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UN sets up trust fund for 'people's economy' in Afghanistan – The Globe and Mail

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A general view ahead of an aid conference for Afghanistan at the United Nations in Geneva on Sept. 13.DENIS BALIBOUSE/Reuters

The United Nations said on Thursday it had set up a special trust fund to provide urgently needed cash directly to Afghans through a system tapping into donor funds frozen since the Taliban takeover in August.

With the local economy “imploding”, the aim is to inject liquidity into Afghan households to permit them to survive this winter and remain in their homeland, it said.

Achim Steiner, the U.N. Development Programme’s (UNDP) administrator said Germany, a first contributor, had pledged 50 million euros ($58 million) to the fund, and that it was in touch with other donors to mobilize resources.

Some 97% of Afghan households could be living below the poverty line by mid-2022, according to UNDP.

“We have to step in, we have to stabilize a ‘people’s economy’ and in addition to saving lives we also have to save livelihoods,” Steiner told a news briefing.

“Because otherwise we will confront indeed a scenario through this winter and into next year where millions and millions of Afghans are simply unable to stay on their land, in their homes, in their villages and survive,” he said.

The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday that Afghanistan’s economy was set to contract https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/afghanistans-economic-collapse-could-prompt-refugee-crisis-imf-2021-10-19 up to 30% this year and this was likely to further fuel a refugee crisis that would affect neighbouring countries, Turkey and Europe.

The Taliban takeover saw billions in central bank assets frozen https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/un-chief-liquidity-needed-stem-afghanistan-economic-humanitarian-crises-2021-10-11 and international financial institutions suspend access to funds, although humanitarian aid has continued. Banks are running out of money, civil servants have not been paid and food prices have soared.

Steiner said the challenge was to repurpose donor funds already earmarked for Afghanistan, where the Taliban, the de facto authorities, are not recognized internationally. The fund allows the international community to be “confident enough that these funds are not meant as government-to-government funding”, he said.

VIRTUALLY NO LOCAL CASH

The U.N. has discussed the programmes with the Taliban, he said, noting that 80% of the micro-businesses being helped were led by women.

“Our greatest challenge right now is that there is a economy in which there is virtually no domestic currency in circulation,” Steiner said, adding that the U.N. wanted to avoid foreign currencies dominating, which would undermine the economy.

“Our intent is to find ways very quickly in which we can convert international support into local currency in order to be able to stimulate local markets, local livelihoods. This is how you keep an economy alive,” he said.

Kanni Wignaraja, director of UNDP’s regional bureau for the Asia Pacific, said that cash would be provided to Afghan workers in public works programmes, such as drought and flood control programmes, and grants given to micro-enterprises. Temporary basic income would be paid to the vulnerable elderly and disabled, she said.

The UNDP had costed activities to be covered over the first 12 months at approximately $667 million, she said.

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Province Invests in Midland Automotive Parts Manufacturer to Boost Local Economy – Government of Ontario News

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Province Invests in Midland Automotive Parts Manufacturer to Boost Local Economy  Government of Ontario News



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Canada to wind down broad-based COVID aid programs as economy recovers – Reuters Canada

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OTTAWA, Oct 21 (Reuters) – Canada will not extend existing broad-based COVID-19 support programs for companies and individuals when they expire on Saturday because the economy is recovering well, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday.

Instead, Ottawa will introduce more targeted and less costly measures for hard-hit sectors such as the tourism industry.

The new programs will cost a total of C$7.4 billion ($6 billion) between Oct. 24 and May 7, 2022, compared with the C$289 billion Canada has already spent, Freeland said.

“Our economy is rebounding, and we are winning the fight against COVID,” she told reporters.

Ottawa will aid hotels, restaurants and travel agencies still facing public health restrictions. It will also help cover the rent costs of employers who can show they have faced deep, enduring losses.

A third program is for companies that might suffer in case there are more lockdowns.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberal government spent heavily to tackle the pandemic, sending the national debt and budget deficits to record highs.

People cross the U.S.-Canadian border after Canada opened the border to vaccinated Americans in Blaine, Washington, U.S., August 9, 2021.  REUTERS/David Ryder
People cross the U.S.-Canadian border after Canada opened the border to vaccinated Americans in Blaine, Washington, U.S., August 9, 2021. REUTERS/David Ryder

“Today our support needs to be more narrow, more targeted and less expensive,” said Freeland.

The left-leaning opposition New Democrats, whose support the Liberals will need to govern, said Trudeau was acting hastily.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. … This is clearly not the time to cut help for families and small businesses,” leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement.

Separately, officials said Ottawa and the 10 provinces had agreed on a standard COVID-19 electronic vaccination passport allowing domestic and foreign travel.

The deal prevents possible confusion that could be caused if the provinces – which have primary responsibility for healthcare – all issued their own certificates.

The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents major carriers, welcomed the move but said Ottawa should take other measures to boost travel such as scrapping pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated people coming to Canada.

($1 = 1.2375 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Additional reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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