Items filtered by date: Monday, 13 May 2019
Government Officials on Monday said, some social media networks will be temporarily blocked in Sri Lanka, after messages shared online raised religious tensions that have been running high since the deadly Easter Sunday bombings.

According to reports by dpa/NAN, a police spokesman, PS Ruwan Gunasekara, said that in one case a message shared on Facebook led to a tense situation on Sunday in the town of Chilaw, 80km north of the capital Colombo.

A number of people surrounded and damaged an Islamic religious centre and police arrested a person, identified as Abdul-Hameed Mohamed, who had allegedly posted an inflammatory message on Facebook.

An overnight curfew was imposed in parts of northern Sri Lanka to prevent further violence.

Gunasekara said other false messages on social media claimed a terrorist group has been arrested close to the capital and that three people, who were pretending to be medical students were arrested at a hospital on the city’s outskirts.

Armed forces and police on Monday also increased security in the wake of reports that a terrorist group was planning to carry out attacks in several locations in the capital.

Security has been tight in Sri Lanka since Easter Sunday when 257 people were killed in suicide attacks in three churches, three luxury hotels and two other locations.

The bombers were identified members of an Islamist extremist group.

Published in World

Zimbabwe has started rolling power cuts lasting up to eight hours that will also hit mines, a schedule from the state power utility showed on Monday, after reduced output at both the largest hydro plant and ageing coal-fired generators.

The power cuts will add to mounting public anger against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government as Zimbabweans grapple with an economic crisis that has seen shortages of U.S. dollars, fuel, food and medicines as well as soaring inflation that is eroding earnings and savings.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) said power cuts, known locally as load shedding, would start on Monday and will last up to eight hours during morning and evening peak periods.

"The power shortfall is being managed through load shedding in order to balance the power supply available and the demand," ZETDC said in a public notice.

Isaac Kwesu, chief executive of Chamber of Mines, which groups Zimbabwe’s biggest mining companies, did not answer his mobile phone when contacted for comment.

Mining accounts for more than three-quarters of Zimbabwe’s export earnings and any power cuts in the sector will affect production and exports.

In the past, some of the big mines, including platinum and gold producers, have resorted to directly importing electricity from neighbouring countries like Mozambique and South Africa.

Zimbabwe last experienced its worst power shortages in 2016 following a devastating drought.

The southern African nation, which is producing 969 MW daily against peak demand of 2,100 MW, is entering its peak winter power demand season, which will increase electricity consumption.

Minister of Energy and Power Development Joram Gumbo was quoted by a local newspaper saying he would travel to Mozambique this week to try to agree an electricity supply deal with that country’s power utility Hydro Cahora Bassa.

 

Published in Economy
Monday, 13 May 2019 13:01

Pakistan secures $6bn IMF package

Pakistan has secured a six-billion-dollar bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to revive the South Asian economy which faces a balance-of-payment crisis.

The agreement was reached between Pakistan’s Finance Ministry and a visiting IMF mission in the capital Islamabad overnight Sunday after several rounds of negotiations.

The IMF would provide the financial assistance over a period of 39 months subject to the country’s adherence to the agreed economic reforms, Pakistan’s finance chief Hafeez Shaikh said.

Under the deal, Pakistan would give up central bank control of the currency to adopt a market-based exchange rate, privatise loss-making companies and end subsidies in power and agriculture sectors.

Shaik said the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank would provide up to three billion dollars in additional assistance in pursuance of the Fund deal.

The money would still be short of Pakistan’s total financing gap of 12 billion dollars, but the country is likely to receive cash boost from allies like China and wealthy Muslim nations in the Gulf.

”Pakistan is facing a challenging economic environment with lackluster growth, elevated inflation, high indebtedness and a weak external position,” the IMF said in a statement.

The economy of the nation with a population of 220 million has slid deeper into crisis since Prime Minister Imran Khan took over 2018.

Burgeoning fiscal and current account deficits and a dip in revenues from tax collection are at the heart of the crisis.

Pakistan has sought IMF bailouts several times but the conditions attached to the assistance are always unpopular.

Published in Bank & Finance

Britain's economy risks damage if Brexit is delayed beyond its latest Oct. 31 deadline because companies would continue to hold back on investment, Bank of England deputy governor Ben Broadbent was quoted as saying on Monday.

"It's pretty clear that investment has been feeling the consequences of the uncertainty about Brexit and particularly the possibility of a bad outcome," Broadbent told the Press Association news agency.

"If you continually expect news to arrive imminently - a resolution - then that can have quite a depressing effect on investment," he said.

By contrast, a Brexit deal would lead to "quite a strong bounce-back in investment."

Broadbent reiterated the BoE's guidance that future interest rate increases would be limited and gradual, adding the "emphasis is on the 'gradual' bit of limited and gradual."

He said he did know whether the British central bank would need to increase rates or cut them in the event of a no-deal Brexit shock to the economy.

"I don't know. I really don't, because I don't know how much the exchange rate will move," he said.

Several other top BoE officials, including Governor Mark Carney, have said a rate cut would probably be needed to help the economy weather the shock of leaving the European Union with no deal.

On whether he will put his name forward as a candidate to succeed Mark Carney as BoE governor, Broadbent said: It's a big job...I have lots of things to think about before I make that decision."

Published in World

China will never surrender to external pressure, the government said on Monday, though stopped short of announcing how Beijing will hit back after Washington renewed its threat to impose tariffs on all Chinese imports in an escalating trade dispute.

The trade war between the world's top two economies jumped up a gear on Friday, with the United States hiking tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods after President Donald Trump said Beijing "broke the deal" by reneging on earlier commitments made during months of negotiations.

Trump also ordered U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to begin imposing tariffs on all remaining imports from China, a move that would affect about an additional $300 billion worth of goods.

Beijing has vowed to respond to the latest U.S. tariffs, but has announced no details yet.

"As for the details, please continue to pay attention. Copying a U.S. expression - wait and see," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing.

"We have said many times that adding tariffs won't resolve any problem. China will never surrender to external pressure. We have the confidence and the ability to protect our lawful and legitimate rights," Geng added, responding to a question on Trump's threat of putting duties on all Chinese imports.

State media also kept up a steady drum beat of strongly-worded commentary on Monday, reiterating that China's door to talks was always open, but vowing to defend the country's interests and dignity.

"At no time will China forfeit the country's respect, and no one should expect China to swallow bitter fruit that harms its core interests," China's top newspaper, the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, said in a commentary.

State television said in a separate commentary that the effect on the Chinese economy from the U.S. tariffs was "totally controllable".

"It's no big deal. China is bound to turn crisis to opportunity and use this to test its abilities, to make the country even stronger."

Ahead of talks last week, China wanted to delete commitments from a draft agreement that Chinese laws would be changed to enact new policies on issues from intellectual property protection to forced technology transfers. That move dealt negotiations to resolve the trade dispute a major setback.

Trump has since defended the tariff hike and said he was in "absolutely no rush" to finalize a deal.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Sunday that there was a "strong possibility" Trump will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at a G20 summit in Japan in late June.

 

- Reuters

Published in World

Fijian Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, on Monday said at least 100 billion dollars would be needed yearly worldwide by 2020 to tackle global warming.

Bainimarama made this known at the 3rd Climate Action Pacific Partnership meeting in the capital Suva.

He noted that affordable insurance products would need to be made available.

The prime minister said that large economies must increase their support for small developing countries in the fight against global warming.

“To win this fight, larger economies must increase the amount of climate finance for mitigation, resilience and adaptation efforts in small, developing countries.

“Devise ways to deliver that financing quickly before more lives are needlessly lost,’’ he said.

Bainimarama said that many world leaders were “still tip-toeing around the 1.5 degrees figure’’, even after the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement to limit global temperatures to as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible.

Bainimarama who was the President for COP23, the UN Climate Change Conference in 2017, said that it still seemed too ambitious to too many people and it still frightened too many corporate interests.

“Change is costly but we in the Pacific know that not changing is even costlier,’’ he said.

Published in World

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, on Monday encouraged New Zealand’s younger generation to take bigger responsibility of global issues on climate change and technology.

Addressing the students at the Auckland University of Technology, the UN chief praised the interest the New Zealand’s government and its young people have shown in tackling climate change.

“We need the leadership of the youth, because those who have to take responsibility in the world, especially governments, are not showing enough political will,” he said.

“So we need your leadership, your support, your movement and your capacity to mobilise your society to make sure we are able to reverse this trend.

“Governments are still afraid to move forward. They hear the costs of climate action, forgetting that the costs of inaction are much bigger,” Guterres said.

He stressed it was critical that climate change is defeated. “The youth is my hope for this to be possible.”

Guterres also expressed his concern about the speed at which the internet and other technologies are advancing, which is too fast for the world’s lawmakers to keep up with.

“The internet is used by criminal organisations, by terrorist organisations. Hate speech moves like wildfire through these instruments and we need to be able to stop this,” he said.

The UN secretary-general also spoke about artificial intelligence and the risks it poses, as well as the opportunities it could bring.
This included the advent of autonomous weapons, which he believed should be banned.

“Can you imagine what it would mean for terrorists to hack autonomous weapons that are able to select their targets and to kill without human intervention?”

He said his hopes rested on young people.

“This is the moment when you need to establish the rules, the norms, and the principles to allow for this fantastic technological revolution to be a force for good, not to be a danger for humankind.”

Guterres’ speech is part of his three-day trip to New Zealand, which highlighted a focus on climate change.

And also the UN chief’s tribute to the courage and resilience New Zealand’s Muslim community has shown in the wake of the mosque shootings on March 15.

Published in World

The annual survey shows Morocco among the top five African countries for hotel development in Africa.

Lagos-based firm W Hospitality Group released its 11th annual survey, ranking Morocco among the top five countries in hotel development in Africa.

The firm ranked Morocco third with 6,395 rooms in 34 new hotels.

The survey found that 75,155 rooms in 401 hotels are now being developed across Africa.

The number represents an increase of nearly 11,000 rooms in progress (17 % more than in 2018).

  • Egypt topped the list with 15,158 rooms in 51 new hotels.
  • Nigeria comes second with 7,940 rooms in 49 new hotels.
  • Ethiopia positioned itself fourth with 6,184 new rooms in 34 hotels.

The survey ranked Algeria sixth with 4,147 new rooms in 19 hotel, while Tunisia was ranked ninth with 2,768 in 16 hotels.

Forbes magazine listed Morocco as the country with the second largest number of highest rated vacation properties in the MENA region.

In its 2018 Travel Guide, the magazine listed many of Morocco’s luxurious hotels, including the Royal Mansour and the Mandarin Oriental which were each awarded 5-star ratings, while La Mamounia and the Four Seasons Resort each scored 4 stars.

Hotels Amanjena and Selman Marrakech were recommended for travelers, while Mandarin Oriental and Royal Mansour spas were classified as 4-star resorts.

Published in Travel & Tourism

The Nigerian government has accused former President Goodluck Jonathan and his then oil minister of accepting bribes and breaking the country's laws to broker a $1.3 billion oil deal eight years ago, a London court filing shows.

The deal, in which Anglo-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell and Italian peer Eni jointly acquired the rights to the OPL 245 offshore oilfield, has spawned legal cases spanning several countries.

In papers advancing a London commercial court suit against Shell and Eni, lawyers for the Nigerian government said Jonathan and former oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke conspired to "receive bribes and make a secret profit", keeping the government from getting what it was owed from the deal.

"Bribes were paid," the filing, reviewed by Reuters, states. It says "the receipt of those bribes and the participation in the scheme of said officials was in breach of their fiduciary duties and Nigerian criminal law."

A spokesman for Jonathan declined to comment and said the former president was in South Africa as part of an election monitoring team. A London-based lawyer for Madueke did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Goodluck Jonathan

Nigerian attorney general Abubakar Malami did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 2011 deal is also the subject of a corruption trial in Milan in which two middlemen have been convicted and former and current Shell and Eni officials are also on trial.

An Eni spokesman said the Italian firm was assessing whether UK courts had jurisdiction on a case of "such duplication" to the Milan proceedings and repeated its view on "the correctness and compliance of every aspect of the transaction."

Shell did not immediately comment, but has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in relation to OPL 245.

The London lawsuit relates to payments that Shell and Eni made to acquire the license.

The companies transferred more than $1 billion to the Nigerian government, according to the filing. Milan prosecutors have argued in their case that the bulk of that money was sent on to Malabu Oil and Gas, which was controlled by another former oil minister, Dan Etete.

Eni and Shell retain the rights to develop the field, which has yet to enter production but is one of the biggest untapped oil resources in Africa, with reserves estimated at 9 billion barrels.

In the London court filing, the Nigerian government said it only received a $209 million signature bonus in relation to the deal, and that it estimates the value of the oilfield to have been "at least $3.5 billion". It said it would seek to calculate damages on that basis.

The Nigerian government has also filed a London case against U.S. bank JPMorgan for its role in transferring over $800 million of government funds to Etete, who has been convicted of money laundering. JPMorgan has denied any wrongdoing.

Dutch prosecutors are also preparing criminal charges against Shell.

Despite the international cases, only Nigerian officials can rescind the rights to the block. Oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu has said the case should not hinder development of the field. His office did not immediately reply to a further request for comment. [reut.rs/2HcyAnu]

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is pursuing a criminal case against other former officials in relation to OPL 245.

President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected in February, campaigning on the same anti-corruption message that helped him defeat Jonathan in 2015. But opinions within the cabinet differ over how to handle OPL 245.

Some have cited what they view as a lack of evidence, while others point to concerns that taking away the rights could hinder the field's development in a nation where oil accounts for around 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings.

 

Source: Reuters

Published in Economy
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