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Sunday, 6 July 2014

[INTERVIEW] ADB's Christopher Edmonds on Pacific economies

Manila: Senior Economist Christopher Edmonds discusses the latest issue of the Pacific Economic Monitor, which talks about the challenges that Pacific economies face in creating more jobs for their rapidly growing working-age populations.

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Courtesy: ADB

Interview Transcript:
  
Q1: How has the growth outlook for the Pacific region economies changed since the start of the year?
A: We are making a modest downgrade revision in our growth forecast for ADB’s fourteen developing member countries in the Pacific region. And growth forecast in 2014 is now forecast at 5.2% growth, down from the 5.4% growth that was forecast last April in the Asian Development Outlook. The main factors behind the downgrade are changes in the forecast for Solomon Islands and Timor Leste.

In Solomon Islands, it’s really the effect of the tropical cyclone Aida on the economy. The cyclone caused severe flooding in Honiara and surrounding provinces, led to a lot of damage to public infrastructure, also in private property and even loss of life and particularly damaged agricultural production and gold production in the country. While in Timor Leste, its early indicators are credit growth and consumer demand have been disappointing leading to a half of a percentage point decrease in that country’s growth forecast for 2014.

Q2: What are some of the main findings in the policy briefs on labor market challenges in the Pacific?
A: The Pacific is a very diverse region in terms of the labor-market challenges different countries face. In general, a lot of the countries have struggled to attain rates of growth that are even adequate to keep up with the rate of population growth. And even in countries that have achieved high growth, the resource-exporting countries, generating jobs has been a real challenge.

The population of the region is forecast to increase by more than three million or about 32% between now and 2030. So it’s going to be a real challenge for the region to generate those jobs, especially if recent employment growth trends persist. It’s expected to about one million new additional formal sector jobs would be needed just to maintain current rates of unemployment. And if the region is going to make progress, in terms of getting its people out of the risky and low-income subsistence and informal sector activities, it is estimated to about another million jobs would be required.

Q3: What policy recommendations does the ADB report have for Pacific countries to address these challenges?
A: Measures that can achieve this are investments in infrastructure to improve the connectivity of the region and reforms to improve the business operating environment in the region. Together these measures can reduce transaction cost and allow the region to join the growth that we’re seeing around the larger economies of the world.

Lastly, of course, education and training and upscaling the workers of the region will be very important especially in terms of enabling them to access employment opportunities overseas where they can get the capital, as well as human capital and physical capital. They need to come back to their home countries and invest and grow the economies there.
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Ultrarunning at its best!

Salomon Xreid 2014 Norway: Thomas Andersen - Winner
[PHOTO: Red Bull / Pool]
Norway, Hardangervidda: Taking the athletes over the mighty Hardangervidda National Park and through some of the most beautiful scenery in Norway, the Salomon Xreid Hardangervidda challenges even the most seasoned runner. Following marked trails across the vast mountain plateau, the athletes had to navigate by GPS and check in at five checkpoints en route before ascending the majestic Mount Gaustatoppen (1 883 metres above sea level).

88 runners completed the gruelling race but there was one who outclassed them all. Having led the race right from the start, 40 year-old Thomas Andersen from Norway, crossed the finish line at 02.08 am Saturday morning with the impressive finishing time of 14 hours and 4 minutes.

In second place, 1 hour and 36 minutes after Thomas, came another Norwegian, Eirik Johannessen. Just a split second after him, came yet another Norwegian, Dag Olav Tho, and Paul Raistrick from Scotland. Winner Women

At 07.17 Saturday morning, Jenn Gaskell from the UK reached the finish line at the summit. Last year the 26-year-old was the first and only woman to accomplish the entire race.
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Gigi Hadid bares all for Tom Ford's latest ad

[PHOTO: Tom Ford/Mario Sorrenti]
Los Angeles: American model Gigi Hadid is seen totally nude in the new ad campaign of Tom Ford's Velvet Orchid fragrance.

Photographed by Mario Sorrenti, the ad features Cody Simpson's ex posing naked while holding the new fragrance bottle.

The 19-year-old swimsuit model was named one of 12 rookies in Sports Illustrated annual issue in 2014. Hadid has also appeared on a few episodes of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
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[FEATURE] Amarnath yatra and environment protection

By Obaidur Rehman* and Shabir A Dar*

Kashmir holds not only a distinction of being a picturesque tourist place, but also a melting pot of various religious centers and pilgrimage spots – which makes it a busy religious tourism destination all across the year. In fact, religions have inspired the construction of some of the most spectacular monuments in Valley and all forms of art and architecture find expression in them. It is because of the religious character that the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir have got a unique identification: While Kashmir Valley is known as a land of Sufis, Jammu city is called a land of temples and Ladakh is famous for the gumpas and monasteries. So in all three parts of the state, pilgrim tourism remains the most happening activity besides the normal tourist flows.

Attempts are afoot on part of the government to give proper boost to the religious tourism and make Jammu and Kashmir a hub for spiritual and religious travelers. Special infrastructure is being created to materialize the plan. The tourism ministry is also contemplating to create spiritual circuits in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions.

J&K Tourism has plans for promotion of religious tourism and three mega projects have been conceived for implementation and Detailed Project Report’s (DPR’s) stand submitted to the Government of India. The project worth Rs 150 crores is aimed to develop tourism circuits in three regions. While Rs 50 crore of the stipulated cost is to be utilized to promote Buddhist-related tourism in Ladakh, Rs 100 crore is to be used to boost Sufi tourism in Kashmir and to restore various pilgrimage centers in Jammu.

The famous religious tourism spots of Kashmir include Hazratbal, Kherbawani, and Amarnath Cave. But it is the Amarnath Cave that receives largest number of pilgrims. So we can say that in terms of numerical numbers, Amarnath is largest religious tourism destination. Amarnath Yatra is not only special for Hindus but for Muslims too. Hundreds of Muslims could be seen offering their services for the smooth conduct of the yatra. So the pilgrimage provides a secular tinge in an exclusively religious environment. It provides a chance of interaction and intermingling of intra and inter-religious communities and promotes feelings of communal harmony. 

Amarnath cave is a Hindu shrine dedicated to  Hindu God, Shiva and is located in South Kashmir Himalayas, at an altitude of 3,888 m (12,756 ft), about 141 km from Srinagar, and reached via Pahalgam and Baltal routes. The shrine is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. The cave is surrounded by snowy mountains. The cave itself is covered with snow most of the year except in three summer months (from mid June to mid August) when it is open for pilgrims. Thousands of Hindu devotees make an annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave on challenging mountainous terrain to see an ice stalagmite formed inside the cave.

It is believed that after the middle Ages, this cave was forgotten by people before it was discovered by a shepherd, Butta Malik, in the 15th century once again. Story goes that a saint gave Buta Malik a bag full of coal. On reaching home, to his utter surprise he finds the bag was full of gold coins. Overwhelmed with joy, he wanted to thank the saint. But, he found that the saint had disappeared. Instead he found the Holy Cave and Shiv Lingam there in. He announced the discovery of this to the Villagers. Then onwards this has become the sacred place of Pilgrimage.

Another story relates to Bhrigu Muni. Long time ago, it is believed that the Vale of Kashmir was submerged under water and Kashyapa Muni drained it through a series of rivers and rivulets. Therefore when the waters drained, Bhrigu Muni was the first to have Darshan of Lord Amarnath. Thereafter, when people heard of the Lingam, it became an abode of Lord Bholenath for all believers and a pilgrimage which is performed by lakhs of people every year.

The government is very particular about the arrangements and facilities for the proper performance of worship by the Amarnath pilgrims. Security remains the major concern so special care is being taken to ensure an incident free pilgrimage. Large part of the state machinery is pressed in to service during the Yatra period to ensure that enough arrangements of civic and medical facilities are put in place, for the religious journey. 

The annual pilgrimage is managed by Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) through Jammu and Kashmir Amarnathji Shrine Act 2000. The board is headed by Jammu and Kashmir Governor, who is ex-officio chairman of the board. On the directives of SASB and state government, each pilgrim is supposed to carry a valid health certificate issued by a recognized doctor and have to go for prior registration before embarking on Yatra. However, the government finds itself strained in managing and facilitating the huge number of the pilgrims. Good faith ensures spiritual power of the believers and instills a sense of responsibility for the community and environment in them. Here pilgrims hold responsibility of protecting environment and follow directives from administration in this regard. Rules and regulations should be strictly adhered to, because nature’s rule is such that it takes two to make a tango. If we preserve the environment, the environment too will save us and our faith.

Environment issue is not restricted to Kashmir only. It has assumed an international challenge and the alarming situation demands a need for a global awakening. But given the fragile nature of Kashmir’s environment, particularly the areas surrounding the Amarnath Cave and the routes that lead to it, authorities are duty bound to ensure that mass flow of pilgrims to an ecologically fragile area doesn’t cause harm to it. But the ground situation presents a different picture. Such remains the scale of the yatra, that at its peak, the two base camps at Baltal and Pahalgam, huge camps with thousands of tents pitched across miles of once green meadows. The enormous numbers directly reflect on the facilities provided to the yatries. There's a lack of toilets and a lot of pilgrims end up relieving themselves into the open by the rivers passing by the base camps. Furthermore a lack of a proper waste disposal system in both the camps and along the routes to the cave means that the whole area is littered with plastic bottles, wrappers and other non-biodegradable pollutants, even much longer after the yatra is over.

The main victims of colossal waste produced by increasing number of pilgrims are the fragile ecologies of Baltal and Pahalgam. These two ecologically sensitive places take much of the pollution onslaught year after year, without repair or rescue. The famous Lidder River too is a victim of the yatra pollution. This onslaught was documented in a 37-page report released by the Jammu and Kashmir State Pollution Control Board (JKSPCB) in 2006. The report expressed concern over not regulating the yatra in a manner that protects the environment. It specifically pointed out that the situation in Pahalgam, the main base camp of the yatra, was alarming and called for immediate measures to protect the sensitive ecology of the Pahalgam valley.

However, the fact remain that the pollution onslaught is bound to cause an irreparable loss to the Holy cave and its surrounding ecology. There is a strong need to conduct a proper scientific survey to assess the annual carrying capacity by the Pahalgam and Baltal routes that would serve as reliable and scientific indicators towards arriving at a safe annual pilgrim number. So in order to prevent irreparable harm to the fragile ecology around the Holy cave, there is need to take urgent measures in terms of policy making and willingness to prevent the damage in time. (PIB Features.)

*Obaidur Rehman is Addl. Director General, PIB Srinagar and *Shabir A Dar is Information Assistant, PIB Srinagar. Views expressed by them in this article are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of http://news.BDTV.in.
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In-pics: Sexiest styles in Victoria's Secret swim collection

[PHOTO: Victoria's Secret/Special Arrangements]
West Hollywood, California: Supermodels Alessandra Ambrosio and Behati Prinsloo celebrated the sexiest new shapes and styles from Victoria's Secret 2014 Swim collection. 

[PHOTO: Victoria's Secret/Special Arrangements]
The Angels discussed the hottest trends in swim, tips for turning heads at the beach and Victoria's Secret, the ultimate destination for the sexiest, most fashionable swimsuits of the season.

[PHOTO: Victoria's Secret/Special Arrangements]
Inspired by #AngelGetaways to the most glamorous beach destinations in the world, the 2014 Victoria's Secret Swim collection is filled with styles that show off a woman's curves. 

[PHOTO: Victoria's Secret/Special Arrangements]
Victoria's Secret is the fit authority for bras and swimwear; some of the most popular VS bra collections are offered as swimsuits including Bombshell, Very Sexy and Fabulous. 

[PHOTO: Victoria's Secret/Special Arrangements]
New silhouettes featured in this year's VS swim collection include long line bikini tops, rash guards, high-waist bottoms and flounce styles. 

[PHOTO: Victoria's Secret/Special Arrangements]
Big trends in this year's collection include sexy cut-outs details, lace-up, dangling straps, metallic and hardware accents, and surf inspired shapes.
[PHOTO: Victoria's Secret/Special Arrangements]
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