Friday news roundup March 22, 2019
Cyclone Idai may the worst disaster to ever strike the southern hemisphere, according to the UN. Millions of people in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe have been affected as the deadly cyclone caused flooding which killed and injured thousands and ruined crops. The storm made landfall near the port city of Beira—home to 500,000 people—on Thursday March 14, and the subsequent flood submerged much of the city. Aid agencies are warning that other areas are still at risk of becoming submerged. There are major health concerns as the risk of outbreaks of cholera and typhoid are high as a result of drinking water supplies being damaged by the flooding. There is also a long-term threat of starvation as a result of the cyclone destroying people’s crops. The UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund allocated US$20 million on Wednesday to ensure aid reaches those most affected.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Italy to expand China’s new Silk Road project. Xi will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on March 23, making Italy the first G7 member to join his US$1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative. Critics of China’s ambitious maritime, rail, and road venture are warning that it mainly benefits China; however, the Italian economy is technically in recession and as a result some parts of the government are keen to increase business with the Asian nation. Last week the European Commission set out a 10-point plan for more balanced economic relations with China in a bid to curb Chinese state-owned enterprises and protect against cybersecurity threats. It is thought that Conte will try to reassure European partners about the non-binding MoU at the EU summit currently being held in Brussels, before heading back to Rome for the signing.
Australia is to cut its annual immigration cap. On Wednesday Australia announced it would drop its annual intake of immigrants from July 1 by nearly 15%, from 190,000 to 160,000. The country also plans to bar some new arrivals from living in its largest cities—Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, and the Gold Coast, where, according to immigration minister David Coleman, infrastructure is overutilized—for three years, in a bid to ease urban congestion. The cap will include places for up to 23,000 people who could migrate to Australia under a new skilled visa. People will be able to move toward gaining permanent residency after living outside of Australia’s largest cities for those three years. Immigration authorities will need proof of residential and work addresses in future applications for permanent residency as a way of enforcing the requirement.
Hong Kong is to build a new artificial island to combat a “serious shortage of land supply.” The Lantau Tomorrow Vision project, estimated to cost around US$80 billion, faces opposition from a number of quarters over environmental concerns and the high projected costs—roughly half the city’s current fiscal reserves. Around 1,000 hectares of land will be reclaimed near Lantau, the largest island in Hong Kong, home to the city’s airport. It could be used to build up to 260,000 residential units, of which 70% would be reserved for public housing, according to Secretary for Development Michael Wong. One of the most densely populated places on earth, Hong Kong’s housing prices have long surpassed affordability for most of the city’s residents. Greenpeace Hong Kong and the World Wildlife Fund believe brownfield sites, land formerly used for industry, could instead be developed for public housing.
Read IZA World of Labor articles on migration policy and the environment.