involved in the exercise, which would be held more than 1,000 kilometers from Russia.
EU unity at risk with Hungary referendum – Borrell
EU High Representative Josep Borrell has warned that EU unity was at risk following plans by Hungary to hold a referendum to propose to citizens that sanctions against Russia are not renewed in December. Last month, Hungarian prime minister Victor Orban called for lifting EU sanctions on Russia by the end of this year, saying restrictive measures caused inflation and economic crisis. According to the ‘Magyar Nemzet’ daily, Orban accused Brussels-based EU officials of having “forced” the sanctions on Europe and turning a “local conflict” into a “global economic war”.
French government may order fuel workers back to work
France will order striking workers at Esso-ExxonMobil refineries and fuel depots back to their posts in order to end shortages causing headaches for millions of motorists, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Tuesday. Labour unions representing a majority of Esso’s overall staff agreed to a salary deal with management on Monday, but the CGT and FO unions, the largest at most refineries, voted to pursue the blockage. Around a third of France’s service stations were still low on, or out of, petrol as strike action at energy giant TotalEnergies and other oil majors entered its third week and wage talks stalled. Government ministers and President Macron have urged a negotiated resolution to the crisis, but on Tuesday government spokesman Olivier Veran threatened force to end the blockades which have paralysed several of France’s refineries and oil depots. If blockades were not ended “immediately”, Veran told the RTL broadcaster, “we will step in, which means we could intervene to lift them”.
King Charles III’s Coronation on May 6
King Charles III will be crowned on Saturday, May 6 2023, alongside Queen Consort Camilla at Westminster Abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It will be a solemn, religious service as well as a moment of tradition and celebration. No further details have yet been released. In recent days, it’s been reported that a smaller scale coronation was planned with around 2,000 guests rather than the 6,000 who watched Queen Elizabeth II crowned in 1953.
Tributes for Hollywood legend Angela Lansbury
Angela Lansbury, the big-eyed, scene-stealing British actress who kicked up her heels in the Broadway musicals Mame and Gypsy and solved endless murders as crime novelist Jessica Fletcher in the long-running TV series Murder, She Wrote, has died aged 96 – five days shy of her 97th birthday. Lansbury died on Tuesday at her home in Los Angeles, according to a statement from her three children.Tributes were coming from far and wide for the actress on Wednesday. Lansbury won five Tony Awards for her Broadway performances and a lifetime achievement award. She earned Academy Award nominations as supporting actress for two of her first three films, Gaslight (1945) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1946), and was nominated again in 1962 for The Manchurian Candidate and her deadly portrayal of a Communist agent and the title character’s mother. She was given an honourary Oscar by the Academy in 2013 for her career as “an entertainment icon who has created some of cinema’s most memorable characters, inspiring generations of actors”.