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Obama to Lift Myanmar Sanctions as Suu Kyi Visits

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Suu Kyi

President Barack Obama moved to restore trade benefits to Myanmar, saying broader sanctions would soon be scrapped as he hosted the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the White House Wednesday.

Welcoming her for the first time since her historic election victory last year, Obama announced a series of steps to coax the rapidly transforming southeast Asian country — also known as Burma — from decades of economic isolation.

“The United States is now prepared to lift sanctions that we have imposed on Burma for quite some time,” he said, adding that the move would come “soon.”

“It is the right thing to do to ensure that the people of Burma see rewards for a new way of doing business.”

In a letter to Congress, Obama also announced plans to reinstate preferential tariffs for Myanmar that were suspended more than two decades ago amid rights abuses by the ruling junta.

The White House is keen to help the country’s economy and Suu Kyi’s administration — which is managing a difficult transition from military-run pariah to full-fledged democracy.

Although its constitution technically bars the 71-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate from heading Myanmar’s government, she received a leader’s welcome in Washington.

After talks with Obama, Suu Kyi took part in a coveted Oval Office grip-and-grin photo shoot.

Obama turned to the once-imprisoned former opposition leader, offering his “congratulations on the progress that has been made.”

“It’s a good news story in an era when so often we see countries going the opposite direction,” he said, acknowledging that much work remains to be done.

Suu Kyi is officially foreign minister and self-appointed state counsellor — a role akin to prime minister.

After spending much of the last few decades under arrest, she is now de facto leader of a skeletal government, an economy hollowed out by decades of kleptocratic dictatorship and a country riven with ethnic and religious violence.

The veteran campaigner must tackle all those problems while keeping an eye on generals who may have second thoughts about reform.

US officials, who acknowledge Suu Kyi is working under some very tough political constraints, dare not push the military or the public too far or too fast.

“She has to tackle problems one by one” said Ben Rhodes, a key Obama aide who has spearheaded the administration’s Myanmar policy.

– Leverage and sanctions –

Obama did not say when he would rescind an executive order underpinning broader sanctions that declares Myanmar a “national emergency.”

Although some curbs on ties to the military and some individuals will probably stay in place, scrapping the order would bring clarity to US companies considering business there.

Washington lifted a host of financial and trade embargoes on state-owned banks and businesses in May, but US firms have remained cautious.

Some policymakers worry lifting sanctions completely could weaken American leverage and may let the military off the hook.

There is still no civilian control of the military and officers are guaranteed a quarter of legislative seats.

Global Witness and other human rights groups have criticized Obama’s move as “a major setback for efforts to clean up Myanmar’s notoriously corrupt and abusive business environment.”

“Lifting restrictions before the new government’s reforms have borne fruit effectively invites US companies to do business with some of the worst figures from the country’s past.”

Suu Kyi has disappointed some of her more zealous Western supporters by following the junta’s lead on some issues, especially refusing to recognize the Rohingya — a persecuted Muslim minority group in the overwhelmingly Buddhist country.

Tens of thousands of stateless Rohingya have spent the past four years trapped in bleak displacement camps with limited access to health care and other basic services.

AFP

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

Coronavirus – Angola: Confronting the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Oil Price Shock

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COVID-19 Vaccine

The COVID-19 pandemic and the shock from the falling price of oil have put severe pressure on Angola since the country’s second review under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) in December 2019.

Only months after the conclusion of the second review in December 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic reached Angola, ushering in economic and health crises. The decline in oil prices further strained the economy, which is heavily reliant on oil exports. The economic downturn and social distancing to contain the spread of the virus have been damaging, especially given the large informal sector.

A swift response to the crisis

The Angolan authorities adopted timely measures to tackle the challenges arising from the COVID-19 shock. Measures to protect public health included quarantine, social distancing, closing of borders with limited exceptions, closures of schools, restaurants, and public events, and limited transportation. The government recently approved a prudent supplementary budget for 2020 using a conservative oil reference price. It has also introduced a comprehensive set of fiscal and monetary measures to support economic activities.

Fiscal measures

On relief to help vulnerable people:

• Tax exemptions of value-added tax (VAT) and customs duties on goods imported under humanitarian aid and donations.

• VAT tax credit for imported capital goods and raw materials for producing essential consumption goods.

• Interest-free, deferred payment option for social security contributions.

• Regulation of prices for a list of medical goods.

On government spending:

• Freeze of 30 percent of purchases on nonessential goods and services.

• Reduction in the number of ministries from 28 to 21.

• Suspension of selected, nonessential capital expenditures.

• Decrease in travel and real estate investments.

Monetary measures

• Additional liquidity support to banks and a liquidity line to buy government securities from nonfinancial corporations.

• A credit-stimulus program.

• Temporary suspension for debt service payments.

• Requirement for banks to provide credit to importers of essential goods.

A proactive external debt management

The government needs to safeguard its ability to continue to service its debt on schedule, even under the current trying circumstances. The government has therefore availed itself of the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative. They have also secured selected debt reprofiling operations with some of their large creditors.

Financial support from the IMF

On September 16, 2020, the IMF’s Executive Board approved the third review under the EFF and additional financial support to Angola to help mitigate the impact of the crises. Accordingly, the IMF has provided $1 billion to Angola, bringing its total expected financial support to about $4.5 billion under the three-year program. The authorities are strengthening their public financial management to improve accountability for the funds received from the IMF and debt relief from creditors.

The path to recovery

It is important for Angola to continue to stabilize the economy, control inflation, keep the reform momentum, and safeguard financial stability. It is also crucial to persevere with structural reforms, such as privatization, improvement in governance in state-owned enterprises, and strengthened legal frameworks. These reforms will help improve the business environment and pave the way for foreign direct investment and growth-enhancing economic diversification.

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Republic of Korea Contributes Rice and Cash to Assist Ugandans threatened by locusts

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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed 5,000 metric tons of rice and US$300,000 in cash from the Republic of Korea to provide much-needed relief assistance to 781,000 people including refugees and Ugandans threatened by locusts.

“WFP is extremely grateful for the continued generosity of the Republic of Korea since 2018 and its appreciation of the immense humanitarian needs in Uganda, which were suddenly made even more complicated by COVID-19,” said WFP Officer in Charge Ryan Anderson.

”This contribution of 5,000 metric tons of rice found us at a crossroads when we were considering whether to make deeper ration cuts for refugees because of a shortage of funding, even as we have evidence that they already face high food insecurity,” he added.

Combined with other contributions, the rice may allow WFP to maintain rations for 1.26 million refugees at the current 70 percent of a full ration for a while. Valued at US$4.3 million, it will also meet cereal needs of 614,000 refugees in seven settlements towards the end of the year.

The additional US$300,000 in cash will enable WFP to meet the relief needs of 167,000 people in the northeastern region of Karamoja, which is the most food-insecure region in the country and is threatened by a combination of malnutrition among its residents, locusts, floods and animal diseases.

“The Republic of Korea is committed to supporting vulnerable groups of people in Uganda, especially refugees fleeing conflict and nationals faced by chronic food shortages and malnutrition,” said Ambassador Ha Byung-Kyoo.

“We also are very pleased to continue making contributions of rice, which we have heard is appreciated by the refugees and contributes to much needed dietary diversity,” he added.

WFP was forced to reduce rations for refugees in April to 70 percent of a full ration because of funding shortages. The economic pressures that COVID-19 has brought on donor capitals has further complicated funding to feed refugees. WFP is putting in place safety measures in 13 refugee settlements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during food and cash distributions.

The Republic of Korea has contributed rice to WFP in Uganda annually since 2018 in support of 1.43 million refugees – the highest number of refugees hosted by any country in Africa.

The US$300,000 contribution will also contribute to supporting WFP assistance in Karamoja. Even though families in the region were able to harvest some crops in August, despite repeated sightings of locusts between February and July, the very presence of the pests in the region threatens both agriculture and vegetation needed for animals. Relief food helps to cushion families as the government and UN partners work to control the impact of locusts.

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UAE May Reverse Visa Restriction on Nigerians Today Amid Airlines Ban

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Nigerian Government Pressures UAE to Revisit Visa Restrictions

Barring any last-minute hitches, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will today, review the visa restriction placed on Nigerian travellers, following the ban of Emirates Airlines from the most populous black nation.

Sources at the company’s his office in Lagos confirmed that the issue was being reviewed, and the “right” diplomatic approach taken.

This came as aviation stakeholders commended the Federal Government for going “tough and playing tit-for-tat with countries that would not accept Nigerian travellers into their domains.”

The Federal Government, following pressure from some quarters, banned Emirates Airlines from Lagos and Abuja airports, effective today, over refusal to grant fresh visa applications submitted by Nigerians.

The government earlier banned European carriers, with the exception of British Airways, over travel restrictions.
Emirates officials said: “We have met with the Nigerian government on this issue, and we assured them that we will resolve it. We are presently working on it.”
“I hope this issue will be resolved before Monday. One thing I will assure you is that the issue will be resolved earlier than expected,” a manager said.

The Chief Executive Officer of Finchglow Travels, Bankole Bernard, said assurances had been given on the matter.

He noted that Nigeria was third-biggest market to Emirates, adding that the UAE would do everything to sustain their operations.

“UAE should have resolved this matter long ago. The ban means that they will lose the market, and they know the implication.

A market lost is never easily regained. Right now, we are certain that the ban will only affect Monday flights, and hoping that things will be normal by Tuesday,” he added.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, at the weekend, via his twitter handle, announced the suspension of Emirates Airlines from Nigeria, saying the ban would take effect from today.

Emirates Airlines’ situation was reviewed, and they are consequently included in the list of those not approved, with effect from Monday, September 21, 2020,” he said.

The President Muhammadu Buhari administration had in August warned that Nigeria would activate the principle of reciprocity in granting permission to airlines to resume operations in the country as it reopens its airspace.

It said the decision was informed by the embargoing on flights from Nigeria by some nations.

Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Angolan TAG, Air Namibia and Royal Air Maroc were not approved to operate flights into the country.

Aviation stakeholder, Julius Akintunde, said the measures were in the best interest of the economy.

Also speaking, Secretary-General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), urged that the reciprocity should be done with caution in order for the Nigerian market not to be undermined by neighbours.

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