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Three cheers for civilization: China conference brings Asia together : The Standard

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In the classroom, Yatendra Dutt Amoli, from India, gives instructions to his Chinese students on practicing yoga, but after class, the teacher becomes a student.

A yoga teacher in a cultural exchange program between China and India, Amoli is interested in Taiji, an ancient Chinese martial art, and often seeks knowledge from his Chinese students and friends.

Such mutual learning between cultures may be increasingly common, with the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC) held in Beijing May 15-22, focusing on cultural diversity, exchanges and mutual learning.

Colorful carnival

Asia accounts for 30 percent of the world’s total land area and 59 percent of the population. It is the central hub of some of the world’s oldest civilizations such as China, India and Mesopotamia.

Today, the continent has become an emerging engine powering the global economic growth. According to the International Monetary Fund, Asia contributed over a third of the global GDP in 2018.

“Asian civilizations have shown that they belong to the most enduring, stable and resilient civilizations,” said David Bartosch, a professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, in a commentary.

In one week, CDAC brings together youth, academics, and government officials from 47 countries across Asia and other continents, as well as members of international organizations.

The official site of CDAC displays Asian civilizations in a column of pictures ranging from World Heritage Sites such as Angkor Wat and the Taj Mahal to Persian sculptures and Arabic dances.

The theme of the conference is exchanges and mutual learning among Asian civilizations and a community with a shared future.

Experts gather to address issues of regional and global significance in six panel discussions, while young artists, movie lovers and foodies can enjoy themselves in the Asian Cultural Carnival on the sidelines of CDAC.

There will be parades featuring different Asian countries and cultures for the whole week.

Powerful dialogue

For Shang Jilai, a student and CDAC volunteer, the movie and food activities are something he cannot miss, meanwhile, he sees it as an occasion for dialogue between young people.

“If young people like us can know other cultures better and learn from them early on in our lives, we can form our own thinking that can be beneficial for our future,” Shang said.

As a language student, he hopes his translation skills will help ease the understanding of foreign cultures.

During CDAC, six panel discussions will hold dialogues on governance, cultural diversity, culture and tourism, cultural preservation and youth obligations, the global influence of Asian civilizations and mutual learning.

The dialogue could facilitate mutual understanding and knowledge sharing between Asian civilizations, said Ko Ko Hlaing, head of Myanmar’s Center for Strategic and International Studies and a guest to the conference.

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“Thus, it can help tackle various issues we are facing today due to misunderstandings and false knowledge about each other,” he added.

In ancient times, the Silk Road contributed to Asian civilizations from the Far West to Far East by not only delivering goods and commodities, but also distributing new ideas, technologies, cultures and beliefs.

Through the CDAC discussions, future cooperation among different societies and civilizations may be achieved, Hlaing said.

Booming exchange

Phan Thi Ngoc Han, a Vietnamese exchange student in Beijing, said she focused on issues about educational exchanges in the CDAC.

In recent years, cultural exchanges between China and Asian countries have been increasingly common.

In 2015, the first China-India yoga college was established at Yunnan Minzu University in Kunming, capital of southwest China’s Yunnan Province.

With Yoga’s increasing popularity, in 2017 the China-India yoga college started enrollment for master’s courses.

In 2017, a total of 18,800 overseas students came to Yunnan to study, a border province in southwest China and a gateway to Southeast Asia and South Asia.

Chinese TV shows are also finding new audiences in Asian countries. From 2015 to 2018, the TV station of Guangxi, which borders Vietnam, has translated and dubbed more than 130 episodes of Chinese TV series, 196 documentary episodes and 104 episodes of animated Chinese shows into Vietnamese.

“China and Vietnam share similar cultures. Many of the social issues highlighted in Chinese TV series also resonate among the Vietnamese,” said Phung Thi Hue, a researcher with the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences.

Phan Thi Ngoc Han, the exchange student, also echoed the cultural similarities, citing ethnic dress and tea culture.

“We Asian countries should be close friends,” Phan said. “Friends should communicate more to deepen our bonds.” 

(Xinhua correspondents Sun Qi, Zhang Dongqiang and Yao Bin also contributed to the report.)

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How debt could complicate airlines’ post-Covid recovery

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MICHAEL WAKABI

By MICHAEL WAKABI
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A surge in government bailout packages is helping the airline industry scrape through the worst of the disruptions caused by the Coronavirus crisis but the associated debt levels raise the prospect of bankruptcies, warns the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Governments, especially in the developed economies, have extended $67 billion in credit to airlines, adding to the $52 billion they had already contracted from commercial sources. In its latest analysis, IATA says global debt for the airline industry could rise to $550 billion by the end of the year.

The association warns that the figure which represents $120 billion of additional debt or 28 per cent over and above what the industry owed at the start of the year, will complicate airlines recovery efforts from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Government aid is helping to keep the industry afloat. The next challenge will be preventing airlines from sinking under the burden of debt that the aid is creating,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and chief executive said during a conference call on May 26,

“Over half the relief provided by governments creates new liabilities. Less than 10 per cent will add to airline equity. It changes the financial picture of the industry completely. Paying off the debt owed governments and private lenders will mean that the crisis will last a lot longer than the time it takes for passenger demand to recover,” Mr de Juniac added.

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Of the $67 billion lent by governments, $50 billion comes as direct loans, $5 billion in deferred taxes and $12 billion in loan guarantees. Additionally, airlines have contracted $52 billion in commercial debt composed of $23 billion in commercial loans, $18 billion from the capital markets, and $5 billion from new operating leases.

A further $6 billion has been accessed from leveraging existing credit facilities.

In total governments have committed to $123 billion in financial aid to airlines but only $67 billion of this will need to be repaid.

The balance consists of $34.8 billion in wage subsidies, $11.5 billion in equity financing and $9.7 billion in tax relief and subsidies.

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IATA said the aid is critical for airlines whose burn-curve for the second quarter of 2020 is projected to reach $60 billion of cash. Still, the $123 billion is equal to 14 per cent of the $838 billion that the airline industry earned in 2019.

Despite the huge figure, there are wide regional disparities with airlines in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East receiving only $1.1 billion of the aid disbursed by governments. IATA says the regional variations indicate that there are gaps that need to be filled.

“Many governments have stepped up with financial aid packages that provide a bridge over this most difficult situation, including cash to avoid bankruptcies. Where governments have not responded fast enough or with limited funds, we have seen bankruptcies. Connectivity will be important to the recovery. Meaningful financial aid to airlines now makes economic sense. It will ensure that they are ready to provide job-supporting connectivity as economies re-open,” Mr de Juniac said.

Through its CARES Act, the US government has extended to airlines the equivalent of 25 per cent of the revenues they earned in 2019. Europe extended the equivalent of 15 per cent of annual revenues and Asia-Pacific 10 per cent, while aid to airlines in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America averaged just 1.1 per cent of 2019 revenues.

IATA says many airlines still need aid but governments will need to be conscious of the impact of debt because the type of aid provided will have a direct bearing on the pace of post Covid-19 recovery. The association says grants and subsidies will help airlines recover faster.

“A tough future is ahead of us. Containing Covid-19 and surviving the financial shock is just the first hurdle. Post-pandemic control measures will make operations more costly. Fixed costs will have to be spread over fewer travellers. And investments will be needed to meet our environmental targets,” said Mr de Juniac.

“On top of all that, airlines will need to repay massively increased debts arising from the financial relief. After surviving the crisis, recovering to financial health will be the next challenge for many airlines,” he added.

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Anxiety among Jubilee Party MPs ahead of PG meeting

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A short text message from the President who is also the Jubilee party leader invited the legislators to the meeting.

Anxiety is rife among Jubilee Members of the National Assembly ahead of the Parliamentary Group meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning at State House, Nairobi.

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The party in a text message to the  party elected and nominated MPs convened a Jubilee National Assembly Parliamentary Group Meeting which was to start at 9 am.

The meeting will precede the reconvening of the National Assembly in the afternoon after a long recess.

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Meanwhile, nominated MP David Ole Sankok, has urged his parliamentary colleagues to heed to the call by the party leader President Uhuru Kenyatta and attend the meeting.

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Speaking at Ewaso Ngiro, Sankok said the meeting will be a good opportunity for Jubilee Members of Parliament to air their views.

 A similar meeting convened by the President recently culminated in the reconstitution of the senate-house leadership.

 

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global stocks rise despite protests, US-China tensions

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NEW YORK, United States, Jun 2 – Global stock markets were firmer Monday, with Wall Street reversing opening losses and shrugging off unrest in many American cities following anti-racism protests and worsening US-China tensions.

US cities braced Monday for more fury on the streets due to outrage at the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Mayor Bill de Blasio added New York City to the growing list of major American metropolises under curfew orders. The protests come as Latinos and African Americans have suffered disproportionate rates of death and hospitalization from the coronavirus outbreak.

Despite the chaotic layering-on of the protests with a public health crisis, analysts said markets have historically shrugged off civil disruptions.

“Generally speaking, social type of violence doesn’t really come in as a market factor,” said LBBW’s Karl Haeling. 

“Today though it got people a little concerned because it could hurt consumer confidence, it could spread COVID, delay the reopening maybe,” he said. “But on the other side of that, this could make Congress more willing to come through with a fiscal package.”

After opening lower, the Dow pushed higher and finished up 0.4 percent at 25,475.02.

In Europe, London added 1.5 percent by the close, Madrid gained 1.8 percent, Milan rose 1.8 percent and Paris added 1.4 percent, while Frankfurt was shut for a holiday.

The euro was stronger against the dollar, extending gains as the lockdown easing gathered pace across the continent, hitting a two-month high of $1.1154 at one stage.

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Beijing warned Washington on Monday of retaliation after US President Donald Trump announced restrictions on Chinese students in the United States in protest against a new national security law in Hong Kong.

However, Hong Kong led gains in Asia after Trump stopped short of imposing specific strict measures against China, suggesting the US prefers to avoid a confrontation at this point.

‘Investors ignoring risks’ –

“Investors are continuing to largely ignore the escalating US-China tensions, the global recession and ongoing riots in the US, among other risks,” said analyst Fawad Razaqzada at trading site ThinkMarkets.

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“Sentiment remains supported due to the easing of lockdown measures and because of ongoing central bank support.”

The COVID-19 outbreak is widely expected to push the world economy into deep recession this year despite vast stimulus from governments and central banks.

“After surging over the past two weeks, some might wonder where the next big driver for upside in Europe will come from,” noted IG analyst Chris Beauchamp.

“But with an ECB (European Central Bank) meeting looming there is the potential for another boost to the central bank’s easing programme, in tandem with the push at government level for a pan-eurozone recovery fund.”

  • Key figures around 2050 GMT -New York – Dow: UP 0.4 percent at 25,475.02 (close)

New York – S&P 500: UP 0.4 percent at 3,055.73 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: UP 0.7 percent at 9,552.05 (close)

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London – FTSE 100: UP 1.5 percent at 6,166.42 (close) 

Paris – CAC 40: UP 1.4 percent at 4,762.78 (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: CLOSED for public holiday

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.8 percent at 22,062.39 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 3.4 percent at 23,732.52 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 2.2 percent at 2,915.43 (close)

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.3 percent at $38.32 per barrel 

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.1 percent at $35.44 per barrel 

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1136 from $1.1101 at 2100 GMT 

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Dollar/yen: DOWN at 107.58 yen from 107.83 

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2490 from $1.2343 

Euro/pound: DOWN at 89.12 pence from 89.94 pence

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