1 Saudi Arabia’s first foray into global bond markets (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) Saudi Arabia has raised $17.5bn from its first foray into the global bond markets as it seeks to repair the damage to its public finances caused by the collapse in the oil price since 2014.
Strong investor demand meant the Middle Eastern kingdom raised more from the bond sale than had been anticipated, beating the previous record set by Argentina for an issuance by an emerging market country.
Riyadh will use the money raised to reduce a budget deficit on course to be well in excess of 10% of gross domestic product this year and to broaden the economy so that it is less dependent on oil.
Saudi Arabia – along with other oil-producing countries – was caught unawares by the fall in crude from $115 a barrel in the summer of 2014 to a low of under $30 a barrel at the end of 2015. Despite the subsequent rally to just over $50 a barrel, the oil price is still too low to balance the country’s budget.
The rating agency Standard & Poor said: “The region’s funding requirement has been mounting since 2015, when the drop in oil-related revenue turned fiscal surpluses into deficits, although these differ among the sovereigns in scale and duration. We estimate that, in nominal terms, GCC sovereigns’ combined fiscal deficit will reach $150bn (12.8% of combined GDP) in 2016 alone.
2 Signs of IS leaders fleeing Mosul (Alan Johnston on BBC) There are signs that leaders from self-styled Islamic State (IS) have fled Mosul as Iraqi forces close in on the city, the US military says. “Make no doubt the Iraqi security forces have the momentum,” Gen Gary Volesky said.
The Iraqi army has been moving towards Mosul from the south, while their Kurdish allies have been approaching from the east. There are thought to be up to 5,000 IS fighters still in the city.
The whereabouts of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are unknown. Some reports say he is in Mosul; others say he has fled the northern Iraqi city. It is possible that any fighters leaving the city had simply been going to man front line areas, which still lie beyond the outskirts.
Gen Volesky, who heads the land component of the US-led coalition fighting IS, said that foreign fighters are likely to form the bulk of the force who will hold out. The charity Save the Children claims that 5,000 people from the conflict area have fled to a refugee camp over the border in Syria in the last 10 days, with another 1,000 waiting at the border.
Refugee camps are being built in the south, east and north of Mosul in preparation for a flood of people fleeing the city. The UN says it expects at least 200,000 in the coming days and weeks. Up to 1.5 million civilians are thought to still be in Mosul, with those inside reporting that IS was preventing them from leaving and that they were running out of basic supplies.
There are warnings the group could use human shields or chemical weapons. It could be months before the city is liberated.
3 Malala on education, women and men (Afkar Abdullah & Saman Haziq in Khaleej Times) “My dream changed from becoming a doctor to becoming the Prime Minister of Pakistan fixing all issues and bringing in education for the girls in Pakistan, said Pakistani female education activist Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, in Sharjah.
Malala’s talk centered around three key areas she considered vital for women empowerment – quality education, need for women role models and role of men. I cannot imagine myself for a second without education. Education is needed the most for girls and women. We need to inspire women to dream beyond limits, in order to do that we need women role models.”
Talking about her childhood, Malala said: “When I was in Grade 4, I remember I could only think of women as doctors, teachers or otherwise housewives. But when I saw women role models, it broadened my vision. I saw Benazir Bhutto as woman leader and prime minister of Pakistan.
“I heard about women athletes, astronauts, artists, entrepreneurs and many more leading roles that women were taking up. This allowed me to recognise the potential I have as a woman to achieve anything in my life. And my dream changed from becoming a doctor to becoming the prime minister of Pakistan fixing all the issues and bringing in education to my people.”
Emphasising the fact that women’s emancipation and empowerment are incomplete without men’s participation, Malala said: “If my father did not allow me and encourage me to believe in my voice, I would not have been able to stand here and speak out. I would have been like many other girls in my hometown, who are not allowed by their brothers and parents.”