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Exclusive: China to set lower GDP growth target of 6-6.5 percent in 2019 - sources @Reuters
The proposed target, to be unveiled at the annual parliamentary
session in March, was endorsed by top leaders at the annual
closed-door Central Economic Work Conference in mid-December,
according to four sources with knowledge of the meeting’s outcome.
Data later this month is expected to show the Chinese economy grew
around 6.6 percent in 2018 - the weakest since 1990. Analysts are
forecasting a further loss of momentum this year before policy support
steps begin to kick in.
“It’s very difficult for growth to exceed 6.5 percent (this year), and
there could be trouble if growth dips below 6 percent,” said one
source who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The Neighborhood Mario Vargas Llosa
From the Nobel Laureate comes a politically charged detective novel
weaving through the underbelly of Peruvian privilege. In the 1990s,
during the turbulent and deeply corrupt years of Alberto Fujimori’s
presidency, two wealthy couples of Lima’s high society become
embroiled in a disturbing vortex of erotic adventures and politically
driven blackmail. One day Enrique, a high-profile businessman,
receives a visit from Rolando Garro, the editor of a notorious
magazine that specializes in salacious exposés. Garro presents Enrique
with lewd pictures from an old business trip and demands that he
invest in the magazine. Enrique refuses, and the next day the pictures
are on the front page. Meanwhile, Enrique’s wife is in the midst of a
passionate and secret affair with the wife of Enrique’s lawyer and
best friend. When Garro shows up murdered, the two couples are thrown
into a whirlwind of navigating Peru’s unspoken laws and customs, while
the staff of the magazine embark on their greatest exposé yet. Ironic
and sensual, provocative and redemptive, the novel swirls into the
kind of restless realism that has become Mario Vargas Llosa’s
signature style. A twisting, unpredictable tale, The Neighborhood is
at once a scathing indictment of Fujimori’s regime and a crime
thriller that evokes the vulgarity of freedom in a corrupt system.
In Politics if Not Art, Realism Trumps Magic for Mario Vargas Llosa @nytimes
“The Neighborhood,” Vargas Llosa’s 20th novel, is a political mystery
of the kind he regularly turns out between his more monumental
historical productions. The tone, perfectly conveyed in Edith
Grossman’s virtuoso translation, is amused and theatrical — realism
that never asks the reader to forget it has been neatly contrived.
The subject, however, couldn’t be more serious. The story takes place
in Lima shortly before the downfall of the Fujimori regime in 2000.
The cast of characters includes the star reporter of a vile tabloid
magazine who is “nourished” by “finding out other people’s secret
shames,” her flashy, unscrupulous editor, an impoverished old man who
worked in show business until the editor destroyed his career and two
complacent, upper-class couples who are also best friends. The wives
pass the time shopping, decorating and bossing their servants around
while secretly conducting a passionate lesbian love affair. The
husbands make the money that keeps their bubble from bursting — one is
a lawyer at Peru’s most prestigious firm; the other owns a mining
company and has extensive international connections, as well as an
engineering degree from M.I.T. Vargas Llosa’s portrait of the couples
is ambiguous: At one moment they are worldly sophisticates doing their
best to operate productively in the political barbarism of Peru; at
the next they are vulgar members of an elite for whom “culture comes
down to two words: whiskey and Miami.” In the background, bombs
explode at all hours, guerrillas kidnap businessmen, government death
squads murder indiscriminately and workaday life somehow manages to
The plot slips into gear when the tabloid editor tries to blackmail
the mining magnate with explicit photographs from an orgy. Vargas
Llosa knows how the levers of power in his country work, and he uses
his story to anatomize the degradation of civic life under Fujimori.
Vladimiro Montesinos, who was the head of Fujimori’s secret police,
emerges as a character in the novel, buying the support of journalists
and opposition leaders with bags of cash and videotaping the bribes
from his compound. In these scenes, the novelist need hardly invent a
word: The real-life Montesinos is currently serving time for bribery
in a maximum-security prison he himself built for his enemies.
To tell his story, Vargas Llosa employs the familiar telenovela
technique of alternating chapters among different characters, allowing
the destinies of the lowborn and the high, the powerful and the
powerless, to intersect in ways they themselves never see. In a
diseased body politic, he seems to say, no one is exempt from
infection, and the sanity of every citizen is dependent upon that of
The novel’s hero arises unexpectedly from the lowest depths of the
gutter press, “an inconsequential girl, a nobody” who, “on the basis
of pure courage,” changes the lives of Peruvians. This seems fitting;
those toiling in the muck, without illusions, are best prepared to
beat the government at its own game.
The book’s “happy” ending reflects its author’s belief, perhaps, in
the power of individual morality and will. In “Sabers and Utopias”
Vargas Llosa approvingly quotes Karl Popper’s dictum that “optimism is
a duty. The future is open. … We all contribute to determining it by
what we do.” His steadfast liberalism in the face of state terror,
military dictatorships, violent liberation movements and collapsed
economies is his ultimate expression of that duty.
The real reason Donald Trump lies @FinancialTimes
Law & Politics
We all lie, but we don’t lie like President Trump. He is the most
extravagant, reckless, inexhaustible fibber of our era — the
panjandrum of porky pies.
Because we all lie, we may be tempted to think we understand why
Donald Trump does, or even that he lies for the same reasons we do.
Last April, a 34-year-old woman I’ve been working with for several
years told me that she hadn’t been honest with me. “Not big lies,” Ms
A said, “I just couldn’t tell you certain things.” It took us some
time to understand why she brought herself to her psychoanalysis in
this particular way.
When she was a child, Ms A’s parents saw her as an extension of
themselves — they experienced her successes and failures as theirs. Ms
A could not, for example, be sad or cry without making her much-loved
mother unhappy and unsure of herself. She had to be sunny. As a child,
Ms A discovered that lying to her parents allowed her to feel separate
from them, self-contained, a bit free. Her deceits felt more hers than
the real world. Lying allowed her a private self. She lied to feel
Most of us lie to avoid causing painful feelings in others, and
ourselves. Sometimes, like Ms A, we lie to protect some sense of self.
Trump’s lying is different. It’s not just a departure from the norms
of the presidency — it’s a departure from the norm.
There are so many examples — The Washington Post’s Fact Checker
estimates that during the two years of his presidency, Trump has told
some 7,600 lies — but let this one suffice. On Boxing Day last year,
during an unannounced visit to Iraq,
Trump spoke to US troops about a pay rise. “I got you a big one. I got
you a big one.” He continued, “They said: ‘You know, we could make it
smaller. We could make it 3 per cent. We could make it 2 per cent. We
could make it 4 per cent.’ I said: ‘No. Make it 10 per cent. Make it
more than 10 per cent’.” The future pay rise is 2.6 per cent.
Think about what is happening here: a lie — easily discredited — is
being made, with complete shamelessness, to people most of us would
regard as heroes. When he told the troops about the pay rise, they
must have gone wild. For the briefest moment, Trump will have been
applauded, celebrated — but then what? How can someone be so oblivious
to the consequences of deceit?
Born to parents who, by some accounts, left him feeling deserted and
bereft, Trump has been a loner most of his life. At school and
university, he seems to have made no friends he kept. While he does
collect celebrities, for the most part his friendships seem to be
perfunctory, fleeting. Averse to shaking people’s hands, phobic of
germs — whatever the origins of his behaviour, many psychoanalysts
would describe Trump’s way of relating as “avoidant”. “One of the
loneliest people I’ve ever met,” biographer Tim O’Brien said in an
interview. “He lacks the emotional and sort of psychological
architecture a person needs to build deep relationships with other
Given this apparent lack — and the effect his lying has on us — my
view is that Trump may abuse the truth so we take notice of him, think
about him, become emotionally involved with him.
Because he’s in no one’s heart, he wants to be in all our minds. More
and more, I’m convinced that his greatest ambitions are neither
financial nor political — they’re psychological. He wants us never to
take our eyes off him. A psychic imperialist, he aims to colonise our
minds. He wants to dominate the external and internal landscape.
The word famous has its roots in the Latin fama — rumour, reputation,
or renown. Initially, fame was linked to deeds, actions. Over the past
hundred years, that link has been broken. Nowadays, if you’re
discussed, you’re famous. Much of what presidents do isn’t very
interesting — so Trump doesn’t bother. He does things to get people
talking about him. Threats and rows get him attention. Shocking,
melodramatic, confounding lies work too — he’d rather be infamous than
Between 1980 and 1990 Trump spoke to some reporters pretending to be a
“John Barron — spokesman for Donald Trump”. During these
conversations, Barron would praise Trump — inflating his wealth and
business success, describing how beautiful women were sexually
attracted to Trump, and so forth. Whatever its beginnings, “John
Barron” gives us a sense of the vehemence of Trump’s self-doubt, his
craving to be famous.
“John Barron” is a fiction that Trump created because, I presume, he
thought no one else would come to his defence or applaud him. This
creation may well be the result of child-Trump being disregarded,
neglected, unloved. In 2006 Trump and Melania named their only child
I find this poignant — it suggests to me that Trump wanted to bring
his imaginary friend to life. In giving his son the name Barron, he
may have been trying to make his fiction real.
Does Trump’s invention feel to you — like it feels to me — a male
thing? Let me pose a connection between Trump’s lying and masculinity.
Masculinity is complex. For the most part, all of us, male and female,
start life loving our mothers. But love is not simple. When a boy
loves his mother, he will empathise with her thoughts, feelings and
desires. He identifies with her. At times, he will even wish to be
Because Trump’s in no one’s heart, he wants to be in all our minds
One classic study asked three-to-eight-year-old boys and girls whether
they wanted to be fathers or mothers when they grew up.
Unsurprisingly, boys four or older wanted to become fathers, and girls
four or older wanted to become mothers. Three-year-old boys and girls
were different. As expected, most of the girls wanted to become
mothers. But, unexpectedly — so did the majority of the boys.
In other words, for a period of his childhood, a boy will want to be a
woman. And it is upon this foundation — the desire to be a woman —
that masculinity is built.
In our “girls like pink, boys like blue” world, a boy quickly learns
that he is expected to feel whole and confident of his masculinity.
His feelings may be conflicted, shifting, but he is expected to
conceal this internal struggle from others as well as himself. A
“sissy”, “mama’s boy” or “wimp” will be shamed and humiliated,
To have a masculine identity, a boy must reject what he once loved.
The upshot of all this is that a boy’s development leaves him with the
fear that there is something feminine in him, that he’s not a real man
— at any moment, he can be exposed as a fake.
Trump makes heavy use of this fear. To show you how, let me take you
on what may seem like a digression — Trump’s love of professional
Before throwing his hat into the political ring, Trump threw it into
the wrestling arena. Between 1988 and 2013, he ran wrestling events,
appeared ringside (notably in the Battle of the Billionaires), and was
even inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame.
Despite being presented as a competitive sport, professional wrestling
is scripted. The competitors, results, pre-match and post-match
interviews — all of it is make-believe. The broadcasters give their
audience all the things you’d expect in a work of fiction: backstory,
suspense, symbolism and so forth.
In wrestling, as in literature, names are never neutral. Naming a
character is an essential part of creating them. There’s always a
“face” (short for babyface, or hero) and a “heel” (villain). Hulk
Hogan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are faces. Jake “The Snake”
Roberts and Rick Rude are heels. Wrestling pits good against bad, a
genuine he-man against a phoney rascal.
To emasculate his opponents, Trump uses this trope: “Low Energy Jeb”,
“Mr Magoo” (Jeff Sessions) “Lyin’ James” (Comey), “Rat” (Michael
Cohen), “Highly Conflicted Bob Mueller”. As part of his two-fisted
swagger, Trump tweets in wrestling-speak: “Lightweight Marco Rubio was
working hard last night. The problem is, he is a choker, and once a
choker, always a choker! Mr. Meltdown.” It’s not just men — Trump
labels groups of people as double-dealing wimps: “fake CNN”, “Fake
news”, “Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation”.
“It’s like a manhood thing — as if manhood can be associated with him
— this wall thing,” leader of the House Nancy Pelosi said in December.
The next day, publicly clarifying her private remark, she said, “there
is no justification for this wall. It is not the way to protect our
border . . . in terms of factual data.”
For Trump and many others — precisely because it is a manhood thing —
the “factual data” doesn’t matter.
In professional wrestling, fact and fiction are worked together to
create storylines that connect with the audience’s feelings.
Wrestling’s good v bad, real v fake storylines provide clarity. What’s
vital is this — fictional storylines can unleash genuine emotion. For
the wrestling fan, as long as it feels true, it doesn’t matter that
it’s fiction. Facts are beside the point. Feeling true is more
important than being true.
Many of Trump’s big political lies work this logic. President Obama’s
birth certificate, or, more recently, the invading caravan of
“criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” — these storylines have been
fact-checked and discredited. There may be data proving the wall isn’t
the best way to secure the border, but for many Trump supporters,
those facts are irrelevant. For his enthusiasts — especially those who
share his anxieties — Trump’s lies feel truer than the truth.
Outrage at Trump’s duplicitousness is a dangerous pleasure, in a
Trump-like way, self-satisfying — what Philip Roth called “the ecstasy
of sanctimony”. While it is comforting that journalists are
fact-checking Trump, this exercise too may be worse than pointless. If
my analysis is correct, outrage and fact-checking will certainly not
stop his dishonesty. These acts may even help Trump to have what he
wants — forever, to be in our minds.
"Problems," the Cardinal said with contempt, "are not there to be solved, but to be placed on someone else's doorstep. It is only your problem if you are lazy and stupid enough to let it be your problem." @asiatimesonline
Law & Politics
“Problems,” the Cardinal said with contempt, “are not there to be
solved, but to be placed on someone else’s doorstep. It is only your
problem if you are lazy and stupid enough to let it be your problem.
Make it the problem of the Turks, and the Iranians, and the Syrians,
and the Kurds.”
“How can we make it someone else’s problem?”
“Use your brain, if you have one,” said Richelieu. “The Kurds will not
go away merely because a few American soldiers leave Syria. They have
been there for two thousand years, they have a taste of nationhood in
northern Iraq, and they have the best ground troops in the region.
“The Turks say they are terroriste? Eh bien, keep them at arm’s
length, but keep the Germans training them with anti-tank missiles.
Even better, let a few MANPAD’s salvaged from Qaddafi’s arsenal fall
off the back of a truck. That will teach the Turks not to use
helicopters in the north of Syria. With good reason, the Turks fear
them, and Erdogan cannot persuade his best generals to march against
them. When the Turks protest, deny everything.
“There are seven million Kurds in Iran, suffering under the hard hand
of the Persians. Tehran already thinks of them as a Fifth Column, and
there is no reason not to make the mullahs’ nightmare come true.”
“But if we abandon the Kurds,” I protested, “why should they fight for us?”
“That is a stupid question,” hissed the specter. “For whom shall they
fight? Their need for the United States is existential – they shall
never have a legitimate state without American support. America’s need
for the Kurds is a matter of convenience. They need you more than you
“They have bled before. If they want a state they shall have to bleed
for some years to come. It is not your blood! Why do you care? As it
is, the Kurds of Turkey have three children, while the ethnic Turks
have one or perhaps two, so the natural increase of their population
will give the Kurds the upper hand in a quarter century.”
“But what do we do about the Iranians in Syria?”
“That is why you have allies in the region. There is only one reason
to have allies, and that is to have others do your dirty work for you.
You do not wish to bomb the Revolutionary Guard troops in Syria, but
the Israelis will do it.
“Jerusalem, to be sure, was not pleased that you withdrew troops from
Syria, but it made clear that as long as Israel had a free hand in
Syria and Lebanon, it did not much matter. And do not forget the
Turks: They have been rivals to the Persians for a thousand years, and
do not want Tehran to repopulate Syria with Shi’ite settlers.
“But Excellency, what do we do about the Russians?”
“What do you want to do about the Russians?,” the Cardinal asked
impatiently. “They want the war in Syria to end, so long as their
friend Assad remains the victor, and so long as they keep their naval
station at Tartus. Syria is a Petri Dish for jihadists, including tens
of thousands of exiled Muslims from the Russian Caucasus.
“Putin sleeps better after the suppression of ISIS. You cannot ruin
the Russians, so you must negotiate with them. They have no interest
in Persian hegemony in the region.”
Let them fight each other
“If I understand you correctly,” said I, “you want us to keep everyone
in the region fighting everyone else!”
“Bingueaux!” said the Cardinal. “That is just what I did during the
Thirty Years War, and by doing so I ruined Spain, Austria and the
German Empire. France became the dominant land power in Europe from
the Battle of the Dunes in 1658 to Napoleon’s retreat from Russia in
“But you reduced the population of Central Europe by two-fifths!” I protested.
The Cardinal shrugged his gelatinous shoulders. “You have forgotten
what I told you the last time you came here. I supported the
Protestants of Germany against the Austrian Habsburgs, and then I
backed the Danes, and when the Hapburgs beat them, I backed the
He had turned translucent and his voice started to break up. I braced
myself for the return of the Gallic horde of ghosts, the grenadiers
and grisettes and guilloteeners, but something worse appeared. Colored
objects were flying around the walls of the dank chamber in circles
that tightened around me. In horror I recognized one of them.
“Pikachu!” I shrieked. Behind him hurtled Raichu and Sandslash and a
hundred other apparitions of Pokemon Go. They infiltrated the sewers
with the tour group and somehow breached the ectoplasmic barrier
between the upper and lower worlds.
Grinning fiendishly they circled closer. I slapped at them helplessly,
spun around and blacked out. I awoke next to an empty bottle of Maotai
and a week-old copy of the China Daily.
No One's Really Freaking Out About a Slowdown in Europe @business
Europe is the epicenter for recession fears -- but investors are cheering.
The continent’s biggest companies have started to outperform their
U.S. peers on a forward-earnings basis, the cost of insuring against
corporate defaults has fallen this year and traders are betting that
volatility will decrease.
What makes this pivot towards optimism striking is that it runs
against recent data. From flagging industrial output in Germany and
France to worsening consumer confidence, official measures seem to
indicate the economy is facing a rough patch. Investors have so far
resisted the downward pull of bad macro news, possibly because they
expect corporate results to tell a different story.
“There’s value in European equities,” said Chris Bailey, a European
strategist at Raymond James in London. “I think European corporate
earnings are going to beat the U.S. this year because the U.S. is
late-cycle, tax cut benefits are rolling off and earnings are coming
down from a very high base.”
Valuations for European shares, based on expected earnings, lagged
their U.S. counterparts most of last year -- but the mood started to
shift in December with the ratio between the two metrics hitting the
highest level in more than two years. It remains elevated compared
with recent readings.
And options traders are taking a similar bet. Implied volatility has
dropped below historic volatility, according to data compiled by
Bloomberg. That’s the first time it’s happened since August, and could
be a sign December’s wild swings are a thing of the past.
“Eurozone assets, on top of being cheap, have benefited from the
improved sentiment,” said Sophie Huynh, a cross asset strategist at
Societe Generale in London. That partly reflects hopes of political
calm, with “Yellow Vests” protests easing in France, Italy’s budget no
longer dominating headlines and signs of a thaw in the trade war
between the U.S. and China.
The improved sentiment has seen investors rotate back into cyclical
stocks, with an index tracking their performance rising at the fastest
pace since 2016.
Not all is rosy, though. The soft data may temper the European Central
Bank’s ability to raise interest rates in the fourth quarter. That may
put a drag on banks and the euro. JPMorgan Chase & Co. pushed back its
hike forecast by three months to December.
Yet look to corporate debt markets, and fear seems to be on the wane.
Credit-default swap indexes are tightening this year, in marked
contrast to 2018’s surge, signalling investors see credit risks
Congo's election result is no victory for Joseph Kabila @FT's @davidpilling
Joseph Kabila, a man who has spent more than a third of his life as
president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has had to settle for
Plan A had been to disregard or overturn the constitution and remain
leader of the largest country by area in sub-Saharan Africa and one
with a population of 80m long-suffering people. Waves of street
protests, civic pushback and a hardening attitude from western powers
meant that idea had to be abandoned.
After two years of time wasting, elections were held last month and
Plan B came into action. That was to bestow power — ostensibly through
the electorate — on Emmanuel Shadary, a pawn who could keep the
presidential seat warm pending a constitutionally permissible return
to power in five years.
In smug interviews with the foreign press, Mr Kabila made it clear
that he was not going anywhere.
The election campaign saw to Plan B. Mr Shadary bombed. In spite of
having the weight of the haphazard Congolese state at his disposal,
the little-known politician’s campaign never took off.
Though Mr Kabila, locked away for most of the time in his riverside
palace or on his sprawling farm, might not want to hear it, Congo’s
electorate was in an anyone-but-Kabila mood.
And so we come to Plan C. Bestow victory upon Felix Tshisekedi, son of
Etienne, the country’s most famous opposition leader. The elder
Tshisekedi was so charismatic that, though he died in 2017 in Belgium,
his corpse was considered too much of a rallying point to be allowed
back into the country. If he had been permitted a grave — parental
pride aside — he might be rolling in it today.
Few believe Mr Tshisekedi won Sunday’s election. According to the
country’s Catholic bishops, just about the only institution trusted by
the people, Mr Tshisekedi came nowhere near victory. The Conference
Épiscopale Nationale du Congo, or Cenco, based its assessment on
40,000 election-day observers.
Instead, Mr Kabila appears to have chosen Mr Tshisekedi — with the
help of a shamefully pliant electoral commission — because of his
apparent willingness to cut some kind of deal. The two held
not-so-secret meetings last week.
Presumably the president has received assurances that the new
government will not delve too deeply into his or his entourage’s
pecuniary affairs. Having ruled the impoverished country for 17 years,
he and his cronies have squeezed out fabulous wealth by selling off
the country’s crown jewels, its dazzling reserves of cobalt, diamonds,
gold and so on.
The likely real winner, according to the Catholic bishops’ briefing of
foreign diplomats, was Martin Fayulu, a former ExxonMobil executive
who came from nowhere to inspire widespread enthusiasm. That he was
backed by two wealthy businessmen-cum-politicians helped. That he was
the most credible anti-Kabila figure swung things his way.
Much will depend now on what Cenco chooses to do with the information
in its possession. If the Catholic bishops publicly denounce the
result and if people are convinced they have been robbed of their
vote, violent protests — and even more violent suppression — will
almost inevitably follow.
The role of the international community will be important. If past
African elections are anything to go by, foreign diplomats will not
kick up too much of a fuss. That would make a mockery of the Congolese
people, whose integrity on election day contrasted so vividly with the
deliberately shambolic process.
There may be some consolation still from this sorry affair. The
process has shown that Mr Kabila has not been able to have things all
his own way in the face of the people’s protests.
Plan A did not stick. Nor did Plan B. Mr Kabila’s Plan C could yet
unravel, or twist in unpredictable directions.
Once Mr Tshisekedi makes it to the presidency — assuming he makes it
to the presidency — who knows what will happen? Mr Kabila might think
he has played his difficult hand with craft. But Plan D could yet
@CENCO__RDC Catholic Church rejects Congo vote result, loser decries "coup" @ReutersAfrica
“The results from the presidential election as published by CENI do
not correspond to the data collected by our observation mission from
polling stations and vote counts,” the National Episcopal Conference
of Congo observers said
Both France and Belgium expressed doubts. And three diplomats briefed
on the findings of the 40,000-strong Catholic observer mission told
Reuters they showed Fayulu winning.
He said Kabila had engineered an “electoral coup” to deny him the
presidency. Nevertheless, supporters of Congo’s president-elect were
celebrating their unlikely win.
“We will never accept this nomination. It’s not a victory for Felix.
CENI has appointed him,” said Georges Bingi, a member of Fayulu’s
party in the eastern city of Goma.
“Of course we are not happy as our candidate lost, but the Congolese
people have chosen,” Shadary spokesman Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi told
Fayulu, however, is backed by ex-rebel Jean-Pierre Bemba and former
governor Moise Katumbi, two of Kabila’s fiercest rivals.
The inauguration had been scheduled for Jan. 18.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian demanded clarity on results
“which are the opposite to what we expected.”
And former colonial power Belgium said it would use its temporary seat
on the U.N. Security Council to also seek clarification.
What are the chances that Felix @fatshi13 really won? @africaarguments
Early this morning, the National Independent Electoral Commission
(CENI) finally announced official but provisional results from the
Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential elections held on 30
December 2018. Against all available independent evidence, CENI
announced Felix Tshisekedi of the opposition Union pour la Démocratie
et le Progrès Social (UDPS) as the winner with 38.5%. Martin Fayulu,
of the Lamuka opposition alliance, was said to have obtained 34.7% of
the votes. The regime’s candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, garnered
23.8%. The participation rate was 47.6%.
While rumors of a possible Tshisekedi victory had been swirling around
the capital Kinshasa over the last few days – fed in part by alleged
negotiations between his camp and the regime as well as the
candidate’s recent benevolent declarations towards the outgoing
President Joseph Kabila – the results are nonetheless highly
implausible. Broadly reliable polling data by Congo’s BERCI and
France’s IPSOS for the Congo Research Group (CRG) in December and
actual voting count data by some 40,000 observers from the Catholic
Episcopal Commission (CENCO) point instead to a solid and
statistically robust victory by Fayulu.
As a matter of fact, and as explained in detail below, CRG’s data
suggests that the probability Tshisekedi could have scored 38% in a
free election is less than 0.0000. There is a 95% chance his real
numbers would be somewhere between 21.3% and 25%.
If the regime cheated, why let Tshisekedi, the son of the late
historic opponent Etienne Tshisekedi, win? Here, we can only
hypothesise. However, it certainly looks like it would have been all
but impossible to tweak, massage or even invent numbers to the scale
necessary to give the regime’s candidate Shadary a victory. Even his
official result, at 24% already probably padded, is dismal. It means
that fewer than one in four Congolese supports the regime, a rejection
of stunning proportion for an incumbent (but not a surprise, so
incompetent and callous Kabila’s rule has been).
One possibility for today’s result is that once the regime saw the
catastrophic mistake Kabila had made by nominating Shadary, it
scrambled to come up with a Plan B. Enter Tshisekedi and his
accomplice, Vital Kamerhe, a former Kabila ally. The last two prime
ministers of Kabila both came from Tshisekedi’s UDPS party. While the
party excluded them as a consequence (resulting in as many as four
different UDPS factions), Tshisekedi himself has wavered at times in
his opposition to the regime and is far from having his late father’s
Disputed Congo Election Result Leaves Country on Edge @nytimes's @kimidefreytas
“If I am elected, there will not be revenge,” said the candidate, Martin Fayulu.
The president-elect, Felix Tshisekedi, declared that his predecessor,
President Joseph Kabila, who agreed to step down only with the utmost
reluctance after 18 years, will be an “important partner” in the
transition. Mr. Tshisekedi’s comment reinforced speculation that his
campaign had reached some kind of power-sharing agreement with the
“We find that the results of the presidential election,” the bishops
group said, do not “match the data collected by our observer mission.”
Neither Mr. Tshisekedi nor Mr. Fayulu was the first choice of
President Kabila, who had thrown his weight behind a top aide. But
that candidate drew so few votes that Mr. Kabila and his allies
pivoted to Mr. Tshisekedi, whom they regarded as less adversarial.
“The credibility of the elections will be there only if the Congolese
themselves recognize this credibility,” Foreign Minister Didier
Reynders of Belgium, one of the Security Council’s new members, told
the Belgian radio station RTBF on Thursday.
Nigeria voters must choose between pro-poor or pro-business agendas @BDliveSA @RonakGopaldas @Pol_Sec_Analyst
Jaded businesses and investors are approaching the 2019 election in
Nigeria with a sense of trepidation due to a lack of clarity over what
it means for the economy. The key questions revolve around who will
win, what a change of leadership could mean, and whether the election
will be the catalyst for economic growth or a continued period of
The two candidates in question — incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari
and former vice-president Atiku Abubaker — are both known entities,
but their economic approaches differ markedly. Yet, despite these
stark differences, the business community in Nigeria is curiously
split on which candidate would be better for the economy.
Buhari swept to power in 2015 on a message of change, prioritising a
security and anti-corruption agenda. However, economic performance
under his tenure has been a disappointment, to say the least. Although
there was nothing that could be done about the oil-price rout that
started in late 2014 and drastically impacted Nigeria’s economic
health, much of this malaise has been self-inflicted.
For one, Buhari took 166 days to appoint a cabinet. The resultant
uncertainty squandered much of the goodwill of the political dividend
and forced many foreign portfolio investors to sit on the sidelines
while they awaited major appointments and clarity on policy direction.
The president’s unilateral approach to the economic crisis didn’t help
matters either, and the country soon found itself in a recession.
Investor perceptions of Nigeria were further damaged by the central
bank’s management of the naira and the new administration’s lack of
progress on economic reforms.
In addition, regulatory fines for foreign entities — as was recently
highlighted with MTN — brought heightened attention to the overall
risk of the operating environment in Nigeria. These own goals were
regrettable, but wholly avoidable.
Atiku’s nomination sets the stage for an election featuring two
clearly distinct policy options,” says analyst John Ashbourne of
Capital Economics. “Mr Abubakar has promised sweeping economic
reforms, including a floating exchange rate and privatisation of the
state oil company. He would also almost certainly appoint a new
governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, which could move the bank
away from its current unconventional policy mix.”
However, the clearest indicator of Nigeria’s potential economic
trajectory under Atiku’s stewardship was outlined in the launch of his
highly ambitious election policy document. As per his blueprint for
the Nigerian economy, Atiku intends to increase Nigeria’s GDP to
$900bn by 2025. Interestingly, he also pledged that his government
would offer the lowest corporate income tax rate in Africa — a move
intended to make Nigeria the most attractive country on the continent
for foreign investment.
While certainly striking all the right chords among the business
community, Atiku’s policies have been described as aspirational at
best and utopian by more realistic commentators. Less generous
analysts have outright dismissed it as a work of fantasy. Indeed,
there is a major disconnect between his stated aims and what is
The elephant in the room, of course, is the price of oil. Should
prices again flirt with 2014 lows, the country will find itself in
deep trouble, regardless of who is in power.
Against this backdrop, the choice for investors is as follows: stick
with the suboptimal status quo, or hang their hats on the hope of
change, albeit with a recycled candidate?
Ghana Said to Target Swift Sale of $3 Billion in Eurobonds @business
Ghana is favoring a sale of as much as $3 billion in Eurobonds this
quarter as the country seeks to finance its budget and reduce
borrowing costs, according to two people familiar with the matter.
While the West African nation’s budget requires net foreign financing
of 9.8 billion cedis ($2 billion), it will seek an additional $1
billion if it’s able to issue debt at lower rates than what it’s
paying for some existing bonds, said the people, who asked not to be
identified because the information isn’t public. The finance ministry
will begin to appoint transaction advisers later this month, said the
Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta didn’t answer calls seeking comment.
Ghana wants to return to the market at a time when U.S. rates are near
one-year lows, even though an ongoing trade war between the world’s
biggest economies is curbing appetite for risky assets. The average
yield on dollar bonds of African countries climbed more than 90 basis
points since Ghana’s last issuance of $2 billion in bonds in May.
Yields on the nation’s $1 billion of securities due in 2030, which
were sold at 10.75 percent four years ago, rose seven points to 8.84
percent in London on Thursday.