Guinea Sells Its Soul And Freedom To China For 20 Billion Dollars: They Just Don’t Know It Yet

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

A 20 Billion Dollar Trade Agreement Between China and Guinea Raises Concerns

Meeting between President Xi Jinping and the Guinean delegation, via CGTN Africa.

Leaders of BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) gathered in Xiamen, China as the five rising emerging economies for the ninth annual summit held from 3-5 September 2017. Alongside this conference, Ibrahim Kassory Fofana, Guinean Minister of State in charge of public-private partnerships, announced a framework trade agreement between China and Guinea.

This 20 billion dollar agreement will finance significant infrastructure projects over a 20 year period from 2017 until 2036. The deal constitutes an agreement through which Chinese investment will be repaid in exchange for allowing Chinese companies to undertake mining projects in Guinea, raising concerns among Guineans about its terms.

The Office of the President in Guinea has published a press release in an attempt to clarify the terms of the agreement; however, as noted by Diallo Boubacar on the site Africaguinee.com, details have not yet been made known. Several opposition leaders, including François Bourouno voiced their concern:

The trade deal (worth 20 billion USD) signed last Tuesday between Guinea and China has raised some concerns. Although it is anticipated that this deal will, for the most part, finance infrastructure projects in exchange for mining resources over a 20 year period, we, in the opposition party, have our doubts.

“We understand it is a mixed agreement, consisting of loans and gifts. However what we don’t know is what the loans will entail, such as the repayment rates, the terms and conditions, as well as the compensation details. Nor do we know how the gifts will be defined. As such, there are many questions we need to ask.”

In 2016, the mining sector accounted for 98.97% of Guinea’s exports (compared to 84.12% in 2015). Trains carrying ore can comprise up to 120 cars, emitting an infernal noise as well as dust clouds stretching from the extraction site all the way to the port.

Nevertheless, Guineans hope this sector will bring improvements to their living conditions, unlike the farming sector, which has been almost totally neglected. While Guinea has vast agricultural potential due to its varied climate and many rivers, the country is known as a “geological scandal” due to the disparity between the wealth of untapped resources and the poverty of its citizens.

Guinean blogger Jeanne Fofana from kababachir.com has raised doubts regarding additional debt representing more than 50% of the national debt, which already constitutes 48% of the gross domestic product (GDP). She concludes:

Guineans want to see a marked improvement in their living conditions. Simply providing billions of dollars and extolling the virtues of Alpha Condé [The Guinean President], quite frankly, borders on populism: “when talking about these kinds of amounts of money, the average Guinean remains sceptical, and with good cause! Because for them, this does not translate to an improvement in their daily life. The only way to convert this into bettering their lives is by providing employment.” Guineans are feeling deceived.

In an article by Radio France Internationale, RFI, Amadou Bah from the non-governmental organization (N.G.O.) Action Mine Guinée expresses his concerns:

However there has not been, as of yet, any clarification as to the quantity of the resources allocated.

Will this not just discourage investors from other multinationals from seeking concessions in Guinea? Will this be by mutual agreement? Will the value of the infrastructure be equal to that of the minerals to be exported? At the moment, we are hanging on the government’s every word as they negotiate this without providing many details.

Guinean netizens speak out

Guinean citizens have taken to Facebook to voice their doubts. The first bauxite exploitation in Guinea took place in 1937, but Guineans are still amongst the poorest in West Africa. Siradiou Paraya Bah, a resident of Conakry  joins the debate by posting on the wall of influential Guinean blogger Sidikiba Keita to ask what lessons can be learned from the past:

Can we know exactly what these trade agreements between China and Guinea entail?
What can we learn from previous decades of bauxite exploitation in Guinea?
What lessons can we take away from this?

What concerns Demba Thez Mara, a Guinan netizen in Boké, is the need to process the minerals before exportation:

I would like to see us put in place metallurgical and ore dressing plants so that we can process our unrefined products on site. In terms of the enrichment of AI203 (aluminium), China has the best flotation technologies; therefore in order to better develop our mines, we need on site processing, which will also require sufficient energy production.

Law enforcement officers have clashed with protesters at the centre of the main bauxite extraction site in Boké, Guinea in response to the adverse environmental impact of extraction and lack of economic benefits, particularly in terms of employment. Against this backdrop, blogger Sidikiba Keita responds to active Guinean Facebook user Ibrahim Ghussein’s message and warns Guineans:

1. Let’s not delude ourselves. SMB [Société Minière de Boké, in English: Boké Mining Company]’s current operations are on a small scale compared to what we are expecting, as this should increase tenfold, from 30,000 tons/day (t/d) to 300,000 tons/day. The Chinese have a very clear agenda: an all-out reduction in production costs, from extraction to FOB delivery. The EITI [Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative]’s latest report confirms that the Guinean government expects an average return of $4/t of bauxite, whereas CBG [Cie de Bauxites de Guinée] pay more than double that amount, due to their environmental protection measures. The stripping and blasting phases already create a barely manageable pollution issue. On top of this, the transportation phase will undoubtedly be via lorry, as it is currently. In any case, in light of the traumatic experiences endured by the population who live near to the SMB site, this is simply unsustainable, unless the local population are to be moved out in droves.

2. In any case, in light of the traumatic experiences endured by the population who live near to the SMB site, this is simply unsustainable, unless the local population are to be moved out in droves.

In terms of the environmental impact, Tidiane Sylla highlights the potential consequences of over-exporting, which risks flooding the market and causing the price to fall:

Exporting large quantities of bauxite could cause the price to fall on the international market. In the Boké, Boffa and Télimélé regions, more than ten companies are involved in bauxite production. We need to diversify and innovate so as not to saturate the market.

Guinea’s history of public distrust

A lack of public trust around national mining deals emanates from unfair contracts signed by Guinean Mining Minster Mamoudou Thiam during his term in 2009-10. Thiam has been in prison in the United States (U.S.) since December 2016 after U.S. courts found him guilty of laundering 8.5 million dollars in backhanders.

The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, an academic institution created by the U.S. Department of Defense and financed by Congress to study security issues in Africa, published a study in May 2015 entitled The Anatomy of the Resource Curse: Predatory Investment in in Africa’s Extractive Industries, which analyses problems caused by mineral wealth in certain African countries. In the chapter dedicated to Guinea entitled Exploiting a State on the Brink of Failure: The Case of Guinea, the study details how Mr. Thiam was able to illegally line his pockets while in power.

Face It, China Totally Owns The BRICS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES FOREIGN AFFAIRS)

 

Investing #ForeignAffairs

Face It, China Totally Owns The BRICS

I cover business and investing in emerging markets.  Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Chinese President Xi Jinping walks with Brazilian President Michel Temer in Beijing on Friday, just two days before the opening of the annual BRICS Summit on Sept. 3. China is far and away the most powerful of the five BRICS. (Photo by GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

Is it at all humiliating to the Russians, at least a little bit, that the Chinese are far and away the biggest, baddest BRICS nation? Russia used to be a world superpower. It’s a world oil power. A world nuclear power. But beyond that, China is more relevant to the world economy than the Russians.

Brazil. What about them? For years, the commodity bubble made it seem Brazil was on its way to becoming the runaway leader of Latin America, surpassing Mexico, which is basically a U.S. import market. Brazil was, and is, a more diverse economy than Mexico. They weren’t dependent on any one nation, really. Then the commodity bubble burst and Brazil’s purchasing power has dropped, putting it on par with China’s. GDP per capita is also similar. China’s Happy Meal toy making economy has grown up and is home to more new billionaires than anywhere else. And as leaders from Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa meet in Xiamen on Sept. 3, it is clear to everyone watching that China is the leader.

Russia needs China because it is in a never-ending feud with the West. They have two things in common, generally: commodities supply and demand, and a desire for a multi-polar world, though this is probably more Vladimir Putin’s thing than Xi Jinping’s. China is at least as dependent on the U.S. as Russia is dependent on Europe.

Brazil needs China because that’s where all of its soybeans and iron ore goes. Brazil’s agribusiness is vital to the economic recovery now just two quarters young. In May, China and Brazil launched a joint investment fund to increase productive capacity. The fund has an initial sum of $20 billion and will reportedly go to finance investment projects in Brazil (not in China) that are of interest to both countries. Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, is already in China. He wants to convince them to buy airports and participate in other privatization bids as Brazil tries to trim more fat from its federal government.

Following the recent border skirmish, India can probably do without China. India’s main trading partners are the U.S. and United Arab Emirates. But if you include Hong Kong with China, then China is No. 2. More importantly, India’s imports are heavily dependent on the Chinese. Some $59 billion worth of Chinese imports moved into India in 2015, more than the No. 2 Sweden and No. 3 U.S. combined. Bilateral trade volume between China and India also rose by 21.5% year-on-year to $47.52 billion between January and July 2017, Indian customs data show.

South Africa needs China investment and Chinese buyers for its raw materials. China is its biggest export market, accounting for around $12 billion. That beats South Africa’s No. 2 partner, the U.S., with around $7 billion in exports, both based on 2015 figures.

China is a total beast. South Africa, Russia and Brazil are particularly at its mercy.

See: China-Like Wages Now Part Of U.S. Jobs Boom — Forbes

Rio de Janeiro Is A Complete Mess — Forbes

Trump Already Beat India On H1-B Visa Issue — Forbes

Guess Who Is Growing Sick Of Anti-Russia Sanctions? — Forbes

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping at the BRICS summit in Goa, India last year. India and China have agreed to pull back their troops from a face-off in the high Himalayas where China, India and Bhutan meet, signaling a thaw in the months long standoff. It’s a relationship where China has more Aces up its sleeve than India. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)

Although all five of these countries stand to gain from closer commercial ties, China is the one that will gain the most. China has just about enough money sitting in international reserves to equal the economic output of Brazil ($1.7 trillion)Russia ($1.3 trillion) and South Africa ($295 billion). It’s state owned enterprises have the funding to buy strategic assets abroad, like water and oil and gas infrastructure. And its new billionaires like Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, has his eyes set on being the Jeff Bezos of emerging markets. He basically already is.

The upcoming BRICS Summit will end on Sept. 5 with the usual rhetorical messaging and memorandums of understanding about how they will all accelerate trade, investment and technological know-how. China’s Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said on Friday that China wants to deepen international cooperation in improving industrial capacity. In convincing their emerging market partners that they need to get more productive, China can sell them their new robotic technologies. All those Chinese workers replaced by automation, can work building the screws and attaching the wires and packaging up new robots to ship to Brazil instead.

A few BRIC country companies have big business in China, too. It is not entirely a one way street. Brazil’s Embraer jet manufacturer has a facility in southern China, and builds planes with their Chinese joint venture partner.

Russian investment bank, VTB Capital, set up shop in Shanghai in 2015.

India’s Tata Group family of companies is in China. IT firm Tata Consultancy Services is there, with the usual tie-up with a Chinese firm.  Tata Steel has two steel mills in China. Tata’s Jaguar Land Rover unit has a JV with Chery Automobile to build the luxury cars in Changshu.

South Africa’s Old Mutual financial services firm used to have a foothold there but are now looking to dump their insurance unit, at least.

Meanwhile, here’s a quick snapshot of what China has accomplished, as outlined on Friday by China Daily:

  • Gezhouba Group announced March 30 that it will spend up to $200 million to acquire 100%  stake of Sistema Produtor Sao Lourenco, a water supply company in Brazil, China Daily first reported.
  • China Investment Corp partnered with Brookfield Asset Management in April to take a 90% percent stake in Nova Transportadora do Sudeste, a natural gas pipeline company owned by Petrobras.
  • Xiaomi enters the Russian smart phone market.
  • Shanghai-listed China Railway Group is building a $2.5 billion high-speed railway in Russia. The deal was announced in June.
  • Alibaba’s Ant Financial Unit opens up Alipay in cahoots with Russia’s VTB Group last month.
  • China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corp. inked a deal with Russia’s Gazprom in April to build an estimated $15 billion natural gas pipeline into China.
  • Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba, plans to build a data center in Mumbai by the end of next March, the company said on June 9.
  • Oil refiner Sinopec signed an agreement to buy 75% of Chevron South Africa’s assets for $900 million in March.

It is clear who is the big buyer and who is staking claim to turf long term. Brazil is selling; China is buying. South Africa is a seller, too. So when Putin and other leaders meet in China on Sunday, they will all know on many levels, that in terms of global finance and trade, they are no longer equals.

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With Some Countries, China Is in the Red

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

 

With Some Countries, China Is in the Red

Supply chains and commodity needs mean China doesn’t run massive trade surpluses with everyone
August 20, 2017, 8:00 AM EDT

From

China’s big trade surpluses hog all the headlines, but imbalances go both ways.

South Korea’s $72.2 billion surplus with the People’s Republic in fact tops a list of more than 40 nations that export more to the country than they import from it, followed by Switzerland and Australia, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Besides commodity exporters such as Iran and machinery producers like Germany, smaller economies such as Ireland, Finland and Laos round out the tally.

Imports by the world’s biggest exporter show how its humming factories prop up other economies – and for some of those, what’s on the line should they find themselves involved with territorial disputes or geopolitical tensions with one of their biggest customers.

In Asia, South Korea and Malaysia are among the most vulnerable to China’s economic arm-twisting, while Japan and Vietnam look relatively immune, according to Bloomberg Intelligence estimates based on their trade surpluses with China as a share of total output.

One of China’s biggest appetites is for machines and electronics from South Korea, Malaysia and Germany, according to World Bank data from 2015, the most recent year available.

Semiconductors from South Korea and Malaysia account for much of that as they’re brought in and then installed in other electronic products assembled in China’s factories.

The iPhone itself is an ecosystem that illustrates the global reach of far-flung supply chains. China’s assembly lines for the device incorporate expensive components imported from sources including Germany, Japan, South Korea, the U.S. and Taiwan.

Such complex and crucial trade relationships give South Korea something of a buffer against Chinese reprisals like those it faced last year after agreeing to install a U.S. missile defense system.

“Eighty percent of Korean exports to China are intermediate goods, and everyday people can’t see them from the outside or feel them,” said Yang Pyeongseob, a senior research fellow at the Korean Institute for International Economic Policy in Beijing.

China’s factories, construction sites, vehicles soak up oil, metal and materials from commodity exporters around the world, so when the economy sneezes it spurs big swings in things like the Australian dollar or Mongolian gross domestic product.

Those two countries are key suppliers of iron ore, precious metals and coal. Meanwhile, oil from Angola, Oman, Iran, and Venezuela helps keep China’s cars and trucks running, and Turkmenistan sends natural gas. Chile offers metal, mainly copper, but wine and cherries are more familiar South American imports on Chinese supermarket shelves.

Swiss trade is driven by pharmaceuticals, chemicals and precision instruments and watches. The surplus size may have been distorted by commodities trading, which doesn’t necessarily lead to actual shipments.

South Africa’s shipments include diamonds, gold and wine. Elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, Brazil was China’s top overseas source of soybeans, soy oil, beef and sugar last year, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce. The most populous nation imported 38 million tons of soybeans alone from Brazil last year.

And farmers in New Zealand are increasingly stocking those supermarket shelves for more discerning consumers. China imported more lamb from New Zealand than anywhere else, the most wheat from Australia, and the largest amount of fruit and nuts from Chile.

 

 

— With assistance by Catherine Bosley, and Xiaoqing Pi

History Made in South Africa as #NationalDayofPrayer Draws Over a Million Believers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN CHRISTIAN NEWS AGENCY)

History Made in SA as #NationalDayofPrayer Draws Over a Million Believers

IT’S TIME!!!

A crowd of over a million believers from across the country made their way to Free State on Saturday for the National Day of Prayer, organized by Evangelist Angus Buchan.  People from all walks of life were gathered at the Wilde Als farm just outside Bloemfontein for what has been dubbed as the biggest prayer meeting in the history of South Africa.

The multiracial crowd united to pray for justice, peace and hope in South Africa. Buchan began by teaching on prayer, citing the passage about Jesus praying at the Garden of Gethsemane before going to the cross. He also reminded the crowd of the words spoken by Moses before God parted the Red Sea to make way for the Israelites.

“Today, we are witnessing history.  History is in the making today. This gathering is a prayer meeting, it is not a gospel concert. It is not even an evangelistic outreach, it is a prayer meeting.  We are going to pray together and as individuals,” the evangelist added.

The Shalom Ministries Founder told the crowd his vision to host the event was born after he received a video from a Christian leader to get believers together in one place and pray to God to heal the land. However, it was only after God gave him confirmation that he heeded to the call. The words given to him by the Almighty, regarding the event, were simple: “It’s Time” and “One Million”.

“We say there is no other God save Jesus Christ and Him alone.  We will not serve any other God save the Lord Jesus Christ.  Please forgive us for compromising our nation, our family and our future.  From today onwards, we promise to stand up for truth and righteousness at all costs,” said Buchan, leading the crowd of a million in prayer.

Political leaders including Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the ACDP and Mmusi Maimane, leader of the DA, also attended in their personal capacity.

Before descending the stage, Buchan said that he was waiting for a day when Parliament will be opened with prayer every morning.

“Through prayer, this country will change in one day.  We want to see love and peace prevail in the new government,” he concluded.

www.thechristiannews.co.za

20 Children killed As Minibus Hits Truck In South Africa

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

20 children killed as minibus hits truck in South Africa

WORLD Updated: Apr 21, 2017 22:34 IST

Associated Press
Associated Press
Johannesburg
South Africa

A fatal collision between a truck and minibus killed 20 children in South Africa.(Twitter/ ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd)

A minibus carrying young students collided with a truck and burst into flames in South Africa on Friday, killing about 20 children.The victims were between 5 and 10 years old, said Russel Meiring, a spokesman for paramedic company ER24. He said several children survived after being pulled from the wreckage near Bronkhorstspruit, east of the capital, Pretoria.

Images posted by ER24 on Twitter show the crumpled, smoking minibus on its side next to the truck.

Authorities were investigating the cause of the crash. “We are trying to find out exactly what happened,” Meiring said.

Some students who were trapped in the minibus were burned beyond recognition, the News24 website reported. It quoted Johan Pieterse, spokesman for the EMS paramedic company.

Transport minister Joe Maswanganyi expressed condolences to the families of the dead. In an interview with the eNCA news outlet, he said many accidents occur because of reckless driving and that increasing the police presence on the roads would have limited results.

“If human behavior doesn’t change, there isn’t much that police can do,” he said.

A total of 235 people died in accidents on South Africa’s roads during the recent Easter period, a 51 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the country’s Road Traffic Management Corporation.

Zimbabwe’s Powerful Dictator Mugabe: Running Out Of Money, Running Out Of Power

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

As Zimbabwe’s money runs out, so does Mugabe’s power

President Robert Mugabe addresses to his supporters during an election rally in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe June 26, 2008.REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo
By Ed Cropley | HARARE

In Zimbabwe, where worthless $100 trillion notes serve as reminders of the perils of hyperinflation, President Robert Mugabe is printing a new currency that jeopardizes not just the economy but his own long grip on power.

Six months ago, the 92-year-old announced plans to address chronic cash shortages by supplementing the dwindling U.S. dollars in circulation over the past seven years with ‘bond notes’, a quasi-currency expected at the end of November.

According to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), the bond notes will be officially interchangeable 1:1 with the U.S. dollar and should ease the cash crunch. The central bank also promised to keep a tight lid on issuance.

After a 2008 multi-billion percent inflationary meltdown caused by rampant money-printing, many Zimbabweans are skeptical. The plan has already caused a run on the banks as Zimbabweans empty their accounts of hard currency.

Internal intelligence briefings seen by Reuters raise the possibility that the bond notes, if they crash, could spell the end of Mugabe’s 36 years in charge.

A Sept. 29 Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) report revealed the powerful army was as unhappy as the rest of the population with the new notes and had told Africa’s oldest leader to “wake up and smell the coffee”.

“Top security officers have told Mugabe not to blame them if Rome starts to burn,” the report said.

Reuters was unable to determine the author of the report. It is also unclear if Mugabe has seen the report, whose final audience is not specified. Mugabe’s spokesman did not respond to requests for comment, nor was the CIO available.

But the report offers a rare glimpse into the thinking of Mugabe’s security forces – the backbone of his power – and their concerns about the implosion of what used to be one of Africa’s most promising economies.

“Mugabe was openly told that the bond notes are going to cause his downfall,” the report said.

WAITING FOR THE DROP

The notes’ first test will come in the informal foreign exchange markets on the streets of Harare.

If they fall heavily in value, they are likely to unleash an inflationary spiral that could bleed the banking system of its last few dollars and wipe out Zimbabweans’ savings for the second time in less than a decade, economists say.

The same happened in 2008: powerful individuals with access to dollars at the official 1:1 rate were able to buy bond notes at a discount on the unofficial market and then convert them back to dollars at face value.

“You start with one dollar, then you’ve got 10, then you’ve got 100, then you’ve got 1,000 – and it’s not even lunchtime,” said John Robertson, one of Zimbabwe’s most respected private economists.

In Harare’s chaotic Road Port bus station, the main terminus for those heading to and from South Africa, Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner, some bus operators are fearing the worst.

Required to pay nearly all their expenses – fuel, road tolls and police bribes in Zimbabwe and South Africa – in hard currency cash, they are particularly exposed.

“It’s like being on death row. You don’t know when the hangman is going to open your cell door,” said ticket-seller Simba Muchenje, pulling a wad of worthless 2008 Zimbabwe dollars from his briefcase and tossing them onto the counter.

“It’s just taking us back to the bad old days.”

In interviews, none of eight money-changers trading South African rand and U.S. dollars said they would accept bond notes at their $1 face value because of fears of immediate depreciation. The rand and the U.S. dollar have become Zimbabwe’s currencies since the local dollar was scrapped in 2009

“The banks may say 1:1, but here we say 2:1. We can’t afford to pay the same as the banks. I’m running a business, not a bank,” said Patience, a 32-year-old money-changer.

REASSURING WORDS

Given Zimbabwe’s recent history of hyperinflation, the RBZ is keen to allay fears the printing presses are about to go into overdrive, and that the bond notes are a roundabout route to a new Zimbabwe dollar.

“The introduction of bond notes does not mark the return of the Zimbabwe dollar through the back door,” it said in a statement on its website.

Instead, the bank has presented the notes as a 5 percent “export incentive” – a top-up added by the central bank to the accounts of those receiving foreign exchange either from overseas remittances or via farming, manufacturing and mining exports.

They will also be backed by a $200 million “loan facility” from Afreximbank, a Cairo-based lender owned by the African Development Bank and dozens of African governments and central banks. Afreximbank declined to comment.

Given monthly exports of roughly $250 million, the 5 percent ‘top-up’ suggests a monthly liquidity injection of just $12.5 million, or $1 for every Zimbabwean.

In public statements, the RBZ has given assurances it will not exceed the $200 million issuance ceiling.

But it has not clarified how bond note balances will be recorded in U.S. dollar accounts, nor how ATMs will distinguish between greenbacks and bond notes when they issue cash.

“Upon withdrawal, banks have an option to pay in any one of the legal tenders,” the RBZ said.

RBZ Governor John Mangudya missed a scheduled interview with Reuters and did not respond to emailed questions.

NO DOLLARS, NO FUN

Few Zimbabweans interviewed believed the RBZ would stick to the issuance limits, especially while a large current account deficit continues to suck dollars out of the country.

After the bond notes’ announcement, #ThisFlag and #Tajamuka, social media campaigns targeting the new system, drew the biggest anti-Mugabe protests in a decade before being crushed by riot police and the CIO.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands across the country lined up through the night to empty their accounts the moment their pay or pensions arrive, exacerbating the liquidity crunch. Banks have responded with daily withdrawal limits: $100 one day, $50 another, none another. Customers have no idea until the banks open their doors at 8 a.m.

“Sometimes you get to the end of the line and there’s no money,” said industrial fitter Edmund Panganai, 40, outside a CABS building society branch in Harare. Every month, it takes him at least seven nights of queuing to get his hands on his pay.

In Harare, where most U.S. dollar bills are stained deep brown with grime, a crisp 2009-edition $100 note is now worth as much as $115.

Conversely, the plastic and mobile money introduced to ease physical cash shortages is depreciating, forcing vendors to charge a 10-15 percent premium.

One prostitute, who had been relying on e-wallet payment systems such as Ecocash, run by mobile firm Econet Wireless (ECO.ZI), said she and other sex workers were turning away customers without hard cash.

“Ecocash? No thank you. Dollars, dollars, dollars,” said Patience, a 22-year-old working a Harare street corner. “No dollars, no fun.”

ARMY RATIONED

Combined with unemployment at 90 percent and a government budget crunch that has seen delays in payment of state wages, the discontent is also pervading the army.

The Sept. 29 CIO report said soldiers had applauded the social media protests because they had led to an improvement in daily rations.

“Before the demonstrations government had stopped supplying them with breakfast. At lunch they were being fed with sadza (maize meal) and cabbage without cooking oil. Mugabe instructed for the army officers to be given descent [sic] meals so they will rally behind him,” the report said.

Other intelligence reports from late September and early October suggested Mugabe was having doubts about the bond notes. Reuters was unable to confirm this.

“The issue of the bond notes is giving Mugabe sleepless nights,” one said. “Mugabe is serious [sic] thinking of delaying the introduction of the bond until January next year.”

Another report said army officers were frustrated with pay delays and withdrawal limits.

“They are very angry as they are failing to access their money from the banks and do not want to be issued with bonds,” it said.

“These junior and middle-ranked officers reckon that Mugabe has failed, hence he needs to step down for new blood to replace him.”

VETERANS AT WAR

In July, veterans of the 1964-1979 liberation war that brought Mugabe to power broke ranks, accusing him of “dictatorial tendencies” and blaming him for the “serious plight” of the economy and discord in the ruling ZANU-PF party.

“We are dedicated to stop this rot,” they said in a statement.

As fears over the bond notes have grown and the battle to succeed Mugabe has intensified, they have continued to flex their muscle.

“Once you go wrong with us, you automatically go wrong with the whole state apparatus,” veterans leader Chris Mutsvangwa told Reuters.

The veterans enjoy warm ties with the army and security services, and want Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former security chief nicknamed “The Crocodile”, to take over from Mugabe, political analysts say. On the other side is a faction attached to Mugabe’s 51-year-old wife, Grace.

Mugabe responded to the growing pressure on Nov. 19 with an address in which he admitted fallibility and gave a rare hint at retirement.

“If I am making mistakes, you should tell me. I will go,” he said, before adding: “Change should come in a proper way. If I have to retire, let me retire properly.”

(Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Janet McBride)

Chinese president arrives in India’s Goa for BRICS summit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Chinese president arrives in India’s Goa for BRICS summit

CHINESE President Xi Jinping arrived in the western Indian state of Goa Saturday for a summit of the emerging-market bloc of BRICS that groups Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Leaders of the five countries are expected to discuss BRICS cooperation and other issues of common concern at the Oct. 15-16 summit, themed with “Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions.”

A Goa declaration will be issued when the summit concludes Sunday.

Along with Xi, Brazilian President Michel Temer, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Jacob Zuma will be attending the summit, the eighth of its kind.

The five leaders will hold dialogues with representatives of the BRICS Business Council and state leaders of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries at the summit.

The BIMSTEC, initiated to connect South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

President Xi will also hold bilateral meetings with leaders of other countries on the sidelines of the summit.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the BRICS cooperation mechanism, which gathers the world’s five major emerging economies.

The bloc members have seen their cooperation growing over the past decade, especially the establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) in 2014.

Despite economic headwinds in the BRICS countries and external skepticism about whether the block is losing its power over recent years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said earlier this month in its latest issue of World Economic Outlook that in emerging market and developing economies, the 2016 growth will accelerate for the first time in six years.

China and India, in particular, will continue their relatively fast pace in growth this year and next, according to the IMF projections. Meanwhile, the IMF cut its 2016 growth prospects for advanced economies following a slowdown in the United States and Britain’s referendum vote to leave the European Union.

The five BRICS leaders just met last month in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou when China hosted the 11th summit of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies.

At their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit, President Xi said that BRICS members should enhance coordination to make emerging-market economies and developing countries play a bigger role in international affairs.

BRICS nations are leaders among emerging-market economies and developing countries, and also important members of the G20, Xi said, noting that they should reinforce coordination to build, maintain and develop the BRICS and G20 platforms.

China has been a staunch supporter for and an active participant in BRICS cooperation, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong told reporters earlier this week.

“We hope the Goa summit can send out a positive signal of confidence, solidarity and cooperation, help deepen our practical cooperation and promote the cooperation level, enhance communication and coordination on major international issues to safeguard our shared interests, and strengthen dialogue and cooperation with other countries in the region,” Li said at a press conference ahead of Xi’s trip.

India is the final stop of Xi’s Southeast Asia and South Asia tour, which has already taken him to Cambodia and Bangladesh.

Before leaving Bangladesh on Saturday morning, Xi laid a wreath at the national martyr monument in Dhaka.