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Kashmir Internet Shutdown Takes Toll on Economy – VOA News

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WASHINGTON / SRINAGAR – The internet shutdown in India’s Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, which shows no signs of abating and has been the longest lockdown in a democracy, is taking a toll on the local economy and has led to the loss of thousands of jobs, according to rights groups and analysts. 

Access Now, a global digital rights group that has been monitoring the situation in Kashmir, told VOA the “loss of connectivity in the valley” because of the shutdown has been “devastating to the local economy.” 

“India’s internet shutdown in Kashmir is the longest ever in a democracy,” Raman Jit Singh Chima, Access Now’s senior international counsel and Asia Pacific policy director, told VOA. 

“The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce has gone on record to speak of the immense economic cost that the internet shutdown has caused to the region, undermining the very economic goals that the Union Government promised it would drive through integrating the area into the wider Indian Union,” Chima added. 

The lockdown has been in place since August, when New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s semiautonomous status and imposed a curfew on the region, including shutting down the internet. 

FILE – Indian security personnel guard outside the civil secretariat of the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir during the annual reopening of the former state’s winter capital in Jammu, India, Nov. 4, 2019.

The government defended its decision, saying it was a temporary measure to prevent possible terrorist attacks. 

In a televised address to the nation in August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “The Kashmir decision will bring positive changes in the lives of the common man. It would mean the protection of Indian laws, industrialization, a boost in tourism and, therefore, more employment opportunities.” 

However, opposition parties in the country argue the opposite is happening. 

“You have redefined the definition of normalcy, the J&K [Jammu and Kashmir] definition of normalcy now prevails in the rest of the country. This is uncaring and unthinking government,” Indian National Congress said on twitter this week in reference to what’s happening in Kashmir and the passage of a recent controversial law. 

India’s parliament recently approved legislation that allows Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities who are living in India illegally to become citizens. The applicants must prove they were persecuted because of their religious beliefs in neighboring Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan. 

However, the law does not apply to Muslims, which critics say is discriminatory. 

Terrorism or protests? 

India’s government, led by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), defends its continued lockdown of internet connectivity in Kashmir as a deterrent to terrorist attacks. 

While briefing the country’s lawmakers in November, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, a close ally of Modi, said the internet would be restored as soon as local authorities felt it was appropriate. 

“There are activities by our neighbors in the region, so we must keep security in mind. Whenever local authorities see fit, a decision will be taken to restore it [internet service],” Shah said, referring to Pakistan’s alleged interference in the region. 

India has accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency of fomenting instability in Kashmir by supporting local militant groups, a charge Islamabad has denied. 

A masked Kashmiri boy throws stones at a police drone flying over Jamia Masjid mosque where Kashmiris are offering their first…
FILE – A Kashmiri boy throws rocks at a police drone over Jamia Masjid mosque where Kashmiris were offering their first Friday prayers since Aug. 5 in Srinagar, Kashmir, Dec. 20, 2019. The mosque was shut Aug. 5 as part of India’s security lockdown.

Some analysts, however, say the internet lockdown is largely designed to prevent collective political protests. 

“The stated reason [by the Indian government] was to contain possible terrorist attacks. In my view, it is largely designed to prevent collective political protests of any sort,” Sumit Ganguly, a professor of political science and the Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilization at Indiana University, told VOA. 

Other analysts, such as Ashok Swain, a professor of peace and conflict studies at Uppsala University in Sweden who follows Indian politics, said the reasons behind the Indian government’s decision to shut down the internet in Kashmir are multifaceted. 

“As I see [it], the real reason for [the] internet shutdown is not to restrict communication within Kashmir Valley, but to restrict Kashmir’s communication with [the] outside world,” Swain said, adding the government is more concerned about its global image as a democracy. 

“By taking away the internet, [the] regime is also controlling the local media and its publication as the journalists are dependent on [the] regime’s mercy to communicate with [the] outside world and to contact with their offices,” Swain said. 

Local economy 

Sheikh Ashiq, the president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told VOA that there has been a rapid rise in unemployment and a significant drop in Kashmir’s cottage industry. 

“Our handicraft sector, that is solely based on the internet, is at a standstill. As a result, 50,000 artisans are jobless,” Ashiq said, adding that the export of its heritage industry handicrafts had declined by 62%. 

Experts say the action against Kashmir has led to losses in tourism, health care, education and in the communications industries. 

“The state economy has lost more $1.5 billion due to [the] lockdown. Several companies, whose operations were internet-dependent, have been closed,” Swain said. 

The internet lockdown “has affected education, health service and even regular movement of the people, creating a severe humanitarian crisis. Business, particularly fruit trade and tourism, have [been] affected severely,” he added. 


Kashmir Economy Suffers Under Internet Shutdown video player.

Local voices 

Young Kashmiri entrepreneurs like Muheet Mehraj see a bleak future in Kashmir, as the internet shutdown has placed a cloud over future employment prospects. 

“If something doesn’t change for the better with time or our internet isn’t resumed, then I don’t understand what I am going to do in the future,” Mehraj told VOA. 

Many businesspeople told VOA they have been forced to leave Kashmir to earn an income. 

Syed Mujtaba, the owner of Kashmir Art Quest, shifted his business to Delhi because of the lockdown. 

“Eventually, my family and my own logic told me it was best to leave Kashmir,” Mujtaba told VOA. 

“Now I am in Delhi, you know … in search of new opportunity … and halfheartedly so, to be honest. My heart is still in Kashmir and will always remain in Kashmir,” he added. 

The government, however, continues to paint a normal picture of the situation on the ground. 

“The situation in Kashmir does not need to be normalized. The situation in Kashmir is already normal,” Home Minister Shah told lawmakers last month. 

Ashiq, of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce, paints a different picture. 

“We are handed a narrative of development. However, we do not see any form of development,” he said. 

VOA’s Zubair Dar contributed to this story from Srinagar. 

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Fonds de solidarité FTQ is Solid and Committed to Supporting the Economy and Jobs – Canada NewsWire

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“It’s up to us to build the future we believe in
and to invest in a better society.”
– Gaétan Morin

Highlights as at May 31, 2020:

  • $1.4 billion invested in Québec economy (40% more than projected);
  • Share value at $44.24 (down $1.96 from December 31, 2019, and up $0.34 over July 5, 2019);
  • Annual return of 0.8%;
  • Six-month return of -4.2%;
  • Comprehensive annual income of $230 million (profit);
  • Net assets of $13.8 billion;
  • $3 billion in redemption requests;
  • 707,935 shareholders-savers.

MONTRÉAL, Sept. 19, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ – At the Annual General Meeting of Fonds de solidarité FTQ shareholders, management reported on the year ended May 31, 2020. The AGM was held virtually for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health directives aimed at limiting its spread.

“The Fonds’ last financial year was marked by two diametrically opposed periods. During the first nine months, the economy was in full swing and Québec continued to build on the momentum of recent years. This boom then came to a screeching halt when COVID-19 hit. But this is not the first time the Fonds has had to deal with a crisis. Throughout the year, before and after the start of the pandemic, the Fonds has shown that it plays a key role in the Québec economy,” said Fonds Chairman Claude Séguin at the start of the AGM.

“Overnight, the economy came to a stop, weakening many companies and their workers. We quickly adjusted to meet the needs of our savers and to support our partner companies,” said Gaétan Morin, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Fonds.

“These are tough times, to say the least. But Québec has many strengths to help it meet the challenges that lie ahead. It’s up to us to build the future we believe in and to invest in a better society. The Fonds will be there to help Québec realize its dreams of an ever more prosperous, greener society. With assets of nearly $13.8 billion as of May 31, the Fonds is solid and committed to supporting the economy and jobs,” added Mr. Morin.

Record investments

Taking into account the additional financing provided to companies in response to the pandemic, the Fonds invested a total of $1.4 billion in the Québec economy during the fiscal year ended May 31, 2020, or 40% more than originally planned.

The Fonds also acted quickly to ensure that its partner companies had the financial leeway they needed to get through the crisis and save jobs. More than 1,300 of them have taken advantage of the offer to defer their loan payment for six months.

Share issues and redemptions

During the year, the Fonds issued $961 million in Class A shares, a new record. The organization welcomed more than 46,000 new shareholders, of which 61% are under age 40 and 18% under age 25. Automatic saving through payroll deduction or automatic bank withdrawals accounted for 79% of inflows ($759 million).

During the same period, the Fonds received $3 billion in redemption requests. Thanks to its solid financial position and prudent liquidity management, the Fonds can meet the needs of its shareholders in difficult times. The decrease in assets under management in the second half of the year is explained primarily by the sharp increase in redemption requests.

“We would like to express our gratitude to all the people who have placed their trust in the Fonds over the years. Thanks to their support, we’ve been able to deliver on our mission, and we’re proud to give them back their savings along with the gains they’ve realized over the years,” said Gaétan Morin.

The 2020 Operations and Sustainability Report is available on the Fonds’ website here.

About the Fonds de solidarité FTQ

The Fonds de solidarité FTQ is a capital development fund that channels the savings of Quebecers into investments. With net assets of $13.8 billion as at May 31, 2020, the Fonds has helped create and protect 221,267 jobs. The Fonds has 3,329 partner companies and 707,935 shareholders-savers.

SOURCE Fonds de solidarité FTQ

For further information: For media representatives only: Patrick McQuilken, Senior Advisor, Media Relations and Communications, Fonds de solidarité FTQ, Mobile: 514 703-5587, Email: [email protected]

Related Links

www.fondsftq.com

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Hungary extends loan moratorium as economy struggles to recover from pandemic – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Krisztina Than

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary will extend a moratorium on loan repayments for some households and companies until the middle of 2021, as its finance minister warned the economy could struggle to grow next year unless a coronavirus vaccine is found.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban introduced the moratorium for all companies and private borrowers in March as one of his government’s key measures to help reduce the economic fallout from the pandemic. It was due to expire at the end of the year.

In a video posted on his official Facebook page on Saturday, Orban said the moratorium would be extended by six months for families with children, the retired, unemployed and those in public works programmes.

The extension until the middle of 2021 will also apply to companies that have seen revenues drop by at least 25%.

Orban also said loan contracts for all households and companies agreed before the pandemic could not be terminated for six months.

The moves come as the government prepares to announce more steps to try to revive growth, after the economy plunged more than expected in the second quarter and prospects for a recovery next year have worsened.

The weak economic outlook could represent the biggest threat to nationalist Orban’s decade-long rule as he prepares to face parliamentary elections in the first half of 2022.

Finance minister Mihaly Varga said in an interview published earlier on Saturday that if a coronavirus vaccine was not available by the middle of 2021 the economy might struggle to grow next year, based on a pessimistic scenario.

Under an optimistic scenario, the economy could grow by 4-5% if a vaccine was available in the second quarter, he told newspaper Magyar Nemzet.

A third scenario was for a protracted recovery with 3%-4% growth, also conditional on a vaccine being available, he added.

Hungary’s economy is expected to shrink by 5%-6% this year.

Varga said the government was working on new stimulus measures that could include targeted tax cuts for crisis-hit sectors.

After a spike in new cases in recent weeks, Hungary reported 809 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the total to 16,920, with 675 deaths.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by David Clarke and Mark Potter)

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Hungary extends loan moratorium as economy struggles to recover from pandemic – The Guardian

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By Krisztina Than

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary will extend a moratorium on loan repayments for some households and companies until the middle of 2021, as its finance minister warned the economy could struggle to grow next year unless a coronavirus vaccine is found.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban introduced the moratorium for all companies and private borrowers in March as one of his government’s key measures to help reduce the economic fallout from the pandemic. It was due to expire at the end of the year.

In a video posted on his official Facebook page on Saturday, Orban said the moratorium would be extended by six months for families with children, the retired, unemployed and those in public works programmes.

The extension until the middle of 2021 will also apply to companies that have seen revenues drop by at least 25%.

Orban also said loan contracts for all households and companies agreed before the pandemic could not be terminated for six months.

The moves come as the government prepares to announce more steps to try to revive growth, after the economy plunged more than expected in the second quarter and prospects for a recovery next year have worsened.

The weak economic outlook could represent the biggest threat to nationalist Orban’s decade-long rule as he prepares to face parliamentary elections in the first half of 2022.

Finance minister Mihaly Varga said in an interview published earlier on Saturday that if a coronavirus vaccine was not available by the middle of 2021 the economy might struggle to grow next year, based on a pessimistic scenario.

Under an optimistic scenario, the economy could grow by 4-5% if a vaccine was available in the second quarter, he told newspaper Magyar Nemzet.

A third scenario was for a protracted recovery with 3%-4% growth, also conditional on a vaccine being available, he added.

Hungary’s economy is expected to shrink by 5%-6% this year.

Varga said the government was working on new stimulus measures that could include targeted tax cuts for crisis-hit sectors.

After a spike in new cases in recent weeks, Hungary reported 809 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the total to 16,920, with 675 deaths.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by David Clarke and Mark Potter)

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