World Bank rejects El Salvador request for help on bitcoin implementation

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A banner that reads "We accept Bitcoin, free, fast and without contagion" is seen at a beach cafe on Punta Roca Beach in La Libertad, El Salvador. (REUTERS/Jose Cabezas)
Bitcoin podcaster Peter McCormack meets with El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele in San Salvador, El Salvador, on June 15, 2021. (Peter Mccormack/Handout via REUTERS)
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Bitcoin podcaster Peter McCormack meets with El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele in San Salvador, El Salvador, on June 15, 2021. (Peter Mccormack/Handout via REUTERS)
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Updated 17 June 2021

World Bank rejects El Salvador request for help on bitcoin implementation

Bitcoin podcaster Peter McCormack meets with El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele in San Salvador, El Salvador, on June 15, 2021. (Peter Mccormack/Handout via REUTERS)
  • El Salvador this month became the first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender
  • World Bank expressed reservations over the bitcoin's "environmental and transparency shortcomings”

SAN SALVADOR/NEW YORK: The World Bank said on Wednesday it could not assist El Salvador’s bitcoin implementation given environmental and transparency drawbacks.
“We are committed to helping El Salvador in numerous ways including for currency transparency and regulatory processes,” said a World Bank spokesperson via email.
“While the government did approach us for assistance on bitcoin, this is not something the World Bank can support given the environmental and transparency shortcomings.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Salvadoran Finance Minister Alejandro Zelaya said the country had sought technical assistance from the Bank as it seeks to use bitcoin as a parallel legal tender alongside the US dollar.
The minister also said ongoing negotiations with the International Monetary Fund have been successful, though the fund said last week it saw “macroeconomic, financial and legal issues” with the country’s adoption of bitcoin.
Zelaya said on Wednesday the IMF was “not against” the bitcoin implementation. The IMF did not respond to a request for comment.
Investors have recently demanded higher premiums to hold Salvadoran debt, on growing concerns over the completion of the IMF deal, key to patching budget gaps through 2023.
On Wednesday, bonds sold off across the curve with the 2032 issue down more than 2 cents at 96.25 cents on the dollar. The spread of Salvadoran debt to US Treasuries dipped to 705 basis points after hitting on Tuesday a four-month high of 725 bps.
“There is no fast track for a solution on an IMF program and even uncertainty on whether the bitcoin proposal is compatible with diplomatic US (or) multilateral relations,” said Siobhan Morden, head of Latin America fixed income strategy at Amherst Pierpont Securities in New York.
El Salvador this month became the first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender, with President Nayib Bukele touting the cryptocurrency’s potential as a remittance currency for Salvadorans overseas.
This month, Bukele also pulled out of an anticorruption accord with the Organization of American States, which dismayed the US government, as Washington looks to stem corruption in Central America as part of its immigration policy.
“The recognition of a ‘Bukele’ risk premium has probably done some permanent damage to investor sentiment,” Morden said on her client note.
However, the market may be focusing too much on the news headlines and not enough on the possibility of a deal with the IMF, according to Shamaila Khan, head of EM debt strategies at AllianceBernstein in New York.
“It is important for El Salvador to get the IMF program done. If it was lost on them, they wouldn’t have the conversations,” she said.
“Our view is too much risk is priced in at these levels.”


South Korea seeks to boost clean energy efforts with UAE cooperation

South Korea seeks to boost clean energy efforts with UAE cooperation
Updated 17 January 2022

South Korea seeks to boost clean energy efforts with UAE cooperation

South Korea seeks to boost clean energy efforts with UAE cooperation
  • Seoul and Abu Dhabi reach landmark $3.5 billion defense agreement — largest in South Korea’s arms history
  • President Moon Jae-in scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday

SEOUL: South Korea is seeking to increase hydrogen cooperation with the UAE in a bid for a sustainable future and carbon neutrality, President Moon Jae-in said on Monday in Abu Dhabi during his Middle East tour to explore business opportunities in the region.

Moon arrived in the UAE on Saturday for a three-day visit as part of his week-long Middle East trip. From Abu Dhabi he will fly for talks in Riyadh.

“Through hydrogen cooperation between the UAE and Korea, I hope that we can move forward in a sustainable future and carbon neutrality,” he said while addressing the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

As South Korea wants to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, Moon said Seoul wants to bolster cooperation with the UAE in the development of carbon-capture technologies to create what is known as blue hydrogen — a form of the fuel obtained from natural gas in a process that stops carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere.

The UAE is one of the world’s foremost pioneers in the field.

Prof. Jung Sang-ryul of the Institute of Middle Eastern Affairs at Myungji University in Seoul told Arab News that with UAE-Korean hydrogen cooperation, the industry “can make a greater leap forward.

“The hydrogen industry is a field for future cooperation,” he said. “The UAE has strengths in the production of green and blue hydrogen, whereas South Korea (has) in utilization, storage and distribution, including hydrogen-powered vehicles, charging stations, fuel cells and liquid transportation.”

During Moon’s visit, Seoul and Abu Dhabi also reached a landmark $3.5 billion defense agreement on Sunday, under which the UAE will purchase KM-SAM surface-to-air-missiles, known as Cheongung II. It is the largest deal in the history of South Korea’s arm exports.

“The UAE is the first foreign nation to operate the Cheongung II,” Kang Eun-ho, commissioner of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, Seoul’s arms procurement agency, said in a statement. “The deal is the result of the bilateral defense cooperation based on mutual trust and will serve as a watershed moment for the two nation’s strategic defense partnership.”

The KM-SAM was developed with technical support from Russia to replace the older Hawk surface-to-air missiles that had been in service in 1964. Equipped with a multi-function phased array 3D radar, the interceptor can “hit-to-kill” hostile missiles coming in at altitudes below 40 km.

On the sidelines of the missile acquisition contract, the two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding on collaboration in defense technologies, including the potential development of weapons systems.

The UAE is South Korea’s top export market and biggest partner in human resource exchanges in the Middle East.

South Korean firms have participated in the development of Emirati oil fields and the Barakah nuclear power plant — the first nuclear power station in the Arabian Peninsula, which started operations last year.

On Tuesday, the South Korean president will continue his trip to Saudi Arabia.

His office said in a statement that Moon is scheduled to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“The leaders of the two nations are expected to discuss energy and infrastructure, as well as health care, science and technology, hydrogen, intellectual property and education,”the office said.

On Wednesday, Moon is scheduled to meet Gulf Cooperation Council secretary-general Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf to discuss the resumption of negotiations for a free trade agreement between Seoul and GCC.

South Korea and the GCC started talks on a free trade deal in 2007, but negotiations had stalled and were suspended in 2010.


Europe energy savings practices is inefficient, auditors say

Europe energy savings practices is inefficient, auditors say
Updated 17 January 2022

Europe energy savings practices is inefficient, auditors say

Europe energy savings practices is inefficient, auditors say

BRUSSELS: More than 2 billion euros of European Union funding to help businesses save energy contributed little to climate change targets and in some cases funded investments that would have happened anyway, according to an auditor report released on Monday.

The EU regards curbing energy use as essential to meeting goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and record high gas and power prices in recent months have increased the focus on measures to save energy.
But so far, EU funding to support energy savings for businesses has not been effective, the European Court of Auditors said in a report.

The EU spent 2.4 billion euros ($2.74 billion) from its budget over 2014-2020 to support energy efficiency in enterprises, including energy audits and measures to cut energy consumption or energy intensity in industry, services or the public sector.

The auditors estimated that projects backed by that funding achieved 0.3 percent of the annual savings needed to reach the EU’s target to cut final energy consumption by 32.5 percent by 2030, compared to projected levels.

“European Union funding is insufficiently linked to business needs — there was no proper analysis of what is really needed by the enterprises,” ECA member Samo Jereb told Reuters.
Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Poland, accounted for the bulk of the support.
Brussels plans to increase its 2030 energy saving target, and last year unveiled plans to renovate millions of buildings to achieve the huge energy efficiency improvements needed to meet its climate goals. Residential energy savings were not covered by the auditors’ report.

 

 

 


Singapore’s central bank issues guidelines to discourage crypto public trading: Crypto moves

Singapore’s central bank issues guidelines to discourage crypto public trading: Crypto moves
Updated 17 January 2022

Singapore’s central bank issues guidelines to discourage crypto public trading: Crypto moves

Singapore’s central bank issues guidelines to discourage crypto public trading: Crypto moves

RIYADH: Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency internationally, traded lower on Monday, falling by 1.48 percent to $42,558 at 6:51 p.m. Riyadh time.

Ether, the second most traded cryptocurrency, was priced at $3,241 down by 3.14 percent, according to data from Coindesk.

Other news

The Monetary Authority of Singapore issued on Monday guidelines restricting cryptocurrency trading service providers from promoting their services to the general public, as part of an effort to protect retail investors from potential risks.

In the new guidelines, MAS asserts that companies should not engage in marketing or advertising of DPT services in public areas in Singapore or through third parties, such as social media influencers, to promote DPT services to the general public. They can only market or advertise on their own corporate websites, mobile applications or official social media accounts.

Singapore is a popular location for cryptocurrency companies due to its relatively clear regulatory and operational environment and is among the forerunners globally in developing a formal licensing framework.

The city state authorities have also repeatedly warned that trading in digital payment tokens or cryptocurrency, is highly risky and unsuitable for the general public, as they are subject to sharp speculative swings.

“MAS strongly encourages the development of blockchain technology and innovative application of crypto tokens in value-adding use cases” Loo Siew Yee, MAS assistant managing director of policy, payments and financial crime, said in a statement.

“But the trading of cryptocurrencies is highly risky and not suitable for the general public. DPT service providers should therefore not portray the trading of DPTs in a manner that trivializes the high risks of trading in DPTs, nor engage in marketing activities that target the general public.”

Mining 

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Block, said in a tweet that the fintech company is building an open bitcoin-mining system, as the newly rebranded company looks to expand beyond its payment business and into new technologies like blockchain.

In October, Dorsey said that Block, formerly Square, was considering building a bitcoin-mining system based on custom silicon and open source for individuals and businesses worldwide.

In a tweet thread on Thursday, Block’s general manager for hardware, Thomas Templeton, laid out the company’s plans to build the mining system.

“We want to make mining more distributed and efficient in every way, from buying, to set up, to maintenance, to mining. We’re interested because mining goes far beyond creating new bitcoin. We see it as a long-term need for a future that is fully decentralized and permissionless,” Templeton tweeted. 


Kuwait’s budget deficit 682 million dinars in 9 months

Kuwait’s budget deficit 682 million dinars in 9 months
Updated 18 January 2022

Kuwait’s budget deficit 682 million dinars in 9 months

Kuwait’s budget deficit 682 million dinars in 9 months

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait’s oil revenue reached 11.5 billion dinars ($38.10 billion) in the nine months to the end of December, the Ministry of Finance said in a report on Monday.
The Gulf OPEC member recorded a budget deficit of 682.4 million dinars in the first nine months of its financial year, which ends in March 2022, the ministry’s preliminary report said.
($1 = 0.3019 Kuwaiti dinars)


Military-affiliated companies to be listed on the Egyptian bourse next year: PM

Military-affiliated companies to be listed on the Egyptian bourse next year: PM
Updated 17 January 2022

Military-affiliated companies to be listed on the Egyptian bourse next year: PM

Military-affiliated companies to be listed on the Egyptian bourse next year: PM

RIYADH: Some military affiliated companies operating in the economy and civil sectors are being restructured to be listed on Cairo's Stock Exchange next year, Egypt's Prime Minister, Mostafa Madbouly, said.

The companies will be available to all Egyptians, not just the private sector,  he added during his interview on a BBC program, citing President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s statement. 

Soliman did not disclose the names of other companies affiliated with the Egyptian army that are planned to be listed, until the validity of their legal structures is verified. 

“We have offered more than 25 percent of the wholly state-owned e-finance company on the EGX, and many companies, including companies affiliated with the armed forces, are scheduled to be offered on the stock exchange next year,” Madbouly said.  

He added that the size of the armed forces' institutions represents less than 1 percent of the Egyptian economy.

Ayman Soliman, the CEO of the Sovereign Fund of Egypt had previously revealed the organisation was in the process of completing the legal restructuring of two affiliated companies, namely the Safi food company and the Watania petroleum distribution company, with both set to be listed on the stock exchange.