Fund – Observing The Sky http://www.observingthesky.org/ Tue, 04 Jan 2022 07:08:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9.3 https://www.observingthesky.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/observing-the-sky-icon-150x150.png Fund – Observing The Sky http://www.observingthesky.org/ 32 32 Equity: Kenyan lender Equity launches $ 685 million loan facility for small businesses https://www.observingthesky.org/equity-kenyan-lender-equity-launches-685-million-loan-facility-for-small-businesses/ Tue, 09 Mar 2021 10:58:00 +0000 https://www.observingthesky.org/equity-kenyan-lender-equity-launches-685-million-loan-facility-for-small-businesses/

NAIROBI, March 3 (Reuters) – Kenya’s Equity Group Holdings on Wednesday announced it had launched a loan facility worth 75 billion shillings ($ 685 million) to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For SMEs that have been bankrupt for a year, working capital is exhausted,” CEO James Mwangi told a press conference in the capital Nairobi.

Mwangi said Equity would spend around 400 billion shillings over the next five years on businesses.

He said the facility had guarantees worth 35 billion shillings from groups such as the Mastercard Foundation, the European Investment Bank, the African Guarantee Fund, France’s Proparco and the African Fund for development, allowing businesses to borrow at 13% for loans of up to five years.

Kenya’s second-largest lender also operates in South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In the first nine months of 2020, its profit before tax fell to 19.76 billion shillings from 24.79 billion shillings in the same period of 2019.

During the same period, its loan portfolio increased 30% to 453.9 billion shillings, while customer deposits increased 45% to 691 billion shillings.

Mwangi said the bank offered up to 45% of its borrowers a repayment moratorium of up to three years as a cushion against the effects of COVID-19, but only 35% accepted the offer by the end of 2020.

Last year, the government said it was establishing a credit guarantee scheme for small and medium-sized businesses affected by the coronavirus and that its capital would eventually reach at least 100 billion shillings.

Mwangi said Equity had pulled out of the government-run program, given what it launched on Wednesday.

“There are about 40 banks, why don’t we allow other banks to play on it? So we complement the government by bringing in the international community and the development banks,” he told reporters. .

($ 1 = 109.5500 Kenyan shillings) (Reporting by George Obulutsa, edited by Sonya Hepinstall)

]]>
Analysis: How Exxon is being forced to accept the reality of bad fossil fuel investments https://www.observingthesky.org/analysis-how-exxon-is-being-forced-to-accept-the-reality-of-bad-fossil-fuel-investments/ Tue, 09 Mar 2021 10:58:00 +0000 https://www.observingthesky.org/analysis-how-exxon-is-being-forced-to-accept-the-reality-of-bad-fossil-fuel-investments/

Last August, ExxonMobil warned that it may need to take 20 percent of its proven oil and gas reserves off its books. While this is a shocking figure from the oil major, the reality has turned out to be even more shocking for the company. February 24, Exxon indicated that it would in fact remove more than 30 percent of its proven reserves from its books – essentially wiping the value of its Canadian oil sands holdings from its books.

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SECOND), proven reserves are “the estimated quantities of crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids whose geological and technical data demonstrate with reasonable certainty that they can be recovered in the coming years from known reservoirs under economic conditions and existing operations ”.

Proven reserves are the concept on which all petroleum activity is based. It is a critical factor in how oil and gas companies are valued and in determining how much money banks will lend to companies. Much of the oil and gas lending is known as reserved loans.

Even more remarkable is Exxon’s latest move, however, because he has a reputation to be reluctant to properly assess reserves, often lagging behind other major oil companies by making these downward adjustments.

In this case, the market – and the SECOND– forced Exxon’s hand on the matter. SECOND rules require oil and gas companies to assess reserves based on average oil price from 12 previous months.

In his last SECOND deposit Released this week, Exxon explains that the requirement essentially meant removing from its reserves the full value of its investments in Canada’s oil sands.

In addition to wiping out the value of its oil sands holdings, Exxon also noted that it had written off “about 1.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent, mostly related to unconventional drilling in the United States.” Unconventional drilling refers to the activity of hydraulic fracturing, which has been a financial disaster for many of those affected.

Exxon Accounting Fraud Allegations

Exxon’s resistance to properly valuing its reserves and assets has been at the center of several recent fraud allegations against the company. Earlier this month, DeSmog reported on claims made by former Exxon employee Franklin Bennett who in a SECOND complaint, accuses Exxon of overvaluing its assets by $ 56 billion.

Bennett’s accusations focus on Exxon’s takeover of shale gas company XTO in 2009 – which is considered one of the worst oil and gas investments never done. At the end of last year, Exxon wrote off $ 20 billion related to the XTO but this is probably not the last of the company’s fracking radiations.

The financial sector is aware that Exxon is reluctant to write down the value of its assets. In 2018, an analyst at the oil industry consulting firm Raymond James noted that the set XTO investment was probably a loss. “It was one of the worst acquisitions in the history of the energy sector. It was extremely poorly timed, ”said Pavel Molchanov, energy analyst at Raymond James. CNN in 2018. “… It was basically $ 40 billion lost.”

And in a interview 2015, old CEO Rex Tillerson, who oversaw Exxon’s purchase of XTO, stated the company policy on this matter: “We don’t write down. “

Although this is a bold statement from an oil and gas company CEO, it is also a recipe for potential fraud. The overestimation of the reserve values ​​is at the heart of many fraud cases in the oil and gas industry.

In addition to the charges related to XTO acquisition, Exxon is already facing a SECOND investigation for potentially overestimating the value of its Permian Texas assets.

Tillerson was wrong about XTO, what was a bet on the future profitability of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, which has not borne fruit. Tillerson was also wrong about Exxon’s depreciation policy. As with much of the oil industry these days, it is becoming increasingly difficult for these companies to hide the grim financial realities of the oil and gas industry, and accusations of fraud are starting to emerge.

In September 2020, for example, Bloomberg reported a whistleblower complaint and shareholder lawsuit against oil and gas company Anadarko. The complaint alleges that Anadarko’s management overestimated the reserves and potential of its Shenandoah oil field in the Gulf of Mexico. Anadarko’s management was touting this area as its main asset, despite a senior engineer advising management that this was simply not true. According to Bloomberg, Anadarko ended up writing off Shenandoah’s full value and “The project had gone from being a multi-billion dollar golden goose to worthless.”

Anadarko’s lawyers attempted to have the shareholders’ lawsuit dismissed, arguing that shareholders could not prove that management’s statements were made “with intent to deceive, manipulate or defraud”. This effort was refused.

Exxon doubles natural gas

Exxon notes in its SECOND stating that the company was forced to reduce the value of its reserves due to SECOND rules and low oil prices of 2020. In the same dossier, the oil giant sets out its plans for the future, which all revolve around natural gas, which is mainly methane. Despite the huge losses of XTO, Exxon is once again betting its financial future on natural gas.

In the SECOND filing, the company writes that “power generation is expected to remain the largest and fastest growing major segment of global primary energy demand” and that “global demand for electricity is expected to increase by approximately 50% from 2018 to 2040 ”.

While these expectations reflect the consensus among industry analysts, it remains to be seen how this electricity will be produced. Exxon is betting on natural gas, but renewable sources like wind and solar can already provide that electricity at lower cost in most places – without producing the methane and carbon emissions created by Exxon products.

Exxon also mentioned other factors that could impact its future financial results, including “technological advances in energy storage that make wind and solar more competitive for power generation.”

Based on current trends, there are many more developments that are likely to make wind and solar even more competitive for power generation, but in many places these combinations are already more than competitive with natural gas.

Much of Exxon’s plans for future profits is a gamble on natural gas overtaking wind and solar for power generation. But recent data from the Energy Information Administration shows that gas is losing this race in 2021 and the economic outlook for natural gas is deteriorating in the future.

Costs of solar versus gas for power generation. Credit: Energy information administration

Exxon’s very bad year

The cancellation of more than 30% of the value of its reserves would normally be the worst news Exxon has faced. But these are not normal times for the oil and gas industry.

Exxon is also under investigation by the SECOND and is fighting multiple fraud charges brought by former employees. In 2020, the company was finally forced to recognize the huge losses associated with the purchase of XTO. Exxon lost a total of $ 22 billion in 2020.

Last year presented the most difficult market conditions that ExxonMobil has ever seen, ”Exxon CEO Darren woods told the New York Times in early February, adding that Exxon ended the year as “a stronger company.”

Exxon, however, has been To borrow money to pay its dividend to shareholders and in doing so quickly increased its overall debt. In November 2020, the financial publication Barron’s reported that Exxon may need borrow $ 8 billion in 2021 to continue to pay its dividend.

In 2018, Exxon had long-term debt of $ 20.5 billion. By 2020, that number had more than doubled to $ 47 billion. This is not the sign of a company that is getting “stronger”.

The increase in the debt of the oil major was the reason it appeared in a Bloomberg article published in November 2020 on “zombie companies”. According to Bloomberg, zombie companies lack the capacity to pay off crushing debts.

Exxon has a well-established history of misleading the public and investors on the risks of climate change, and is involved in a number of city and county lawsuits in this regard. The company now faces multiple charges former employees, alleging that it has also misled the public and investors about its financial outlook.

With the pile of debt facing Exxon – debt that has grown by over $ 20 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $ 8 billion this year – the truth about whether the oil company is really “Stronger” should become evident soon enough.

Exxon did not respond to DeSmog’s request for comment at time of posting.

Main picture: “Rex the Tillerson.” Credit: Thomas Falcon, CC THROUGHNC 2.0


]]> Reinventing Financial Democratization: Closing the Gaps Robinhood Failed https://www.observingthesky.org/reinventing-financial-democratization-closing-the-gaps-robinhood-failed/ Tue, 09 Mar 2021 10:57:59 +0000 https://www.observingthesky.org/reinventing-financial-democratization-closing-the-gaps-robinhood-failed/

UUltimately, Uber journeys are filled with silence or periodic conversations followed by silence. No wonder each journey gradually blurs. This was not the case this time.

Sitting in the back seat as our car headed towards Mount Sinai Hospital, I was surprised by what my Uber driver was talking about on the phone: Gamestop. Although I don’t know who he was talking to, he did explain how the price of the sharply short stocks had gone up. As he elucidated the short squeeze orchestrated by Reddit traders and what it meant, what stood out to me the most was that he shared that he had successfully taken advantage of options contracts for Gamestop the day before.

To quickly clarify how option contracts work: Essentially, they allow a buyer to buy 100 shares of a stock (per contract) at a fraction of the cost you would otherwise have to pay. Contracts also have a set period during which they must move in the direction you have planned. This differs from traditional trading, which is fundamentally based on the ability for the buyer to make money as a stock’s value increases. With options, you can play both upward and downward in price via call and put options, respectively.

I have used words like “predict” and “play” because while the movement of the stock market certainly has some logic, that logic is rather limited. On one level, it’s no different than gambling – arguably, at even higher stakes – with high levels of luck and risk involved. This is why it is important to know why, how and who is investing.

There is an inherent elitist connotation associated with the stock market, often tied to Wall Street, with corporations and big fortunes rigging the game in their favor. However, there is clearly more to this puzzle: My Uber driver, along with the aforementioned Reddit traders, remains a testament to the ever-growing presence of average Americans in the stock market. Especially since the founding of Robinhood, a gamified brokerage firm with a commission-free, zero-balance requirement trading model that has made it widely attractive to new investors, the democratization of the stock market has become a hot topic in the world. world of finance.

While Robinhood made investing easier, it also increased the levels of speculation from inexperienced traders. The recent wave of Gamestop is just another event that has many Americans wondering: can financial capitalism ever be democratized, or have gamifying stocks oversimplified? ‘investment ? With limited knowledge of the stock market beyond the basics and a small but generous grant from my father to learn how to invest, I set out to explore this issue on my own.

In my first two weeks of options trading, I was able to generate a return of almost 12.5% ​​on my portfolio. For reference, the average annual return of the S & P5o0 is 13.6%, meaning that I had easily exceeded the annual return of a top performing index that investors often compare themselves to. These quick returns are becoming a constant expectation for many investors like me, which makes the temptation to keep buying a big factor.

With the money my parents generously provided me, I hesitated to make risky bets. As appealing as buying the Gamestop Rally is, I’ve never done it, despite friends, social media, and even my Uber driver taking the opportunity. Yet thousands of new traders continue to engage in the practice of trading highly volatile stocks every day, even more than usual during the pandemic.

For many, the stock market has become the means to remedy public policy failures.

The other factor that we need to recognize is that for many, the stock market has become the vehicle for remedying public policy failures. Poverty and other social issues have become increasingly apparent in our communities. The inability of public institutions to meet the needs of those in need has further prompted new traders to try their luck with “YOLO” games, putting them in vulnerable positions where they often end up losing their winnings or all of their money. money invested. As a result, the market is no longer a place where people put their savings, but rather their stimulus checks or student loan money. Desperation has succumbed to volatility while disrupting traditional market mechanisms at the expense of long-term retail traders, proving that this is far from a lasting marriage.

This is further exacerbated by the fact that profit making, as you would expect, is much easier when you are able to buy larger volumes. Larger volumes also mean that larger amounts of money are invested by traders. For a retail investor, this carries great risks. On platforms like Robinhood, the inherent ease of trading combined with this basic principle often leads traders to buy on margin. In simpler terms, a margin is a loan, and as with any loan, the money is expected to be paid back. However, when things don’t go as planned, the trader goes into debt.

Financial inclusion remains an ongoing challenge, and responsible and effective democratization of the stock market is one of them. Democratization goes beyond providing easier ways to participate. As easy as it is for me and others to invest, it is much harder to invest responsibly. If the first interaction people have with the market is based on a lack of understanding, not only do we set them up for failure, but we also create an experience that will likely make them never return to the market, even if it doesn’t. is not immediately.

Financial literacy remains crucial. We certainly need to grow, improve and continue to educate young people and those belonging to groups often excluded from financial systems such as people of color and immigrant populations. At the same time, we have to recognize that education is often passive and does not really give people the skills and knowledge to overcome obstacles. While I have watched many YouTube videos and read various articles to understand trading instruments and mechanics, I only started to understand them better after using this information when actually investing. And while it is certainly helpful to use trading simulators to familiarize yourself – which I did too – there is still a psychological and emotional difference between losing fake money and losing real money.

Financial inclusion remains an ongoing challenge, and responsible and effective democratization of the stock market is one of them.

It would be dishonest to suggest that I know everything I need in the market. My journey continues. I learn with every trade I make – break down my failures and my losses while finding patterns in my successes. I see the flaws in the system while being able to appreciate the value that the market adds to society.

However, that wouldn’t be the case if I hadn’t secured the support of my family with what is no different from a baby bond – bonds designed to “attract ordinary investors who may or may not have.” no large amounts to invest ”, as defined by Investopedia. While my parents have supported my learning process, many families cannot or will not. The stock market may not be for everyone, but it should be a product of choice rather than the result of a societal disparity in wealth, access or knowledge.

The solution lies in empowerment: government-sponsored baby bonds for students, serving as an introduction to the financial world and eventually to the stock market. By providing students with even a small amount of money coupled with knowledge on how to use it through greater financial literacy, we are giving young people a stake. As students would not be able to access this money before the age of 18 and could easily be exempt from tax, these obligations would also allow us to move towards financial independence and equality, which remains an issue. for a large subset of Americans. .

I am concerned that the market continues to be treated like a casino. And while they may seem similar in that you are either a winner or a loser, the value of the market lies in its ability to generate long term growth for the average person. Today, nearly half of the nation is still not involved in the market. I imagine that number will drop dramatically as the market becomes more accessible. We have the potential to ensure that financial democracy is achievable, and that starts with investing in the American people.

Contact Vishwaa Sofat at [email protected].

]]>
Indonesian priest’s hydropower project loses its spark https://www.observingthesky.org/indonesian-priests-hydropower-project-loses-its-spark/ Tue, 09 Mar 2021 10:57:58 +0000 https://www.observingthesky.org/indonesian-priests-hydropower-project-loses-its-spark/

Almost ten years ago, Father Marselus Hasan made it his mission to provide hydroelectric power to the villagers of the eastern Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara.

What has since been generated are accusations of mismanagement and corruption in the implementation of its projects.

The priest has led the efforts to build five micro hydropower plants in Ruteng Diocese since 2012 together with Budi Yuwono, a hydropower expert.

This prompted famed Indonesian director and actor Nicholas Saputra to showcase his efforts in a documentary titled Semester (Universe) released in 2019.

He was also entrusted with other projects initiated by the United Nations Development Program, the Ministry of the Environment and local authorities.

However, a controversy is now ongoing for the priest, sparked by Father of the Divine Word Alexander Jebadu, a professor at the Ledalero School of Catholic Philosophy in Flores, who published a report criticizing a hydroelectric project in Rego, a village in the West Manggarai district.

He claimed that the 2017 draft was flawed and tainted with financial mismanagement.

“My family was among the victims. I heard about it and saw how shocked they were at how shoddy and expensive it was, ”Father Jebadu told UCA News.

Worth 1.28 billion rupees (US $ 91,000), part of which was borrowed from a province-owned bank, the project involving 160 families turned out to be catastrophic, with power cut after just a few months in due to a lack of water and broken machinery, he said.

“In the meantime, residents have yet to repay the loan to the bank,” Father Jebadu said, adding that each family had borrowed $ 248.

Thank you. You are now subscribed to the daily newsletter

He accused Father Hasan and Yuwono of only seeking profit as they should have known from the start that the water supply from the nearby Wae Leming River was not sufficient.

“Both hid this from the community and ignored it. [Because] if the project was canceled, they wouldn’t get anything, ”he said.

He also asked why Father Hasan tried to control all financial matters by becoming treasurer of the project and the lack of transparency in the way he carried out his duties.

The priest said the community had not received any details on the expenses, then suddenly he was told that the costs had more than doubled from the $ 37,000 initially cited. This led people to suspect that the price of the equipment was being increased.

Father Jebadu shared his findings with President Joko Widodo and the Minister of Social Affairs, asking them to help repay the bank loan.

“I considered it a disaster, so I asked the government to help the villagers,” he said, adding that he hoped there would be a police investigation.

Father Jebadu’s accusations resulted in another from a former partner of Father Hasan.

Fransiskus Kanis Laja, director of Ruteng-based Ayo Mandiri Cooperative, said he worked with Father Hasan and helped finance St. Damian Parish’s first power plant in Bea Muring in 2012 by loaning $ 16,600 to villager.

However, he said, there are still 31 members who have not repaid the loan. “The priest doesn’t care about that anymore,” he told UCA News.

Rebuttal of the priest

Father Hassan has denied the charges against him and says he has conducted matters, including financial matters, in a transparent manner. “There is nothing to hide,” he told UCA News.

He said electricity was cut in Rego due to a lack of water drainage and the community had not worked on a self-help project they had signed up to from the start, in knowing how to widen your local dam and drain water from one of the nearest rivers. to that.

“Currently, this makes electricity available only during the rainy season,” he said, adding that he was trying to discuss a solution with the community.

“Regarding the bank loan, it is the villagers’ responsibility to repay it,” he said.

Regarding Laja’s accusation, Father Hasan said he severed ties with the cooperative because it broke an agreement they made.

“I had worked to promote the cooperative in my parish and encouraged parishioners to join. We agreed that part of the dividends from the members should go to the parish, but the co-op did not honor that, ”he said.

The Ruteng Diocese was forced to intervene in the row. According to his Vicar General, Father Alfons Segar, Father Hasan’s plans were carried out with full knowledge of the Bishop’s facts, the villagers were informed, “and technically the calculations can be justified”.

He admitted that the bank loan and some governance issues needed to be addressed, but “Father Hassan, with the help of the diocese, is trying to resolve them.”

Albert Dodol, a community leader in Rego, says he prays for the dispute to be resolved.

“The villagers feel the burden of having to keep repaying the bank loan when the power plant is not working,” he said.

He said the Church must also show that it is trying to solve problems honestly.

Support UCA News …

… .As we move into the final months of 2021, we ask readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.

For 40 years, UCA News has remained Asia’s most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news exclusive and in-depth reports, features, commentary, podcasts and video broadcasts, developed from a world view and the Church through discerning Catholic eyes.

Our journalistic standards are as high as those of the quality press; we are particularly focused on a rapidly growing part of the world – Asia – where in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can meet – South Korea, Vietnam and India for n ‘name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters covering 23 countries in South, South-East and East Asia. We report the stories of the local people and their experiences in a way that the Western media simply does not have the resources to reach. And we report the dawning life of new Churches in ancient lands where being Catholic can sometimes be very dangerous.

With declining support from financial partners in Europe and the United States, we need to appeal for support from those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out how you can support UCA News. You can tell the difference for as little as US $ 5 …

]]>
Senegal, Morocco and Caymans added to terrorist financing watchlist https://www.observingthesky.org/senegal-morocco-and-caymans-added-to-terrorist-financing-watchlist/ Tue, 09 Mar 2021 10:57:58 +0000 https://www.observingthesky.org/senegal-morocco-and-caymans-added-to-terrorist-financing-watchlist/

PARIS (AP) – An international agency that monitors terrorist financing has kept North Korea and Iran as the only two countries on its blacklist, but added four new places to its watchlist for increased surveillance, the organization’s president said Thursday.

The Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, added Morocco, Burkina Faso, Senegal and the Cayman Islands to the watch list during a plenary session this week, and kept Pakistan on the list despite progress country, said agency president Marcus Pleyer.

With the four additions, the so-called gray list currently includes 19 countries and territories which, according to the FATF, only partially comply with international rules on combating terrorist financing and money laundering.

The FATF is made up of 37 member countries and two regional groups, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the European Commission.

Pakistan has made “significant progress in its efforts to improve its framework for combating money laundering and terrorist financing,” Pleyer told a press conference. “However, serious gaps remain,” all in areas related to the financing of terrorism, he said.

Of the 27 elements of the action plan to which Pakistan subscribed after it was graylisted in 2018, three “still need to be fully addressed,” said the FATF chief.

“I strongly urge the completion of the action plan,” Pleyer said, noting that the deadlines for implementing it have expired. Pakistan’s status will be reviewed at an extraordinary plenary session in June, he said. Members would decide on next steps if the requirements are not met.

Pakistan has worked hard to raise its international profile and reinvent itself as a promoter of peace, making it a center of attention whenever its status is reviewed.

Pakistan-based independent think tank Tabadlab this week estimated the cost to Pakistan’s economy of the FATF graylist at $ 38 billion.

A report prepared by economist Naafey Sardar, associate research professor at Texas A&M University in San Antonio, said there was a cumulative effect on Pakistan’s real gross domestic product due to the gray listing, which has led to a sharp reduction in consumption, exports and foreign direct investment. investment. “These findings highlight the significant negative consequences associated with the FATF graylist,” said de Sardar’s report.

Among the additions to the gray list, Morocco must, among other things, strengthen its financial intelligence unit, “one of the main authorities in the fight against money laundering”, declared the President of the FATF.

North Korea and Iran remain the only two countries on the blacklist, the high-risk list, although their status was not reviewed in the last session. The blacklist designation means that international financial transactions with these countries are closely monitored, making it expensive and time-consuming to do business with them. International creditors can also place restrictions on lending to blacklisted countries.

North Korea’s funding for weapons of mass destruction is a major concern. Iran has made “some progress” since committing to an action plan in 2016, the FATF chief said, but still has serious shortcomings such as the failure to sign two international conventions against the financing of terrorism.

The FATF has said the COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped criminals from exploiting it for financial gain.

___

Kathy Gannon in Islamabad, Pakistan contributed.

]]>
Lawmakers Commit $ 75 Million to State “Bank” to Fund Utah Inner Port https://www.observingthesky.org/lawmakers-commit-75-million-to-state-bank-to-fund-utah-inner-port/ Tue, 09 Mar 2021 10:57:57 +0000 https://www.observingthesky.org/lawmakers-commit-75-million-to-state-bank-to-fund-utah-inner-port/

SALT LAKE CITY – Just a week away from the 2021 session of the state legislature, lawmakers have scrapped a big bill that could have major implications for the Utah Inner Port Authority.

House lawmakers, while finalizing the state budget, announced on Friday that a large sum of money – $ 75 million – would be set aside in a state “bank” newly created that could be used to finance loans for the port authority.

SB243 is creating what House Majority Leader Francis Gibson R-Mapleton has called “infrastructure banks” that could store state money to use as loans for future projects. The bill would also create a loan fund for the Point of the Mountain area, which is expected to undergo massive development when Utah State Prison is relocated, but Gibson said the 75 million dollars set aside this year would go specifically to the Utah Inner Port Authority project. areas.

“As a project begins, (cities and counties) have the possibility to apply for a loan of money from the State or from this fund, then to repay it thanks to the revenue generated by projects in different areas, “Gibson told reporters on Friday.

The state budget with that funding included is due to be unveiled later Friday at a meeting of the appropriations executive committee scheduled for 5 p.m.

“These are loans,” Gibson said. “They are reimbursed. And there has to be a local game. And so the communities and counties that are doing that … they’re also putting their own money into that. ”

The Utah Inland Port Authority, created by the legislature with a view to maximizing the state’s imports and exports, aims to spur the expansion of infrastructure, especially for railways, trucks and facilities. translation.

Considered as a “hub-and-spoke” model, state leaders want the Utah Port Authority to be based in the area of ​​its current Salt Lake City project – the whose creation sparked controversy and one legal battle that has now been going on for years with the Salt Lake City rulers – while also having “departments” in rural areas which also increase exports there, a concept that plagues rural counties hungry for job growth.

Heads of state came up with the $ 75 million figure because they wanted a large enough fund for projects not only along the Wasatch front but also in rural Utah, Gibson said.

“It’s a lot of money,” he admitted in an interview with Deseret News. “But I think if you live in rural Utah, (you think) the 900-pound gorilla that eats everything is the Wasatch Front. So, could there be some projects on the Wasatch Front and the area? of Salt Lake? Absolutely. But there should still be a significant amount of money for the rural communities in the state to know, “I can still have access to a project to get our product out of here.” ie exported. ”

Friday marked the first time lawmakers have publicly revealed that they plan to create “infrastructure banking” legislation and arrived at the $ 75 million figure.

Anticipating the pushback from anti-inland port activists, Gibson admitted, “They won’t be happy. “

“And that’s OK,” he said. “I appreciate their passion.

As a member of the port authority’s board of directors, Gibson said he had worked with its executive director, Jack Hedge, to “discuss how we are minimizing damage to air quality and Pollution. We are committed to this.

“I think you will see some movement for electrification and other things at the Salt Lake Inner Port site to be able to provide more electrical options as opposed to oil and gas or type things. traditionally dirty diesel, ”Gibson said. . “We will see that move forward.”

Gibson added, “To those critics who say, ‘This Inner Harbor, I don’t want it.’ Initially, they didn’t want it because they thought it was Salt Lake. And as we’ve had more and more people wanting the Racks to join us, now critics have said we don’t want everything. Well, the people of rural Utah who live there are very anxious to have something in their local economy that allows them to create jobs, they can continue to export the products they are already creating.

House Majority Whip Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, backed the money for inland port “infrastructure banks” and what he said it would mean for rural Utah, as well as the Salt Lake Valley.

“This investment is great for people who don’t want it,” said Schultz. “We’re going to have to expand it and expand it and not focus everything on Salt Lake… I love the hub-and-spoke model. And once you’ve spent that $ 75 million across the region and across the state, yes, it’s not that much. ”

Deeda Seed, an activist with the Center for Biological Diversity and lead organizer of Stop the Polluting Port, said on Friday she had heard rumors about the possibility that lawmakers are putting money aside for project areas, but she has first learned of the amount of $ 75 million when contacted by Deseret News.

“First of all, what’s troubling about this is that we get the news from the media and not from the decision-makers,” Seed said. “There has been absolutely no public discussion about it, and you know, it’s a terrible, terrible idea to spend taxpayer dollars when there is no plan.”

In a text message, Seed called it an “Inland Pork Fund” concocted behind closed doors, to be managed by six insiders giving senior loans at low interest rates to a few private companies. There is no plan, it is all speculative and a blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars. “

Seed noted that no other Utah Inner Port Authority project area has been created other than Salt Lake City.

“So this allocates $ 75 million to support a speculative project that has no discernible evidence of a benefit to any of these communities. It’s a waste, ”Seed said. “What are the parameters that surround it? … Why would you want to set aside $ 75 million for something with taxpayer money when you have no idea what it’s going to be? “

To Gibson’s arguments that the money could help rural communities, Seed said inland ports are “essentially giant transshipment facilities of one kind or another, and they can be very disruptive to communities,” even rural communities “.

“Why not wait until there is a plan?” Seed asked. “Honestly, it appears to be spending on barrels of pork and some kind of gesture towards rural Utah. But, you know, it could end up hurting those communities, frankly, depending on what’s being built. ”

]]>
Pope prays for poor families and for the conversion of usurers https://www.observingthesky.org/pope-prays-for-poor-families-and-for-the-conversion-of-usurers/ Tue, 09 Mar 2021 10:57:57 +0000 https://www.observingthesky.org/pope-prays-for-poor-families-and-for-the-conversion-of-usurers/

Vatican City – Pope Francis prayed for families in economic difficulty during the COVID-19 pandemic and for the conversion of loan sharks who feed off them.

“In many places you hear about one of the effects of this pandemic: many families in need, who are hungry and, unfortunately, a group of loan sharks are ‘helping’ them. This is another pandemic.” , the Pope said on April 23. at the start of his morning mass.

The Pope described as a “social pandemic” the fact that many day laborers or people paid illegally were not able to work during the confinement, so “they have nothing to eat for themselves or their children”.

“And the pawn shops take what little they have,” he said. “Let us pray. Let us pray for these families and their many children” and also “for the usurers that the Lord touches their hearts and converts them”.

In his homily at Mass, which was broadcast live from the chapel of his residence, Francis focused on the transformation of Saint Peter from a “coward” who denied Jesus into a daring preacher who stood up to the rule. Sanhedrin.

“What was the secret, what was the force that brought Peter to this point?” Asked the Pope.

The answer, he said, is found in what Jesus said to Peter at the Last Supper: “I prayed that your own faith would not fail; and once you have turned around, you must strengthen your brethren.

“This is the secret of Peter: the prayer of Jesus. Jesus prays for Peter,” said the Pope. “And what Jesus does for Peter, he does for all of us. Jesus prays for us, he prays for us before the Father.”

Francis told his listeners that it is helpful to contemplate the idea of ​​the risen Jesus appearing before God and showing God the wounds in his hands and feet – “the price of our salvation”.

“We are used to praying to Jesus to give us such and such a grace, that he will help us”, said the Pope, “but we are not used to contemplate Jesus who shows his wounds to the Father, Jesus. the intercessor, Jesus who prays for us. “

“Peter was able to make the journey from a coward to being courageous with the gift of the Holy Spirit through the prayer of Jesus,” he said.

“We should think about this. Let’s turn to Jesus, thanking him for praying for us. Jesus is praying for each of us,” he said. “We need to trust more, more in Jesus’ prayer than in our prayers.”

]]>
How to Defer Federal Student Loans for Coronavirus Relief https://www.observingthesky.org/how-to-defer-federal-student-loans-for-coronavirus-relief/ Tue, 09 Mar 2021 10:57:56 +0000 https://www.observingthesky.org/how-to-defer-federal-student-loans-for-coronavirus-relief/

In response to the current economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump announced on Friday March 20 that the Department of Education would allow anyone with student loan debt to take a 60-day break (at least) for monthly payments. – without interest or penalties.

“Probably a lot of the students will be extremely happy, some probably not,” Trump said. “Those who work hard, maybe not, but it’s one of those things. Very unfortunate circumstances.

In a press release, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called the measure a response to “anxious times, especially for students and families whose studies, careers and lives have been disrupted.” Right now everyone should focus on safety and health, regardless of their student loan balance increasing. I commend President Trump for his swift action on this issue, and I hope it will provide meaningful help and peace of mind to those in need. “

Currently, Americans collectively hold $ 1.56 trillion in student loan debt. Interest rates on all federally owned student loans will drop to zero until at least May 12, according to Politico. It comes one week after Trump declared a national emergency and said the government would waive interest on all student loans held by federal agencies for the time being.

But you don’t automatically get the 60-day suspension: first, you’ll need to apply to your loan officers over the phone or online. However, if you are already a month or more behind on your payments, the administration will automatically grant you a 60-day stay.

“Some borrowers may want to continue making payments, such as those requesting a Public Service Loan Discount (PSLF) or those enrolled in a repayment plan with a manageable monthly payment,” the department’s statement said. education. “The department will work closely with Congress to ensure that all student borrowers, including those on income-tested repayment plans, receive the support needed during this emergency. “

MTV News has contacted the Department of Education for advice on what borrowers should do if they are unable to contact their service agent. When a staff member tried to call their loan provider, they scrolled through several menus only to end up with an automatic check-in: the office was closed to mitigate the threat of COVID-19.

]]>
Ivey bucks ‘cancel the culture’ alongside Dr Seuss on Reading Day across America https://www.observingthesky.org/ivey-bucks-cancel-the-culture-alongside-dr-seuss-on-reading-day-across-america/ Tue, 09 Mar 2021 10:57:56 +0000 https://www.observingthesky.org/ivey-bucks-cancel-the-culture-alongside-dr-seuss-on-reading-day-across-america/

Dr Seuss is under fire on his birthday.

March 2 is the anniversary of the birth of Dr. Seuss, as well as the annual Read Across America Day.

Started by the National Educational Association in 1998 as a way to promote reading among children, the party is traditionally considered to be held in conjunction with Dr. Seuss’ birthday, although the two are technically separate events.

However, President Joe Biden on Tuesday deleted any mention of Dr. Seuss in his proclamation of Reading Day across America amid accusations of “racial overtones” and derogatory images in classic children’s books.

Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama both mentioned Dr Seuss in their respective proclamations for the annual day.

Tuesday also saw the announcement that Dr. Seuss Enterprises will no longer publish six of the author’s books because they “portray people in a hurtful and mistaken manner.”

Amid the upcoming “cancellation culture” for Seuss, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey doesn’t shy away from the traditional association between the author’s birthday and the day of reading across the board. ‘America. Ivey shared a video of his reading of “Oh, the places you’ll go!” “From Dr Seuss

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Ivey’s press secretary Gina Maiola said: “Governor Ivey believes there is no place to ‘cancel culture’ in our country.”

“Instead of worrying about telling kids that it’s wrong to read Dr. Seuss, let’s worry about getting them back to class,” she continued. “As a former teacher, Governor Ivey believes that teaching students that reading can be fun, that they should pursue their dreams, and that the principle of treating everyone with kindness and respect are all relevant lessons today. ‘hui. “

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn


]]> Government urged to offer up to 90% loan guarantee to SMEs https://www.observingthesky.org/government-urged-to-offer-up-to-90-loan-guarantee-to-smes/ Tue, 09 Mar 2021 10:57:55 +0000 https://www.observingthesky.org/government-urged-to-offer-up-to-90-loan-guarantee-to-smes/

The Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) called on the government to put in place a program offering up to 90% guarantees against loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help the economy recover from the pandemic of Covid-19.

SMEs in industry, construction, distribution and service sectors face a financing need of up to € 6 billion to € 8 billion, BPFI said in a new document. However, relaxing the assumption to only half of small businesses in need of liquidity support would reduce the level of loans requiring state support by € 3 billion to € 4 billion, he said.

BPFI is also urging the government to improve its Covid-19 working capital loan program, make it easier and cheaper for SMEs to take the exam route to ensure business survival, and to review corporate trade tariffs. services operating in tourism and hotels, which have been hit hard by the crisis.

“The normal criteria used by financial institutions to evaluate loan proposals will not work in the current economic climate resulting from the pandemic due to the abnormal risks associated with such loans,” the BPFI document said. “Government guarantees for emergency loans made by banks to temporarily troubled but otherwise creditworthy borrowers would directly address the problem. “

Economic battle

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Secretary-General Robert Watt signaled earlier this month that the government was considering improved SME guarantee programs, open-ended grants and equity support cases then. that he was planning the next stage of the economic battle. .

The UK government decided this week to offer full guarantees for emergency loans up to £ 50,000 (€ 57,375) for small businesses hit by the Covid-19 shock. Loans between that amount and £ 5million will remain subject to an 80% guarantee announced last month.

Countries like Germany and Switzerland have set up programs offering comprehensive state guarantees for loans to SMEs.

Micro-enterprises

BPFI proposes that the government support 90 percent of microenterprise loans up to € 50,000, falling to 80 percent for SME loans up to € 5 million. These loans would be interest free for the first 12 months and have a repayment term of up to 10 years.

BPFI said a guarantee program would still require banks to take out loans “to safe and sound standards”, based on the borrower’s financial data before the crisis. “A guarantee of most of the principal can significantly reduce the lender’s exposure to the current break in activity, which in turn will increase the banks’ lending capacity,” he said.

]]>