Iraq’s youth bulge threatens to buckle its weakened economy

Iraq’s youth bulge threatens to buckle its weakened economy
The Iraqi government has also been unable to prepare its population for the digital revolution that has rolled across the world over the last two decades adding to joblessness. (AP)
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Updated 10 March 2022

Iraq’s youth bulge threatens to buckle its weakened economy

Iraq’s youth bulge threatens to buckle its weakened economy
  • The Iraqi government is faced with huge challenges to prepare the country for its rising population on a range of fronts

RIYADH: Iraq has one of the youngest populations in the world, with seven million people between 14 and 29, but the country cannot put them to work.

The nation is faced with a significant youth bulge, which successive administrations have failed to harness to boost its weak economy.

Over 60 percent of Iraq’s population is under 25, and the youth population is projected to jump from seven to ten million between 2015 and 2030, according to a Save The Children report.

“This means that the government urgently needs to create jobs at an impossible rate, specifically in the private sector,” said Massaab Alousi, an Iraqi analyst in an interview with Arab News.

He added: “This leaves young people unprepared to compete for jobs regionally or internationally, because they do not have the necessary skills that private
firms want.”

The Iraqi government is faced with huge challenges to prepare the country for its rising population on a range of fronts, such as food security, economic diversification and infrastructure development, commentators note.

Feeding the country is already a major issue, despite its large swaths of farming land.

Between 2014 and 2017, farming revenue fell by almost half from around $15 billion to about $7.6 billion, due to Iraq and its allies’ war with Daesh, according to a report by US research body Atlantic Council. Agriculture’s value to the Iraq economy as a percentage of gross domestic product tumbled from around 20 percent before 2003 to 3.3 percent in 2019, according to the think tank. “There has also been a decline in fertile land, we have over 3 million dunum, or acres, of farming land that has been neglected that could produce food for the Iraq population,” said Hussein Thagab, an Iraqi journalist who specializes in economic issues, in an interview with Arab News.

This state of affairs has led to 4.1 million people needing humanitarian assistance in the country, according to UN reports.

Years of fighting in the country has left it awash with guns and many armed militias, which makes it hard for Iraq’s weak state to
put together a credible reconstruction plan.

The Iraqi economy is heavily dependent on oil, accounting for 96 percent of Iraq’s exports, 92 percent of government revenue, and 43 percent of GDP in 2019, according to Alousy.

The fact that Iraq’s rentier economy is based on oil, is unhealthy and unconstructive, noted Thagab. A rentier economy is one organized around income-generating assets, where overall incomes are dominated by rents and those that control them.

Thagab said: “Iraq has failed to organize, and diversify its exports and tap in its many resources such as gas and minerals and oil fields that are yet to come on stream.

“The legal system does not facilitate re-export, which hinders Iraq’s capabilities in being a transfer platform for the region.”

The Iraqi government has also been unable to prepare its population for the digital revolution that has rolled across the world over the last two decades adding to joblessness. “The most threatening aspect of the youth bulge is the high unemployment rate, which is 36 percent for this part of society,” added Alousi. There are close to 3.2 million school-aged Iraqi children that are not in education, according to Unicef.

The situation is chronic in conflict-affected governorates such as Salah Al-Din and Diyala, where more than 90 percent of children do not attend classes.

“As Iraq’s population grows while its conditions deteriorate the gap between the demands of the society and the ability of the government to respond to them is widening,” Alousy noted.

A rising population also piles further pressure onto Iraq’s dilapidated Iraqi infrastructure.

Over the past four decades, war, internal conflict and international economic sanctions have laid waste to the country’s infrastructure. The health sector has suffered not only during times
of conflict but also through a lack of funding during periods of relative stability.

Baghdad alone is estimated to need 70 new hospitals to cope with the capital’s expected population rise. The number of additional hospitals needed will be much higher in other less developed regions, experts note.

Roads are a little better. With the exception of the airport road, Baghdad highways look very much the same as they did 20 years ago under President Saddam Hussein, locals point out.

“The government should put in place a short-term plan of mass reconstruction that would employ many young people,” said Alousy.

A rising population is adding pressure on an already strained Iraqi economy, which has plenty of young people but is unable to give them the skills to find work.

Thagab added: “We lack training centers that can allow our youth to learn new technologies and increase their capabilities. Youth cannot be ignored, there should be plans to prepare them for future employment.”

Instead, hiring in the public sector has become an inefficient way the government has tackled the problem while not properly supporting the growth of private firms, Thagab noted.

He said: “The government has failed to promote laws that can make the private sector more efficient.”

Alousy said that the first steps Iraqi governments need to take are to address the rampant corruption in the country and dissolve its militias.

He added: “This would allow for more private investment in the country, implementing necessary reforms and long-term planning.”


India In-Focus — Shares slip; India to drop windfall tax if oil prices fall $40 a barrel

India In-Focus — Shares slip; India to drop windfall tax if oil prices fall $40 a barrel
Updated 13 sec ago

India In-Focus — Shares slip; India to drop windfall tax if oil prices fall $40 a barrel

India In-Focus — Shares slip; India to drop windfall tax if oil prices fall $40 a barrel

MUMBAI: Indian shares began the week on a tepid note on Monday, dragged by metal stocks due to demand worries and weaker sentiment in global markets.

The NSE Nifty 50 index was down 0.3 percent at 15,704, while the S&P BSE Sensex was unchanged at 52,930.86. The indexes rose about 0.3 percent each last week.

India to drop windfall tax if oil prices fall $40 a barrel

India will only withdraw its windfall tax introduced last week for oil producers and refiners if global prices of crude fall as much as $40 a barrel from present levels, Revenue Secretary Tarun Bajaj told Reuters on Monday.

The tax on firms that have increased product exports to gain from higher overseas margins took effect on July 1, as the government moves to boost domestic supply and revenue.

The taxes, and some accompanying export curbs, will hit the earnings of companies such as Reliance Industries, and Nayara Energy, which is partly owned by Russia’s Rosneft, the Oil and Natural Gas Corp., Oil India Ltd. and Vedanta Ltd.

“The taxation would be reviewed every 15 days,” Bajaj said, adding that it would depend on international crude prices. “If crude prices fall, then windfall gains will cease and windfall taxes would also be removed.”

The government believes such windfall gains will cease once prices fall to $40 from existing levels, Bajaj said.


China In-Focus — Yuan inches up; stocks rise; Evergrande canvassing creditors’ support

China In-Focus — Yuan inches up; stocks rise; Evergrande canvassing creditors’ support
Updated 3 min 35 sec ago

China In-Focus — Yuan inches up; stocks rise; Evergrande canvassing creditors’ support

China In-Focus — Yuan inches up; stocks rise; Evergrande canvassing creditors’ support

BEIJING: China’s yuan inched up against the dollar on Monday, underpinned by a narrowing US 10-year yield advantage versus its Chinese counterpart.

Currency traders and investors usually use the yield gap between the world’s two largest economies as a key indicator of the relative value of the two respective currencies.

The yield gap between the benchmark 10-year Chinese bonds and Treasuries narrowed to -3 basis points from roughly -15 bps last week, as US bond prices rose amid worries over a global recession.

In the forward market, the benchmark one-year dollar/yuan swaps bounced to a three-week high of -182.5 points, from -280 points on Friday.

Prior to market opening, the People’s Bank of China set the midpoint rate at 6.7071 per dollar, 208 pips or 0.3 percent weaker than the previous fix 6.6863.

In the spot market, the onshore yuan opened at 6.7010 per dollar and was changing hands at 6.6921 at midday, 99 pips firmer than the previous late session close.

Traders said the strength in the yuan on Monday also came as China’s central bank made the smallest daily cash injection through open market operations in one-and-a-half year, resulting in a net withdrawal of 97 billion yuan ($14.50 billion)for the day. 

Chinese stocks rise 

China stocks rose on Monday supported by healthcare shares and the launch of cross-border investment scheme ETF Connect, while Hong Kong shares slipped weighed by airline operators.

China’s blue-chip index CSI300 rose 0.7 percent and the Shanghai Composite index gained 0.5 percent. In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng index dipped 0.1 percent.

Evergrande canvassing creditors’ support 

China Evergrande Group is reaching out to its offshore creditors for their support to fight a lawsuit in a Hong Kong court aimed at liquidating the embattled property developer, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Evergrande, which is deemed to be in default on its nearly $23 billion of offshore debt and is working on a debt restructuring plan, aims to submit the backing of creditors as part of the evidence to the court ahead of the first hearing on the winding-up petition on Aug. 31, the person said.

Last week, Top Shine Global Ltd, an investor in Evergrande unit Fangchebao, said it had filed a winding-up petition against the developer as it had not honored a pact to repurchase shares from Top Shine in Fangchebao.

A successful outcome of the petition could impact the developer’s debt restructuring plan by diminishing the value of the overseas assets that are central to the interests of offshore creditors.

The developer was not considering an out-of-court settlement with Top Shine at the moment, the source said.

 

(With input from Reuters)


UAE In-Focus — Dubai Taxi to test Tesla Model 3; policies approved to expedite circular economy transition

UAE In-Focus — Dubai Taxi to test Tesla Model 3;  policies approved to expedite circular economy transition
Updated 17 min 24 sec ago

UAE In-Focus — Dubai Taxi to test Tesla Model 3; policies approved to expedite circular economy transition

UAE In-Focus — Dubai Taxi to test Tesla Model 3;  policies approved to expedite circular economy transition

DUBAI: Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has announced that Dubai Taxi Corp. has added Tesla Model 3 to its taxi fleet for a trial after operating 172 Tesla vehicles since 2017, according to the Dubai Media Office.

During the trial run, the vehicle will be deployed on the emirate’s taxi fleet to test its efficiency.

Mattar Al-Tayer, director general and RTA’s board chairman, said: “In 2017, RTA started the operation of 172 Tesla vehicles as part of the limousine fleet of the Dubai Taxi comprising 80 Tesla Model S, 50 Tesla Model X, and 42 Tesla Model 3,” he said.

Al-Tayer noted that these vehicles were highly efficient, especially in terms of carbon emissions and customer satisfaction.

“The success of that experiment prompted us to widen the scope of using electric vehicles as part of the Dubai Taxi fleet over the upcoming years,” he said.

In his view, the experiment supports Dubai’s effort to transform 90 percent of its limo fleet into eco-friendly vehicles by 2026.

Circular economy transition

As part of its drive toward sustainable economic development, the UAE has approved 22 policies aimed at accelerating the country’s transition to a circular economy.

According to the government, the UAE Circular Economy Council’s policies will cover four main sectors: Manufacturing, food, infrastructure, and transportation.

Furthermore, the council identified 16 circular economy activities that offer opportunities for businesses, such as upcycling textile waste into new products and developing AI-driven waste management solutions.

Minister of Climate Change and Environment and Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Almheiri said: “Our current linear economy consumes valuable materials and resources without being able to benefit from them after use, which represents waste in the modern concept of sustainability.”

“Our approach seeks to protect our environment and to ensure the long-term economic and social prosperity of our country,” she added.

Circular economies focus on reducing the extraction of natural resources, minimizing waste, and restoring natural systems.

Renewable energy sources fuel economic activity by maintaining the value of raw materials, components, and products.


Crypto Moves — Bitcoin, Ether down: Kuwait-based Islamic bank enters the metaverse

Crypto Moves — Bitcoin, Ether down: Kuwait-based Islamic bank enters the metaverse
Updated 04 July 2022

Crypto Moves — Bitcoin, Ether down: Kuwait-based Islamic bank enters the metaverse

Crypto Moves — Bitcoin, Ether down: Kuwait-based Islamic bank enters the metaverse

RIYADH: Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency internationally, traded lower on Monday, falling by 0.01 percent to $19,106 as of 10:55 p.m. Riyadh time. 

Ether, the second most traded cryptocurrency, was priced at $1,049 down by 1.20 percent, according to data from CoinDesk.

Kuwait-based Islamic bank enters the metaverse

Warba Bank, a Kuwait-based Islamic bank, has become the latest corporation from the Middle East and North Africa region to enter the Metaverse, a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection. 

The bank now occupies two sites in the metaverse, one on Decentraland and another on Sandbox.

The bank's presence in the metaverse is expected to enhance its communication with the younger generation, according to Bitcoin.com. 

“Warba Bank’s interest in entering this virtual reality comes within the framework of digital trends to transform into a Web3. The world of virtual reality is used in several advanced fields, including services, education, health and others,” Anwar Al-Ghaith, the financial institution’s vice president for Support Services and Treasury, said. 

He added: “Warba Bank aims to be close to its clients in virtual reality to introduce its products and services, as well as communicating with them in an innovative way that reflects Warba Bank’s image as a pioneer in digital transformation.”

According to a statement issued by the bank, it is now working to achieve its ambitious goals and enhance the advantages of digital services.

It will also focus on absorbing emerging technologies and artificial intelligence.


Commodities Update — Gold inches up; Copper hovers near 17-month low

Commodities Update — Gold inches up; Copper hovers near 17-month low
Updated 04 July 2022

Commodities Update — Gold inches up; Copper hovers near 17-month low

Commodities Update — Gold inches up; Copper hovers near 17-month low

RIYADH: Gold inched higher on Monday, as weakness in Treasury yields kept prices above the $1,800-mark and marginally outweighed pressure stemming from elevated US dollar levels.

Spot gold was up 0.1 percent at $1,811.99 per ounce, by 0319 GMT. 

US gold futures rose 0.6 percent to $1,812.10.

Silver eases

Spot silver eased 0.2 percent to $19.84 per ounce, while platinum fell 0.5 percent to $884.49. 

Palladium dropped 1.3 percent to $1,934.40.

Copper languishes near 17-month low amid slowdown fears 

Copper prices slipped on Monday to hover near a 17-month low as renewed lockdowns in top consumer China and the prospect of aggressive rate hikes stoked fears of global economic slowdown, denting demand for metals.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was down 0.3 percent at $8,027.50 a ton, as of 0404 GMT.

The most-traded August copper contract in Shanghai fell 2.1 percent to $9,153.68 a ton by the midday break.

Russian ship carrying Ukrainian grain detained by Turkey

Turkish customs authorities have detained a Russian cargo ship carrying grain which Ukraine says is stolen, Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey said on Sunday.

Ukraine had previously asked Turkey to detain the Russian-flagged Zhibek Zholy cargo ship, according to an official and documents viewed by Reuters.

Reuters reporters saw the Zhibek Zholy ship anchored about 1 km from shore and outside of the Karasu port on Sunday, with no obvious signs of movement aboard or by other vessels nearby.

“We have full co-operation. The ship is currently standing at the entrance to the port, it has been detained by the customs authorities of Turkey,” Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar said on Ukrainian national television.

Bodnar said the ship’s fate would be decided by a meeting of investigators on Monday and that Ukraine was hoping for the confiscation of the grain.