China's November exports and imports shrink further, worse than forecasts



News Desk, Barta24.com
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China's imports and exports plunged in November to levels not seen since early 2020, official figures showed Wednesday (Dec 7), as severe COVID-19 restrictions hit the economy hard.

The last major economy still wedded to a zero-tolerance virus policy, Beijing's snap lockdowns, travel curbs and mass testing have stifled business activity, disrupted supply chains and dampened consumption.

Imports in November fell 10.6 per cent year-on-year, the biggest drop since May 2020, according to the General Administration of Customs.

Meanwhile, exports fell 8.7 per cent over the same period - the steepest decline since Feb 2020, when the country was mired in the early stages of the pandemic.

"Weakening domestic and foreign demand, COVID disruptions and a rising comparison base lead to a perfect but well-expected storm to China's exports and imports," Bruce Pang, chief economist at Jones Lang LaSalle, told Bloomberg News.

The figures are the latest in a string of gloomy economic indicators as the world's number two economy charts a faltering path out of zero-COVID.

Official data last week showed China's factory activity shrank for a second straight month in November, as large swathes of the country were hit by lockdowns and transport disruptions.

The Purchasing Managers' Index - a key gauge of manufacturing - fell to 48.0 from 49.2 the month prior, well below the 50-point mark separating growth from contraction, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

"In November, the pandemic had a negative impact on the production and operation of some enterprises, production somewhat slowed, and product order volumes decreased," the bureau's senior statistician Zhao Qinghe said.

Some suppliers had complained of transport and logistics problems, while demand from both the domestic and overseas markets fell, he added.

China's ruling Communist Party has signalled a shift in COVID-19 messaging since the country's largest protests in decades took aim last week at lockdowns and other measures.

Local authorities have begun easing testing requirements and other restrictions, but travel between provinces remains complicated and health measures continue to vary from place to place.

"The zero-COVID policy has been loosened, but mobility has not recovered much on the national level," said Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist of Pinpoint Asset Management.

"I expect exports will stay weak in the next few months as China goes through a bumpy reopening process," he added.

"As global demand weakens in 2023, China will have to rely more on domestic demand."

Chinese leaders have set an annual economic growth target of about 5.5 per cent, but many observers think the country will struggle to hit it, despite announcing a better-than-expected 3.9 per cent expansion in the third quarter.

   

Shehbaz Sharif is the new Prime Minister of Pakistan



International Desk, Barta24.com
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Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) President and former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has become the new Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Pakistani media Dawn reported that Shehbaz Sharif was elected as the 24th Prime Minister of Pakistan by getting 201 votes in the National Assembly election on Sunday (March 3). And his nearest rival Omar Ayub Khan of PTI got 92 votes.

In April 2022, the coalition government led by Imran Khan's PTI was ousted by the opposition in the National Assembly, the lower house of Pakistan's parliament. Prime Minister Imran resigned. After that, the opposition formed a coalition government in the country under the leadership of Shehbaz Sharif.

National Assembly elections were held in Pakistan on February 8 this year. In this election, no party got the majority to form the government. PTI-backed independent candidates won the most seats. PML-N gets the second highest number of seats. Pakistan People's Party (PPP) was ranked third. ML-N and PPP decided to form a coalition government in alliance.

Apart from the PPP, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Inteqam-e-Pakistan Party supported Shehbaz Sharif for the post of Prime Minister. The Sunni Ittehad Council is supporting PTI leader Omar Ayub Khan.

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Israel has accepted a conditional ceasefire agreement in Gaza



International Desk, Barta24.com
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Israel has conditionally accepted the ceasefire agreement with the Palestinian independence movement Hamas. A senior US official said on Saturday (March 2). Meanwhile, the United States has started dropping relief supplies from the air in war-torn Gaza.

On Sunday (March 3), Qatar-based media Al Jazeera reported this information.

According to the report, the senior US official said that Israel has more or less accepted the ceasefire agreement with Hamas. Now the rest depends on the decision of Hamas.

According to the US administration, the six-week ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas will come into effect soon. But its implementation will begin only after the organization agrees to release the most vulnerable hostages held by Hamas and signs the deal.

The cease-fire announcement came hours after a US military cargo plane dropped humanitarian aid into besieged Gaza.

According to the US Central Command, the relief materials that have been given since Saturday include 38,000 packets of food that will ensure the necessary assistance to civilians affected by the ongoing war.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council expressed deep concern about the food crisis in Gaza in a statement on Saturday and called for continuous food aid there.



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For the first time, US has airdropped aid in besieged Gaza



International Desk, Barta24.com, Dhaka
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For the first time, the United States has airdropped aid to Gaza, besieged by the Israel-Palestinian war. More than 38,000 food packets were parachuted from three military planes on Saturday (March 2) afternoon.

According to a report of the international media BBC, after the announcement of President Joe Biden, the relief assistance was given jointly with the Jordanian Air Force.

Joe Biden promised to increase aid on Friday after 112 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces on Thursday (February 29) when civilians gathered to collect aid in Gaza. The US military dropped food packets the day after the announcement.

The aid came amid a message from a top US official that a deal was in place for a six-week ceasefire in Gaza.

US Central Command said in a statement that on Saturday, C-130 transport aircraft dropped more than 38,000 meals ashore.

Other countries including the UK, France, Egypt and Jordan have previously sent aid to Gaza. But the United States sent food aid for the time.

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Conservatives dominate Iran's parliamentary and assembly elections



International Desk, Barta24.com, Dhaka
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Amid political and economic challenges, many conservative candidates have won Iran's parliamentary and religious assembly elections. Voting took place from 8 am to 6 pm local time on Friday (March 1). Counting of votes started after 12 midnight local time.

Official primary results on Saturday (March 2) showed ultra-conservatives Mahmoud Nabavian and Hamid Resai in the lead in Tehran's 30 seats in the Iranian capital, Tehran. Then there is 35-year-old Amir Hossain Sabeti, a national television host.

Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf is in fourth place. Longtime lawmaker Mojtaba Jonnour holds a seat in the holy Shiite city of Qom.

President Ibrahim Raisi has renewed his seat in the Council of Experts for the third time with more than 82 percent of the vote in South Khorasan province in eastern Iran.

Meanwhile, followers of moderate politician Ali Motahari, son of the late eminent scholar Murteza Motahari, could not secure a single seat with a majority of the 30 seats in Tehran.

The ultra-conservative Ahmad Khatami, the incumbent imam of Tehran's Friday prayers, has again won a seat in the assembly from Kerman province, and Mohammad Sayedi is the representative of Qaum.

Along with the parliamentary elections, the midterm elections of Iran's Council of Experts were also held on the same day. Voters will elect seven members of the Expert Council. The National Assembly elections are being held across the country, but the Expert Council polls were held only in Tehran, Qom, North Khorasan, Khorasan Razavi and Fars provinces.

The supreme leader, made up of Islamic scholars, will be elected through the election of 290 lawmakers and 88 expert members of the assembly. Seven thousand 148 candidates are contesting 290 parliamentary seats.

Officials are yet to release voter turnout figures for Friday's parliamentary elections. But the Mehr news agency, citing unofficial results, said voter turnout in Tehran was only 24 percent.

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