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IFC provides $50m to BRAC Bank to Bolster Trade Finance and Safeguard Employment




In a move to assist small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has granted BRAC Bank Limited a $50 million loan. This investment aims to safeguard employment opportunities and enhance foreign exchange liquidity within BRAC Bank. The funding will specifically support the working capital and trade finance needs of the bank’s SME clients involved in importing and exporting.

This financial support from IFC, coupled with a similar loan provided to Prime Bank earlier this year, serves as a positive signal to the market. It is expected to attract additional international investors who can contribute to fulfilling the foreign exchange financing requirements of local banks and SMEs, as stated by IFC.

This funding falls under IFC’s $8 billion global COVID-19 fast-track financing facility, designed to aid companies during the ongoing public health crisis. The investment is part of the Working Capital Solutions (WCS) program within the COVID-19 response envelope, which allocates $2 billion globally to emerging-market banks. These funds enable such banks to assist struggling firms.

Furthermore, the International Development Association’s Private Sector Window Blended Finance Facility will also support this project. It aligns with IFC’s WCS program and provides assistance to the banking sector.

BRAC Bank, as Bangladesh’s third-largest private bank and the sole SME-focused bank in the country, is acutely aware of the challenges faced by its SME and corporate clients due to the disruptive impact of COVID-19. The scarcity of foreign exchange has further hindered their regular trading operations, as noted by Selim R. F. Hussain, the Managing Director and CEO of BRAC Bank.

The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a global economic slowdown, compounded by various factors such as geopolitical events. Recognizing the decline in foreign exchange reserves within export-driven economies like Bangladesh, IFC has been steadfast in supporting the banking sector, said Joon Young Park, IFC’s Portfolio Manager for South Asia. The organization intends to continue its support for key banking partners in Bangladesh, especially those with significant SME portfolios like BRAC Bank, with whom IFC has maintained equity and debt commitments for nearly two decades.

Since 2010, IFC has invested over $3.6 billion to foster the growth of Bangladesh’s private sector, thus generating employment opportunities for its citizens. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, IFC has already provided more than $360 million in working capital solutions and liquidity support to banks and companies in Bangladesh.

Martin Holtmann, IFC Country Manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal, acknowledged the challenging market conditions that businesses in Bangladesh have faced over the past three years. By extending support to BRAC Bank, IFC aims to contribute to the country’s recovery and foster a resilient post-pandemic economic landscape.

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Israel, Hezbollah faceoff raises risk of wider conflict




israel Hezbollah

Regular puffs of smoke from missile intercepts over northern Israel and fires from air strikes in southern Lebanon are outward signs of a fear that the Gaza war may be expanding into a wider conflict, which analysts say poses risks for both sides.

The stark threats on Wednesday from Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, that nowhere in Israel would be safe in the event of a war, and that even Cyprus and other parts of the Mediterranean would be in danger was the latest salvo in a rhetorical barrage from both sides.

Hezbollah has been firing rockets at Israel in solidarity with its Palestinian ally Hamas since the Gaza war erupted in October, forcing tens of thousands to flee homes in Israel, where political pressure is building for tougher action.

Tens of thousands of Lebanese have also fled their homes following Israeli strikes in south Lebanon.

Concerned at the risk of a slide into a war that could spread across the region, US President Joe Biden sent his special envoy Amos Hochstein to embark on a new round of diplomacy this week and Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Israeli officials to avoid further escalation.

On Thursday, Israeli jets hit targets in southern Lebanon and killed a Hezbollah fighter it identified as a commander of the group’s operations in the Jouaiyya area. Hezbollah acknowledged his killing but did not identify him as a commander. After a brief pause over the Eid holiday, Hezbollah fired dozens of missiles into Israel.

“None of the options is good but the big question is, how much can Israel suffer under this attack?” said Orna Mizrahi, a former official in Israel’s National Security Council. “I think most of the government don’t really want to get into a war, but it’s possible that we are getting there.”

In Lebanon, Nasrallah’s comments left many bracing for a wider war. But some diplomats and analysts said his threats were an attempt to match the escalating rhetoric from Israel.

“To me, now this is part of a deterrent strategy,” said Hubert Faustmann, political analyst and professor of history and international relations at the University of Nicosia.

“There is a high danger of Israel escalating the confrontation with Hezbollah and an all-out, full-scale war, which I don’t think Hezbollah wants,” Faustmann added, saying Hezbollah was demonstrating what it “could do” if that were to happen.

Hezbollah has indicated it is not seeking a wider conflict, even as it has steadily drawn on more potent weaponry.

While Israel has the most powerful army in the Middle East, Hezbollah has thousands of fighters, many with experience in the Syrian civil war, and an arsenal of tens of thousands of missiles capable of hitting cities all over Israel.

It also has a large fleet of drones, one of which appears to have carried out an extended flight over the port city of Haifa this week, underlining the potential threat to key economic infrastructure including power systems.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Israel would “turn Beirut into Gaza” in the event of a war. But a wider escalation could also overwhelm Israel’s famed Iron dome missile defence system that has so far intercepted most of the hundreds of missiles fired by Hezbollah.

“My sense is that Hezbollah feels it has some leverage over the Israelis, because an escalating war – as much damage as it might do in Lebanon and Syria – would create terror in Israel,” said Seth G. Jones, an analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “It would be a tall order for Israeli air defences to confront the widespread rocket arsenal coming from the north. It would be a huge problem.”



For weeks, Israeli commanders have been holding training exercises and assessments in preparation for what the military called “a reality where we will have to fight on a different scale in the north.”

Fighting in Gaza, the main theatre of war since the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on Oct. 7, has continued, and Israeli officials have assessed that the end of the main phase of fighting is weeks away.

Many units need rest and refitting after intense combat in Gaza, but this week, the army’s northern command said it had approved operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon.

Energy Minister Eli Cohen said on Thursday the military was working with energy authorities to ensure that Israel’s strategic electricity infrastructure was protected and said that Israel would retaliate strongly to any strike against it.

Lebanon’s power infrastructure is already crippled, a result of decades of poor government and conflicts, including with Israel.

Israel has had a bruising experience in Lebanon in the past. After its forces invaded in 1982, they were stuck holding a buffer zone for nearly two decades after a war which saw the birth of Hezbollah. A second war in 2006, started after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers, left the Iranian-backed movement in place miles beyond the UN agreed ceasefire line on the Litani river and steadily strengthening.

But the political pressure on Netanyahu has swelled as summer begins, with no indication of when life will return to normal more than eight months after the beginning of the conflict.

Dozens of Israeli towns are deserted, with around 60,000 people evacuated to temporary accommodation, leaving empty streets with the occasional building scarred by rocket fire. Some 90,000 have also fled from southern Lebanon.

Sarit Zehavi, a former Israeli military intelligence official who runs a think tank that specialises on Israel’s northern border said that after the trauma for Israel of Oct. 7, few of those who have left their homes would be ready to return while Hezbollah remained entrenched over the border.

“For 17 years, we did nothing against the threat and now dealing with it will cost a very high price.”

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North Korea says deal between Putin and Kim requires immediate military assistance in event of war




north korea putin

A new agreement between Russia and North Korea reached by their leaders requires the countries to use all available means to provide immediate military assistance in the event of war, North Korean state media said.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Thursday reported the language of the comprehensive strategic partnership agreement reached by its leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Pyongyang on Wednesday. The agency said Article 4 of the agreement states that if one of the countries gets invaded and is pushed into a state of war, the other must deploy “all means at its disposal without delay” to provide “military and other assistance.”

The deal could mark the strongest connection between Moscow and Pyongyang since the end of the Cold War. Both Kim and Putin described it as a major upgrade of their relations, covering security, trade, investment, cultural and humanitarian ties.

Russia and North Korea sign partnership deal, vowing closer ties as rivalry deepens with West

The summit came as the U.S. and its allies expressed growing concerns over a possible arms arrangement in which Pyongyang provides Moscow with badly needed munitions for its war in Ukraine, in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that could enhance the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile program.

Following their summit, Kim said the two countries had a “fiery friendship,” and that the deal was their “strongest-ever treaty,” putting the relationship at the level of an alliance. He vowed full support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. Putin called it a “breakthrough document” reflecting shared desires to move relations to a higher level.

North Korea and the former Soviet Union signed a treaty in 1961, which experts say necessitated Moscow’s military intervention if the North came under attack. The deal was discarded after the collapse of the USSR, replaced by one in 2000 that offered weaker security assurances.

South Korean officials said they were still interpreting the results of the summit, including what Russia’s response might be if the North comes under attack, and whether the new deal promises a similar level of protection with the 1961 treaty. South Korean officials didn’t immediately comment on the North Korean report about the details of the deal.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at their highest point in years, with the pace of both Kim’s weapons tests and combined military exercises involving the U.S., South Korea and Japan intensifying in a tit-for-tat cycle.

The Koreas also have engaged in Cold War-style psychological warfare that involved North Korea dropping tons of trash on the South with balloons, and the South broadcasting anti-North Korean propaganda with its loudspeakers.

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Tesla shareholders voting yes for Musk’s $56 bln pay package, CEO says on X





Tesla shareholders are voting to approve a $56 billion pay package for Elon Musk and to move the electric vehicle maker’s legal home to Texas, Musk said on social media platform X on Wednesday, adding that passage was by wide margins.

Shareholders of the electric-car maker are voting on a proposal to ratify CEO Musk’s 2018 incentive package, valued at up to $56 billion at the time and the largest in US corporate history, after a Delaware judge voided the plan approved by its board “beholden” to Musk.

The result will be announced at a meeting on Thursday.

A person familiar with the preliminary tally confirmed Musk’s post, and said that a combination of big institutional investors and retail investor got the ‘yes’ result over the line.

Shareholders, however, are allowed to change their vote up to the start of the annual meeting.

Tesla shareholders also cast ballots on other proposals including the move of Tesla’s legal headquarters from Delaware to Texas, as well as the re-election of two board members: Musk’s brother Kimbal Musk and James Murdoch.

Musk referred to the resolutions on his pay package and the move in his tweet, thanking shareholders for their support.

Some investors viewed the vote on Musk’s pay as a test of confidence in his leadership. While he is undoubtedly Tesla’s driving force, and is credited with much of its success, the company has recently seen slowing sales and profits.

The board said the world’s richest person deserves the package, because he hit all the ambitious targets on market value, revenue and profitability.

The pay package is also needed to keep Musk devoted to Tesla, the board said, even though the Delaware judge said the 2018 pay plan failed to make sure that Musk committed a substantial amount of time to Tesla.

Musk has threatened to build AI and robotics products outside Tesla, if he fails to gain enough voting control, which requires the 2018 pay package to be approved.

Some large shareholders including Norway’s sovereign wealth fund and California’s two largest pension funds have said they will vote against the compensation, saying the pay is excessive.

Tesla has been drumming up support for Musk’s pay package, especially from retail investors, who make up an unusually high percentage of its ownership base but who often do not vote.

Company executives have posted messages on X, saying Musk is critical to Tesla’s success. Tesla has run social media ads, and Musk has promised a personal tour of Tesla’s factory in Texas to some shareholders who cast votes.


The same package was previously rejected by a Delaware judge who invalidated it as an “unfathomable sum” granted by a conflicted board with close personal and financial ties to its top executive.

The board held the shareholder vote as a way to bolster its appeal of the ruling, in which the judge cited the board’s failure to fully inform shareholders before approving the pay package in 2018.

Musk has to wait months or years to get his pay package restored as appeals wind their way up to Delaware’s Supreme Court.

Tesla could also face more litigation from some shareholders. One of them this month filed a lawsuit challenging the upcoming shareholder vote on Musk’s pay package and the change of domicile.

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