UN agency: Over 3.3 million Iraqis returned to their home regions till Jan.

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Baghdad (Iraqinews.com) – Over 3.3 million Iraqis have returned to their home regions, while nearly 2.5 million people continued to live in displacement till January 31, 2018, a Geneva-based UN migration agency reported on Wednesday.

In a report, a copy of which was obtained by Alfurat News, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said, “In January 2018, for the first time in more than three years, there were more returnees than internally displaced people.”

The organization pointed out that about 125,000 returnees returned to their areas of origin in the four governorates of Nineveh, Salahuddin, Kirkuk and Anbar last month.

“In the last three years, Anbar governorate has received the largest number of returnees in the country, due to improved security, rehabilitation of services and rebuilding of infrastructures,” the report read, adding that the return movement is sill ongoing.

The IOM highlighted that the three governorates reporting the biggest decreases in the number of internally displaced people were Nineveh, (- 6 percent), Baghdad (- 12 percent), and Anbar (- 17 percent). Together, they account for almost two-thirds of the nationwide decrease of displaced people.

“Due to lack of security, services and livelihood opportunities in west Mosul, approximately 600 families returned in January to Haj Ali camp,” the organization noted.

Since the start of the crisis in early 2014, with Islamic State later holding large parts of central Iraq and the subsequent conflict to retake these areas, nearly six million Iraqis have been displaced.

During the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, held earlier this month, the UN launched a two-year Recovery and Resilience Programme, in which IOM Iraq takes part, to assist the Iraqi government in addressing the multiple needs for rebuilding and reconstruction in the country.

 

Source :  Iraqi News

Sydney Airport profit soars, thanks to 1 million global travellers

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FEBRUARY 21 2018 – 7:04AM

Matt O’Sullivan

An extra 1 million international passengers passing through Sydney Airport’s gates last year has helped boost its annual pre-tax earnings by 8 per cent to nearly $1.2 billion.

Australia’s largest airport also benefited from a 13 per cent increase in retail revenue due to strong demand for shop space in its terminals, easily outpacing a 2 per cent rise from its car parking and ground transport operations. Total revenue rose almost 9 per cent to $1.48 billion last year.

Sydney Airport is benefiting from strong growth in travel.

Sydney Airport is benefiting from strong growth in travel. Photo: Rick Stevens

The airport’s net profit increased 9 per cent to almost $350 million for the year.

With continued growth in passengers forecast, the airport expects to spend up to $1.5 billion over the next four years on improvements to its terminals and airfield. That includes as much as $420 million this year on projects such as resurfacing runways, expanding terminal gates and road works aimed at reducing congestion at peak periods.

The airport’s new chief executive, Geoff Culbert, said a 7 per cent increase in international passengers to a total of 16 million underpinned the full-year results.

“This result reflects management initiatives, investment, positive macro tailwinds from increasing global tourism and travel, our proximity to Asia, larger and more fuel-efficient aircraft and the continued liberalisation of air rights,” he said.

International travellers are more than twice as valuable as domestic passengers because they spend longer hours in terminals, hand over more cash in duty-free shopping and pay more in airport charges.

Mr Culbert, a former head of GE Australia, replaced long-serving chief executive Kerry Mather last month. Ms Mather’s total pay package totalled $4.8 million last year, up from $3.3 million in 2016.

The total number of passengers passing through the airport rose 3.6 per cent to 43.3 million in the 12 months to December. China represented the strongest growth by foreign nationality in absolute numbers last year, surging almost 17 per cent to 2.9 million passengers. Domestic passenger numbers rose 1.6 per cent to 27.4 million travellers.

The airport has forecast a distribution of 37.5¢ per stapled security for this year, up by almost 9 per cent on 2017. It paid a final distribution of 18¢ on February 14, taking its full-year payout to 34.5¢.

However, Sydney Airport faces a longer-term challenge from the planned $5 billion-plus new airport at Badgerys Creek in the city’s west. By 2026, a 3.7-kilometre runway and terminal capable of handling 10 million passengers a year is due to have opened at Western Sydney Airport.

Unlike Kingsford Smith, the new airport will not have a curfew on night-time flying. That will give it a better chance of competing against its much larger neighbour at Mascot.

A fourth terminal at Sydney Airport for international travellers that is connected to the existing domestic terminals has been part of plans to help the incumbent cope with strong passenger growth and the new competition from Badgerys Creek.

According to the preliminary plans outline last year, Terminal 4 would be on the site of Qantas’ jet base sandwiched between Terminal 3 and Qantas Drive on the airport’s perimeter.

 

Source :  WA Today

International Monetary Fund urges Australia to cut company taxes

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FEBRUARY 21 2018 – 9:19AM

Eryk Bagshaw

The International Monetary Fund has thrown its weight behind the Turnbull government’s company tax cuts, arguing they would “benefit productivity and reduce inequality”.

The emphatic call from the global financial watchdog is likely to heap pressure on the Senate to come back to the negotiating table and consider Treasurer Scott Morrison’s proposal to cut corporate tax rates to 25 per cent over the next decade.

Following extensive bilateral discussions with regulators, economists and the government the IMF’s Article IV assessment found Australia should reduce corporate and income tax rates and balance the budget through more efficient taxes on land and an increase in the GST.

“Australia’s effective average corporate tax rates are currently in the upper third among advanced economies, but the international environment is evolving,” Wednesday’s report found.

“A more comprehensive tax reform has the potential to increase efficiency of the tax system, increase investment and labor demand, and reduce inequality.”

The IMF said such a reform could raise real Gross Domestic Product by at least 1.3 per cent.

 “The authorities agree with the merit of tax reform,” it stated.

The IMF’s alternate executive director, Christine Barron and senior advisors Gemma Preston and Anna Park backed the government’s strategy to boost economic growth through tax cuts.

“The recent US company income tax package only increases the need for Australia to address its relatively uncompetitive company tax,” the trio said in statement.

“Sustained structural policy efforts in promoting innovation and competition, upgrading labor force skills and reducing gender gaps, and advancing broad tax reform would complement these positive effects.”

But in a review that otherwise “commended” Australia’s economic management through the end of the mining boom, the IMF put itself on a collision course with Mr Morrison over housing policy.

It rejected Mr Morrison’s argument that Labor’s policies to reform negative gearing and capital gains tax would “smash” the housing market.

Its metrics indicated house prices were overvalued “in the order of 5 to 15 per cent at the national level”.

In comments that will be seized on by shadow treasurer Chris Bowen, the IMF described “lower capital gains discounts and limits to negative gearing for investors and limits to capital gains tax exemptions of owner-occupiers as desirable”.

“A housing boom has supported the Australian economy’s adjustment to the end of the [mining] boom, but has led to housing market imbalances and household vulnerabilities, which the authorities have addressed with a multi-pronged approach,” the IMF’s executive board said.

“[Lower capital gains discounts and limits to negative gearing] for investors would lower incentives for leveraged real estate investment, but should consider broader tax parameters, including possible land tax reform, to avoid disruptive valuation changes in housing markets.”

The executive board, which includes 24 directors representing 20 groups of countries, said replacing stamp duties with broader land taxes should be a priority.

“Stamp duties tax real estate transactions and discourage alternative uses of urban land at a time of adjustment to higher relative prices in the eastern capitals [and] may also hamper labor mobility,” the IMF found.

State governments have been addicted to billions of dollars in stamp duty to deliver budget surpluses, but the restrictive tax stops people from selling as it imposes a one-off fee of up to $40,000 in Sydney and $55,000 in Melbourne, discouraging home-owners from downsizing and reducing the amount of supply in the market.

Research from the Grattan Institute shows replacing stamp duty with a land tax by implementing an annual tax of $1 per every $1000 of a home’s value would cost the median Sydney household $845 a year in tax and the median Melbourne home $623 a year, while delivering billions of dollars to state budgets.

More broadly, the IMF said the federal budget repair strategy to return the budget to balance by 2020-21 was appropriate and encouraged continued infrastructure spending.

It said conditions were in place for a pickup in economic growth and further declines in economic slack – leading to increased wage growth eventually.

Figures released half-an-hour before the report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday showed wages were showing signs of life after hitting 2.1 per cent, marginally above inflation at 1.9 per cent – the second quarter in a row of positive wage growth numbers.

In a blow to the budget’s projections and to the wallets of workers, the IMF predicted that wage growth would remain at or below 2.9 per cent for the next five years, significantly under Treasury’s forecast of 3.5 per cent.

 

Source :  The Canberra Times

 

The night Married at First Sight became obsessed with sex, and found a new cad

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FEBRUARY 20 2018 – 7:54PM

Never mind if the kids were watching, this episode was all about who was doing it, who wasn’t, and why – and it may just have turned up a new villain.

Sex, sex, sex: is that all you people think about? Well, if the people in question are the Married at First Sight couples at the three-week mark of their so-called “experiment”, then the answer is “hell yes”.

Tuesday night’s episode was pretty much a tally of who has done it, who hasn’t done it, who wants to do it but hasn’t yet, and who hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in hell of ever getting lucky on national television.

All of which would be perfectly legitimate in a show that puts instant coupledom in a test tube, spins it around and stands back to see what grotesque creatures emerge, except for one thing: the timeslot.

I don’t want to be a prude here, but MAFS airs from 7.30pm four nights a week. That’s prime family viewing time, or at least it used to be. It also airs in the middle of the day and at 4pm on Sunday (on repeat). Could it be that part of the reason networks are losing young viewers by the truckload is that their parents don’t want them watching this stuff? Hmm. Just saying.

Anyway, back to the PG-rated smut.

In the “not-yet, but if you play your cards right” camp are Sarah (taking it slowly because she’s been hurt before – in a high-speed sex accident, apparently) and Telv (taking himself off to the shower several times a day; those dirty thoughts need to be washed away).

Also there are Gabrielle and Nasser, who did it on their honeymoon but since then, not so much. He’s been too busy sweeping and moisturising and plucking his eyebrows, prompting a teary Gab to ask the question on everyone’s lightly botoxed lips: “Are you a red-blooded male or what?”

Sadly she only says this to the camera, but some version of it must have been put to the rock god of Egypt because he mutters “filth”, which is indeed tonight’s safe word.

“Why is Nasser’s sex life so important,” he asks, casually slipping into the third-person mode of address favoured by narcissists and psychopaths through the ages (I know which one my money’s on). “Some people say it doesn’t exist,” he continues of his missing-in-inaction libido. “It’s not that important.”

Sorry to correct you there, but Gab might beg to differ. And if Nasser doesn’t sail up that canal mighty soon this relationship is surely headed for a crisis.

When will they stop asking about my sex life? Nasser and Gabrielle, Married at First Sight season 5 ep 15.

When will they stop asking about my sex life? Nasser and Gabrielle.

Justin and Carly we can pretty much write off. Sure, he finally gave her one of his icecreams, but his next move was seriously weird. He took her to the marina to look at boats because whether or not she likes them is a deal breaker, he claimed. Like, totally.

Luckily, she’s quite fond of boats.

“So which one is yours,” she not unreasonably asks.

“Oh, I don’t have one,” he says.

What the?

But wait, there’s one more nail in the coffin of their yet-to-begin sex life. He’s off to Milan for a week, without her, to “the Oscars of my industry” – that’s the ICECREAM INDUSTRY, PEOPLE! “See you in a week,” he says blithely. I seriously doubt you will, mate.

I'm going to the Oscars ... of ice-cream. Justin ditches Carly on Married at First Sight season 5 ep 15.

I’m going to the Oscars … of icecream. Justin ditches Carly for Milan..

On the other side of the ledger, Dean and Tracey are in a post-rap state of rapture that not even the arrival of his brother and sister – both suitably unimpressed by what a douche he has been – can dampen.

Elsewhere, Sean has taken the advice of the “experts” and given Blair what she wanted – a little sugar in her bowl, a little honey in her roll, a little … well, you know the stuff.

“I don’t know if he was genuine, or if he just wanted to get some, but I really enjoyed it,” Blair confesses to the camera. I really hope the kiddies are tucked up in bed by now.

Next morning, they hop into his ‘Stang for drive, and as they tool down the road he asks if she’s starting to develop feelings.

She says yes. Aw sweet. He immediately blindsides her with “for me, it’s a not”.

Ouch. Low blow.

“I’m pissed, I’m really pissed,” she tells the camera. Hell hath no fury like a reality show participant scorned.

Are you feeling anything? Cause I'm not. Sean stiffs Blair on Married at First Sight season 5 ep 15. Are you feeling anything? Cause I’m not. Sean stiffs Blair.

Troy and Ashley provide the inevitable moments of car-crash hilarity, but it’s impossible not to think that he does have a point when he complains that she’s not willing to meet him halfway (hell, even one-third of the way would do).

Then again, he really is a doofus. He has to look up a YouTube video to learn how to make scrambled eggs, for God’s sake, and mistakes camembert for butter and wonders why it isn’t melting the way it should.

And he thinks they were this close to having sex when she told him the opposite. Worse than that, he has no oral hygiene! “Are you kidding me,” Ashley says of the ever-diminishing possibility of her becoming Troy’s Helen. “He doesn’t even clean his teeth at night. I’m not going to hook up with somebody who doesn’t clean their teeth.”

Ashley and Troy argue over what constitutes being interested in sex. Married at First Sight season 5 ep 15. Ashley and Troy argue over what constitutes being interested in sex.

But really, the interest tonight is all in Ryan and Davina, who are definitely not going to be seeing anything like action.

At Troy’s parents’ house, Davina wills an alternative reality into existence. “We’re so relaxed with each other and we have a lot in common,” she tells his parents while Ryan silently seethes at the opposite end of the table.

Over in Bullshit Corner, a tractor between them, Ryan tells his dad what’s what.

“She went for another bloke, she left me for another fella, she’d been having drinks with him all week and I didn’t know,” Ryan says, somewhere between amused and seething. “I found out while sitting on the couch.”

“You should have come out and exposed her,” says the old man, his eyes deadset twinkling with mischief. “You have now!”

“If she writes ‘stay’, I have to stay as well,” says Ryan.

“That’d be a bit of a pickle.”

“I pray to baby Jesus she doesn’t.”

Back in Sydney, Davina crashes Ryan’s catch-up with some mates. He peels off to dish to the fellas, while she sits with his female friends, who regale her with tales of how awesome he is.

The mist rises, and suddenly Davina sees the error of her ways. “Seeing how other people look at him and appreciate him makes me appreciate him a lot more.” It’s like saying you misjudged someone because you didn’t realise how many followers they had on Instagram. Sheesh.

Later still, we rejoin them at the beach. The scene is set with a shot of waves crashing on the shoreline: love on the rocks.

“Where are you at with the experiment,” asks Davina, who is either thick as pig poop or an evil genius doing the bidding of the production team.

“What do you mean,” asks Ryan, slightly dumbfounded that this could even be a question.

“With us?”

“Oh, I’m going,” he says. “That can’t be a shock. I’m 100% leaving. Definitely.

I'm done: Ryan leaves no room for doubt. Except in Davina's mind. Married at First Sight season 5 ep 15. I’m done: Ryan leaves no room for doubt. Except in Davina’s mind.

“The only reason you’re talking to me now is ‘cause Dean won’t talk to you any more,” he adds, not unreasonably.

“No I’m not. I was talking to you when I was talking to Dean,” she says. It’s meant to be a positive, I think, but it merely reminds him of what a dirty two-timer she has been.

“There you have it,” he says. “I’m done here … It’d be stupid to go back, absolutely stupid.”

A woman who won't take no for an answer: Davina is determined to win back the man she tossed aside like an empty plastic water bottle. Married at First Sight season 5 ep 15. Davina is determined to win back the man she tossed aside like an empty plastic water bottle.

Now, you might think that’s a fairly definitive statement. And I might think that too. But not Davina. No way.

“We both know what we want,” she says. “I’m confident I can completely change his mind … he’s my person in this and I’m his … I think I can convince him.”

Get out of there, Ryan, quick. Otherwise you’ll be screwed.

 

Source :  WA Today