Month: February 2019

Downgrade for global economic growth

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

The crises in the Middle East and Ukraine could hamper already weak global economic recovery.


That’s the warning from the International Monetary Fund, which has just issued a new forecast for global economic growth.

Greg Dyett has the details.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

In an update to its World Economic Outlook report, the IMF says the global economy should expand by 3.4 percent throughout this year.

That’s slightly below what it predicted in April. 

The IMF is still predicting that growth should speed up to 4 percent next year.

But it cautions that there’s no assurance yet of a robust global recovery from the deep financial troubles that ended in 2009.

The IMF’s chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, says more countries need to embark upon structural reforms to avoid stagnation.

“In a number of countries such as Brazil or South Africa, the investment rate is very low and clearly due to structural impediments. Now the good news here is that some countries, and here I must mention Mexico which clearly is at the forefront here, have taken or are embarking on a set of very ambitious structural reforms. We think that these reforms will help lift both investment and growth.”

Central banks in the United States, Japan, the Euro zone and Britain have all sharply lowered rates to boost economic growth, and pledged to keep them there for longer to let the recovery take hold.

Mr Blanchard says interest rates may have to stay low for longer.

“We came to a conclusion that there are a number of factors which suggest that indeed the interest rate needed to sustain demand may be very low. It’s very hard to be sure of anything but there are a number of factors that play in that dimension. We know, for example, that investment post-financial crisis tends to be very low so the demands for funds are very low. It is quite possible that saving as a result of a crisis may be fairly high. Both of them will imply a low equilibrium rate.”

The IMF says bright spots in the global economy include growth pick-ups in Japan, Germany, Spain and Britain.

But it says they were overshadowed by weak growth in the world’s two biggest economies – the United States and China.

Russia also dragged down the overall forecasts, with its economy expected to grow just 0.2 percent this year due to sanctions and other impacts of the Ukraine crisis. 

Mr Blanchard says the Russian economy could be pushed into recession.

“What does this reflect? For the moment it reflects a deterioration of business confidence. There is nearly a freeze in investment decisions by domestic investors. There is a near freeze in terms of FDI (Foreign Direct Investment). There are large capital outflows. All this I think is easily explained by the geopolitical uncertainty which affects Russia at this point.”

Meanwhile, the World Bank has announced a commitment to help India to achieve higher economic growth rates.

Bank President Jim Yong Kim, says that’s the goal of the new Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

“The new government would like India to return to growth rates of nine percent a year. The World Bank fully supports this goals. It’s vital that India achieve these levels of growth to reduce poverty more quickly and to boost shared prosperity among its people.”

The World Bank President has also welcomed the $100 billion development bank just formed by India and the other so-called BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, China, and South Africa.

The new BRICS bank was created in part as a challenge to the global financial order created by Western powers after the Second World War, revolving around the World Bank and the IMF.

But World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, has played down the challenge.

“For us, we feel that the only competition we have is with poverty and with the lack of shared of prosperity. So, any bank or any group of institutions that are trying to tackle the problem of infrastructural investment to fight poverty, we will welcome them, and that we will be very happy to provide technical assistance.”




Frustration as investigators again fail to reach MH17 site

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

For a second consecutive day, Australian and Dutch unarmed police have been forced to turn around before reaching the MH17 crash site due to heavy shelling in eastern Ukraine.


Ukraine’s army claims it’s now seized control of part of the surrounding area, but international investigators aren’t optimistic.

As Marina Freri reports, they fear some of the remains may now be trapped in a ring of belligerent fire and never recovered.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

Australian and Dutch investigators are still trying to reach the site where the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 went down.

Monitors from the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe are travelling with them.

But the international inspectors’ attempts to reach the crash site have twice been halted by intense fighting, leaving their mission to recover all human remains not only far from accomplished but also in doubt.

Deputy head of the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine, Alexander Hug, couldn’t hide his frustration as the promises of safe passage – from both sides in the conflict – were once again broken.

“All parties involved need to understand that guns must go down, checkpoints must disappear and we as well as the experts must have freedom of movement to access this site free, without interruption, without risks, so that we can continue our job there. On that site there are still body parts missing, there are still bodies there, there is debris there, there is a job to be done. It can only be done if these guns are down and we have no risk on our way there. We are sick and tired of being interrupted by gunfights despite the fact that we have agreed that there should be a ceasefire.”

Last weekend, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Australian Federal Police officers would enter the crash site in Donetsk unarmed.

But with continuous shelling just kilometres from the site, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop won’t rule out allowing Australians to carry weapons for self-defence.

Ms Bishop says she wants the Ukrainian parliament to ratify a deployment agreement she’s signed with her Ukrainian counterpart that would allow Australia to send in armed police or soldiers.

“Part of that is to have the right, should it ever be necessary, to bring arms into the country for self-defence. Now, I don’t envisage that we will ever resort to that. But it’s a contingency planning and you’d be reckless not to include it in this kind of agreement. But I stress our mission is unarmed because it is an humanitarian mission.”

Inspectors say they will now try to access the site for a third time.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has told Macquarie Radio he’ll seek to lobby both sides of the conflict to honour a ceasefire as, he says, the situation on the ground remains “confused”.

“We were blocked yesterday. We were blocked the day before. My understanding is that we are going to have another go today. But I’ll be talking soon to the people on the ground to make sure that it happens: it happens as quickly as possible and as soon as possible.”

Two weeks on from the alleged downing of flight MH17, identifying victims may also prove difficult. 

Information concerning where victims originally lay has been lost because the bodies have been moved to be put on a refrigerated train to Kharkiv.

To identify victims, experts say they will use DNA, fingerprints and dental records, when possible, or by examination of personal belongings.

Despite these concerns, the head of the Dutch recovery mission in eastern Ukraine, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, has vowed no victim of the MH17 crash will be left behind.

“It is frustrating to have to wait to do the job they came to do. Their motivation comes from the deep conviction that the relatives in all the different countries are entitled to have their loved ones and their personal effects returned to them.”

Ukraine and eleven countries that lost citizens in the crash have agreed in principle to set up a joint team of prosecutors to examine possible criminal charges.

It will add to several other investigations under way to determine what caused the crash, who is liable, and to identify the victims’ remains.

A number of countries, including Australia, have met in The Hague to discuss a joint strategy.

A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for human rights, Navy Pillay, says the alleged downing of flight MH17 may amount to a war crime.

“(The) Commissioner has indicated this may amount to a war crime. I think also the High Commissioner said there’s a need for a prompt, thorough, independent impartial and effective investigation… I think that is what needs to be done so as to establish the facts and circumstances of what has happened and therefore then there can be the next step in accountability for those who may be deemed the perpetrators in this crime.”




Analysis-Hamilton’s statement means it’s each man for himself

His biggest error, however, was not in disobeying controversial team orders but pushing too hard on the very first lap with cold brakes after starting from the pitlane.


The Briton was lucky his Mercedes only brushed the barriers in the resulting spin, causing no damage to the car, rather than ending his race there and then.

It would also have been costly had he carried out instructions over the radio two thirds of the way through the race not to hold up German team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg. But he did not do that.

To do otherwise would have been unfair in the circumstances and damaging to his own title hopes, even if Mercedes might have gone on to win. Hamilton knew it and, ultimately, the team recognised it too.

“From my point of view, Lewis was right,” said retired triple champion Niki Lauda, now the team’s non-executive chairman.

Some will argue that since Formula One is a team sport, the team comes first and orders must be obeyed. The simple answer to that is yes, but not always.

As an extreme case, think back to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix when Brazilian Nelson Piquet junior was ordered by his Renault team to crash deliberately into a wall to bring out the safety car and help Fernando Alonso win.

By Piquet’s own admission he did as he was told and triggered one of the biggest scandals of Formula One’s modern era. It would have been better for all had he not done so.

The same applies to Ferrari’s manipulation of the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix in Michael Schumacher’s favour.


The argument is sure to rumble on, throughout social media and wherever Formula One fans meet to discuss the race.

Rosberg, who finished fourth with Hamilton third, felt hard done by and could argue he had been deprived of a win by the Briton.

“Lewis didn’t let me by although he was ordered to do so, and that’s not good,” he said later.

Rosberg, who obeyed team orders in Hamilton’s favour in 2013 with much less at stake, had also led from pole position before losing position due to the unfortunate timing of the safety car.

The strategy, three stops to Hamilton’s two, could have got him back ahead. But then again, he secured pole only after Hamilton’s car caught fire in qualifying without completing a lap. Luck works both ways.

Hamilton was quickest in all three practice sessions and Hungary was his track, one where he had been triumphant in the two previous years. He was on a charge and chasing to win.

“I didn’t cost Nico a win,” he said. “I was racing him, so why would I be concerned about that?

“I would have expected him to have done the same and not let me past.”

Fans may argue that it is double standards to defend Hamilton while slamming Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel for his deafness at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix, but the incidents are different. And Vettel also had his defenders.

At Sepang, the German overtook then team mate Mark Webber for victory despite both being told to hold station in order to put less strain on the cars and ensure a one-two finish.

By ignoring the instruction, Vettel put that in jeopardy.

But then again, he was only doing what champions do. As he said at the time, and Hamilton repeated on Sunday night, he is paid to win races. Not to sit back or wave a team mate through.

That is where Rosberg’s complaints lack bite. If he had been climbing all over the back of Hamilton’s car, he might have had more of a grievance.

But that was not the case and the Briton was not about to slow down and wreck his own strategy.

In a title battle as close as this one, with Rosberg now only 11 points clear of Hamilton, it is unrealistic to expect either driver to sacrifice his title chances for the good of the team. There is too much at stake now.

“You can understand Lewis. He’s fighting Nico. If he lets him run his fastest strategy, it puts him under pressure,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

“It’s entirely understandable from Lewis’s point of view to say, ‘Not today, thanks’.”

In the end, Mercedes signed Hamilton from McLaren because he is a world champion and they want him to win more with them.

“It’s not questioning authority,” the Briton said of his actions. “I’m hired to be me and race my heart out.”

It would be much more disturbing for Mercedes, given the amount they pay him, if Hamilton suddenly set aside that selfish streak and did not fight every inch of the way. Or Rosberg, for that matter.

It’s each man for himself now. The second half of the season promises to be a thriller.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Stephen Wood)

Entertainer Mitcham feels that competition buzz again

The 26-year-old openly-gay diver upset the odds to win 10 metre platform gold at the Beijing 2008 Olympics with a dive that received four perfect 10 scores, the highest single-dive score at a Games.


But instead of being buoyed by victory, Mitcham suffered a relapse into depression and persistent abdominal injuries, prompting him to slip into drug addiction.

As he prepares to compete in four diving events in Glasgow from Wednesday, hoping to go one better than the four silvers he won four years ago in Delhi, he told Reuters how he battled back from the brink to rediscover the joy of competing.

“After I’d won in Beijing and became number one in the world (in 2010) it was still a very hollow achievement,” Mitcham explained from his training camp in Edinburgh, where the diving takes place at the Royal Commonwealth Pool.

“I had really low self-esteem and valued myself by my diving achievements and not as me as a person. It was really, really unhealthy and was just before I hit my worst bout of depression.

“I was forced to reassess my life and embarked on this epic journey of self-development. Now the will and the determination is still there but I just enjoy life and the whole process a little bit more now.

“Diving isn’t a sport that’s purely technical but it’s a subjective sport and I’ve had feedback from judges that when they can see you enjoying the competition they enjoy watching you more, which encourages them to give you better scores.

“It’s helped me to make up for what I perhaps lack in strength and preparation (because of persistent injury) with my love of performing and diving, that joie de vivre that I never had before. It was just a sterile, technical series of movements before.”

Mitcham is refreshingly open for an athlete and is happy to tackle the issues of mental health, substance abuse and sexuality, often considered taboo subjects among sportsmen.

He explains in his autobiography ‘Twists and Turns’ how he had suffered from depression as a teenager, causing him to quit diving and turn to alcohol and recreational drugs two years before Beijing, aged just 18.

Having dedicated his life solely to the sport, premature retirement meant he was forced to dive in a circus to make a living. Luckily he made a remarkable comeback to competition in time to produce his stunning gold medal performance.


“I was diving into a tank in a bumblebee costume in a circus,” he recalled. “Sometimes I just have to laugh at myself when I look back on the things I’ve done, the things I’ve been through and the things I’ve managed to achieve. It’s been a pretty colourful story.”

He smiles now but Mitcham still wears the scars of his addiction to the methamphetamine ‘crystal meth’, the drug he started using a year before the London 2012 Olympic Games, where he failed to qualify for the final.

“I stopped watching Breaking Bad after two episodes because I found it too triggering,” the diver explained of the hit television show about a chemist that produces the drug.

Having overcome addiction, Mitcham documents his recovery and compelling life story in a cabaret show named after his book.

It seems fitting then that his event is based in Edinburgh, home to the largest arts festival in the world. He explains that he had been in talks to perform his show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but for now the Games’ diving events will be his only performance in Scotland’s capital this year.

“I love entertaining people, I’ve always been a bit of a performer, diving is just something that is more of a physical performance,” he said.

As the first openly gay man to win an Olympic gold, Mitcham have become a figurehead of equality and gay rights.


He was glad to see organisers incorporate a gay kiss into Glasgow 2014’ opening ceremony and says it was indicative of a competition living up to its ‘Friendly Games’ tag.

“I was over the moon at how seamlessly they incorporated the equality themes into the opening ceremony. It was absolutely wonderful.

“The kiss took everyone by surprise. It took people out of their comfort zone. It was a really brave start to use that platform to normalize equality and same-sex relationships.”

The Australian competes in the 1m springboard, 10m individual and synchronised platform, and synchronised 3m springboard from Wednesday, with England’s Tom Daley, a two-time Commonwealth champion and bronze medallist at London 2012, considered the favourite for both platform golds.

At 26, Mitcham admits this could be his last chance to win a major prize. “Maybe it’s my last competition. I would dive forever if I could but I can’t. I’ve been to the top and I’m not sure I’d ever get there again. If I won gold maybe I’d quit whilst I was ahead.”

(editing by Justin Palmer)

Macho sport looks to feminine side in women’s World Cup

“There’s the challenge of course – it’s such a man’s game – but it’s also just a great sport.


There are so many aspects to it,” said Kelly Russell, captain of Canada.

“There’s physicality, speed, endurance, strength. There aren’t many sports where you find all that,” Russell told Reuters at launch of the fifth World Cup to be sanctioned by the International Rugby Board (IRB) and seventh in total.

Canada is an established rugby union nation and with men’s and women’s 7-a-side rugby included in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro the women’s game there is edging towards professionalism.

Russell and her team mates are full time players, as are the Australian squad, also thanks to funding linked to Brazil 2016, but others still juggle rugby and professional commitments.

“For me it’s the values too,” said Spanish captain Ana Maria Aigneren, a Colombian-born physiotherapist who got interested in the game watching her brother play.

“There’s discipline, honesty. When you’re injured it’s real, not like in football.”

So how do people react to learn of a woman playing a game labelled as a man’s preserve?

“I work a lot with old people. They’re surprised, but in a good way I think,” said Aigneren.”Then they look and say, well, she’s a big woman, that makes sense.”

The Spanish team sheet lists wing forward Aigneren as the second-heaviest player in the side at 89 kilos, and at 1.71 metres (5 feet 7 inches) she is around the average height for the 312 players in the competition.

But neither she nor any of the 12 captains stood out in stature from the crowd of journalists and officials attending the launch at Paris’s sumptuous Hotel de Ville – in stark contrast to the bulky physiques that dominate the modern men’s game.

Women’s rugby union follows the same rules as the men’s game and uses the same kit, with no special protection involved.


Fiao’o Faamausili, the police officer who captains defending world champions and competition favourites New Zealand, says although the women’s game has become increasingly physical too, “we play a wide game”, with noticeably more space around players given the differences in pace and strength.

Women have played rugby since the late 19th Century, but IRB officials hope the 2014 World Cup marks its coming of age as the sport starts to register women match officials, managers and coaches in significant numbers too.

The competition runs from Aug 1 to 17 featuring a pool stage that starts on Friday with semi-finals and finals next week.

It will be broadcast to more countries than ever before with over 300 hours of live rugby to be beamed around the globe, according to the official web site (南宁夜网.rwcwomens广西桑拿,).

“We know that women’s rugby is gaining popularity. It’s grown two or three times since the last World Cup four years ago. There is a raised interest and the visibility is huge,” said IRB CEO Brett Gosper.

The pool stages will be played at Marcoussis, the home of the French Rugby Federation, to the south of Paris. Stade Jean Bouin, on the south western edge of the French capital, will host the semi-finals and finals.

(Additional reporting by Miranda Alexander-Webber, editing by Tony Goodson)