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Exclusive: French reform proposal for Lebanon delves into details | News

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Beirut, Lebanon – French President Emmanuel Macron, in a visit to Lebanon, has offered to help provide the crisis-hit nation with vital aid if its politicians make good on long-overdue reforms.

Speaking at the palatial French ambassador’s residence in Beirut from where Greater Lebanon was proclaimed by colonial France 100 years ago, Macron said he would rally international aid at an October donor conference aimed at rebuilding the capital after a devastating explosion last month and halting the country’s economic demise.

But “we will not give Lebanon a carte-blanche, or a blank check,” he added, noting that everything was conditional on whether the country’s fractious leaders could unite around change.

Even before the August 4 explosion that killed at least 190 people, wounded more than 6,000 and damaged wide swaths of Beirut, Lebanon had been drowning in economic crisis.

Its government was seeking $20bn in financial aid, half from an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme and the other half from development funds pledged by a host of donor nations at a 2018 donor conference. An additional sum of nearly $5bn is now needed for the reconstruction of Beirut, as well as humanitarian assistance.

Macron said Lebanese leaders had pledged to form a government with 15 days, which must then implement a host of reforms within one to three months.

Before the meetings on Tuesday, the French embassy distributed a “draft programme for the new government”, to the heads of political blocs, which Al Jazeera has obtained.

The French draft proposals get into the nitty-gritty details of public policy in Lebanon, underlining some laws and projects and sidelining others.

Here are the main points:

COVID-19 and the humanitarian situation

  • The government will prepare and disseminate a coronavirus pandemic control plan “that includes support for the most vulnerable people”.

  • It will strengthen social safety net programmes for the population.

Aftermath of the Beirut explosion

  • The government will facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid – provided by the international community and coordinated by the United Nations – in an “expeditious, transparent and effective manner”.

  • It will put in place governance mechanisms to allow the disbursal of aid in a “transparent and traceable manner”.

  • It will begin reconstruction based on a needs assessment by the World Bank, EU and UN that estimated the value of damages caused by the explosion at up to $4.6bn.

  • The government will rapidly launch tenders for the reconstruction of Beirut’s port according to “neutral” standards.

  • It will conduct an “impartial and independent investigation” into the port explosion “that enables the full truth to be established regarding the causes of the explosion, with the support of Lebanon’s international partners … within a reasonable timeframe”.

Reforms

  • The government will regularly exchange views with civil society regarding its programme and the reforms it entails.

  • It will immediately resume stalled negotiations with the IMF and rapidly approve measures requested by the lender, including a capital controls law and a “full audit” of the Central Bank’s accounts.

  • The French proposal also called for the approval of a timetable for working with the IMF within 15 days of the government gaining confidence. 

 

It goes on to propose time limits for sector-specific reforms.

Electricity sector

Within one month, the government will:

  • Appoint officials to the National Electricity Regulatory Authority according to Law 462/2002 “without amendments”, and provide the Authority with the resources to carry out its work.

  • Launch tenders for gas-fired power plants to plug Lebanon’s massive energy gap.

  • “Abandon” the controversial Selaata power plant project in its current form. The project is one President Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement party have insisted on.

Within three months, the government will:

  • Announce a timetable for raising the price of electricity, “provided that this will first affect the most financially wealthy consumers”.

Capital controls

Within one month:

  • Parliament should finalise and approve a draft law on capital control that should “immediately be implemented for a period of four years” after it is approved by the IMF.

Governance, judicial and financial regulations

Within one month, the government will:

  • Hold a meeting to follow up on the 2018 donor conference in which the international community pledged $11bn in soft loans, and launch a website dedicated to following up on projects, financing and related reforms.

  • Complete judicial, financial and administrative appointments, including members of the Supreme Judicial Council, the Financial Market Supervisory Authority and regulatory bodies in the electricity, telecommunications and civil aviation sectors, “in accordance with transparency and competency-based standards”.

  • Approve in Parliament a law on the independence of the judiciary.

  • Launch a study on Lebanon’s public administration by an “independent international institution” such as the World Bank or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “with a specialised office”.

Fighting corruption and smuggling

Within one month, the government will:

  • Appoint members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and grant it the resources to launch its work.

  • Launch the track to accede to a 1997 OECD treaty on combating corruption.

  • Implement customs reforms with immediate effect.

Within three months, the government will:

  • Establish “control gates” and strengthen oversight at the Beirut and Tripoli ports and at the Beirut airport, as well as at other border crossings.

Public procurement reform

Within one month:

  • Parliament will prepare, adopt and implement a bill on public procurement reform.

  • The government will grant the Higher Council for Privatization the human and financial capabilities necessary to carry out its tasks.

Public finances

Within one month:

  • Prepare and vote on a “corrective finance bill that explicitly clarifies the status of accounts for the year 2020”.

By the end of the year:

  • Prepare and approve a “harmonised” budget for the year 2021.

Elections

  • “The government will ensure that new legislative elections are organised within a maximum period of one year.”
  • “The electoral law will be reformed with the full inclusion of civil society, allowing Parliament to be more representative of the aspirations of civil society.”

At his speech later on Wednesday, however, Macron seemed to walk back his proposal for early polls, saying there was “no consensus” on early elections and that other reforms were the priority.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million

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Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe

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A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.



Source – observer.ug

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News

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Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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