India’s Supreme Court orders Adani probe

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] India’s top court orders investigation into Adani Group after US short-seller Hindenburg Research accused the conglomerate of fraudulent practices, prompting a significant loss in market value.  India’s top court has ordered an expert committee to investigate any regulatory failures related to the country’s second-largest conglomerate, the Adani Group. The order of investigation on Thursday was prompted by allegations made by US short-seller Hindenburg Research in a report that accused Adani companies of engaging in market manipulation and other fraudulent practices. Shares in the group’s flagship, Adani Enterprises, and other affiliated companies have lost tens of billions of dollars in market value since Hindenburg issued its report. The Adani Group has denied any wrongdoing, defending itself against the allegations in a 413 page rebuttal. In a tweet on Thursday, it welcomed the court order. “It will bring finality in a time-bound manner. Truth will prevail,” the company said. The expert committee will submit its findings to the Supreme Court within two months, said Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala. Hindenburg Research published a report “Adani Group: How The World’s 3rd Richest Man Is Pulling The Largest Con In Corporate History” alleging that Adani Group “has engaged in a brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme over the course of decades”. Improvement suggestions The top court also directed the government-run Securities and Exchange Board of India to investigate whether there had been a violation of rules or manipulation of stock prices by the Adani Group. The court acted on petitions filed by some activists and lawyers. Apart from investigating allegations against Adani, the expert committee is to suggest measures to improve regulatory oversight and protections for investors. Adani Enterprises cancelled a share offering meant to raise $2.5 billion last month after Hindenburg issued its report and its share price plummeted. Opposition lawmakers blocked parliamentary proceedings last month demanding a probe into the business dealings of coal tycoon Gautam Adani, who is said to enjoy close ties with PM Narendra Modi. The investigation comes on the same day US boutique investment firm GQG Partners Inc has bought shares worth $1.87 billion in four Adani group companies, marking the first major investment in the Indian conglomerate since the report. Before investing, Rajiv Jain, GQG’s chairman and chief investment officer said GQG did a “deep dive on our own” as part of due diligence, including conversations with the group’s vendors, bankers and partners. “We actually disagree with [Hindenburg’s] report,” he said, adding that infrastructure companies are subject to tight regulation and therefore the risk of fraud is low. Source: TRT World[vc_column_text][vc_column][vc_row]

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Government takes bitter pill to satisfy IMF demands

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] Pakistan completes prior actions for IMF staff-level agreement, securing $1.2bn disbursement to avert sovereign default through unprecedented policy measures.  ISLAMABAD: With unprecedented policy doses within 24 hours, Pakistan on Thursday completed all the prior actions needed for staff-level agreement (SLA) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avert sovereign default and secure long-delayed $1.2bn disbursement. Sources told Dawn that policy actions stood completed after the exchange rate was allowed to move freely with a massive Rs25 per dollar depreciation in two days, an unusual 300-basis-point surge in State Bank’s policy, and the government’s announcement of continuing with an almost 10pc increase in power rates on a permanent basis through a special surcharge. These sources said the two sides were now jointly working to finalise the text of the Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policy (MEFP) and targets for the programme implementation that could be presented to the IMF’s executive board for approval. This would involve the programme monitoring tools like performance criteria, indicative targets and other similar reporting benchmarks for agreed upon macroeconomic framework. The IMF mission is reported to have now promised to move the case to the executive board “in the most agile fashion possible” against a normal process of about six weeks. Now that the government commitments for programme implementation are clear and confusion about needed policies removed, the two sides were jointly engaging with bilateral lenders and international financial institutions for financing flow to keep the country current on external payments. “This is a work in progress at this stage and, in fact, the Fund is now facilitating this coordination,” an informed source said. The IMF’s advisory role in the process, the sources said, was giving confidence to all partners that policies are sustainable for economic growth and development. The most critical factors delaying the SLA related to the power sector sustainability through the permanent surcharge and complete free movement of the exchange rate, which meant the alignment of interbank, open and informal market operations of the foreign exchange market without any interference besides the central bank’s policy rate commensurate with the inflationary trend. The government approved the continuation of up to Rs3.23 per unit special surcharge on electricity consumers to generate Rs335bn for debt servicing in the next fiscal year, allowing the rupee’s free float and increasing interest rates to 20pc. The power sector surcharge was considered critical to support the sector towards self-sufficiency and restrict the government finances to only budgeted subsidies. There was now complete commonality of understanding between the two sides on all matters that prolonged an outcome since the IMF staff mission left Pakistan on Feb 9. As the authorities reached the last leg of prior action completion, the prevailing economic and political uncertainties set rumour mills in motion. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar responded through a statement that “our negotiations with IMF are about to conclude and we expect to sign a staff-level agreement with IMF by next week”, and that “anti-Pakistan elements” were spreading malicious rumours that Pakistan might default. “This is not only completely false but also belie the facts. SBP’s forex reserves have been increasing and are almost $1bn higher than four weeks ago despite making all external due payments on time,” he said, adding that the foreign commercial banks had started extending facilities to Pakistan and all economic indicators are slowly moving in the right direction. The government has already met other prior actions with the imposition of Rs170bn additional taxes for the current year and their continuation for next with over Rs500bn annual yield. The cabinet has also approved a Rs3.82 per unit surcharge on electricity for the current year, and enhanced gas rates by up to 124pc. On successful completion, Pakistan would be entitled to 894 special drawing rights (SDRs) of the IMF with a calculated value of $1.2bn. The tranche had been delayed since October last year because of the government’s reluctance to allow free movement of the exchange rate, increasing the interest rate and full-cost recovery of power supply through additional surcharges and other adjustments to generate more than Rs600bn in less than two years. Source: Dawn News [vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_row]

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Arrests for child marriage devastate families in India

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] Police crackdown on child marriage leads to arrests in India’s Assam, leaving families torn apart and struggling to cope and despite progress, the practice of child marriage remains widespread in the country. Aged 15 and already pregnant after marrying last year, Pinku Das Sarkar has no idea what to do following her husband’s February 2 arrest in a controversial police crackdown on child marriage in northeastern India. He is among more than 3,000 men, priests and Muslim leaders who have been jailed over the last month in the state of Assam on charges of violating the country’s widely flouted laws against early marriage. “It was 11pm and we were about to sleep when four policemen came and whisked him away. I didn’t know what was happening. I just cried all night,” Sarkar told the Thomson Reuters Foundation as she sat outside her brick and bamboo house in Radhanagar, a village in Assam’s Nagaon district. “I really don’t know what to do,” said Sarkar, who relied on the small income her 26-year-old husband made by selling sugarcane juice from a cart. Marriage under 18 is illegal in India, though almost a quarter of married Indian women wed before their 18th birthday, health data collected between 2019 and 2021 shows. But huge progress has been made to turn the tide on child marriage in recent years. As recently as 2005-06, 47 percent of women got married before 18, and women’s rights campaigners say better educational access among girls and awareness campaigns in communities where the practice is culturally accepted brought down numbers. Police action to tackle the issue is rare, however. Less than 2,000 people were arrested across India for arranging or participating in child marriage in 2021, the latest official crime data shows. The Assam crackdown has been condemned by women’s and anti-poverty campaigners who say it unfairly punishes poor families who marry off their daughters due to financial pressures, and leaves thousands of families without their main breadwinner. “Criminalising those who are already poor is not the best way to deal with a social problem,” said Enakshi Ganguly, co-founder of HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, a nonprofit. “These young pregnant girls are left without any help, with their main support gone,” she said. Presenting a petition to the Gauhati High Court in the state’s main city, dozens of campaigners called instead for improving girls’ access to education and information on sexual and reproductive health to help prevent child marriages. Uncertain future A few miles from Sarkar’s home, Gulsona Begum said her security guard husband was imprisoned on February 7 just two weeks after they married, saying his arrest had left the family penniless and facing an uncertain future. “My father-in-law is physically handicapped and we have no source of income now with my husband in jail,” Begum said at her house in the village of Amlipukhuri. She said she was 18, but police say she is still a minor and has no documents to prove her age. “Now that he has been arrested, he will most probably lose his job,” she said. “We are managing to eat for now with the help of our neighbours and relatives … but I don’t know what will happen to us.” Fearing arrest, several men have fled to neighbouring states, leaving their teenage wives at home, village residents said. Defending the state’s approach, Assam’s Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters on Tuesday that no cases of child marriage had been reported since the police operation began. He said that of the 3,047 people arrested so far, about 251 have been granted bail. here have also been questions about whether the crackdown targeted Assam’s Muslim community, which accounts for about a third of its 34 million people. Most of the arrests took place in districts with a large Muslim population, said human rights lawyer Taniya Sultana Laskar. Sarma, a prominent figure in India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party, has said action was being taken against people, irrespective of their faith. He has cited the state’s maternal mortality rate of 32 percent among girls married before 18, which is higher than the country’s average of 23.3 percent, government health data shows. Mutual support? Back in Radhanagar village, Sarkar’s father-in-law said his son’s arrest had forced him to question his decision to encourage the marriage, thinking it would be mutual support for the two families. “Pinku’s mother is a domestic help and … lost her husband young. We had no woman in the house after my wife died. So it was a solution for both our families’ problems as I saw it,” he said. “I understand child marriage is wrong and I feel helpless now when I see Pinku sad all day. I don’t even get work easily at my age. I worry what will happen when the child comes,” he said. For now, a couple of neighbours have stepped in to help, taking her to hospital for a scheduled pregnancy check-up. But she said she misses her husband. “His presence gave me support. He is my strength,” she said. Source: Al Jazeera[vc_column_text][vc_column][vc_row]

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Modi Criticizes Global Governance

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has criticised global institutions for failing to address the world’s biggest challenges, calling for countries to find common ground on divisive issues at the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has criticised global institutions for failing to address the world’s biggest challenges, calling on countries to find common ground on divisive issues. Speaking at the opening of the Group of 20 (G20) foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi on Thursday, Modi said that countries should acknowledge that multilateralism is currently “in crisis”. “The experience of the last few years – financial crisis, climate change, pandemic, terrorism and wars – clearly shows that global governance has failed,” Modi said in a recorded statement. “We should not allow issues that we cannot resolve together to come in the way of those we can,” Modi added. India holds the G20 presidency this year. But New Delhi’s longstanding security ties with Moscow have put the host of Thursday’s meeting in an awkward position. India, being a major buyer of Russian armaments and energy, has not directly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On Wednesday, Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said Russia’s war in Ukraine is expected to be an important point of discussion at the meeting. New Delhi is also keen to steer the talks towards issues affecting the Global South, such as poverty eradication and climate change. Delegates from Europe and the United States, however, have reiterated that they hold Russia responsible for the conflict, with Germany saying it would use the meeting to counter Russian “propaganda”. Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra told reporters Russia was solely responsible for the war and must continue to be sanctioned. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna also said the G20 must hold Russia accountable for the “negative consequences for almost every country on the planet”. “We need to deliver solutions that protect the most vulnerable, instead of leaving them to suffer from Russia’s war,” she said. The New Delhi meeting is being attended by 40 delegations, including those headed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang. On Wednesday, Blinken said he had no plans to meet either minister. Ties between Washington and Beijing are strained over Ukraine as well as the US shooting down last month of what it said was a Chinese spy balloon that had drifted over North America. The G20 foreign ministers’ meeting comes after a gathering of finance ministers in Bengaluru last month failed to agree to a joint statement on the war. At that meeting, Modi called on leading economies to help the world’s most vulnerable people and “bring back stability, confidence and growth to the global economy”. The lack of consensus at the gathering of finance officials mirrored the outcome of last November’s G20 summit in Bali when host Indonesia released a declaration acknowledging differences between countries. Source: Al Jazeera[vc_column_text][vc_column][vc_row]

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Doha agreement shattered; Mullah Baradar*

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] The Deputy PM of economic affairs said the US violated the agreement multiple times. KABUL (Pajhwok): Deputy prime minister for economic affairs Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Wednesday said the United States had repeatedly violated the Doha agreement. Addressing . . . You need to subscribe to view the full article. Please login or register a new account. Source: Pajhwok[vc_column_text][vc_column][vc_row]

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February records highest Inflation in Pakistan

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] Pakistan’s consumer price index hits its highest rate in 50 years with food, beverage, and transportation prices up by over 45% and the government aims to increase revenues through taxes and secure funding from the IMF. ISLAMABAD: Last month, prices rose at the fastest pace ever in the country’s history, according to available data, with food, beverage and transport costs driving inflation to a point where analysts fear “families will have to make choices and sacrifices”. Monthly inflation, measured by a basket of products called the Consumer Price Index (CPI), jumped to 31.6 per cent in February year-on-year, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday. This was the highest annual rate since available data, i.e. July 1965, according to the research firm Arif Habib Ltd, and is also expected to rise even further in the coming months. Inflation surpassed 30pc last month after having stayed above 20pc for eight months from June to January. “The 30 per cent figure is where families will have to make choices and sacrifices,” analyst Torek Farhadi told AFP. Inflation was 12.2pc in February last year. The goods and services in the CPI basket are divided into 12 major components with different weights. Of them, costs in four categories — transport, food and non-alcoholic beverages, alcoholic beverages and tobacco, and recreation and culture — jumped by around half. Prices in February rose 4.3pc compared to January, the highest rate since October’s 4.7pc. The government passed a supplementary bill last month that lifted the goods and services tax to 18pc from 17pc to help raise Rs170 billion ($639 million) in extra revenue for the fiscal year through July. The government is undertaking belt-tightening, aims to increase revenues through taxes, and has allowed the rupee to depreciate as it thrashes out a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure more than $1 billion in funding. The rupee shed 1.73pc, closing at 266.11 against the dollar on Wednesday. The rupee has depreciated nearly 15pc since the start of the calendar year, adding to inflation. “This is still not the peak. March is expected to be higher. Food prices are expected to go even higher as we approach Ramazan,” said Fahad Rauf, head of research at Ismail Iqbal Securities, a local brokerage firm. Mustafa Pasha, chief investment officer at Lakson Investments, said: “Inflation is expected to continue rising in the months ahead as IMF-mandated structural adjustments and currency devaluation filter through the supply chain.” Core inflation increased 17.1pc and 21.5pc year-on-year for urban and rural centres, respectively. “Core inflation is something the central bank will need to keep an eye on when deciding the quantum of increase for the policy rate,” Reuters quoted Mr Pasha as saying. With February’s reading, average inflation has now reached 26.2pc this fiscal year compared to 10.52pc in the previous year. A PBS spokesperson told Reuters that the yearly average inflation for the 1973-74 financial year was 32.78pc. Change in prices The food items whose prices saw the highest increase in February compared to a year ago were onions (416.74pc), chicken (96.86pc), eggs (78.73pc), rice (77.81pc), gram whole (64.93pc), pulse moong (56.43pc), pulse gram (55.99pc), wheat flour (55.92pc), pulse mash (50.77pc), cooking oil (50.66pc), mustard oil (48.11pc), dry fruits (47.88pc), vegetable ghee (45.89pc), and fresh fruits (45.17pc). In contrast, the price of tomatoes dropped by 62.7pc and that of gur by 1.87pc. In the non-food category, the items whose prices saw the highest rise from the same month last year included textbooks (74.13pc), motor fuel (63.2pc), gas charges (62.82pc), stationery (61.37pc), washing soap/detergents/matchbox (51.63pc), liquified hydrocarbons (48.37pc), motor vehicles (38.77pc), construction input items (38.51pc), motor vehicle accessories (37.04pc), transport services (33.13pc), marriage hall charges (25.50pc), major tools and equipment (24.63pc), tailoring (23.59pc), mechanical services (20.51pc), woollen cloth (19.83pc), cotton cloth (18.82pc), medical tests (17.90pc) and household servant (17.25pc). Source: Dawn News[vc_column_text][vc_column][vc_row]

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Blinken meets Central Asian leaders

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] Blinken reinforces US engagement in Central Asia amidst fallout from the Ukraine war. ASTANA, Feb 28 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met leaders in Central Asia on Tuesday as Washington pursued deeper engagement with the region’s former Soviet republics in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago. Blinken’s visit to the capitals of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan was his first to the region as the Biden administration’s top diplomat. It came just days after the Feb. 24 first anniversary of Russia’s invasion, which has tested Moscow’s influence in a region that also includes Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Leaders in the region have been emboldened to stand up to Russia but have also been buffeted by the fallout from the war, including rising food and fuel prices, and come under suspicion as potential routes for sanctioned goods reaching Russia. “We are watching compliance with sanctions very closely and we’re having an ongoing discussion with number of countries, including our C5 partners, on the economic spillover effects,” Blinken said at a news conference after a meeting with officials of the five Central Asian states in the Kazakh capital Astana Washington is issuing licenses to give companies time to wind down relationships with Russian firms that have been sanctioned in a Western effort to pressure Moscow to end the war, Blinken said. He announced $25 million of new funding to support economic growth, including with new trade routes, and helping business find new export markets, on top of $25 million the Biden administration has already committed to the region. U.S. officials say President Joe Biden’s administration has increased its stake in the region in an effort to demonstrate the benefits of U.S. cooperation to countries facing an economic hit from the Ukraine conflagration. ‘TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY’ In Astana on Tuesday, Blinken met Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who was re-elected in a landslide in November and has pushed back publicly against territorial claims made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine. “We have built very good and reliable long-term partnerships in so many strategically important areas like security, energy, trade and investments,” Tokayev told Blinken as they met at the imposing presidential palace. Blinken earlier told Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi that Washington supports the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Kazakhstan, which won independence from Moscow when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991. “Sometimes we just say those words, but they actually have real meaning and of course we know in this particular time they have even more resonance than usual,” Blinken said in reference to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, also an ex-Soviet republic. Russia and Kazakhstan share the world’s longest continuous land border, prompting concern among some Kazakhs about the security of a country with the second-biggest ethnic Russian population among former Soviet republics after Ukraine. Tileuberdi said at the news conference that Kazakhstan retained a “multi-vector” foreign policy that balances its ties to Russia with other nations. “We do not see or feel any risks or threats from the Russian Federation at the moment,” he said. Source: Reuters [vc_column_text][vc_column][vc_row]

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IMF accused of \’shifting goalposts,\’ government expresses dissatisfaction

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] IMF \’shifts goalposts\’ on Pakistan\’s economic bailout, causing frustration for government officials and sources reveal concerns over changing interpretations of prior actions and alleged maltreatment by the IMF. ISLAMABAD: The government has been trying to put on a brave face in its struggle to unlock critical funding from the IMF, but background discussions with officials reveal the administration is quite nervous beneath its confident exterior, as it finds it increasingly difficult to convince the Fund to release a loan instalment. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has changed interpretations of at least four prior actions ahead of rea­ching a staff-level agreement (SLA) on the direly needed economic bailout. Sources say the authorities are extremely annoyed at the latest situation, describing it as ‘maltreatment’. “We are members of the IMF, not beggars or else our membership be discarded,” commented a disgruntled senior official. Another official even likened the situation to that in 1998, when Pakistan’s economic difficulties worsened in the wake of nuclear tests, and default seemed imminent. Officials have also suggested that the IMF wanted to support the poor publicly, but had been insisting on some measures that would ultimately hit the low-income segments. pite this disappointment, however, the authorities anticipate — at least officially — the conclusion of the SLA next week and the materialisation of financing support from friendly nations — some of which took more time than anticipated because of signals from the Fund. They, however, concede that a gap in Islamabad’s diplomatic efforts, combined with Pakistan’s credibility gap and trust deficit following the reversal of agreed policy actions in the past, were key factors that pushed some capitals to work for Pakistan’s “meltdown”. The IMF is reported to have estimated an all-inclusive financing gap of about $7bn for the current fiscal year against Pakistan’s projection of $5bn. However, one official hoped that the State Bank of Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves would go beyond $10bn by the end of June from little over $3.1bn at present. As per the sources, authorities have secured $1.3bn inflows in three tranches from Chinese banks, on top of the $700 million that has already been received. This would flow in two equal instalments of $500m and then $300m with a gap of a few days. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates would also be made available over $3bn. The four items on the unfinished IMF loan programme agenda include an early hike in the central bank’s interest rate to represent general inflation, exchange rate movement to cater for outflow to war-ravaged and sanction-hit Afghanistan, written assurances for external financing gap from friendly nations, and the continuation of Rs3.39 per unit financing cost surcharge on electricity consumers for coming years through the finance bill, rather than for four months already announced by the government. However, one official described this last condition as ‘unreasonable’, since the argument is that such a surcharge would help meet the power sector’s financing gap in the years to come and how this could be done for future years in the presence of the parliament and the judiciary. There are also objections over the government-SBP deadline given to exporters to bring their proceeds immediately or face conversion at old exchange rates. As a result, the State Bank of Pakistan had been compelled to advance its monetary policy committee’s meeting to March 2 after publicly insisting on following the original schedule set for March 16. The exchange rate adjustment also led to a 0.6pc fall in the rupee’s value on Tuesday to close at Rs261.50 against the dollar. This is strange because there had to be a difference between the market-based exchange rate and the one in the grey market, where people from the sanctioned nation across the border would in any case offer higher rate for their needs. “This is an illegal activity and should be addressed accordingly. Even corrective measures in the market are opposed,” another source said. Officials suggest all matters had been settled before the IMF mission concluded its visit to Pakistan on the night of Feb 9 and even a concluding statement from the Fund was supposed to report “comprehensive dialogue and positive outcome of the talks”, which got watered down during the approval process abroad, where some influential quarters were said to be “more political than politicians”. The coercive situation is no different than in 1998 when the West wanted “Pakistan’s denuclearisation” and moved behind the scenes to punish the nation for nuclear tests, an official said, adding that this time some powers had Pakistan’s missile programme in mind. The sources said the IMF publicly wanted taxes on the rich and support to the poor but insisted on increasing general sales tax rates that were inflationary and impacted the poor, while taxes on high earners like banks through foreign exchange transactions were opposed. Likewise, the flood levy on high-end groups were opposed on the premise that these were not quality measures. Sources said the draft Memorandum of Economic and Fiscal Policies (MEFP) was first shared with Pakistan in February and had since been going through changes in agreed steps that Pakistan had already complied with by increasing gas and electricity prices and passing a Rs170bn mini-budget at a fast pace. The prior actions are always set to be completed before the executive board meeting of the IMF for approval of quarterly review but this time this had been linked to the staff-level agreement. “This is also unusual,” an official said. Source: Dawn News[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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