Ani Hasanah

Ani Hasanah

28
January

One protester has been killed by security forces after hundreds of anti-government protesters flooded the streets of Iraq's capital and southern provinces.

More than 100 protesters were also hurt, including at least 75 in the southern city of Nassiriya, in the renewed violence in Baghdad and other cities after security forces tried to clear sit-in protest camps on Sunday, medical sources said.

The protesters have defied a powerful Iraqi religious leader who recently withdrew his support from the popular movement.

Separately, five Katyusha rockets crashed into a riverbank near the US Embassy in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone without causing any injuries or serious damages, a statement from US Joint Operations Command said. One rocket landed inside the embassy walls, an Iraqi security official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

It is the third such attack this month and the perpetrators were not immediately known.

28
January

The national economic growth momentum is resilient as a corollary of improving export performance and solid household consumption.

Increasing demand from Indonesia’s trading partners and higher export commodity prices have been a boon to exports, with shipments of coal, motor vehicles, iron and steel as well as metal ore and scrap metal recording positive growth in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Spatially, nickel ore exports from Sulawesi and copper exports from West Nusa Tenggara have also increased.

Consumer confidence is rising, which has maintained household consumption along with seasonal factors towards the year-end.

Meanwhile, investment continues to improve, boosted by regional investment in downstream nickel processing located in Sulawesi.

A bump in the Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index and other recent indicators of export sales and domestic sales are indicative of stronger investment.

Bank Indonesia expects a steady rise in investment due to infrastructure development and surging business confidence resulting from expanding exports and improvements in the ease of doing business in line with current government policy, including implementation of the Omnibus Law on Job Creation.

Consequently, economic growth was recorded at 5.1 percent in 2019, which Bank Indonesia projects to lie in the range of 5.1 to 5.5 percent for 2020, Bank Indonesia Governor Perry Warjiyo stated.

In addition, Indonesia’s balance of payments (BOP) is expected to continue gaining strength in the fourth quarter of 2019, thereby bolstering external resilience.

The main contributors to the gain in BOP were an influx of foreign capital inflows and a manageable current account deficit.

The net foreign inflow of portfolio investment to domestic financial markets in the fourth quarter of 2019 stood at US$6.36 billion, up from US$4.88 billion in the third quarter of 2019.

Meanwhile, Bank Indonesia expects a manageable current account deficit in line with the sharp plummet in the trade deficit to US$0.03 billion, from US$1.39 billion a month earlier.

Consequently, the current account deficit in 2019 is projected at 2.7 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and to lie in the 2.5-3.0 percent of the GDP range in 2020.

Furthermore, the position of reserve assets at the end of December 2019 increased to US$129.2 billion, equivalent to 7.6 months of imports or 7.3 months of imports and servicing government external debt, which is well above the international adequacy standard of three months.

Going forward, Bank Indonesia will continue to strengthen policy synergy with the government and other relevant authorities to reinforce external stability while attracting more FDI.

In addition, the rupiah continues to appreciate, supported by improving BOP performance. As of January 22, 2020, the rupiah strengthened by 1.74 percent (ptp) at the December 2019 level, thus maintaining the appreciatory trend recorded in 2019 at 3.58 percent (ptp), or by an average of 0.76 percent.

The strong rupiah is supported by the supply of foreign exchange from exporters and maintained foreign capital inflows due to the promising national economic outlook, highly attractive domestic financial markets, and less uncertainty in the global financial markets, Executive Director of the BI Communication Department Onny Widjanarko remarked.

Furthermore, the structure of the foreign exchange market is improving, characterized by an uptick of transaction volume and more efficient quotations as well as further development of the DNDF market, which will increase foreign exchange market efficiency.

Bank Indonesia is confident that rupiah exchange rate appreciation is in line with the currency’s fundamental value and improving market mechanisms, coupled with growing market confidence in the policies instituted by Bank Indonesia and the government.

Overall, the rupiah’s appreciation is having a positive impact on the economic growth momentum and macroeconomic stability.

Looking ahead, Bank Indonesia has forecast rupiah stability in line with the currency’s fundamental value and maintained market mechanisms.


Stable inflation
Low and stable inflation was maintained in 2019, thereby supporting economic stability.

The CPI inflation in 2019 was recorded at 2.72 percent (yoy), down from 3.13 percent in 2018 and remaining in the target corridor of 3.5 percent, give or take one percent.

As a result, inflation has remained consistently within the target corridor for the past five consecutive years, Widjanarko stated.

Lower and controlled inflation within the target range has been influenced by various structural improvements, such as the growing contribution of rational inflation expectations anchored to the target corridor, coupled with an impact of exchange rates and import prices as well as a milder knock-on effect of higher VF and AP inflation to core inflation.

Less intense volatile food inflationary pressures also stem from policy synergy between Bank Indonesia and the government through the National and Regional Inflation Task Forces (TPIP and TPID), which has effectively lowered the impact of food price shocks during episodes of heightened demand and/or lower supply.

In the meantime, inflationary pressures on administered prices have remained low. Bank Indonesia remains fully committed to maintaining price stability, with CPI inflation in 2020 forecast in the target corridor of three percent, give or take one percent.
Effective transmission of the looser monetary policy stance has been strengthened by adequate liquidity in the banking industry.

Liquidity in the money market and banking industry remains adequate, as mirrored by the high average daily transaction volume in the interbank money market in December 2019 at Rp17.60 trillion, along with a ratio of liquid assets to deposits of 21.10 percent recorded in November 2019.

Monetary policy transmission through the interest rate channel to the money market remains effective, as reflected by a 111-bps drop in the interbank rate on 1-week tenors to 5.06 percent and a 117-bps decline in the 1-week JIBOR to 5.07 percent since the end of June 2019, he stated.

In addition, transmission to the banking industry yet remains suboptimal.

The weighted average deposit rate in December 2019 was recorded at 6.31 percent, plunging 52 bps since the end of June 2019 before Bank Indonesia began to lower the BI 7-Day (Reverse) Repo Rate in July 2019.

The banking industry has also confirmed that interest rates on working capital loans have fallen 33 bps since the end of June 2019, or 47bps since January 2019 to 10.09 percent in December 2019.

In addition, financial system stability has been maintained despite the bank intermediation function still requiring attention.

Financial system stability was reflected by a high Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) of 23.66 percent recorded in November 2019 along with a low level of non-performing loans (NPL) at 2.77 percent (gross) or 1.24 percent (net).

Credit growth remains sluggish despite accelerating, from 6.53 percent (yoy) in October 2019 to 7.05 percent (yoy) in November 2019, spurred by seasonal demand for loans towards the year-end, Widjanarko stated.

On the other hand, deposit growth recorded a moderate rise, from 6.29 percent (yoy) in October 2019 to 6.72 percent (yoy) in November 2019.

Based on the latest dynamics, Bank Indonesia has forecast growth of outstanding loans disbursed by the banking industry in 2019 at 6.08 percent, with deposit growth of 6.54 percent.

Despite languishing credit growth, other sources of economic financing, such as new corporate bond issuances and FinTech, achieved solid growth, at 7.6 percent and 141.5 percent respectively.

In 2020, various financing sources are expected to gain momentum in line with the favorable economic growth outlook, including credit growth and deposit growth in the range of 10-12 percent and 8-10 percent respectively.

Bank Indonesia will maintain an accommodative macroprudential policy stance and strengthen coordination with other relevant authorities in order to maintain financial system stability and stimulate the bank intermediation function. (ANTARA)

25
January

Iran has executed a drug kingpin nicknamed the "Crocodile of the Persian Gulf" and dismantled his smuggling ring, state media report.

The "crocodile" was arrested in the middle of transferring more than 100 tonnes of drugs in international waters, officials said.

The 36-year-old and an accomplice were killed following a years-long intelligence operation.

Iran executes hundreds of prisoners each year.

Amnesty International says the country executed at least 253 people in 2018. That represents a drop of 50% from the 507 executed the year before, credited to changes in the country's strict anti-narcotics laws.

But drug dealing on an international scale can still carry the death penalty.

"The 'Crocodile' was operating under different guises and aliases" Hormozgan province chief prosecutor Ali Salehi told ISNA news agency.

"He led one of the biggest and most vicious drug-trafficking networks in Iran and the region," he said.

Other members of the gang received prisons sentences of up to five years, or heavy fines, he said. The gang laundered money and used the proceeds of the drug trade to purchase real estate - some of which has now been seized by the government.

As for the true identity of "the crocodile", authorities declined to name him, giving only the initials "AZ" for the ringleader, and "MH" for his executed accomplice.

28
January

The Duke of York has provided "zero co-operation" to an inquiry into late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation has said.

Prosecutors and the FBI have contacted his lawyers but have received no reply, said US attorney Geoffrey Berman.

Prince Andrew says he did not see, or suspect, any suspicious behaviour when visiting homes of his then friend.

Buckingham Palace said the prince's legal team was dealing with the issue.

It said it would not be commenting further.

Convicted US sex offender Epstein took his own life in a jail cell in August, aged 66, while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

Mr Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the FBI and Southern District of New York had requested to interview the duke as part of their inquiry into Epstein's crimes, but "to date, Prince Andrew has provided zero co-operation".

Prince Andrew has come under fire for his friendship with the US financier, who was jailed in Florida in 2008 for procuring a minor for prostitution.

He told BBC Newsnight in November that he first met Epstein in 1999 and did not regret their friendship - which lead to Epstein attending events at Windsor Castle and Sandringham - because it had "some seriously beneficial outcomes".

However he admitted it was wrong of him to visit Epstein at his home in 2010, after his conviction.

Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's accusers, says she was trafficked to London by Epstein in 2001, when she was 17, and forced to have sex with Prince Andrew.

Prince Andrew emphatically denies any form of sexual contact or relationship with her and says any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation.

He said he has no recollection of ever meeting the woman, who was previously known as Virginia Roberts.

'Willing to help'

Prince Andrew was accused of lacking empathy for Epstein's victims in his Newsnight interview and failing to show regret over their friendship.

Shortly after it was broadcast, the prince announced he was stepping back from royal duties for the "foreseeable future" because the Epstein scandal had become a "major disruption" to the Royal Family.

At the time, he said he was "willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency".

He also said in the BBC interview he would consider giving evidence under oath "if push came to shove and the legal advice was to do so".

The lawyer for Epstein's victims has since said he plans to serve subpoenas for the prince to be questioned under oath.

Prince Andrew accompanied the Queen to church near Sandringham earlier this month.

It was the Queen's first public appearance after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were revealed to have given up their HRH titles - and the first time the prince had been seen with his mother since the week after his Newsnight interview.

'Moving forward'

Prosecutor Mr Berman made his comments at a news conference outside Epstein's New York mansion.

He was speaking at an event to promote a new law that makes it easier for victims to sue over childhood abuse.

Before being asked about Prince Andrew, he spoke about the progress of the sex trafficking investigation and said it was looking at possible "conspirators" who had worked alongside Epstein procuring girls for the financier's sexual gratification.

"Jeffrey Epstein couldn't have done what he did without the assistance of others, and I can assure you that the investigation is moving forward," he said. (BBC)