■ DevelopmentIMF unblocks Kenya loans
The IMF has unblocked lending to Kenya and approved a US$250 million loan, saying the country has shown commitment in fighting corruption blamed for a near-collapse of the economy, the government announced yesterday. "Accordingly, Kenya now has a three-year financial arrangement under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) 250 million dollars," Finance Minister David Mwiraria told a press conference in Nairobi. "Kenya will immediately access funds amounting to 36 million dollars from the IMF," Mwiraria said, flanked by IMF country representative Samuel Itam. The minister said good governance and fighting endemic corruption were among the key conditions that had to be met before IMF freed up funds.
VW loses luxury cars
The Volkswagen company in Germany has lost track of a dozen of its high-powered, luxury Phaeton cars. An internal memo circulating at the various factories asks if anyone has seen the top-of-the-line cars recently, according to the newspaper Bild yesterday. VW has so many test and staff cars in the company fleet that it can only keep tabs on them by computer. The memo says VW does not believe the phantom Phaetons have been stolen, but rather suspects they have been booked out of one depot without being booked in properly at another, or have ended up in a car pool without the proper paperwork being filled in. Some of the missing cars are worth more than 100,000 euros (about US$120,000), with soft leather seats and a 420-horsepower engine under the bonnet.
■ Stock markets
HK brokers can access China
Hong Kong brokers will soon ply their trade in China with greater ease after a deal is signed next week with China, Hong Kong's leader announced. The agreement -- to be formally signed by Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission and the China Securities Regulatory Commission -- will also grant reciprocal treatment to Chinese brokers who want to trade in Hong Kong. Under the agreement, Hong Kong brokers who pass an examination on mainland laws and regulations will be allowed to work in China beginning in January. There are an estimated 16,000 stock and futures brokers in Hong Kong. The agreement was part of a free-trade pact recently signed by Hong Kong and China, which promised greater opportunities in China for Hong Kong professionals such as lawyers and accountants.
■ Economic policy
Arroyo pledges to carry on
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo vowed yesterday to carry out the economic reforms she promised, amid fears the country would suffer yet another crisis following the recent resignation of her finance secretary. "What we need most are fiscal reforms, macroeconomic reforms," she told the crowd at a political forum at the Ateneo de Manila University, in an attempt to downplay possible adverse results brought about by the sudden exit of Jose Isidro Camacho on Friday. Arroyo said overspending in government agencies must be trimmed down significantly, if not totally stopped. The 48-year-old minister, a highly-respected banker prior to his government stint in January 2001, said he quit because he was "physically and emotionally" exhausted. His aides say Camacho was disappointed with Arroyo's refusal to carry out needed reforms.