Americas: Argentina to face increased union-led unrest
Key Risks: union-led disruptive unrest and strikes
In Argentina, teachers’ unions will hold a 48-hour nationwide strike on 6-7 March, the first days of the school year, to protest against wage disputes which the government has not yet been able to resolve. Demonstrations are expected in the vicinity of the Education Ministry in the capital Buenos Aires and other government buildings across the country. On 6 March the strike will coincide with a march held by the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), the country’s main trade union, to protest against President Mauricio Macri’s government. Rallies are expected in the vicinity of the Production Ministry. The protests are expected to pass peacefully, although travel disruption should be expected and the risk of isolated violent incidents cannot be ruled out. Union-led anti-government unrest is expected to increase in the lead up to the October legislative elections.
Asia-Pacific: Myanmar’s peace process on the brink of collapse
Key Risks: internal conflict; political instability
A core objective of the National League for Democracy (NLD) when it came to power at the end of January 2016 was to achieve peace with Myanmar’s myriad insurgencies that had threatened to split the country for decades- an achievement that has long eluded the military junta. Just over a year after the return of a civilian government in Myanmar, peace looks more distant than ever. The signature peace talks, the 21st Century Panglong, has faced repeated postponements as members lose interest. Fighting has erupted with groups in Kachin and Shan states. Last week, the country’s largest rebel group which runs a de facto independent nation, Wa State, persuaded 10 of the largest insurgencies to abandon the government’s ceasefire negotiations. Aung San Suu Kyi has invited Wa State’s leader to negotiate directly with the government as she tries to keep the talks from fraying completely. This will be a critical week for the NLD, and failure to act now could spell the end of hopes for peace.
Eurasia: separatists’ ‘nationalisation’ raises concerns over conflict and economy
Sectors: energy; transportation; mining; metals
Key Risks: confiscation/deprivation; conflict; political instability
On 1 March the de facto authorities of the Russian-backed separatist entities in Donetsk and Luhansk (DNR & LNR, respectively) announced they were ‘nationalising’ assets belonging to Ukrainian oligarchs in the territory they control. Such a move could only have proceeded with Moscow’s blessing and threatens to impact the Ukrainian economy, particularly if all coal supplies are cut off permanently. A group of Ukrainian volunteers have been enforcing a de facto blockade of separatist-held territory since 25 January. The move could impact Ukraine’s growth given that its authorities, as well as international institutions, continued counting economic data from separatist-held territory since the outbreak of conflict. The move also marks the most serious economic intervention by Moscow since 2014 and could foreshadow other escalations.
Europe: Greek contraction raises urgency of talks amid contentious elections
Key Risks: depression; political instability
The Greek economy contracted 1.2 per cent in Q4 2016, three times worse than prior estimates. Greece’s depression is now deeper than the United States’ in the 1930s. Greece will likely undershoot the EU’s 2017 forecast of 2.7 per cent growth and thus fail to meet its budget targets. If it does, demands for further politically sensitive structural reforms from Athens would increase. EU creditors remain hopeful they can reach an agreement with Athens and the IMF to release bailout funds before Greece needs to make debt repayments in July. This risks being impacted by the 15 March elections in the Netherlands, particularly in the event populist right-wing politician Geert Wilders is able to enter government; he is forecast to receive the largest number of votes but would likely have to significantly outperform polls for other parties to consider forming a coalition. France’s April-May presidential election also remains a risk as even if the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen does not win, a victory for the Republican party candidate could see France take a harder line while independent Francois Macron, currently the favourite, has not fully outlined his stance on Greece.
MENA: fighting ongoing around Ras Lanuf and es-Sider oil terminals in Libya
Sectors: energy; banking; finance
Key Risks: airstrikes; terrorism; clashes
In Libya, fighting is expected to continue around the Ras Lanuf and es-Sider oil terminals and further east at Marsa Brega after the Benghazi Defence Brigades (SDB) attacked Libyan National Army (LNA) positions in the terminals on 3 March. The LNA took control of the ports in September 2016 from the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), which has carried out attacks with the SDB in the past. Further airstrikes by the LNA are likely after strikes on 4 and 5 March proved unsuccessful. The internationally-recognised National Oil Company (NOC) in Tripoli was due to meet to review loading schedules after es-Sider was evacuated due to the imminent takeover of the facility by SDB forces on 4 March. The infrastructure of two of Libya’s largest oil terminals is at risk. The events may impact oil market sentiment and will have repercussions on Libyan domestic politics.
Sub-Saharan Africa: extremist groups’ merger signals new phase of al-Qaeda threat in the Sahel
Key Risks: terrorism
On 3 March three al-Qaeda-affiliated extremist groups operating across the Sahel region announced they have merged to form one group, Support of Islam and Muslims. Leaders of Ansar Dine, al-Mourabitoun and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) made the joint declaration in a video released last week, raising concerns over their ability to travel throughout the region and meet freely. The groups have been operating in tandem for some time, but the formalisation of ties will increase coordination of attacks, funding, propaganda and recruitment. The merger also comes in the face of new threats to the group. Tuareg separatist rebels in Mali’s north began joint patrols with Malian forces last week with the aim of eradicating extremists active in the region, while there is also increased potential for clashes between the group and Islamic State (IS)-aligned fighters as members of the group are pushed out of Libya and northern Nigeria.