Cosatu disappointed at repo rate
Cosatu said on Friday it was disappointed by the SARB's decision to keep the repo rate unchanged at five percent. "The committee has missed yet another opportunity to save and create jobs by giving a boost to growth and investment and to encourage emerging businesses," Congress of SA Trade Unions spokesman Patrick Craven said in a statement. "Unemployed workers in particular will be dismayed at yet another conservative monetary policy decision, based on a groundless fear of rising inflation, when by far the biggest problem in our economy is the crisis of massive unemployment and widespread poverty." SA Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus said on Thursday that the bank's monetary policy committee was concerned about the deteriorating outlook for the South African economy. Risks included difficult labour relations, increased wage settlements, higher electricity prices, and a volatile rand. Craven said it was "worrisome" that the decision came soon after Statistics SA's Quarterly Labour Force Survey found the number of unemployed people increased by 100,000 to 4.6 million between the fourth quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013. "[The] MPC appears to live in a different world, and clearly cannot, or will not, see the devastating consequences of their slavish adherence to discredited monetary policies, based on a misguided fear of inflation," Craven said. He took exception to Marcus's call for restraint in wage increases, and her comments that the slow pace of employment in the private sector was undermined by the "fractious nature of recent wage negotiations".
SA is facing child adoption crisis
Since 2008 there had been no real increase in adoptions to help the country's estimated two million orphans, Beeld reported on Friday. National Adoption Coalition spokeswoman Pam Wilson said on Thursday that South Africa faced an adoption crisis. She was speaking at the Princess Alice Home in Westcliff, Johannesburg, at the start of a national advertising campaign, on the eve of Child Protection Week (May 27 to June 2). The campaign was intended to renew awareness of adoption and encourage people to become parents to one of the growing number of orphans in the country. She said only about 2000 children were adopted annually. According to a report from the University of Cape Town's actuarial research unit the country would have five million orphans by 2015. The report cited two of the main reasons for this as teenage pregnancy and parental deaths from HIV/Aids.
Investor pulls out of AIDS pharma project
Swiss investor Lonza has pulled out of a project for a state-owned pharmaceutical company to manufacture key ingredients for Aids drugs, Business Day reported on Friday. The department of science and technology's director general, Phil Mjwara, said the withdrawal would delay the Ketlaphela project, but that many South African companies were interested. Lonza had left as the group's new chief executive, Richard Ridinger, wanted to use the company's resources in "other areas", Mjwara said. Lonza spokesman Dominik Werner told the newspaper the withdrawal was because of commercial reasons. "It is correct that we are not talking about direct investments any more for commercial reasons following our Focus & Deliver initiative," Werner said. According to the report the government was expected to publish a request for information from potential international and domestic technology and investment partners on Friday. Ketlaphela is a joint venture between Pelchem, a state-owned company, and the Industrial Development Corporation. At the launch of the initiative in February 2012, former science minister Naledi Pandor said Lonza would invest more than R500 million in the R1.6 billion project.
French court questions IMF Chief for second day
International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde arrived at a French court Friday for a second day of questioning over her role in a large payout to a businessman in 2008 when she was France's finance minister. Lagarde arranged arbitration that led to a compensation payment of more than 285 million euros (369 million dollars) to Bernard Tapie. Including interest, the final sum was 400 million euros. After 12 hours of interrogation Thursday, the IMF chief said the court session would be continued Friday. The court did not issue an official statement. Tapie, who had been principal owner of Adidas, claimed he had been defrauded by the state-owned Credit Lyonnais bank when it arranged the sale of the sporting goods maker in 1992. Prosecutors suspect Lagarde of misuse of public funds because the money involved in settling the dispute came from the state treasury. They said she should not have allowed the settlement to come about and that she should have challenged the decision after it was made. Lagarde, who served as finance minister from 2007 to 2011, has denied the allegations. Tapie was a major backer of Nicolas Sarkozy in his 2007 presidential election campaign, and Lagarde is a member of Sarkozy's party, the conservative Union for a Popular Movement. In Washington, the IMF board of directors backed Lagarde through the court proceedings. Her term is set to end in 2016.
Syria regime agrees to attend peace conference
Russia said on Friday that the Damascus regime had agreed "in principle" to attend an international peace conference on the Syria crisis that world powers hope will take place in Geneva in June. "We note with satisfaction that we have received an agreement in principle from Damascus to attend the international conference, in the interest of Syrians themselves finding a political path to resolve the conflict, which is ruinous for the nation and region," Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters. Some European media have reported that the meeting has been tentatively scheduled to be held on June 10. But Lukashevich said such reports "cannot be taken seriously" because the ranks of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's foes remain so divided. Syria's main opposition group entered a second day of talks Friday aimed at finding an approach to a joint Russian-US peace push aimed at getting all the sides involved in international talks that have been dubbed "Geneva 2". The first Geneva meeting in June last year ended in a broad agreement aimed at forming a transition government in Syria and introducing a long-lasting truce. But the deal was never implemented because of disagreements over Assad's role in the new government and neither side's decision to lay down their arms.