Our coverage of the Americas this month includes an update on Jamaica, where the Jamaica Labour Party won an upset victory over the incumbent People’s National Party at an early election held in late February. Among the factors contributing to the PNP’s defeat was a sense among voters that the economic gains made in recent years have not been sufficient to compensate for sacrifices that were required to meet the conditions for receipt of multilateral loans that saved the country from default. The new JLP government headed by Andrew Holness has pledged to employ fiscal tools to stimulate faster economic growth, while still fulfilling the terms of the country’s lending agreement with the IMF. Skepticism is high, not least because the JLP claims a bare one-seat majority in the Parliament. PRS will examine the JLP’s agenda in more depth, assess the government’s prospects for pulling off its difficult balancing act, and discuss the implications—including the possibility of a quick return to the polls—in the event that it fails to do so.
Turning to the Middle East and North Africa, PRS will issue a fully revised report on Iran, where recent elections for the Parliament and the powerful Assembly of Experts resulted in significant gains for allies of the country’s reformist president, Hassan Rouhani. The result is a boon for Rouhani, and indicates broad support for the nuclear deal his government concluded with a coalition of world powers in late 2015. However, it is easy to overstate the practical implications of the election outcome in terms of the scope for substantive reform. The report will discuss some of the key items on Rouhani’s reform agenda and assess the prospects for successful implementation of his preferred policies. PRS will also examine the investment opportunities made possible by the lifting of sanctions and discuss the obstacles that the government will need to address if Iran hopes to fully realize the potential created by its international rehabilitation.
Coverage of sub-Saharan Africa includes a detailed update on the political crisis now unfolding in the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of the elections that are due to be held in November 2016. PRS will assess the risk that President Joseph Kabila, who is constitutionally bound to step down at the end of his current term, will attempt to extend his tenure in power. In addition to examining how Kabila might pursue that goal in practice, PRS will assess the risks arising from such a move in a country with recent history of internal armed conflict. The report will also discuss the implications of Congo’s dependence on the production and export of commodities like copper and cobalt for the near-term economic outlook, in general, and debt sustainability, in particular, and the broader policy implications of the government’s decision to drops a plan to revise the mining code.
In West Europe, PRS will examine the political risk in Spain, where Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s scandal-hit Popular Party government lost its majority in the Parliament at elections held in December. In the weeks since, neither Rajoy nor Socialist Party leader Pedro Sanchez has been able to form a viable government, and it looks as though voters may be returning to the polls in late June. The report will examine what the political uncertainty means for the economy, paper assets, and fiscal projections, given that there is still considerably more to do in terms of structural reforms to tackle the deficit and the legacy of debt caused by the financial crisis in 2008.
Further to the east, we will take a look at recent developments in Ukraine, where the government’s access to essential international financing has been jeopardized by its failure to repay a $3 billion loan that was obtained from Russia shortly before the downfall of former President Viktor Yanukovych’s government in early 2014. The debt crisis comes amid building turmoil within the reformist government, highlighted by the recent resignations of Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius and Deputy Prosecutor-General Vitaliy Kasko, both of whom departed in frustration over the lack of aggressiveness in the administration’s approach to reform.
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk’s government has been reduced to minority status following the withdrawal of three parties from the coalition, and it appears that handing over power to a Cabinet of technocrats may be the only way to avert a snap election. PRS’ update will examine how an early election might affect the composition of the government, and what policy changes might be expected as a result, as part of a broader assessment of the prospects for implementing a reform agenda.
Our coverage of Asia this month casts the spotlight on Japan, as we assess the growing political risks developing for the scandal-ridden administration led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which must decide whether to further delay the consumption tax rise planned for 2017, and perhaps introduce new fiscal stimulus measures to bolster the economy. Support for the government is falling rapidly as doubts creep in over the efficacy of the government’s reflationary economic program, dubbed “Abenomics,” and the Bank of Japan’s recent decision to supplement its massive quantitative easing program by finally embracing negative interest rates. Our report moreover tries to ascertain whether Abe might call a snap election either before, or concurrent with, elections for seats in the upper house of the Diet that are scheduled for July, and what investors might expect from that.