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Political artist Fahmi Reza throws shade at finance minister Tengku Zafrul after the latter said he wasn’t interested in joining politics

Political artist Fahmi Reza throws shade at finance minister Tengku Zafrul after the latter said he wasn’t interested in joining politics

Despite being arrested multiple times over the years for his political satire, Fahmi Reza remains relentless in producing artwork depicting his cutting critiques of Malaysia’s ruling class and politicians. 

He posted his latest political cartoon on social media today without a caption, but it seems to be clearly directed at Malaysia’s finance minister, Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz.

pic.twitter.com/euHzwPFf93

— Fahmi Reza (@kuasasiswa) August 1, 2022

The artwork features a character in the style of The Simpsons that many users believe is related to the character Waylon Joseph Smithers Jr, the loyal, obedient, and sycophantic assistant to Mr. Burns (we can only speculate as to whether Fahmi intended this connection or if it is just coincidence). 

The artwork shows the character wearing a red bowtie and holding a wad of cash along with a quote that translates to “I’m not interested in any political party”. The logo of Malaysia’s Barisan Nasional (BN) can be seen on the right side of the character’s shirt while the left shows the Selangor state flag. 

Image: Fahmi Reza/Twitter 

This comes after Zafrul’s statement last month that he was not looking for a political career and wanted to focus on the country’s economic recovery. However, yesterday, BN announced that it was appointing Zafrul as the party’s Selangor treasurer

Fahmi’s artwork is appreciated by many Malaysians, who feel that he accurately represents their sentiments towards an unjust system. However, not everybody feels that way, as evidenced by the number of times the 45-year-old has been arrested and questioned by the police over his artworks. 

The latest incident was in April when he was arrested for sedition over art he posted to his social media accounts depicting an ape wearing yellow clothing that resembles the attire worn by Malaysian monarchs. 

Prior to his arrest, news outlets reported that Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah had bought a painting depicting primates and frogs arguing in the Dewan Rakyat believed to be a critique against the government and opposition lawmakers. 

After Fahmi published his art, posted a message on Twitter stating “if we can accept and not censor satirical art that makes others as apes, then we must also accept and not censor the satirical work that depicts us as apes.”

Fahmi was investigated for sedition and a breach of Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act. 

Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act – a broad and vague provision considered by many to be inconsistent with international law governing freedom of expression – has been used to systematically silence critical voices online. Local human rights organization, Suaram, documented at least a hundred cases of individuals questioned or charged under the law in 2021.

On April 23, Fahmi found out he was on the immigration blacklist and barred from renewing his passport. He had plans to travel to Europe in May for a theatre show. The ban was however lifted on May 9.


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Best of BizNews #8 – Nene firing aftershock: Barclays UK wants to sell R73bn SA subsidiary Absa

Best of BizNews #8 – Nene firing aftershock: Barclays UK wants to sell R73bn SA subsidiary Absa

BizNews is celebrating its ninth birthday this Friday and we’re looking back at the nine best-performing articles that appeared on the site. In this first edition is a piece from BizNews’ founder, Alec Hogg. We revisit the shock firing of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene by then president Jacob Zuma, which sent shockwaves throughout financial assets sectors that resulted in one of the biggest foreign investors in SA at the time, Barclays Bank plc, suddenly deciding to sell its 62% controlling interest in top South African bank Absa. The stake, which was worth 73bn, put severe pressure on the rand. This decision taken by President Zuma was one of many that resulted in his downfall as president of South Africa.

Nene firing aftershock – Barclays UK wants to sell R73bn SA subsidiary Absa

Thirty years ago, in the immediate aftermath of PW Botha’s “Rubicon” speech, Chase Manhattan Bank chairman Willard C Butcher was the first to drive a nail into Apartheid South Africa’s coffin. The appropriately named Butcher announced his bank would be calling in all credit lines to South Africa and demanding repayment (rather than rolling over) when outstanding debt fell due. His lead was quickly followed and South Africa was forced into a debt standstill that turned it into a capital exporter over the next five years – smashing the exchange rate, pushing interest rates sky-high, contracting the economy, and hastening the end of the Apartheid regime. Today’s news from London looks to be in a similar vein after President Jacob Zuma’s blunder last Wednesday night sent South African financial assets into a tailspin. One of the biggest foreign investors in SA, Barclays Bank plc, is suddenly keen to sell its 62% controlling interest in top South African retail bank Absa. The Barclays stake is worth R73bn, down by R6bn since Zuma’s shock firing of respected Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. The damage is even worse in Pound Sterling terms after the Rand’s recent plunge. To make matters worse for the economically literate in SA and abroad, yesterday Zuma’s ANC cohorts praised rather than sanctioned the destructive action of their leader. Barclays, which is itself undertaking a thoroughgoing restructuring, is now actively seeking to sell its major South African asset along with others in Africa on the block. The UK bank, which has had a presence in the country for almost a century, is unlikely to be the only foreign investor for whom last week’s blunder will be the final straw. – Alec Hogg  

By Martin Arnold in London and Andrew England, Financial Times, Johannesburg bureau

Barclays is considering whether to break with almost 100 years of history by selling some or all of its African banking operations as part of a review led by Jes Staley, its new chief executive.

Mr Staley has raised questions about the strategic fit of the UK-based bank’s large African business with the rest of the group, but no decision has been taken yet, according to people familiar with the matter. Barclays declined to comment.

The Barclays review comes after investor confidence in South Africa was shaken by President Jacob Zuma’s decision to change his finance minister three times in less than a week at a time when the economy is under severe stress.

Mr Staley took charge of Barclays at the start of December. The former JPMorgan Chase executive is examining the bank’s overall strategy and is expected to present his plans to investors around the time of its annual results on March 1. He is also expected to announce several thousand job cuts in its investment bank, particularly in Asia.

Barclays has had operations in parts of Africa for almost a century. But the recent contribution of the African business to the overall group’s profits has been hit by the devaluation of the South African rand against the British pound. The African unit’s return on equity was 9.3 per cent last year – below the bank’s target of 11 per cent.

The rand crashed to all-time lows against leading currencies last week. While it partly recovered this week after Mr Zuma reversed his appointment of a relatively unknown MP as finance minister, it is still down 25 per cent against the pound over the past year.

Mr Staley, who plans to visit Africa in his first trip outside the US and UK, is unlikely to completely pull out of the continent, people familiar with the matter said.

But Barclays could decide to sell its retail banking operations in much of Africa, including South Africa, Kenya, Mauritius, Botswana and Zambia, while keeping some corporate and investment banking activities in the region.

The UK bank owns 62 per cent of Barclays Africa Group Limited, which is listed on the Johannesburg stock exchange and controls the group’s main operations in the continent – including Absa, a South African bank it bought in 2005.

Investment bankers said that if Barclays did decide to retreat from Africa it could sell BAGL shares into the market or trigger domestic consolidation by selling the stake to a local rival, such as Standard Bank, Nedbank or FirstRand.

One potentially interested party is Atlas Mara, the acquisition vehicle set up by former Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond to buy African lenders. But Barclays’ stake in its African offshoot is worth about £3.2bn – potentially putting it beyond the reach of Atlas Mara, which has a market value below £400m.

Barclays had planned to rebrand the Absa branch network under its own colours after increasing its stake in the Johannesburg-listed entity from 55.5 to 62.3 per cent by merging its African activities three years ago. But the rebranding was recently shelved.

Talks broke down recently over a deal for Barclays to sell its Egyptian and Zimbabwean operations to its South African-listed subsidiary, raising questions about the future of its operations in those two countries.

The economic outlook for Africa has deteriorated this year as oil and commodity prices have fallen sharply and China’s economy has slowed. The International Monetary Fundforecasts 3.75 per cent growth for sub-Saharan Africa this year, the lowest level since 2009.

This month, Fitch downgraded South Africa’s credit rating to one notch above subinvestment grade and Standard & Poor’s cut its outlook to negative, increasing the risk that the country could fall to junk status. As a consequence, Fitch downgraded the country’s four big banks, including Absa.

(c) 2015 The Financial Times Ltd.   

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Zero possibility of India slipping into recession: Nirmala Sitharaman defends price rise amid Congress walkout

Zero possibility of India slipping into recession: Nirmala Sitharaman defends price rise amid Congress walkout

Reported By:DNA Web Team| Edited By: DNA Web Team |Source: DNA Web Desk |Updated: Aug 01, 2022, 08:11 PM IST

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday said there was zero possibility of India slipping into stagflation or recession, adding that it continues to be the world's fastest growing economy. 

Replying to the debate on the issue of price rise in Lok Sabha amid a walkout by Congress MPs, Sitharaman said: “Replying to Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s query, I would like to say there is no question of India getting into stagflation or, what it is called in USA, technical recession. There is absolutely zero probablity of India slipping into recession.” 

The finance minister said that that prices of edible had been corrected sharply following the steps taken by government. 

She said that despite the COVID blow on the economy, Nirmala Sitharaman said that "we have maintained inflation rate at 7 per cent or below", adding that Indian economy has recovered admirably.

"Pandemic, second wave, Omicron, Russia-Ukraine (war), even today largest supply components in China are under lockdown...in spite of that, we have held inflation well within 7% or below. That has to be recognised," theFM said. 

Sitharaman said that nearly 30 opposition MPs spoke on the issue of price rise in the House, out of which “most raised political angles rather than data-driven concerns”. "So, I too will try to reply a little politically," SItharaman added. 

She also said that India remains the fastest growing economy in the world in assessment of global agencies. "I fully credit the people of India ... even against adversity we are able to stand up and be recognised as the fastest growing economy," the Finance Minister said. 

Sitharaman said the world had never seen such a pandemic. “We’ve never seen a pandemic of this kind… all of us were trying to make sure that people in our constituencies are given extra help. I recognise that everybody — MPs and state governments — has played a role. Otherwise, India wouldn’t be where it is compared to rest of the world,” she added.

As the Lok Sabha took up the discussion on price rise on Monday, a number of opposition leaders like Congress’ Manish Tewari, TMC’s Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and DMK’s Kanimozhi hit out at the government over fuel and food inflation and GST implementation.

The notice for discussion on the issue was given by Shiv Sena MP Vinayak Raut and Congress MP Manish Tewari in the Lower House (Lok Sabha). The notice in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) was served by NCP MP Fauzia Khan.


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Israel Unveils $13m Tax Rebate For Incoming Film And TV Productions

Israel Unveils $13m Tax Rebate For Incoming Film And TV Productions

Israel has unveiled details of its $13m (45m shekels) tax rebate initiative aimed at incoming film and TV productions.

The incentive is underpinned by Israel’s ministries of finance, culture and sports, economy and industry, foreign affairs and tourism.

Bannered the “Fund for the Promotion of Foreign Productions” the incentive will offer a rebate of up 30% to incoming films and TV shows up to a cap of $4.8 (16.6m shekels).

The ministries are also offering a further 10% on top for post-production and animation.

The measure lasts two years with the submission process opening from August 22.

“Israel has joined a prestigious club of countries that provide incentives to international productions to encourage them to come and film on their territory,” said Foreign Affairs Ministry Director General Alon Oshfiz.

“In recent years, Israel’s status as a television and film content power has risen and the Israeli story has generated global interest and curiosity.”

The landmark rebate was first announced last year and voted in on at the eleventh hour at the end of June 29, ahead of the collapse of the coalition government led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid. The five ministries involved had to wait for the formation of a new government before officially launching the initiative.

Israeli has been attempting to entice international productions to shoot there for more than a decade with different types of incentive with limited success to date.

Security concerns combined with local bureaucracy have discouraged international productions from tapping into the incentives in recent years.

The country hopes that a new streamlined process and Israel’s recent international reputation for series-making will help change this trend.


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Prof Ashok Banerjee assumes charge as new director, IIM Udaipur

Prof Ashok Banerjee assumes charge as new director, IIM Udaipur

IIM Udaipur has appointed professor Ashok Banerjee, faculty at IIM Calcutta, as its new director. Prof Banerjee has assumed charge on August 1, 2022, and succeeds Prof Janat Shah, who has helmed the institute for 11 years, since its inception in 2011.

Prof. Banerjee is a Chartered Accountant and holds an M.Com. Degree from Calcutta University and a Ph.D. from Rajasthan University. A seasoned academician with vast experience as a senior professor in the finance and control area, his research interests are in the areas of high-frequency finance, Fintech, and sentiment analysis. He was the dean (new initiatives and external relations) at IIM Calcutta from 2012 to 2015.

Prior to joining IIM Calcutta, he was a professor at IIM Lucknow.

He also serves as an independent director on the Boards of companies in the financial and technology sectors.

During his stint as dean, Prof Banerjee is credited with setting up an incubator at IIM Calcutta, called IIM Calcutta Innovation Park, which is recognised by the Department of Science & Technology as a technology business incubator. Prof. Banerjee was the founder-coordinator of the Financial Research and Trading Laboratory of IIM Calcutta.

Prof Banerjee’s appointment comes following Prof Janat Shah’s completion of his second Term. With an additional year in-between the two terms, he was in effect at the helm for 11 years, right from inception.

(Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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Godongwana Says Central Bank Mandate Enough to Foster Job Growth

Godongwana Says Central Bank Mandate Enough to Foster Job Growth

South African Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said the central bank’s constitutional mandate to maintain price stability is sufficient to foster job creation, suggesting there’s no need for that directive to be expanded.

Author of the article:

Bloomberg News

Bloomberg News

S'thembile Cele

Enoch Godongwana, South Africa's finance minister, during an interview in Cape Town, South Africa, on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. South Africa cut corporate taxes and set more ambitious targets for reducing debt, after a surge in commodity prices led to higher-than-expected tax income.
Enoch Godongwana, South Africa's finance minister, during an interview in Cape Town, South Africa, on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. South Africa cut corporate taxes and set more ambitious targets for reducing debt, after a surge in commodity prices led to higher-than-expected tax income. Photo by Dwayne Senior /Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — South African Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said the central bank’s constitutional mandate to maintain price stability is sufficient to foster job creation, suggesting there’s no need for that directive to be expanded.

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The head of the governing African National Congress’s economic transformation committee last week raised the prospect of widening the South African Reserve Bank’s mandate to help create more jobs and support transformation in the nation’s financial industry. Godongwana chaired discussions by the committee about the issue at the ANC’s five-yearly policy conference over the weekend. 

Read: South Africa’s ANC to Consider Expanded Central Bank Mandate

“The mandate of the Reserve Bank is defined in the constitution” to maintain price stability in the interests of economic growth, he said in an interview Sunday. “You can then say in maintaining that stability in the interest of growth, you then must take into account that growth with employment generation, so there is nothing wrong with that.”

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Godongwana’s comments are further evidence that President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is expected to stand for a second term as leader of the ANC at an elective conference in December, has managed to keep his economic policy intact despite opposition from within the party. A document seen by Bloomberg showed support for his plans to boost private participation in infrastructure and energy investments.

The mandate of the central bank has been a hot-button issue for the ANC, with opponents of its policies saying it’s focused too much on inflation at the expense of job creation.

South Africa has a 34.5% unemployment rate — the highest on a global list of 82 nations monitored by Bloomberg. The Thomas Piketty-backed World Inequality Lab ranks South Africa as the world’s most unequal nation for which wealth data is available. That’s a legacy of the apartheid system that limited economic opportunities for Black South Africans, who make up about four-fifths of the population, in favor of the country’s White minority.

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The head of the ANC’s economic transformation committee, Mmamoloko Kubayi, also raised the prospect of increased engagement between the central bank and the National Treasury on policy matters. Godongwana said he communicates regularly with central bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago.

“I don’t have a problem with writing a letter to Lesetja but I can’t instruct Lesetja, the constitution does not allow me to do so,” Godongwana said. “We meet regularly so I am happy with the interaction.”

Other issues raised for discussion by the committee at the ANC conference included:

  • The introduction of a wealth tax as a possible way to minimize income and wealth inequality in South Africa
  • Feasibility studies into adding new refinery capacity, following the closing of existing facilities
  • The need to ensure that gas and nuclear power are considered as energy sources despite opposition from some critics who favor the sole use of renewable energy.

The issues raised by the committee will be discussed at the ANC’s elective conference in December, when it will appoint officials to lead the party for the next five years.

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Finance Ministry report finds jump in young teachers leaving profession

Finance Ministry report finds jump in young teachers leaving profession

Young teachers in Israel are increasingly leaving the profession amid a wide gap between their salaries and those of veteran educators, according to figures published by the Finance Ministry on Monday.

The report on earnings in the education system comes as the Finance Ministry is locked in a dispute with the Israel Teachers Union that is threatening to block the opening of the coming school year.

The Teachers Union dismissed the report as an attempt by the Treasury to manipulate public opinion against the educators during the wage dispute.

Kobi Bar-Nathan, the commissioner of wages at the Finance Ministry, said in his report that in 2021 the average monthly salary for teachers was NIS 12,423 ($3,669) and that new teachers earn an average of 29 percent less than veteran ones.

The lowest decile in the education system earns a monthly NIS 8,000, compared to NIS 23,000 ($6,800) a month for the most veteran teachers and administrators in the top 10 percent.

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The gaps are also found in the compensation paid for taking on additional roles such as coordinators or tutors.

“In order to inject a new spirit into the system despite the difficulties, changes must be made to teachers’ salaries,” Bar-Nathan wrote. “The report shows how the teachers’ salary structure is based on seniority and creates too great a gap between young and veteran teachers, one of the highest in the world. The salary of young teachers in Israel is too low and harms the quality of education our children receive.”

Israeli teachers protest as they demand better pay and working conditions, in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2022. At forefront is Trachers Union chief Yaffa Ben-David (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The report found a sharp jump in the number of young teachers leaving the profession over the past year, with 21% of teachers who have worked for two to five years seeking employment elsewhere, an increase of 60% over the previous year. Among veteran teachers, the rate remained the same as in previous years.

Tel Aviv saw the biggest exodus even as the city has the highest number of teaching positions that need to be filled for the coming year. Numbers show that 13% of teachers in Tel Aviv left their jobs last year. In Jerusalem, the figure was 11.8% and in Haifa 11.8%.

“A great responsibility rests on our shoulders as those responsible for the public treasury and we must make sure that the use of public funds will make the education system the best,” Bar-NatHan wrote, apparently in reference to the dispute with the teachers’ union. “Our commitment is to promote a good and worthy agreement for students, parents, teachers and administrators.”

The education system employed 137,000 people over the last school year. Salaries for education workers cost the state NIS 27 billion, or 6.3% of the national budget.

The Israel Teachers Union dismissed the report as “manipulation” and an attempt to “fool the public.”

It said the report is “full of mistakes based on partial and inaccurate data.”

The union said the ministry report had not pointed out other aspects of Israel’s position compared to OECD countries, such as the number of students in each class, and the number of hours spent in teaching in front of a classroom.

“We suggest that the Finance Ministry invest its energy in real promotion as well as negotiations, instead of engaging in ‘spin’ and manipulative reports,” the union said.

The union repeated its threat to not let the coming school year start unless a financial agreement is reached for education system workers.

At the end of the last school year, the union held a series of partial strikes that closed schools across the country.

The union is demanding that new teachers receive a starting salary of NIS 10,500 a month, and are also insisting on significant pay raises for more senior teachers.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a press conference at the Ministry of Finance offices in Jerusalem, ahead of a teachers’ union’s planned strike, clarifying what the Finance Ministry demands in the negotiations with the union, May 29, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman has conceded that salaries for new teachers must rise, but is also insisting on changing the way teachers take vacation so that parents will be left with fewer working days on which their children have no school.

Liberman also wants to give school principals the right to raise the salaries of outstanding teachers so as to incentivize excellence within the profession.

The union is willing to discuss the issue of adapting the vacation system, but has refused to talk about the program to incentivize teachers until an agreement is reached on the basic salary of all teachers.


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Ethereum, BNB Chain, or Tron – What do the latest TVL figures tell us

Ethereum, BNB Chain, or Tron – What do the latest TVL figures tell us

From the east to the west, from the north to the south, from NFTs to Decentralised finance (DeFi), the negative impact of the crypto-winter has been undeniable.

in fact, according to DefiLlama, the DeFi ecosystem registered a 69% decline in total volume locked (TVL) on protocols across all chains in the first half of the year. However, on the back of a bullish retracement of late, an uptick has been spotted across the TVLs of major protocols. With a figure of $89.06 billion at press time, the market’s TVL has grown by 18% in the last 30 days alone.

Now, how have the three leading chains – Ethereum, BNB Chain, and Tron – fared?

A tale of 3 chains

With a TVL of $57.21 billion, the Ethereum Network enjoys more than half (64%) of the entire TVL market share of $89.06 billion. In the first half of the year, the network noted a 69% decline. At the end of the second quarter, TVL on Ethereum stood at $46.11 billion.

With the last 30 days marked by a growth in TVL, the Ethereum network logged a 19% hike during this period. With a TVL of $8.56 billion, MakerDAO prides itself as the number one protocol housed on the Ethereum Network. In H1, its TVL fell by 58%. After seeing some correction, it grew by 10% in the last 30 days. 

Source: DefiLlama

BNB Chain trails Ethereum as the network with the second highest TVL.  The chain holds a 7.5% ($6.86 billion) share of the entire market’s TVL. In H1 2022, TVL on the network declined by 62%. By 30 June, this was $6 billion. Also seeing gains in the last 30 days, TVL on the BNB Chain grew by 14%. 

With $3.15 billion in TVL, PancakeSwap has the highest TVL on the BNB Chain. After declining from $5.53 billion to $2.95 in H1, the protocol’s TVL made some recovery in the last 30 days. It grew by 7% over the said period. 

Source: DefiLlama

Furthermore, Tron follows the BNB Chain with a TVL of $5.9 billion. In the first two quarters of the year, the Tron network recorded a 32% drop in its TVL. Seeing the most gains in the last 30 days, the network’s TVL grew by 49%.

JustLend, the leading protocol on the network, also grew its TVL by 62% over the same period.

Source: DefiLlama

Abiodun is a full-time journalist working with AMBCrypto. He is also a lawyer with over 2 years of experience. With a keen interest in blockchain technology and its limitless possibilities, Abiodun spends his time understanding the technology, building projects, and educating people about it.


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Tengku Zafrul announced new Selangor BN treasurer

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