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Author: Echobiz

India to spend billions of dollars on job creation

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New Delhi — The government in India will spend $24 billion on boosting employment opportunities for young people, as job creation emerges as the biggest challenge confronting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his third term. 

The government also announced financial support for development projects in two states ruled by its regional allies.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party failed to win a clear majority in recent elections and has formed a coalition government. Although the country’s economy is growing briskly, high unemployment and distress in its vast rural areas were cited as the key reasons for the party’s loss of support.

Presenting the annual budget in parliament on Tuesday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government will “facilitate employment, skilling and other opportunities” for more than 40 million young people over the next five years.

She said the government will provide paid internships in the country’s 500 top companies to improve opportunities for job seekers.

India posted 8.2% growth last year, the fastest among major economies in the world. But critics say only some have benefitted from the boom, while millions struggle to earn a livelihood.

The government’s announcement that it will raise spending on loans for small and medium-sized businesses to boost job creation was welcomed by several economists. Opposition parties have long criticized the Modi government for giving billions of dollars in subsidies to big business and not extending enough assistance to smaller ones.

“The support to smaller businesses is critical because these are the enterprises which create jobs. Big corporations on the other hand use capital intensive technologies, which don’t result in any significant employment generation,” economist Santosh Mehrotra told VOA. “The government appears to have taken serious note of the jobless crisis we face for the first time in 10 years since it has been in power.”

He said providing internships could be a crucial step in tackling the unemployment problem. Mehrotra said it remains to be seen how the proposals are implemented.

Economists say jobs have failed to grow because India’s manufacturing sector is relatively small, accounting for only 17% of gross domestic product.

According to official figures, the unemployment rate is close to 6%, but an economic research group, the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, estimates that it is about 9%. The biggest challenge confronts young graduates, among whom the unemployment rate is about 29%. In the world’s youngest country, an estimated 10 million people enter the workforce every year.

A World Bank report released in April, “Jobs for Resilience,” said that while growth in South Asian countries like India is strong, the region is not creating enough jobs to keep pace with its rapidly increasing working-age population. According to the report, the employment ratio for South Asia was 59%, compared to 70% in other emerging market and developing economy regions.

India’s economy will continue expanding at a brisk pace, according to government estimates, which have pegged growth this year at 6.5% to 7% – lower than that posted last year but still high among major economies.

“The global economy, while performing better than expected, is still in the grip of policy uncertainties,” she said. “In this context, India’s economic growth continues to be the shining exception and will remain so in the years ahead,” Finance Minister Sitharaman said.

Modi said the budget will lead India toward “better growth and a bright future.”

With an eye on keeping its coalition allies on board, the government also announced financial assistance for two states — Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. The two regional parties that govern these states have pledged support to Modi and are crucial for his BJP to stay in power. 

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South Africa presses to maintain preferred trade status with US

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Johannesburg — Some members of the U.S. Congress have called for South Africa to be excluded from the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a U.S. program that grants duty-free access to the enormous U.S. market for many South African exports. South Africa presses to remain eligible for the trade program and its evolving relationship with the U.S.

Sonwabile Ndamase remembers when U.S. President Bill Clinton came to Soweto in 1998. Ndamase, a fashion designer who created the iconic “Madiba” shirts worn by then-South African President Nelson Mandela, got a last-minute request from Mandela’s office.

“[T]hey wanted to give something as a gesture and as a gift to President Bill Clinton and then they called me. They said, listen, you need to do something — the president, Bill Clinton, would be coming in. So I had to go to the house of late President Nelson Mandela and deliver the shirt,” he said.

That was during a period of good relations between the U.S. and Africa as a whole and the U.S. and South Africa in particular. In 2000, Clinton initiated the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, allowing duty-free access to the U.S. market for most agricultural and manufactured products from eligible African countries.

But times have changed. As U.S. lawmakers consider whether to extend AGOA past its September 2025 expiration date, there are calls in Washington to exclude South Africa due to its geopolitical stance on key issues, such as its refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calling Israel’s actions in Gaza a genocide.

Political analyst Daryl Glaser from the University of Witwatersrand said tension has existed between the United States and South Africa’s longtime ruling African National Congress party since 2000.

“Yeah, there has always been a tension at the heart of ANC foreign policy between, on the one hand, a kind of human rights focus and a desire to appear to the West a human rights and democracy champion, and on the other side what you might call anti-imperialism or anti-Western imperialism, in particular combined with a kind of loyalty to the countries that supported South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle,” he said.

Those countries include Soviet-era Russia.

Despite the tension, South Africa has sent a delegation to Washington to advocate for its continued participation in AGOA.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2020, South Africa has become America’s largest trading partner in Africa, with over $20 billion in two-way trade volume.

Economist Dawie Roodt said South Africa cannot afford to lose AGOA, given the country’s high unemployment rate and slow economic growth.

He thinks a new coalition government, the result of inconclusive May elections, will help the country’s cause.

“I think what is important, what happened in South Africa in the last couple of weeks, South Africa now has a national government of unity and that’s the message that we need to send. Basically, it’s a coalition between the ANC and the DA, a political party slightly to the right. We’ve got a government now that is not a left-leaning government — it’s a government that is forming a coalition with a more business-friendly alliance partner,” he said.

If its status in AGOA is revoked, South Africa can still trade with the United States, but it won’t receive the preferential rates enjoyed by other African nations.

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Mayor: Barcelona will raise tourist tax for cruise passengers

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Madrid — Barcelona will raise the tourist tax for cruise passengers visiting the city for less than 12 hours, the mayor said in an interview published on Sunday.

Jaume Collboni said the current tourist tax for stopover cruise passengers was 7 euros ($7.61) per day. He did not say by how much the tax would be increased.

“We are going to propose.. substantially increasing the tax for stopover cruise passengers,” he told El Pais newspaper.

“In the case of stopover cruise passengers (less than 12 hours) there is intensive use of public space without any benefit for the city and a feeling of occupation and saturation. We want to have tourism that is respectful of the destination.”

He said tourists, not local tax payers, should pay for local projects like air-conditioning schools.

The proposal will have to be agreed with the Catalan regional government, Collboni said.

In recent weeks, anti-tourism activists have staged protests in popular holiday destinations across Spain, such as Palma de Mallorca, Malaga and the Canary Islands, saying visitors drive up housing costs and lead to residents being unable to afford to live in city centers. 

Another protest is planned in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the largest Balearic Island on Sunday evening.

Collboni announced last month that the city will bar apartment rentals to tourists by 2028, an unexpectedly drastic move as it seeks to rein in soaring housing costs and make the city liveable for residents.  

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Iraq to import electricity from Turkey 

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Baghdad — Iraq said Sunday a new power line will bring electricity from Turkey to its northern provinces as authorities aim to diversify the country’s energy sources to ease chronic power outages. 

The 115-kilometer (71-mile) line connects to the Kisik power station west of Mosul and will provide 300 megawatts from Turkey to Iraq’s northern provinces of Nineveh, Salah al-Din and Kirkuk, according to a statement by the prime minister’s office. 

Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani said the new line was a “strategic” step to link Iraq with its neighboring countries.  

“The line started operating today,” Ahmed Moussa, spokesperson for the electricity ministry, told AFP. 

Decades of war have left Iraq’s infrastructure in a pitiful state, with power cuts worsening the blistering summer when temperatures often reach 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit). 

Many households have just a few hours of electricity per day, and those who can afford it use private generators to keep fridges and air conditioners running. 

Despite its vast oil reserves, Iraq remains dependent on imports to meet its energy needs, especially from neighboring Iran, which regularly cuts supplies. 

Sudani has repeatedly stressed the need for Iraq to diversify energy sources to ease the chronic outages. 

To reduce its dependence on Iranian gas, Baghdad has been exploring several possibilities including imports from Gulf countries. 

The Iraqi government aims “to complete the connection with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) electric grid by the end of this year,” Sudani said Sunday. 

“This will enable Iraq to integrate into the regional energy system,” allowing it to diversify its energy sources, he added. 

In March, a 340-kilometer (210-mile) power line started operating to bring electricity from Jordan to Al-Rutbah in Iraq’s southwest. 

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African aviation conference ends with pledges to improve travel

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Moki Edwin Kindzeka — Participants in Africa-Indian Ocean Aviation Week this week in Libreville, Gabon, say they’ve produced a plan to make continentwide improvements to aviation development and safety.

Some 350 representatives from 180 countries attended AFI Aviation Week, which was organized by the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, with the aim of enhancing air travel safety across Africa and the Indian Ocean in the face of climate change and regional terrorism.

Officials from Gabon, Rwanda and Equatorial Guinea said they have agreed to expand fleets and modernize their airports, while Nigeria said it will repair aging infrastructure.

Many participants said it is time for African states to embrace a plan called the Single African Air Transport Market and liberalize civil aviation across the continent by removing restrictions on traffic rights for African airlines.

ICAO Council President Salvatore Sciacchitano was among those who endorsed the idea, saying on Gabon state TV that the continent needs to accelerate the implementation of the market to enhance connectivity.

Sciacchitano expressed his wish for governments and investors to make good use of what he called huge air transport opportunities in Africa to boost trade, create jobs and develop the continent.

The ICAO says that although no attacks on planes have been reported over the past year, terrorism threats in Africa — in countries such as Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger — sometimes cause passengers to rethink their schedules and make some travelers reluctant to fly.

Participants at the conference said Africa recorded no fatalities in commercial aviation accidents during 2023.

Navy Captain Loic Ndinga Moudouma, Gabon’s transport minister, said Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea entered an agreement to search and rescue people in distress should an accident or crash occur in parts of the Atlantic Ocean the three states share.

The African Union pointed out that although Africa has a population of close to 1.5 billion people and constitutes about 18% of the world population, Africans account for about 3% of global travel.

The International Air Transport Association reported that despite various challenges, airlines across Africa are expected to earn at least $100 million in profit in 2024, compared with $90 million in 2023.

The conference was the first time Gabon had hosted a major international event since the military coup that ousted longtime leader Ali Ben Bongo last August. Unlike military takeovers in other West African states such as Mali and Niger, the coup on Gabon has been widely accepted.

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China vows to boost economic growth by balancing reform, national security

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TAIPEI, TAIWAN — China’s ruling Communist Party concluded a highly anticipated party conclave Thursday, promising to boost economic growth through comprehensive reform while reiterating the importance of maintaining national security.

The Central Committee, in a communique at the end of the four-day, closed-door Third Plenum, laid out reform objectives to be completed by 2029, the 80th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

The party’s top decision-making body also vowed to finish “building a high-standard socialist market economy in all respects” by 2035.

“All of this will lay a solid foundation for building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects by the middle of this century,” the communique said.

To achieve these goals, the communique said China must better utilize market mechanisms and double down on efforts to promote “high-quality development,” which includes prioritizing investment in advanced technologies and facilitating growth through technological and scientific innovation.

“We must deepen supply-side structural reform, improve incentive and constraint mechanisms for promoting high-quality development, and strive to create new growth drivers and strengths,” the communique said.

The key political meeting comes as China’s economic growth slowed to 4.7% in this year’s second quarter, prompting banks such as Goldman Sachs to lower their 2024 gross domestic product growth forecast for China from 5.0% to 4.9%.

Meanwhile, China’s property crisis continues as investment in the sector dropped 10.1% in the first six months of this year compared to a year earlier, and consumer confidence remains weak.

To address these challenges, Beijing promised to implement measures to defuse risks in the property sector while improving income distribution, the job market, social security, and the health care system.

“Ensuring and enhancing the people’s well-being in the course of development is one of the major tasks of Chinese modernization,” the communique said.

As local governments across China face mounting debt resulting from the real estate crisis, the communique stressed the need to roll out fiscal and tax reforms and facilitate better integration between cities and the countryside.

“The Party must promote equal exchanges and two-way flows of production factors between the cities and the countryside, so as to narrow the disparities between the two and promote their common prosperity and development,” the statement said.

As foreign investors closely monitor signals coming out of the plenum, the party said it would remain committed to the state policy of “opening to the outside world” and promised to “expand cooperation with other countries.”

“We still steadily expand institutional opening up, deepen the foreign trade structural reform, further reform the management systems for inward and outward investment,” the communique said.

Some analysts say the communique shows that Beijing is focusing on areas critical to China’s national strength, including technology and advanced manufacturing.

“This isn’t Western-style market liberalization; it’s about reinforcing China’s existing strategy,” Lizzi Lee, a fellow on the Chinese economy at the Asia Society Policy Institute’s Center for China Analysis, said in a written response to VOA.

“The document cements Xi’s governance approach and his brand of reform, which focuses on consolidating power rather than adopting new liberal economic paradigms, endures,” she wrote.

Balancing reform and national security

In addition to laying out the long list of reform goals, the communique also highlighted the need for the party to balance development and security.

“We will strengthen the network for preventing and controlling public security risks so as to safeguard social stability [and] improve public opinion guidance and effectively deal with risks in the ideological domain,” it said.

The document also reiterated that the party’s top leadership, especially Xi Jinping, remains the “fundamental guarantee” for deepening reforms.

“We must uphold Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole and uphold the Central Committee’s authority and its centralized, unified leadership,” the communique said.

Some experts say the communique’s emphasis on upholding public security and following the guidance of party leadership shows Beijing is trying to tighten control over efforts to reform China’s troubled economy.  

“Tightening control is at the heart of [Beijing’s] dilemma because in order for the reforms to work, they need to loosen control,” Dexter Roberts, a nonresident senior fellow at Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, told VOA by phone.

While other specific reforms are expected to be rolled out in other plenum documents in coming days, Lee said she expects consumer spending in China to remain sluggish and that recovery in the property sector remains slow in the short term.

“The prolonged transition period poses significant risks. It could lead to reduced investments and slower economic growth,” she told VOA, adding that the Chinese government will likely use targeted interventions to boost key sectors.

However, some analysts think that Beijing’s state-led economic growth model is unlikely to yield the results the government hopes for.  

“China’s state-led investment, which concentrates resources on areas such as semiconductors and artificial intelligence, is going to take years to pay dividends, and meanwhile, the economy will continue to fail to deliver growth and jobs,” Andrew Collier, managing director of Orient Capital Research in Hong Kong, told VOA in a video interview.  

He said unless the government takes concrete steps to reduce its involvement in economic reforms, the country’s economic downturn could grow worse in coming years. 

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China’s Third Plenum does nothing to revive economy, observers say

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Taipei, Taiwan — China’s ruling party has concluded the Third Plenum of its 20th Central Committee with a communique described as vague and cliché by China watchers, who said it lacks specific measures to address China’s economic difficulties.

Shi He-ling, an associate professor of economics at Monash Business School at Monash University in Caulfield, Australia, said the communiqué was disappointing and that its writers were completely unthinking.

The 5,000-word communiqué, issued on Thursday, touted the Chinese Communist Party’s achievements in “comprehensively deepening reforms” and said the future will be critical for comprehensively advancing “Chinese-style modernization,” building a strong country and rejuvenating the nation.

Shi said that while Chinese President Xi Jinping has set out a new vision of “Chinese-style modernization” to highlight his differences from previous party leaders, the communiqué does not provide any specific definitions that are measurable.

“It does not make macroeconomic adjustments at all but is like a philosophical article, which is basically a cliché,” Shi told VOA.

In addition to “socialist market mechanisms” and “new quality productivity,” the communiqué stressed that national security is an important foundation for the steady and long-term development of Chinese-style modernization; that the modernization of national defense and the armed forces is an important part of it; and that “party leadership” in particular is the “fundamental guarantee” for promoting this policy.

Yeh Yao-yuan, chairman of the Department of Political Science at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, said that under the framework of “Xi Thoughts,” it is difficult for the economic exposition of this communiqué to be new.

Even if the “socialist market economic system” is repeatedly touted, it will not be able to reverse China’s economic decline, he said, adding that Xi’s economic reform is in fact “changing things to their old ways.”

These include forcing the private sector to retreat in order to help the state advance and tightening controls over foreign capital, which will hit the market economy hard.

Ming Chu-cheng,  professor emeritus of political science at National Taiwan University in Taipei, offered a similar assessment on Thursday at a seminar in Taiwan.

Xi “is touting the market economy, but what he really pushes is ‘the people retreat and the country advances,’ which is completely opposite to what he says,” Ming said. “I don’t have great hopes for the Third Plenum. Even if you relax the economic restrictions, you will encounter exactly the same problems in another 20 years because politics is choking the economy.”

The communiqué received more than 100 million views on Weibo and made it to the hot search list hours after its release. However, there was hardly any substantive discussion online among Chinese people in the comment areas. Most just reposted and recited some of the communiqué text to express their concerns.

The personnel changes made at the plenum attracted a lot of attention as the CCP officially approved the removal of its former foreign minister, Qin Gang, from its Central Committee.

Qin, who has not been seen in public since last summer, is no longer a member of the Communist Party leadership. He was dismissed as foreign minister in July last year and removed from the post of state councilor three months later.

His resignation from the top body had been accepted. No further details were provided, and the reasons behind Qin’s disappearance remain unclear. He was allegedly investigated for having an extramarital affair, leaking secrets and endangering national security.

The plenum also confirmed the expulsion of former Defense Minister Li Shangfu. Li Yuchao and Sun Jinming of the People’s Liberation Army’s Rocket Force were also removed from the Central Committee.

Many online comments focused on Qin being called “comrade” in the party’s published decision while others were calling Qin’s ousting a “soft landing.”

After the discussion on Qin’s removal became a hot topic, the Weibo accounts of various media outlets seemed to be alerted and comments were concealed.

Chong Ja Ian, an associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore, said that Beijing dislikes Chinese people arguing online about the CCP’s high-level personnel because comments might call into question the party’s decisions and judgment, especially as Qin was previously Xi’s close confidant and the foreign minister.

“What happened to Qin has not been particularly public so far,” Chong told VOA, “and too many of these discussions [about Qin] will also distract public attention from the economic reform plan the Third Plenum wants to promote.”

Adrianna Zhang, Yang An, Joyce Huang contributed to this story.

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US appeals court blocks remainder of Biden’s student debt plan

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WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court blocked the implementation of the Biden administration’s student debt relief plan, which would have lowered monthly payments for millions of borrowers.

In a ruling Thursday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion for an administrative stay filed by a group of Republican-led states seeking to invalidate the administration’s entire student loan forgiveness program. The court’s order prohibits the administration from implementing the parts of the SAVE plan that were not already blocked by lower court rulings.

The ruling comes the same day that the Biden administration announced another round of student loan forgiveness, this time totaling $1.2 billion in forgiveness for roughly 35,000 borrowers who are eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

The PSLF program, which provides relief for teachers, nurses, firefighters and other public servants who make 120 qualifying monthly payments, was originally passed in 2007. But for years, borrowers ran into strict rules and servicer errors that prevented them from having their debt canceled. The Biden administration adjusted some of the program’s rules and retroactively gave many borrowers credits toward their required payments.

Two separate legal challenges to Biden’s SAVE plan have worked their way through the courts.

In June, federal judges in Kansas and Missouri issued separate rulings that blocked much of the administration’s plan to provide a faster path toward loan cancellation and reduce monthly income-based repayment from 10% to 5% of a borrower’s discretionary income. Those injunctions did not affect debt that had already been forgiven.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that allowed the department to proceed with the lowered monthly payments. Thursday’s order from the 8th circuit blocks all aspects of the SAVE plan.

The Education Department said it was reviewing the ruling.

“Our Administration will continue to aggressively defend the SAVE Plan — which has been helping over 8 million borrowers access lower monthly payments, including 4.5 million borrowers who have had a zero-dollar payment each month,” the administration said.

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Recent outages highlight need for stronger African internet

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Nairobi, Kenya — Experts say Africa needs to invest in robust infrastructure if the continent is to have reliable internet after recent outages due to underwater cable failures highlighted the continent’s reliance on single-path connectivity.

Disruptions in March and May caused online banking problems and communication delays. Businesses experienced interruptions in many countries.

In March, on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, four submarine cables that deliver the internet to at least 17 countries went offline.

Less than two months later, Eastern and Southern Africa experienced outages after two undersea cables were damaged. In Tanzania, the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam closed for two days due to the disruption.

Ben Gumo, a Kenyan who relies on the internet to sell clothes, shoes and children’s wares, said he lost business during the May disruption.

“Someone … puts stuff in the [online] basket, but because of the outage he cannot complete the sale, so he cancels,” Gumo said, adding that he couldn’t update his website with new products.

According to the telecommunications research company Telegeography, over 100 cable cuts occur globally each year. Experts blame undersea volcanic activity, rock falls, recent rainfall and currents in rivers that are much stronger than when some of the cables were built.

Manmade activities also cause disruptions. According to one report, a ship was attacked in the Red Sea and drifted, its anchor pulling up three underwater cables.

Mike Last works with the West Indian Ocean Cable Company, which operates in 20 African countries and has built 36 data centers. He said recent disruptions prompted government officials and businesspeople to recognize the need for better internet infrastructure.

“What it made people realize is that you have to invest in a reliable network, you have to invest in redundancy,” Last said, meaning that internet service is provided by more than one source. “We’ve seen a real boom in clients coming to us wanting connectivity on the new subsea systems.”

Some countries can stay online when one internet source is cut off, although service is often slow and not stable, because service providers and telecommunication carriers invested in more than one international connection.

According to the World Bank, sub-Saharan Africa’s digital infrastructure coverage, access and quality are far behind those of other regions.

However, Africa is embracing the digital future. According to the Submarine Cable Networks, 37 countries have at least one subsea cable connection, and 20 countries have more than two subsea cables.

Last said cables planned by Google and Meta will improve connectivity.

One of the new cables, he said, has a high capacity. Another new cable — named 2Africa and led by Meta, the parent company of Facebook — is being built all the way around Africa.

“It brings a lot of capacity to Africa, and that will help,” Last said.

Experts warn that disparities in connectivity across Africa are expected, but that the development of infrastructure, government policies and private sector investments can accelerate growth.

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Верховна Рада дозволила Кабміну реструктурувати державний борг у 2024 році

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Законопроєкт «дає право Кабміну призупиняти виплати за зовнішнім державним боргом до 01 жовтня 2024 року», заявив народний депутат Ярослав Железняк

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Nigeria to resume crude oil refining in August, industry authorities say

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Abuja, Nigeria — Nigeria plans to resume local refining of crude oil in early August, national petroleum authorities announced Monday.

The resumption would end years of idleness at Nigeria’s state-owned refineries, and analysts say that if successfully implemented, it would lower fuel prices.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company made the announcement while addressing an emergency session at the National Assembly. Lawmakers called the session to interrogate central bank authorities, the national economic management team and the NNPC about the country’s economic standing.

The chief executive officer of the NNPC, Mele Kyari, said one of the two Port Harcourt refineries in the oil-rich Niger Delta region will begin operations in about two weeks.

He said the other one will come into operation by the end of the year and allow Nigeria to begin exporting refined oil.

“We’re very optimistic that by December this country will be a net exporter,” he said, “that is [in] combination of production coming from us and the Dangote refinery and other smaller producing companies.”

The Dangote refinery is a privately owned facility being built near Lagos.

Nigeria’s minister of state of petroleum resources, Heineken Lokpobiri, voiced optimism about the impact of the revived refineries.

“The easiest way for Nigeria to come out of its economic problems is through the oil and gas sector,” Lokpobiri said. “As a sector, we have a clear plan to gradually ramp up production. Right now, we have a clear plan to see how we can get 2 million barrels and more.”

This is not the first time officials have announced the resumption of domestic oil refining.

They made similar announcements in December and March. On Monday, authorities said unforeseen technical difficulties hampered previous resumption dates.

All four government-owned refineries, which can process about 450,000 barrels of crude per day, have been moribund for years, forcing the country to rely on imports to meet its petroleum needs, estimated at 66 million liters (17.4 million gallons) per day.

Oil industry analyst Faith Nwadishi voiced doubts the refineries will operate again.

“I’m just keeping my fingers crossed and trying to be very optimistic about this because it will go a long way in reducing the hardship and perhaps also reduce the pump price … especially,” Nwadishi said. “But being somebody who’s in the sector, I become a little bit skeptical. We have an allocation of about 445,000 [barrels per day] for domestic consumption, which, if properly refined, we’ll have about 70 million liters. That covers our daily consumption.”

The Nigerian oil industry has been hampered in recent years by theft and corruption. On Monday, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative said about 140,000 barrels of crude oil were lost to theft every day between 2009 and 2018.

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IMF should work with Kenya to account for public funds, says rights group

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Nairobi, Kenya — Advocacy group Human Rights Watch called Tuesday for greater accountability of public funds in Kenya, framing it partially as a human rights issue.

Kenyans have taken to the streets for four consecutive weeks to protest the high cost of living, corruption and misuse of the country’s finances. What began as a tax protest has morphed into a demand for the end of President William Ruto’s government, with demonstrators saying they do not trust it to solve the country’s political and economic problems.

Human Rights Watch called on the International Monetary Fund to work with the Kenyan government to ensure that IMF’s support for the country is aligned with human rights — and that corruption doesn’t take funds meant to improve the lives of ordinary people.

Allan Ngari, the Africa advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said, “Our greatest concern is that the outrage sparked by the proposed taxes is something that is endemic in Kenya in the sense that corporate tax evasion, for example, is one of the issues that haven’t been taken into consideration, in addition to the opulent lifestyle that we have seen among the Kenyan executive.”

Kenya’s debt pressures spurred the IMF to approve $941 million for the country in January, bringing the total amount loaned to the East African nation by the financial agency to $3.9 billion.

Kenyans have raised concerns about such heavy borrowing, saying it has done little to improve their lives. At the same time, protesters say, citizens are paying more taxes so Kenya can repay the loans.

The IMF argues that the money it provided to Kenya helped alleviate market concerns, allowing the East African nation access to the bond market and partially rolling over a maturing Eurobond.

Ngari said the Kenyan government needs to be accountable to the IMF and other foreign loan providers, but also for the revenue it collects in the country.

“Monies that have been allocated or are within the government expenditure should be for projects and processes of development in the country,” Ngari said. “That’s the reason why these loans have been sought. So, accountability is that [the] public should be really aware of the extent of the borrowing.”

Activists have repeatedly asked the government to disclose the country’s total current debt, specifically the amount owed to China, which the government has been reluctant to make public.

Ruto has formed a task force to audit the country’s debt and report back by the end of September.

In the streets of many cities and towns, protesters continue to cry out about hard economic times and a government that they say has become blind and deaf to its problems.

Sharon, a Nairobi resident who gave only her first name, said that if the borrowed money can be accounted for and used for its intended purpose, it will improve the situation of many Kenyans.

“We need accountability for the money we pay and for the money we borrow,” she said. “This will create more employment opportunities because there will be money to pay for those jobs.”

Stella Nkirote, a 31-year-old street vendor and mother of four, said corruption has hampered the country’s economic growth, saying that people in power have refused to use money in the way it is supposed to be used.

In its 2016 periodic review of Kenya, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights said the country has large amounts of illicit financial flows, tax avoidance and cases of corruption involving top government officials that are not investigated.

Human Rights Watch argues that many countries’ problems could be solved if they aligned their economic policies with human rights on every level — domestic and international.

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