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“For the first time since early 2010, Greece can stand on its own feet,” the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) rescue fund said as Athens exited its final, three-year international bailout program on Monday.

The ESM allocated about $71 billion over the past three years, after an agreement was reached in August 2015 to help the country cope with fallout from an ongoing debt crisis.

“Today we can safely conclude the ESM program with no more follow-up rescue programs,” Mario Centeno, the chairman of the ESM’s board of governors, said in a statement. “This was possible thanks to the extraordinary effort of the Greek people, the good cooperation with the current Greek government and the support of European partners through loans and debt relief.”

In 2010, Greece was declared at risk of default after struggling with massive debt, loss of investment and huge unemployment. Overall, nearly $300 billion in emergency loans were provided in three consecutive bailout packages from a European Union bailout fund and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In exchange, Athens was required to put in place severe austerity-based measures and reforms.

The completion of the loan program is a major accomplishment for Greece, but the country still faces an uphill battle to regain its economic stability.

 

The office of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras described the final bailout loan last week as the “last act in the drama. Now a new page of progress, justice and growth can be turned.”

“Greece has managed to stand on her feet again,” his office said.

 

Economic growth in Greece is slowly growing again, tourism is up nearly 17 percent in Athens this year, and once-record levels of joblessness are finally receding.

 

However, the country still faces massive challenges, including weak banks, the highest debt load in the European Union at 180 percent of GDP, and the loss of about a half-million mostly younger Greeks to Europe’s wealthier neighbors. Greece will also need to continue to repay its international loans until 2060.

The country’s three international bailouts took Europe to the brink of crisis.

 

The financial troubles exposed dangers in the European Union’s common currency and threatened to break the bloc apart. The large debt that remains in Greece and an even larger debt in Italy continue to be a financial danger to the EU.

The bailouts also led to regular and sometimes violent demonstrations in Athens by citizens angry at the government’s budget measures required by international lenders in return for the bailouts.

 

While Greece has begun to make economic progress, economics say the bulk of the austerity measures will likely need to remain in place for many years for the country to tackle its massive debt.

Some international economists have called for part of Greece’s loans to be written off in order for Greece to keep its ballooning debt payments in check. However, any kind of loan forgiveness would be a tough sell in Germany where the initially bailouts were unpopular.

The austerity measures included massive tax hikes as high as 70 percent of earned income and pension cuts that pushed nearly half of Greece’s elderly population below the poverty line.

Pensioner Yorgos Vagelakos, 81, told Reuters that five years ago he would go to his local market with 20 euros in his pocket, while today, he has just 2 euros. He says for him, the bailout will never end.

“It’s very often that just like today, I struggle, because I see all the produce on display at the market and I want to buy things, but when I don’t have even a cent in my pocket, I get really sad,” Vagelakos said.

Uncertainty reigned in Venezuela Saturday after President Nicolas Maduro unveiled a major economic reform plan aimed at halting the spiraling hyperinflation that has thrown the oil-rich, cash-poor South American country into chaos.

Ahead of a major currency overhaul Monday, when Caracas will start issuing new banknotes after slashing five zeroes off the crippled bolivar, Maduro detailed other measures he hopes will pull Venezuela out of crisis.

Those measures include a massive minimum wage hike, the fifth so far this year.

But analysts say the radical overhaul could only serve to make matters worse.

“There will be a lot of confusion in the next few days, for consumers and the private sector,” said the director of the Ecoanalitica consultancy, Asdrubal Oliveros. “It’s a chaotic scenario.”

​‘Pure lie’

The embattled Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader, said the country needed to show “fiscal discipline” and stop the excessive money printing that has been regular practice in recent years.

The new currency, the sovereign bolivar — to distinguish from the current, and ironically named, strong bolivar — will be anchored to the country’s widely discredited cryptocurrency, the petro.

Each petro will be worth about $60, based on the price of a barrel of Venezuela’s oil. In the new currency, that will be 3,600 sovereign bolivars, signaling a massive devaluation.

In turn, the minimum wage will be fixed at half a petro (1,800 sovereign bolivars), starting Monday. That is about $28, more than 34 times the previous level of less than a dollar at the prevailing black market rate.

Maduro also said the country would have one fluctuating official exchange rate, also anchored to the petro, without saying what the starting level would be.

As it stands, the monthly minimum wage, devastated by inflation and the aggressive devaluation of the bolivar, is still not enough to buy a kilo of meat.

In the capital Caracas, residents were skeptical about the new measures.

“Everything will stay the same, prices will continue to rise,” 39-year-old Bruno Choy, who runs a street food stand, told AFP.

Angel Arias, a 67-year-old retiree, dubbed the new currency a “pure lie!”

1 million percent inflation

The International Monetary Fund predicts inflation will hit a staggering 1 million percent this year in Venezuela, now in a fourth year of recession, hamstrung by shortages of basic goods and crippled by paralyzed public services.

Maduro blames the country’s financial woes on opposition plots and American sanctions, but admits that the government will “learn as we go along” when it comes to the currency redenomination.

His government pushed back Saturday against criticism of the economic reform plan.

“Don’t pay attention to naysayers,” Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said. “With oil income, with taxes and income from gasoline price hikes … we’ll be able to fund our program.”

Electronic transactions are set to be suspended from Sunday to facilitate the introduction of the new notes.

Economy in turmoil

Oil production accounts for 96 percent of Venezuela’s revenue, but that has slumped to a 30-year low of 1.4 million barrels a day, compared to its record high of 3.2 million 10 years ago.

The fiscal deficit is almost 20 percent of GDP while Venezuela struggles with an external debt of $150 billion.

Venezuela launched the petro in a bid for liquidity to try to circumvent US sanctions that have all but stamped out international financing.

But there’s a good reason the redenomination hasn’t generated renewed hope or investor confidence: Venezuela has done this before.

Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez stripped three zeroes off the bolivar in 2008, but that failed to prevent hyperinflation.

Also, Cryptocurrency rating site ICOindex.com has branded the petro a scam, and the U.S. has banned its nationals from trading in it.

People in big cities around the world typically enjoy a wide range of public transportation options. Those who own smartphones also have the choice of using some of the increasingly popular ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. And now, Kabul residents in Afghanistan can, too. VOA’s Haseeb Maudoodi takes a look at Kabul’s newest online taxi service called Buber, which means ‘take me’ in Dari. Bezhan Hamdard narrates.

Google has been in the headlines recently, and the news was not good. The technology company left the Chinese market eight years ago to protest Beijing’s censorship, but now appears ready to return with a new search engine. But the project is shrouded in secrecy, even as Google’s employees demand transparency. Meanwhile, the company tries to defend itself against accusations it has been invading user’s privacy, despite claiming it doesn’t. Faiza Elmasry has the story. Faith Lapidus narrates.

The world’s oceans are filled with trace amounts of uranium, the primary fuel for nuclear power reactors. The trick is extracting it from the seawater. Now, scientists in the U.S. say they have done that using yarn, and extracted 5 grams of the powdered form of uranium used to produce reactor fuel. Faith Lapidus reports.

A budding trade war between the U.S. and Turkey over a detained American pastor is having global consequences. A sharp drop in Turkey’s lira, inflation and the threat of loan defaults, could drag down other economies, particularly in emerging markets. Turkey’s troubles are causing ripple effects in countries as far away as Argentina and Indonesia, while weighing on Asian currency rates and triggering currency fluctuations. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

Tech companies like Google’s YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have long been global platforms for free expression but are increasingly facing calls to respond to offensive and abusive comments on their sites. Michelle Quinn reports this is an issue both in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Turkey’s currency this month has suffered heavy falls triggered by U.S.-Turkish tensions over the ongoing detention of an American pastor. Washington’s threat to impose new economic sanctions sparked another steep currency drop Friday. Dorian Jones reports on the economic fall out for people in Istanbul.

Tesla shares dropped nearly 9 percent in value Friday, amid reports of CEO and co-founder Elon Musk meeting with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Musk wrote on Twitter last week of his plans to take the company private for a price of $420 per share, writing that he had “funding secured.” On Monday, in a blog post, Musk admitted that was not true, as he was still waiting on a finalized deal with his investors, a Saudi Arabian foreign investment fund.

“I continue to have discussions with the Saudi fund, and I also am having discussions with a number of other investors, which is something that I always planned to do since I would like for Tesla to continue to have a broad investor base,” Musk wrote.

Since Musk’s original tweet, the company’s shares have dropped 12 percent overall, and reports of subpoenas being issued by the SEC have sent the company into turmoil.

In a New York Times interview Thursday, Musk said, “This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career.” The Times also reported that members of Tesla’s board are concerned with Musk’s drug use, notably his use of the sleep aid Ambien, which some believe have contributed to Musk’s controversial Twitter statements.

Last month, Musk came under fire for calling one of the cave divers who rescued 12 Thai soccer players and their coach a pedophile, citing no evidence. He later apologized for that remark.

Stocks rose late in the day Friday as investors welcomed signs of progress in resolving the trade dispute between the U.S. and China. The Wall Street Journal reported that the countries hope to have a resolution by November.

Industrial, health care and basic materials companies made some of the biggest gains. The report came a day after China said it will send an envoy to Washington for the first talks between the countries since early June.

Marina Severinovsky, an investment strategist at Schroders, said stocks could jump if the U.S. and China make real progress toward a trade agreement. But stocks in emerging markets might make even bigger gains.

“The rally that could come, if there is a better outcome, would be in emerging markets,” she said. “China has suffered pretty greatly … the U.S. has held up pretty well.”

The late gains came in spite of weak results for several chipmakers. Electric car maker Tesla took its biggest drop in two years on reports of a wider government investigation into the company and concerns about CEO Elon Musk’s health.

The S&P 500 index rose 9.44 points, or 0.3 percent, at 2,850.13. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 110.59 points, or 0.4 percent, to 25,669.32. The Nasdaq composite edged up 9.81 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,816.33. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gained 7.19 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,692.95.

The Wall Street Journal cited officials in both the U.S. and China as it said negotiators want to end the trade war before U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet at multilateral events in November.

Industrial companies made some of the biggest gains after agricultural equipment maker Deere posted stronger than expected sales. Its stock rose 2.4 percent to $140.59.

Construction equipment maker Caterpillar rose 2.3 percent to $139.34 and engine maker Paccar added 2.3 percent to $67.16.

Chipmakers fell after two companies gave weaker forecasts for the third quarter. Nvidia said it no longer expects much revenue from products used in mining digital currencies, and its stock fell 4.9 percent to $244.82. Applied Materials slumped 7.7 percent to $43.77.

While big names like Netflix, Facebook and Amazon slipped, Apple led technology companies slightly higher overall. Apple stock rose 2 percent to $217.58.

Nordstrom jumped 13.2 percent to $59.18 after raising its annual profit and sales forecasts and posting better earnings and sales than analysts expected. It’s been a mostly difficult week for department stores as Macy’s and J.C. Penney both plunged after issuing their quarterly reports.

The S&P 500 finished this week with a solid gain of 0.6 percent, but it took a difficult path to get there. Stocks fell early this week due to worries about Turkey’s currency crisis, and later investors fretted about China’s economic growth.

The recovery started Thursday as investors hoped the upcoming talks between the U.S. and China will help end the impasse that has resulted in higher tariffs from both countries.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong has fallen 13 percent since early June as the dispute has dragged on, and other emerging market indexes have also taken a hit. The S&P 500 has risen over that time.

Tesla was hit with a series of reports that concerned shareholders. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission started investigating the electric car maker last year to determine if it made false statements about production of its Model 3 sedan.

The SEC is also reportedly looking into CEO Elon Musk’s comment on Twitter about possibly taking the company private.

Tesla stock rose from about $345 a share to about $380 following Musk’s tweet last week, which said Tesla could go private for $420 a share. On Friday it dropped 8.9 percent to $305.50.

Musk also gave an emotional interview to the New York Times, published Friday, about the stress he’s experienced as the company tries to ramp up production. He said this year has been “excruciating” and described working up 120 hours a week, raising concerns about his health.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.86 percent from 2.87 percent.

U.S. crude picked up 0.7 percent to $65.91 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, added 0.6 percent to $71.83 per barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline dipped 0.3 percent to $1.98 a gallon. Heating oil inched up 0.1 percent to $2.10 a gallon. Natural gas rose 1.3 percent to $2.95 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold was little changed at $1,184.20 an ounce. Silver fell 0.6 percent to $14.63 an ounce. Copper added 0.5 percent to $2.63 a pound.

The dollar dipped to 110.60 yen from 110.88 yen. The euro rose to $1.1443 from $1.1365.

The German DAX lost 0.2 percent and France’s CAC 40 fell 0.1 percent. The FTSE 100 in Britain was little changed.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index added 0.4 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.4 percent. In South Korea, the Kospi gained 0.3 percent.

Для підтримки курсу гривні Національний банк України продав цього тижня на міжбанківському валютному ринку 215 мільйонів доларів, про це йдеться в коментарі НБУ на офіційному сайті.

Збільшення попиту на іноземну валюту в Нацбанку пояснюють сезонними, ситуативними та психологічними чинниками на заявляють про відсутність фундаментальних причин для знецінення гривні.

«Пропозиція іноземної валюти з боку головних експортних галузей (гірничо-металургійний комплекс, АПК) залишається на достатньо високому рівні, що свідчить про відсутність фундаментальних причин для знецінення гривні. Натомість спостерігається збільшення попиту на іноземну валюту на міжбанківському валютному ринку через сезонні, ситуативні та психологічні чинники», – йдеться в повідомленні.

Серед сезонних чинників в Нацбанку назвали збільшення попиту з боку імпортерів енергоресурсів, які потребують валюти для розрахунків за газ та за нафтопродукти (для раннього початку збирання врожаю) та з боку імпортерів товарів та послуг споживчого спрямування (електроніка, харчові продукти, туризм тощо), що, на думку регулятора, «є наслідком зростання доходів населення».

Крім того, під впливом негативних очікувань вже традиційно напередодні осені зменшується пропозиція валюти з боку населення на готівковому ринку, зазначили в НБУ.

Для згладжування надмірних коливань обмінного курсу гривні цього тижня НБУ щодня виходив на міжбанківський ринок з продажем іноземної валюти. Загалом за цей тиждень Національний банк під час валютних інтервенцій продав 215 мільйонів доларів.

Читайте також: Нацбанк про приїзд місії МВФ: це матиме позитивний вплив на стан валютного ринку

«Зокрема, сьогодні (17 серпня) було проведено аукціон з продажу $50 млн, у ході якого було отримано заявок на купівлю на суму $32,7 млн. За результатами аукціону регулятор продав $24,8 млн за середньозваженим курсом 27,93 грн/дол. Завдяки проведенню аукціону попит на валюту було задоволено, і довідковий курс гривні на 12:00 становив 27,93 грн/дол.», – повідомили в НБУ.

Там запевняють про готовність і надалі здійснювати валютні інтервенції, аби не допустити різкого послаблення курсу гривні.

Водночас Національний банк України суттєво понизив офіційний курс гривні. Згідно зі встановленим на 20 серпня курсом, падіння складає 22 копійки.

Якщо сьогодні за американський долар була встановлена ціна 27 гривень 67 копійок, то на понеділок – 27,89.

Unions at Air France-KLM voiced concern after the company appointed Benjamin Smith as the new CEO with the support of the French state.

The company said Thursday that Smith, who is 46 and was previously Air Canada’s chief operating officer, will fill the role by Sept. 30.

Vincent Salles, unionist at CGT-Air France union, said on France Info radio that unions fear Smith’s mission is to implement plans that would “deteriorate working conditions and wages.”

The previous CEO, Jean-Marc Janaillac, resigned in May after Air France employees held 13 days of strike over pay and rejected the company’s wage proposal, considered too low.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire welcomed an “opportunity” for Air France-KLM and expressed his confidence in Smith’s ability to “re-establish social dialogue.”

Національний банк України суттєво понизив офіційний курс гривні. Згідно зі встановленим на 20 серпня курсом, падіння складає 22 копійки.

Якщо сьогодні за американський долар була встановлена ціна 27 гривень 67 копійок, то на понеділок – 27,89.

Раніше сьогодні регулятор повідомляв, що продав банкам на валютному аукціоні майже 25 мільйонів доларів.

У НБУ пояснили, що зберігають активну присутність на міжбанківському валютному ринку для згладжування надмірних коливань обмінного курсу гривні, «які посилилися поточного тижня у зв’язку із подальшим перевищенням попиту на валюту над її пропозицією».

Читайте також: Нацбанк про приїзд місії МВФ: це матиме позитивний вплив на стан валютного ринку

«Дається взнаки сезонне збільшення попиту з боку імпортерів енергоресурсів, які потребують валюту для розрахунків за газ і за нафтопродукти (для раннього початку збирання врожаю) і з боку імпортерів товарів і послуг споживчого спрямування (електроніка, харчові продукти, туризм тощо), що є наслідком зростання доходів населення. Крім того, під впливом негативних очікувань вже традиційно напередодні осені зменшується пропозиція валюти з боку населення на готівковому ринку, що позначається на спрямованості операцій банків на міжбанківському валютному ринку», – заявляють у Нацбанку.

Про вихід на міжбанківський ринок із продажем валюти Національний банк України оголосив 2 серпня. У банку заявляли, що зробили це для стримування зростання курсу долара. Саме 2 серпня курс гривні до долара вперше з 27 лютого досяг позначки у 27 гривень за долар.

Google is planning a return to China.

But the project is shrouded in secrecy, and employees are demanding transparency.

According to a report by The New York Times on Thursday, August 16, a petition calling for more oversight and accountability in the project racked up more than 1,000 signatures.

Reuters reported this month, the app is a bid to win approval from Beijing to provide a mobile search engine in China.

However, employees are concerned the app would support China’s restrictions on free expression and ultimately violate the company’s ‘don’t be evil’ code of conduct.

The petition, seen by Reuters says, “We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building.”

The company declined to comment.

Sources say the project – codenamed Dragonfly – would block certain websites and search terms.

It would also stand in stark contrast to eight years ago, when Google left China in protest of Beijing’s censorship.

Company executives have not commented publicly on Dragonfly.

But in a transcript seen by Reuters, Google’s Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told employees “it’s all very unclear” whether Google would return to China at all.

He also said that development is still in the early stages, and that sharing information too early could quote “cause issues”.

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Euro Fund: Greece Has Officially Exited Bailout Program

“For the first time since early 2010, Greece can stand on its own feet,” the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) rescue fund said as Athens exited its final, three-year international bailout program on Monday. The ESM allocated about $71 billion over the past three years, after an agreement was reached in…

Maduro Unveils New Banknote, Other Economic Reforms

Uncertainty reigned in Venezuela Saturday after President Nicolas Maduro unveiled a major economic reform plan aimed at halting the spiraling hyperinflation that has thrown the oil-rich, cash-poor South American country into chaos. Ahead of a major currency overhaul Monday, when Caracas will start issuing new banknotes after slashing five zeroes…

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