North Africa/Middle East

Lebanon's currency has lost more than 15% of its value since the start of the year, piling further pressure on the population more than two years into a crisis that has plunged many into poverty and fuelled demonstrations, Reuters reported. Protesters took to the streets in several areas of the country on Monday night, burning tires and voicing anger at the dire economic situation amid political deadlock. Cars queued at fuel stations to fill up before another expected rise in prices.
Read more
Egypt’s red-hot bond market has made it a favorite of emerging-market investors, and they’re counting on another year of big gains, Bloomberg News reported. JPMorgan Chase & Co. will add Egypt -- which has $26 billion of eligible government bonds -- to a group of indexes this month, setting the market up to receive an influx of cash from passive money managers. Investors have already been enticed by Egypt’s hefty interest rates, which rank as the highest in the world after adjusting for inflation.
Read more
Lebanon’s currency hit a new low Tuesday reaching 20 times its value on the black market since the economic meltdown began in late 2019 and likely throwing more people into poverty, the Associated Press reported. The pound was trading at 30,000 to 1 U.S. dollar on the black market as the economic crisis continues with no solution expected in the near future. The Lebanese currency was pegged at 1,500 pounds to the dollar for 22 years until decades of corruption and mismanagement led to the country’s worst economic crisis in its modern history starting in October 2019.
Read more
Israel's government said on Thursday it would give additional aid to El Al Airlines to help compensate for the reimposition of a COVID-19 entry ban on foreign tourists and restrictions on overseas travel by Israelis, Reuters reported. Israel's flag carrier will receive tens of millions of dollars from the state and El Al's controlling shareholders to help it weather the pandemic, and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, according to a Finance Ministry statement.
Read more

The multibillion-dollar world’s fair in Dubai has warned that some venues on site may shut down as coronavirus cases rapidly rise in the United Arab Emirates, the Associated Press reported. Dubai’s Expo 2020 said that virus outbreaks among staff may force some parts of the fair to “close temporarily for deep cleaning and sanitization,” without elaborating on the scope or the location of the infections. The UAE’s daily virus caseload has skyrocketed by a multiple of 37 in just the last three weeks after the arrival of the omicron variant.

Read more

Morocco has extended a ban on international passenger flights until the end of January to fight the spread of the Omicron variant, RFI reported. The closure deals a severe blow to its vital tourism economy, with those working in the sector warning that Morocco is going bankrupt. The National Office of Airports (ONDA) announced on Friday that all passenger flights to and from Morocco would be suspended until 31 January 2021. Royal Air Maroc – the local airline – said that its scheduled exceptional flights between 24 December and 31 December 2021 would still operate.

Read more
The board of Jordan's Capital Bank approved a mandatory offer to acquire Societe Generale Bank Jordan (SGBJ), part of a drive to expand the bank's foothold regionally and domestically, its chairman said on Sunday, Reuters reported. Bassem Al Salem told Reuters an extraordinary general meeting had on Thursday also agreed to issue $100 million in perpetual bonds - meaning they have no maturity - to help drive growth.
Read more
Lebanon's central bank said on Thursday it would sell U.S. dollars to commercial banks at the rate on its Sayrafa foreign exchange platform, but analysts said offering more hard currency would do little to steady the already crippled Lebanese pound, Reuters reported. Lebanon's economy has been in freefall since 2019, when a mountain of debt and political gridlock, drove the nation into its deepest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. The Lebanese pound, which was exchanged freely at 1,500 to the dollar before the crisis, has collapsed to around 25,000 on the unofficial market.
Read more
Saudi Arabia boosted its revenue forecast for next year, with higher oil prices and production volumes poised to deliver the first budget surplus in eight years and the fastest economic growth since 2011, Bloomberg News reported. It’s a sharp turnaround after energy market turmoil and the pandemic combined to crater the kingdom’s nascent economic recovery from the last oil price rout.
Read more
Tunisia will continue to fulfil its foreign debt obligations and has started preparatory work for an IMF deal, Prime Minister Najla Bouden said on Friday, as talk of a possible default swirls among local and foreign analysts, Reuters reported. Her comments echo those of Finance Minister Sihem Boughdiri who said at an economic conference on Thursday that Tunisia was far from rescheduling its debts within the Paris Club, despite its financial difficulties.
Read more