More than most other places in the world, this
southern African nation with a long history of monetary
dysfunction has staked its financial system on mobile money, which allows
funds to change hands through the touch of a few buttons on an old-school
cellphone or through a smartphone app.
But now, amid power cuts lasting for up to 17 hours a
day, EcoCash breaks down frequently. The outages are blocking everyday economic
activity and exacerbating a financial crisis that has left Zimbabwe’s
government bankrupt and some five million people, about a third of its
population, in need of food aid.
Eight out of 10 transactions in Zimbabwe—from buying
milk to filling up a car or settling a utility bill—are done via cellphones,
almost exclusively on EcoCash.
“We are more or less a cashless economy,” said Ashok
Chakravarti, an economist based in Harare who believes that the EcoCash outages
will hurt Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product, which the International Monetary
Fund expects to shrink by 5.2% this year.
A government austerity program and limits on issuing
T-bills haven’t stopped the new Zimbabwean dollar from losing value. Inflation
spiked to 176% in June. Last month, the finance minister announced Zimbabwe’s
statistics agency would stop publishing annual inflation data until February,
saying it was distorted by the reintroduction of a local currency.
“Spaniards have become richer than Italians — a heartening indication of Spain’s economic revival but a worrying sign for Italy, the eurozone’s third-largest economy, which is stuck in political gridlock.”
“Spain’s per capita gross domestic product exceeded that of Italy in 2017, according to IMF data published this week that compare countries on a so-called ‘purchasing power parity’ basis. The IMF also forecast that Spain would become 7% richer than Italy over the next five years. A decade ago Italy was 10% richer on the same basis.”
“By 2023 some former Soviet bloc countries, including Slovakia and the Czech Republic, are also expected to become richer than Italy on a per capita basis, the IMF forecasts show.”
“Italy’s stagnation is one of the main causes of the country’s increasingly bitter political divisions, with the electorate losing faith in the ability of its traditional parties to create jobs and restore growth. Anti-establishment and protest parties emerged as the big winners of Italy’s inconclusive general election last month, where voters deserted more moderate center-left and center-right forces.”
“Italy’s underperformance — and in particular any threat to its ability to service its debt, the largest in the eurozone after Greece’s relative to the size of the economy — is also seen as one of the biggest risks for the single-currency area.”
“The fact that Spain has overtaken Italy owes more to Italy’s problems than Spain’s economic progress, which has only recently gathered pace.”
“At the end of the 1990s, Italy — which now has almost 15m more people than Spain — had an economy twice as large as that of Spain. It is now only 50% larger and the difference is expected to shrink even further in the next five years.”
“Back in 1997, Italy was the 18th richest economy on a per capita basis among the countries for which the IMF has a complete data set. After 10 years, its ranking dropped 10 positions — and it has now slipped five more positions in the decade to 2017.”
“By 2023 Italy is expected to be only the 37th richest country on a per capita basis.”
For the world to attain lower carbon dioxide emissions, the oil majors will need to be leaders in this initiative. They’ve taken on the charge to some degree committing larger sums to renewable energy sources; however, it’s hard when they’re so good at making money with carbon dioxide emitting sources.
“Assets managed by SWFs globally reached $7.45tn spread across 78 funds as at March 2018, an increase of $866bn, or 13%, over the past 12 months, according to data provider Preqin.”
“A recovery in oil prices and strong gains for equity markets drove the increase in assets, which will come as welcome news to investment managers as SWFs are among their most prestigious clients. SWFs pulled about $85bn from asset managers over the 24 months ending on December 16 as low oil prices forced governments in the Middle East to raid these rainy-day funds to prop up public spending.”
“Shares of real-estate investment trusts have underperformed the broader equity market for the third year running, in part because of rising interest rates, which cause these dividend-paying stocks to lose some of their appeal.”
“Because it would be difficult to issue new shares if REITs continue to trade at discounts, some are now compelled to sell assets to raise cash to help them reposition their remaining assets or fund share buybacks.”
“REITs could sell individual assets, sell stakes in assets to other institutional investors and enter joint ventures where they also could earn some management fees, or be acquired entirely and privatized by an investor.”
“Industry insiders noted that while there are more for-sale signs popping up, these sales aren’t driven by the need to reduce debt because REITs have been more disciplined since the financial crisis, so property prices aren’t likely to fall drastically.”
“Listed REITs have been net sellers of assets since 2015, according to data from Real Capital Analytics. From January to March 23 of 2018, there were $6.91 billion in disposals, compared with $5.38 billion in acquisitions.”
“Disposals topped acquisitions in 2017 and 2016, $60.9 billion to $56.1 billion and $71.4 billion to $48.4 billion respectively, Real Capital said.”
“In a few months’ time, if all goes to plan, designs will be drawn up for a wind farm that will be built 22km off the Netherlands’ coast. Once up and running in 2022, Hollandse Kust Zuid will be able to call itself Europe’s first offshore wind farm built without government subsidies.”
“The wind farm, expected to be fully operational in 2023, will boast around 90 turbines that will deliver up to 750MW of power — enough to produce renewable electricity for up to 2m homes.”
“Canberra’s proposed crackdown on Chinese government influence in Australia has prompted a bitter split among academics, following claims the policy is driven by racism and is stigmatizing Chinese Australians.”
“A group of 35 China scholars based in Australia signed an open letter on Wednesday defending the Australian government’s efforts to identify and wind back Chinese Communist party (CCP) influence in the country.”
“Canberra is proposing to ban foreign political donations and target covert, deceptive and threatening actions by foreign groups and individuals in response to alleged interference by the CCP in the country’s internal affairs and in Chinese diaspora communities.”
“The letter said accusations of racism were a tool used by the CCP to silence the debate over foreign influence and drive a wedge between Chinese communities and the rest of Australia.”
“After a two-year wait, Chinese regulators have revived a program allowing global asset managers including JPMorgan Chase to raise funds from Chinese onshore clients for investment in offshore hedge funds.”
“The easing of capital controls shows how Chinese regulators are increasingly relaxed about cross-border capital flows amid a stable Chinese economy and persistent dollar weakness.”
“JPMorgan Asset Management has received a new quota for the program, and several other asset managers are expecting similar allotments, according to three people familiar with the situation. JPMorgan received a $50m quota in January, one of those people said.”