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Russia/Ukraine War: US secretaries of State, Defence meet Zelenskyy as Ukraine calls for powerful weapons

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A United States delegation of secretaries of state and defense met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday in what has been described as the highest-level visit to the troubled country since Russia’s invasion in February.

The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had the meeting, which was highly classified and secretive had in attendance, as reporters who accompanied Austin and Blinken to Poland were barred by Pentagon and State Department officials from reporting the Kyiv visit until the two men physically left Ukraine.

Ukraine had pressed the West for more powerful weapons against Russia’s campaign in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Moscow’s forces sought to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops in the battered port of Mariupol.

“You can’t come to us empty-handed today, and we are expecting not just presents or some kind of cakes, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons,’’ he said.

Zelenskyy’s last face-to-face meeting with a top U.S. official was February 19 in Munich with Vice President Kamala Harris, five days before Russia’s invasion.

The visit however came with positives for Ukraine as the two US secretaries to president Zelenskyy, and his advisers that the United States would provide more than $300 million in foreign military financing and had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition.

While the West has funneled military equipment to Ukraine, Zelenskyy has stressed repeatedly that his country needs more heavy weapons, including long-range air defense systems and warplanes.

 

Musings From Abroad

AfDB, IDB on $20bn IMF reserve asset donor drive

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In line with a global initiative to increase the efforts of leading multilateral development banks (MDBs) to address poverty and climate change, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Inter-American Development Banks (IDB) intend to convert each SDR into $4 in additional funding through the use of hybrid bonds and other financial instruments.

“All these countries have shown a lot of interest, and I think that with the approval from the IMF to use it (SDRs), it’s going to make that conversation a lot better,” AfDB President, Adesina said.

Japan has also pledged to help as a potential contributor of SDR, and in Europe, France has indicated interest in contributing some of its SDR for a simultaneous “liquidity guarantee” that would reimburse donors should they encounter difficulties.

“There are a lot of things that that bacon can feed – electricity, water sanitation, education,” Adesina stated, adding that he and Goldfajn have the remainder of the year to “bring the bacon home.”

The board of the AfDB separately approved a $117 billion capital increase earlier this month, and it is currently seeking an additional $25 billion for its concessional lending arm, the African Development Fund.

It aims to allocate a portion of the funds to projects like credit guarantees, which lower project financing costs by utilizing the bank’s triple-A credit rating as a halo.

It plans to use them similarly for debt-for-nature or climate swaps, which enable governments to reduce debt in exchange for safeguarding important ecosystems. Currently, Tanzania is employing them for railways linking Tanzania to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Nigeria.

The AfDB’s almost-final year in leadership, Adesina, stated that acknowledging the economic and global significance of Africa’s savannahs, rainforests, rivers, and seas is also necessary.

According to his estimation, their worth is at least $6.8 trillion, and the bank plans to adjust the GDP calculations for the continent to account for this amount. For instance, the Congo Basin is thought to be larger than the Amazon to be the world’s greatest carbon sink.

“In a world of climate change and green growth that ought to matter,” he added, saying that if “properly valued” countries like Congo and Gabon would have much better debt metrics.

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Musings From Abroad

World Bank grants Nigeria’s request for a $2.25 billion loan

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According to a statement released by the World Bank on Thursday, Nigeria has been granted a $2.25 billion loan to help stabilize its economy after implementing reforms and increasing aid to the underprivileged.

Nigeria wants to borrow up to $2.25 billion from the World Bank, according to Finance Minister Wale Edun’s April announcement. The proposal is expected to be approved by the bank’s board in June.

The boldest reforms the nation has seen in decades were started by Nigerian President Bola Tinubu in May of last year. He eliminated a popular but expensive fuel subsidy and twice devalued the currency substantially in an attempt to spur economic growth. However, the actions exacerbated a situation caused by rising costs of living and increased inflation.

The International Monetary Fund predicted that gasoline subsidies could account for as much as 3% of GDP this year due to the devaluation since rises in pump prices have not kept pace with their dollar cost.

Additionally, labour unions have been putting pressure on Tinubu to undo changes. According to the World Bank, it has authorized two loans totalling $750 million to speed up tax mobilization and $1.5 billion to support Nigeria’s reforms.

Nigeria has taken “initial critical steps to restore macroeconomic stability, boost revenues, and create the conditions to reignite growth and poverty reduction have been taken.” Nigeria has also started important reforms to address economic distortions and strengthen its fiscal outlook.

According to the World Bank, the loan will aid Nigeria in its efforts to increase non-oil revenue and foster fiscal sustainability, both of which will enable the West African country to provide high-quality public services.

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