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AssessmentsOct 23, 2020 | 20:31 GMT
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrives at the office of President Michel Aoun, after the latter appointed him to form a government on Oct. 22, 2020, in Beirut, Lebanon.
In Lebanon, Hariri’s Return Will Ease Markets and Enrage Protesters
Saad Hariri’s return as Lebanon’s prime minister will unlock access to French aid and likely improve the country’s economic stability, but it will also trigger a fresh round of unrest by reinforcing popular perceptions that political reform is unlikely. On Oct. 22, Lebanese President Michel Aoun named Hariri, a prominent Sunni politician, prime minister-designate and tasked him with forming a government. Most political parties approved the nomination, indicating cross-sectarian approval for the three-time prime minister. The Iran-backed militant group and Shiite political party, Hezbollah, even tacitly approved Hariri’s nomination, despite disapproving of other candidates up to this point. 
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SnapshotsOct 21, 2020 | 22:02 GMT
Policemen walk near an overlook at the Giza Pyramids in Egypt ahead of a ceremony commemorating the launch of the site's first environmentally-friendly bus and restaurant on Oct. 20, 2020.
The Cost of Egypt’s Continued Economic Growth
Egypt’s strong macroeconomic performance amid the COVID-19 pandemic and continued appeal to foreign investors hold promise for Cairo’s near-term financial stability. But it does not resolve the country’s stubbornly high poverty levels, which will eventually become a political liability by stoking anti-government sentiment. In an address on Oct. 18, Egypt’s finance minister said economic growth has exceeded even the finance ministry’s previous projections for 2020. This confidence reflects recent positive adjustments to Egypt’s economic outlook projections by Fitch Ratings, Deutsche Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- all of which now see Egypt’s economy growing at 3.5 percent of GDP in this year, exceeding the performance of most of its regional peers. But Cairo’s ongoing pursuit of business-friendly economic reforms in lieu of measures that address rising poverty levels could backfire by raising the risk of social unrest that ultimately deters foreign investment.
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SnapshotsOct 21, 2020 | 16:00 GMT
A worker assembles a power distribution cabinet in Hangzhou, China, on Oct. 19, 2020.
China’s Economic Recovery Widens, But Risks Remain
Stronger, broader-based growth in China’s economy in the third quarter of 2020 underscores that it will be the only major economy to end the year with a larger GDP greater than it began with. Downside risks remain, but the opportunity to further Beijing’s strategic goals could bear economic fruit in the form of furthering policies that foster domestic self-reliance, even as low consumption persists and a COVID-19 resurgence in the United States and Europe threatens Chinese exports. According to official government statistics released on Oct. 19, China’s GDP growth accelerated to 4.9 percent (year-over-year) from 3.2 percent in the second quarter of 2020, even as it fell somewhat short of predictions. Negative growth for the year was reversed with the economy expanding by 0.7 percent in the first nine months of 2020, including the 6.8 percent decline in the first quarter. This shores up the public image of the Chinese
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SnapshotsOct 15, 2020 | 21:23 GMT
The U.S. State Department building is seen in Washington D.C. on July 22, 2019.
The White House’s Hong Kong Report Maintains Its Measured Approach
The White House is continuing its cautious and relatively slow-paced approach to Hong Kong, as it tries to avoid disrupting business continuity in the city and ensure the volatile political dynamic doesn’t drive the overall U.S.-China dynamic, including outreach on issues such as trade. On Oct. 14, the U.S. State Department issued its required Hong Kong Autonomy Act report to Congress, listing 10 Chinese and Hong Kong officials found to have materially contributed to eroding the region's autonomy. The report warned that banks that conduct significant transactions with the individuals listed could face U.S. secondary sanctions, including restrictions on U.S. dollar transactions and measures targeting corporate leadership. This sets the stage for a potential increase of U.S. pressure on foreign, Hong Kong and Chinese financial institutions operating in the city. However, the nature of the Oct. 14 report suggests a less escalatory approach, though that could change depending on the
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SnapshotsOct 14, 2020 | 17:11 GMT
A pile of briquettes, which are compressed blocks of coal dust, is seen in Melbourne, Australia, in March 2017.
With an Apparent Coal Ban, China Ups the Cost of Australia’s Political Defiance
Reports that China has halted purchases of Australian coal suggest Beijing is increasing economic pressure to curb Canberra’s more confrontational stance. Such moves, however, are unlikely to inhibit Australia’s greater strategic shift to rebalance against Chinese encroachment in the region. On Oct. 14, leaks indicated that around 850,000 tonnes of Australian coking coal on ten Panamax vessels bound for China was being diverted to other markets. This follows an Oct. 13 confirmation from Australia's trade ministry that it was determining whether Beijing has suspended purchases of Australian coking and thermal coal. Reports from the day before indicate that Chinese officials told most large power stations and steel mills in early October to halt the use of Australian coal. Many ports were also reportedly told not to offload the product, causing buyers to respond by halting purchases for fear they wouldn’t clear customs. If confirmed, China's suspension of Australian coal purchases
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GuidanceOct 13, 2020 | 20:23 GMT
A promotional board for the annual series of meetings between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank is seen outside the IMF headquarters in Washington D.C. on Oct. 13, 2020.
What to Watch for During This Week's IMF-World Bank Meetings
Growing debt vulnerabilities in emerging markets and developing countries amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, along with the enduring need to prop up global growth with money from developed countries, will be the primary focus of the virtual meetings between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank over the next week. Between Oct. 12-22, the two global financial institutions will hold their annual series of joint discussions via video conference amid burgeoning disagreements on extending the Group of 20 (G-20)’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), as well as broadening the plan to include more comprehensive treatment of debt stocks.
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SnapshotsOct 13, 2020 | 15:52 GMT
The Turkish military activates the S-400 missile system from Russia at an airbase in Ankara on Nov. 25, 2019.
What to Expect From Turkey’s Upcoming Missile System Test
Turkey is poised to soon test its new Russian S-400 missile system, betting that the immediate U.S. pushback will remain symbolic and not include sanctions. Turkey has signaled it will test the S-400 missile system near the Black Sea province of Sinop from Oct. 13-16, according to a “notice to airmen” from the Turkish government that warned of unspecific missile testing. Washington already ended Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program as punishment for purchasing the S-400 system, which it fears will provide Moscow with a backdoor to gain information on advanced NATO weapon systems, such as the F-35, in addition to fostering overall greater security cooperation between Turkey and Russia. U.S. President Donald Trump, however, has yet to signal any plans of enacting new sanctions on Turkey, which -- while popular in Congress -- would have to overcome a presidential veto. 
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AssessmentsOct 12, 2020 | 20:57 GMT
A picture taken during a helicopter tour organized by the government of the United Arab Emirates shows an aerial view of Dubai on July 8, 2020.
A Larger UAE Citizenry Would Mean Smoother Policymaking and Rockier Regional Ties
The United Arab Emirates is considering offering citizenship to its large expatriate population, which would significantly alter the country’s political economy, as well as its regional relationships, by assimilating non-Arab Gulf residents into its middle- and upper-classes. Over time, this new group of foreign-born Emirati citizens would likely erode the tribal and ethnic dynamics that have long shaped the governance of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, along with the cultural foundations driving many aspects of cooperation in the Arab Gulf. On Sept. 30, the Emirati government unveiled proposed changes to the country’s citizenship law that would ease the way for investors, long-term residents and wealthy foreigners to earn a permanent place in the country. With foreigners far outnumbering its local population, the United Arab Emirates’ current citizenship laws have offset the country’s long-standing demographic imbalances by ensuring the influence and prominence of its minority Emiratis via special legal and political protections. Changing
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AssessmentsOct 12, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A woman wearing a face mask walks past a closed shop in Rome, Italy, on May 18, 2020. The sign on the store window reads "Without government aid, we cannot reopen on May 18. Thousands of employees at risk."
COVID-19’s Uneven Impact on Europe Portends an Equally Uneven Recovery
COVID-19’s uneven economic impact on the European Union portends an equally uneven recovery, as growth in the south will be weaker than in the rest of the Continent due to structural factors. Different policy priorities between harder-hit southern states and their northern and eastern peers will thwart the bloc’s ability to increase financial integration among its 27 members, as well as implement monetary policies for its 19-member currency zone. The risk of social unrest, government collapses and the emergence of anti-establishment movements will also be higher in Southern Europe, where the pandemic has exacerbated countries’ pre-existing economic weaknesses such as high unemployment, deep fiscal deficits and high sovereign debt levels. 
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