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Forecast: Russia repositions to the east, North Korea marks Day of the Sun, and protests continue in Pakistan

A multi-story conference hall or atrium hosts a gathering of hundreds for the Day of the Sun celebration in North Korea. The photo from 2014 has a roughly 40' by 40' display of flowers with a large pink symbol in the middle.

Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal. We publish our forward-looking note each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. To get the Forecast in your in box subscribe for free.

A Look Ahead

April 15

North Korea’s Day of the Sun  

North Korea will celebrate the 110th birthday of founder Kim Il Sung on Fridaysparking speculation the country may commemorate the event with a weapons test. 

What’s happened so far 

North Korea has fired 10 rounds of missiles this year alone, including their first intercontinental ballistic missile launch since 2017, ending the country’s once self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapon and ICBM tests. The increased momentum coincides with two major anniversaries for North Korea: founder Kim Il Sung’s 110th birthday and current leader Kim Jong Un’s 10th year in power. North Korea continues to face isolation due to international sanctions and  domestic measures against coronavirus pandemic.

The impact 

U.N. experts on North Korea believe restoration work is underway at the formerly defunct Punggye-ri nuclear test site. The U.S. envoy to North Korea also warned that Pyongyang may attempt to conduct another missile launch or even its first nuclear test since 2017 to celebrate Friday’s anniversary. 

April 17

PTI announces rally in Karachi

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party will hold a rally at Jinnah Mausoleum in the heart of Karachi on Sunday, with ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan set to be in attendance. 

What’s happened so far 

The party announced the rally after resigning en masse from the National Assembly moments before the opposition’s Shehbaz Sharif was elected as the 23rd prime minister of the country. The rally will be the latest among a series of mass protests across the country since parliament voted to remove Khan from office.   

The impact 

Though the opposition was ultimately successful in its efforts to oust Khan, countrywide protests point to large public support and loyalty toward the former prime minister. With PTI’s mass resignations from the National Assembly, the political future of Khan’s party is unclear.

April 17

Easter Sunday Mass in the Vatican  

Pope Francis will hold Easter Mass on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square for the first time in two years after Italy eased coronavirus restrictions. 

What’s happened so far 

The Vatican confirmed the pope will go forward with the Easter celebration after Italy ended a coronavirus-induced state of emergency on March 31. On April 10, 50,000 people showed up to St. Peter’s Square for the Palm Sunday Mass. During this event, Pope Francis appealed for an Easter ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia. 

The impact

Pope Francis will deliver the Papal Mass and the Urbi et Orbi Blessing on Easter Sunday, as well as the Pasquetta Blessing on Monday. Italian bishops encourage people to attend the services in person, despite coronavirus concerns. It is possible Pope Francis will address Russian aggression in his speech, after condemning a “massacre” in Ukraine earlier this month.

April 18

Sri Lanka meets with IMF 

Sri Lankan officials are due to meet with International Monetary Fund staff Monday, after shortages of fuel and medicines sparked rare protests in the country, prompting the debt-laden government to scramble for financing.

What’s happened so far 

Pressure on Sri Lanka’s $81-billion economy, about the size of Delaware’s economy, has mounted for months as the coronavirus-driven slump in tourism slashed foreign-currency earnings and drained savings. Now, protesters are taking to the streets across the country, including the capital Colombo, demanding the departure of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former military general, along with multiple family members he appointed after his 2019 rise to power.

The impact

In addition to the economic hardships faced by Sri Lankans, creditors are also feeling the squeeze after the government decided to risk default by suspending debt payments to meet basic needs domestically. With reserves falling below $2 billion, the central bank doubled interest rates and is even appealing for donations from expats. Sri Lanka needs about $3 billion over the next six months to maintain supplies of fuel and medicines, according to its finance minister. It has $1 billion of bonds due in July.

April 18

Tunisian delegation meets with IMF 

A delegation of Tunisian officials will travel to Washington, D.C., on Monday to meet with the International Monetary Fund.

What’s happened so far 

Nearly half of Tunisia’s wheat imports come from Ukraine, which has forced the country to pay higher prices for its supply since the Russian invasion began. Coupled with the already dire financial situation due to the coronavirus pandemic and continued fuel shortages, Tunisia began engaging with the IMF in 2021. During the most recent talks at the end of March, the group’s mission visited Tunis and engaged in what it called “constructive discussions” that led to “further progress.”

The impact

Though the IMF expressed willingness to ease Tunisia’s financial burdens, analysts believe any potential loan will be conditional to the North African country implementing an economic reform plan. According to the country’s UGTT Labor Union, such conditions are likely to include a five-year wage freeze in the public sector, as well as lifting all state subsidies in the coming years. The labor union voiced discontent toward the plan and threatened to hold a nationwide strike in rejection.

April 18

Philadelphia reinstates indoor mask mandate 

Face coverings will once again be required in all of Philadelphia’s indoor public spaces starting Monday, with the city citing a more than 50 percent increase in the number of new coronavirus cases over a 10-day period.

What’s happened so far 

Philadelphia is the first major U.S. city to reinstate a mask mandate during the latest coronavirus wave, and no other cities have followed. Several college campuses, however, brought back mask requirements, including Columbia University in New York and Georgetown in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, the nationwide mask mandate on public transit has been extended until at least May 3

The impact 

In an interview Monday on NBC’s Today Show, the White House’s new coronavirus response coordinator said despite an uptick in cases, he doesn’t believe the current coronavirus situation in the United States warrants “excessive concern.” Still, it possible other cities will follow Philadelphia’s lead if cases continue to rise.

April 19

East Timor presidential runoff

Voters in East Timor will head to the polls Tuesday for the second round of the country’s presidential election, where former President José Ramos-Horta will face Francisco Guterres, the candidate for the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor.

What’s happened so far 

None of the 16 candidates won a majority during the first round of voting on March 19, which saw a 76 percent voter turnout, sending the two top finishers into a runoff one month later. This is the country’s fifth presidential election, coming just short of the 20th anniversary of its independence from Indonesia. The winner will take office May 20.

The impact 

Both candidates say they want to solve a yearslong political paralysis that they blame on each other, so the country’s political impasse may remain following the result. The European Union deployed election monitors to ensure a fair poll, after having done so for a number of previous elections. 

April 20

G20 finance meeting

Central bank governors and finance ministers from G20 countries will meet Wednesday in Washington, D.C., for their second meeting in 2022.

What’s happened so far 

Amid parallel International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings, the G20 – and Indonesia as a rotating chair – is meeting ahead of its November summit. Finance ministers, after the first meeting, vowed to keep an eye on financial woes, including soaring energy prices and food costs, increasing inflation and the sustainable energy transition.

The impact 

The Ukraine-Russian conflict has deeply divided the G20, with the United States calling for Russia to be expelled from the G20 and threatening to boycott meetings. Brazil, India and China, meanwhile, back Russia’s involvement in G20 meetings. The G20 will not issue the typical joint statement after the meeting and political pressure from both sides will take center stage. This may showcase positions each member will take with global economic issues growing significantly.

What Else Matters

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo signs an agreement with truckers and farmers. He is seated at a table with four other men. All are wearing protective masks. The flag of Peru is behind him.
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo signed agreement with truckers and farmers on April 3, though protests have since continued. (Photo: Presidencia Perú / Flickr)

Peru protests

Anti-government protests in Peru (members’ link) have entered their third week marked by acts of civil disobedience, police brutality and desperate attempts by President Pedro Castillo to mitigate the general discontent of the population. What started as a transportation strike in Junín in late March developed into country-wide marches and road blockades to demand the Castillo’s resignation over a lack of trust in his government’s ability to get the country out of a deep financial crisis. Peru is living in a climate of political and economic instability with inflation levels not seen in almost 30 years and remarkably low approval rates of Castillo, who has already faced several attempted impeachments in parliament. 

Watch for: Despite the renewed state of emergency declaration, protesters are likely to continue to disrupt businesses and services, especially in the capital Lima. Some private business owners are already choosing to close their shops, education centers have migrated to online teaching and some health services are being temporarily suspended amid fears of looting and general insecurity. From a political perspective, the opposition has not ceased in its efforts to oust Castillo through an impeachment, and further attempts are expected. Negotiations between protest leaders and the government have so far not shown signs of advancement.

Russia repositions to the east

Russia’s “reprioritization” of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region continues apace, with its forces now completely withdrawn from Sumy, Chernihiv and Kyiv regions. Though the extent and speed of the withdrawals are somewhat surprising, that Russia decided to undergo a fundamental rethinking of its war aims is not considering the steep casualties they took and little progress made attempting to encircle Kyiv. 

Watch for: The battle of the Donbas now looms as Russia shuffles, resupplies and refits its large soldier and armor groupings. This will take time, given the extent of the losses in the doomed push to encircle Kyiv. Still, fighting in the Donbas has intensified sharply in recent weeks, with major regional cities such as Severodonetsk under heavy Russian pressure. Russia also delivered a major blow to Ukraine by capturing Izyum, where they subsequently were able to break out and consolidate control further south, leaving the key Donetsk city Slovyansk under threat. Given Izyum’s location, Russia is expected to use the city as a staging ground for assaults against the Donbas where they can now hit Ukraine from multiple sides. Efforts to bolster the city’s forces are already underway

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Our extended outlook for April 14 to May 11.

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