Myanmar said on Monday that the Paris Club of creditor nations has agreed to cancel half of its debt, another milestone in the rapid transformation of the former junta-ruled nation. The deal, together with pledges by Japan and Norway, reduces the country's debt burden by nearly $6 billion, according to an official statement published by state media. It said the agreement, struck with Paris Club creditor countries on January 25, would cancel the debt in two phases, with the remaining amounts to be rescheduled over 15 years. Japan has committed to cancel arrears worth over $3 billion while Norway is writing off $534 million, according to the statement.
US senate group proposes broad immigration plan
A bipartisan group of US senators has agreed on a framework for immigration reform that would provide a path to citizenship for those in the United States illegally but only after measures are put in place to secure borders and track undocumented immigrants. The document, made available to news organisations early Monday and first reported by Politico, comes a day before President Barack Obama is to outline his proposals for immigration reform. An outline of the proposal said it would allow those in the United States illegally to register with the government, pay a fine, and then be given probationary legal status allowing them to work.
Lending in euro zone falls for eighth month in a row
Loans to companies and households in the euro zone contracted for the eighth month running in December, showing low official borrowing costs are having little success in reviving investment and spending. Loans to the private sector fell 0.7% from the same month a year ago, European Central Bank data showed, in line with the mid-range forecast in a Reuters poll of economists. The monthly flow of loans to non-financial firms fell 22 billion euros in December after falling by 7 billion euros in November. The monthly flow of loans to households showed a drop of 3 billion euros after a rise of 6 billion euros in the previous month.
China may lift 13-yr ban on video game consoles
China is considering lifting a decade-long ban on video game consoles, the official China Daily newspaper reported on Monday, sending shares of major hardware makers such as Sony Corp and Nintendo Co surging. In November, Sony's PlayStation 3 received a quality certification from a Chinese safety standards body, prompting speculation that Beijing would lift the ban, which the government said was imposed in 2000 to safeguard childrens mental and physical development. We are reviewing the policy and have conducted some surveys and held discussions with other ministries on the possibility of opening up the game console market, the China Daily quoted an unnamed source from the ministry of culture as saying.
Britain announces plans for high-speed rail lines
Britain has unveiled details of new high-speed rail lines linking London to northern England with trains traveling up to 225 miles an hour (360 kmph). The government says the High Speed 2 project will be the first new railway built north of London for more than a century, and will be an economic and environmental boon. But opponents claims it will ruin tracts of picturesque countryside. The first 140-mile (225-kilometer) stretch of the line, announced last year, will link London to Birmingham, Englands second-largest city. The Y-shaped section announced Monday will extend to the northern cities of Manchester and Leeds.