The World This Week

Our editors give us the breakdown of this week’s biggest news stories

UK: Ryan Morrice

HSBC is to cut 35,000 jobs over the next three years after its profits for 2019 fell by a third.

The unemployment rate fell to 3.8% while the employment rate rose to a record high of 76.5% for the final quarter of 2019. Wage growth (excluding bonuses) slowed to 3.2%.

The government announced a new points based immigration system to replace freedom of movement with the EU after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2019.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has been accused of bullying civil servants after it was revealed she had tried to move the most senior civil servant in her department. Meanwhile, a Downing Street adviser resigned after he was criticised for a number of controversial past remarks. One such remark was a twitter post from 2019 where he said “I am always straight up in saying that women’s sport is more comparable to the Paralympics than it is to men’s.”

Europe: Charlie Whiteley

Germany has increased police presence around transport centres and places of worship due to this week’s terror attack in Hanau, in which nine people were killed. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her party, the Christian Democratic Union, have warned about the rise of far-right extremism, and accuse Germany’s AfD, an anti-immigration right wing party, of promoting racist ideas. 

The coronavirus outbreak has spread to Italy, with Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte ordering the lockdown of several cities in Northern Italy. Recently, two people have died, causing fears that the outbreak will spread further. School and sports activities have been cancelled, demonstrating Italy’s strong response to the threat posed by the coronavirus.

Africa: Camille Capelle

This week, St Andrews had the honour of hosting the 5th annual St Andrews Africa Summit (SAASUM) with extraordinary speakers such as his excellency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the current President of the Republic of Ghana. Centred around leadership, development, and entrepreneurship, the summit discussed encouraging African youth to regain the confidence to become the leaders of their countries’ development.

South Sudan has a new coalition government following the historic power-sharing agreement, a significant symbol of the end of the civil conflict.

Meanwhile, controversial elections are still underway in Togo, where President Faure Gnassingbé is expected to continue his family’s historic control over the political scene. People remain sceptical as to whether this will bring any change to the country’s political crisis. 

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, concluded his trip around the African continent, reasserting American commitments to African development. However, Pompeo’s assurances continue to be contradicted by Trump’s policies towards the continent. Trump’s extended version of the travel ban is just one the current policies disadvantaging African countries. Nigeria has responded with public requests to drop the ban, seeing it as an undeserved sanction by a key ally.

Middle East: Ali Drabu

This week saw the Iranian elections for the Majlis (the Iranian Parliament) take place, the first since the re-imposition of sanctions on the country. With thousands of moderate candidates disqualified from running, conservatives and hardliners loyal to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are set to win a sweeping majority. Whilst the regime had hoped for a high voter turnout, the country has seen the lowest turnout rate since the 1979 Revolution, with many critics having called for a boycott of the elections, citing the regime’s widespread abuse of human rights and suppression of dissent.

The Coronavirus outbreak continues to trouble the Middle East – Turkey and Pakistan have both closed their land borders with Iran due to fears of the virus spreading, with flights also being suspended. Iran has 43 reported cases of the virus, and twelve people are reported to have died, the highest number outside of China. Kuwait and Bahrain also recently reported their first cases of the virus.

There has been an escalation of violence between Israel and Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza; The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) carried out air strikes against PIJ targets in Gaza overnight in response to rocket fire into southern Israel. This follows a continued pattern of recent increases in violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories following President Trump’s unveiling of his “Deal of the Century”. The deal sought to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians, yet critics argued the deal heavily favoured Israel and sought to normalise the illegal annexation of Palestinian land and deny the Palestinians the prospect of statehood.

Asia: Max Dowden

This week, major headway was made in the Afghanistan peace process, as the United States and the Taliban agreed to a week of ‘reduced violence’ ahead of a formal peace accord. This agreement follows 18 months of negotiations, and has returned the promise of a unifying peace agreement for the country.

In Thailand, national courts officially dissolved the ‘Future Forward’ political party, to the dismay of opposition leaders. The party was the third-largest in the country, and their dissolution came in the wake of an electoral finance scandal involving a local auto parts billionaire.

Meanwhile, the government of Japan released troubling economic data suggesting a large drop in GDP growth in the final quarter of 2019, due in large part to an increase in the controversial ‘Consumption Tax’, as well as a destructive typhoon which hit the country during that period.

Americas: Alex Watt

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has affirmed his status as front runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination after taking a substantial lead in the Nevada caucuses. With about 50% of reporting done, the 78-year old Senator has succeeded in attaining 47% of the vote, followed by Mr Biden, Mr Buttigieg, and Senator Warren on 19%, 15% and 10% of the vote respectively. In a State with over 3m people where Hispanics make up a third of the population, Senator Sanders had to win their votes; according to polling agency Edison Research, more than half of participating Hispanic voters had said they would vote for him before the caucuses. His win puts significant pressure on his rivals to catch up, and means as it stands Senator Sanders – who has only been a member of the Democratic Party since 2019, and one other time from 2015-16 – is the most likely to face President Trump in November’s Presidential election.

In Brazil, Senator Cid Gomes has been shot and injured after he was fired at during a stand-off with police. Senator Gomes was driving a digger towards a fence that was in front of a protest by masked military police officers. There have been months of strikes by the officers, demanding better pay, and Mr Gomes was attempting to break the picket line and force his way into the police barracks. The incident occurred in Sobral, in the North-Eastern state of Ceará, and the officers have been asserting they are underpaid relative to counterparts elsewhere. Police officers are banned from striking under Brazillian law, this being reinforced by a Court in Ceará declaring any officers who strike could face prison. President Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo has criticised Senator Gomes, questioning what he hoped he would achieve by driving at the officers.

Economics: Lucy Wright

In China, car sales have fallen by 92% for the first half of February as a result of Coronavirus. Car dealerships have remained closed, and buyers have stayed away to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. While this has had a massive impact on the industry, dealers have gradually restarted operations, and the automobile trade body is hoping sales will improve during the second half of February.

The Coronavirus has, however, led to a surge in demand for one industry: private jets. The number of business jet flights between Hong Kong to Australia and North America leapt 214 per cent. As growing fears ground many commercial passenger planes, slashing the number of flights to and from China, companies and individuals are seeking alternative ways to conduct business as usual in spite of the international outbreak.

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