Argentina government crises build as Economy Minister Guzman resigns

Argentina government crises build as Economy Minister Guzman resigns
In this file photo taken on June 07, 2022 Argentina’s Economy Minister Martin Guzman speaks during the annual meeting of the Argentina Business Association in Buenos Aires. Guzman announced his resignation via Twitter on July 2, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 03 July 2022

Argentina government crises build as Economy Minister Guzman resigns

Argentina government crises build as Economy Minister Guzman resigns
  • Inflation is running above 60 percent and the peso currency is under growing pressure

BUENOS AIRES: Argentina’s economy minister Martin Guzman resigned on Saturday, a blow to a government beset by mounting economic crises.
Guzman, who led Argentina’s debt restructuring deal with the International Monetary Fund and creditors, posted a letter to his Twitter account announcing his decision.
“I write to you to present my resignation as economy minister,” Guzman said in a letter addressed to President Alberto Fernandez. He had been minister since late 2019.
The government is facing its lowest approval rating since taking office in 2019. Inflation is running above 60 percent and the peso currency is under growing pressure. Sovereign bonds have plummeted.
The resignation leaves the ministry leaderless just as Guzman was expected to travel to Europe to negotiate a $2 billion debt deal with the Paris Club of sovereign lenders.
Investors are skeptical about the economy and infighting in the governing coalition between moderates like Guzman and a more militant wing including Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Mariel Fornoni, director of the Management and Fit consultancy, said the resignation of a key ally was a reflection of President Fernandez’s loss of power since a painful midterm election defeat last year.
“It is the chronicle of a death foretold. Ever since the loss in last year’s legislative election,” she said, adding that a militant wing around the powerful vice president had been pushing to oust Guzman.
“(The president) has lost another piece of his board, perhaps the most important, and is increasingly alone,” Fornoni said.
Guzman tellingly posted his resignation letter while Fernandez de Kirchner was giving a speech commemorating iconic former Argentine President Juan Domingo Peron.
Guzman said “there should be a political agreement within the governing coalition” to choose his successor.
The president’s office said that it did not yet know when a replacement for Guzman would be announced.
A government source who asked to remain anonymous told Reuters that Guzman’s exit was due to what he felt was a lack of political support for his agenda.
Miguel Kiguel, former secretary of finance in Argentina, told Reuters that whoever takes over will have a tough time, noting that inflation could hit 80 percent this year and there is a gap of nearly 100 percent between official and parallel currency exchange rates.
“We don’t know who’s coming, but this will be a very hot potato,” Kiguel said. “Whoever comes is going to have a very complicated time.”


Iraq extends Lebanon fuel deal for 1 year

Iraq extends Lebanon fuel deal for 1 year
Updated 11 August 2022

Iraq extends Lebanon fuel deal for 1 year

Iraq extends Lebanon fuel deal for 1 year

BEIRUT: Iraq’s government has agreed to continue supplying Lebanon’s electricity company with heavy fuel oil for another year, Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister said on Thursday, alleviating pressure on Lebanon’s struggling power grid.

Najib Mikati said he had made the request to Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi, who agreed to extend the same terms of the agreement signed last year.

In July 2021, Iraq offered the cash-strapped Lebanese government 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil a year in exchange for services including healthcare for Iraqi citizens.

The deal was meant to alleviate Lebanon’s acute power shortage, which last summer reached crisis levels when the government was unable to subsidize fuel imports.

Lebanon subsequently removed those subsidies and domestic fuel prices skyrocketed. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine then further bumped up international prices this year.

With the government unable to provide fuel to public power plants, most homes in the country have been left without state-provided electricity for around 22 hours every day.


Egypt In-Focus — Annual headline inflation rises 1%; M&A activity amounts to $3.2bn in H1


Egypt In-Focus — Annual headline inflation rises 1%; M&A activity amounts to $3.2bn in H1

Updated 18 min 49 sec ago

Egypt In-Focus — Annual headline inflation rises 1%; M&A activity amounts to $3.2bn in H1


Egypt In-Focus — Annual headline inflation rises 1%; M&A activity amounts to $3.2bn in H1


CAIRO: Egypt’s annual headline inflation rose to 15.6 percent in July, up from 14.6 in June, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.

CAPMAS attributed the rise in inflation to the increase in food and beverage prices that grew by 23.8 percent, along with growth in commodity and services prices.

M&A activity

Egypt reported a total of 65 mergers and acquisitions deals, valued at $3.2 billion, during the first six months of 2022, according to the EY MENA M&A Insights report.

Deal activity has surged thrice year-on-year during the first half of 2022. The report attributed the surge to “favorable government initiatives including granting a special license to foreign investors.” 

Port agreements

Egypt on Thursday signed two initial agreements for the development of port facilities with Hutchison Ports, Cosco and CMA CGM, Reuters reported citing a Cabinet statement.

The agreements with the international consortium could see investments of up to 800 million, it added.

Gas consumption 

Egypt has launched a plan to rationalize gas consumption in electricity plants in a bid to save foreign currency and achieve financial returns from gas export, according to Daily News Egypt. 

Maersk to invest $500m in Egypt

Danish shipping company Maersk is planning to invest  $500 million in Egypt to operate a new 1,000-meter container berth adjacent to the existing 500-meter berth in East Port Said. 

The company also aims to increase the number of cranes to 30 winches, all powered by electricity instead of diesel, according to a statement. 

This came at the end of  the head of the Suez Canal Authority Osama Rabie’s tour to the Netherlands and Denmark, which lasted 4 days, from Aug.7 to 10.

 


Oil rises as IEA hikes 2022 demand growth forecast

Oil rises as IEA hikes 2022 demand growth forecast
Updated 11 August 2022

Oil rises as IEA hikes 2022 demand growth forecast

Oil rises as IEA hikes 2022 demand growth forecast

LONDON: Oil prices rose by over 1 percent on Thursday after the International Energy Agency raised its oil demand growth forecast for this year as soaring natural gas prices lead some consumers to switch to oil.

Brent crude futures gained $1.29, or 1.3 percent, to $98.69 a barrel by 1348 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose $1.45, or 1.6 percent, to $93.38.

“Natural gas and electricity prices have soared to new records, incentivizing gas-to-oil switching in some countries,” the Paris-based agency said in its monthly oil report, in which it raised its outlook for 2022 demand by 380,000 barrels per day.

By contrast, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Thursday cut its 2022 forecast for growth in world oil demand, citing the economic impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, high inflation and efforts to contain the pandemic.

OPEC expects 2022 oil demand to rise by 3.1 million bpd, down 260,000 bpd from the previous forecast. However, it still sees a higher overall global oil demand figure than the IEA for 2022.

A rise in US oil inventories last week and the resumption of crude flows on a pipeline supplying central Europe capped further price gains.

US crude oil stocks rose by 5.5 million barrels in the most recent week, the US Energy Information Administration said, more than the expected increase of 73,000 barrels.

Gasoline product supplied rose in the most recent week to 9.1 million barrels per day, though that figure shows demand down 6 percent over the last four weeks compared with the year-ago period.

The premium for front-month WTI futures over barrels loading in six months’ time was pegged at $4.38 a barrel on Thursday, the lowest in four months, indicating easing tightness in prompt supplies.

The resumption of flows on the southern leg of the Russia-to-Europe Druzhba pipeline further calmed market worries over global supply.


Egypt to ration electricity to boost gas exports

Egypt to ration electricity to boost gas exports
Updated 11 August 2022

Egypt to ration electricity to boost gas exports

Egypt to ration electricity to boost gas exports

CAIRO: Egypt’s Cabinet has approved a plan to ration electricity to save natural gas that it will instead divert to the export market to generate foreign currency, it said on Thursday.

Egypt has suffered from an acute foreign currency shortage since Russia's February invasion of Ukraine, which pushed up global commodity prices, led to the collapse of tourism from the two countries and drove up the cost of borrowing.

Under the draft plan, shops and malls will have to limit their use of strong lights and keep their air conditioning at no cooler than 25 degrees Celsius.

Ministries and government facilities will have to turn off lighting at the end of working hours, the statement added. Street lighting will also be reduced.

The government last month postponed a planned increase in electricity prices by six months. The higher prices would have been intensely unpopular among a population that over the last few years has endured a series of harsh austerity measures.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said the government hoped to reduce the amount of gas used to generate electricity by 15 percent. He said domestic power plants bought their natural gas at one-tenth the price that it could fetch on international markets.

Europe has been seeking alternative sources of gas to cut its reliance on Russian gas as the war in Ukraine escalates.

Rapid growth in Egypt’s natural gas supplies, boosted by the discovery of the Mediterranean’s largest field, turned it from a net importer to an exporter in late 2018.

Egypt exported 9.45 million cubic meters of liquid natural gas in the first seven months of 2022, up 44 percent from a year earlier, according to Refinitiv data. 


Ethiopia starts power generation from second turbine at mega-dam

Ethiopia starts power generation from second turbine at mega-dam
Updated 11 August 2022

Ethiopia starts power generation from second turbine at mega-dam

Ethiopia starts power generation from second turbine at mega-dam

RIYADH: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed kickstarted electricity production from the second turbine at its controversial mega-dam on the Blue Nile on Thursday, despite continuing objections by Egypt and Sudan over the project, according to AFP.

Abiy also confirmed that a third filling of the multi-billion dollar Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was under way, a development that led Egypt last month to protest to the UN Security Council.

Thursday’s move came even though there is still no agreement between Ethiopia and its downstream neighbors Egypt and Sudan about the GERD’s operations.

Abiy insisted that the third filling of the $4.2 billion dam — set to be the largest hydroelectric scheme in Africa — was not causing any water shortages for the two countries.

“We have repeatedly told downstream countries, especially Egypt and Sudan, that by generating power we’re developing our economy, as well as (our desire) to see our citizens who live in the dark see light,” he said.

There was “no aim to sideline and harm” those countries, he added.

Ethiopia first began generating electricity at the dam in February. Currently, the two turbines, out of a total of 13 at the dam, are generating 750 megawatts of electricity.

We are ready to face all scenarios after Ethiopia completes the third filling phase of the Renaissance Dam, and we expect an unprecedented rise in the Nile waters after the gates of the dam are opened, the Sudanese Minister of Irrigation Yasser Abbas told Asharq.