Saudi Arabia transfers $80bn in shares to wealth fund for green projects
Saudi Arabia has transferred shares worth $80bn to its sovereign wealth fund as the oil-rich nation hopes to rival Norway and Singapore’s state-managed funds and invest in green projects.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, said 4% of shares in Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil exporter, would be transferred to the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund as part of efforts to recalibrate the oil-dominated economy.
The transfer is the latest sign that Saudi Arabia wants to open up the oil giant and “crown jewel” of the Saudi economy, the Arab world’s largest.
The crown prince, who was blamed by the US for sanctioning the murder of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was quoted as saying the “transfer of 4% of Aramco shares to the Public Investment Fund (PIF) … is part of the kingdom’s long-term strategy to support the restructuring of its economy”.
He said the kingdom wants the investment fund to have $1tn in assets by the end of 2025. The fund, the centrepiece of official moves to end economic reliance on oil, had less than half that amount before this deal.
Covid ‘onslaught’ has overwhelmed Hong Kong’s capacity as cases surge, leader says
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has said an “onslaught” of Covid-19 infections has dealt a heavy blow and overwhelmed capacity to deal with the virus as daily cases surge to record highs.
Daily infections have multiplied 13 times over the past two weeks, from about 100 cases at the start of February to more than 1,300 on 13 February, with authorities scrambling to control the deepening outbreak.
Lam on Monday said her government would coordinate with Chinese officials to tackle the “aggravating situation” after China said it would help the city with testing, treatment and quarantine.
“The onslaught of the fifth wave of the epidemic has dealt a heavy blow to Hong Kong and overwhelmed the city’s capacity of handling,” she said, adding that the surge had lengthened the amount of time before infected patients could access isolation facilities.
Before COVID, TB was the world's worst pathogen. It's still a 'monster' killer
Until the emergence of COVID-19, tuberculosis was the deadliest infectious disease in the world. How did it evolve from a terrible disease to a largely controlled one to the horrific plague it is now?
That's the question that science journalist Vidya Krishnan explores in her new book, Phantom Plague: How Tuberculosis Shaped History, released this month. It traces the spread of TB from the U.S. and Europe in the 19th century to lower-income countries — including Krishnan's country of India — where it continues to flourish today.
The answer, she finds, has a lot to do with lack of treatment, overtreatment or the wrong treatment. When antibiotics became widely available in the 20th century, the West had the resources to pay for them and cure and control TB. Poorer countries didn't. And when antibiotics did become available in lower-income nations, they were often overused. With antibiotic overuse came antibiotic resistance as pathogens learned to fight off the cures. The result is what Krishnan calls a "monster" version of the disease known as multidrug-resistant TB.
Why is severe drought again ravaging the Horn of Africa?
More than 13 million people in the Horn of Africa are once more facing severe hunger due to an ongoing drought, the World Food Programme says.
Pastoral and farmer populations across southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, south-eastern and northern Kenya and south-central Somalia are facing the region’s worst drought in forty years, spurred by the failure of three straight rainy seasons.
Farmers are losing livestock to starvation as crops die. And the dire lack of water and pasture is forcing families to leave their homes, triggering resentment between communities that sometimes escalates into direct conflict.
Inflation is pushing up the price of staple foods, in another challenge to drought-affected communities. In Ethiopia, more than 6 million people will require urgent humanitarian assistance by mid-March, according to the UN. In Somalia, over 7 million people need urgent aid.
The World Food Programme is calling for $327 million to meet the immediate needs of 4.5 million people over the next six months and to help build communities’ resilience to extreme weather events driven by climate change. UNICEF is appealing for $123 million to support children and their families til the end of June 2022.
Asian markets open sharply lower as global investors brace for fallout from Ukraine turmoil
Major Asian stock markets opened lower Monday as investors sought safer bets ahead of a possible Russian military attack on Ukraine that the White House says could occur any day.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index dropped roughly 2 percent in the first half hour of trading. South Korea’s KOSPI fell by a similar amount.
A telephone conversation on Saturday between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin did nothing to ease the tension over the massive Russian military buildup surrounding Ukraine, a senior administration official told reporters.
The impasse has investors braced for further volatility this week, with stocks already struggling amid inflation worries and signals from the Federal Reserve of an interest-rate increase next month.
A White House statement on Friday that said the Russian military could lunge toward Kyiv at any time clipped the Dow Jones industrial average and pushed up the prices of Treasury bonds and gold.
Northern Powergrid sorry for Storm Arwen trillion pound compensation error
An energy firm has apologised after 74 customers hit by power cuts during Storm Arwen accidentally received compensation cheques for trillions of pounds.
Northern Powergrid is paying tens of thousands of pounds to customers hit by days of outages in November.
But a number with Halifax and Newcastle postcodes received cheques made out for 13-figure sums.
Northern Powergrid said a clerical error was to blame.
Gareth Hughes, 44, from Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, shared a picture of his cheque for more than £2.3tn.
Mr Hughes, who was without power for more than three days, said he had been sent a previous cheque for £135 but had complained as he was told he was entitled to more.
He said the new cheque make him smile, adding: "But I knew it wasn't a value that could be realistic."