1)China grants $90 mn to Sri Lanka:
China announced on Sunday that it was providing a $90 million grant to Sri Lanka, two days after the island nation’s President sought help from a visiting Chinese delegation in disproving a perception that China-funded megaprojects are “debt traps.”
- Calling the financial assistance a “timely grant,” the Chinese Embassy in Colombo said that it would be used for medical care, education and water supplies in Sri Lanka’s rural areas.
- And that it would contribute to the well-being of (Sri Lankans) in a post-COVID era.
- China considers Sri Lanka to be a critical link in its massive “Belt and Road” global infrastructure building initiative and has provided billions of dollars in loans for Sri Lankan projects over the past decade.
- The projects include a seaport, airport, port-city, highways and power stations.
- Say that the Chinese-funded projects are not financially viable and that Sri Lanka will face difficulties in repaying the loans.
- In 2017, Sri Lanka leased out a Chinese-built port located near busy shipping routes to a Chinese company for 99 years to recover from the heavy burden of repaying the Chinese loan the country received to build it.
- The facility is part of Beijing’s plan for a line of ports stretching from Chinese waters to the Persian Gulf.
- China has also agreed to provide a $989 million loan to Sri Lanka to build an expressway that will connect its tea-growing central region to the Chinese-run seaport.
- China’s economic influence over Sri Lanka has worried its closest neighbour, India, which considers the Indian Ocean region to be its strategic backyard.
Belt and Road Initiative:
- Chinese President Xi Jinping announced one of China’s most ambitious foreign policy and economic initiatives at the end of 2013.
- He called for the building of a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, collectively referred to as One Belt One Road (OBOR).
- One Belt One Road (OBOR) is arguably one of the largest development plans in modern history.
- One Belt, One Road (OBOR) is China’s much-touted new foreign and economic policy.
- It is a development strategy to connect China with Central Asia, Europe, and Indo-Pacific littoral countries.
This policy has two components:
- Belt– The “One Belt” refers to the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt”.
- Here Beijing aims to connect the country’s underdeveloped hinterland to Europe through Central Asia.
- Road – The “One Road” references the ocean-going “Maritime Silk Road”. It is to connect the fast-growing South East Asian region to China’s southern provinces through ports and railways.
- The plan is to connect the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean.
- This will connect Chinese coastline with SE Asia, South Asia, Gulf and East coast of Africa. China will build hard and soft maritime infrastructure.
- It will include custom co-ordination, the formation of SEZ, new ports, e-commerce, trade liberalisation and policy coordination.
- OBOR covers countries throughout the Asian continent from China to the rest of Eurasia.
- The geographical stretch makes it comparable with Silk Road or Silk Route, an ancient network of trade routes connecting the East and West around 120 BCE to 1450s CE that is famous for the profitable silk (and horses) trade.
- That is why it is also called as “New Silk Road” initiative.
What is the Blue Dot network?
- Led by the US’s International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Blue Dot network was jointly launched by the US, Japan (Japanese Bank for International Cooperation) and Australia (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) in November 2019 on the sidelines of the 35th ASEAN Summit in Thailand.
- It is meant to be a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to bring governments, the private sector and civil society together to promote “high quality, trusted standards for global infrastructure development”.
- Blue Dot Network will act as a type of rating mechanism that will be positioned to vet and grade global infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific region around the world.
- Blue dot network will evaluate and certify nominated infrastructure projects based upon a adherence to commonly accepted principles and Standards to promote market-driven, transparent and financially sustain infrastructure development
Countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative?
- The proposal for the Blue Dot network is part of the US’s Indo-Pacific strategy, which is aimed at countering Chinese Belt and Road initiative.
- To Counter China’s debt trap diplomacy
- While Blue Dot may be seen as a counter to BRI, it will need a lot of work for two reasons.
2) Beaten or broken: Informality and COVID-19 Report:
- The extended closure of schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic could dent India’s future earnings by anywhere between $420 billion and $600 billion, as depleted learning levels of students will translate into poorer productivity going forward, the World Bank.
- South Asian governments spend only $400 billion a year on primary and secondary education, so the total loss in economic output would be substantially higher, the bank highlighted.
- While the regional loss is largely driven by India, all countries will lose substantial shares of their GDP.
- The average child in South Asia may lose $4,400 in lifetime earnings once having entered the labour market, equivalent to 5% of total earnings,
- The World Bank said in its latest South Asia report titled “Beaten or broken: Informality and COVID-19”.
- The report has flagged “far-reaching consequences” of lockdowns, apart from the obvious damage to businesses, consumption patterns and imposed social hardship on poor and vulnerable households, especially urban migrants and informal workers.
- Education came to a standstill and efforts to teach children during school closures proved challenging.
- The estimated costs of the school closures in terms of learning and earning losses are substantial.
- They have kept 391 million students out of school in primary and secondary education, further complicating efforts to resolve the learning crisis.
- Labour productivity will also take a greater hit from COVID-19 than most previous natural disasters, not just due to the disruptions in training and education.
3) Paper –Strip virus test:
Context: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday that his Ministry will soon roll out the FELUDA paper strip test for SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis.
- This has been developed by CSIR-IGIB and has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India for a commercial launch.
- He added that the test showed 96% sensitivity and 98% specificity.
- This compares favourably to the ICMR’s current acceptation criteria of RT-PCR Kit of at least 95% sensitivity and at least 99% specificity
FNCAS9 Editor linked uniform Detection Assay FELUDA
- CSIR’S constituent lab, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, CSIR-IGIB and TATA sons signed a MOU for licensing of knowhow for FNCAS9 editor linked uniform Detection Assay for Rapid diagnosis of covid-19
- The IGIB has developed FNCAS9 editor linked Uniform Detection Assay – FELUDA for Rapid diagnosis of covid-19
- This compares favorably to the ICMR’S current acceptation criteria of RT-PCR kit of at least 95% sensitivity and 99% specificity
Test sensitivity is the ability to test to correctly, identify those with the disease
Test specificity is the ability of the test to correctly identify those without the disease
- FELUDA is a completely indigenous scientific invention
- Relative ease of use and
- Not dependency on expensive RT-PCR machines
How to Prioritise vaccine delivery
Based on various factors such as
- Risk of exposure
- Co-morbidity among various population groups,
- The mortality rate among COVID cases
- Categorically denying rumours of the government prioritizing young and working-class for the vaccine for economic reasons
The prioritization of groups for COVID-19 vaccine shall be based on two key considerations:
- Occupational hazard and risk of exposure to infection
- And the risk of developing severe disease and increased mortality.
4) Kasarkod, Padubidri beaches accorded ‘Blue Flag’ tag:
Two beaches in the Karnataka State are among the eight in the country that have bagged the coveted eco-label ‘Blue Flag’ from the international agency Foundation for Environment Education, Denmark.
- The two are Kasarkod beach near Honnavar in Uttara Kannada and Padubidri beach near Udupi.
- According to the Ministry, a ‘Blue Flag’ beach is an eco-tourism model to provide tourists clean and hygienic bathing water, facilities/amenities, safe and healthy environment and sustainable development of the area.
- The certification is awarded by the Denmark-based agency based on 33 stringent criteria in four major heads that is environmental education and information, bathing water quality, environment management and conservation and safety and services in the beaches
- Kasarkod and Padubidri beaches have grey water treatment plants, solid waste management plants, disabled-friendly equipment to enable them to enter seawater, seating arrangements, clean drinking water, washroom, changing room, bathing facility, disabled-friendly and general toilets, parking facilities, solar power plant, solar lighting, and the like.
Eight beaches spread across five states and two union territories in India have been awarded the ‘Blue Flag’ certification,
- Shivrajpur (Dwarka-Gujarat),
- Ghoghla (Diu),
- Kasarkod and Padubidri (Karnataka),
- Kappad (Kerala),
- Rushikonda (AP),
- Golden (Puri-Odisha)
- Radhanagar (A&N Islands).