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Amid political crisis Maldives to hold presidential poll in September

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Male, Feb 23: The first round of presidential elections in the Maldives will be held in early September and preparations for the polls have already begun, the Elections Commission has announced.

It said on Thursday that a second round, if necessary, would be held within 21 days from the election day.

The President’s Office in a statement said it welcomed the announcement and encouraged all relevant stakeholders to offer the Elections Commission their full, unreserved support for the conduct of their work.

“Free, fair and credible elections are the foundation of our democracy and it is essential for continuity of our nation’s growth, stability and prosperity,” the statement said.

“The government of the Maldives extends its invitation to all international stakeholders to observe the electoral process and… urges the international community to provide support in bringing back normalcy in the Maldives.

“It also requests the international community to refrain from any actions that could hinder resolving the situation the country is facing,” the President’s Office said.

It further said that the government recommended all political parties and politicians alike to work towards, making the upcoming elections free and fair, rather than engage in a battle to topple the government and to destabilize the nation.

The Maldivian Parliament earlier this week approved extending the state of Emergency in the country by 30 days following a request by President Abdulla Yameen.

Yameen had requested for an extension “as the threat to national security had not diminished” following the Supreme Court ruling on February 1 ordering the release of detained opposition leaders, including self-exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The President had first declared a 15-day state of emergency on February 5 after the Supreme Court ruling, which was, however, rescinded shortly after the declaration of the state of Emergency.

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World Bank commits $25-30 bn for India’s transition to high middle-income country

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New Delhi, Sep 21: The World Bank Group (WBG) on Friday approved its largest country program for India with a likely assistance of $25-30 billion by fiscal 2021-22 to help India’s transition to a higher middle-income country.

“With a fast growing economy, global stature, and its unique experience of lifting the highest number of poor out of poverty in the past decades, India is well-positioned to become a high middle-income country by 2030,” World Bank South Asia Vice President Hartwig Schafer said.

The WBG Board endorsed a new Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for India aimed at supporting India’s transition by addressing its key development priorities — resource efficient and inclusive growth, job creation and building its human capital.

“The Group expects to deliver $25-30 billion during this CPF period, ending in FY 2022,” the multilateral lending agency said in a statement.

India, which has strong collaboration with Group’s institutions, is the largest client of International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). As of mid-September 2018, total World Bank assistance stood at $27.2 billion representing 104 projects.

At the end of July 2018, International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) India portfolio contained 281 projects, amounting to a committed exposure of $6.4 billion.

“This CPF charts a path for how the World Bank, IFC and MIGA (Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency), will leverage their relative strengths to deliver stronger development outcomes for this dynamic country, half of whose population is under the age of 25,” Schafer said.

India’s Economic Affairs Secretary S.C. Garg complemented the bank for aligning the CPF with India’s development and investment objectives, the statement said.

The WBG will focus on promoting a resource efficient growth path, mainly in the use of land and water, to remain sustainable; enhancing competitiveness and job creation; and investing in health, education and skills to improve human capital.

It will also address the challenge of air pollution, jobs for women, raising the resilience of financial sector and investing in early years of children’s development. It will harness new technology in all spheres.

The CPF highlights the shift from a “lending” to a “leveraging bank”, emphasizing the growing potential and need to draw in capital markets in the financing of development priorities, the World Bank statement said.

Complementing transformational national programs, the bank will also develop strategic state partnerships to address state-specific development priorities.

“The future of India lies in the states of India. The country’s transition to high middle-income status will be determined in large part by the effectiveness of India’s federal compact,” said Junaid Ahmad, Country Director, World Bank India.

The CPF also emphasises on India’s global leadership role in promoting renewable energy and disaster resilient infrastructure development through its “Lighthouse India” initiative. India’s experience will help countries in Africa and Central Asia, it said.

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Trump authorizes offensive cyber-attacks against foreign hackers

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Washington , Sep 21 : US President Donald Trump has signed a new directive designed to protect the country from cyber-attacks that places the emphasis on “offensive operations” to dissuade adversaries from attacking US infrastructure.

The strategy identifies Russia, China, Iran and North Korea as Washington’s main rivals.

The new US cyber-strategy, which entered into force on Thursday and the declassified version of which takes up 40 pages, is part of an overall deterrence strategy that includes pre-emptively launching cyber-attacks against other nations – or actors sponsored by other nations – to prevent them from attacking the US in the first place, according to National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Bolton, at a press conference on Thursday, said that several weeks ago Trump had signed a measure cancelling a directive from former President Barack Obama’s administration regarding how the US would carry out cyber-attacks on other countries, a strategy that had required the military to consult with the State Department, intelligence community and other agencies before launching a cyber-attack.

The new directive signed by Trump, however, although it is classified, would in all likelihood give the military more leeway in both responding to cyber-attacks and launching pre-emptive attacks.

“We will respond offensively as well as defensively,” Bolton said, adding that “it’s important for people to understand that we’re not just on defence” and noting that responses to cyber-attacks would not necessarily be mounted in cyberspace.

The new US cyber-strategy is based on four key elements: protecting the American people, homeland and way of life; promoting US prosperity; preserving “peace through strength” and strengthening Washington’s influence on the internet.

The declassified version of the strategy says that Russia, China, Iran and North Korea are using the cyberspace to challenge the US, its allies and partners, often with a boldness that they would not consider employing in other areas.

The new strategy allows each US government agency to design its own actions against potential cyber-threats, with the National Security Council, which Bolton heads, acting as coordinator.

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Lake Victoria ferry crash: 44 dead, Search on for hundreds missing

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Washington, Sep 21 : At least 44 people were killed when a passenger ferry carrying hundreds capsized in Tanzania’s Lake Victoria on Thursday while rescue teams have launched search operation for hundreds of missing ferry passengers on Friday.

The rescuers were also retrieving bodies from the water.Only 37 people were rescued from the water before poor visibility halted operations.
The accident took place on Thursday between two islands in Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa, which straddles the borders of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.

The exact number of those on board wasn’t immediately known because the ferry was overloaded, according to media reports.

Reports varied but the ferry may have carried between 400 and 500 people.

Regional Commissioner John Mongella told Tanzanian television channel ITV that emergency teams would continue their search on Friday morning.

Boat disasters are frequent on Tanzania’s waters, where ferries often exceed their capacity.

Some 200 people were killed after an overloaded vessel hit strong winds off the island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean in 2011.The boat had a capacity of 620 passengers but was carrying over 1,000 people.

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