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Greece spells out terms for debt crisis ‘breakthrough’

Leaders of Greece's creditors – the ECB, IMF, European Commission and European Council – met to discuss strategy before Monday's summit

Greece's economy minister has spelled out the terms of new proposals to end deadlock on its debt crisis, amid hopes a deal can now be struck this week.

It includes new taxes on businesses and the wealthy, Giorgios Stathakis told the BBC in an exclusive interview.

Eurozone finance ministers have welcomed the plan, saying there could be a deal "within days".

Greece will default if it does not repay a €1.6bn (£1.1bn) IMF loan by the end of the month.

If that happens, it risks crashing out of the single currency and possibly the EU.

Mr Stathakis told the BBC's Robert Peston he was confident Greece's new proposals to balance the government's books had broken the deadlock with its creditors.

He said the proposals also included an increase in the VAT rate for some selected items.

Greece's economy minister Giorgios Stathakis told me that his Syriza government, led by Alexis Tsipras, had avoided crossing its red lines with the new proposals.

So, he said, there would be no further reductions in pensions or public-sector wages. And there would be no increase in VAT on electricity.

He also said that the government had agreed with the IMF and eurozone governments that the targeted budget surplus would be 1% of GDP or national income this year, 2% next year and 3% the year after.

There will be no agreement with creditors to cut Greece's massive burden of debt, despite Syriza's earlier insistence on this. But Mr Stathakis told me he expects eurozone government heads to issue a communique later saying that debt relief will be on the agenda for negotiation in coming months.

An emergency Eurogroup summit in Brussels is still due to go ahead later on Monday.

Talks have been in deadlock for five months. The European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank (ECB) are unwilling to unlock the final €7.2bn tranche of bailout funds until Greece agrees to economic reforms.

Separately, the European Central Bank (ECB) again increased its emergency funding for Greek banks after anxious savers withdrew more than €4bn in recent days.

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, who has ruled out pension cuts, higher power rates, and an excessive budget surplus, said he hoped Greece would "return to growth within the eurozone".

He met the heads of Greece's three international creditors in Brussels, ahead of his talks with the leaders of 18 other eurozone nations.

'Broad and comprehensive'

But eurozone finance ministers said they were not given enough time to study them for a proper assessment, amid confusion over different versions of the Greek proposals submitted.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Dijsselbloem described the proposals as "broad and comprehensive", but said work was needed to check they added up "in fiscal terms".

Earlier, Germany's Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters he had not seen anything new from Greece so far and "without anything new, there is nothing for the ministers to prepare for their leaders". The Irish and Finnish finance ministers echoed the sentiment.

News of a possible breakthrough gave a boost to stock markets, with Greece's main stock exchange jumping 9% by the end of trading on Monday.

The deadline for Greece to pay back a slice of its loan is 30 June, but a last-minute deal would make it difficult to arrange the logistics of transferring the money.

A separate European Council summit is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, and its agenda is packed.

 

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Fighting vulture poisoning in KAZA region.

3rd February 2023
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.

The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.

He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison.  In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned.  Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.

Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated

He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated

He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted

Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.

‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it.  ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated

He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added

He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.

Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’

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Giant in the making: Everton Mlalazi

3rd February 2023

The music industry is at a point where artists are jostling for space because there are so many aspirants trying to get their big break, thus creating stiff competition.

In the music business it’s about talent and positioning. You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right people around you to propel you forward.
Against all odds, Everton Mlalazi has managed to takeover the gospel scene effortlessly.
To him, it’s more than just a breakthrough to stardom, but a passion as well as mission directly appointed by the Lord.

Within a short space of 2 years after having decided to persue a solo career, Mlalazi has already made it into international music scene, with his music receiving considerable play on several gospel television and radio stations in Botswana including other regional stations like Trace Africa, One Gospel, Metro FM in South Africa, Hope FM in Kenya and literally all broadcast stations in Zimbabwe.

It doesn’t only stop there, as the musician has already been nominated 2 times and 2 awards which are Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) best Male artists 2022, StarFM listerners Choice Award, Best Newcomer 2021 and ZIMA Best Contemporary Gospel 2022, MLA awards Best Male artist & Best Gospel Artist 2022.

Everton’s inspiration stems from his ultimate passion and desire to lead people into Godly ways and it seems it’s only getting started.
The man is a gospel artist to put on your radar.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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