China growth dips to 7.6%; Amazon animals face extinction; Peugeot Citroen to cut 8,000 jobs; World’s narrowest street; Why Pakistanis are not warm to democracy; India low on staff loyalty

1 China growth dips to 7.6% (BBC) China’s economy grew at its slowest pace in three years as investment slowed and demand fell in key export markets such as the US and Europe. Gross domestic product rose by 7.6% in the second quarter, compared with the same period a year ago. That is down from 8.1% in the previous three months. In March, Beijing cut its growth target for the whole of 2012 to 7.5%. China accounts for about a fifth of the world’s total economic output and any slowdown may hamper a global recovery. At the same time, many of Asia’s biggest and emerging economies are becoming increasingly reliant on China as a trading partner.

2 Cost-cutting forces BBC out of Bush House (Outlook) There was a lump in many a journalist’s throat as the last transmission was made from the iconic Bush House, the base from where the BBC World Service reported major events in various languages, including Hindi, for over 70 years. The BBC has moved out of Bush House as part of the corporation’s cost-cutting plans.

In a special broadcast, BBC director general Mark Thompson today said: “This benign Tower of Babel, the scene of so many great broadcasting moments and the home of so many great broadcasters over the years, is now silent; its corridors deserted; its studios empty”. As part of the BBC’s relocation plans to cut costs, the World Service has moved from Bush House to Broadcasting House in central London. Financial compulsions have already reduced the number of languages in which it is broadcast to 27.

3 Amazon animals face extinction (The Guardian) The destruction of great swaths of the Brazilian Amazon has turned scores of rare species into the walking dead, doomed to disappear even if deforestation were halted in the region overnight, according to a new study. Forest clearing in Brazil has already claimed casualties, but the animals lost to date in the rainforest region are just one-fifth of those that will slowly die out as the full impact of the loss of habitat takes its toll. In parts of the eastern and southern Amazon, 30 years of concerted deforestation have shrunk viable living and breeding territories enough to condemn 38 species to regional extinction in coming years, including 10 mammal, 20 bird and eight amphibian species, scientists found.

4 Peugeot Citroen to cut 8,000 jobs (The Guardian) French political leaders and unions were in a state of shock after carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroën announced it was shedding 8,000 jobs and closing a production line in a huge shakeup. The revelation of the unexpected “restructuring plan” from one of the pillars of French industry prompted an instant response from François Hollande’s Socialist government. Prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was “extremely concerned by the unprecedented scale” of the company’s reorganisation.

The company, which faces a first-half loss of €700m this year, is trying to save €1bn as it struggles to compete in Europe’s fiercely competitive car market. It is suffering particularly amid a slump in sales in the recession-hit south of Europe. Its sales plunged 20% in Europe in the first quarter. Union leaders have reacted with fury to PSA’s decision. Jean-Pierre Mercier, representative of the CGT union at PSA, described it as a “declaration of war against the workers”.

5 World’s narrowest street (The Guardian) You might well call it a fissure, a gap or a chink. But the folks of Reutlingen in Baden-Wurttemberg, western Germany, are adamant that a 31cm divide between two houses is in fact a street. They are keen for the space between house numbers nine and 11 on Spreuerhofstrasse to continue being recognised as such, if only because the world’s narrowest street draws in tourists from around the world.

The svelte street has existed since 1726 when a devastating fire swept through the city destroying it. Spreuerhofstrasse was rebuilt, but with little regard for the city regulations that stated dwellings should be built far enough apart to prevent any future fires from spreading too fast. Its status was in doubt for years until in 1820 a purportedly slender town hall official, who was able to squeeze down it himself without too much difficulty, declared it to be a public street.

But Reutlingen’s top attraction is in danger of losing its Guinness Book of Records status because the wall of No 9 is leaning dangerously into the passageway due to bulging, water-soaked beams. If the gap is no longer passable, and the building cannot be shored up, then it can no longer be considered a street, and its unique status will be revoked. A decision on whether it will be closed has to be made by next year.

6 India’s Congress needs a detox (Neeta Lal in Khaleej Times) India’s Congress party needs to undertake an immediate detox to unveil a new improved avatar. It will also need an infusion of fresh ideas, motivation and energy. Sonia Gandhi can begin by initiating a thorough shake up of her party. For this, she will require to do something on a far more expansive and more audacious scale than the usual tweaking that passes muster in her party. Purging ministries of geriatric ministers, and the finance ministry of unimaginative bureaucrats, will help.

There are good auguries. PM Manmohan Singh’s takeover of the finance ministry has injected a new dynamism and hope in New Delhi. It also helps that the Congress is on a stronger wicket than the NDA regarding its prime ministerial candidate (read Rahul Gandhi). Dynastic choice it may be, but it’s still better than the NDA squabbling over who to pit against the Gandhi scion. Narendra Modi can’t be that choice. Whatever his administrative accomplishments, the taint of the 2002 pogrom, like Lady Macbeth’s blood stain, will continue to haunt him.

Given the brutal nature of Indian politics, the Congress and its allies may still end up with eggs on their faces in the next election. But after three years of blatant misrule, and failing to deliver to the ordinary people of India, at least they won’t be accused of lack of trying.

7 Finding the ‘right’ migrant (Khaleej Times) The British government is justifiably concerned about the permanent movement of people to the UK. The number of immigrants coming into the country to make it their home has far exceeded government estimates; the influx of 252,000 in 2010 sharply exceeded expectations of 13,000 a year. However, the government’s criterion for determining eligibility for immigration appears to seriously discriminate against low earning groups. And this means that these migrants who slog it out in Britain for a better life will no longer have the privilege of bringing their families into the country.

This is rather disheartening because the UK, like the US, has always been a land of opportunities for South Asians for decades. Immigrant taxi drivers and shop owners have assimilated in the country and built a bright future for their second and third generations with hard work. But it seems like the UK in the coming decades will no longer be home for the working class people who earn little but dream big.

8 Why Pakistanis dislike democracy (Dawn) A recent poll of six Muslim countries revealed that Pakistanis by far were the least likely to favour democracy. Compared with Turkey, where 71% of the respondents favoured democracy, only 42% of Pakistanis held the same view. A report by the Pew Research Centre showed that unlike Pakistan, the overwhelming majority of respondents in the other five Muslim majority countries preferred democracy.

And while Pakistanis demonstrated a half-hearted appreciation for democratic principles, an overwhelming majority (82%) expressed preference for the laws to follow the Quranic injunctions. In comparison, only 60% of Egyptians wanted their laws to follow Quran. A careful review of the Pew survey offers hints of why democracy is no longer favoured by most Pakistanis.

It appears that the adage “It’s the economy, stupid” also holds true for Pakistan where 58% of Pakistanis preferred strong economy over a good democracy (34%). While the two may not be mutually exclusive, Pakistanis appear more prudent to prefer bread, clothing, and shelter over empty promises of the same from the beneficiaries of the electoral processes. In 2007, when Pakistan was ruled by a military dictator, 59% of Pakistanis expressed faith in the nation’s economy. A mere 9% of Pakistanis today are optimistic about their economic outlook.

9 India’s low staff loyalty (Financial Chronicle) Commitment levels among employees in India have declined sharply in comparison to the global average, as about 33% of them are planning to leave their jobs in less than two years, says a survey. In contrast, only one-in-five of the workforce over the world intend to do so. Commitment levels have fallen to a 5-year low in every major region of the world as long-term loyalty has become a casualty of low levels of employee engagement and employee enablement, it said.

“It is a worrying sign that Indian organisations, despite averaging higher engagement levels than the Asia average, find that only about 40% intend to remain loyal to their present organisations in the next five years,” Hay Group India Managing Director Gaurav Lahiri said. More than two-fifths (44%) of the global workforce intend to leave their employers within five years, while in case of India a much larger majority of employees (58%) have acknowledged their intent to exit their present organisations within five years.

About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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