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Heat Wave: Death toll crosses 1300 in Andhra, Telangana

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New Delhi: People fill water from a water tanker to beat the heat on a scorching hot day in New Delhi on May 23, 2015. (Photo: Sunil Majumdar/IANS)

Hyderabad: The heat wave sweeping across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana claimed over 200 more lives since Tuesday, taking the toll to 1,360.

Officials on Wednesday night said 157 people succumbed to sunstroke in Andhra Pradesh while 70 died in Telangana since Tuesday.

There was no respite from the blistering heat as both the states recorded temperatures three to seven degrees Celsius higher than the average.

New Delhi: People fill water from a water tanker to beat the heat on a scorching hot day in New Delhi on May 23, 2015. (Photo: Sunil Majumdar/IANS)
New Delhi: People fill water from a water tanker to beat the heat on a scorching hot day in New Delhi on May 23, 2015. (Photo: Sunil Majumdar/IANS)

Almost all the deaths were reported during the past one week.

Though Andhra Pradesh’s Deputy Chief Minister N. Chinna Rajappa had confirmed 551 deaths on Tuesday, the toll was revised later based on reports received from the districts.

Disaster management department officials said they were revising the figures after receiving confirmation from field-level officials about the deaths.

Though temperatures dropped in parts of Telangana and also in north coastal Andhra on Wednesday, both the states continued to reel under the searing heat.

The Hyderabad Meteorological Centre has warned that severe heat wave conditions may continue for another two days.

The heat wave, attributed to dry winds from the north-westerly direction, may abate after two days.

The highest temperature of 47 degrees Celsius was recorded at Jangamaheswarapuram in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday. Vijayawada, Bapatla and Machilipatnam sizzled at 46 degrees.

The mercury continued to be above 42 degrees in most parts of south coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema.

In Telangana, Nalgonda and Khammam were the hottest places on Wednesday at 46 degrees Celsius.

Poor people, especially the homeless, construction workers, rickshaw pullers and street vendors were the worst hit by the heat wave.

According to officials, the majority of the victims were the elderly and children. The Andhra Pradesh government has already announced compensation of Rs.1 lakh each for the families of the victims.

Out of 867 deaths confirmed by officials in Andhra Pradesh till Tuesday night, Prakasam district accounted for 202. Guntur (130), Visakhapatnam (112) and East Godavari (107) also bore the brunt of the heat wave.

Vijayanagaram district accounted for 78 deaths, Nellore 74, Srikakulam 40, Chittoor 29, Kadapa 22, Kurnool 17 and Anantapur 14.

In Telangana, Nalgonda district was the worst hit with 73 deaths. Khammam district accounted for 60 deaths, Mahabubnagar 32, Medak 26, Karimnagar and Adilabad 22 each, Warangal 9, Nizamabad 8 and Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy seven each.

-IANS

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Amidst Weakened Domestic Demand, China Expected To Report Slow Economic Growth

The government may unveil more fiscal stimulus measures during the annual parliament meeting in March, including bigger tax cuts

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A woman looks at job advertisements on a wall in Qingdao West Coast New Zone in Shandong province, China, Jan. 17, 2019. VOA

China is expected to report Monday that economic growth cooled to its slowest in 28 years in 2018 amid weakening domestic demand and bruising U.S. tariffs, adding pressure on Beijing to roll out more support measures to avert a sharper slowdown.

Growing signs of weakness in China, which has generated nearly a third of global growth in the past decade, are stoking worries about risks to the world economy and are weighing on profits for firms ranging from Apple to big carmakers.

Chinese policymakers have pledged more support for the economy this year to reduce the risk of massive job losses, but they have ruled out a flood of stimulus like that which Beijing has unleashed in the past, which quickly juiced growth rates but left a mountain of debt.

China, Economic Growth
Workers unload containers from a train at Dahongmen Railway Station, Beijing, Jan. 14, 2019. VOA

Estimated 2018 GDP: 6.6 percent

Analysts polled by Reuters expect the world’s second-largest economy to have grown 6.4 percent in the October-December quarter from a year earlier, slowing from the previous quarter’s 6.5 percent pace and matching levels last seen in early 2009 during the global financial crisis.

That could pull 2018 gross domestic product (GDP) growth to 6.6 percent, the lowest since 1990 and down from a revised 6.8 percent in 2017.

With stimulus measures expected to take some time to kick in, most analysts believe conditions in China are likely to get worse before they get better, and see a further slowdown to 6.3 percent this year. Some analysts believe real growth levels are much weaker than official data suggest.

Even if China and the United States agree on a trade deal in current talks, which is a tall order, analysts said it would be no panacea for the sputtering Chinese economy unless Beijing can galvanize weak investment and consumer demand.

China, Economic Growth
A worker disentangles wool yarn at a spinning machine at a factory owned by Hong Kong’s Novetex Textiles Limited in Zhuhai City, Guangdong province, China, Dec. 13, 2016. VOA

Prevent deflation, recession

Chen Xingdong, chief China economist at BNP Paribas, said investors should not expect the latest round of stimulus to produce similar results as during the 2008-09 global crisis, when Beijing’s huge spending package quickly boosted growth.

“What China can really do this year is to prevent deflation, prevent a recession and a hard landing in the economy,” Chen said.

On a quarterly basis, growth likely eased to 1.5 percent in October-December from 1.6 percent in the preceding period.

China will release its fourth-quarter and 2018 GDP data Monday (0200 GMT), along with December factory output, retail sales and fixed-asset investment.

Since China’s quarterly GDP readings tend to be unusually steady, most investors prefer to focus on recent trends.

China, Economic Growth
People try garments at a retail and wholesale clothing mall in Beijing, July 16, 2018. China’s economic growth slowed in the quarter ending in June, adding to challenges for Beijing amid a mounting tariff battle with Washington. VOA

Hints economy cooling quickly

Surprising contractions in December trade data and factory activity gauges in recent weeks have suggested the economy cooled more quickly than expected at the end of 2018, leaving it on shakier footing at the start of the new year.

Sources have told Reuters that Beijing was planning to lower its growth target to 6-6.5 percent this year from around 6.5 percent in 2018.

Tepid expansion in industrial output and weaker consumer spending is squeezing companies’ profit margins, discouraging fresh investment and raising the risk of higher job losses.

Some factories in Guangdong, China’s export hub, have shut earlier than usual ahead of the long Lunar New Year holiday as the tariff war with the United States curtails orders. Others are suspending production lines and cutting back on workers’ hours.

If the trade war drags on, some migrant workers may not have jobs to return to.

Trade talk deadline

Trade negotiators are facing an early March deadline and Washington has threatened to sharply hike tariffs if there are no substantial signs of progress.

China, Economic Growth
A woman cleans the window at a Aston Martin luxury car dealership in Beijing, Dec. 12, 2018. Auto sales have fallen sharply in China. VOA

So far, Chinese policymakers have fast-tracked construction projects and cut taxes and some import duties to spur demand.

To free up more funds for lending, particularly to more vulnerable smaller firms, the central bank has cut the amount banks need to set aside as reserves (RRR) five times over the past year, and guided borrowing costs lower.

Further RRR reductions are expected in coming quarters, but most analysts do not see a cut in benchmark interest rates just yet, as policymakers wait to see if earlier steps begin to stabilize conditions. More forceful easing could pressure the yuan and aggravate high debt levels, with money going into less efficient or speculative investments.

Also Read: The World Economic Forum To Discuss Globalization, Climate Change

The government may unveil more fiscal stimulus measures during the annual parliament meeting in March, including bigger tax cuts and more spending on infrastructure projects, analysts say.

Some China watchers believe the government could deliver 2 trillion yuan ($295.13 billion) worth of cuts in taxes and fees this year, and allow local governments to issue another 2 trillion yuan in special bonds largely used to fund key projects.

Still, some analysts do not expect the economy to bottom out convincingly until summer. (VOA)