Argentine monthly inflation lowest in 2.5 years

Argentine monthly inflation lowest in 2.5 years
People wait for the bus at a bus station in front of the National Congress in Buenos Aires on June 13, 2024. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 14 June 2024
Follow

Argentine monthly inflation lowest in 2.5 years

Argentine monthly inflation lowest in 2.5 years

BUENOS AIRES: Monthly inflation in economically troubled Argentina came in at 4.2 percent in May, the lowest in two-and-a-half years, mainly due to a drop in consumption, the INDEC statistics agency said Thursday.

For the first five months of 2024, the rate came in at 71.9 percent, and year-on-year at 276.4 percent — down from 289.4 percent registered in April but still at record high levels.

The rate fell for the fifth successive month in May.

In December, when budget-slashing President Javier Milei took office, inflation leapt by 25.5 percent, provoked by his devaluation of the peso by more than 50 percent.

Self-declared “anarcho-capitalist” Milei has vowed to halt Argentina’s economic decline and reduce the budget deficit to zero.

He has slashed public spending, cut the cabinet in half, done away with 50,000 public jobs, suspended new public works contracts and ripped away fuel and transport subsidies.

In April, Milei hailed the South American country’s first quarterly budget surplus since 2008.

Economy Minister Luis Caputo on Thursday celebrated the May data as indicating a “deepening of the ongoing disinflation process.”

Critics say Milei’s few wins have come at the cost of the poor and working classes, and were unlikely to last.

Economist Hernan Letcher of the CEPA economics think tank told AFP the inflation drop was explained, in large part, by a “significant fall in consumption.”

“We consultants expect that the process of reducing the rate of inflation will not continue in June,” he said.

“The market expectation survey shows that a level in the order of five percent will be maintained until the end of the year.”

Consumer consumption, manufacturing and construction have slumped under Milei’s peso devaluation and budget cuts, with a 5.3 percent contraction in economic activity in the first quarter.

The International Monetary Fund expects the Argentine economy to contract by 2.8 percent this year, after a 1.6-percent decline in 2023.

The government this week reported a 16-percent increase in real wages in the private sector in April and a recovery of purchasing power that is the “most significant since 2009.”

It is a relative figure, however, in a country where informal employment accounted for more than 45 percent of the work force even before the impact of Milei’s austerity measures started hitting home.

Poverty in the South American country now stands at 55.5 percent, according to the Pontifical Catholic University’s Social Debt Monitor.

Last month, Argentina introduced a 10,000-peso banknote, worth the equivalent of about $11 — five times the face value of the previous biggest 2,000-peso bill.

Thursday’s inflation data came hours after a first victory for Milei in the Senate, which approved a modified version of his economic liberalization package.

Milei’s bill, which makes provision for privatization of state-owned companies and weakens labor protections, have raised the ire of workers and leftists, who fought running battles with police outside Congress on Wednesday.

The draft legislation must still be given a final green light by the lower house Chamber of Deputies.


Japan’s Foreign Minister evades comment on Israel threats to Lebanon

Japan’s Foreign Minister evades comment on Israel threats to Lebanon
Updated 18 sec ago
Follow

Japan’s Foreign Minister evades comment on Israel threats to Lebanon

Japan’s Foreign Minister evades comment on Israel threats to Lebanon
  • “We have been lobbying Israel and Hezbollah on the need to avoid further escalation,” Kamikawa said

TOKYO: Japanese Foreign Minister Kamikawa Yoko on Friday declined to respond to Israel’s threats that Lebanon could see destruction like that seen in Gaza.
When asked at a press conference if she thought Israel might blast Lebanon back to the Stone Age — a threat made by Israel’s defense minister — Kamikawa evaded the question, responding: “We have been keeping a close watch on the escalating tensions between Israel and Hezbollah with concern. We have been lobbying Israel and Hezbollah on the need to avoid further escalation of the conflict in the region.”
Minister Kamikawa said that Japan will “continue to make steady and active diplomatic efforts” to help reduce tensions in the area and prevent it from spreading in the region.


Ambani nuptials spotlight India’s multibillion-dollar wedding industry

Ambani nuptials spotlight India’s multibillion-dollar wedding industry
Updated 26 min 4 sec ago
Follow

Ambani nuptials spotlight India’s multibillion-dollar wedding industry

Ambani nuptials spotlight India’s multibillion-dollar wedding industry
  • Groom is the youngest son of Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani
  • Lavish pre-wedding celebrations around the world started in March

NEW DELHI: After four months of lavish events spotlighting India’s multibillion-dollar wedding industry, the nuptials of the son of Asia’s richest man reached their final stage on Friday, with global A-listers and elites arriving in Mumbai for the most extravagant of billionaire celebrations.

The celebrations that built up to the wedding of Mukesh Ambani’s youngest son, 29-year-old Anant Ambani, to Radhika Merchant, daughter of a pharmaceutical tycoon, saw the family and hundreds of its guests serenaded by the likes of Andrea Bocelli, Rihanna, and Justin Bieber, sailing up the coast of Italy on a luxury cruise, watching a 5,500-drone light show in Cannes, and participating in a jungle-themed safari party in India’s Gujarat.

The groom’s father, chairman of Reliance Industries — the largest private sector corporation in India — is the world’s 10th richest man.

The display of his wealth through the wedding has set a new benchmark for the sector worth some $130 billion, according to last month’s report by the global investment banking firm Jefferies.

The Indian wedding industry is the country’s second-largest, after food and grocery.

“The Indian wedding industry is one of the largest and most lucrative markets globally. India hosts around 10 million weddings each year, with varying scales and budgets,” Simran S. Kohli, wedding planner and founder of Love Me Knot Weddings, told Arab News.

“The Ambani wedding is a prime example of just how extravagant and grand one can be.”

With the swathes of business billionaires, world leaders and top Bollywood and Hollywood stars attending, and the amount of international media attention focused on all the nuptial events, it is also an example of how the legendary allure and grandeur of Indian weddings never fades.

“How everyone looks forward to being a part of Indian weddings, the involvement of international celebrities, performers, and guests reflects the global influence and reach of the Indian wedding industry now,” Kohli said.

“Indian weddings can push the boundaries of creativity and extravagance.”

With dignitaries and celebrities from all over the world flocking to Mumbai to attend the four-day ceremony, parts of the city have been sealed.

“Mumbai is closed for almost three days now where the wedding is happening. There are VIP restrictions,” said Suneer Jain, director of Oh Vow Weddings.

“Ambani’s wedding reminds you of the grand Mughal weddings where thousands of horses and elephants used to participate. Now, the elephants have been replaced by artists. The Ambanis have set a different standard in weddings by inviting lots of international artists to come and perform.”

While the celebration has been reported to cost $600 million, from the artist lineup alone, Jain estimated it could be much more.

“This wedding is a showoff and it’s showing to the people how important they are and how well connected they are, how powerful they are. It’s a demonstration of wealth,” he said.

“The spending in Ambani’s wedding would be much more than what we can think about. Engaging an international artist is not only about the fee, it’s also about their comfort, their hospitality, doing everything for their team. It involves huge costs in many other aspects also.”

It has raised the bar so high that it will not be easy for the next celebrity weddings to cross it and organize nuptials on an even bigger scale.

It is a matter of Indian family prestige to do so.

“It is a lifetime event. We earn for only two things in life: for getting our own home and for weddings,” Jain told Arab News.

“When people see Ambani’s wedding, (it is assumed that) the next super wedding would be at a much higher scale … It gives you a clear picture that no one wants to do a normal wedding, but everyone wants to do a grand wedding.”

Everyone also wants to attend weddings in India, as they are an intrinsic part of its culture and play a major role in boosting other sectors such as entertainment, fashion, design, and travel.

“There is a person who is creating entertainment, there is a person who is doing labor work, there is a person who is doing floral work, there is a person who is working for fabric treatment. There is a person who is working on the structure, there is a transporter, manager, designer, sound engineer, artist. A lot of people get jobs out of it,” said Rajat Tyagi, director of Weddings Flowers Decor India.

An Indian wedding is never a cheap affair. A “good decent function” organized by Tyagi’s company at a local venue starts at about $45,000.

“As Indians, a society, we are bright, we are vivid, we are diverse, and we are vocal. We are not bland … If we have a taste, why not flaunt it,” he said.

“Even if you go to a village, the poorest of the poorest women are wearing makeup … It’s like we are made this way, our upbringing is that way. We love to show off.”

The display pulled off by the Ambani family was for Tyagi not only a record-breaking event, but also proof of India’s growth.

“At the end of the day, Mukesh Ambani is also an Indian entrepreneur, so India is not just a country of snake charmers. Now it has people who have the potential to bring such international artists and spend so much,” he said.

“It shows the potential of the Indian wedding industry. It shows the potential of Indians globally.”


Russia says it is not preparing to attack NATO

Russia says it is not preparing to attack NATO
Updated 12 July 2024
Follow

Russia says it is not preparing to attack NATO

Russia says it is not preparing to attack NATO
  • Zakharova said NATO was trying to “justify its existence and strengthen Washington’s control over European satellites“

MOSCOW: Russia said on Friday it was not planning to attack NATO and it was the alliance that was aggravating tensions.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was referring to a NATO Summit declaration that said: “Russia remains the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security.”
Zakharova said NATO was trying to “justify its existence and strengthen Washington’s control over European satellites.”
Western leaders have repeatedly said that President Vladimir Putin will order his military to go further and attack NATO countries in central and eastern Europe if he is not stopped in Ukraine.


Nigeria school collapse kills several students, traps others

Nigeria school collapse kills several students, traps others
Updated 12 July 2024
Follow

Nigeria school collapse kills several students, traps others

Nigeria school collapse kills several students, traps others
  • Parents desperately looked for their children at the Saint Academy in Jos North district
  • It was not immediately clear what caused the collapse

JOS, Nigeria: A school in central Nigeria collapsed on Friday, killing several students and trapping others who were heard crying out for help under the rubble, a rescue agency and witnesses said.
Parents desperately looked for their children at the Saint Academy in Jos North district of Plateau State after the building fell in on students taking their exams, an AFP correspondent at the site said.
“A two-story building housing Saint Academy... in Busa Buji in Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State collapsed this morning killing several students,” the National Emergency Management Agency said in a statement.
“NEMA and other critical stakeholders are presently carrying out Search and Rescue operations,” it said.
Officials did not give a precise toll, but a resident at the scene Chika Obioha told AFP he estimated eight people died at the site and dozens more had been injured.
“Everyone is helping out to see if we can rescue more people,” he said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the collapse but residents said it came after three days of heavy rains in Plateau.
Building collapses are fairly common in Africa’s most populous nation because of lax enforcement of building standards, negligence and use of low quality materials.


France seeks government as PM vows to ‘guard against’ extremes

France seeks government as PM vows to ‘guard against’ extremes
Updated 12 July 2024
Follow

France seeks government as PM vows to ‘guard against’ extremes

France seeks government as PM vows to ‘guard against’ extremes
  • Voters from different camps joined forces in the second round to shut the far-right National Rally (RN) out of power in a “republican front“
  • Macron has rejected LFI demands they should be tasked with forming the next government

PARIS: France’s political parties scrambled Friday to break a parliamentary deadlock brought on by an inconclusive snap election, as the outgoing prime minister vowed to prevent any government with far-right or hard-left members.
A runoff Sunday left the National Assembly without any overall majority, but a broad alliance of Socialists, Communists, Greens and the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) won the most seats, with 193 in the 577-strong lower chamber.
Voters from different camps joined forces in the second round to shut the far-right National Rally (RN) out of power in a “republican front,” allowing President Emmanuel Macron’s followers to claim second place with 164 seats and leaving the far right in third at 143.
With each of the three blocs controlling roughly one-third of the chamber, political leaders are admitting it may be a long slog to find a government able to survive a no-confidence vote.
Macron has rejected LFI demands they should be tasked with forming the next government, appearing to rule out a role for either LFI — the largest player in the New Popular Front (NFP) left alliance — or the far-right RN in any new coalition.
Prime Minister Gabriel Attal echoed that stance Friday saying that he would seek “to guard against any government” that included RN or LFI ministers.
In a document outlining his bid to take the leadership of the Macron-allied “Renaissance” parliamentary group, Attal acknowledged it had “narrowly escaped extinction” in the vote.
As party group leader, Attal said he would “completely revise our methods and our organization.”
Attal, the only candidate to take over the Renaissance parliamentary leadership, said he hoped to “contribute to the emergence of a majority concerning projects and ideas” in the future parliament.
Renaissance deputies are to elect their new leader on Saturday. If voted in, Attal said he would rename the formation “Together for the Republic.”
The document, seen by AFP, made no mention of Macron, with reports suggesting that Attal is distancing himself from his former mentor, blaming Macron’s decision to dissolve parliament and call the election for the political quagmire.
Under the French constitution Macron, who has just under three years left of his second presidential term, will appoint the next prime minister.
The nominee must be able to garner enough support to negotiate the first hurdle, a confidence vote in the National Assembly.
There is, meanwhile, a good chance that the current government remains in place until after the Paris Olympic Games which open on July 26, according to political observers.
The leftist NFP, which had initially promised to suggest a candidate for prime minister to Macron by the end of the week, on Friday acknowledged that it probably wouldn’t be able to.
“I’d rather not set a deadline,” said LFI coordinator Manuel Bompard, telling the TF1 broadcaster that “more time may be needed for discussions.”
Green party boss Marine Tondelier said the problem was that “everybody claims that they are the biggest group” which she said showed that vote size was perhaps not “the most important criterion.”
A source within the Socialist party who declined to be named said the LFI had put forward four names, including that of firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon who is unacceptable to all other parties, and controversial even among LFI members.
The Socialists themselves are pushing for their party’s boss, Olivier Faure, who they say would be acceptable as prime minister to a broad range of deputies from the left to center-right.
“Faure or Melenchon? That’s the real question,” remarked a Socialist official who declined to be named.
The head of the RN, Marine Le Pen, has already threatened that her deputies would reject any government that included LFI or Green ministers.
The RN’s vice president Sebastien Chenu meanwhile said that he saw “no satisfactory solution” to the current standoff “except a kind of technocratic government without political affiliation.”