Global Review – 24th September

UK Chancellor accused of reckless mini-budget for the rich

UK Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s massive wave of tax cuts – the biggest package in 50 years – dominates Saturday’s national London papers. Sterling fell below $1.09 for the first time since 1985 “as markets take fright at huge surge in borrowing” to pay for the cuts, ‘i weekend’ reports. The paper describes markets’ reactions as a “punishing early verdict” on the chancellor’s plans. The 45p top rate of income tax has been scrapped and the basic rate will fall to 19p in April.

“A budget for the rich” is the Guardian’s damning headline. Kwarteng announced more than $400bn of extra borrowing over the coming years, the paper adds. Some Labour MPs have described the plans as a “class war”.

Not all papers are critical: ‘The Daily Mail ‘celebrates what its headline calls “a true Tory budget”. According to the paper, business chiefs have welcomed the measures, with the Confederation of British Industry saying there was “no choice but to go for growth”. Kwarteng slashed income tax and stamp duty and scrapped a planned rise in National Insurance. ‘The Daily Express’ carries comments from the chancellor, whom the paper describes as “coming out fighting”. He has said he would never apologise for “having the courage to bet big on our incredible country”, the paper reports.

The ‘Daily Telegraph’ describes it as “a gamble on economic growth”, which caused “turmoil in the financial markets”. The paper notes that Kwarteng made the announcement on just his 18th day in the job. Markets now expect the Bank of England to raise interest rates by at least one percentage point at its meeting in November to 3.25%, the paper adds, with rates expected to peak at more than 5% next year. ‘The Times’ goes one step further and says it’s a “gamble” not just for Kwarteng but also Prime Minister Liz Truss. The paper says the PM is gambling “her premiership on boosting growth at all costs”.

Labour describes budget as ‘casino economics”

Replying to Kwarteng in the House of Commons, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, described it as “casino economics”. She said the government was “gambling the mortgages and finances of every family in the country to keep the Tory party happy”. She added: “Twelve years of Tory government have left us with lower growth, lower investment, lower productivity, and today the lowest consumer confidence since records began. The only things that are going up are inflation, interest rates and bankers’ bonuses.” In the House, only a few Conservative MPs gave the chancellor wholehearted support, while a number raised worries about aspects of the plans.

von der Leyen ruffles Italian feathers

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is in the eye of a storm for having pronounced herself on the result of tomorrow’s Italian general election. Answering a question to an American audience in Princeton, she said, “We will see the result of the vote in Italy, there were also elections in Sweden. If things go in a difficult direction, we have tools, as in the case of Poland and Hungary”. Immediate was the reaction of the centre-right with the Lega’s Matteo Salvini describing the statement as “disgusting” and saying von der Leyen should either “apologise or resign”. In a later clarification from Brussels, EU Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said: “I think it is absolutely clear that President von der Leyen did not intervene in the Italian elections when she referred to procedures underway in other countries. In her response, President Ursula von der Leyen explicitly said that the Commission would work with all the governments that come out of the elections and which want to work with the European Commission.”

Palestinian anger at possible UK Jerusalem embassy move

The Palestinians have called a proposal by the UK to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem a “blatant violation of international law”. On Twitter, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, Husam Zomlot, wrote that it was “extremely unfortunate” that Ms Truss had used her first appearance at the UN as prime minister to “commit to potentially breaking international law”. He said any embassy move would be “a blatant violation” of “the UK’s historic responsibilities”, undermining the two-state solution of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. “Such promise is immoral, illegal and irresponsible!” he said. The opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem in 2018 was met with outrage across the Arab world. Only the US, Kosovo, Honduras and Guatemala have done so. As both Israel and the Palestinians claim the city as their capital, it is one of the most sensitive issues in the world’s longest conflict.

Russia to increase military spending by 43% – Bloomberg

Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to increase funding for military spending. According to ‘Bloomberg’, Moscow will invest much more than expected in defence, in the light of the course of the war in Ukraine. Military spending will exceed the initial budget planning for 2023 by more than 43%, while that for national security and law enforcement will increase by more than 40%, according to the three-year financial plan. At the moment, Moscow invests almost 5 trillion rubles (€88 billion) in the defence sector, equal to 3.3% of its GDP.

‘Armed groups force people to vote in referendum’ – Kiev

“The Russian occupiers have organised armed groups to surround homes and force people to participate in the so-called referendum”, Ukrainian governor in exile of Lugansk, Sergey Gaidai, has told the ‘Guardian’. Citizens have been threatened: “Those who do not take part in the vote would be automatically fired from work. The authorities have banned the local population from leaving the city between September 23 and 27 (dates on which the referendum for annexation to Russia is held).”Meanwhile, the President of the Council of the Russian Federation, Valentina Matviyenko, told reporters the referenda “comply with international standards and the UN Charter”.

‘Rapid and severe sanctions if annexed to Russia’ – Biden,

US President Joe Biden has assured that the United States and its allies would impose new ‘rapid and severe’ economic sanctions on Russia if it annexes territories in Ukraine, as part of the referendumafor which voting continues in areas occupied until September 27. “The Russian referenda are a farce, a false pretext to try to annex parts of Ukraine by force,” reiterated Biden. Earlier, in a joint declaration, the G7 countries had called on “all countries to unequivocally reject these fictitious referenda”, that “have neither effect nor legitimacy”.

Children raped and tortured in Ukraine’UN investigation

UN investigators in Ukraine have documented a wide range of crimes against minors, including cases of children “raped, tortured and illegally confined”, said the head of the Commission of Inquiry Erik Mose at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “In the cases we investigated, the age of victims of sexual and gender-based violence ranges from four to 82.” There have been incidents in which relatives have been forced to witness crimes committed on their loved ones, he added, pointing out that in several cases it was established that the perpetrators were Russian soldiers.

Federer bids farewell to tennis between ovation and tears

Tennis legend Roger Federer lost the final game of his career at the Laver Cup. For his “goodbye game”, the Swiss great partnered with his longtime Spanish rival Rafael Nadal in a doubles game against Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock and lost 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 11-9 at the O2 arena in London. The 41-year-old received a long ovation after walking off court for the final time as he retired as a professional. Federer cried as he hugged Nadal and other players, then took acclaim from the 17,500 fans who chanted his name. Nadal also could not hold back the tears: the 36-year-old Spaniard cried as he sat alongside Federer. The Swiss, who won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, is considered one of the best players in tennis history.

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