New IRIN News Video: Schools in Liberia have begun to reopen for the first time in more than six months, due to the Ebola outbreak.
GENEVA, Switzerland, February 24, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Georges Lemopoulos has congratulated Rev. Dr Andrea Zaki Stephanous on becoming the new president of the Evangelical community in Egypt.
“The World Council of Churches is grateful for the ecumenical witness of your church and its place in the global fellowship,” said Lemopoulos in a letter addressed to Zaki, issued on 23 February.
“You have served faithfully as the General Director of the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services, and from this work you bring great insight and gifts to your new role,” he added.
In reference to recent killings of Coptic Christians at the hands of militants in Egypt, Lemopoulos said, “You assume your office at a time of great tension and fear, and both your vision for justice and peace and your pastoral oversight are greatly needed. This is a time when ecumenical collaboration, solidarity and advocacy can be an important instrument of a church’s ministry and presence.”
Lemopoulos expressed gratitude on behalf of the WCC for the “ecumenical witness” of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Egypt. “We support the faithful of your church in prayer, as we also support you in your new position of leadership,” he added.
WASHINGTON, February 24, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — NOTICE
CONTINUATION OF THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH RESPECT TO LIBYA
On February 25, 2011, by Executive Order 13566, I declared a national emergency pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, his government, and close associates, who took extreme measures against the people of Libya, including by using weapons of war, mercenaries, and wanton violence against unarmed civilians. In addition, there was a serious risk that Libyan state assets would be misappropriated by Qadhafi, members of his government, members of his family, or his close associates if those assets were not protected. The foregoing circumstances, the prolonged attacks, and the increased numbers of Libyans seeking refuge in other countries caused a deterioration in the security of Libya and posed a serious risk to its stability.
The situation in Libya continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and we need to protect against the diversion of assets or other abuse by certain members of Qadhafi’s family and other former regime officials.
For this reason, the national emergency declared on February 25, 2011, and the measures adopted on that date to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond February 25, 2015. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13566.
This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.
IMF Executive Board Approves US$ 45.6 Million Disbursement under the Rapid Credit Facility and US$ 36.5 Million in Debt Relief Under the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust for Liberia
MONROVIA, Liberia, February 24, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a disbursement of an amount equivalent to SDR 32.3 million (about US$45.6 million or 25 percent of quota) to be drawn from the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF)1 as well as SDR 25.84 million (about US36.5 million or 20 percent of the country’s quota) in immediate debt relief under the Catastrophe Containment and Relief (CCR) Trust2.
The RCF funds will support the authorities fight against the Ebola outbreak by covering urgent budgetary and balance of payments needs and strengthening international reserves. This additional IMF financing also ought to help catalyse further assistance from the international community, preferably grants. The CCR funds will be applied to immediately repay outstanding debt up to the equivalent of 20 percent of Liberia’s quota (SDR 25.84 million).
At the conclusion of the Executive Board’s discussion, Mr. Shinohara, Chair and Deputy Managing Director issued the following statement:
“The Ebola outbreak continues to cripple the Liberian economy, although the recent decline in new cases is welcome. Economic activity has decelerated significantly, and fiscal and external financing needs are more pronounced than envisaged at the time of the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) augmentation. The economy is projected to stagnate in 2014 and contract in 2015, due to the ongoing impact of the epidemic and lower investment in mining and infrastructure. A gradual recovery in economic activity is projected to take hold in 2016, led by a rebound in services.
“The authorities remain committed to the broad objectives of the ECF-supported program. However, program implementation capacity has been hampered since the beginning of the crisis as the authorities focused on the emergency. Implementation of structural reforms has also been delayed by the limited functioning of the public sector due to the Ebola outbreak. Large financing gaps are estimated for 2015–16, and reserves coverage could decline significantly in 2015 in the absence of additional financing. Fund financial assistance, together with debt relief from the CCR Trust, will help boost central bank reserves to meet market demand for foreign exchange, while acting as a catalyst for additional grant financing from other official and private creditors.
“Fiscal policy should continue to remain accommodative to meet spending priorities relating to the epidemic, subject to the availability of financing. Continued improvements in public financial management and transparency in the use of external resources will be key to unlocking further donor budget support. Emergency social safety nets need to be deployed to address rising poverty and food insecurity. Over the medium term, rebuilding a resilient health system should remain a priority.
“Greater exchange rate flexibility is desirable to maintain adequate reserves in the context of a prolonged crisis. Continued close monitoring of monetary and financial sector conditions, as well as enhanced liquidity management, are essential to contain any lingering vulnerabilities in the financial system. Going forward, the central bank plans to develop a framework for the provision of emergency liquidity support to banks, supported by Fund technical assistance, will help enhance the resilience of the banking system.”
1 The RCF provides rapid financial support in a single, up-front payout for low-income countries facing urgent financing needs. Financial assistance under the RCF is provided as an outright disbursement to Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT)-eligible members that face an urgent balance of payments need, and where a full-fledged economic program is either not necessary or not feasible.
2 The Catastrophe Containment and Relief (CCR) Trust provides grant assistance to be used as debt relief for eligible countries confronting major natural disasters, including public health disasters.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon, February 24, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — On February 18, 2015, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation1 with Gabon.
Gabon’s growth performance has recently been strong, but fiscal pressures have increased significantly. Real GDP growth has averaged about 6 percent in the last four years on the back of substantial scaling-up of capital spending as the authorities implement their strategy Plan Stratégique Gabon Emergent (PSGE) to promote economic diversification and growth inclusiveness. The external current account has been in surplus, while inflation has remained in the low single digits. Partly as a result of the scaling up in public investment, the fiscal situation has come under pressure and arrears have been accumulated, notwithstanding historically high oil prices until recently.
The medium-term growth outlook has weakened as a result of the sharp decline in oil prices, but is expected to remain relatively strong. Growth is expected to be driven by a number of projects underway in agro-industry, mining, and wood processing. The government is aiming to keep public debt below its target of 35 percent of GDP in the medium run by broadening the non-oil tax base, controlling growth in current spending, and moderating public investment growth after significantly cutting it in 2014. To protect infrastructure investment in the face falling oil revenues spending, the government intends to have recourse to the international capital markets for financing.
The main downside risks to the economic outlook in the short to medium term is an insufficient adjustment to fiscal policy, leading to further depletion of fiscal buffers, and weak investment execution capacity. Both could lead to further depletion of fiscal buffers and insufficient fiscal space to implement the PSGE and address binding constraints to growth, such as infrastructure bottlenecks, lack of qualified labor, and a weak business environment. In turn, lower oil prices and failure to implement PSGE could considerably reduce much needed non-oil growth. In the longer run, there is upside potential to raise growth if the binding constraints are addressed.
Executive Board Assessment2
Directors welcomed the robust economic growth in recent years under favorable economic conditions, but regretted that growth has not been sufficiently inclusive or broad-based, with poverty and unemployment rates remaining high. Directors expressed support for the authorities’ diversification strategy, predicated on improvements in infrastructure and human capital development, and an acceleration in business climate reforms. With the recent major decline in oil prices, Directors underscored the need for the diversification strategy to be financed sustainably.
Looking ahead, Directors underscored the need for further fiscal adjustment to rebuild policy buffers while preserving medium-term fiscal sustainability. They noted that this would require curbing growth in current spending, including the wage bill, and effectively phasing out general oil subsidies, while safeguarding priority infrastructure and social spending. Directors also highlighted the need to expand the non-oil tax base, notably by reducing tax exemptions and improving tax administration. In addition, efforts to improve the management and transparency of the public finances should be sustained, and the quality of public investment improved. In this context, Directors welcomed the authorities’ efforts to increase the transparency of natural resource revenues and commitment to become compliant with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) during 2015.
Directors called for stepped-up efforts to boost external competitiveness through structural reforms designed to reduce factor costs. They recommended “horizontal” policies aimed at improving the business climate—such as addressing infrastructure bottlenecks in energy and transport; boosting investment in human capital; and strengthening the business regulatory framework. Noting the potential for regional spillovers, Directors encouraged the authorities to lead by example and play a constructive role in setting and implementing appropriate common policies within CEMAC (Economic Community of Central African States) to support regional stability and growth.
Directors supported efforts to improve financial depth and inclusion, including through the establishment of a credit registry. They called for a strengthening in the supervisory capacity of the regional banking supervisory authority, COBAC (Commission Bancaire de l’Afrique Centrale), and for prompt actions to address the weak financial situation of the three distressed public banks and to enhance the monitoring of the microfinance sector. Directors looked forward to the completion of the ongoing regional FSAP (Financial Sector Assessment Program) exercise.
Directors encouraged the authorities to improve data quality and timeliness, with Fund technical assistance. They also noted that Gabon maintains a tax on wire transfers, which is inconsistent with its obligations under Article VIII
NAIROBI, Kenya, February 24, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Control Risks (https://www.controlrisks.com), the global business risk consultancy, today launched its annual RiskMap report at an event for East Africa’s business leaders in Nairobi. RiskMap is an established, authoritative guide and a key reference point for policy makers and business leaders seeking to plot global trends over the coming year. RiskMap highlights the most significant underlying trends in global risk and security, and provides a detailed view from the markets that will matter most in 2015.
For the full report and the map please click here: https://riskmap.controlrisks.com.
• 2015 will start to show some of the political limits to sub-Saharan Africa’s growth story. Economic growth has outpaced political reform and governments have so far failed to tackle key structural issues.
• Terrorism will continue to make headlines in Africa in 2015, but it will remain local.
• East Africa piracy levels will remain low, reflecting the decline in Somali hijack-for-ransom piracy since mid-2011.
• Large inward investment in East African energy and the prospect of a resource boom is putting pressure on political arrangements.
• The likelihood of resource-based conflict in East Africa is low.
Photo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=1776 (Daniel Heal, Managing Director East Africa, Control Risks)
Introducing RiskMap 2015, Daniel Heal, Managing Director East Africa, Control Risks, commented:
“2015 is when we will start to see some of the political limits in Africa’s growth story. Governments have so far failed to tackle key structural issues and growth usually occurs despite government rather than because of it. Kenya, as one of the best-governed countries in the region, is running big deficits and debt loads will double by 2017.
“Large inward investment in East African energy is exciting, but we should remain circumspect. It is too early to say how key issues will play out, from distribution of benefits to legislative and regulatory changes in the pipeline. The likelihood of resource-based conflict is low. These industries are too early in their development to provoke conflict: there is not yet any oil to divert, and gas is harder to criminalise. If anything, the risk is that the energy industry is entering remote regions with legacy conflicts relating to control of land, access to water, and grazing rights, as in Kenya.
“It is anticipated that Somalia’s Al-Shabab will lose further territory in 2015, retreating into guerrilla-style hit-and-run attacks in Somalia and potentially against major regional cities such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Kampala and Addis Ababa.
For the full report and the map please click here: https://riskmap.controlrisks.com.
Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Control Risks.
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About Control Risks
Control Risks (https://www.controlrisks.com) is a global risk consultancy specialising in political, security and integrity risk that has more than 30 years of experience working in Africa. Control Risks serves global companies that are new to Africa and organisations that know the continent well and are looking to expand their African business. Control Risks has unrivalled experience in helping organisations throughout their investment and operational cycle in Africa and provides clients with high-quality support in entering new markets, realising opportunities and building resilience capabilities to manage risk in rapidly changing environments. www.controlrisks.com