Unprecedented contraction and high unemployment .. The IMF calls on countries in the region to accelerate reform and diversify the economy

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The International Monetary Fund has urged the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to speed up reforms and diversify the economy, at a time when the energy-rich region faces unprecedented challenges due to the emerging Corona virus and the decline in oil prices.

And in its latest update to its regional economic forecast this month, the IMF said that the region’s GDP will shrink by 5% this year, compared with its previous forecast in July of a 5.7% contraction.

Despite the slight improvement, the region, which includes all Arab countries and Iran, will suffer from its worst economic performance, surpassing the record contraction of 4.7% in 1978 when it was witnessing major turmoil.

“We should view what is happening today as a call to action, and also as an opportunity to stimulate economic transformation and create more opportunities, especially for youth,” said Jihad Azour, director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the IMF.

He added in an interview with Agence France-Presse via video, “We expect growth and unemployment to be affected this year, and this crisis in general could lead to a 5% decrease in growth and a similar increase in the unemployment rate.”

In recent years, the region has witnessed a series of conflicts in a number of its countries, including Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya, which destroyed their economies and increased their poverty rates on a large scale. These conflicts have caused a high rate of unemployment, which currently stands at 26.6% among young people, according to World Bank data.

A double blow
Since last March, countries in the region, many of which depend on oil revenues, have resorted to closures and curfews to prevent the spread of the Corona virus, which has led to disruption of local economies.

The IMF says that the average oil price will be $ 41.69 a barrel in 2020, and $ 46.70 in 2021, far from the $ 57 to $ 64 average it was in 2019.

In light of the double whammy (the Corona outbreak and the decline in oil prices), the growth of oil-exporting countries in the Middle East and North Africa is expected to contract by 6.6%, and the economies of crude importers are expected to contract by 1%, as the epidemic continues to hit tourism and trade.

Azour returned to say, “We are at a pivotal moment where there are hopes that the vaccine can speed up the (economic) recovery, but there are also challenges with the risk of a second wave of the virus.”

Lebanon: reforming the subsidy system.
Lebanon is the most affected country in the region, as it faces the worst economic crisis since the civil war (1975-1990), causing the local currency to decline against the dollar, doubling the poverty rate to more than half of the population, and mass exodus.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the economy of this country is contracting by 25%. Azour returned again, warning that “Lebanon needs a comprehensive reform program that addresses deep-rooted issues.”

“Of course, this requires the next government to accelerate the pace of reform, which must be comprehensive and widely supported in order to get Lebanon’s economy out of the crisis,” he added.

In turn, the International Monetary Fund said on Monday that Lebanon should reform its subsidy system to reach the people most in need and make better use of its rapidly declining foreign currency reserves.

He added that he estimated consumer price inflation this year at 85.5% this year, up from the estimate last April of 17%. His estimate of the central government’s fiscal deficit widened to 16.5% of GDP, up from 15.3% in April.

Saudi Arabia … accelerate investment
As for the Saudi economy – the largest in the Arab world – it will shrink by 5.4% this year. This forecast represents a slight improvement from the 6.8% that was announced by the Fund in July, as the Kingdom suffers from the impact of low oil prices and the consequences of Corona, especially after it suspended the performance of Umrah and reduced the number of pilgrims.

According to the official in the International Fund, and in order to reduce the negative impact of this “double shock”, the Saudi economy “accelerates the diversification process” that has been continuing since 2016, and investing more in “technology that has proven to be very important in managing this crisis.”

The world’s largest crude exporter says it plans to cut government spending by more than 7% next year, as the budget deficit is expected to widen to 12% of GDP in 2020.

Azour believes that Saudi Arabia needs to “accelerate investment in new sectors and provide support to small and medium-sized companies that can lead the next wave of diversification.”

Tunisia … the need for financing

The IMF confirmed that Tunisia will hold discussions with the IMF in the next few weeks and may request more funding. “They may ask for other financing facilities,” Azour said. “They haven’t done that yet.”

Tunisia and the IMF agreed in April to borrow $ 743 million to help counter the economic damage caused by the Corona pandemic, after a previous program of a long-term loan from the Fund was also postponed.

Tunisia expects its economy to shrink 7% this year and increase its fiscal deficit to 14% of GDP. The country received financial support from the European Union and the World Bank.

Even before the current global pandemic, Tunisia was struggling with slow growth, high unemployment, and a decline in public services since the 2011 revolution.

With regard to the Middle East and Central Asia region as a whole, the International Monetary Fund said that its return to the levels of economic growth it was witnessing before the Corona crisis may take 10 years, as long-standing weaknesses in the region put pressure on its recovery.

Today, the Fund confirmed in its forecasts for this region – which includes about 30 countries extending from Mauritania to Kazakhstan – that growth is likely to be affected by the lack of diversification of sources in oil-exporting countries and the dependence of crude importing countries on sectors such as tourism, as well as their dependence on remittances from abroad.

The IMF added, “The Covid-19 crisis is the fastest-impacting economic shock in modern history.”

The economic “wound”, which includes long-term losses to growth, income and employment, will likely be deeper and longer-term than the one that followed the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, he said.

The International Monetary Fund expects the economies of the Middle East and Central Asia to shrink 4.1% this year, a contraction of 1.3 percentage points greater than it forecast in April.

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An extended meeting of Kazemi with the heads of French companies (photos)

Details of the ‘white paper’ explained

2020.10.19 – 19:41

An extended meeting of Kazemi with the heads of French companies (photos)

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Baghdad – People   

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi met, on Monday, a number of French company heads on the sidelines of his current European tour that he started in the French capital, Paris.   

Al-Kazemi explained, according to a statement issued by his media office that “People” received a copy, (October 19, 2020), “the level of challenges that Iraq faces due to the economic repercussions of the Corona pandemic and the decline in oil revenues,” indicating “the government’s determination to turn these challenges into an opportunity for success.” The Iraqi economy stems from it towards a radical shift in reducing dependence on oil exports.  

He added, “Al-Kazemi clarified the details of the reform white paper adopted by the government, the response it received, and the economic and administrative reforms it contained, as well as its inclusion of reducing government expenditures.”  

Al-Kazemi explained to the heads of French companies, according to the statement, “Iraq is keen to create a solid economic partnership, and its endeavor to sustain momentum in developing a real transition in the economy, just as it is keen to provide healthy and appropriate conditions for investment and address the obstacles it faces. Iraq has already embarked on a campaign to combat corruption.” Al-Edari and surrounded him, and this campaign has begun to bear fruit. ”  

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Al-Kazemi also met with the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, Adri Azoulay.   

The Media Office of the Prime Minister said in a statement, which “people” received a copy of, (October 19, 2020), that “the Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kazemi, met in Paris today with the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Audrey Azoulay. On the sidelines of his European tour that started in the French capital, Paris.  

During the meeting, according to the statement, “ways to enhance and expand the work of the programs run by the international organization in Iraq, especially those related to the reconstruction of the Al-Nuri Mosque and the old city in Mosul, and efforts to rehabilitate Rashid Street in central Baghdad,” were discussed during the meeting.  

The statement continued, “The meeting dealt with discussing cultural and educational cooperation and curriculum development, in line with the requirements of progress and transformation in educational methods, especially in light of measures to prevent the Corona pandemic.”  

The media office of Prime Minister Mostafa Al-Kazemi explained, at an earlier time, the axes of the latter’s meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, as part of his current European tour that includes France, Germany and Britain.  

The Media Office of the Prime Minister’s Presidency stated in a statement, of which “People” received a copy, (October 19, 2020), that “during the meeting, bilateral relations between the two countries and ways to develop them were discussed, and the latest regional and international developments were reviewed, and views were exchanged on a number of Issues of common interest. “

The statement added that “the meeting dealt with ways to enhance joint cooperation between Iraq and France, especially with regard to the economic, security and cultural fields, and in the field of combating terrorism.”    

Al-Kazemi expressed his “aspiration to consolidate the existing friendly relations between the two countries, and to consolidate the means of joint cooperation, in a way that enhances their common interests.”    

The statement indicated that the French President, Emmanuel Macron, “welcomed the visit of Prime Minister Al-Kazemi,” stressing his country’s “keenness to strengthen the bonds of relations with Iraq in various fields.”


Head of the Mobilization Committee: Burning the Democratic headquarters in Baghdad is a criminal act

PoliticsFaleh Al-Fayyad 2020-10-19 14:17A- A A+

Shafaq News / The head of the Popular Mobilization Authority, Faleh al-Fayyad, accused, on Monday, what he called “violating and outlaws” of targeting diplomatic missions in Iraq, at a time when he strongly refused to attack the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the capital, Baghdad.

“The crowd is an official body within the state’s institutions,” Fayyad said in statements to the Iraqi government TV and seen by Shafaq News Agency.

He added that “those who target diplomatic missions are violating parties outside the law.”

Al-Fayadh pointed out that “burning the headquarters of the Democratic Party in Baghdad is regrettable,” noting that “what happened in the burning of the Democratic Party is a criminal act.”

“We felt ashamed to raise the flag of the crowd over the party building,” Al-Fayyad added, noting that  the security forces had arrested 15 to 18 people accused of arson.

Al-Fayadh confirmed that “the prime minister supports the Hashd and leads it militarily,” explaining that “there is no state of hostility between the prime minister and the Popular Mobilization Authority.”

Dozens of supporters of the Popular Mobilization Forces demonstrated on Saturday morning near the fifth branch of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the center of the capital, Baghdad, denouncing the recent statements of the leader of the party, Hoshyar Zebari .

Social networking sites and groups loyal to the crowd, including the “Rubu Allah” group, had mobilized to take part in this demonstration.

The protesters stormed the party headquarters and smashed its contents after they managed to cross the barbed wire set up by law enforcement protection forces at the secondary entrance to the Fifth Branch headquarters.


Central Bank Governor stresses the importance of strengthening banking relations between Iraq and France


Economy News – Baghdad

The Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, Mustafa Ghaleb Makhaif, stressed the importance of strengthening banking relations between Iraq and France.

The Central Bank of Iraq said in a press statement that the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, Mustafa Ghaleb Mukhaif, met this Monday with his French counterpart within the framework of the visit, which will include three European countries, and the meeting that took place in the building of the French Central Bank included discussing bilateral relations between the two countries.

According to the statement, the governor emphasized the importance of strengthening banking relations between Iraq and France and the importance of developing them .

For his part, the Governor of the French Central Bank affirmed that there is full readiness to develop banking relations and cooperation between the two countries in the areas of supervision and combating money laundering and terrorist financing.


Parliamentary Finance reveals the date of delivery of salaries for October

2020/10/19 17:17

The number of readings 61

Section : Iraq

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Baghdad / Al-Masalla: The Parliamentary Finance Committee revealed, on Monday, October 19, 2020, the date for the delivery of salaries for the month of October.

A member of the Finance Committee, Jamal Cougar, said, “The salaries will not be delayed, as happened last month, and our expectations are that they will be distributed in the last two days of the month and the Iraqi street, and the situation does not bear a repetition of the same scenario that happened last September.” 

Cougar stressed that “the House of Representatives will in any case vote on the internal borrowing law and legislate it, but it is not in this form that was sent by the government,” noting that “the House of Representatives and the legislation of the law do not have anything to do with salaries and that mortgaging the salaries of employees in the House of Representatives is not correct.”

He pointed out that “the numbers mentioned in the text are fictitious, reaching 40 trillion, and this is greatly exaggerated.”

Parliamentary Finance Reporter Ahmed Al-Saffar said earlier, “The House of Representatives is determined to vote on the internal borrowing law, which is included in the reform paper, which will secure the salaries of employees until the end of the year.”

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France confirms its readiness to develop banking relations with Iraq

Editing date: 10/19/2020 16:16

[Baghdad-Where] The

governor of the French Central Bank, on Monday, expressed his full readiness to develop banking relations with Iraq.

The media office of the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, Mustafa Ghaleb Makhaif, said in a statement. The latter met his French counterpart within the framework of the visit that will include three European countries, adding that the meeting that took place in the building of the French Central Bank discussed bilateral relations between the two countries.

Mechif stressed, “the importance of strengthening banking relations between Iraq and France and the importance of developing them.”

For his part, the Governor of the French Central Bank affirmed that “there is full readiness to develop banking relations and cooperation between the two countries in the fields of supervision and combating money laundering and terrorist financing.”


Al-Kazemi during his meeting with Castex: The government seeks strong relations with the countries of the world and restore Iraq to its international status

2020/10/19 13:12

The number of readings 91

Section : Iraq

Baghdad / Al-Masala: Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi began his first talks in the French capital, Paris, on Monday, October 19, 2020, with his meeting with French Prime Minister Jean Castex, in the presence of a number of ministers of the two countries.

During the meeting, they discussed ways to develop bilateral relations between the two countries and strengthen them in the economic, investment, security and health fields.

They also discussed the situation in the region and exchanged views on a number of issues.

Al-Kazemi pointed to the importance of strengthening cooperation between the two countries in many sectors, as the government seeks solid relations with the countries of the world based on common interests and to restore Iraq to its international status.

The French Prime Minister affirmed France’s keenness to support Iraq at various levels.

Earlier, Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi arrived, Sunday, October 18, 2020, in the French capital, Paris, at the start of his tour to European countries.

Earlier, the Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kazemi, left the capital, Baghdad, on Sunday, heading to Paris at the start of a European tour.

A statement issued by the Media Office of the Prime Minister said that Al-Kazemi left the capital, Baghdad, heading to the French capital, Paris.

He explained that at the beginning of his European tour, which also includes Britain and Germany, where he will hold several meetings with senior officials in these three countries, and discuss with them on developing bilateral relations.



A prominent politician: The Iraqi delegation will discuss in London the “normalization” between Baghdad and Tel Aviv





Normalization with Israel

Tel Aviv

2020-10-19 06:30

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Shafaq News / The prominent Iraqi politician, close to the US administration, Mithal Al-Alusi revealed, on Monday, that the Iraqi government delegation discussed the issue of “normalization” between Baghdad and Tel Aviv during his European tour, which began yesterday, and includes Paris, Berlin, and London.

Al-Alusi said, to Shafaq News, “There are millions of Iraqis who write messages through various methods who want” normalization “between Baghdad and Israel.

Can Iraq establish relations with Israel?

He indicated that “Iraq is in dire need of normalization of relations with Israel, and Iraq will not be a sovereign state unless it moves towards normalization with Israel before other Arab countries.”

The prominent Iraqi politician added that “the visit of the Iraqi delegation to London will witness formal and informal meetings to discuss the issue of normalization.”

Former Deputy Prime Minister Bahaa Al-Araji confirmed in a television interview, “Iraq is very prepared to normalize relations with Israel, and the conditions are well-suited.”

He added that “it is possible that the normalization decision will come from the Najaf governorate, not from the capital, Baghdad,” referring to the Shiite religious authorities.

And the Iraqi government had previously confirmed, while commenting on the normalization of the relationship between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi, that “this is an internal affair for these countries.”


Iraq signs three memoranda with France in the fields of transportation, agriculture and education





Memoranda of Understanding

2020-10-19 06:27

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Shafaq News / Iraq signed, on Monday, in the French capital Paris, three memoranda of intent in the fields of transportation, agriculture and education, in the presence of the Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kazemi and the French Prime Minister, Jean Castex.

Where the Iraqi Minister of Agriculture signed with the French Minister of Agriculture and Food, a memorandum of intent to enhance cooperation between the two sides in the field of strengthening the institutional capabilities of the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture, including the exchange of experiences in the fields of agriculture, training, veterinary education, phytosanitary and agricultural research. 

The memorandum also includes encouraging agricultural and food partnerships in the fields of food and agricultural industries, agricultural machinery, and developing land and water resources.

The Iraqi Minister of Transport signed a memorandum of goodwill declaration with his French counterpart regarding the construction of the suspended train in the capital, Baghdad, while the memorandum of intent, which he signed on behalf of the Iraqi Minister of Higher Education, Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, Hamid Al-Ghazi, with the French Minister of Education, included strengthening cooperation in the field of education. Between the two parties, expanding the acceptance of Iraqi students in French universities. 

The Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kazemi, arrived yesterday evening, Sunday, the French capital, Paris, as part of a European tour that includes France, Britain and Germany, during which he will conduct several discussions based on developing bilateral relations with the three countries and enhancing joint cooperation in various fields.


The Kazemi government is sticking to the “white paper”: It will restore balance to the economy


Ali Allawi

White paper

2020-10-19 06:24

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Shafaq News / On Monday, Minister of Finance, Ali Allawi considered that addressing economic challenges is not an easy task, pointing out that the reform paper adopted by the government under the name of the “white paper” aims to restore “balance” to the Iraqi economy.

The Council of Ministers recently approved in one of its sessions what it called the white paper for economic and financial reform in Iraq.

But the paper has been criticized by officials and specialists, as they considered that it was one of the reasons for the high exchange rate of the dollar against the Iraqi dinar in the past few days.

Allawi said, in a statement to his office received by Shafaq News: “Addressing important economic challenges is not easy, and the current crisis is not emerging today and is not related to this government and its procedures, because it needs real and radical reform and long-term plans to overcome them,” stressing the necessity of integration in work between the authorities to achieve what we seek.

The Minister of Finance stated that “the reform paper adopted by the current government aims to restore balance to the Iraqi economy, putting it on a path that allows the state to take appropriate steps in the future to develop it into a diversified dynamic economy that creates opportunities for citizens to live a decent life.”

Allawi stressed that “the current stage should witness more cooperation between the executive and legislative authorities in a way that serves the interest of the country and the citizen, pointing to his keenness to hold continuous meetings with the parliamentary committees and representatives, as this communication reflects positively on the progress of the situation in Iraq.”

The Minister of Finance pointed out that “mismanagement and absolute dependence on oil revenues is what brought us to the situation we are currently witnessing, and we   seek to address it by working to activate the sectors of agriculture, industry, tourism, investment and others to maximize the country’s imports.”

Iraq has been suffering from a stifling financial crisis since the beginning of this year, as a result of the decline in oil prices on the global markets, as revenues from selling crude cover more than 95 percent of state expenditures.