Saturday, 18 February 2017

South Africa’s political woes couldn’t come at a worse time for its troubled economy.

South African president Jacob Zuma

Source: CNBC - February 18, 2017

South Africa, once a standout emerging market economy, is caught in the middle of a political hurricane that's adding impetus to a downward economic spiral.
A week after chaos erupted at his annual speech—which resulted in soldiers having to be summoned to parliament—President Jacob Zuma appears increasingly isolated politically. A growing number of investors say that is proving to be a distraction from what requires Zuma's urgent attention, namely the economy.
Zuma's political turmoil is taking place against a backdrop of sky-high unemployment, stagnant growth and a credit rating dancing on the edge of junk. Since last year, Zuma's government has pulled out all the stops to avert a possible downgrade, but the country's turbulent politics have complicated his task.
With the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) schedule to meet next on March 30th, market analysts are widely expecting the central bank to keep rates at 7 percent, in order to help curb higher-than-expected inflation.

Trump administration drafts plan to raise asylum bar, speed deportations

Source: REUTERS - February 18, 2017

The Department of Homeland Security has prepared new guidance for immigration agents aimed at speeding up deportations by denying asylum claims earlier in the process.
The new guidelines, contained in a draft memo dated February 17 but not yet sent to field offices, directs agents to only pass applicants who have a good chance of ultimately getting asylum, but does not give specific criteria for establishing credible fear of persecution if sent home.
The guidance instructs asylum officers to "elicit all relevant information" in determining whether an applicant has “credible fear” of persecution if returned home, the first obstacle faced by migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border requesting asylum.

US-China relationship key to stability of APAC region: Ng Eng Hen

US-China relationship key to stability of APAC region: Ng Eng Hen


SINGAPORE: How the US and China engage with each other and Asian countries will be key to the stability of the Asia Pacific (APAC) region comprising East Asia, the Korean Peninsula and ASEAN, Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Sunday (Feb 19).
Speaking at the 53rd Munich Security Conference in Germany, Dr Ng said that with a new US administration at the helm, it was "particularly important" for both the US and China to articulate their foreign policy objectives towards Asia.

Russia to Settle Soviet Debt in 2017

Source: THE MOSCOW TIMES - February 19, 2017

Russia's Finance Ministry announced last week that it had cleared the Soviet Union's $60.6 million debt to the former-Yugoslavian nation of Macedonia. This leaves Russia with just one more payment to settle: $125.2 million owed to Bosnia and Herzegovina. 
An unnamed finance ministry source told Russian tabloid Izvestia that the debts would be cleared by the end of the summer.
Russia inherited a debt of more than $66 billion when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Much of the money owned to the Yugoslav government came from business deals which saw communist Yugoslavia provide the Soviet Union with consumer goods.

The Gambia: President Barrow sworn in at packed stadium

Gambian President Adama Barrow greets thousands of supporters at Independence Stadium

BBC - February 19, 2017

The Gambia has formally sworn in its new elected President, Adama Barrow, in front of a crowd of thousands including African heads of state.
It was the second time he had taken the oath after his formal inauguration was delayed by the reluctance of his predecessor to leave office.
"This is a victory for democracy," he told a full stadium of his countrymen near the capital Banjul.
"Few people would have thought that I'd be standing here today," he said.
He told the crowd that Gambian people now had the power to control their own destiny and that he was going to free political prisoners and improve press freedom.

Eight people flee U.S. border patrol to seek asylum in Canada

Source: REUTERS - February 18, 2017

Eight asylum-seekers, including four children, barely made it across the Canadian border on Friday as a U.S. border patrol officer tried to stop them and a Reuters photographer captured the scene.
As a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer seized their passports and questioned a man in the front passenger seat of a taxi that had pulled up to the border in Champlain, New York, four adults and four young children fled the cab and ran to Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the other side.
One by one they scrambled across the snowy gully separating the two countries. RCMP officers watching from the other side helped them up, lifting the younger children and asking a woman, who leaned on her fellow passenger as she walked, if she needed medical care.

Putin Signs Executive Order Recognizing Passports Issued by Ukraine's Rebels

Source: THE MOSCOW TIMES - February 18, 2017

Vladimir Putin signed an executive order on Saturday officially recognizing identification documents issued by the two breakaway “republics” in eastern Ukraine.
In addition to passports, the Russian Federation will recognize education documents, certificates recording births, deaths, marriages, and divorces, and automobile registrations.
Now, using documents issued by the self-declared “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk, individuals will be able to enter Russia.