Biden vows to act fast on US stimulus

The closely watched US jobs data showed the unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 percent in January, but the economy added only 49,000 jobs. (AFP)
The closely watched US jobs data showed the unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 percent in January, but the economy added only 49,000 jobs. (AFP)
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Updated 09 February 2021

Biden vows to act fast on US stimulus

Biden vows to act fast on US stimulus
  • The world’s largest economy needs $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Friday seized on feeble US employment data to argue the world’s largest economy needs his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, which cleared a key Senate hurdle without support from the Republican opposition.

The closely watched jobs data showed the unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 percent in January, but the economy added only 49,000 jobs, the Labor Department said.

The anemic report made plain the ongoing struggles in the US as Americans cope with the largest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the world.

“I believe the American people are looking right now to their government for help,” Biden said after a meeting with top Democratic lawmakers. “So I’m going to act, I’m going to act fast.”

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would push for rapid approval of the package.

“Hopefully in a two-week period of time, we’ll send something over to the Senate,” she told reporters after the White House meeting.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The package includes a host of measures aimed at boosting the recovery, including aid to small businesses and the unemployed.
  • It includes funds to speed up vaccine distribution to contain the pandemic.
  • President Biden, however, has to concede somewhat on issues such as his proposal for a hike in the federal minimum wage to $15.

The House of Representatives approved a budget proposal by a narrow margin on Friday, following Senate Democrats who in the wee hours of the morning won a procedural vote setting the stage for passage of the president’s relief bill.

The package includes a host of measures aimed at boosting the recovery, including aid to small businesses and the unemployed, and funds to speed up vaccine distribution to contain the pandemic.

But in a sign of just how narrow the path to approval, Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote to overcome the objections of Republicans, who have balked at the high price tag.

Biden has shrugged off the criticism.

“The way I see it, the biggest risk is not going too big,” he said.

But he did have to concede somewhat on issues such as his proposal for a hike in the federal minimum wage to $15, telling CBS in an interview Friday that the measure likely would not pass.

“I don’t think it’s going to survive,” he admitted.

Nevertheless Biden’s efforts received a big endorsement, when IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva offered her support for the plan, and rejected the notion it was excessive.

“The US does have fiscal space to take additional relief and support measures,” she told reporters Friday.

And it is “appropriate” to use that firepower “given the exceptional uncertainties, and most importantly, given the fact that there is still a lot of pain for households and businesses.”

Analysts warn the monthly employment report indicates the economic recovery remains tied to the intensity of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Hiring will pick up as restrictions are relaxed but gains will be stronger once the economy can fully reopen,” Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics said.

“Until then, generous fiscal support will provide a safety net for households and businesses.”

The US last year endured its worst economic contraction since 1946, and the recovery has been uneven, with some sectors like housing bouncing back more quickly while other areas, such as travel and entertainment, are still suffering.

Unemployment in the world’s largest economy was at historically low rates before the pandemic struck, when massive business closures drove the jobless rate up to 14.7 percent.

It has declined in the months since, as some activity resumed, but at a progressively slower pace, and hiring in December fell.

There were warning signs for the economy throughout the latest data, which showed the workforce is 6.5 percent — 9.9 million positions — smaller than it was in February before the pandemic struck.


Jeddah Economic City: 90% of road, landscaping work done

Jeddah Economic City: 90% of road, landscaping work done
Updated 24 June 2021

Jeddah Economic City: 90% of road, landscaping work done

Jeddah Economic City: 90% of road, landscaping work done
  • The project will consist of three sectors: A financial district, a residential district and Al-Balad

JEDDAH: Jeddah Economic City — one of Saudi Arabia’s flagship megaprojects, which will include the world’s tallest tower — is nearing completion on all road construction and landscaping work, according to a senior executive on the project.

Speaking at the Urban Landscape Saudi 2021 event this week, Fady Nassim, executive head of urban planning for Jeddah Economic City, said the main goal of the 5.3-million-square-meter project is to create a habitable, economically beneficial and environmentally friendly space. “Ninety percent of the work on road construction and landscaping in the city is done,” he told delegates.

The city will consist of 210 towers that will be over 30 floors high, the centerpiece being Jeddah Tower, which will be around 1 km tall and will take over from Dubai’s Burj Khalifa as the world’s tallest building.

The project will consist of three sectors: A financial district, a residential district and Al-Balad, which will be a contemporary recreation of the old quarter of Jeddah.

Nassim said the landscaping will be done in a way that ensures plenty of green space and room for pedestrians, with less emphasis on cars and traffic.

Also speaking at the event, which was organized by the Saudi Contractors Authority, was Abdurahman Medallah, general manager for urban studies and policies at the Sharqia Development Authority.

He highlighted the fact that the rapid expansion of urban areas in the Kingdom is impacting agricultural land.

Medallah also highlighted the recently announced Saudi Green initiative, which aims to enhance rural areas and expand green areas in the Kingdom.

“Some of these targets are to increase the share of renewables, to reduce carbon emissions, to plant around 50 million trees, and to raise the percentage of protected areas to around 30 percent,” he said.


Egypt-UK trade up 8% to $722m in Q1 2021

Egypt-UK trade up 8% to $722m in Q1 2021
Updated 24 June 2021

Egypt-UK trade up 8% to $722m in Q1 2021

Egypt-UK trade up 8% to $722m in Q1 2021

CAIRO: Trade between Egypt and Britain increased 8 percent year-on-year to £519 million ($722 million) in the first quarter of 2021, said Nasser Hamed, director of the EU Administration at the Egyptian Commercial Office.

Egypt’s exports to the UK during the first quarter of 2021 amounted to about £219 million, down 1.8 percent year-on-year, while its imports from Britain amounted to about £300 million, down about 14 percent, according to the Middle East News Agency.

Hamed said British investment in Egypt amounted to about $5.3 billion, accounting for 33 percent of total European investments.

He added that Britain is the third-largest investing country in Egypt after the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Hamed said despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on exports over the last year, Egyptian food exports to Britain surged by about 76 percent to £24 million, consisting mainly of molasses, vegetable oils and fats, chocolate, vegetables, fruits, nuts and spices.

He added that with gross domestic product of about £1.9 trillion and total imports in 2020 of £493 billion, the British economy offers great potential for Egyptian exporters.

Hamed said following Brexit, the terms of the Egyptian-British partnership agreement is the same as those of the European partnership agreement, except for minor differences on issues related to quotas or export seasons for some products such as grapes and strawberries.


Catalyst Partners ready to raise more funds: CEO

Catalyst Partners ready to raise more funds: CEO
Updated 24 June 2021

Catalyst Partners ready to raise more funds: CEO

Catalyst Partners ready to raise more funds: CEO

DUBAI: Mubadala-backed fund Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners is ready to raise more capital after investing close to $1 billion over the last 18 months, its chief executive said.

The fund was set up by Abu Dhabi state fund Mubadala and US alternative asset manager Falcon Edge Capital in 2019 with $1 billion in capital.

CEO James Munce told Reuters Catalyst Partners had so far made 21 investments with an average ticket size of $50 million, with some deals investing up to $100 million.

“The plan is to go again. I think we have gone faster than expected,” Munce said in reference to adding more capital.

No decision had been made on when or how much more capital would be committed, he said.

“My view on it is this can grow to be another $1 billion and we have $2 billion deployed over the next 18 months from here. That will be a four year-track record of a $2 billion fund and we would start to get some relevance in the region,” he said.

Catalyst Partners was set up to support the development of Abu Dhabi’s ADGM financial center, which opened in 2015, while also achieving financial returns, according to its website.

Its investments have included an American financial technology startup developing blockchain tools for banks and an Abu Dhabi-based aircraft leasing firm. 


Yemeni riyal drops as Houthis renew ban on new banknotes

Yemeni riyal drops as Houthis renew ban on new banknotes
Updated 24 June 2021

Yemeni riyal drops as Houthis renew ban on new banknotes

Yemeni riyal drops as Houthis renew ban on new banknotes
  • Economists are now warning that the Houthis will use the latest measures to snoop into exchange firms and people’s lives

ALEXANDRIA: Yemen’s currency on Thursday reached a new low after the Iran-backed Houthi militia renewed its ban on banknotes printed by the Yemeni government and banned people from moving cash from government-controlled areas to their territories, Yemeni officials and economists said.

Local currency dealers said the Yemeni riyal traded at 940 against the US dollar in the black market on Thursday compared to 930 last week, shortly after the Houthi-controlled Central Bank in Sanaa circulated an order that warned people against using new money that looks like the old banknotes available in their territories.

To evade the Houthi ban and address the shortage of cash in the market, the Aden-based Central Bank of Yemen has recently pumped into the market billions of large 1,000-riyal banknotes similar to the banknotes used by the Houthis.

Local media reported that the Houthis stepped up security at their checkpoints, searching for the new banknotes.

On Thursday, Hamed Rezq, a journalist loyal to the Houthis, accused the US of launching an economic war on the Yemeni economy by allowing printing and circulating new banknotes.

“This is part of the US economic war on Yemen after Washington ran out of military options and (its) deception and political pressures have failed,” he tweeted. 
In December 2019, the Houthis banned the use of banknotes printed by the legitimate and internationally recognized government, giving residents a month to hand over their cash or face punishment.

The Houthi decision sparked outrage across Yemen, pushed up transfer charges from government-controlled areas to Houthi-ruled areas, and led to a halt in the payment of salaries to thousands of public servants.

Travelers from government-controlled areas to Sanaa told Arab News that they were forced into buying Saudi riyals or exchanging the new banknotes with old ones at inflated prices.

Economists are now warning that the Houthis will use the latest measures to snoop into exchange firms and people’s lives.

“This step will allow the Houthi group to interfere more in the work of banks, exchange companies and even ordinary citizens. Using its security grip, the group will find a justification for confiscating money and interfering in people's privacy in search of ‘fake currency’ as it describes it,” Mustafa Nasr, director of the Economic Media Center, said.

He added that the current economic war between the legitimate government and the Houthis would have implications on the country’s troubled economy and people’s lives.

Nasr also criticized the Yemeni government for printing money without coverage and its loose grip on the exchange market in the liberated provinces.

“The injection of the new cash by the Central Bank aggravates the problem in terms of inflation and it weakens the currency,” he said, advising the government to increase revenues and curb speculative activities by local money dealers in areas under its control.

“The fall of the riyal in areas under the control of the legitimate government is caused by currency speculation and corruption, not due to a real demand for currency,” Nasr said.


Saudi bourse’s 2020 net profit surged ahead of listing

Saudi bourse’s 2020 net profit surged ahead of listing
Updated 24 June 2021

Saudi bourse’s 2020 net profit surged ahead of listing

Saudi bourse’s 2020 net profit surged ahead of listing
  • Net profit rose 227 percent in 2020 from a year earlier

DUBAI: Saudi Tadawul Group, the owner and operator of the country’s stock market, said its net profit rose 227 percent in 2020 from a year earlier, while revenue more than doubled with a boost from trading commissions.
It posted a profit after zakat or Islamic tax of 500.5 million riyals ($133.5 million), it said in a statement.
Unlisted Tadawul gave a peak of its earnings ahead of a planned initial public offering later this year that will allow it to expand and strengthen its position globally.
Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange has converted itself into a holding company ahead of the listing.
Tadawul is the ninth largest exchange in the world in terms of market capitalization which stood at around $2.6 trillion, partly boosted by the listing oil giant Saudi Aramco in 2019.