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Kim Jong-UnKim Jong-Un on Monday gave the first indication that North Korea could participate in next month’s Winter Olympics in the South, despite tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.”I sincerely hope the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will be staged successfully,” said Kim, the North Korean leader, in his new year’s address to the nation.”We are willing to take necessary measures including to dispatch our delegation.”For this purpose, authorities of the North and South would be able to meet in the near future,” he said.Lee Hee-Beom, the head of the Pyeongchang Olympic Organising Committee welcomed Kim’s comments.”We actively welcome the North’s suggestion that it is willing to engage in talks for the participation in the Olympics”, Lee told AFP.”We’ve been preparing for the Olympics on the assumption that the North will eventually take part in the games”, he said, adding that all athletes, including North Koreans, would feel at home during their stay in Pyeongchang.- ‘Peace Olympics’ -He said relevant government authorities of the two Koreas should hold talks to discuss details although there was no immediate response from the South’s government.Seoul and organisers have billed the Winter Games which begin on 9 February as a “peace Olympics” and have been keen for the North to take part.Two North Korean athletes — pairs figure skaters Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik — have qualified for the Games but the North Korean Olympic Committee missed an October 30 deadline to confirm to the International Skating Union that they would participate.The pair could still compete if given an invitation by the International Olympic Committee.The Winter Olympic main venues are just 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the heavily fortified border with the North and the build-up to the event has been overshadowed by tensions running high over the Pyongyang’s escalating nuclear and missile tests.Kim said the Olympics would “serve as a good chance to display our Korean people’s grace toward the world.””The year 2018 is a significant year for both the North and the South, with the North marking the 70th anniversary of its birth and the South hosting the Winter Olympics.”- ‘Unstable state’ -Kim did strike one note of caution. “The sharp military tension between the North and the South must be eased and a peaceful atmosphere should be in place,” he said.”As long as an unstable state which is neither a war nor peace continues, the North and the South cannot guarantee their scheduled events (including the Olympics) will be successfully staged, sit down for talks or move forward for reunification.”Professor Kim Hyun-Wook at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy said the North was trying to use the Olympics to improve ties with the South while tensions with the US show no signs of abating.”The US will find it awkward to put brakes on inter-Korean dialogue focused on Pyeongchang,” he said.North Korea’s past participation in sporting events in the South has largely depended on the political and military situation, though they did send a full team to the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, near Seoul.”It is quite noteworthy that the North’s leader himself says the North is willing to participate in Pyeongchang,” Professor Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul told AFP. “The chances of the North coming to the Olympics now seem to be more than 80 percent.”North and South Korea have been divided by a demilitarised zone since the end of the 1950-53 Korean war.South Korean president Moon Jae-In last month proposed delaying Seoul’s annual joint military exercises with the US until after the Games.The Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills usually start in late February or early March and run until the end of April, usually contributing to a spike in tensions, with Pyongyang condemning the exercises as rehearsals for invasion.
Prothom Alo illustrationBangladesh ranks third among the world’s top countries with the fastest millionaire population growth, shows a report published by a US based research organisation, Wealth X.The country’s High Net Worth (HNW) population is set to grow by 11.04 per cent each year in the next five years according to the findings of the research firm.The report defines the HNW population as those with a net worth between $1 million and $30 million. The research firm on Wednesday published the report titled “Global HNW analysis: The high net worth handbook” of top 10 countries that are eyeing growth from 2018 to 2023.Nigeria tops the list with millionaire population growth of 12 per cent while Egypt is in the second position. Bangladesh is followed by Vietnam, Poland, China, Kenya, India, Philippines and Ukraine respectively in the list.Although rich with oil reserves, Nigeria is much talked for its corruption.Earlier, Bangladesh surpassed all the countries with fastest growing class of rich people, according to the World Ultra Wealth Report in September, 2018 by Wealth X.The report, then showed ultra rich with a net worth of US $30 million or more , were growing faster in Bangladesh.According to its estimate, the ultra-rich increased by 17 per cent in five years till 2017 in the country.On the other hand, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics’ report shows a widening inequality between the income of the poor and the rich.Experts, however, believe this sudden increase of rich population in the country occurred as result of crony capitalism, as well as bribery and corruption in the banking and financial sectors, contracts and other sectors.According to the BBS household survey of income and expenditure released in 2016, the income of five per cent of the richest families went up by 57 per cent in six years from 2010 to 2016.At the same time, the income of five per cent poorest decreased to 59 per cent. Their per capita income lowered to 733 taka per month which was 1791 taka in 2010.Executive chairman of Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) and former advisor to caretaker government Hossain Zillur Rahman said that there was no doubt that Bangladesh is heading towards a sustainable economy.“It is to find whether these rich people contributed to the economy or became rich in an unethical way. Because, the corruption and irregularities in banking and other sector refers to such likelihood,” he added.However, some of the economists believe that in the initial phase of development, inequality in income increases. This discrimination decreases after the economy goes to a sustainable position. Also, they note that crony capitalism is a common picture of developing countries.There are debates among economists about income inequality.“It is not necessary that the income disparity increases in primary phases of development. The best instance is South Korea,” economist Wahiuddin Ahmad said in a citizens’ dialogue organised by the PPRC and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).“If we cannot create effective institutional resistance against corruption and it continues like this, our economy will not be able to take the burden in the future,” he added.Planning commission member Shamsul Alam told Prothom Alo that the government also is concerned about the increasing inequality in income.“The government is putting emphasis on social security programmes in this regard. We are also introducing a number of initiatives to reduce the inequality in upcoming the eighth five-year plan which is underway,” he added.Shamsul Alam also said that the overall GDP growth in Bangladesh is high. “New resources are being created and so the growth is increasing. Therefore it is only natural that the number of millionaires will increase,” he added.*This piece originally published in Prothom Alo print edition has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat