Economic recovery seen key to Macron’s reelection

Economic recovery seen key to Macron’s reelection
The French government plans to allow outdoor areas of restaurants and cafes, as well as museums and nonessential shops, to resume operating on May 19. (AFP)
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Updated 09 May 2021

Economic recovery seen key to Macron’s reelection

Economic recovery seen key to Macron’s reelection
  • French president focusing on saving jobs, reviving pandemic-hit economy

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for bringing France out of the pandemic are not just about resuscitating long-closed restaurants, boutiques and museums. They are also about preparing his possible campaign for a second term.

A year before the next presidential election, Macron is focusing on saving jobs and reviving the pandemic-battered French economy as his country inches out of its third partial lockdown.

The centrist president’s ability to meet the challenge will be significant for his political future and for France. While he has not officially declared his candidacy, Macron has made comments suggesting he intends to seek reelection. And he has pushed recent legislation on issues that potential rivals on the right and the left hold dear, from security to climate change.

Pollsters suggest Macron, who four years ago became the youngest president in French history, has a good chance of winning the presidency again in 2022 despite his government’s oft-criticized management of the pandemic and earlier challenges to his policies.

The coronavirus reopening strategy Macron unveiled this month calls for most restrictions on public life to be lifted June 30, when half of France’s population is expected to have received at least one vaccine shot. 

With up to 3 million people in France getting vaccinated each week, the government plans to allow outdoor areas of restaurants and cafes, as well as museums and nonessential shops, to resume operating on May 19.

In an interview with French media, Macron said he would visit France’s regions over the summer “to feel the pulse of the country” and to engage with people in a mass consultation aimed at “turning the page of that moment in the nation’s life.” “No individual destiny is worthwhile without a collective project,” he said, giving the latest hint about a potential reelection bid.

At the moment, all opinion polls show Macron and Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader he beat in a presidential runoff election in 2017, again reaching the runoff next year. The polls also forecast that Macron would defeat National Rally leader Le Pen again, though by a smaller margin.

Macron was elected on a promise to make the French economy more competitive while preserving the country’s welfare system.

French politics expert Luc Rouban, a senior researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research, said the president’s immediate goal “is to show he is still able to continue implementing his project, which has more or less been stopped by the health crisis.”

Macron needs to show he is addressing inequality, economic mobility and other social justice issues that are important to France’s left wing, Rouban said.

In the French newspapers interview, Macron also praised the country’s benefits for low-income workers, who since 2019 have received up to additional €100 ($120) per month.

Macron’s public image appears to have partially recovered from drubbing it took at the height of the “yellow vest” movement, which started in late 2018 to oppose a fuel tax and grew into a weekly anti-government protest targeting alleged social and economic injustice. At the time, critics angry over Macron eliminating a wealth tax labeled him the “president of the rich.”

During the virus crisis, Macron applied a “whatever it takes” strategy based on state intervention to save jobs and businesses, including a massive partial unemployment program and subsidized child care leave. The government also approved a two-year €100 billion rescue plan to revive the economy.

Macron promised there would be no tax increases to repay the debt, which soared last year to 115.7 percent of gross domestic product.

Despite strong opposition from unions about planned changes to the pension system and unemployment benefits, he has pledged to keep reforming “until the last quarter of hour” of his five-year term, which runs out in May 2022.


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.