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English Editorials

The Finance Ministers of the G7 nations appear to have heeded the advice to ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’ when they agreed last week to set a global minimum tax of at least 15%. With the COVID-19 pandemic having caused the world economy to shrink by an estimated 3.5% in 2020 and forced most countries to dip into their coffers to mitigate the fallout, the seven richest nations opted to use the opportune moment to plug a key loophole in the international tax regime. In a communique, the G7 Ministers stressed that as part of efforts to secure a ‘Safe and Prosperous Future for All’ they would strongly back the broader efforts under way through the G20/OECD to address tax challenges arising from globalisation and digitalisation of the economy. The rapid and relentless march of technological advancement, especially in the domain of global communications and connectivity, has resulted in a world economy where the digital sphere, estimated in 2016 at $11.5 trillion or over one-sixth of global GDP, is exponentially outpacing overall economic growth. The increasing digitalisation has, however, exacerbated the challenges to taxing multinational corporations, which have sought to minimise their total tax outgo by recognising a bulk of their revenue in low-tax jurisdictions.

The OECD, which is with the G20 spearheading the ‘Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting’ initiative aimed at ending tax avoidance, estimates that countries are collectively deprived of as much as $240 billion in tax revenue annually due to avoidance by MNCs. As the OECD’s Secretary-General noted in a statement welcoming the G7 deal, such distortions “can only be effectively addressed through a multilaterally agreed solution”. The G7 also agreed on “an equitable allocation of taxing rights, with market countries awarded taxing rights on at least 20% of profit exceeding a 10% margin for the largest and most profitable multinational enterprises”. For India, estimated to be losing more than $10 billion in revenue each year to “global tax abuse” by MNCs according to the Tax Justice Network and one of the more than 90 countries that have joined the BEPS framework, a wider agreement at next month’s meeting of G20 Finance Ministers and central bank Governors could have far-reaching implications. India could benefit from the levy of taxes on MNCs including technology and Internet economy giants, which have taken advantage of the loopholes in the global tax system. While there are still wrinkles to be ironed out, including the issue of local levies on digital transactions, the political will to ensure greater fairness and equity in revenue sharing is a positive augury.

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1.Dip Into (Phrasal Verb)-Withdraw something in small amounts, usually money.

2.Coffers (N)-the financial accounts of a government or an organization. कोष, ख़ज़ाना

3.Mitigate (V)-to make less severe or harsh. कम करना

4.Loophole (N)-an ambiguity or inadequacy in the law or a set of rules.

5.Communique (N)-an official announcement or statement, especially one made to the media.

6.Spearheading (V)-to lead an organized effort or activity. अगुआई, नेतृत्व करना

7.Wrinkles (N)-a minor difficulty.

8.Ironed Out (Phrasal Verb)-to settle (a problem or difficulty) through negotiation or discussion. समाधान करना

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Higher transmissibility, severity: What makes delta virus strain worrisome?

Sam Fazeli | Bloomberg Opinion | 10/06/2021 | 1 hour ago


As nations race to roll out vaccines in the global effort to contain Covid-19 and allow for a return to normal, the rise of dangerous virus variants threatens to prolong the pandemic. In the U.K., the spread of the so-called delta variant, first identified in India, has led officials to send military personnel to hotspots and prompted the government to reconsider easing Covid restrictions on June 21 as planned. Here, Sam Fazeli, a Bloomberg Opinion contributor who covers the pharmaceutical industry for Bloomberg Intelligence, answers questions about the risks stemming from this variant and more. The conversation has been edited and condensed.


What sets the delta variant apart from other variants and what makes it so concerning

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The higher transmissibility is also clear from the increase in the number of cases across the U.K. Second, it is also believed to cause more severe disease than alpha, translating to a further rise in the percentage of positive cases that require hospitalization, despite the fact that the infections are in younger people. This second problem of increased severity had not been confirmed with any other variant to date.


Does the delta variant respond to vaccines? Is there any data about which vaccines may work better against it?


What is rather surprising about delta is that it has lost the key mutation that had people worried about the beta and gamma variants (to get technical, it’s the one in position 484 of the aminid chain of the spike protein of the virus). This is one of the mutations that contributed to the loss of response to some antibodies, including those produced by the vaccines. We do know that delta is less sensitive than alpha to antibodies generated by the vaccines, and at about the same level as beta. Also, data from Public Health England shows that the first dose of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE and AstraZeneca Plc vaccines provide only about a 30% protection against delta, though this rises to at least 88% after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 60% after the second dose of the Astra vaccine (this is likely to rise with more time for second doses to take effect in Britain). These levels of protection are lower than what has been seen against the older variants such as alpha, but they still show that two doses of vaccines work pretty well against the delta variant.


The real risk is when you consider the broader population, where many people are either unvaccinated or only have one dose of the vaccine, combined with delta’s higher transmissibility and disease severity.


Where is it in the world?


This is not an easy question to answer because the level of genomic surveillance is low in so many countries. Based on data from GISAID, a global effort for sharing and tracking information on viruses, the U.K. has the highest proportion of the delta variant outside of India, at 70% of its cases. The U.S. is showing about 5% (and growing) and Germany is at about 2%. Italy and Spain are each at about 3% to 5%. The issue is that many of these countries are going down the road of opening their economies while their full vaccination levels have yet to hit the critical 50% to 70% required for controlling virus spread.


Should the U.S. or countries in the European Union worry about it as much as the U.K.?


The spread of delta is already out of control in the U.K. But other countries appear to only be at the early stages. I think the best any country can do, where the virus variant is already present, is to vaccinate as fast as possible, while increasing testing and genomic surveillance. Otherwise, the first indication of a problem will be an increased rate of positive cases. The U.K.'s situation compared with Israel throws a spotlight on why the delta variant is such a problem. Israel managed to get its cases under control when it reached about a 50% vaccination rate among its entire population. Despite the fact that the U.K. achieved a 42.3% a vaccination rate, its case counts have started to rise rapidly in the past two weeks because of a combination of early reopening and the spread of delta. And incidentally, the U.S. vaccination rate is similar to the U.K.’s, so there are risks there, too.


Why is the U.K. sending the military to the hardest hit regions? To scare people into social distancing?


I have to assume it’s all about getting as many people tested as possible, which requires shoes or boots on the ground. With enough testing and increased vaccinations in hot spots, the spread can be better controlled, allowing the government to remove all restrictions. However, I not only think that the June 21 relaxation of all restrictions will have to be delayed, but it’s also possible some earlier loosening steps, such as allowing indoor dining, may need to be reversed to stop the spread of delta.

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Absolutely. If you sum up everything that I mentioned above, especially the effectiveness of the vaccines against delta, the best solution, aside from a severe lockdown, is to test, isolate positive cases and vaccinate.


Can the virus mutate again to become even worse?


Oh sure, and it almost certainly has already. Many mutations do nothing or actually hinder the virus. In the case of delta, though, high levels of transmission combined with a partially vaccinated population increases the risk of more people catching the virus and raises the risk of further meaningful mutations that could drive delta to further evade vaccine-induced immunity. As of now, the depth of the vaccine-induced immune response to the virus is strong enough such that those fully vaccinated will be much less likely to develop severe disease. But that still leaves a whole swath of the population at risk. This is why I cringe when I hear that 30% of U.S. adults don’t want to be vaccinated.


What does it mean for parents of children and young adults not eligible for vaccination yet?


Children have so far been much less at risk of developing severe Covid-19 disease, though that doesn’t mean they are completely risk-free. As for adolescents, the vaccine is already available. But for those who can’t take it or don’t have access, there has to be continued use of non-pharmaceutical preventative methods, such as masking and distancing, until community cases are so low that the risk of contracting the virus is minimal. Also, we may have to rethink our risk assessments for children if the delta variant or some derivative of it or others proves to be worse for kids. We already know that more younger people are being hospitalized in the U.K. with the delta variant than with previous variants. The Sars-Cov-2 virus has so far been one step ahead of us. We need to regain the initiative, which is only possible with high levels of vaccination and continuous testing.

🛑WhatsApp announces VoIP support for KaiOS devices

Neha Alawadhi | 08/06/2021 | 1 day ago


As a step towards reaching more people in emerging markets, KaiOS Technologies and WhatsApp have released an update that enables WhatsApp VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) for KaiOS-enabled devices worldwide.


KaiOS is a mobile operating system, based on Linux, for keypad feature phones. It is developed by KaiOS Technologies Limited, a company based in Kowloon, Hong Kong. The new feature is available to smart feature phone users with the latest version of the app on KaiOS devices worldwide equipped with 512MB RAM.


“People are relying on WhatsApp now more than ever to communicate and stay in touch with their loved ones. We want to support communities who are on lighter operating systems in many places around the world. Bringing WhatsApp voice calls to KaiOS-enabled devices helps us connect the world privately through a service that is simple, reliable and accessible to everyone - no matter what kind of mobile device they’re using,” said Matt Idema, chief operating officer of WhatsApp.


Committed to closing the digital divide, WhatsApp and KaiOS have worked closely together to ensure that even underserved populations have access to the technology needed to communicate in a simple and cost-effective way.


Since its launch on KaiOS mid-2019, WhatsApp has been made available to millions of people in emerging markets for the first time. KaiOS users have been using WhatsApp for text messaging, voice messaging and sharing media, all secured with end-to-end encryption by default to keep private conversations private. WhatsApp is now the top KaiOS non-system app with the highest monthly active users (MAU) worldwide.


With the voice calling feature update, the app now allows voice calls over the Internet using Wi-Fi or mobile data, rather than pulling voice minutes from cellular plans.


The new feature further enhances the overall KaiOS user experience, especially now, when strong mobility restrictions make platforms like WhatsApp and features like voice calls over the Internet crucial for people to stay connected and handle basic life needs. As the only OS worldwide to provide native support for WhatsApp on affordable feature phones, KaiOS becomes an even more sustainable solution for carriers with WhatsApp VoIP, while tapping into the more than two billion 2G users to guide them toward more advanced, efficient technology.


“As demand for instant, effective communications has surged in the COVID-19 era, it is critical to ensure this transformation can also be reached to the emerging markets and those who are less digital savvy, at a faster speed and scale,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies. “Together with WhatsApp, we are taking another significant step towards the goal to make essential, useful services accessible for everyone, including underserved communities, seniors looking for simple devices and those using KaiOS devices as a companion phone. Now with the voice calling feature, users can easily place a call anytime anywhere in a cost-effective way.”

How to activate: WhatsApp VoIP is available on most of the new and existing KaiOS devices with:
  • 512MB RAM the latest WhatsApp version 2.2110.41

  • To activate the new feature, KaiOS users should update the current version of WhatsApp on their devices by accepting the update notification within the app.

  • For new devices, the VoIP feature will be included in the latest version of WhatsApp, which is pre-installed upon shipment



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