Africa

The biggest labor group at South Africa’s Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. blamed “poor leadership” for ongoing nationwide power cuts, a discordant sign as the utility embarks on a plan to become profitable again, Bloomberg News reported. The National Union of Mineworkers is “very disappointed with the performance” of Eskom Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter and the lack of a plan to prevent outages, it said Thursday in a statement. The group also continues to oppose the use of independent electricity producers, which Eskom is counting on to help increase generation.

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China postponed Kenyan debt repayments due over the next six months, a week after the Paris Club of creditors offered the East African nation similar relief, Bloomberg News reported. Kenya had been scheduled to pay 27 billion shillings ($245 million) to China from January through June, Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani said Wednesday on Spice FM radio in the capital, Nairobi. The delayed payments were agreed after talks with the Chinese government, he said.

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An annual wealth tax on the net worth of South Africa’s richest people could raise as much as 160 billion rand ($10.7 billion) and would narrow inequality in a nation where the most affluent 1% of the population own 55% of personal wealth, a study showed, Bloomberg News. The study, carried out by groups including the World Inequality Lab of which Thomas Piketty is co-director, assessed personal wealth in South Africa and proposed a range of taxes on net wealth of above 3.82 million rand, or the top 1% of the population.
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China is in talks with Kenya on a debt-service suspension deal, its embassy in Nairobi said, days after the Paris Club agreed to delay $300 million in payments by the East African nation, Bloomberg News reported. China signed payment suspension agreements with 12 African countries and gave waivers on mature interest-free loans for 15 African nations under the G-20 framework, the embassy said in an emailed statement, without providing details.

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The International Monetary Fund approved the disbursement of $488 million to Angola and reiterated its confidence that Africa’s second-biggest oil producer will rein in public debt to sustainable levels, Bloomberg News reported. The disbursement approved by the executive board comes four months after the Washington-based lender increased the size of the loan by almost a quarter to $4.5 billion to help Angola weather the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Costa Rica built Latin America’s model society, enacting universal health care and spending its way to one of the Western Hemisphere’s highest literacy rates. Now, it’s reeling from the financially crushing side effects of the coronavirus, as cratering revenue and crisis spending force a reckoning over a massive pile of government debt, the Washington Post reported. The pandemic is hurtling heavily leveraged nations into an economic danger zone, threatening to bankrupt the worst-affected.

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Severe coronavirus restrictions around the world to contain surging infection rates weighed on fuel sales, weakening the prospect of energy demand recovery in the first half of 2021, Reuters reported. Most of Europe is now under the strictest restrictions, according to the Oxford stringency index, which assesses indicators such as travel bans and the closure of schools and workplaces. The United Kingdom’s new national lockdown is expected to last until mid-February at least.

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Even before Covid-19, the World Bank had lowered its projections for global growth in the 10 years that began in 2020. The pandemic is exacerbating that trend, raising the prospect of a “lost decade” ahead, the World Bank said Tuesday, as it also cut its forecasts for the coming year, the Wall Street Journal reported. The bank’s semiannual Global Economic Prospects report attributes the long-term downgrade to lower trade and investment caused by uncertainty over the pandemic, along with disruptions in education that will hamper gains in labor productivity.
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Seven labor groups representing workers at South African Airways who’ve not been paid since March agreed to accept a settlement offer of three months’ wages, a move that will aid the government’s efforts to revive the bankrupt state airline, Bloomberg News reported. Members of the groups, including the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union and the Solidarity union, will also receive a lump-sum payment related to an increase they were owed and part of a year-end bonus, the Department of Public Enterprises Enterprises said in a statement on Thursday.
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The drop in the amount of distressed debt across emerging markets has been a barely anticipated bonus for many countries this year. But it’s scant comfort for those nations still struggling with mounting obligations, Bloomberg News reported. The number of emerging- and frontier-market nations with debt trading at distressed levels -- yields more than 10 percentage points above those on U.S. Treasuries -- has tumbled from as many as 19 at the height of the coronavirus selloff in March to about a half-dozen now.

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