Weekly Roundup: September 19, 2016

Moldova ∙ Zambia ∙ Mongolia ∙ Bangladesh ∙ Belgium ∙ Lithuania ∙ United Kingdom∙ China ∙ Slovakia ∙ Israel

Once weekly I share the top stories from ten countries based on a simple random sample from the U.S. Department of State’s list of countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. If you like what you read, please subscribe to receive these Roundups weekly in your mailbox: http://eepurl.com/b-SrOb.


Moldova

It looks like Moldova has its own Chuck Bass, and he is potentially about to become a lot more powerful than all the other kids at school. Twenty-one-year-old Igor Platon is reportedly one of the two remaining bids for a 40% stake in the country’s largest bank, Moldova Agroindbank. The shares became available earlier this year when many shareholders were forced to sell their holdings due to illegal collusion behind the scenes. This is great, right? Moldova’s taking steps to increase banking transparency, as advised by the IMF recently. Until we find out that Igor’s already controversial investor father, Veacheslav, was the previous holder of roughly 40% of the bank and that the estimated €60M Igor is using in his big bid were a gift from father to son. XOXO.

Zambia

This is something I have not heard before. Obviously when a business gets big enough, it may seek a new city for a new headquarters. It may even build a skyscraper if it needs to. Governments give themselves new office buildings all the time, but a government building a new capital city is a rare idea. But traffic in Lusaka seems to have finally annoyed the national government enough, because they are “seriously considering creating a new Capital city away from Lusaka.” Increases in human and motor vehicle traffic as well as perpetual congestion prompted the investigation into the government’s physical future. National Planning Minister Lucky Mulusa said that staying in its current offices would make getting work done in the next 10–20 years almost impossible. Whether or not it pans out, it’s an interesting concept.

Case in Pointe’s Daniel Feenstra shares a recipe for Mongolian buuz in this week’s “National Dish.”

Mongolia

Oil exploration activities have been halted abruptly in the northwest province of Uvs as Hong Kong-based Mongolia Gladwill Uvs Petroleum LLC no longer has a valid production sharing agreement with the provincial and national governments. The company, which had been granted rights to resource extraction in the area since 2011, has essentially up-and-left, and will remain gone for an indefinite time. Complaints from local residents and a case filed by the NGO World Mongolia Green Union alleging that the company has been illegally exploring in 19,000 square kilometers prompted government officials to order the halt until a full investigation could be conducted.

Bangladesh

I tried to think of commentary for this, but it’s too glocal for anything I could think to say to do it justice. A police officer in the Paltan district of capital Dhaka shot rickshaw puller Mohammad Hanif, 35 on Tuesday. The police department said the shot was an accident, and that the gun went off accidentally. Hanif was taken to the hospital and treated for injuries on his arm and back caused by the rubber bullets. A probe committee has been formed to investigate the matter fully.

Belgium

Brussels hosted its now-annual Mobility Day on Sunday, banning all motor vehicles from the entire city from 9am to 5pm. Public transportation was strengthened and made free for the day, but citizens were encouraged to use bicycles and their own two feet to get to and from wherever they needed to go. This comes at the same time some Brussels citizens are taking their city to court saying that air pollution and heightened levels of nitrogen dioxide are a criminal harm to their livelihood. They are asking for Brussels “To establish a plan against air pollution comply with European rules” similar to those found in the UK, the Netherlands, Czechia, and Germany.

Lithuania

The Immovable Cultural Heritage Assessment Council (yes, that’s their name) decided to ignore the advice of the Cultural Heritage Centre and not take the Soviet-era sculptures of the Green Bridge in Vilnius off of Lithuania’s list of protected cultural monuments. The four sculptures, titled Youth of Education, Guarding Peace, Industry and Construction, and Agriculture, are a painful insult to many Lithuanians who fought against Soviet occupation, according to protesters outside the Department of Cultural Heritage as it voted. Others say the sculptures are testament to Lithuanian resilience with “the ghosts of the past.” Regardless, they are a good example of Soviet realism artwork, and it looks like they’re there to stay.

United Kingdom

I have so many thoughts on Brexit that reporting on anything related to that here would be criminal. So instead, our British news is that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s prayers for a regulatory crusade against payday lending firms have been answered. In a quote that I’m not sure I could have ever scripted, Archbishop Justin Welby said, about firm Wonga, the Church of England “wants to compete it out of existence.” He was referring to the Church’s plans to expand their credit union system. Thanks to recent and heavy regulations, Wonga was forced to write off £220m of loans to 375,000 borrowers in 2014 alone, and taking heavy losses ever since.

China

The Three Gorges dam already had the world’s largest ship lock system, but this week, it opened the world’s largest shiplift too. The shiplift, essentially an elevator for whole ships, has a “maximum capacity” of 15,500 tons, and is designed to help small and medium-sized ships ascend or descend the dam with ease. As opposed to the three to four hours it takes to travel the Three Gorges’ lock system, the shiplift will only take a ship between 40 minutes and an hour. Construction on the elevator began in 1994, but was put on hold from 1995 to 2008.

Slovakia

Capital city Bratislava may be close to joining most other European capitals in having one uniform parking policy. The city has until now divulged parking policies to the neighborhood level, meaning that each individual city neighborhood could develop its own system and its own regulating bodies to enforce parking. The uniform proposal is a result of seven of the neighborhoods coming together to agree on parking payment methods and systems. Though the prices of temporary spots and long-term parking cards would still vary depending on neighborhood, the common system should help to simplify day-to-day city life.

Israel

Anti-poverty NGO Latet has just released the results of a 2015 study on food security in Israel, and reports that 20% of Israelis did not eat balanced meals with 14% not being able to afford to do so. The National Insurance Institute contributed, saying that 100,000 Israeli families suffer from food insecurity. The group also reported that 78% of respondents view the government as the responsible entity for alleviating poverty, while 66% believe that actually dealing with poverty has little-to-no national priority. Of course since it was an in-house poll, there is big room for bias, as was mentioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Services. “This is an organization full of economic interests, some of which aren’t even related to wanting to help those in need.”

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