In Nepal, fears are growing for the fate of remote villages after an earthquake that struck the country on Saturday. Many villages have yet to be reached by search-and-rescue and relief teams, with the death toll from the earthquake at 3,600 and expected to rise even further once remote villages are reached. Dozens are also reported to have been killed in neighbouring India and China. Families in the capital Kathmandu slept outside in tents for a second night in a row, with the aftershocks that continue to hit the region deterring civilians from re-entering their homes. Outside the capital, some towns and villages are reported to have been almost completely flattened. More than 200 mountaineers and guides have been rescued from around Mount Everest, though hundreds remain trapped. The death of 17 climbers in the earthquake also makes the disaster the worst to hit the mountain. Medical facilities in Nepal have been stretched to breaking point by the disaster, with hospitals overflowing with the injured. Charity Unicef estimates that up to 1 million children have been “severely affected” by the earthquake in the country, which is one of Asia’s poorest and most inaccessible.
First-time home buyers could save up to £5,000 on stamp duty under a Labour government, Party Leader Ed Miliband will announce today. The pledge is the latest move in the party’s offensive on housing policy, with Labour hoping to address lower levels of home-building and home ownership. The policy would only apply to homes worth under £300,000, and only during the first three years of a Labour government. The pledge would cost the government £225 million, Labour has said. The Conservatives have received support from 5,000 small business owners in a letter printed in The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile. The letter calls for the Conservatives to be “given the chance to finish what they started”. The Conservatives will pledge today to treble loans for start-ups, as it aims to appeal further to small business owners. In Northern Ireland, Democratic Unionist Health Minister Nigel Dodds has resigned following controversial comments he made about gay couples.
China is likely to cut the number of large state-owned conglomerates down to 40 under massive mergers, state media reported on Monday. The plan comes as part of efforts to overhaul the country’s underperforming state sector. 112 state-owned conglomerates currently exist. Mergers will first take place between groups in competitive commercial industries, like the merger already seen between rail firms CNR Corp Ltd and CSR Corp Ltd. Efforts to improve China’s state sector come at a time when the country is seeking to adapt to its lowest rate of economic growth in decades. Anti-corruption operations in state-owned firms have also been stepped up, with Beijing committing earlier this month to public scrutiny of the performance of state-owned companies.
Continuing rescue and relief efforts following the Nepal earthquake make a few headlines today, with political news elsewhere. The Guardian leads with the headline “Grief and fear amid the ruin”. Nepal’s “overstretched” authorities fear the death toll could rise even higher, the paper writes, “with remote areas still cut off”. The Independent leads with a quote – “‘Please pray for us'” – from a Twitter post made by a climber stranded near Mount Everest following the earthquake. Dozens are “stranded in sub-zero temperatures” on the mountain, the paper reports. The Financial Times leads with news that the Labour Party plans to “woo first-time buyers with pledge to scrap stamp duty”. The proposal would apply to properties worth under £300,000, and could save buyers as much as £5,000. The Times leads with the same story, calling the pledge a “sweetener”. The offer is part of Labour’s “political offensive over housing”, with funding coming from “tax crackdowns on rogue landlords and foreign investors”. The Daily Telegraph leads with a large quote from a letter, signed by “5,000 small business owners who helped to get the economy moving again”. The letter calls for the election of a Conservative government, so that politicians can “finish what they started”. A change of government “would be far too risky”, the letter claims.
British Media on China
On the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB): the BBC today features an analysis piece on the China-led AIIB by Business Correspondent Linda Yueh. The piece uses the AIIB to discuss the waning global influence of the United States. Yueh writes that widespread western endorsement of the AIIB, despite US disapproval, has been a “big sign of the shift” away from US global dominance. Yueh notes a report finding that “China is as important a driver of global growth as America”, with that trend “set to continue even with the slowing down of Chinese growth”.