Global Review – 26th January

IMF cuts 2022 economic growth outlook

The International Monetary Fund has revised downwards the 2022 global economic outlook, amid galloping inflation. The fund expects global growth to slow down to 4.4% this year from nearly 6% in 2021. In October the IMF had forecasted that the global output would expand by 4.9% this year. This half a percentage point cut in the 2022 growth outlook is a result of dimmer economic prospects in the United States and China, the world’s largest economies. Signaling tough times ahead for households and policymakers, the IMF expects elevated price levels to persist. The global economy has stepped into 2022 in a weaker position than previously expected, held back by the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, rising energy prices and persistent supply disruptions, IMF said in its latest edition of the World Economic Outlook. The IMF said the global output in 2023 would grow 3.8%, a little faster than previously forecast as “the shocks dragging 2022 growth will dissipate”.

US looks to protect Europe energy supplies

The Biden administration has said it was looking at ways of shoring up energy supplies to Europe if Russia were to invade Ukraine. EU countries depend on Russia for about a third of its gas supplies. Any interruption of Russian supplies to Europe would exacerbate an energy crisis caused by shortages. Senior Biden administration officials said the US was in talks with major energy-producing countries and companies around the world over a possible diversion of supplies to Europe if Russia invaded. The officials did not name the countries or companies involved in discussions but said they included a broad range of suppliers, including sellers of liquified natural gas.

Biden considering personal sanctions on Putin

US President Joe Biden has said he is prepared to impose personal sanctions against his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin if he decides to invade Ukraine. Observers point out this is the first time Western powers have sugguested that measures threatened against Moscow, would go right up to the top of the Kremlin.

‘US cultivating anti-Russia feelings’

Meanwhile, Russia has reacted to warnings of sanctions to be made because of Ukraine, saying that it was the US and NATO that had flooded Ukraine with weapons and Western military advisers. Moscow said the US was cultivating anti-Russia feelings with talk of build-up of Russian troops, not clarifying that those troops were on Russian territory.

Europe preparing ‘common response’

France and Germany are ready to pursue dialogue with Russia but if Moscow attacks Ukraine the price to pay will be high, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday. Speaking at a media conference following talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, Macron said Europe and its allies were united on the Ukraine issue, including the need for de-escalation. Macron also said he would speak with Putin on Friday.

Poland starts building wall on Belarus border

Poland has started the construction of a new fence on the border with Belarus. Captain Krystyna Jakimik-Jarosz, a spokeswoman for the Polish border guards, said this was intended to stop the entry of irregular migrants, after last year’s crisis with Minsk. 

EU: Unrestricted travel for green pass holders

The EU Council has decided that green pass holders can travel freely throughout the European Union, without further restrictions such as quarantine, regardless of the area of ​​origin. And the Commission has called for “the agreed rules to be applied without delay”, although these are non-binding recommendations. European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said Omicron had now spread across Europe and it was time to consider abandoning the additional measures that some member states have introduced for travel in recent weeks, making travel more difficult and less predictable across the EU.

Blank votes again in second Italian presidential ballot

Of the 976 parliamentarians and regional representatives entitled to vote to elect the thirteenth Italian president, once again, 527 deposited a blank vote while 38 annulled it. President Sergio Mattarella and the former judge Paolo Maddalena were the most voted (39 for both). The votes also increased for Draghi, Casini, Berlusconi, Bossi and Bersani. Claudio Baglioni, Al Bano and Roberto Mancini were among the unusual names that appeared on the second ballot. There was also a vote for the late Aldo Moro, assisinated in 1978 following his kindnapping by the Brigate Rosse. A third vote will be held this morning as parties continue negotations to find a common contender.

El Chapo’s life imprisonment to stand

A US appeals court has upheld the conviction of former Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, rejecting his request for a retrial. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2019 for trafficking hundreds of tons of cocaine and other drugs into the United States over a 25-year period, as well as for money laundering and other criminal activities. His lawyers had asked for a new trial, evoking among other things an irregular conduct on the part of a juror.

Indian actress exonerated after 15 years

The nightmare for Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty has ended after 15 years as she was cleared of the accusation of “obscenity and indecency” for being kissed by Richard Gere during a fundraiser for Aids victims. The gesture had unleashed the fury of radical Hindu groups who had set fire to the images of the two actors and had led a magistrate to indict both of them. The accusation against Gere was dismissed and a Mumbai judge has now called the charges against Shetty “baseless”. The actress, now 47, was also a victim of racist mobbing while working on British reality show ‘Celebrity Big Brother’.

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