Overheard in the Caravanserai…Melville’s Moby Dick and the Human Condition

Overheard in the Caravanserai…Melville’s Moby Dick and the Human Condition

The men and women of our humble Caravanserai are catching up on their reading in these Covid-19 times.

Overheard: a veteran seafarer on merchant ships across the oceans was re-reading Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick, that great chronicle of 19th century whaling, seafaring and the multitudes of our human condition, and he read aloud these choice quotes to approving members of our New Silk Road tribe…

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.”

“It is not down on a map. True places never are.”

“For there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.”

“Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”

“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.”

And, after the defeat of Captain Ahab and his crew by the Great White Whale, Moby Dick, the last lines haunt the reader as the ceaseless tide of nature rolls on:

“Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.”

 

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 18-20

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 18-20

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 18-20

Abu Dhabi – “Abu Dhabi’s economy is ‘well cushioned’ from external shocks such as the coronavirus pandemic and volatility in oil markets, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Finance said on Sunday. The emirate has also raised $7 billion (Dh25.7bn) through a bond offering which showed strong international demand. It was more than six times oversubscribed, with 90 per cent of orders coming from outside the Middle East, despite concerns about the global economy. Jassim Al Zaabi said this was a sign of investor confidence in the emirate,” The National reports.

Oil Markets – “With markets struggling to digest the steep declines in Brent prices, analysts say it may be time for a different approach when it comes to investing in the so-called liquid gold. And here is why. Measures to contain the virus outbreak have effectively frozen the global economy: planes have been grounded, businesses shuttered and billions of people largely confined to their homes. The need for oil products such as gasoline and jet fuel has evaporated,” Gulf News reports.

UAE/NMC – “BR Shetty, the founder of NMC Health, which was placed into administration by a UK court last week and faces criminal charges, said he flew to India in early February for personal reasons. Mr Shetty told The National when reached by phone on Friday that he left the UAE to Mangalore on February 7 to be with his brother, who had cancer and died earlier this month aged 82…Reports had suggested Mr Shetty fled to India as legal and operational challenges mounted in relation to his companies NMC Health and Finablr, both listed on the London Stock Exchange,” The National reports.

UAE/ADNOC – “An investor group backed by Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) and Brookfield Asset Management Inc. is seeking a loan of about $8 billion to finance the potential purchase of a stake in Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.’s natural gas pipelines, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The consortium – which also includes Italian infrastructure operator Snam SpA, Ontario Teachers Pension Plan and Singapore sovereign fund GIC Pte – has reached out to banks to gauge their interest in participating, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private,” Arabian Business reports.

Egypt/Moody’s – “Ratings agency Moody’s has kept Egypt’s credit rating at B2 with a stable outlook.According to a Moody’s report published Saturday, seen by Ahram Online, the credit profile of Egypt (issuer rating B2) is supported by ‘A3’ economic strength. A3 is the seventh highest rating a debt issuer can receive, denoting that Egypt’s financial and banking system is solid with a low risk of default,” Ahram Online reports.

Lebanon Currency – “The exchange rate of the dollar for money exchanges in Lebanon reached a new record on Saturday. Money exchangers sold the dollar for 3,250 Lebanese pounds. Lebanon has never seen that price, even during its civil war in the 1980s. The official price of the dollar in banks remains 1,507 pounds,” Arab News reports.

Iran/Covid-19 – “Iran relaxed more of its restrictive measures on Monday and allowed medium-risk businesses to resume operations, but extended the closure of schools, universities, mosques and holy sites. The coronavirus taskforce, chaired by President Hassan Rouhani, announced on Sunday that medium-risk businesses such as stores can resume operations tomorrow if they respect health protocols devised by the Health Ministry, ISNA reported,” Financial Tribune reports.

Dubai/Banking – “Emirates NBD PJSC set aside about $700 million in the first quarter to cover bad loans, giving investors a glimpse at the damage the coronavirus and lower oil prices are wreaking on bank earnings in the Gulf,” Bloomberg/Al-Arabiya reports.

Saudi FinTech – “The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) announced that it has permitted nine more FinTech companies to operate in the Regulatory Sandbox, raising the total to 30. The new batch serves SAMA’s effort to promote the digitization of financial services and drive towards digital transformation in the financial sector in line with the requirements and objectives of the Financial Sector Development Program, one of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 programs,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Turkey Autos – “Most of the Turkish automotive companies are planning to reopen manufacturing plants next week after nearly a one-month-long suspension due to measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Commercial vehicle producer Anadolu Isuzu, a joint venture between Turkish conglomerate Anadolu Holding, Isuzu Motors and Itochu Corporation, resumed production at its factory in the northwestern industrial province Kocaeli’s Gebze district on April 13. It had halted production on March 30,” Hurriyet Daily News reports.

Morocco/Autos – “French automaker Renault has decided to gradually and partially resume its industrial activity, the company announced today, April 17. Renault Maroc is preparing its two plants in Tangier and Casablanca ‘to adapt and adjust production as the market recovers to meet the demand both in Morocco and abroad,'” Morocco World News reports. 

Lebanon/Bristol Hotel – “A five-star hotel in Beirut that once hosted royalty and survived the civil war has been forced to close over Lebanon’s economic crisis and coronavirus lockdown, its manager said on Saturday. Lebanon is grappling with its worst financial crunch since the 1975-1990 civil war, now compounded by a nationwide lockdown since March 15 to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus,” AFP/Jordan Times reports.

Algeria – “OPEC member Algeria’s gross domestic product grew 0.8% in 2019, down from 1.4% the previous year and far below the government’s initial forecast, the government said on Sunday, after a poor performance in the energy sector and mass public protests. The government had projected 2.6% growth for 2019. Algeria was rocked in 2019 by demonstrations in which protesters demanded political and economic changes and the removal of the ruling elite. The government has now banned such protests as part of measures to limit the spread of the new coronavirus,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

East Asia Business Telegraph Weekly – April 19

East Asia Business Telegraph Weekly – April 19

A weekly round-up of leading business/economic stories shaping East Asia from the pages of the regional press – April 19

Asia Growth – “Growth in Asia is expected to stall at zero percent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the lowest growth since the 1960s, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday. ‘This is a crisis like no other. It is worse than the Global Financial Crisis, and Asia is not immune,’ Chang Yong Rhee, director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department, said at a virtual press conference. The region’s growth prospect for 2020 is the worst in almost 60 years, including during the Global Financial Crisis (4.7 percent) and the Asian Financial Crisis (1.3 percent), Rhee said,” Xinhua/Shangha Daily reports

South Korea Election – “The ruling bloc achieved a sweeping victory in the general election, Wednesday, winning nearly three-fifths of the 300 National Assembly seats. The landslide win has made the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), and its ‘satellite’ offshoot Civil Together, an unprecedented political presence that will be able to pass any bill without the cooperation of other parties ― except for constitutional revisions that require a two-thirds majority ― a huge boost for the Moon Jae-in administration,” Korea Times reports

Philippines Economy – “S&P Global Ratings expects the Philippine economy to shrink by 2% this year — a sharp revision from its 4.2% growth estimate given in March — as the world comes to grips with the human and economic price of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The debt watcher had projected a baseline 6% gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the country in December, long before the coronavirus disease 2019 developed into a global health crisis,” Business World reports.

Malaysia Airways/Air Asia – “Merging money-losing state carrier Malaysia Airlines Bhd with budget airline AirAsia Group Bhd is one of the options to ‘save’ them as the Covid-19 crisis batters the industry, Malaysia’s second-most senior minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali told Reuters on Friday,” Reuters/Edge Markets Malaysia reports.

S. Korea Jobs – “Total job losses hit a 10-year high in March, while the number of people on leave jumped by a record in percentage terms, as Covid-19 shuttered factories and stores, forced the clearing of office buildings and laid waste to key industries. According to Statistics Korea on Friday, the number of people employed in March totaled 26.6 million, down 195,000 on year. In May 2009, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the number of people losing their jobs totaled 240,000,” Korea JoongAng Daily reports.

China/Sinopec – “Sinopec Oilfield Service expected it will have a net loss of 182 million yuan (HK$199 million) for the first quarter this year, compared with a net profit of 188 million a year ago amid the virus pandemic and a plunge in global oil prices,” The Standard reports.

China Aviation – “Airlines in China reported a total loss of 33.62 billion yuan (US$4.8 billion) in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic hit travel demand, the country’s aviation regulator said yesterday. In February, the airlines suffered a record loss of 20.96 billion yuan as large parts of the country remained on lockdown amid efforts to curb the spread of the virus,” Shenzhen Daily reports.

Japan/RCEP – “With the new coronavirus pandemic hindering the progress of talks over what would be the world’s biggest free trade pact, Japan may be forced to give up on its plans of reaching an agreement this year. Tokyo is likely to place a top priority on shoring up the nation’s virus-hit economy for an extended period, which would make it more difficult for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to promote free trade agreements including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership,” Japan Times reports.

Japan Aviation – “Japan’s top airlines are operating a majority of their domestic capacity even though the coronavirus outbreak has left seats on flights mostly empty, amid a lack of clear government directives on the functioning of transport infrastructure in the crisis. ANA Holdings Inc. and Japan Airlines Co., Ltd. (JAL), Japan’s two biggest airlines, have cut around 90 percent of international flights but left their domestic networks relatively intact, industry data showed. The two normally fly around 800 or more domestic flights daily,” Reuters/Asahi Shimbun reports.

Indonesia/Garuda – “National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia is cutting its employee salaries by 10 to 50 percent from this month to June as the company struggles to stay afloat amid pressures from a broad-based slump in traveling activities. Garuda president director Irfan Setiaputra said the company resorted to salary cuts to maintain business sustainability as the coronavirus pandemic has hit travel-related businesses hard,” The Jakarta Post reports.

Thailand/Lion Air – “Thai Lion Air is reducing its workforce again amid the freezing of its business due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country. The airline informed its staff in a statement last week that almost 120 employees with less than a year’s experience would be let go on the understanding that they would be the first priority for recruitment in the future if business returns to normal,” Bangkok Post reports.

Indonesia/Bonds – “The rupiah has appreciated for the last few days along with foreign capital inflow to government bonds, reflecting a return of investors’ confidence in the country’s financial stability amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Bank Indonesia Governor Perry Warjiyo said on Friday. Rupiah strengthened 1.8 percent to trade 15,503 against the US dollar on Friday, according to Jakarta Interbank Spot Dollar Rate. The currency had gained 4.5 percent so far this week and moved away from its record-low position early this month when it traded at 16,741 against the US dollar,” Jakarta Globe reports.

South Korea Election – “Did South Korea just have the first Covid-19 government referendum election? On Wednesday, South Korea’s liberal ruling party won a landslide victory in a general election, winning the kind of majority not seen inmore than three decades. Early analysis points to the high marks President Moon Jae-in received from his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis,” The New Silk Road Monitor reports.

China Economy – “China’s economy shrank in the first three months of 2020 compared with a year earlier, the first such contraction since Beijing began reporting quarterly gross domestic product in 1992. The collapse foreshadows the pain expected in the U.S. and around the world as the coronavirus pandemic shuts borders, halts business activity and cripples global supply chains,” Wall Street Journal reports.

Thailand Contraction –  “According to IMF latest projection, Thailand could stand as the worst performer among its Asean peers with a staggering drop of 6.7% of its GDP. Singapore would be the second worst performer with a -3.5% GDP forecast for 2020,” Thailand Business news reports.

Vietnam Banks – Fitch Ratings has lowered the outlook of five banks in Vietnam due to the negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. It revised the outlook for Vietcombank, Vietinbank and ANZ Bank (Vietnam) from ‘positive’ to ‘stable,’ and for the ACB and MB from ‘stable’ to ‘negative.’ The revision follows the blows taken by Vietnam’s economy from the pandemic, with a decade-low growth of 3.8 percent in the first quarter, and the State Bank of Vietnam having to cut its policy rates and directing banks to extend debt relief to affected borrowers,” VN Express reports.

Cambodia Aviation – “Vietnam Airlines has sold its 49 per cent stake in national flag carrier airline Cambodia Angkor Air to undisclosed buyers, State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha told the Council of Ministers on Thursday. Also included in the sale were five A321 aircrafts with a total liquidation value of $37 million,” The Phnom Penh Post reports.

Singapore Exports – “Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports (Nodx) did the unexpected in March by jumping 17.6 per cent, albeit from a low year-ago base. Economists polled by Reuters were expecting exports to drop 8.9 per cent, with more and more countries enforcing a lockdown due to the Covid-19 outbreak and restrictions to business activity,” Singapore Straits Times reports.

Myanmar Banks – “Thailand’s Kasikornbank is planning to expand into Myanmar’s retail market with a focus on digital services. The Central Bank of Myanmar on April 9 approved the Thai bank’s acquisition of a 35 percent stake in Ayeyarwaddy Farmers Development Bank (A Bank), making it the first foreign commercial bank to take a stake in a local lender. A Bank is the second Myanmar bank to welcome foreign shareholders,” Myanmar Times reports.

Indian Ocean Business Times Weekly – April 17

Indian Ocean Business Times Weekly – April 17

Top business stories from countries across the Indian Ocean region: Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Pakistan, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, UAE and Yemen. Collectively, they account for 35% of the world’s population and nearly 20% of global GDP.

Malaysia Airways/Air Asia – “Merging money-losing state carrier Malaysia Airlines Bhd with budget airline AirAsia Group Bhd is one of the options to ‘save’ them as the Covid-19 crisis batters the industry, Malaysia’s second-most senior minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali told Reuters on Friday,” Reuters/Edge Markets Malaysia reports.

Thailand Contraction –  “According to IMF latest projection, Thailand could stand as the worst performer among its Asean peers with a staggering drop of 6.7% of its GDP. Singapore would be the second worst performer with a -3.5% GDP forecast for 2020,” Thailand Business news reports.

India Economy – “The Reserve Bank Governor Shaktikanta Das expects a sharp V-shaped recovery for India as projected by the IMF in 2021-22.  Quoting IMF’s projection of 1.9% growth for India in current fiscal, Das said that India is among the handful of countries that will cling on to positive growth. This is the highest in G20 countries as is estimated by the IMF,” Economic Times of India reports.

Singapore Exports – “Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports (Nodx) did the unexpected in March by jumping 17.6 per cent, albeit from a low year-ago base. Economists polled by Reuters were expecting exports to drop 8.9 per cent, with more and more countries enforcing a lockdown due to the Covid-19 outbreak and restrictions to business activity,” Singapore Straits Times reports.

South African Airways – “Regional carrier South African Airways could be one of the first victims of the storm that has hit the global airline industry as it has been denied any further funding by its government owner. The national carrier must now look for other ways to recover from the coronavirus crisis and a local form of bankruptcy protection. SAA’s external debt is guaranteed by the state in the event of the carrier’s collapse,” Business Day reports.

South Africa Economy – “The South African Reserve Bank said on Tuesday that it expects the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 to contract by 6.1%, compared with the -0.2% estimated just three weeks ago when the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) last met. GDP is then expected to grow by 2.2% in 2021 and by 2.7% in 2022,” The Mail and Guardian reports.

Iran Economy – “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the Islamic Republic’s net debt to reach 33.8 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, up 22.5 percent compared with the previous year. IMF’s report released on Wednesday, April 15, a day after the publication of its World Economic Outlook, says that Iran’s GDP will be about $ 439.2 billion this year. Last year, that figure was nearly $ 491 billion,” Radio Farda reports.

Covid-19 South Asia – “The number of people infected with the coronavirus crossed 22,000 in densely populated South Asia on Friday driven by a rise in cases in India as the tiny Indian Ocean island nation of Maldives locked down its capital. Health officials have warned that the region, home to a fifth of the world’s population, could be the new frontline against the disease because of millions living in packed slums and fragile public health systems,” The Financial Express reports.

Bangladesh Exports – “Apparel exporters shipped goods worth only $194 million during the first half of the current month, down 83.74% from the same month of last year,” Dhaka Tribune reports.

Sri Lanka – “As per the latest findings by the World Bank, Sri Lanka’s economy could contract by as much as 3% this year. The extent to which this would impact businesses however varied from industry to industry, as did the mechanisms that needed to be put in place.
Export Development Board Chairman Prabhash Subasinghe summed up the export industry’s dilemma when he said 2020 earnings forecast for merchandise exports has been reduced by over $7 billion,” DailyFT reports.

Pakistan – “The International Monetary Fund on Thursday said its executive board had approved $1.386 billion in emergency financing to Pakistan to meet balance of payments needed stemming from the novel coronavirus pandemic. The funds, to come from the IMF’s Rapid Financing Instrument, will help Pakistan deal with a decline in international reserves and allow it to fund targeted and temporary spending increases aimed at containing the pandemic and mitigating its economic impact, the IMF said,” Business Recorder reports.

Pakistan Equities – “The Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) on Thursday maintained its bullish trend after the market closed at 31,330 points with a gain of 87 points as compared to 31242.19 points on the last working day. A total of 11 million shares worth Rs4.76 billion exchanged hands despite the indices of PSX traded within a narrow range during an early trade. However, the market capitalisation edged up by Rs 50 billion with a total volume of 119,102,323 shares traded in the market today,” The News reports.

India Coronavirus – “Projections based on a recent analysis by researchers at the United Nations University (UNU) show that, in the worst case scenario, 104 million more people in India could fall below the World Bank-determined poverty line of $3.2 a day for lower-middle-income countries. At present, 60 per cent of India’s population, or an estimated 812 million people, live below that poverty line,” Business Standard reports.

Seychelles – “The World Bank has given Seychelles a $6.9 million line of credit that has been transferred into the country’s international reserves, an official said Friday. The governor of the Central Bank of Seychelles, Caroline Abel, told a news conference that as of Wednesday the country’s reserves stand at $488 million, amongst which $435 million can be used,” Seychelles News Agency reports.

Kenya 2021 – “Things are looking gloomy at the moment, but the good news is that Kenya’s economy is expected to rebound next year when it will grow by 6.1 per cent. However, this might be disrupted by the 2022 campaigns. In a new report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that the ‘economic forecasts at this juncture are subject to higher-than-usual degrees of uncertainty,'” The Daily Nations reports.

Abu Dhabi Ports – “Khalifa Port’s CSP Abu Dhabi Terminal in the UAE has celebrated its first anniversary handling over 540,000 teu since its soft launch last April. The UAE – China joint venture terminal between Cosco Shipping Ports and Abu Dhabi Ports also operated for 800,000 hours without loss injury time (LTI). The terminal on a 35-year lease agreement started full operations in November last year and has a design capacity of 2.5m tea annually,” Sea Trade Maritime News reports.

UAE/Africa –  “The United Nations praised the generous support provided by the United Arab Emirates and its humanitarian efforts to transfer medical and protection supplies to the African continent. In a statement distributed in Geneva, in conjunction with the announcement of the launch of the first United Nations air solidarity flight to transport medical supplies to African countries, the World Food Programme (WFP) affirmed that the United Arab Emirates, through the WHO’s regional logistical centre in Dubai, played a major role in preparing and shipping these supplies,” Logistics Update Africa reports.

Tanzania/Covid-19 – “Tanzania has recorded 29 new Covid-19 cases, the highest single-day jump, raising the tally to 88, the health ministry has said. In a briefing on Wednesday, Health minister Ummy Mwalimu said the new patients are Tanzanians hailing from the commercial hub Dar es Salaam, Mwanza City on the shores of Lake Victoria, and  northern Kilimanjaro,” The East African reports.

Africa Jobs – “The coronavirus outbreak could affect a third of the 440 million formal and informal jobs in Africa as lockdowns across the continent deprive people in the world’s poorest continent of the means to make a living, according to McKinsey & Co. Between 9 million and 18 million of the continent’s 140 million formal jobs could be lost as a result of the crisis, McKinsey said in its Finding Africa’s Path report. A further 30 million to 35 million could see a reduction in wages and working hours. One hundred million of the 300 million informal jobs on the continent are at risk, it said,” Bloomberg/Al-Arabiya English reports.

Australia/Covid-19 – “As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread around the world, some countries’ efforts to slow the spread of infection that have been more successful than others. Both Australia and New Zealand have reported low numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths, compared to other major industrialized countries. As of Friday local time, Australia has reported 6,462 coronavirus cases and 63 deaths, while New Zealand has recorded 1,401 cases and only nine deaths,” Business Insider reports.

GCC Oil/India – “India will divert 19 million barrels of Gulf oil from state-run firms to strategic petroleum reserves (SPRs), skipping direct purchases from producers to help refiners get rid of extra oil as their storage is full, three sources said. India’s decision to divert cargoes meant for state refiners will not soak up excess oil from the market following the demand collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but it will help local companies to avoid demurrage charges at a time of expensive freight,” Reuters/Arab News reports.

Oil Price – “Oil could end the week below $20 a barrel for the first time since 2002 after a wave of gloomy demand forecasts suggested that a deal among the world’s biggest producers to curb output won’t be sufficient to sustain a price rally,” Bloomberg/Gulf News reports.

India Feature – “Each year India celebrates April 5 as National Maritime Day (NMD), when SS Loyalty, the first ship of the Scindia Steam Navigation Company, set sail from Mumbai for the United Kingdom in 1919 and thus created nautical history. The NMD recognises the maritime sector’s contribution to the national economy through the facilitation of trade across the five oceans. While the maritime sector has several stakeholders and players, it is the ‘mariner’ in his merchantman (vessel) that constitutes the cutting edge of ocean trade and provides the connectivity of a several thousand nautical miles,” Hellenic Shipping News reports.

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 17

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 17

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 17

Abu Dhabi Ports – Abu Dhabi Ports has zoomed into the dry bulk shipping sector, sealing its first bulk carrier acquisition with remote closing via videoconference,” Splash247 reports.

GCC/Coronavirus – “Countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council are stepping up their use of artificial intelligence tools to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Governments throughout the GCC have enacted some of world’s strictest measures, including suspending passenger flights and imposing curfews on citizens to put brakes on the number of new cases of Covid-19 that currently total over 2 million (2,064,115) globally, according to Johns Hopkins University data,” CNBC reports.

Etihad Airways – “Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways plans to start scheduled passenger services on May 1 under a reduced schedule to remain in place until June 30, subject to the status of United Arab Emirates travel restrictions, the company announced Thursday. Meanwhile, Etihad has revised the launch date of its inaugural service to Vienna from May 22 to July 1. Etihad continues to operate a growing schedule of repatriation flights and special cargo services carrying perishables, pharmaceuticals, and medical supplies. The airline has repatriated nearly 600 UAE nationals on return services,” Aviation International News reports.

Lebanon – “Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Thursday said that 98 per cent of depositors will be left unscathed by an economic rescue plan that has been criticised because it proposes to use deposits to cover huge losses. A draft plan that emerged last week provided the most detailed blueprint yet on how Lebanon would try to pull itself from a financial crisis that sank its currency and led to a sovereign default,” The National reports.

Saudi/Ramadan – “Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in the country, said that Muslim prayers during Ramadan and for the subsequent Eid al-Fitr feast should be performed at home if the coronavirus outbreak continues, Saudi’s Okaz newspaper reported on Friday,” Reuters reports.

Iran Economy – “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the Islamic Republic’s net debt to reach 33.8 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, up 22.5 percent compared with the previous year. IMF’s report released on Wednesday, April 15, a day after the publication of its World Economic Outlook, says that Iran’s GDP will be about $ 439.2 billion this year. Last year, that figure was nearly $ 491 billion,” Radio Farda reports.

Oil Price – “Oil could end the week below $20 a barrel for the first time since 2002 after a wave of gloomy demand forecasts suggested that a deal among the world’s biggest producers to curb output won’t be sufficient to sustain a price rally,” Bloomberg/Gulf News reports.

Saudi Crude/Asia – “Asian refiners have emerged as the big winners from Saudi Arabia’s latest official selling prices for its oil exports, according to energy analysts at WoodMac. Recently announces selling prices for May reflect the importance of Asian customers it said in a report released on Thursday,” AFP/Arab News reports.

OPEC+ – “Saudi Arabia and Russia are prepared to take further measures jointly with OPEC+ and other producers on oil market if deemed necessary, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said in a joint statement with his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak after a phone call between the two on Thursday. ‘Our two countries have worked diligently with the other OPEC+ countries and other producers to achieve a historic agreement to stabilize the oil market,’ the statement read according to Saudi state news agency SPA,” Al-Arabiya English reports.

Tunisia – “Tunisia’s foreign currency reserves have risen to 22.3 billion dinars ($7.7 billion), the equivalent of 131 days of imports, official figures showed on Thursday, benefiting from about $1 billion of recent loans and aid to counter the effects of the coronavirus. Foreign exchange reserves were 14.3 billion dinars a year ago, equal to only 83 days of imports, the central bank said,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Africa Jobs – “The coronavirus outbreak could affect a third of the 440 million formal and informal jobs in Africa as lockdowns across the continent deprive people in the world’s poorest continent of the means to make a living, according to McKinsey & Co. Between 9 million and 18 million of the continent’s 140 million formal jobs could be lost as a result of the crisis, McKinsey said in its Finding Africa’s Path report. A further 30 million to 35 million could see a reduction in wages and working hours. One hundred million of the 300 million informal jobs on the continent are at risk, it said,” Bloomberg/Al-Arabiya English reports.

 

South Korea: The First Covid-19 Election?

South Korea: The First Covid-19 Election?

Did South Korea just have the first Covid-19 government referendum election?

On Wednesday, South Korea’s liberal ruling party won a landslide victory in a general election, winning the kind of majority not seen in more than three decades. Early analysis points to the high marks President Moon Jae-in received from his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

As AFP reports, “South Korea’s left-leaning ruling party won a landslide victory in Wednesday’s general election, partial results showed, after the coronavirus pandemic turned the political tide in President Moon Jae-in’s favor.” (emphasis mine)

Governments around the world are facing unprecedented challenges to their institutions and leaders, and societies worldwide are asking a basic question: Is our government competent to handle such a monumental moment? The new divide, it seems to me, is not a left-right one or an authoritarian vs democratic one. Rather it might be competence vs incompetence. President Moon’s administration delivered an impressive response to the Covid-19 pandemic in one of the hardest hit countries.

Again, as AFP reports: “Just a few months ago scandals over power abuse and sluggish economic growth threatened the left-leaning president, with critics calling his dovish approach towards North Korea — despite Pyongyang’s abandonment of its nuclear and ballistic missile test moratoriums — unrealistic.” But “the relatively quick and effective handling of the epidemic — it has also exported test kits to at least 20 countries — has been a boon for Moon ahead of the parliamentary elections, largely seen as a referendum on his performance.”

The piece quoted Minseon Ku from Ohio State University lauding President Moon’s “coronavirus diplomacy,” especially his bilateral phone calls with some 20 leaders worldwide and “South Korea’s global recognition” for its handling of the virus.

Major global crises test the mettle of leaders and institutions and, it seems, South Korean voters have give President Moon and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea high marks.

As governments around the world grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, their societies are watching and asking: is my government up to the task of handling a major global crisis? The answer to that question will reverberate across politics over the next year and likely far beyond.

For a closer look at South Korea’s elections from domestic and regional media sources, take a look at our round-up.

President Moon, Ruling Party Win Landslide in South Korea: Press Coverage

President Moon, Ruling Party Win Landslide in South Korea: Press Coverage

A snapshot of South Korean and regional press coverage of the re-election of President Moon Jae-In – April 16

South Korean Press

Genera Election – “The ruling bloc achieved a sweeping victory in the general election, Wednesday, winning nearly three-fifths of the 300 National Assembly seats. The landslide win has made the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), and its ‘satellite’ offshoot Civil Together, an unprecedented political presence that will be able to pass any bill without the cooperation of other parties ― except for constitutional revisions that require a two-thirds majority ― a huge boost for the Moon Jae-in administration,” Korea Times reports

Economy – “The landslide victory of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) in Wednesday’s general election will give an impetus to President Moon Jae-in’s key economic policies, such as income-led growth, fiscal expansion and control over chaebol, according to economic experts, Thursday. Amid growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy, the experts said the government will keep trying to play a bigger role after garnering nationwide support,” Korea Times reports.

Politics – “The ruling Democratic Party (DP) of President Moon Jae-in won a landslide in Wednesday’s general elections, securing a solid majority in the 300-member National Assembly with a satellite party. The DP and Citizen Party (CP) won 180 seats, the first time since Korea introduced its current political system in 1987 that any single political group has won three-fifths of the legislature – enough to pass any bills other than a constitutional amendment,” Korea JoongAng Daily reports.

Politics – “This year’s parliamentary elections in South Korea, held amid the COVID-19 pandemic, solidified the dominance of its two major parties but laid bare the deep-rooted regionalism and saw a record number of female candidates taking constituencies. Although electoral reforms led to the overcrowding of the field, with 35 parties putting forward candidates, the race was between the governing Democratic Party and the main opposition United Future Party, and the former came out with an unprecedented sweep of 180 seats out of 300 up for grabs,” Korea Herald reports.

Regional Press

General Election – “South Korea’s left-leaning ruling party won a landslide victory in Wednesday’s general election, partial results showed, after the coronavirus pandemic turned the political tide in President Moon Jae-in’s favor. The country uses a mix of first-past-the-post seats and proportional representation, but even before all the individual constituencies were decided, Moon’s Democratic party had taken 163 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, an absolute majority. Its sister party was expected to win another 17 proportional representation seats — due to be declared later Thursday — for a total of 180,” AFP/Japan Today reports.

General Election – South Korea’s ruling party has secured a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections, in what is viewed as a huge boost to the power of President Moon Jae-in. Data from the National Election Commission yesterday showed that the liberal Democratic Party (DP) and its affiliated Together Citizens’ Party won a combined 180 seats in the 300-member Parliament, a majority that will allow it to push through most Bills. This is the largest majority that any party has won since 1987,” Singapore Straits Times reports.

Economy – “If South Korea’s president can leverage his success fighting the coronavirus to help his party win Wednesday’s elections, it could give him fresh momentum to reshape an economy reeling from the pandemic. Moon Jae-in’s success in containing one of the first flashpoints of the virus outside China has revived his approval ratings and will likely help his Democratic Party of Korea keep control of the National Assembly. The crisis has also brought Moon’s opposition closer to him in support of economic stimulus, with the only big question now being the amount,” Bloomberg/Japan Times reports.

Policy – The thumping win by President Moon Jae-in’s left-leaning Democratic Party in Wednesday’s National Assembly election puts the government in a strong position to push ahead on key policy objectives,” Nikkei Asian Review reports.

 

 

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 16

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 16

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 16

Lebanon Economy – “The IMF has projected that Lebanon’s gross domestic product will contract 12 percent in 2020, the largest contraction since the end of the country’s 15-year civil war. Lebanon is currently in the midst of ongoing financial and currency crises, and the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown has further damaged the country’s wilting economy. The country saw a 6.5 percent contraction in 2019, according to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook titled ‘The Great Lockdown’ published in April. In 1990, the year Lebanon’s civil war came to a close, the GDP growth backslid 13.4 percent, according to IMF data,” Al-Arabiya English reports.

Regional – “Debt levels, unemployment and budget deficits will spike as the Middle East endures a coronavirus-led recession, piling pain on economies already hit by conflicts and an oil price slump, the IMF said on Wednesday. Almost all countries in the Middle East and North Africa will see their economies contract as they lose hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues, the global lender said,” AFP/Jordan Times reports.

Saudi Arabia Bonds – Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Finance (MoF) announced that the kingdom’s bond sale to raise $7 billion has been heavily oversubscribed. The dollar-denominated bond was more than 7 times oversubscribed with total orders amounting to more than $54 billion, MoF said in a statement. The kingdom has issued a total of $7 billion, consisting of three tranches,” Zawya reports.

Aviation/Etihad – “Etihad Airways will operate a reduced network of scheduled passenger flights from May 1 to June 30, subject to UAE government travel restrictions being lifted, and the carrier aims to gradually return to full schedule as controls are lifted globally. ‘The monumental challenges being faced by all airlines, and our customers, have been beyond measure,’ Tony Douglas, group chief executive, Etihad Aviation Group, said in a statement on Thursday. ‘However, we remain cautiously optimistic and will push ahead with our plans to resume normal flying, while striving to better serve and support our customers and our employees,'” The National reports.

Egypt Economy – “The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department Jihad Azour said on Wednesday that the economic reform program Egypt launched prior to the coronavirus pandemic has helped it absorb economic shocks, uplift economic growth rates, and boost the country’s banking sector. Azour said that the tourism and export sectors, as well as Egyptian expat remittances, which are a key source of hard currency for the country, are the most affected by the crisis,” Ahram Online reports.

UAE/China – “The ongoing coronavirus pandemic will likely be a catalyst for Dubai and the UAE to diversify its supply chain beyond China, with which it has been largely reliant, according to a senior official from the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF). At the moment, China is the UAE’s leading trade partner, accounting for more than 9 percent of the UAE’s non-oil trade. According to Peter Noack, the DFF’s executive director for future foresight and imagination, the Covid-19 pandemic and supply chain disruptions from China may lead to the UAE and other countries re-assessing the diversify of its suppliers and trade partners,” Arabian Business reports.

Oil Demand – OPEC on Thursday again slashed its forecast for global oil demand this year due to the coronavirus outbreak and said the reduction may not be the last. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries now expects global demand to contract by 6.9 million barrels per day, or 6.9%, in 2020, it said in a monthly report. Last month, OPEC expected a small increase in demand of 60,000 bpd,” Reuters reports.

GCC Oil/India – “India will divert 19 million barrels of Gulf oil from state-run firms to strategic petroleum reserves (SPRs), skipping direct purchases from producers to help refiners get rid of extra oil as their storage is full, three sources said. India’s decision to divert cargoes meant for state refiners will not soak up excess oil from the market following the demand collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but it will help local companies to avoid demurrage charges at a time of expensive freight,” Reuters/Arab News reports.

Iran/Covid-19 – “Iran’s official death toll from the new coronavirus rose by 92 to reach 4,869 on Thursday but a parliamentary report said the actual number could be much higher. Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur, speaking on state television, also said the total number of cases of people infected with the coronavirus has reached 77,995. However, a report by the Iranian parliament’s research centre suggested that the coronavirus tolls might be almost twice as many as those announced by the health ministry,” Reuters reports.

Iran – “Almost five billion dollars of the Islamic Republic’s money is missing, says the Director of the Supreme Audit Court of Iran (SAC), Adel Azar. Based on the official rate of 42,000 rials for one dollar, the Islamic Republic government distributes billions of cheap dollars among local importers to buy essential goods from overseas. Many of these importers are politically well-connected individuals,” The Baghdad Post reports.

Tunisia Economy – “Tunisia’s vital tourism sector could lose $1.4 billion and 400,000 jobs this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, an official document showed, as the country seeks a loan guarantee from bilateral partners to issue sovereign bonds this year. In a letter sent to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that was reviewed by Reuters, Tunisia’s central bank governor and finance minister said the country’s economy would shrink by up to 4.3 percent, the steepest drop since independence in 1956,” Reuters/Arab News reports.

Africa Commercial Telegraph Weekly – April 15

Africa Commercial Telegraph Weekly – April 15

Top business stories from Sub-Saharan Africa from the pages of the regional press – April 15

Regional Forecast – “The global coronavirus pandemic is going to send Africa into its first recession in 25 years, as economies get battered by lockdowns. According to the World Bank Africa’s Pulse report, the continent’s economic growth will also drop from 2.4 per cent in 2019 to between -2.1 to -5.1 per cent in 2020, impacted by the virus outbreak,” The East African reports.

Regional/Covid-19 – “In a report to be released later this week, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) outlines different scenarios and outcomes as well as the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had across the continent. The detailed report estimates 300,000 deaths in a best case scenario and 3m in a worse case one. In a call with African Business where a preview of the report was presented, the authors said they thought that the death estimate would be lower given the early and intense interventions taken by African governments,” African Business reports.

Nigeria Economy – “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday projected Nigeria’s economy would contract by -3.4 percent in 2020 from 2.2 percent in 2019. The Washington-based Fund expects the economy to grow by 2.4 percent in 2021. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday projected Nigeria’s economy would contract by -3.4 percent in 2020 from 2.2 percent in 2019. The Washington-based Fund expects the economy to grow by 2.4 percent in 2021,” Business Day reports.

Uganda Economy – “Uganda could emerge from the COVID-19 crisis as the most resilient compared to the other countries in the region, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said. In the latest report of the global outlook for 2020, the IMF says Uganda’s growth will be 3.5% this year down from 5% in 2019. This is far better than Kenya’s that will drop from 5.6% in 2019 to 1% this year. Tanzania will only grow at 2% this year after dropping from 6.3% last year,” The Independent reports.

South African Airways – “Regional carrier South African Airways could be one of the first victims of the storm that has hit the global airline industry as it has been denied any further funding by its government owner. The national carrier must now look for other ways to recover from the coronavirus crisis and a local form of bankruptcy protection. SAA’s external debt is guaranteed by the state in the event of the carrier’s collapse,” Business Day reports.

Ethiopian Airlines – “Ethiopian Airlines on Tuesday announced it had lost $550 million in revenue since January attributable to the coronavirus pandemic. Ethiopian Airlines CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam, said the airlines were forced to suspend passenger flights to 91 international destinations due to the global pandemic,” The East African reports.

Zambia/IMF – “Zambia’s only option is to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as years of excessive borrowing coupled with the effect of the coronavirus pandemic have left it struggling to pay its debts, the main opposition leader said. The country’s eurobonds have been among the world’s worst performing this year and its currency has depreciated by 23% against the dollar as the global Covid-19 pandemic halts supply chains, forcing down the price of copper that accounts for most of Zambia’s exports. The economy will shrink by 3.5% this year, according to the IMF,” Business Day South Africa reports.

Zimbabwe/IMF – “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) executive board has approved an immediate debt service relief to 25 member countries as part of measures to alleviate the economic impact of the deadly coronavirus. Zimbabwe is not on the list of beneficiary countries having cleared its US$108 million arrears in 2016 and is now working on clearing about US$2.2bn owed to the World Bank and African Development Bank,” Zimbabwe Chronicle reports.

South Africa Economy – Covid-19 has had a sudden and catastrophic effect on the global economy and South Africa has not been spared. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the global economy to contract sharply by –3% in 2020, which is much worse than during the 2008–2009 financial crisis. The South African Reserve Bank said on Tuesday that it expects the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 to contract by 6.1%, compared with the -0.2% estimated just three weeks ago when the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) last met. GDP is then expected to grow by 2.2% in 2021 and by 2.7% in 2022,” The Mail and Guardian reports.

Cities –  “As part of its analysis to inform COVID-19 policy responses, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), calls for adequate consideration of the vulnerability of city economies as African governments consolidate efforts and define stimulus measures to mitigate national and regional economic impacts. As engines and drivers of economic growth, cities face considerable risks in light of COVID-19 with implications for the continent’s resilience to the pandemic,” states Thokozile Ruzvidzo Director of the Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division of the ECA. Africa’s cities are home to 600 million people and account for more than 50% of the region’s GDP. This is even higher at more than 70% for countries such as Botswana, Uganda, Tunisia and Kenya. A third of national GPD (31%) comes on average from the largest city in African countries. As such, the economic contribution of cities in the region is far higher than their share of population,” New Business Ethiopia reports.

Humanitarian – “The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has selected Addis Ababa as a humanitarian shipment hub for Africa to distribute medical supplies with Ethiopian Cargo. The first cargo flight arrived in Ethiopia on April 13 from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) loaded with aprons, face shields, gloves, goggles, gowns, masks and thermometers procured by the World Health Organization (WHO) for distribution to 32 African countries. In association with UN WFP, the government of Ethiopia opened a new hub inside Bole International Airport from which Covid-19 supplies, equipment, and humanitarian workers will be transported by air across Ethiopia and Africa,” Logistics Update Africa reports.

Africa 2021 – “Africa is expected to reverse an economic contraction linked to the coronavirus crisis next year after containment measures are eased, the International Monetary Fund said, but the impact will be felt for years to come. Sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product is on track to shrink this year by 1.6% — its worst performance on record — because of the combined effects of the disease and plummeting oil and commodities prices. That is around 5.2% lower than the IMF’s pre-pandemic forecast,” Reuters reports.

 

 

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 15

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 15

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 15

Regional Outlook – “The Middle East and North Africa economy will contract by 3.3 percent this year, the biggest slump in four decades, hammered by the coronavirus and low oil prices, the IMF said on Tuesday. In its World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund said that the damage would be much worse than the region’s last major shock, the 2008-09 global financial crisis, when it managed to post modest growth,” AFP/Arab News reports.

Oil Price – “Oil fell 4% towards $28 a barrel on Wednesday, pressured by reports of persistent oversupply and collapsing demand due to global coronavirus-related lockdowns and a lack of coordinated oil purchases for strategic storage. The International Energy Agency (IEA) on Wednesday forecast a 29 million barrel per day (bpd) dive in April oil demand to levels not seen in 25 years and said no output cut could fully offset the near-term falls facing the market,” Reuters reports.

Shipping/Hormuz Security – “A Hong Kong-flagged handy product tanker at anchorage in Fujairah was boarded by armed men yesterday and told to head to Iran, a flare-up of tensions in the Strait of Hormuz not seen for a number of months. Security consultants Ambrey report that four skiffs carrying armed personnel came alongside the ship moored in the vicinity of Fujairah Outer Anchorage and ordered the crew to lower a ladder, then embarked. Prior to the incident, the handysize tanker had been displaying on AIS that it was destined for Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia. However, this destination was then changed to Iran. The vessel then moved within three nautical miles of the port of Kooh Mobarak, Iran,” Splash247 reports.

Libya Economy – “The forced decline in oil and gas production has caused the loss of more than $ 4.1 billion USD since January 17th, with current oil production in Libya down at 80,510 barrels per day, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) has said,” The Libya Observer reports.

Iran/IMF – “The International Monetary Fund is still assessing Iran’s request for $5 billion in emergency financing in a process which is taking time partly because of the IMF’s limited engagement with Tehran in recent times, a senior IMF official told Reuters. Iran, the Middle East country worst affected by the new coronavirus outbreak, approached the IMF last month to request the $5 billion from its Rapid Financing Initiative, an emergency programme that aids countries faced with sudden shocks such as natural disasters,” Reuters reports.

GCC Bonds – “The bond market in the GCC remains resilient despite the coronavirus pandemic, with issuance from the region likely to top $100 billion this year, according to Franklin Templeton. The fund manager, which at the beginning of this year forecast issuance by Gulf sovereign and corporates entities would hit $95bn this year, has revised its estimate higher to $105bn, Mohieddine Kronfol, chief investment officer for global sukuk and Mena fixed income, told a media conference call on Wednesday. Any local currency issuance, which stood at $40bn last year, would be in addition to foreign currency deals, he noted,” The National reports.

UAE/NMC – “ADCB has initiated criminal legal proceeding with the Attorney-General in Abu Dhabi against a number of individuals in relation to NMC Health Group, the UAE’s largest healthcare operator…The charges relate to a missing $4 billion plus that was taken out by NMC Health from local and international banks — and without any of that amount figuring in the company’s books,” Gulf News reports.

Oman – “Oman told ministries and other government units to cut spending further and announced measures to support the private sector and safeguard Omani jobs from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, state media said on Wednesday. The finance ministry directed all ministries and civilian government units to reduce approved liquidity for development budgets by 10%. It said state companies would no longer be set up for business activity, giving priority to the private sector,” Reuters/Zawya reports.

Iran/Hotels – “The new coronavirus disease, also known as COVID-19, has inflicted 30 trillion rials ($187 million) in losses on hotels, the Iranian Hoteliers Association estimates. Hotels in Iran, in addition lodgings and guesthouses, have had to shut down since the spread of COVID-19, as they were among the first to be affected by the outbreak,” Financial Tribune reports.

Saudi/Newcastle Utd – “A potential takeover of English Premiership side Newcastle by a Saudi Arabian-backed group appeared to move closer on Tuesday after legal documents were lodged with the UK’s regulator of companies. But several other proposed bids to buy the club from Mike Ashley have all come to nothing during the controversial British businessman’s 13 years as owner of the northeast side,” Arabian Business reports.

Egypt Economy – “It wasn’t unexpected, but the ban on visitors to Egypt’s famed Pyramids amid the coronavirus pandemic still came as a shock to souvenir vendor Sayed el-Gibri and other tourism workers. As the virus spread, the government stepped up preventive measures, culminating in a ban on all international flights in and out of the country. There was little el-Gibri could do. ‘Everything collapsed in a flash,’ he said as he stared at the almost empty ancient complex in Giza, just outside of Cairo. The worldwide pandemic could financially drown the vulnerable in Egypt. The partial lockdown threatens the livelihoods of many of Egypt´s 100 million residents, one of three of whom were already living in poverty, according to government figures,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Egypt/Wheat – “Egypt, the world’s largest wheat buyer, bought a smaller quantity of wheat than anticipated on Tuesday at a rare international purchasing tender held as the country’s local buying season of the grain begins. The state grain buyer said on Tuesday it bought 120,000 tonnes of Russian wheat as the country looks to bolster its strategic reserves amid the coronavirus outbreak,” Ahram Online reports.

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