Iran Celebrates, Nigeria Struggles

After months of sometimes fitful progress and missed deadlines Iran finally reached a deal with the U.S. and five other world powers to constrain its nuclear program in exchange for relief from stringent international sanctions.
The announcement unleashed an explosion of excitement about the potential of Iran’s market and the prospects for foreign firms that can quickly establish a foothold there, Benoît Faucon and Sarah Kent report.
JPMorgan JPM -0.50 per centadded its voice to the chorus, arguing that Iran could emerge as a “new regional economic hub” by the end of the decade, the Journal’s Cynthia Lin writes. Iranians partied in the streets on hearing about the deal but their celebrations may prove premature: U.S. Republicans vowed that the deal would face a wall of resistance, WSJ’s Kristina Peterson reports.
Also facing resistance is Muhammadu Buhari, whose early months as President of Nigeria continued to be rocky. Early this week Buhari, who promised during his election campaign to eradicate Boko Haram, announced that he’d fired the country’s entire military leadership over the failure of their campaign against the Islamist militant group.
Hours after the announcement, the group killed at least 20 people in the town of Mainol in northeastern Nigeria. In the following days, a reported 59 people died in two other apparent Boko Haram attacks.
West Africa’s other high-profile crisis, Ebola, continues to thwart efforts to eradicate it. In an interview with the Journal’s Neanda Salvaterra, Alpha Condé, Guinea’s President, revealed his concern that stamping out the disease near the country’s borders with Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau could prove more difficult than tackling it in the capital city of Conakry had proved. The reason, he said, was that the populations in those areas are less receptive to government intervention.
Ukraine appears to be on course to resolve at least one of its crises: the impending potential default on its debt. Laura Mills and Chiara Albanese report that the country and four creditors who hold some $9 billion of Ukraine’s debt said they had “made progress.” What that means, though, remains unclear.
The country’s Prime Minister brought the effort to stabilize Ukraine’s struggling economy to the U.S., Siyuan Du reports. At a U.S.-Ukraine business forum, Arseniy Yatsenyuk made a plea for more bilateral trade and investment from America. The meeting focused on opportunities for American businesses to participate in Ukraine’s agriculture, energy and infrastructure as the country undergoes large-scale privatization of state-owned enterprises.
Ukraine still has a long way to go, though, and recent efforts by politicians to roll back important reforms could undermine any progress it’s making, the IMF said this week.
The prospects for two other Central European countries look less than rosy. Ratings agency S&P Revised Croatia’s outlook to negative on concerns that its public sector debt position was worsening. The agency also said Serbia’s outlook remains negative because of “the country’s still-high external financing needs and dependence on foreign savings.”
Kenya suffered a similar setback when Fitch said its deteriorating public finances were clouding its economic prospects. The ratings agency attributed the negative outlook to “weak revenue performance, increasing infrastructure spending, and persistently high current expenditure.”
On a more positive note, Kenya signed a $340 million financing agreement with the European banks BNP Paribas BNP.FR -0.48% and Intesa Sanpaolo ISP.MI +0.13% banks for construction of a dam in the Rift Valley region, the Journal’s George Mwangi writes. In a statement about the deal, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta highlighted his belief that devolution of political power from Nairobi is creating new investment opportunities in agriculture, infrastructure, energy, mining and manufacturing at the county level.
Neighboring Uganda is wrestling with economic stresses caused by a sharp decline in the country’s currency to a record-low against the dollar, reports Nicholas Bariyo. The country’s central bank pushed its key lending rate up from 13% to 14.5% to dampen inflationary pressures resulting from shilling’s slide.
Transparency International is suing the head of Venezuela’s central bank for failing to publish inflation data, Kejal Vyas writes. The NGO says Venezuela’s constitution requires the bank to regularly report economic data, but the central bank has not published inflation data since December. Independent analysts estimate inflation has hit triple digits.
Ecuador’s central banker, Mateo Villalba, resigned this week. Far from signaling change in the country, though, the resignation highlighted the level of control the President Rafael Correa retains, reports Mercedes Alvaro. “This is just a change of position that did not involve any change for the central bank or for the government’s economic policy, [which is] largely determined by President Rafael Correa,” said former Finance Minister Fausto Ortiz.
On the rise: Vietnam’s savers are pushing up the markets there. iStock
Domestic investors in Vietnam are loading up on shares in anticipation of a bonanza when the government lifts the cap on foreign ownership of companies there. Jake Maxwell Watts and Vu Trong Khanh report that the long-awaited change to Vietnam’s foreign ownership regulations announced last week has fueled a strong rise in the country’s stock markets.
A new report on poverty in Argentina could be bad news for the campaign of ruling party presidential candidate Daniel Scioli, who has pledged to continue President Cristina Kirchner’s policies if he succeeds her in office in December. The report, Taos Turner writes, said more than 28% of Argentines live in poverty—the government claims the figure is just 5%.

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