Egypt cancels debt auction as foreign investor appetite weakens

Egypt’s funding needs in the 2018-2019 budget are about 714.637 billion pounds, of which 511.208 billion are in the form of domestic debt instruments and the rest are external. (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2018

Egypt cancels debt auction as foreign investor appetite weakens

CAIRO: Egypt canceled a treasury bond auction on Monday, its third such move in as many weeks, as foreign investors cut their exposure to the country’s debt at a time of weak appetite globally for emerging market assets.
Data from the central bank showed it had called off the auction of 3- and 7-year treasury bonds worth 3.5 billion Egyptian pounds ($195.97 million). Two previous T-bond auctions, also for 3.5 billion pounds each, had been canceled after bankers and investors demanded high yields on the debt.
“The finance ministry has been canceling the bond auctions for the past few weeks due to higher yields than they are willing to accept,” said one banker at an Egyptian bank.
Bankers had been expecting yields of around 18.8 percent in Monday’s canceled sale, he said.
Egypt aims to reach an average interest rate on government debt instruments in the current 2018-2019 budget of about 14.7 percent compared with 18.5 percent in fiscal year 2017-2018, which ended on June 30.
Egypt’s funding needs in the 2018-2019 budget are about 714.637 billion pounds, of which 511.208 billion are in the form of domestic debt instruments and the rest are external financing from the issuance of bonds and an IMF loan.
Emerging markets generally have been shaken by an escalating trade war between the United States and China, as well as interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve which are attracting funds back to the United States.
Egyptian stocks fell 0.5 percent on Monday after slumping 3.6 percent on Sunday to mid-February lows in their biggest one-day loss since January 2017.
Allen Sandeep, head of research at Naeem Brokerage, noted the weakness across emerging markets.
“It shows that foreigners are cutting their exposure to Egyptian treasuries, but whether they are repatriating their dollars out of Egypt we still don’t know,” he said.
“August and September has been as bad as June in terms of lower foreign buying — there could be another $2-3 billion drop in total foreign holdings.”
Foreign holdings of Egyptian treasuries stood at $17.1 billion at the end of July, down from $23.1 billion at the end of March.

Pakistani journalists blame 'nexus' between government, media owners for censorship, layoffs

Updated 2 min 45 sec ago

Pakistani journalists blame 'nexus' between government, media owners for censorship, layoffs

  • A leading association of journalists in the country claims media organizations have sacked over 8,000 workers in the last three years
  • Media owners say the layoffs are part of ‘cost cutting’ decisions in the face of dwindling advertisement revenues

ISLAMABAD: An association of Pakistani journalists has announced a protest march on Islamabad in the first week of April to “force the government and media owners” to protect the rights of media workers and respect their freedom of expression. 

Journalists and rights groups say the government’s relations with the press have become strained since Prime Minister Imran Khan took office in 2018. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) administration denies that it censors the media. 

Journalists complain that editors and producers are not only forced to suppress opposition voices but also prevented from running critical content against the country's civil and military leadership. 

Many of them accuse the authorities of hindering the transmission and circulation of recalcitrant news channels and publications, saying the media outlets that refuse to play the official game begin to face problems with their advertisement revenues. 

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) said in a statement on Sunday that newspapers and channels across the country had sacked more than 8,000 media workers in the last three years. Media owners defend such measures as “cost cutting” measures in response to a reduction in their revenues. 

“The anti-worker alliance and nexus between the government and the media industry owners is causing censorship and mass layoffs,” Shahzada Zulfiqar, PFUJ president, told Arab News on Thursday. 

He said that journalists would press the government to ensure full implementation of the country’s labor laws to protect their rights by staging a sit-in in front of the Parliament House in April. 

“The media owners have surrendered their independence to the government as part of an unholy alliance to violate labor laws and sack journalists with impunity,” he added. 

However, media owners reject the allegations, saying that the news industry works independently and follow all relevant laws of the country. 

“No such nexus exists between the government and media owners,” Shakeel Masud Hussain, secretary-general of Pakistan Broadcasters Association, told Arab News. 

He continued that the revenue of media organizations had significantly declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic and about Rs3 billion of advertisement revenue was pending with the government. 

“Journalists aren’t laid off under any specific plan,” he said. “This is a cost cutting measure as our revenues have shrunk due to the pandemic." 

Pakistan ranked 145th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) in April last year. 

Arif Nizami, president of the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors, endorsed the PFUJ demand of timely disbursement of salaries to journalists and protection of their rights under the country’s labor laws. 

“The government has devised a centralized media policy which means that it gives ads to its favorite news organizations, and this often leads to undeclared censorship as well,” he told Arab News. 

However, he maintained that only those media organizations were complicit “who have other businesses to protect.” 

“We fully support the genuine demands of working journalists and are ready to sit with them to resolve their issues,” Nizami said. 

However, the government said it was already “cognizant of the problems of working journalists” and blamed them on “the coercive policies of some media houses.” 

“The PTI administration does not have an ‘unholy alliance’ with media owners,” Faisal Javed Khan, who heads Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, told Arab News. “This can be judged by the fact that our government initiated the process of bringing much needed changes in the media policies after coming into power to ensure safety of journalists and their job protection.” 

He added that he had personally tabled a bill in the Senate to improve the working of the local media industry. 

Meanwhile, the PFUJ president said that journalists would present a charter of demand to the government to ensure press freedom and job security for workers. 

“We are responsible and accountable [for our work], but we aren’t ready to compromise on freedom of press and freedom of expression,” Zulfiqar said.