US pushes sanctions to send Putin message on election interference

Republican US Senators Marco Rubio (L) and Lindsey Graham are seen in this combination photo from US Senate hearings on Capitol Hill in Washington, US on March 14, 2018 and on June 18, 2018 respectively. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 July 2018
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US pushes sanctions to send Putin message on election interference

WASHINGTON: A pair of prominent Republican US senators said on Sunday that the United States needs to prepare new sanctions against Russia to discourage interference in upcoming elections.
Senator Lindsey Graham said additional sanctions must be teed up before President Donald Trump holds a second meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the US leader came under heavy criticism for failing to confront Putin about interference in the 2016 election at a summit last Monday.
“You need to work with Congress to come up with new sanctions because Putin’s not getting the message,” Graham said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We need new sanctions, heavy-handed sanctions, hanging over his head, and then meet with him.”
Undaunted by the backlash in his own party to his first meeting, Trump invited Putin to a White House meeting sometime this fall. Congressional midterm elections will take place in November.
Senator Marco Rubio wants a vote on a bill called DETER that would impose new sanctions if US intelligence officials determine Russia meddled in US elections. Rubio co-authored the legislation with Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, a bipartisan effort revived by the fallout of last week’s summit.
“What I think is indisputable is that they did interfere and they will do so in the future,” Rubio said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“If our bill passes and the director of national intelligence says they interfered in 2018, these very tough sanctions will hit them. So Putin knows going in, what the price of doing so is.”
Putin has denied that Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election after the US intelligence community concluded Russia interfered through cyberattacks and social media in a bid to boost Trump’s candidacy.
Under pressure from Congress, which last year passed a tough sanctions law targeting Russia, the US Treasury in April imposed sanctions on Russian officials and oligarchs for election meddling and “malign” activities.
The DETER Act would make sanctions more automatic. The US director of national intelligence would be required to conclude if any foreign nations interfered in elections one month after Americans cast their votes, triggering strict sanctions within 10 days if interference was detected.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week identified the bill as a potential step Congress could take in the coming days to push back against Russia as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for sanctions and other deterrents.
But the US oil and gas industry is lobbying against the bill due to worries that heightened sanctions could impact US investments in Russia, congressional sources said.


Dubai real estate market recovery to be seen as of 2022: S&P

Updated 20 February 2019
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Dubai real estate market recovery to be seen as of 2022: S&P

  • The outlook on property was part of a challenging assessment of the credit-worthiness of the emirate
  • S&P was generally comfortable with the credit ratings of the emirate’s banking system

DUBAI: S&P Global, the ratings agency, painted a grim picture for the real estate sector in Dubai, with a meaningful recovery in property prices expected only after 2022.
At a presentation to journalists in the Dubai International Financial Center, S&P analyst Sapna Jagtiani said that under the firm’s “base case scenario,” the Dubai real estate market would fall by between 5 and 10 percent this year, roughly the same as the fall in 2018, which would bring property prices to the levels seen at the bottom of the last cycle in 2010, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
“On the real estate side we continue to have a very grim view of the market. While we expect prices to broadly stabilize in 2020, we don’t see a meaningful recovery in 2021. Relative to the previous recovery cycle, we believe it will take longer time for prices to display a meaningful recovery,” she said.
S&P’s verdict adds to several recent pessimistic assessments of the Dubai real estate market. Jagtiani said that conditions in the other big UAE property market, in Abu Dhabi, were not as negative, because “Abu Dhabi never did ramp up as much in 2014 and 2015 as Dubai.” S&P does not rate developers in the capital.
She added that a “stress scenario” could arise if government and royal family related developers — such as Emaar Properties, Meraas, Dubai Properties and Nakheel — which have attractive land banks and economies of scale, continue to launch new developments.
“In such a scenario, we think residential real estate prices could decline by 10-15 percent in 2019 and a further 5-10 percent in 2020. In this case, we expect no upside for Dubai residential real estate prices in 2021, as we expect it will take a while for the market to absorb oversupply,” she said.
S&P recently downgraded Damac, one of the biggest Dubai-based developers, to BB- rating, on weak market prospects.
However, Jagtiani said that, despite the “significant oversupply” from existing projects, several factors should held stabilize the market: Few, if any, major product launches; improved affordability and “bargain hunting” by bulk buyers; and a resurgence of Asian, especially Chinese, investor interest in the market.
Jagtiani also said that government measures such as new ownership and visa regulations and reduction in government fees could help prevent prices falling more sharply, as well as “increased economic activity related to Dubai Expo 2020, which is expected to attract about 25 million visitors to the emirate.”
The outlook on property was part of a challenging assessment of the credit-worthiness of the emirate. “In our view, credit conditions deteriorated in Dubai in 2018, reducing the government’s ability to provide extraordinary financial support to its government related entities (GREs) if needed,” S&P said in a report. “The negative outlook on Dubai Electricity and Water
Authority (DEWA) partly reflects our concern that a real estate downturn beyond our base case could out increased pressure on government finances,” the report said.
It pointed out that about 70 percent of government revenues come from non-tax sources, including land transfer and mortgage registration fees, as well as charges for housing and municipality liabilities, as well as dividends from real estate developers it controls, like Emaar and Nakheel.
S&P was generally comfortable with the credit ratings of the emirate’s banking system, which has an estimated 20 percent exposure to real estate. “Banks in the UAE tend to generally display a good level of profitability and capitalization, giving them a good margin to absorb a moderate increase in risks,” the report said.