North Africa/Middle East

Four years after Lebanon’s historic meltdown began, the small nation is still facing “enormous economic challenges,” with a collapsed banking sector, eroding public services, deteriorating infrastructure and worsening poverty, the International Monetary Fund warned Friday, the Associated Press reported. In a statement issued at the end of a four-day visit by an IMF delegation to the crisis-hit country, the international agency welcomed recent policy decisions by Lebanon's central bank to stop lending to the state and end the work in an exchange platform known as Sayrafa.
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Israel's central bank is pushing forward with plans to issue a digital shekel, citing the need to improve the country's payment systems, but on Tuesday remained noncommittal on whether one would be launched, Reuters reported. The Bank of Israel in November 2021 stepped up its research and preparation for the possible issuance of a digital shekel to create a more efficient payments system after first considering issuing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in late 2017.
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Israel's Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday against a bid by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to curb the court's powers, part of a judicial overhaul that has divided the nation, sparked months of protests and worried Israel's allies, Reuters reported. The court's 15 judges were hearing challenges by watchdog groups against a amendment passed in July ending the Supreme Court's ability to overturn some government decisions when it deems them "unreasonable".
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Tunisia’s central bank kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged despite a pick-up in inflation, as political tensions hinder reform efforts needed to obtain a loan from the International Monetary Fund, Bloomberg News reported. Banque Central de Tunisie kept the rate at 8%, the regulator said in a statement following a board meeting Thursday. The “current stance of the monetary policy will support a further easing of inflation over the coming period,” it said.
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Israel’s interest rates are high enough to bolster the shekel and ensure inflation slows to 3% or less by early next year, according to the country’s central bank governor, Bloomberg News reported. “We believe the current rate is in restrictive territory,” Amir Yaron told Bloomberg Television from Jerusalem. He spoke a day after the Bank of Israel kept its benchmark rate unchanged at 4.75%, even with the shekel having recently depreciated to a three-year low. The currency weakened 0.2% to 3.79 per dollar as of 2:10 p.m. local time.
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Libya’s central bank said it reunited with its breakaway rival after nine years of division, a rare step toward consolidating state institutions in the North African OPEC member battered by long-running conflict, Bloomberg News reported. The announcement followed a meeting between Tripoli-based Governor Sadiq Al-Kabir and officials from the rival regulator in the eastern city of Benghazi. Representatives are now working to address the impact of the split, according to a statement Sunday from the central bank in the capital.
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KBBO Group and its hospitals unit have received creditor approval for a debt restructuring plan, two years after the Abu Dhabi-based investment firm’s founder filed for bankruptcy, Bloomberg News reported. Creditors approved Emirates Hospitals Group’s plan earlier this week, according to people familiar with the matter and a presentation seen by Bloomberg News. The deal allows Emirates Hospitals to stave off liquidation and paves the way for a sale of the company by 2025. KBBO also received the go-ahead this month, the people said, asking not to be named because the information isn’t public.
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Israel-based fintech Vesttoo is seeking chapter 11 protection in a U.S. court which will enable it to pursue legal action against those responsible for a fake collateral scandal, it said in a statement yesterday, Reuters reported. Vesttoo - partly backed by Banco Santander's fintech venture capital arm Mouro Capital - has laid off staff, closed offices and appointed an interim chief executive following the discovery of fraudulent letters of credit used on its platform. Vesttoo provides insurers with access to so-called insurance-linked securities - an alternative form of reinsurance.
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Egypt’s inflation accelerated to another record high, with a new surge in food costs heaping more pressure on a country struggling with a debilitating foreign-currency crunch, Bloomberg News reported. Consumer prices in urban parts of the country rose an annual 36.5% in July, up from 35.7% the previous month, according to figures released Thursday by the state-run CAPMAS statistics agency. On a monthly basis, inflation was 1.9%, compared with 2.1% in June. The headline inflation rate’s now further beyond the level reached in the aftermath of Egypt’s 2016 currency crisis.
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The United States, United Kingdom, and Canada slapped sanctions Thursday on Lebanon's embattled former central bank governor and a handful of close relatives and associates over allegations of corruption, the U.S. Treasury Department said, the Associated Press reported. Riad Salameh, 73, ended his 30-year tenure on July 31 under a cloud of investigation and blame for his country's historic economic crisis. France, Germany, and Luxembourg are investigating Salameh and close associates over alleged financial crimes, including illicit enrichment and the laundering of $330 million.
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