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Talks With IMF To Lower Natural Gas Price, The New President in Ukraine Takes Charge

The government raised gas prices by nearly a quarter in October, allowing it to secure a new $3.9 billion stand-by aid agreement with the IMF.

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Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelens
Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelens. RFERL

Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called on the country’s government and the state energy firm Naftogaz Ukrainy to hold talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to lower the household price for natural gas from May 1.

The IMF, which is helping Ukraine with a multibillion-dollar loan program, has said it wants to see Ukraine set natural gas prices at their market level.

But Zelenskiy, who has yet to take office but won a landslide election victory on April 21, said in a statement on April 24 that he wants prices to be lower.

“Let’s not just in words, but in deeds show that we can take decisions in people’s interests,” the statement on the Zelenskiy team’s Facebook page said.

“For the past four months, gas prices in Europe have been decreasing and now the price of gas for the population in Ukraine is higher than the price of gas on the European market,” it said.

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“Let’s not just in words, but in deeds show that we can take decisions in people’s interests,” the statement on the Zelenskiy team’s Facebook page said. Pixabay

The statement warned that neighboring Russia could limit energy supplies to Ukraine from June 1, and that Moscow may take steps to halt gas transit through Ukraine altogether at the start of 2020 — a move it said would result in significant financial losses and gas supply risks.

“These challenges require us to take effective and fast action,” the statement said.

An IMF spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

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The IMF, which is helping Ukraine with a multibillion-dollar loan program, has said it wants to see Ukraine set natural gas prices at their market level. Pixabay

Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman said in March that he would urge Ukraine’s Finance Ministry and Naftogaz to start talks with the IMF to try to prevent any future rise in gas tariffs.

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The government raised gas prices by nearly a quarter in October, allowing it to secure a new $3.9 billion stand-by aid agreement with the IMF.

Gas prices were due to rise by 15 percent again from May 1. But earlier this week the government and Naftogaz agreed to a slight decrease in tariffs. (RFERL)

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Odisha Govt to Hold Rath Yatra Without Devotees this Year

Rath Yatra is said to be held in the absence of devotees this year

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Rath Yatra devotees
Odisha government has ensured non-arrival of devotees to Puri. Wikimedia Commons

The annual Rath Yatra of Odisha government and his siblings could be performed provided the Odisha government ensured non-arrival of devotees to Puri, said Puri Gajapati Dibya Singha Deb, here on Saturday.

The Ratha Yatra could be organised with minimum servitors and without devotees if the Odisha government granted permission for the 9-day sojourn of deities, said the Puri Gajapati after a meeting of Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee during the day.

As part of Rath Yatra and Bahuda Yatra, three chariots would be pulled on the Badadanda (grand road) in presence of servitors, officials and policemen. Snana Yatra, scheduled on June 5, could be performed inside temple premises, he said.

The Ratha Yatra
The Ratha Yatra could be organised with minimum servitors and without devotees. Wikiimedia Commons

Also Read: The Future Of India will Be Based on ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’

He said the temple would remain closed till Niladribije in view of Covid-19 pandemic.

The Information and Public Relations Department will make arrangements for live telecast of Snana Yatra and Rath Yatra rituals. “I request devotees to stay safe at home and watch the telecast on television,” the Puri Gajapati said. (IANS)

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Tamil Nadu Relaxes TV Serial Shooting Restrictions Further

Tamil Nadu has relaxed conditions for TV serial shooting

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Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palaniswami has announced relaxation in TV serial shooting norms in the state. Wikimedia Commons

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palaniswami on Saturday announced further relaxation in television shooting in the state.

In a statement issued here he said the television serial shooting will be allowed from May 31 onwards with a maximum of 60 persons at the spot including actors and technicians.

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Initially the government had fixed the number of persons at the shooting spot at 20. Pixabay

The other conditions that the government had earlier laid down were: Shooting is allowed only indoors or in the houses having compound walls; No shooting is allowed in public places, except in rural and on COVID-19 containment areas; No permission for onlookers; Spraying of disinfectant before and after the shooting at the shoot spots; Barring actors, all others should wear masks and maintain social distance.

Also Read: Vaccine to Prevent COVID-19 Could be Ready by October End: Pfizer CEO

During breaks actors too should wear masks; All equipments, vehicles coming to the shooting spots should be sanitized. (IANS)

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40.7 Million American Workers Seek Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment has increased worldwide as bussinesses remain shut due to COVID-19 pandemic

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Unemployment
People who lost their jobs are reflected in the door of an Arkansas Workforce Center as they wait in line to file for unemployment following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Fort Smith, Arkansas. VOA
By Ken Bredemeier

 

Applications for unemployment compensation eased again in the U.S. last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, as some employers started to reopen businesses after the coronavirus pandemic forced their closure.

Even so, another 2.1 million more workers sought cash benefits after being laid off as other businesses curtailed their operations in the face of the continuing threat from the virus and less demand for their products.

In all, since mid-March, 40.7 million workers have now sought unemployment compensation, nearly a quarter of the U.S. labor force of more than 164 million.

However, the current actual number of jobless workers is unknown since some who sought unemployment benefits in previous weeks have now been called back to work by their employers. All 50 state governors have begun to ease restrictions on businesses opening in a patch-work array of directives that varies widely throughout the country.

The U.S. death toll from the virus topped 100,000 on Wednesday and health experts predict tens of thousands more will die in the coming months. But President Donald Trump, facing a November re-election contest against former Vice President Joe Biden, is predicting the country will have a robust economic recovery.

“States should open up ASAP,” Trump said on Twitter this week as the stock indexes advanced sharply. “The Transition to Greatness has started, ahead of schedule. There will be ups and downs, but next year will be one of the best ever!”

But the coronavirus has had a major effect on U.S. commerce, with 27 companies already filing for bankruptcy protection in May and some companies announcing they were closing permanently.

The official April unemployment rate was 14.7%, with Trump economic advisers acknowledging that the May figure, when it is announced in early June, is likely to be 20% or more. They say the rate could remain in double digits on Election Day Nov. 3 and could still be about 10% at the end of 2021.

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White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow talks to reporters. VOA

The government at first said the national economy dropped 4.8% in the first quarter, but that was before the full impact of the pandemic became apparent. It raised the figure to 5% on Thursday and economists expect a further decline in the April-to-June quarter.

Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, told the Washington Post recently that there are some “small glimmers of hope” in the economy. But he also acknowledged the ongoing difficulties the coronavirus pandemic poses to the world’s largest economy.

“Look, it’s really hard to model a virus, a pandemic, the likes of which we have not seen for 100 years,” Kudlow said. “The numbers coming in are not good. In fact, they are downright bad in most cases. But we are seeing some glimmers, perhaps … there’s a lot of heartbreak here. There’s a lot of hardship here. There’s a lot of anxiety here. It’s a very difficult situation.”

Numerous states still require social distancing of at least two meters between people in stores and some major retail outlets are requiring their employees and customers to wear face masks. Some governors are limiting restaurants to half capacity.

But in other states, the restrictions have been significantly lifted and crowds have quickly emerged to resume life, shopping or enjoying a day at Atlantic and Pacific beaches, often ignoring the admonitions of health experts to maintain a safe distance from others or to wear a face mask.

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell has warned that the American economy could endure a multi-year recession if more aid is not authorized for workers. He said that 40% of American households earning less than $40,000 a year lost jobs in March.

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In a few states, the restrictions have been significantly lifted. VOA

But Trump and Republican lawmakers are balking at approving more government assistance until it can be determined how much effect the already-approved funding is helping the economy.

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U.S. workers filing for jobless benefits normally are paid slightly less than half their normal salaries. But these payments are currently being augmented during the pandemic with $600-a-week supplements from the federal government for four months, through July.

The peak of the unemployment benefit claims likely came in late March with 6.9 million workers filing for the jobless compensation.

The weekly pace of claims has diminished each of the last 10 weeks since then, but the millions of claims have still been unparalleled over decades of U.S. economic history, reaching back to the Great Depression in the 1930s. The number of claims has far exceeded those made during the Great Recession in 2008-2009. (VOA)