Power struggle rages over Russia’s state statistics

Power struggle rages over Russia’s state statistics
A general view of a building of the Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat) in Moscow. Russia's economy expanded for the first time in two years in the fourth quarter of 2016, data from the state statistics service showed. (AFP)
Updated 03 April 2017

Power struggle rages over Russia’s state statistics

Power struggle rages over Russia’s state statistics

MOSCOW: Reports that Russia’s Economy Ministry is set to take control of the national statistics agency has sparked fears that indicators crucial to monitoring the country’s economic woes could become skewed.

Data from the Rosstat state statistics agency has been key in measuring the extent of the country’s economic crisis, triggered three years ago by tumbling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine, and is thus key to forecasts about when recovery is possible.
With Russians worried about their shrinking purchasing power and a presidential election due next year, perceptions about the economy and its outlook are touchy topics.
Enter into this volatile mix a switch by Rosstat to new calculation methods that are in line with European standards, which has caused rampant confusion inside the agency that has resulted in it publishing reports late and issuing major corrections to its findings.
Widespread issues over the adoption of the new methodology have prompted the government to prepare to make Rosstat — which currently reports to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev — answerable to the Economy Ministry in a bid to exercise more control over it, Russian media has reported.
The prime minister’s current oversight is mostly administrative, while the Economy Ministry is responsible for producing forecasts for the government based on Rosstat data.
Analysts fear that as the presidential polls approach Rosstat could come under pressure to produce statistics that would paint a rosy picture of the economy, much as in the Soviet era when authorities used statistics for propaganda purposes, boasting about exceeding production plans.
“This is a pre-election year and if the main socioeconomic indicators are bad, this would look like a lack of respect for the promises” President Vladimir Putin made during his 2012 campaign, said Igor Nikolayev, an analyst at FBK Grant Thornton, an auditing and consulting group.
“If growth reaches 2 percent, then we will say that the sanctions bothered us but all the indicators are now positive,” he added.
Some of Rosstat’s new calculations have proved encouraging for authorities. The agency revised upward its production indicator and calculated that the economy had contracted by only 2.8 percent in 2015 — instead of the 3.7 percent it had previously estimated.
It also said that the economy contracted by only 0.2 percent last year, instead of the 0.6 percent it had previously measured. These changes in Russia’s indicators have transformed the storyline of the country’s economic crisis. With the new figures, Russia’s government can proudly proclaim that the economy has shown unexpected resistance to the double shock of low oil prices and sanctions thanks to a boost to the industry from the weak ruble and dynamic small businesses.
Last month a low indicator for industrial production that was published behind schedule by Rosstat sent a jolt through the Economy Ministry.
Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin, who took on the position in November, said Rosstat’s transition to its new methodology had been “very unfortunate” and that he expected its figures to undergo “major revisions” while his ministry prepares to announce its forecasts.
In a 2013 report, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) group of leading economies praised Rosstat’s “high level of professionalism” while saying the agency should improve its methodology for calculating gross domestic product (GDP) and its compliance with international standards.
Former Deputy Economy Minister Alexei Vedev told TASS news agency that Rosstat’s rocky transition to its new methods was the result of resistance by the agency’s ageing staff and the inability to offer attractive wages to young economists.
Changing the supervision of the agency will not solve the problem, Vedev said.
“Our responsibilities will not change with our status,” the head of Rosstat, Alexander Surinov, told Vedomosti business daily, stressing that Russian legislation guarantees the agency’s “professional independence.”
Analysts, however, are skeptical that Rosstat will be able to steer clear of government influence. “The statistics agency must be as independent as possible,” Nikolayev said.
“I have no doubt that a change in leadership will affect Rosstat’s activities, and this will affect the reliability of statistics.”


G7 should invest $10tr to stoke economic recovery

G7 should invest $10tr to stoke economic recovery
Updated 28 min 6 sec ago

G7 should invest $10tr to stoke economic recovery

G7 should invest $10tr to stoke economic recovery
  • Summit will be chaired by Britain’s Johnson in Cornwall, southern England, on June 11-13

LONDON: G7 countries should invest $10 trillion to stoke an investment-driven recovery that puts COVID-19 vaccines in arms and triggers a sweeping energy transformation to slow climate change, according to a report requested by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

US President Joe Biden is expected to join other Group of Seven leaders at a G7 summit chaired by Britain’s Johnson in Cornwall, southern England, on June 11-13.

Founded in 1975 as a forum for the West’s richest nations to discuss crises such as the OPEC oil embargo, the G7 will discuss what it perceives as the biggest threats: China, Russia, climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

Nicholas Stern, professor of economics at the London School of Economics, said in a report for Johnson that the G7 was a crucial opportunity for the West’s richest economies to make a real change to the global economy.

“The transition to a zero-emissions and climate-resilient world provides the greatest economic, business and commercial opportunity of our time,” Stern said in the report.

“At the heart of the proposed vision for the economic response to the pandemic is a coordinated global program of investment for recovery, reconstruction and transformation that can boost all forms of capital — physical, human, natural and social,” Stern said.

G7 countries, he said, should set a collective goal to raise annual investment by 2 percent of GDP above pre-pandemic levels for this decade and beyond and improve the quality of investment — equal to about $1 trillion per year in additional investment over the next decade.

The G7 leaders should ensure a timely global roll-out of vaccines by immediately closing the $20 billion funding cap of COVAX, a global program to provide vaccines mainly for poor countries.

After Johnson called for countries to do more than produce “hot air” rhetoric on climate, the report said the G7 should come up with credible ways to meet Biden’s climate goals.

The G7 should commit to eliminating all fossil-fuel subsidies no later than 2025, lead a sweeping energy transition, end overseas support for fossil-fuel investments and consider a minimum corporate profit tax of 21 percent.


Copper hits record high on higher demand hopes

Copper hits record high on higher demand hopes
Updated 33 min 48 sec ago

Copper hits record high on higher demand hopes

Copper hits record high on higher demand hopes
  • Bullish investors bet that demand for copper will increase further as the world economy recovers from COVID-19 slumps and as investments into green energy sectors ramp up

HANOI: Copper prices touched record highs in both London and Shanghai markets on Monday on hopes for improved demand amid tightening supply.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange rose to an all-time high of $10,747.50 a ton earlier in the session before easing to $10,694 a ton, still up 2.7 percent.

The most-traded June copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange closed up 4.8 percent to 77,720 yuan ($12,094.62) a ton, after scaling a peak of 78,270 yuan earlier. Sentiment has been boosted following record high LME prices since 2011 hit on Friday.

Bullish investors bet that demand for copper will increase further as the world economy recovers from COVID-19 slumps and as investments into green energy sectors ramp up, while prices were also supported by tight supply in the concentrate market.

“Prices continue to rise as the world is talking about the global recovery and the need for metals,” said Malcolm Freeman, a director at UK broker Kingdom Futures, adding that the LME contract “looks set to attempt $11,000 on a technical basis.”

However, he noted that industrial players are not buying at this price level.

ShFE aluminum surpassed 20,000 yuan a ton, rising as much as 3.8 percent to 20,445 yuan a ton, its highest since January 2010, while ShFE zinc hit its highest since March 2008 of 23,065 yuan a ton. LME aluminum rose 2 percent to $2,590.50 a ton and zinc advanced 1 percent to $3,045 a ton.

A group of 15 key copper smelters in China have agreed to cut their purchases of raw material copper concentrate in 2021 by 8.8 percent year-on-year, state-backed research house Antaike said.


Egypt in talks with international firms to invest in data centers, says minister

Egypt is in talks with international companies to boost investment in data centers and information technology. (Shutterstock/Illustrative)
Egypt is in talks with international companies to boost investment in data centers and information technology. (Shutterstock/Illustrative)
Updated 10 May 2021

Egypt in talks with international firms to invest in data centers, says minister

Egypt is in talks with international companies to boost investment in data centers and information technology. (Shutterstock/Illustrative)
  • The aim is to take advantage of the geographical location of Egypt and the passage of a large number of international data cables between Asia and Europe

RIYADH: Egypt is in talks with international companies to boost investment in data centers and information technology, the country's communications minister revealed.

The aim is to take advantage of the geographical location of Egypt and the passage of a large number of international data cables between Asia and Europe, reaching North America, said Minister of Communications and Information Technology,Amr Talaat.

It is part of a wider push to build an integrated digital society, Al Arabiya reported.

That is why the budget for the information technology sector and the ministry’s budget has been growing over the last two years and will continue to grow over the next three years, he added.

“We have started building the Egypt digital platform that provides more than 70 digitized government services at the present time, and we look forward to increasing it to 170 services by the end of this year, and then increasing to include all government services within two years until 2023,” said the minister.


Egyptian prime minister discusses industry localization with US firm Bechtel

According to a statement issued by the Egyptian government, Madbouly said that the Bechtel delegation’s visit to Egypt was part of a strategy to enhance Egyptian-American cooperation. (AFP/File Photo)
According to a statement issued by the Egyptian government, Madbouly said that the Bechtel delegation’s visit to Egypt was part of a strategy to enhance Egyptian-American cooperation. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 10 May 2021

Egyptian prime minister discusses industry localization with US firm Bechtel

According to a statement issued by the Egyptian government, Madbouly said that the Bechtel delegation’s visit to Egypt was part of a strategy to enhance Egyptian-American cooperation. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Mostafa Madbouly said the country was currently localizing industrial production with the aim of rendering it more sustainable

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly held discussions with US construction firm Bechtel on ways to increase the use of local products and components in the development of projects in Egypt.

According to a statement issued by the Egyptian government, Madbouly said that the Bechtel delegation’s visit to Egypt was part of a strategy to enhance Egyptian-American cooperation across a number of sectors.

The prime minister said there were several projects in Egypt being developed in cooperation with American companies, like the petrochemical complex in the Ain Sokhna area. He added that he is following up on these megaprojects.

Madbouly also said that he welcomed the cooperation proposed by Bechtel in constructing a sixth metro line and in managing new cities.

Bechtel’s Infrastructure Global Business Unit President Shaun Kenny expressed his enthusiasm to work with the Egyptian government on megaprojects currently being implemented, especially the metro line.

The Egyptian prime minister stated that the country is currently localizing its industrial production with the aim of rendering it more sustainable.


Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals bid to buy Alameda Healthcare halted

Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted. (Cleopatra Hospitals Group)
Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted. (Cleopatra Hospitals Group)
Updated 10 May 2021

Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals bid to buy Alameda Healthcare halted

Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted. (Cleopatra Hospitals Group)
  • The proposed deal was originally announced by Cleopatra in late December 2020

RIYADH: Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted.

It made the disclosure in a filing to the Egyptian Stock Exchange on Monday.

The proposed deal was originally announced by Cleopatra in late December 2020, with an estimated value of about $500 million.

But it was quickly followed by an announcement from the Egyptian Competition Authority saying that it did not agree in principle to the acquisition.

It highlighted the potential consolidation of Cleopatra’s dominance over hospitals around Cairo and Giza.

Alameda Healthcare’s network includes four tertiary care hospitals in Cairo, two of which are currently being constructed. Once the facilities are fully commissioned Alameda Healthcare will have a capacity of 890 beds, according to its website. The network also includes facilities in Kuwait and London, outpatient clinics, diagnostic centers, specialist centers, pharmacies, and a rehabilitation center.