Our editors give us a breakdown of this week’s biggest news stories
United Kingdom: Ryan Morrice
The government switched from the “containment” to “delay” phase of their strategy for coronavirus as cases and deaths continued to mount. The Scottish government banned gatherings of more than 500 people with the UK government expected to announce a similar move shortly. Many universities said they would be switching to online learning to help slow the virus. The government also announced that over 70s will soon be asked to self-isolate to protect themselves.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the new budget, which aims to tackle the economic effects of the coronavirus. It includes £30 billion of extra spending, with more money going to the NHS and business rates suspended for some firms. There is also more cash for investment in infrastructure and research spending.
The government also introduced a new 2% digital services tax on revenue, aimed at tech companies such as Facebook and Google.
The Bank of England cut interest rates from 0.75% to 0.25%.
Europe: Delany Higgins
The European Central Bank approved a stimulus program but did not cut interest rates. The program includes bank loans and more favourable rates on previously agreed liquidity arrangements. On Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a €37 billion investment initiative, following a Tuesday announcement of €25 billion of spending.
Germany announced increased state investment in infrastructure in the coming years. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz declined to go further, albeit stating the government was prepared to take whatever measures necessary.
Italy suspended mortgage payments, announced a plan for €10 billion of economic stimulus, and banned short selling. Italian authorities successfully arrested mob boss Cesare Cordi, a leader of the ‘Ndrangheta of Locri. His capture followed a long hunt by the police, which had seen the arrest of many other ‘Ndrangheta confederation members. The ‘Ndrangheta is considered the most powerful crime syndicate in the country.
Africa: Camille Capelle
COVID-19 is spreading on the African continent with more countries confirming their first cases, such as Rwanda, Mauritania and the Ivory Coast.
Chinese businessman, Jack Ma, is offering support to African countries in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. Organised by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, the material support will include medical essentials as well as practical knowledge to aid treatment.
The pandemic is problematic for Africa’s oil industry, with oil prices declining steadily across the world. Low oil prices for an extended period could prove disastrous for African economies dependent on oil exports.
The first Uganda-Europe business forum was held at the beginning of this week, marking the joint spirit of economic cooperation. The focus of the forum was fostering sustainable investment into Uganda’s private sector.
Americas: Alex Watt
The chair of Canada’s parliamentary intelligence oversight committee, David McGuinty MP, has warned there is “clear and continuing danger” from “significant and sustained foreign interference” in Canadian public life. Mr McGuinty MP was speaking as the committee published its annual report.
Russia and China were singled out in the report, with examples of the alleged interference including targeting the electoral process, governmental decision making, and media and academic freedoms. Allegations of Russian interference in Western democratic processes have been fervent in the media for years, and recently Democratic Presidential-nomination candidate Bernie Sanders was told of attempted Russian interference in his campaign. Senator Sanders condemned Russia, telling them to “stay out of American elections”.
The head of Guyana’s Supreme Court has ordered a partial recount of the widely-disputed March 2nd election result, in the latest developments in an ongoing dispute between government and opposition. The ruling marks a major victory for the opposition, after accusing incumbent President David Granger of electoral fraud. Tensions have been rising ever since, with both major parties – Mr Granger’s People’s National Congress – Reform (PNCR) and Irfaan Ali’s People’s Progressive Party (PPP) – declared the outcome a victory for their respective side. The court ruling came following tense and violent protests, and the arrival of a group of several Caribbean Prime Ministers to help resolve the ongoing crisis.
Asia: Max Dowden
In Myanmar, a swath of proposed pro-democratic changes to the constitution were blocked by the army, in a bid to prevent broader political liberalization in the country. A quarter of the country’s parliamentary seats are reserved for military officers, which allowed the politically-powerful national military to continue stifling reforms.
Meanwhile, a political-judicial drama is unfolding in India, as an increasing number of judges who have opposed the government’s controversial ‘anti-Muslim’ policies have found themselves reassigned or removed from office, allegedly because of said opposition.
Finally, further political turmoil continues in Afghanistan, as in the aftermath of the latest presidential election two different candidates have declared themselves winner, and have had themselves sworn in as president. Such a split is a worrying distraction from ongoing peace talks with the Taliban, and erodes the legitimacy of the central government.
Middle East: Luca Delpippo
Prayers across the Middle East have been cancelled amid Covid-19 fears.
The Iran Covid-19 death toll has surpassed 600 as schools in Syria have been shut.
At least 30 missiles were fired at a US Coalition military base in Iraq, with three service personnel injured, no-one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.