Health of African women should be priority UN says

30 May 2008The health of African women is lagging behind the rest of the world, and leaders should move the issue to the top of their agenda, according to the head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). “Of all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), goal number five – preventing women’s deaths during pregnancy and childbirth – is generating the least resources and lagging the furthest behind. And African women are paying the price,” UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said today.Ms. Obaid was speaking today at the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV), a joint process between Japan and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).She called on all leaders “to make the health of women a political and development priority.”In a related development at the summit, Japan announced a doubling of development assistance for Africa over the next five years.“In the future, Africa will become a powerful engine driving the growth of the world,” Prime Minister of Japan Yasuo Fukuda said at the opening of the conference.Mr. Fukuda pledged that Japan would offer up to $4 billion of loans to assist African countries boost infrastructure and agriculture, and he also announced the creation of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation Facility for African Investment, which would extend $2.5 billion in financial support.“The theme of the Conference very much captures the impressive achievements of many African countries,” said UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis. “In terms of overall economic progress, average annual economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa has been above five per cent since 2004, reaching 6 per cent in 2007 – one percentage point higher than the world average.”Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro stated that “with a concerted drive by African governments and their development partners, we can accomplish these goals for a better world.”TICAD IV priorities include boosting economic growth, ensuring human security, ensuring achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), consolidation of peace and democratization and climate change.Japan will feed the results of the summit into the G-8 meeting of leading industrialized nations, which will be held in Tokyo in July and chaired by Mr. Fukuda. read more

Canadians are carrying more debt than ever before

OTTAWA — Canadians are more in hock today than ever before, Statistics Canada said Thursday in releasing fresh data on household debt.The new report shows household debt to annual disposable income reached a new high at 164.6%, from 163.3% the previous quarter.Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney has named rising household debt a key risk to the Canadian economy, but noted this week he was encouraged that credit growth appeared to be slowing.[np_storybar title=”BoC’s interest rate warnings drove homeowners to lock in mortgages: Carney” link=””%5DTwo prominent voices made the case on Tuesday that Canada’s housing market is currently undergoing a soft landing, and that a “sustainable” path is around the corner.Read full story here.[/np_storybar]Still, Carney has also said he expects the debt-to-income ratio to keep rising over the next couple of years. That is in part because of a lag in time between purchase decisions — such as a new home — and when the debt gets registered.In the July-September period, households borrowed $27.3-billion, $18.4-billion of that in mortgages, while consumer credit levels increased by $7-billion to $474-billion.The high debt-to-income number may surprise Canadians who only a few months ago were told it was just above 150%. But Statistics Canada has recently revised how it calculates the measure to make it more representative of actual household finances.There was some good news in the report. The agency noted that the pace of growth in debt slowed during the period.As well, household net worth rose 1% to $197,800 in the July-September period, mostly due to gains in holdings in stocks, including mutual funds, and increased value of pension assets.Economist Jimmy Jean of Desjardins Capital Markets said the report is unlikely to change the perception of Canada’s debt problem.The debt-to-income ratio has been setting new records since 2003, but remains below the peak reached south of the border before the 2007 housing crash. StatsCan says using equivalent measurements, Canada’s ratio is about 10 percentage points below the peak reached in the U.S. prior to the housing crash in 2007.The Bank of Canada, Jean notes, shouldn’t be shifted from its interest rate stance given “the evolution of debt seems to tie in to its expectations.” He pointed out that the effect of mortgage tightening rules brought in July had only begun to be felt in the third quarter numbers.But while managing debt doesn’t appear to be a major concern at the moment, thanks to super-low interest rates, the danger signs continue to flash red, economists warned.“The high level of debt leaves households more vulnerable to a rise in interest rates than they have been in the past,” said TD Bank economist Diana Petramala.“Given the prospects that interest rates will eventually rise, households must cool their spending and borrowing further.”On a national accounting level, Canada’s net worth increased by more than $9-billion in the third quarter to $6.8-trillion. That translates to $194,100 per person.However, an increase in net foreign indebtedness dampened the gain, the agency said.This higher net foreign debt was largely a result of increased Canadian borrowing abroad, as well as a decrease in the value of Canadian investments denominated in foreign currency because of the rising value of the loonie. The Canadian Press read more

Sri Lankan tourist killed by speeding bike in Aurangabad

Dead body in a mortuaryA Sri Lankan tourist, critically injured after she was hit by a two-wheeler in front of a petrol pump at Khuldabad in Aurangabad, India died in a city hospital on Saturday night, the Times of India reported.Assistant police inspector Abhijit More said the 64-year-old woman, Soida Buthkarne was a resident of Sri Lanka and had come to the city as part of a tourist group of 127 members. The group, mostly comprising of elderly couples, had come to the state on Thursday and visited the Ajanta caves. “After finding that the tourists did not have enough finances to take back the body of the deceased, the Aurangabad rural superintendent of police Navinchandra Reddy contributed Rs 22, 000 from his pocket, which prompted some civilians and even the MTDC to help them take her back to her country,” an officer said.The Aurangabad rural police in coordination with the Sri Lankan embassy has made arrangements for the same. (Colombo Gazette) The Khuldabad police have registered a case of negligent driving and causing death due to negligence against the two-wheeler rider Vishal Tatyrao Bali (21), a farmer hailing from Suli Bhanjan in the district, and have seized his two-wheeler. “On Friday, they went to see the Ellora caves and were on their way back, when their buses halted near a petrol pump at Khuldabad for sugarcane juice at 3 pm. Some of the tourists went to the nearby toilet, while others started taking out the stoves they were carrying for cooking food. Buthkarne suddenly tried running to the other side of the road, and was hit by a speeding bike. She was soon rushed to the rural hospital, but when her condition deteriorated, she was taken to GMCH. She died while under treatment at around 8.30 pm on Saturday,” said a police officer. read more