National Food Security Policy being prepared to develop agriculture

ISLAMABAD (APP): A National Food Security Policy has been prepared to develop agriculture on modern lines, enhance growth and reduce poverty. Sources in the Ministry of National Food Security and Research told Radio Pakistan that draft of the National Food Security Policy has been finalised in close coordination with the provinces and is ready for consideration of the Federal Cabinet. The National Food Security Policy envisages zero hunger, augmenting of existing water resource base, development of climate smart agriculture, development of hybrid seeds and fodder crops. It also seeks harvesting of untapped potential of high value agriculture in FATA, Gilgit-Baltistan, Chitral, Balochistan, Azad Kashmir, Potohar, Thar, Nara and Kohistan through rain-water harvesting technologies. The National Food Security Policy proposes incentives for food processing, enhancing fruit and horticulture exports up to 20 percent, enhancing food storage capacity at federal and provincial level and developing farm mechanisation.



EU approves German rescue loan to insolvent Air Berlin

BRUSSELS (AFP): The European Commission on Monday approved Germany's plans to grant insolvent Air Berlin a 150 million euro ($180 million) loan to allow it temporarily to serve passengers while selling off its business. The 28-nation EU executive effectively refuted critics who say the German government is offering state aid for rival airline Lufthansa to build a monopoly with Air Berlin assets. "The European Commission has endorsed under EU state aid rules Germany's plans to grant Air Berlin a temporary 150 million euro bridging loan," the commission said in a statement. "The measure will allow for the orderly wind-down of the insolvent airline Air Berlin without unduly distorting competition in the single market," it added. It said the German government on August 15 had notified the commission of its intent to grant a bridging loan to Air Berlin after Etihad, the main shareholder, withdrew its financial backing for the insolvent firm.

The aim of the loan, the commission said, is to allow Air Berlin to continue serving passengers in the "coming months", while at the same time concluding negotiations to sell its assets and eventually exit the market.


Slow Greek recovery brings no relief to struggling workforce

ATHENS (AFP): Markos Markakis is 28 and works up to 13 hours a day. It took him seven attempts to find his current job, and in Greece's precarious job environment, he counts himself lucky. "I'm happy to have a job, but outside the office, I have no life," he said. Two years after the leftist government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras nearly crashed Greece out of the euro, and eight years after the country plunged into economic crisis, employment numbers are finally improving. Tsipras himself recently said his administration has created 300,000 jobs since taking over in 2015, and expects the economy to grow by nearly 2.0 percent this year. "Unemployment is falling... the road ahead is long, but we can be more confident," the prime minister said in a televised interview in July. Also in July, the country made a positive test debt issue after three years of exile from money markets, and leading rating agencies are cautiously optimistic about its prospects.

But try telling that to people like Yiannis, who works at an Athens brasserie from 7 pm to 4 am (1600 GMT to 0100 GMT) every day for 30 euros ($35) -- and one or two days of rest per month. "If you turn down a job offer, you know there is a risk of not finding another one," said the 22-year-old, adding that he was actually grateful for the paltry sum he was earning when others were jobless.

Officially, unemployment is falling. In April it was 21.7 percent, down from a high of 27.8 percent in 2013. But labour groups in Greece have always suspected that real unemployment is far higher than official figures show -- for example, those not actively seeking a job are not counted as unemployed.

The European Central Bank, using different criteria, in July said 31.3 percent of Greece's workforce was "under-utilised" at the end of last year, some eight points above Greek unemployment data. Savvas Robolis, senior labour analyst at leading private-sector union GSEE, said undeclared work was at an all-time high.

"In one of our studies, we estimated that one in 15 employees was undeclared," he said. Greece's EU-IMF creditors have long argued that the country's highly unionised labour environment stifled job creation. Enter the solution of part-time flexibility.

According to the OECD, part-time work -- qualified as fewer than 30 hours per week and once considered an oddity in a country of small family-run enterprises -- has nearly doubled in Greece these past ten years to over 11 percent of total employment. Facing a stark choice between emigrating abroad or sinking into inability to pay mounting taxes, many are opting for part-time work.

But analyst Robolis warned that "part-time work is the definition of precarity." "Young workers on average earn a monthly salary of 380 euros ($446), half the legal minimum wage," he said. And employers hold all the cards in a market of warped, so-called flexibility, the expert added. "There is job flexibility in both directions," Robolis said.

"In terms of the workday, employers can impose additional hours as they see fit. But we also know that the salaries of 900,000 people in the private sector are between one and fifteen months in arrears," he said. The Bank of Greece says fewer restrictions in the job market -- enthusiastically endorsed by the country's international creditors -- have created 150,000 part-time jobs in the last two years.

But most of these employers, unions say, routinely force their staff to work unpaid hours above and beyond their contract, skimping out on both wages and social insurance contributions. That's the case with Yiannis. "My employer has me registered as part-time. That way, he pays less," he said.

According to Greece's main social insurance fund EFKA, fewer than 10 percent of young employees aged 20-24 have social insurance cover. At this rate, it's no wonder that Greece's best and brightest are emigrating. "Right now, I have no time to think of anything but my work," Markos admitted. "But when I see my friends abroad working half the time for five times more, it makes me want to leave too."



US state subsidies to Boeing are legal: WTO


GENEVA (AFP): Subsidies given by the US state of Washington to Boeing are legal, a World Trade Organization appeals body said Monday, partially overturning a victory by rival Airbus and the European Union last year. The two aviation giants have been locked for years in a sprawling set of disputes at the Geneva-based WTO. Monday's ruling concerns the so-called "baby Boeing" case that relates only to tax breaks and other incentives provided by Washington State to support production of Boeing's 777X, which is set to take to the skies in 2020. Last November, WTO judges found that one of the subsidies Washington State offered was "prohibited" as it encouraged the use of domestic materials, and thus caused trade distortions. The United States, acting on behalf of Boeing, appealed the decision, while the EU launched a "cross-appeal" for Airbus, insisting that seven of Washington State's Boeing benefit schemes violated the rules of the 164-member WTO. Brussels targeted benefits such as a reduced business tax rate, tax credits and exemptions.

The United States secured an outright victory in Monday's ruling, which is not subject to appeal, the WTO said. "The latest of the false claims Airbus and its government sponsors have made has now been rejected by the WTO," Boeing general counsel J. Michael Luttig said in a statement. "This was a sweeping and clean win for the United States," he added.