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The World Bank has halted funding for projects in Afghanistan

   NEWS / 25 Aug 2021

Published: 25 August 2021

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


The World Bank has halted funding for projects in Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the country, citing concerns over how the Taliban's takeover will impact "the country's development prospects, especially for women". Last week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suspended payments to Afghanistan and President Biden’s administration froze assets of Afghanistan's central bank held in the US.
 
Business minister Lord Grimstone has claimed that many companies based in the UK perform better if they have foreign owners, and that the country has nothing to fear from the recent flood of overseas' takeover bids for UK-listed companies. "It would be a sad day for Britain if we pulled down the shutters so that we weren't a mercantile entrepreneurial country," he said, as the government announced the UK will hold a major international investment summit in October to attract more overseas investment in post-Brexit Britain. "All our research shows that overseas invested companies are more productive and produce more jobs," he said, “an extraordinary finding but what it shows is the importance of attracting overseas investment into the UK."
 
News that the Government has ordered 35 million covid booster shots from Pfizer, to be delivered in the second half of 2022, has led to suggestions the UK may be envisaging a reduced role for the British-made AstraZeneca in the booster rollout programme. The Daily Telegraph says news of the order “raised some eyebrows” in the scientific community. “I find it all a little bit disturbing," said Clive Dix, the former interim chair of the vaccine taskforce. "I think it's crazy we're going down that route already." In his view, decisions over boosting seem to be rushed: "I would personally just say let's boost with the AstraZeneca vaccine this year, which we have available and which is a very good vaccine - and only then should we start thinking about next year."
 
Ryanair will stop flying from Northern Ireland in October, abandoning operations at Belfast International and Belfast City airports to base its aircraft at cheaper airports elsewhere in the UK and Europe. The airline blamed the high costs of operating at Belfast's two airports for the decision, plus the Government's refusal to reduce or suspend air passenger duty. The Telegraph says Britain has some of the world's highest air passenger duty rates in the world, with a tax of £26 per passenger on short haul economy flights to most of Europe, and £150 per passenger on long haul flights. The action comes just three months after the airline recommenced flights from Belfast City after an absence of 11 years. It currently operates routes to Malaga, Alicante, Krakow, Warsaw, Gdansk and Milan from Belfast International.
 
Research by the BBC’s Panorama and consumer group Which? suggests self-catered accommodation in the UK is costing an average of 40% more than in the summer of 2019. Their analysis suggests holidaymakers are paying an average of £300 more per week in August compared to before the pandemic. Brighton is among the seaside resorts with soaring prices, with average rental costs for one night for two people almost doubling from £109 in 2019 to £206 now, a rise of 89%. The data is from AirDNA, which monitors websites such as Airbnb and Vrbo.
 
Amazon is offering new warehouse workers a £1,000 joining bonus in an “urgent” bid to attract new recruits amid a growing recruitment crisis. Candidates who take up the roles before 18 September will get the sign-on fee, according to jobs site IndeedBrexit, coronavirus and the furlough scheme, which still supports millions of workers, have been blamed for the mounting recruitment challenges, the broadcaster says. Hospitality was badly hit by the so-called "pingdemic", while companies including major supermarkets are suffering disruptions to their supply chains due to a UK-wide shortage of HGV drivers. Based on a survey of its members, the Road Haulage Association estimates there is now a shortage of more than 100,000 drivers in the UK, out of a pre-pandemic total of about 600,000. Even before Covid, the estimated shortage was about 60,000 drivers, a separate report from the BBC says.
 
McDonald's has run out of milkshakes and some bottled drinks at restaurants in England, Scotland and Wales. The chain said it was facing supply chain issues affecting the availability of shakes and bottled drinks at its 1,250 outlets. In a statement, the firm said it was "working hard" to limit the impact on deliveries and customers and had taken some items off its menus for now. The statement confirmed the national lorry driver shortage was one reason behind the disruption.

Several KFC branches have told Yahoo Finance UK that supply chain issues mean they have run out of paper takeaway bags, chicken boxes and cups, and sauces and seasoning. One restaurant in Norfolk said they were using emergency packaging, unbranded bags and different sized bags to normal, and operating on a reduced menu. Other locations have taken hot drinks and milkshakes off the menu. The fast-food chain chain warned on Twitter on 11 August that this was likely to happen.
 
Just Eat is to create more than 1,500 customer service jobs at a new facility in Sunderland as part of a £100m investment in the region by the firm over the next five years. The firm has already created 300 of the new roles at its offices in Houghton-le-Spring – used previously by now-defunct energy supplier Npower. Since their hire, customer satisfaction has gone up, Just Eat says. Previously, the firm outsourced the majority of its customer service roles to Bulgaria and the Philippines. The new employees will begin by working from home, with an option to work from the office in the coming months. The Amsterdam-based takeaway app currently has a total of more than 2,000 UK-based employees.
 
Boots chemist has teamed up with delivery company Deliveroo to provide an on-demand delivery service for selected health and beauty products. An initial trial will take place in 14 locations across the UK, with delivery of 400 products including food and drink, medicines for minor ailments and Boots’ own brand No7 beauty products. Boots said the move compliments a continued rise in online sales: orders on boots.com were up 85% between 1 March 2020 and 1 March 2021 compared to the same period the previous year and "continue on a strong trajectory". However, Oscar Williams-Grut, the Senior City Correspondent for Yahoo Finance UK, says the move is likely to create ‘dark pharmacies’ in the same way that takeaway delivery app Deliveroo has created ‘dark kitchens;’ restaurants that exist only on industrial estates or unmarked side-streets and which churn out meals solely for takeaway clients, with no seated customers anywhere to be seen. “’Dark pharmacies’ would let the likes of Boots squeeze more stock into a smaller space,” he writes, “but staff may be less pleased. By replacing customer service with an app, ‘dark pharmacies’ would most likely require fewer employees than regular ones. That could drive more people into the gig economies, delivering paracetamol on their bikes rather than handing it over the counter.”
 
Lidl GB has announced a “traffic light” system to inform customers of the environmental impact of some of its products. The scheme will begin in Lidl’s Scottish supermarkets from October, for 50 own-brand products, such as tea and coffee, which will be marked with a coloured grade from A to E based on how little or much they impact the environment and how sustainable they are. Grades will be based on a factors such as biodiversity impact, packaging, and the carbon footprint involved in getting the product onto shelves. Scores will be boosted if producers are members of “climate-friendly” third party schemes such as Fairtrade or the Rainforest Alliance.
 
The Guardian reports a proposed trial by National Grid (NG) and power provider SSE to harness “waste heat” generated by transmission network transformers into home heating. Currently, hot air is vented from NG’s giant substations to help cool the transformers that help to control the electricity current running through the Grid’s high-voltage transmission lines. If the trial succeeds, some 1,300 NG substations will act as neighbourhood “boilers”, piping water heated by the substations into nearby heating networks, and on into the thousands of homes that use SSE’s services. The energy companies believe the scheme could initially reduce heat network carbon emissions by more than 40% compared with fossil gas systems.
 
The world's largest technology investor is to plough some $50 million into a Manchester-based artificial intelligence (AI) start-up which aids corporate decision-making, Sky News reports. SoftBank's Vision Fund II has agreed to acquire a stake in Peak, which counts PepsiCo and the fashion retailer PrettyLittleThing among its clients, in return for a "meaningful" stake in the company. Peak was founded in 2014 and says its AI tools have helped customers achieve "transformational" results by reducing inventory holdings and supply chain costs, and improving advertising spend efficiency. "It's becoming impossible to run a business without AI. Modern businesses are complex and operate in an ever-changing world," Richard Potter, Peak's co-founder and chief executive, said earlier this year.
 
Japanese-owned Komatsu, the world's second largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, set to create almost 100 new jobs and apprenticeships at its Birtley plant in County Durham.
 
FTSE 100 miner Rio Tinto said yesterday it has resumed operations at Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) in South Africa. Mining operations at RBM were stopped in June due to safety concerns following the fatal shooting of a senior manager.
 
Airbnb says it will help house up to 20,000 Afghan refugees via a plan to coordinate with Airbnb hosts who want to offer their homes to refugees for free, or at a discounted rate, with the charitable wing of the company picking up the rest of the bill, as well as operational expenditures. The Airbnb co-founder and chief executive, Brian Chesky, will also help fund the effort.
 
The final chunk of $610m (£444.7m) in cryptocurrency stolen from Poly Network earlier this month has now been returned by the hackers responsible.


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