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The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #33, 08 July 2023, Saturday

Two Banks in Bangladesh to introduce trade in Indian rupees

French financial institutions’ investments in Myanmar junta-linked firms

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #33, 08 July 2023, Saturday
By Immaculine Joy Paul C, Melvin George, Ryan Marcus and Lakshmi Parimala H

69 per cent of children aged consume unhealthy foods, says a report by the Ministry of Health and Population
On 8 July, the Kathmandu Post reported that a recent Nepal Demographic and Health Survey (Click here for the report) reveals alarming rates of unhealthy food consumption among children aged six to 23 months, with 69 per cent affected. Experts warn of the negative impact on growth and weight gain. The study also notes the high consumption of sweet beverages and a lack of fruits and vegetables in children's diets. Breastfeeding rates have declined, raising concerns. Urgent actions such as developing a nutrient profile model, implementing effective regulations, and raising public awareness to address these issues are recommended. (Arjun Poudel, “Nearly 70 percent children are eating unhealthy foods, report says,” The Kathmandu Post, 8 July 2023)

Two Banks to introduce trade in Indian rupees
On 7 July, Reuters reported that two Bangladeshi banks, Sonali Bank and Eastern Bank, are set to introduce trade transactions in Indian rupees. This move comes amidst falling forex reserves, which have shrunk by over a third since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Along these lines, the banks have opened "nostro" accounts in rupees with the State Bank of India and ICICI Bank, which allow international trade and foreign exchange transactions. This move is expected to allow for convenient and cost-effective transactions, thus strengthening Indo-Bangladesh economic ties. (Ruma Paul, “Two Bangladesh banks to offer trade transactions in Indian rupees,” Reuters, 7 July 2023)


French financial institutions’ investments in junta-linked firms
On 07 July, a Joint report from Justice for Myanmar (JFM), Info Birmanie and BankTrack said that five French commercial banks and a publicly owned state-funded pension fund have direct and long-standing business relationships with the twenty-two junta regime-linked firms. According to the report, over six million USD worth of investments has been given so far which estimates that around 75 per cent of the investments in the fossil fuel sector. Four million USD came from France's second-largest bank and the world’s largest cooperative financial institution, Crédit Agricole. The bank invests in Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) which has been supplying military equipment to the junta since the coup. The telecommunication sector and surveillance activities are the other areas of investment.  (“Six French Financial Institutions Still Investing in Myanmar Junta-Linked Firms: Report,” The Irrawaddy, 07 July 2023)

Junta increases Middle East ties in the midst of diplomatic isolation
On 07 July, The Irrawaddy reported that the junta is set to increase diplomatic ties with the Middle East in the midst of downgrading relationships with other countries. On 05 July, Min Aung Hlaing made a telephone conversation with Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheik Ahmad Nawaf Al-Sabah to increase diplomatic ties with the Middle East. On 06 July, foreign minister U Than Swe held talks with the Saudi Ambassador and charge d’affaires ad interim of Qatar, in which various MoUs and agreements were signed. Kuwait, earlier this year, had discussions about fostering diplomatic relations, trade, tourism, investments in the energy sector and supporting each other on international stages. Last year, the Saudi ambassador had a similar interaction in which diplomatic ties and investments were made. (“Myanmar Junta Aims to Boost Ties to the Mideast to Evade Isolation,” The Irrawaddy, 07 July 2022)

Delaying PM selection would slow down the stabilisation of Thai politics, says MFP Gen Sec
On 08 July, the Move Forward Party (MFP) secretary general Chaithawat Tulathon backed the premiership candidacy of Pita Limjaroenrat. He said Pita would be nominated again in the second round of voting on 19 July if he could not gather enough votes in the parliament meeting on 13 July.  The MFP pledged amendment of Section 112 of the Criminal Code or Lese Majeste Law that had caused a shift in support from senators who backed Pita before. Chaithawat said: "But if the voting for a new premier drags on for several rounds, then the formation of a new government would also be delayed. This may also affect deliberations on the 2024 fiscal budget as well as the economy. Investors will have to suspend investment as they have to assess the situation.” (Aekarach Sattaburuth, “MFP predicts PM nod for Pita,” Bangkok Post, 08 July 2023)

Maldives, Azerbaijan signs MoU to strengthen ties
On 7 July, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in the Maldives and the Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aiming for enhanced cooperation between both countries. It also aims to hold regular consultations between them over issues of mutual interest. It further plans to strengthen cooperation on the training of diplomats. The signing took place on the sidelines of the ongoing Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Azerbaijan. (“Maldives and Azerbaijan agree to boost cooperation,” Sun.mv, 8 July 2023)

Govt struggles to recover USD 6.9 million from Chinese company over fertilizer purchase
On 8 July, Daily Mirror reported that Sri Lanka faces a tough situation over an unrecovered sum of USD 6.9 million paid as compensation to a Chinese company for purchasing biofertilizer. In a report by the Auditor General, he stated that the situation was caused due to the expiration of the letters of credit and the performance bond relating to the transaction. He further blamed the Agriculture Ministry, the State Ministry of Agriculture, Colombo Commercial Fertilizers Ltd and Ceylon Fertilizer Ltd for the same. Agriculture Ministry Secretary Gunadasa Samarasinghe commented on this issue: “We try diplomatic means to address this issue by recovering the loss.” He added that a committee has been set up to probe into the purchase of the controversial stock of organic fertilizer. (“Govt. negligence costs Sri Lanka $6.9Mn in unrecovered compensation: Report,” The Island, 8 July 2023)

Iran executes two over a shrine attack
On 8 July, Al Jazeera reported that Iran has publicly executed two people over an attack on Shah Cheragh Shrine, Shiraz. The attack was claimed by the ISIL armed group. The remaining suspects received prison terms. Authorities stated that more than 13 people were killed and 40 were injured. Additionally, authorities stated that the two people were in contact with ISIL operatives in Afghanistan. ("Iran publicly executes two over deadly Shiraz shrine attack," Al Jazeera, 8 July 2023)

Taliban claims forbidden services led to beauty parlour ban
On 6 July, the Taliban stated that beauty salons were banned since they offer forbidden services according to Islam and have caused economic hardships for the groom during weddings. Taliban has issued a one-month time for beauty salons to wind down their business. The ban on beauty salons has drawn the attention from international officials. Virtue and Vice Ministry spokesman Akif Mahjer stated that the services interfered with the ablutions required for prayer. ("The Afghan Taliban say they banned beauty salons because they offered forbidden services," AP News, 6 July 2023)

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