North Africa/Middle East

Pharmacies on Verge of Bankruptcy in Iran

An Iranian pharmacist says many of the pharmacies in Iran are going bankrupt due to economic problems, Iran International reported. Mohammad Reza Afkhami, Secretary of the Khorasan Razavi Pharmacists Association, said pharmacies are not separate from other guilds and they are not in a good economic situation, either. “Currently, the economy of pharmacies is ruined, and they are on the verge of closing down. If the situation continues like this, we will see the closure of pharmacies soon,” warned Afkhami.

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The International Monetary Fund reached a preliminary agreement with the Egyptian government Thursday that paves the way for the economically troubled Arab nation to access a $3 billion loan, officials said Thursday, the Associated Press reported. IMF officials said that a staff agreement between the Egyptian government and IMF leaders had been reached following months of talks, as Egypt struggles to combat surging inflation caused, in part, by the war in Ukraine.
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Egypt will develop a new currency indicator partly to wean people off the idea that the Egyptian pound should be pegged to the U.S. dollar, the new central bank governor said on Sunday, Reuters reported. Hassan Abdalla, appointed in August, told an economic conference that the central bank was also working to introduce currency hedging and had already finished futures contracts as it revamps its currency trading system. The indicator would be based on a basket of several currencies and possibly gold, he said.
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BitOasis, a Middle East-focused cryptocurrency exchange based in the United Arab Emirates, said on Tuesday it had signed an agreement with Mastercard to launch payment cards linked to cryptocurrencies, they said in a joint statement, Reuters reported. The cards will allow BitOasis customers in the Middle East and North Africa to make purchases at points of sale or online, "thereby adding consumer protection - such as provisions for dispute resolution and refunds - which doesn't exist today when paying with a digital asset," the companies said.
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The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) said on Monday it would reshape its ownership structure and also create a blockchain platform to allow more trading of crypto currencies in an effort to match international standards, Reuters reported. TASE, which went public in 2019, said it would create a new publicly traded holding company that will own 100% of the bourse, which will become a private firm. Subsidiaries of the exchange will be units of the new holding company. It said its board had given the nod to the plan but approval from the regulator and TASE shareholders were still awaited.
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Saudi Arabia's crown prince on Sunday launched an initiative to attract investments in supply chains to and from the kingdom, with an aim of raising an initial 40 billion riyals ($10.64 billion), Reuters reported. The initiative by Prince Mohammed bin Salman will include allocating about 10 billion riyals in incentives for supply chain investors, state news agency SPA reported, without elaborating.
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Lebanon’s parliament late Tuesday approved some amendments to a banking secrecy law that has been a key demand of the International Monetary Fund before it agrees to a bailout program amid the country’s economic meltdown, the Associated Press reported. Despite the changes, legal advocacy groups say the alterations to the law will likely not be enough to please the IMF because it restricts moves to lift banking secrecy provisions to judicial authorities.
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Saudi Arabia is selling bonds and Islamic securities, while offering to buy back as much as $15.5 billion of debt, Bloomberg News reported. The world’s biggest oil exporter plans to sell sukuk maturing in six years and bonds due in 10, both denominated in dollars. At the same time, Saudi Arabia asked holders of its bonds due in 2023, 2025 and 2026 to tender their notes for purchase by the kingdom for cash. It will announce the maximum acceptance amount after the pricing of the new securities.
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Outraged bank clients, at least two of them armed, stormed four commercial banks across Lebanon on Tuesday over withdrawal limits that have been imposed throughout the country amid a financial meltdown, Reuters reported. Cases of bank hold-ups have snowballed across Lebanon as residents have grown exasperated over the informal capital controls that banks have imposed since an economic downturn began in 2019.
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The Bank of Israel on Monday raised its benchmark interest rate by three-quarters of a point for the second meeting in a row, citing its determination to move inflation back to within its target, Reuters reported. The central bank lifted its key rate to 2.75% from 2.0% in its fifth straight decision to hike rates. In April, policymakers had begun raising the rate from 0.1% -- an all-time low where it had stayed for the prior 15 decisions since a 0.15 point reduction at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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