Lebanon to resume IMF talks, begin reforms, draft policy statement says

Lebanon to resume IMF talks, begin reforms, draft policy statement says
New Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government will also resume negotiations with creditors over a restructuring of public debt on which Lebanon defaulted last year. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 September 2021

Lebanon to resume IMF talks, begin reforms, draft policy statement says

Lebanon to resume IMF talks, begin reforms, draft policy statement says
  • New government will also resume negotiations with creditors over a restructuring of public debt
  • The draft said the government was committed to resuming talks with the IMF for a short- and medium-term support plan

BEIRUT: The Lebanese government will resume negotiations with the International Monetary Fund while beginning reforms demanded by donors, according to a draft policy program that aims to tackle one of the worst financial meltdowns in history.
New Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government will also resume negotiations with creditors over a restructuring of public debt on which Lebanon defaulted last year, the draft seen by Reuters on Wednesday said.
The government was agreed on Friday after more than a year of political conflict over seats in cabinet that left the country rudderless as more than three-quarters of the population fell into poverty and shortages crippled normal life.
The cabinet is due to meet on Thursday to approve the draft, which will then go to a vote of confidence in parliament.
Underscoring the gravity of the situation, the policy program was drawn up in a matter of days, much faster than the weeks the process has taken in the past.
The draft said the government was committed to resuming talks with the IMF for a short- and medium-term support plan.
Donors want to see Lebanon enact reforms, including measures to tackle the corruption and graft that led to the economic collapse, before they will unlock billions of dollars of assistance already earmarked for the country.
Talks with the IMF broke down last summer when Lebanon’s political elite and banking sector objected to the scale of financial losses set out in a recovery plan drawn up by the previous government.
The draft program said the Mikati government would renew and develop the previous financial recovery plan, which set out a shortfall in the financial system of some $90 billion — a figure endorsed by the IMF.
The government will also draw up a plan to “correct the situation of (the) banking sector,” which has been paralyzed since late 2019, the draft said.
Lebanon’s financial system unraveled in late 2019.
The root cause was decades of profligate spending by the state and the unsustainable way in which it was financed.
As dollars dried up, depositors were frozen out of their accounts. The value of hard currency savings has plummeted by up to 80 percent since then, with the Lebanese pound collapsing by 90 percent from a peg that had existed for more than two decades.
The program draft said the government was committed to all the articles set out in a reform initiative drawn up by France, which has been at the forefront of efforts to help Lebanon.
The government will work with parliament to pass a capital control law, the draft document said.
It also said parliamentary elections due next spring would be held on time.


UN Security Council calls on Lebanon’s new government to enact swift reforms

UN Security Council calls on Lebanon’s new government to enact swift reforms
Updated 10 min 34 sec ago

UN Security Council calls on Lebanon’s new government to enact swift reforms

UN Security Council calls on Lebanon’s new government to enact swift reforms

LONDON: The UN Security Council on Monday welcomed the formation of a new government in Lebanon.

The administration led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati was announced earlier this month after more than a year of political stalemate.

In that time, Lebanon has plunged deeper into economic collapse with widespread blackouts and fuel shortages.

The Security Council statement “urged Lebanon’s new government to swiftly and transparently implement the well‑known, necessary and tangible reforms.” 

The changes are needed to deal with “the urgent security, economic, social and humanitarian challenges facing the country,” the statement said.

The council said it was important to hold free, fair and inclusive elections next year and an independent transparent investigation into the Beirut port explosions that decimated the city last year.


Cryptocurrencies make a quick comeback from last week’s turmoil: Market wrap

Cryptocurrencies make a quick comeback from last week’s turmoil: Market wrap
Updated 10 min 36 sec ago

Cryptocurrencies make a quick comeback from last week’s turmoil: Market wrap

Cryptocurrencies make a quick comeback from last week’s turmoil: Market wrap
  • The two major cryptocurrencies regained most of their losses on Monday

RIYADH: The two major cryptocurrencies regained most of their losses on Monday, as the market quickly rebounded from last week’s turmoil sparked by the crackdown in China.

Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency in trading internationally, traded higher on Monday, rising by 3.5 percent to $44,008.57 at 12:32 p.m. Riyadh time.

Ether, the second most-traded cryptocurrency, traded at $3,130.43, up 8.56 percent, according to data from CoinDesk.

Meanwhile, the second-largest stablecoin by market valuation, USDC, has seen its capital increase significantly, rising by more than $10 billion in 125 days.

As of Sept.25, there are $129.3 billion worth of stablecoin assets in existence which represents 6.54 percent of the cryptocurrency economy.

Many US lawmakers see China’s crackdown on cryptocurrencies as a perfect opportunity for American leadership in the crypto space.

“China’s authoritarian crackdown on crypto, including Bitcoin, is a big opportunity for the US. It’s also a reminder of our huge structural advantage over China,” Sen. Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania said.

In comments to media, Indonesia’s Trade Minister Muhammad Luthfi asserted that the Indonesian government would not follow the lead of China, which has confirmed a ban on all cryptocurrency transactions.

Noting that the state will limit itself to ensuring that it is not used in illegal activities, the statement comes after local cryptocurrency exchanges reported a significant increase in trading volume this year. “We don’t prohibit it, but we will tighten the regulations,” said Luthfi

Cryptocurrency trading on 13 local exchanges licensed by the Indonesian Futures Exchange Supervisory Board also increased by 40 percent in the first five months of 2021. During 2020, the volume of transactions reached 65 trillion rupees ($4.5 billion), according to the reports.

 

Crash ahead

Renowned author and investor Robert Kiyosaki, author of the bestselling book “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” predicts that a giant stock market crash is coming in October, noting that gold, silver and bitcoin may also crash.

"Giant stock market crash coming October. Why? Treasury and Fed short of T-bills. Gold, silver, bitcoin may crash too. Cash best for picking up bargains after crash. Not selling gold, silver, bitcoin, yet have lots of cash for life after stock market crash. Stocks dangerous. Careful,” Kiyosaki tweeted.

 

Tipping point

Twitter users on Apple’s iOS will now be able to link third-party tipping services to their profile on the social networking site. This will include the ability to link both Bitcoin and Lightning Network addresses.

The tipping feature will be entirely dependent on third-party payment services such as the Jack Mallers Strike app. The company said that it “is not in the flow of funds" and will not take a percentage of tipping proceeds.

Company representatives said that the Tips feature will be rolling out to the Twitter app for iOS and will be available on Android soon.

Twitter also announced that it will add non-fungible tokens verification features to the platform. No specific timeline has been set for this, which is still under development.


Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein contracts COVID-19

Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein contracts COVID-19
Updated 27 September 2021

Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein contracts COVID-19

Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein contracts COVID-19
  • King Abdullah II and Queen Rania will self isolate for five days
  • Crown prince showing only mild symptoms

AMMAN: Jordan's Crown Prince Hussein has tested positive for COVID-19, the Jordanian Royal Court said Monday, requiring the king and the queen to self-isolate.

The Royal Court said Prince Hussein bin Abdullah tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday evening after undergoing a routine examination.

The statement said the prince showed only mild symptoms and remains in "very good health."

The Royal Court added that King Abdullah II and Queen Rania both tested negative on Monday and will self-isolate for five days.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Jordan has remained steady over the last few months and  nearly all containment measures have been lifted, including a curfew.

The kingdom on Monday registered 17 new COVID-19 deaths and 1,015 virus cases, increasing the overall number to have contracted the disease to 820,798 and the death toll to 10,697.


More than 50 companies plan listing on Saudi stocks market, regulator says

More than 50 companies plan listing on Saudi stocks market, regulator says
Updated 27 September 2021

More than 50 companies plan listing on Saudi stocks market, regulator says

More than 50 companies plan listing on Saudi stocks market, regulator says

More than 50 companies are waiting to be listed on the Tadawul, according to the chairman of the Capital Market Authority.

Speaking at the Financial Sector Conference on Monday, Mohammed Al-Quwaiz said he expected to have over 30 listed by the end of the year.

“If we look at the numbers today we have over 50 files that are either offering or listing either in the primary market or the Tadawul market,” he said.

“Our expectation is obviously this is subject to market norms and the readiness of these businesses but we imagine that we will end the year with over 30 listed,” he added.


Instagram pausing Instagram Kids after pushback

Instagram pausing Instagram Kids after pushback
Updated 27 September 2021

Instagram pausing Instagram Kids after pushback

Instagram pausing Instagram Kids after pushback
  • Instagram puts Instagram kids on hold so it can address concerns about the vulnerability of younger users
  • The company instead will be expanding opt-in parental supervision tools to teen accounts of those 13 and older.
LONDON: Instagram is putting a hold on the development of Instagram kids, geared toward children under 13, so it can address concerns about the vulnerability of younger users.
Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, wrote in a blog post Monday that a delay will give the company time to “work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today.”
The announcement follows a withering series by the Wall Street Journal, which reported that Facebook was aware that the use of Instagram by some teenage girls led to mental health issues and anxiety.
Yet the development of Instagram for a younger audience was met with broader push back almost immediately.
Josh Golin, executive director of children’s digital advocacy group Fairplay, urged the company to permanently pull the plug on the app.
“We urge Facebook to use this ‘pause’ to actually engage with the independent child development experts who understand how Instagram will undermine young children’s wellbeing,” he said in a prepared statement.
Facebook announced the development of Instagram for kids in March, saying at the time that it was “exploring a parent-controlled experience.” The push back was almost immediate and in May, a bipartisan group of 44 attorneys general wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to abandon the project, citing the well being of children.
They cited increased cyberbullying, possible vulnerability to online predators, and what they called Facebook’s “checkered record” in protecting children on its platforms. Facebook faced similar criticism in 2017 when it launched the Messenger Kids app, touted as a way for children to chat with family members and friends approved by parents.
While concerns about Instagram for kids is ongoing, Mosseri said that Instagram believes it’s better for children under 13 to have a specific platform for age-appropriate content, and that other companies like TikTok and YouTube have app versions for that age group.
“We firmly believe that it’s better for parents to have the option to give their children access to a version of Instagram that is designed for them — where parents can supervise and control their experience — than relying on an app’s ability to verify the age of kids who are too young to have an ID,” he wrote.
Mosseri said that Instagram for kids is meant for those between the ages of 10 and 12, not younger. It will require parental permission to join, be ad free, and will include age-appropriate content and features. Parents will be able to supervise the time their children spend on the app, oversee who can message them, who can follow them and who they can follow.
While work is being paused on Instagram Kids, the company will be expanding opt-in parental supervision tools to teen accounts of those 13 and older. More details on these tools will be disclosed in the coming months, Mosseri said.