Government debt around the world shot up last year to approach levels last seen in the aftermath of World War II, as nations stepped up spending to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, the International Monetary Fund said yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported. Public debt as a share of global gross domestic product surged to 98% by the end of December from 84% at the end of 2019, before the pandemic struck, the IMF said in an update to its semiannual Fiscal Monitor report.
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Kenya’s economy is expected to expand this year as activity resumes following Covid-19 lockdowns, boosting tax revenue and government spending, Bloomberg News reported. East Africa’s largest economy will probably expand 6.4% this year and growth will slow to 5.5% in 2022, with scheduled elections likely to dampen activity, Treasury said in a report on its website. The Treasury estimates that gross domestic product increased 0.6% in 2020, which would make it one of few countries in the region that did not record a full-year contraction amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A Swiss court on Friday convicted the French-Israeli mining magnate Beny Steinmetz on charges of corrupting foreign public officials and forging documents, in a trial over his successful bid to reap lavish iron ore resources in the West African nation of Guinea, the Associated Press reported. Steinmetz, one of the richest people in Israel, was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a $56.5 million fine. The case centered on alleged payouts of millions of dollars to a former wife of an ex-president of Guinea, Lansana Conté, who died in 2008.
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.
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.
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.
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.