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Archive for June 24th, 2014

Writing Your Will before you die

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2014

 

End

source: Kenya Citizen TV

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UN SECRETARY-GENERAL TO VISIT NAMIBIA, EQUATORIAL GUINEA AND KENYA

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2014

PRETORIA, South-Africa, June 23, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon travelled to Windhoek, Namibia yesterday on 23 June 2014, before going to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, for the African Union Summit, and Nairobi, Kenya, for the closing session of the United Nations Environment Assembly.

While in Namibia, the Secretary-General will meet with President Hifikepunye Pohamba and other government officials. He will also participate in the commissioning of the United Nations House in Windhoek, home to 12 UN agencies, funds and programmes.

On 25 June, the Secretary-General will leave Namibia for Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, for the 23rd Ordinary Session of the African Union. He will address the Summit on 26 June and hold bilateral meetings with Heads of States and other high officials.

On 27 June, the Secretary-General will leave for Nairobi, Kenya, to attend the closing session of the first United Nations Environment Assembly. This Assembly is the UN Environment Programme’s governing body and the highest-level global platform for environmental policy making.

While in Kenya, the Secretary-General will also hold bilateral meetings with Government officials, including President Uhuru Kenyatta. The Secretary-General will be back in New York on 29 June 2014.

 

SOURCE

UNITED NATIONS

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Conviction of Al Jazeera Journalists

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2014

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Press Statement

John Kerry

Secretary of State

Washington, DC

June 23, 2014

 

Today’s conviction and chilling, draconian sentences by the Cairo Criminal Court of three Al Jazeera journalists and fifteen others in a trial that lacked many fundamental norms of due process, is a deeply disturbing set-back to Egypt’s transition. Injustices like these simply cannot stand if Egypt is to move forward in the way that President al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Shoukry told me just yesterday that they aspire to see their country advance.

As I shared with President al-Sisi during my visit to Cairo, the long term success of Egypt and its people depends on the protection of universal human rights, and a real commitment to embracing the aspirations of the Egyptians for a responsive government. Egyptian society is stronger and sustainable when all of its citizens have a say and a stake in its success. Today’s verdicts fly in the face of the essential role of civil society, a free press, and the real rule of law. I spoke with Foreign Minister Shoukry again today to make very clear our deep concerns about these convictions and sentences.

Yesterday, President al-Sisi and I frankly discussed these issues and his objectives at the start of his term as President. I call on him to make clear, publicly, his government’s intention to observe Egypt’s commitment to the essential role of civil society, a free press, and the rule of law. The Egyptian government should review all of the political sentences and verdicts pronounced during the last few years and consider all available remedies, including pardons.

 

SOURCE

US Department of State

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IMF Executive Board Concludes 2014 Article IV Consultation with Zimbabwe

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2014

HARARE, Zimbabwe, June 23, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — On June 18, 2014, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation1 with Zimbabwe.

In July 2013, Zimbabwe held its first general elections under the new constitution approved by referendum in March 2013 and ended the four-year coalition government. The new government has expressed its commitment to continue implementing the policies and reforms agreed with the Fund under the staff-monitored program (SMP) and to stay engaged with the international financial institutions. To achieve sustainable development and social equity, the government has launched a new five-year development plan, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIM ASSET).

The economic rebound experienced since the end of hyperinflation in 2009 has ended. After averaging 10 percent from 2009-2012, growth fell to an estimated 3.3 percent in 2013, reflecting tight liquidity conditions, election-year uncertainty, weak demand for key exports, competitiveness pressures, and the impact of adverse weather. Inflation continued its downward trend from 2.9 percent (year-on-year) at end-2012 to -0.3 percent in April 2014, mainly reflecting the appreciation of the US dollar against the South African rand and weak domestic demand.

Zimbabwe’s external position remains precarious, with usable international reserves covering less than two weeks of imports. The current account deficit widened to 28.7 percent of GDP in 2013, as the trade deficit deteriorated, reflecting lower mineral exports. The main financing item in the capital account was private loans.

Financial sector vulnerabilities persist, stemming from the high levels of nonperforming loans (16.6 percent on average for banks in March 2014), low capitalization and low liquidity, with wide differentiation across banks. The banking sector experienced liquidity crunches in 2013, amid political and policy uncertainty. Deposits have been slowly returning to the banking system, but liquidity conditions remain tight. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has taken steps to enhance the legal and regulatory framework. In January 2014 banks were instructed to immediately end new insider lending, and their boards are now required to ensure adequate provisioning and submit regular reports. In addition, the deadline for meeting the minimum capital requirement of US$100 million was extended to December 2020. Banks are required to submit their recapitalization plans by end-June 2014, with interim milestones to ensure compliance with the US$100 million requirement by December 2020. The authorities, with assistance from Afreximbank, are taking steps to revitalize the interbank market. They have also started to recapitalize the RBZ to allow it to resume some of its core functions.

Election-related spending and the public sector wage bill were the main factors behind expenditure overruns in 2013. Despite taking several tax and nontax revenue measures to fund election expenses, total revenue fell short of budgeted amounts, with an exceptionally low performance in the fourth quarter, reflecting weak economic activity and tight liquidity conditions. As a result, the budget deficit reached 2.2 percent of GDP in 2013. Fiscal pressures continued into 2014, with the budget targets in doubt in the context of sluggish growth and a 14- percent increase in the wage bill relative to 2013. To offset these pressures, the government has identified various revenue and expenditure measures valued at some 4.6 percent of GDP in 2014. If fully implemented, these measures could result in a reduction in the 2014 budget deficit to 0.6 percent of GDP, consistent with the available financing.

The SMP provided a useful anchor for Zimbabwe in a difficult election year. However, progress in implementing the SMP approved by Fund management in June 2013 and extended through June 2014 has been mixed, reflecting in part a long electoral process and a protracted post-election transition. Discussions of the first and second reviews under the SMP are nearing conclusion. The Zimbabwean authorities have indicated interest in a successor SMP to build on their achievements and to support a stronger policy framework.

The medium-term outlook, under the baseline scenario, is for growth to average some 4 percent, as large mining sector investments reach full capacity. The current account deficit is expected to improve but will remain high, averaging 15 percent of GDP. In addition, planned fiscal consolidation should facilitate a modest rebuilding of fiscal and external buffers, including international reserves. Zimbabwe faces serious medium-term challenges and achieving sustainable, inclusive growth will require strong macroeconomic and financial policies, an enabling business environment, and normalized relations with creditors.

The main near-term risks relate to further fiscal underperformance and uncertainty in the external environment that could see lower commodity prices, particularly for key mineral exports. Other risks relate to policy inconsistencies that could affect investment and financial sector vulnerabilities—specifically, liquidity shortages and disorderly unwinding of troubled banks.

Executive Board Assessment2

Executive Directors noted Zimbabwe’s fragile economic situation characterized by a growth slowdown, a large external deficit, and low international reserves. With risks on the downside, they highlighted the need to restore fiscal and external sustainability and reduce financial vulnerabilities. They emphasized that achieving sustainable and inclusive growth requires determined and comprehensive reforms. In this regard, they welcomed the authorities’ renewed commitment to implementing the staff-monitored program, which has provided a useful anchor for policies during the past year notwithstanding policy delays.

Directors encouraged the authorities to fully implement their revised fiscal plan for 2014 and be ready to take additional actions if needed, while protecting priority infrastructure and social spending. They highlighted the need to mobilize revenue, including from the diamond sector. Directors also stressed the importance of rebalancing the expenditure mix away from employment costs in order to free up resources for development. Strengthening public financial management is also crucial to prevent accumulation of new arrears.

Directors expressed concern that Zimbabwe’s external position remains precarious. They welcomed the authorities’ commitment to rebuild external buffers. They underscored the need to improve debt management and supported the strategy to seek mainly grants and highly concessional resources, while limiting non-concessional financing to critical development projects with high economic returns. They noted that strong macroeconomic policies and a comprehensive arrears clearance framework supported by development partners are essential to addressing Zimbabwe’s debt problems. They encouraged the authorities to engage in coordinated discussions with the World Bank and other international financial institutions (IFIs) and called on them to respect the preferred creditor status of IFIs, avoid selective debt service, and increase payments to the Fund’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust as capacity to repay improves.

Directors stressed that enhancing financial sector stability remains a priority. They recommended continued vigilance in monitoring weak banks and a proactive approach to ensure an orderly resolution of insolvent non-systemic banks. They noted that restructuring and recapitalizing the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe would help mitigate vulnerabilities. Directors supported the authorities’ plans to preserve the multicurrency system for the time being.

Directors took note of the staff’s assessment that the real exchange rate is overvalued. They underscored the importance of addressing structural bottlenecks to boost competitiveness and promote a sustainable external position, and highlighted the need to improve the business environment and basic infrastructure. Directors also saw a need to reduce uncertainty regarding the indigenization policy, including in the financial sector, to avoid deterring investment. Directors urged the authorities to fully implement the recent measures to boost transparency in the diamond sector and to modernize mining legislation.

 

Zimbabwe: Selected Economic Indicators, 2011–14

 

Actual    Est.    Proj.

2011    2012    2013    2014

 

Real GDP growth (annual percentage change) 1/

11.9    10.6    3.3    3.1

Nominal GDP (US$ millions) 2/

10,956    12,472    12,974    13,483

GDP deflator (annual percentage change)

3.7    3.0    0.7    0.8

Inflation (annual percentage change)

Consumer price inflation (annual average)

3.5    3.7    1.6    0.3

Consumer price inflation (end-of-period)

4.9    2.9    0.3    1.2

Central government (percent of GDP) 2/

Revenue and grants

26.7    28.0    28.8    29.8

Expenditure and net lending

29.0    29.3    31.4    31.9

Of which: cash expenditure and net lending

27.1    28.6    31.0    30.4

Of which: employment costs (incl. grants & transfers)

16.7    20.1    21.3    23.4

Overall balance (commitment basis)

-2.4    -1.3    -2.5    -2.2

Overall balance (cash basis)

-0.5    -0.6    -2.2    -0.6

Primary balance (cash basis)

-0.2    -0.4    -2.0    -0.3

Money and credit (US$ millions)

Broad money (M3)

3,100    3,694    3,888    4,011

Net foreign assets

-290    -435    -809    -744

Net domestic assets

3,391    4,129    4,697    4,754

Domestic credit (net)

2,754    3,559    3,993    3,993

Of which: credit to the private sector

2,711    3,524    3,618    3,551

Reserve money

123    273    272    280

Velocity (M3)

3.5    3.4    3.3    3.4

Balance of payments (US$ millions; unless otherwise indicated)

Merchandise exports 3/

4,421    3,808    3,572    3,812

Value growth (annual percentage change) 3/

36.1    -13.9    -6.2    6.7

Merchandise imports 3/

-7,562    -6,710    -6,952    -7,105

Value growth (annual percentage change) 3/

46.5    -11.3    3.6    2.2

Current account balance (excluding official transfers)

-3,269    -3,048    -3,613    -3,796

(percent of GDP) 2/

-29.8    -24.4    -27.8    -28.2

Overall balance 4/

123    -184    -244    -676

Official reserves (end-of-period)

Usable international reserves (US$ millions)5/

366    398    284    464

(months of imports of goods and services)

0.5    0.6    0.4    0.7

Debt (end-of-period)

Total external debt (US$ millions, e.o.p.) 6/ 7/ 8/

8,207    9,031    10,632    12,700

Percent of GDP 2/

74.9    72.4    81.9    94.2

PPG external debt (US$ millions, e.o.p.) 6/

6,243    6,680    6,834    7,101

Percent of GDP 2/

57.0    53.6    52.7    52.7

Of which: Arrears

5,076    5,286    5,420    5,575

Percent of GDP 2/

46.3    42.4    41.8    41.3

Other external debt (US$ millions, e.o.p.) 6/ 7/ 8/

1,964    2,351    3,798    5,599

Percent of GDP 2/

17.9    18.8    29.3    41.5

 

Sources: Zimbabwean authorities; IMF staff estimates and projections.

1/ At constant 2009 prices.

2/ Zimbabwe’s statistical agency (ZIMSTAT) recently revised the GDP series since 2009. The new GDP series are 25-30 percent higher than the old ones.

3/ Structural break in trade data in 2010. Trade data based on information from exchange control data in 2009 and customs data starting in 2010.

4/ Includes errors and omissions through 2012.

5/ Defined as the higher of Zimbabwe’s SDR holdings and gross international reserves less amounts deposited in banks’ current/RTGS accounts and statutory reserves, and amounts in SDR escrow account.

6/ Includes arrears.

7/ Debt stocks are estimates, except for the 2011 debt stock which is based on preliminary results of the authorities’ external debt reconciliation exercise concluded in January 2013.

8/ The revisions are due to new information provided by the authorities about their previous projections of withdrawn amounts

from approved foreign banks’ overdrafts.

1 Under Article IV of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country’s economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board.

2 At the conclusion of the discussion, the Managing Director, as Chairman of the Board, summarizes the views of Executive Directors, and this summary is transmitted to the country’s authorities. An explanation of any qualifiers used in summings up can be found here:http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/misc/qualifiers.htm

 

SOURCE

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

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Ebola virus disease, West Africa – update

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2014

Disease Outbreak News

 

Guinea

Between 16 and 18 June 2014, a total of 3 new cases and 3 deaths were reported from Gueckedou (3 cases and 0 death), Telimele (0 case and 2 deaths), and Boffa (0 cases and 1 death). This brings the cumulative number of cases and deaths reported from Guinea to 390 (258 confirmed, 88 probable, and 44 suspected) and 267 deaths.

The geographical distribution of these cases and deaths is as follows: Conakry, 64 cases and 33 deaths; Gueckedou, 227 cases and 173 deaths; Macenta, 41 cases and 28 deaths; Dabola, 4 cases and 4 deaths; Kissidougou, 8 cases and 5 deaths; Dinguiraye, 1 case and 1 death; Telimele, 26 cases and 10 deaths; Boffa, 18 cases and 12 deaths; and Kouroussa, 1 case and 1 death. Sixteen (16) patients are currently in EVD Treatment Centres in Conakry (4), Gueckedou (11), and Telimele (1).

The number of contacts currently being followed-up countrywide is 1253 and are distributed as follows: Conakry, 246; Gueckedou, 527; Macenta, 52; Telimele, 118; Dubreka, 118; Kouroussa 16 and Boffa, 176. So far 70.1% (2950 contacts completed the follow-up period out of 4203 contacts registered since the beginning of the outbreak) have completed the mandatory 21-day observation period.

 

Sierra Leone

Between 15 and 17 June 2014, a total of 39 new cases and 8 new deaths were reported from Kailahun (34 cases and 7 deaths), Kenema (4 new cases and 1 death) and Western (1 case and 0 death). This brings the cumulative number of cases and deaths reported from Sierra Leone to 136 (103 confirmed, 19 probable, and 14 suspected) and 58 deaths.

The geographical distribution of these cases and deaths is as follows: Kailahun, 128 cases and 55 deaths; Kambia, 1 case and 0 deaths; Port Loko, 2 cases and 1 death; Kenema, 4 cases and 1 death; and Western, 1 case and 1 death. Thirty one (31) patients are currently in the EVD Treatment Centre in Kenema.

The number of contacts currently being followed-up countrywide is 37 from Kailahun. Community health workers are being trained to do the follow up and contact listing is continuing in Kenema, Kailahun, Kambia, and Port Loko.

 

Liberia

Between 16 and 19 June 2014, a total of 7 new cases and 1 new death were reported from Lofa (5 cases and 0 deaths) and Montserrado (2 cases and 1 death). This brings the cumulative number of cases and deaths reported from Liberia to 41 (24 confirmed, 9 probable, and 8 suspected) and 25 deaths.

The geographical distribution of these cases and deaths is as follows: Lofa, 28 cases and 14 deaths; Montserrado, 9 cases and 9 deaths; Margibi, 2 cases and 2 deaths; and Nimba, 2 cases and 0 deaths. Eight (8) patients are currently in the EVD Treatment Centres in Lofa.

The number of contacts currently being followed-up countrywide is 108 and are distributed as follows: Lofa, 95 and Montserrado, 13. So far, 41.5% (108 completed the follow-up period out of a 260 contacts registered since the beginning of the outbreak) have completed the mandatory 21-day observation period.

WHO response

WHO and its partners continue to provide the necessary technical expertise to the Ministries of Health to stop community and health facility transmission of the virus. This includes, among others, a high-level advocacy meeting with the governments of the three affected countries to enhance coordination, information management, and communication. The WHO Regional Director, in consultation with the Director General, has established a temporary function of WHO sub-regional EVD outbreak response Coordinator to directly support the affected countries. The Coordinator will be based in Conakry, Guinea. In addition, WHO is planning a high-level meeting for the Ministers of Health in the sub-region to be held 2–3 July in Accra, Ghana, with the objective of ensuring increased political commitment and cross-border collaboration for EVD response activities among the countries in the sub-region. WHO, GOARN, and other partners are also closely supporting the Ministries of Health in deploying additional experts in the various specialities (epidemiology, social mobilization, case management, data management, and logistics, among others) to support the EVD outbreak response efforts. The next cross-border technical meeting among the three countries is planned for 23 June 2014 in Kailahun, Sierra Leone.

WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions be applied to Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone based on the current information available for this event.

 

SOURCE

World Health Organization (WHO)

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