Thursday, 09 April 2020

United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has been moved out of Intensive Care Unit, ICU, after his health improved.
A spokesman for the UK prime minister said: “The prime minister has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery.”
“He is in extremely good spirits.”
Johnson has been infected with the deadly Coronavirus and was moved to the ICU three days ago when his health deteriorated.

He was moved into the ICU of St. Thomas Hospital as a precaution in case he required a ventilator.
Earlier reports said the Prime Minister was on oxygen and that he was carrying on with the task of governing Britain.

Published in World

The coronavirus and its economic consequences have caused economic tsunamis in every country in the world. The scale of the onslaught will dominate discussions at the International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank spring meetings due to take place – for the first time ever virtually – in mid April.

These virtual meetings will include the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors and the body that advises IMF Governors about the management of the international financial system – the International Monetary and Finance Committee.

The participants in these meetings will discuss the international community’s response to the global health and economic crisis. They should operate from the premise that no country is immune from the virus and that each country remains vulnerable as long as any country is affected.

Many competing interests and views will be expressed at these meetings. Africa will need to advocate forcefully for its interests to make its voice heard.

It is critical that the world listens to Africa. It is projected that 450 000 Africans could test positive for the coronavirus by early May. If accurate, this pandemic would be catastrophic for the continent. It would overwhelm African countries’ health systems, devastate their economies and threaten millions of people with unemployment, hunger and homelessness.

South Africa’s role in these meetings is pivotal. The Governor of the South African Reserve Bank Lesetja Kganyago chairs the finance and monetary committee. South Africa is the only sub-Saharan country in the G20. In addition to representing South Africa, therefore, he and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni must use these meeting to advocate for African interests.

The big asks

Africa needs three types of help.

First, it needs resources to deal with the health crisis. Second, it needs access to foreign exchange to compensate for the losses caused by the collapsing global economy. Third, many African countries need help dealing with their foreign debts.

Health: The IMF and World Bank have responded constructively to the health crisis. The IMF has doubled the amount of funding available through its emergency facilities. It is moving expeditiously to make these funds available to the more than 85 countries that have approached it for help.

The World Bank has also provided emergency support to over 25 countries.

They should continue providing this support to as many countries as need it.

Liquidity support: Both the IMF and World Bank have committed to provide expanded support to their members. The IMF has $1 trillion available for this purpose. The World Bank will provide $160 billion over the next 15 months for COVID related activities in its member countries.

However, as the IMF has noted, this is unlikely to be enough. Moreover, both institutions are likely to make the funds available relatively slowly and subject to conditions. Sub-Saharan African countries may not be able to afford either the associated delays or burdens.

African countries should therefore be throwing their weight behind calls for a new significant allocation – proposals have ranged from $500 billion to $1 trillion – of Special Drawing Rights, the IMF’s unique reserve asset that carries no policy conditions.

Sub-Saharan African countries will, collectively, only receive about 5% of the total allocation because the special drawing rights are allocated to all IMF member countries according to their IMF quotas—voting rights. Therefore, African countries also support the call by UNCTAD for rich countries to contribute the unneeded portion of their share of special drawing rights to a fund to support developing countries.

External debt: The IMF and World Bank should be commended for calling on donor countries to implement an immediate debt standstill on all their official debts to the poorest countries. China, Japan and the UK should also be applauded for taking the lead in supporting the IMF facility that helps the poorest countries repay their debts to the IMF.

However, about one third of Africa’s total long term debt of $493 billion is owed to private creditors. Most of this debt is in the form of bonds. Their price has fallen on financial markets. For example, Angolan and Zambian debts are trading at around 35c on the dollar.

Given that the prices of Africa’s commodity exports are unlikely to rise soon and that Africa’s economies are facing a severe recession, it is likely that the price of African bonds will remain depressed and more countries will face debt payment problems. Already Zambia has informed its creditors that it will not be able to pay its debts.

Unfortunately, speculators can exploit this situation. They can buy the cheap bonds with the expectation that they will be able in time to demand full repayment from the debtor governments — and to sue any debtor that demurs. They have earned exorbitant profits with this strategy in the past. They have used it against approximately 12 African countries and a number of other countries around the world, most famously Argentina.

Some states have passed laws to discourage these vultures. But they are adept at using their debt holdings to browbeat debtor countries into prioritising their debt over other obligations, including to their own citizens.

Risk mitigation strategy

To mitigate the risk of speculation, African countries should call for the creation of a Debts of Vulnerable Economies Fund (a “DOVE” fund) to help deal with Africa’s private sector debt. This fund, managed by an independent board representing all stakeholders, could be financed by governments, foundations, financial institutions, companies and individuals. It would do two things.

First, it would buy the debt of qualifying African states on financial markets at the market price (i.e. with the current steep discounts) and promise to implement a debt standstill on the debt it holds. Their purchase of the debt and its possible impact on the price of the debt should help deter the speculators.

It would also commit that once the global economy begins to grow again it will assess if each debtor country needs to renegotiate the terms of its debt so that it is not an undue burden on its efforts to rebuild its economy.

Second, the DOVE fund would advocate that all other private sector creditors commit to a debt standstill for as long as the crisis lasts and, on a case by case basis, to consider renegotiating the debt after the crisis ends. It should remind them that leading financial institutions, such as Blackrock, and business groupings, such as the US Business Roundtable, chaired by JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, have recently argued that companies, including financial institutions, should serve the interests of all their stakeholders and should not prioritise the interests of their shareholders. Their stakeholders include their borrowers and those innocent third parties – such as citizens – affected by their actions and decisions.

Moreover, many of the financial institutions that hold African country debt have environmental, social and human rights policies that require them to comply with all applicable international standards in their operations.

This crisis is an opportunity for them to show that these public statements are not mere rhetoric but represent a meaningful change in their way of doing business.The Conversation

 

Danny Bradlow, SARCHI Professor of International Development Law and African Economic Relations, University of Pretoria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Business

Central Bank of Kenya has suspended Absa Bank Kenya’s foreign exchange licence for seven days for failing to report specific foreign exchange trades it conducted last month.

"During this period, Absa cannot transact in the inter-bank foreign exchange market. However, all committed transactions as at April 8,2020 can be settled," Governor Patrick Njoroge said.

In a statement on Thursday, Njoroge said Absa flouted the anti-money laundering rules during the trade hence the actions.

Njoroge said Absa did not have satisfactory assurance of the underlying commercial transactions supporting these trades, as is required.

The bank has been ordered to reverse the market positions that were created as a result of the alleged transactions.

Absa should also by Wednesday April 15 put in place a robust framework that ensures all relevant documents for such foreign exchange transactions are available as required and also to ensure the other requirements are adhered to.

This move comes barely three months since transforming from Barclays.

The lender is expected to complete the rebranding and transition process before June 2020.

Absa has been undergoing a transition after parting ways with Barclays Plc, which reduced its shareholding in the African financial services group to a minority stake in 2017.

Barclays Africa operates in 12 countries with approximately 40 thousand employees who serve close to 12 million customers.

 

Source: The Star Kenya

Published in Bank & Finance

Employers, now more than ever, need to provide access to independent financial advice to their employees, says the boss of deVere Group.

The observation from Nigel Green, the chief executive and founder of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and services companies, comes as firms and staff seek to readjust their financial strategies due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Green says: “There is enormous global progress being made in the public health fight against coronavirus, and the economic fallout from it, thanks to the commitment of individuals, organizations, businesses, central banks and governments, amongst others.

“However, the pandemic has had immediate, dramatic and far-reaching effects on business activity.

“And the true depth of the dislocation still remains to be seen.

“Of course, a recovery will come, perhaps even comparatively quickly. But the world of work has changed – as it always does in serious economic downturns.”

The message from the deVere CEO comes as firms are desperately trying to minimise redundancies and deal with supply and/or demand issues, many people have been furloughed, and many are deeply concerned about their financial security.

He continues: “Despite – or indeed because of – the considerable challenges they are currently faced with, in this shifting and disruptive environment, employers should seek to give employees access to impartial, financial advice. 

“This access would benefit the employers, the employees, and broader society and economy.”

Mr Green goes on to say: “Incorporating a financial adviser into an employee’s benefits program doesn’t need to be an extra cost or a difficult undertaking for an employer.  

“These advice sessions are typically offered completely free of charge, both for the company and for the employee.

“By upgrading and boosting their employees’ benefits programs, employers will be able to attract and retain top talent during the recovery and beyond, which is likely to be critical to their success.

“In addition, this crisis has underscored that increasingly companies will only survive and thrive if they operate with a nod from the wider court of public approval.”

He adds: “When employees are aware and in control of their personal finances, they’re on track to reach their long-term financial goals, typically in terms of their children's education, protecting their assets, or preparing for their own retirement.

“In turn, this makes them happier, less stressed, more focused, more productive and more engaged with their employer.”

Nigel Green concludes: “We need a ‘joined-up thinking’ approach to financial advice. 

“It’s in everyone’s interests that the workforce is as financially secure as possible. 

“The cost of having an increasingly large section of the population being financially dependent on the State is damaging to individuals, families and society and it will significantly impede sustainable, long-term economic growth.

“Now is the time for employers to actively engage with the financial advisory industry.”

Published in Bank & Finance
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