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Abu dhabi finance zone gears up to open with draft rules


Abu Dhabi's new financial free zone, which aims to become a top banking centre for the region, took a step towards opening for business by issuing draft laws covering fund management, market operations, information disclosure and enforcement of its rules. The drafts will be available for public comment over a six-week period, and the zone plans to accept its first applications for financial service operating licences by the end of this year, Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) said on Tuesday. Because of Abu Dhabi's vast oil wealth, bankers think the ADGM could eventually become a major player in the Middle East and even compete in some areas with the fast-growing Dubai International Financial Centre, 130 kilometres (80 miles) away.

It will have its own regulator, court system and tax incentives to attract banks and companies from around the world. Last year it hired Hector Sants, a former investment banker who headed Britain's financial services regulator, to advise it. The draft legislation would create a regulator with extensive powers to make rules and investigate trading. The ADGM plans to adopt European Union regulations known as EMIR for clearing, reporting and limiting risks in over-the-counter trade of derivatives.

The ADGM will consult with stakeholders on whether it should have its own legislation to handle banking sector insolvencies, it said. The draft also includes steps to attract fund management business to the ADGM by limiting costs and red tape; some types of fund would not be required to have their financial statements audited, if investors gave their consent.

In order to persuade companies to list in the ADGM, the minimum free float requirement for share offers would be only 10-12 percent, in line with Singapore but much lower than the European Union's 25 percent, the draft said. In its initial announcement of its plan for the ADGM in 2013, the Abu Dhabi government said the zone would host various types of bank, foreign exchange and commodity trading firms, brokerages, pension and investment funds, Islamic financial firms and many others. It also said the zone would fill a gap in the global trading day between Tokyo and London. Tuesday's statement suggested that initially, the ADGM would have a more narrow focus. It said that at first, the zone would be centred on private banking, wealth management and asset management, while keeping the flexibility "to expand its activities over time according to market demand".

Africa money in goma, adversity brings opportunity, no prosperity


Dec 4 A decade after this Congolese border city was covered by lava spewed from the nearby Mount Nyiragongo volcano, Goma resident Barwani Bwashi has found use for the dark debris."It's very useful," he said as he pointed to a makeshift metre-high wall built from the volcanic rubble that marks off the small yard in front of his modest, one-window house. Bwashi, who works in a local cigarette factory, said he and his family had broken up the hardened lava with hammers. Elsewhere in his neighborhood, far bigger walls built from the lava surround compounds. In one yard, a foundation for a house has been constructed from it while outside toilets are also perched on top of the lava rock. It is a defining feature of Goma architecture. Leave it to Goma's long-suffering but resourceful residents to find opportunity in adversity. After the volcano blew up in January 2002, much of the city was brought to a standstill as the red-hot molten lava coursed through its streets and spilled into homes and businesses. The city was on edge again in November after it was captured by rebels from a group called M23 who took up arms eight months ago against the government of President Joseph Kabila. The rebels quit Goma on Saturday under a deal brokered by regional powers but not before they had seized their own opportunities. Reuters reporters observed them helping themselves to munitions and weapons in Goma's port on the north shore of Lake Kivu that were left behind by the Congolese army. Police and residents also say they looted some shops. Goma, which lies on Congo's eastern border with Rwanda, has long been a focal point of conflict and crisis.

It has been occupied by rebels before and Rwanda has twice invaded the region to pursue Hutu rebels who fled after carrying out the 1994 genocide that killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The region has also been plagued by conflict because of its mineral wealth, including gold, tin and coltan. The latter is crucial to the construction of mobile phones. SURVIVING NOT THRIVING In what can only be described as a hot-spot economy, the city's hotels have done a roaring trade as journalists, aid agencies and military observers descended on the city, as they have done periodically in the past.

Others also profit behind the smokescreen of conflict. According to the United Nations, corruption in the army includes Congolese troops running illicit mining operations in the country's east. Few locals see any benefit. It all highlights the precarious nature of an economy where opportunity often seems to arise from the ashes of adversity, be it a volcanic eruption or rebel occupation. Unlike the lava underpinning Goma's new houses, it is hardly a solid foundation for development or economic growth or the orderly accumulation of wealth and capital. A functioning state would surely help. But there is little evidence of that on Goma's mostly dusty and unpaved roads that are scarred with bone-jarring pot holes. Open sewers emitting a foul stench are strewn with garbage and infested with flies.

Many of the locals are stuck in a cycle of subsistence and survival, using anything that comes to hand. Volcanic rock is useful precisely because it is free in a place where few people have a lot of money to spend, let alone save or invest it. In Goma's colourful street-side markets, rural women hawk their meagre wares, mostly smoked fish and produce they have grown themselves, or items such as sandals. On Monday several who spoke to Reuters said they were glad the brief rebel occupation was over but the disruption meant few people had money to buy their goods, not least because the banks remained shut."It's a problem because people have no money," said one middle-aged woman who gave her name as Francoise as she tried to sell sandals and flip-flops. Other women sat stoically in front of their produce. One was selling locusts - a local delicacy - gathered in the countryside, while others offered a few onions or tomatoes. Their life is clearly one of raw subsistence but the volcano that dominates Goma's skyline has also provided them with the means to at least get by. Volcanic ash has, over the centuries, enriched the soil with a fertility that can be seen in the riot of lush vegetation that cloaks the region's rugged hills in stunning shades of green. If you have a garden plot here, almost anything will grow. This enables people to survive. But with conflict never ending and the prospect of Nyiragongo erupting again, few can thrive.

Africa money safrica gives gold a break as it moots mine tax hikes


* Gold miner's marginal tax rate cut to 34 from 43 pct* Ruling ANC still mooting mine tax hikesBy Ed StoddardJOHANNESBURG, May 17 As African governments seek to extract more revenue from their mining sectors, the continent's biggest economy has given gold producers a much-needed tax break tha t removes at least one head wind from a struggling industry. Gold Fields, the world No. 4 bullion producer, on Thursday became the latest South African gold miner to report better-than-expected earnings partly on the back of the new, lower tax regime. It benefited to the tune of close to 1 billion rand ($120.46 million) from the change in the first quarter. The companies' gain will cause some shareholder pain as the burden has been partly sifted to dividends, but analysts generally agree that the Treasury's revenue stream from the gold sector will be less as a result. It is impossible to forecast the precise net result as that would hinge on a range of factors from the price of gold to the dividends disturbed. Effectively it is a change in the formula which brings the marginal tax rate for gold miners down to 34 percent from 43. Not everyone in the industry sees it as a significant shift in the South African government's thinking on resource nationalism, which has been a defining feature of the region's political risk profile."It is a structural change and I would not read too much into a change of sentiment on that," Gold Fields' chief executive Nick Holland told Reuters."The gold industry has already taken royalty taxes which is about 300 million rand ($36.14 million) a year to us. Now we have a mooted carbon tax coming which is probably another 300 million. We can't really take much more," he said.

Holland also noted that the ruling African National Congress, while it has gutted the radical idea of mine nationalisation, is mooting higher mine taxes that would effectively translate into 50 percent on profits. Still, while hardly a U-turn, the tax cut does at least indicate that ruling party and government thinking on the subject is not just running one way."We're not aware of any mining jurisdiction in the world that's lowering mining tax at this time," JPMorgan Cavane noted in March shortly after the changes were announced in the 2012 South African budget. Mines minister Susan Shabangu told Reuters earlier this week that any future changes to tax policy would aim to keep the sector, which remains a vital source of employment, competitive. Looked at against the backdrop of the domestic political debate on mining and global and regional trends, the move does seem significant.

Across Africa and elsewhere, the trend - spurred by red-hot commodity prices which have recently cooled - has been to raise mining taxes and royalties or get a bigger slice of the action. This has ranged from tax hikes in Ghana to Zimbabwe's drive to get foreign mining houses to surrender 51 percent stakes in their local operations to black investors there. Not all investors will be happy with part of the burden shifted to shareholders in the form of a dividend tax. And while the formula by which gold miners get taxed has changed, this has not been extended to other sectors, such as platinum and coal.

NOT ALL THAT GLITTERS This may partly stem from the fact that platinum and coal are regarded as growth areas while gold needs all of the help it can get. But can it arrest a decline in South Africa's gold industry, which has seen it fall from being the Saudi Arabia of the precious metal to the world's fourth biggest producer?That must surely be the government's aim given the sector's importance on the employment front in a country where the jobless rate is probably over 40 percent. But the money that flows to the gold miners' bottom line will likely flow out of the country. The Big 3 gold miners, Gold Fields, AngloGold Ashanti , and Harmony, are all investing heavily in expansion plans elsewhere. With the world's deepest mines, steeply climbing power costs and wages rising by double digits annually, the sun is setting on the sector here. And when the additional earnings get ploughed into Papua New Guinea, Mali and other frontier mining states, the government may not be impressed. This could spark a U-turn on the tax policy for gold miners.($1 = 8.3015 South African rand)

Big money crops up in small elections in the united states


Political groups that took advantage of loosened campaign-finance rules spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. This year, they're cropping up in state and local races as well. Wealthy individuals and interest groups of all stripes are increasingly setting up political committees that can steer unlimited sums to small-dollar contests for state legislature, sheriff and school board. Four years after the Supreme Court ruled that Congress cannot restrict spending by political groups not directly affiliated with candidates, the "Super PACs" and other spending committees that sprung up in the wake of that decision are becoming a fixture in races farther down on ballot sheets, where their money can have a greater impact. In some cases, they are looking to bypass a gridlocked Washington that likely will not be more productive after the Nov. 4 congressional elections. In other cases, local operators are adopting tactics first developed at the national level. In Cumberland County, Maine, a property developer spent $100,000 on attack ads this spring in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat the county sheriff in a Democratic primary. In Arkansas, a conservative entrepreneur routed money through a network of committees to help a political neophyte topple a Republican legislator who had worked with Democrats to expand health coverage for the poor. Americans for Prosperity, a conservative network backed by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, has sought to influence judicial contests in North Carolina and school board races in Tennessee and Wisconsin. "Our activists are motivated to affect change in their own communities, and often enjoy seeing results that are more tangible than with working on national issues," said Americans for Prosperity spokesman Levi Russell.

The increased activity reflects a new focus at the state level by interest groups that have made little progress in Washington. GUN CONTROL AT LOCAL LEVEL Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control group backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, plans to spend $12 million on a ballot initiative in Washington state and legislative races in Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota and Nevada to counteract the pro-gun influence of the National Rifle Association. Though firearms restrictions foundered in Congress in 2013, several states have since passed measures of their own. "Washington's broken, not just on guns but on many issues," said John Feinblatt, the group's president.

It's not easy to track outside spending at the state level, as reporting requirements vary and many states don't require any sort of disclosure at all. In the 21 states tracked by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a watchdog group, independent spending jumped from $175 million in 2006 to $245 million in 2010. The amount is likely to jump by a similar amount this year, said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group. "It's often the way things work in money and politics: practices are developed at the national and federal level, and those that work are replicated at the state and municipal level," Ryan said. LESS MONEY TO INFLUENCE LOCAL POLITICS

Independent groups have a mixed record at the top of the ticket, where candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate typically have substantial war chests. It is a different story further down the ballot, where candidates often have limited name recognition and their budgets amount to thousands, rather than millions of dollars. Colorado state Senate candidate Rachel Zenzinger, a Democrat, has struggled to rebut TV ads and mailers that accuse her of voting to use taxpayer money for a trip to China while serving on the city council in the Denver suburb of Arvada. Zenzinger has never been to China, and official records show she sponsored a measure to prohibit public money for a proposed trip to visit a sister city there. Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government, the Republican-funded group responsible for the ad, maintains it is accurate. Zenzinger has raised at least $240,000, nearly twice as much as her Republican challenger, and outside Democratic groups have also spent more than $120,000 to boost her candidacy. Still, it's been difficult to fight back against the ad, she said. "It's my reputation that's at stake here. If they're saying stuff that's blatantly false, it could affect the outcome of this election," Zenzinger said.