June 09, 2020 13:46
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called a session of the Politburo to discuss "handling the pressing issue of how to guarantee Pyongyang residents' livelihood" and "developing the self-reliant economy" and "improving people's living standards," the official Rodong Sinmun reported Monday.
It was Kim's first public appearance in about two weeks since he chaired a meeting of the Workers Party's Central Military Commission.
The main issues were ensuring a stable supply of food, electricity and fuel, the daily added. The provision of basic necessities has become a serious problem even in Pyongyang, where the North Korean elite live, as a result of international sanctions and border closures due to the coronavirus epidemic.
The capital is naturally the regime's top priority since it relies on the party and military elite to prop it up.
The regime has supplied food for Pyongyang residents even when provincial regions suffered from shortages, according to one defector here.
In a recent report, Fitch Solutions, a subsidiary of global ratings firm Fitch, predicted that the North's economy will shrink six percent this year due to sanctions and the epidemic, the steepest in 23 years since the famine of the 1990s.
The Rodong Sinmun singled out the chemical industry for special mention, presumably because it is in charge of fertilizer production, which is essential to increase food harvests. It was at a fertilizer plant in Sunchon, South Pyongan Province that Kim Jong-un made his public reappearance last month after a 21-day absence.
The North has also kept up a relentless campaign of denunciations and threats against South Korea in the last couple of weeks, suggesting that the regime is reaching the end of its tether and desperate to deflect any restiveness at home.
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