The Srilanka-n Crisis
Job Board + Currency crunch + Facial Recognition + What else
Hello, hope you are having a great Sunday. This week we reflect on the currency crunch in Sri Lanka, the facial recognition system being used in Ukraine & what else is happening around the world.
Top Jobs of the Week
Internship Program, Centre for Integrated Holistic Studies.
Location- New Delhi. Apply here
Public Policy Manager, South Asia, Airbnb
Location- Gurgaon. Apply here
Regional Coordinator, WASAAN
Location- Bhubneshwar. Apply here
Communications and Advocacy Director, Global Health Strategies
Location- Delhi. To apply, send resume here- ptalwar(at)globalhealthstrategies.com
The Financial Crunch
With inflation rising to 17.5%, the prices of essential items touching the roof and drowned in high debts with no money left to pay back, Sri Lanka is witnessing the worst economic crisis since 1948.
Foreign Currency Crisis-
In the year 2021, Sri Lanka imported goods more than it had exported. Hence, the outflow of money was more than the inflow, which led to a foreign currency crunch. Moreover, as per the government data Foreign Direct Investment decreased to $548 million in 2020 in comparison to $793 million in 2019 which was also a contributing factor to the foreign currency crunch.
Drowning Tourism Industry-
Tourism contributes to around 10 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The covid-19 pandemic had hit the tourism industry. The tourism revenue dropped by $3 billion over the first eight months of 2021, which was more in comparison to the year 2018.
Countries like Canada and the United Kingdom have issued travel advisories for their citizens, as the economic situation of Sri Lanka deteriorates. The advisories warned of the shortage of basic resources like medicines, fuel and food, impacting the inflow of tourists.
According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, Sri Lanka has signed a $ 37.6 million deal with China's Poly Technologies and Sri Lanka already owes $ 200 million to another Chinese arms company NORINCO.
Citizens are leaving the country- Within March 2022, many Sri Lankan nationals reached India due to persistent inflation and shortage of essential items such as fuel, food and medicine.
Converting Dollars into Rupees- The government has scheduled power cuts and converted the dollars that its citizens had stored in banks into Sri Lankan rupees.
Lack of staple food- Sri Lankan farmers were short of fertilizer this growing season, resulting in a lack of production of the staple food, rice. China donated a million tons, and Sri Lanka agreed to pay an inflated price for more from Myanmar.
Cancellation of Exams- The Department of Education of the Western Province in Sri Lanka stated on 20th March that the "School principals cannot hold the tests as printers are unable to secure foreign exchange to import necessary paper and ink.”
Fuel Prices are Skyrocketing- Fuel suppliers are increasing the price of gasoline week after week by 20% and the country is struggling to import oil without foreign currency. Not only this, the citizens are taking up multiple jobs to curb the effect of the currency crunch on them.
The shutdown of 2 Major Sri Lankan Newspapers- Sri Lanka's two major newspapers on 26th March 2022, suspended their publication over paper shortage and price hikes. The Island, an English daily along with the Sinhala paper Divayina, stopped printing as the scarcity of paper and ink hit the media organisations.
Plan of Action-
The government is taking action in the direction of rationing the food as well as borrowing it from the neighbouring countries. In addition to this, the International Monetary Fund will be assisting the country to curb the impact. India also provided a $1.5 credit line to curb the fuel crisis and China is in the line of providing a $ 2.5 billion credit line.
Farmers faced a crop loss of about 25-30 per cent this season. Given this, Basil Rajapaksa, the Finance Minister said that they would be offered subsidies, and each family in the plantation sector would get 15 kg wheat every month.
(Sources: NewYork Times, Financial Express, ABP News, Quint)
Facial Recognition Technology: A boon or a bane?
Time and again, governments across the world have used and marketed Spyware, Software and apps for reasons ranging from spying to detecting terrorist activities in their countries and the world. This has directed the conversations around technological advancements and the formulation of privacy laws in the countries and the global arena.
With the advancement of Russia and Ukraine's conflict, Reuters reported that Ukraine has been using one such US-based facial recognition software developed by the company Clearview AI.
About the app-
A person’s picture is taken and uploaded on the facial recognition software and then we get access to the public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos were taken or were on the platforms. Clearview got these pictures from Facebook, Youtube, Venmo and many other websites and has a total database of more than 3 billion photos.
Why is Ukraine using the app?
Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine's vice-prime minister and minister of digital transformation, informed Reuters that Ukraine had been using Clearview AI software to find the social media accounts of dead Russian soldiers.
Ukraine was offered free services by the Clearview AI to access the pictures and its search engine includes more than 2 billion images from VKontakte, a popular Russian social media service.
Is the app controversial?
Tech companies have not released such a tool because it tends to go wrong. In 2011, Google’s chairman at the time said it could be used in a very bad way.
Clearview’s app has multiple risks because various law enforcement agencies are uploading sensitive photos to the servers whose ability to protect its data is untested as of now.
(Sources: Newyork Times, Washington Post, CBC News, Guardian)
What else is happening?
On 24th March 2022, the World Bank issued the world's first wildlife conservation bond and raised $150 million to provide assistance to increase the endangered black rhino population in South Africa.
The five-year 'rhino bond' will pay investors returns based on the rate of growth of black rhino populations at South Africa’s National park and Reserve. After five years, investors would get a return of between 3.7% and 9.2% if the population increases otherwise they won’t.
Scientists have found traces of microplastics in human blood according to a new study published in the Journal Environment International. Out of 22 anonymous blood samples tested plastic particles were found in 80% of people. According to the researchers, plastic particles can enter the human body from the air as well as through food and drink.
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