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Forecast: World Cup final, drought threatens crops in Argentina, and immigration policy set to end in U.S.

Dozens of fans in an Argentina park are celebrating. Most of them are wearing jerseys of the national team. Behind them is a massive TV screen showing the players shaking hands with the referee.

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.

An unyielding drought in Argentina is gripping the country’s heartland and putting vital crops in jeopardy. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Jeff Landset discuss the impacts of the drought and what to watch for next. 

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of Dec. 16-23
A Look Ahead

Dec. 16 – Egypt IMF loan decision 

The International Monetary Fund’s executive board will meet Friday to discuss a bailout package to support Egypt’s economy as it faces instability in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

What’s happened so far 
Egypt typically buys about 80 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine but has been forced to import the grain from elsewhere due to the conflict, leading to food price inflation, rising national debt and a devalued currency. The country reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF in late October for a 46-month deal worth about $3 billion, which must now be approved by the executive board.

The impact 
Egypt’s foreign minister said he expects the board to approve the loan and hopes to complete an initial drawdown of $750 million by the end of the fiscal year in June 2023. The country has also requested additional financing of up to $1 billion from a separate mechanism, which the IMF is due to discuss over the coming months. 

Dec. 17 – Tunisia parliamentary election

Tunisia will hold parliamentary elections Saturday despite the opposition calling it undemocratic.   

What’s happened so far 
The election comes by way of a new constitution, passed in July by referendum — a move that many say consolidates power into President Kais Saied’s hands. Hundreds have recently protested the upcoming election, calling the vote illegitimate while many parties and opposition groups have promised to boycott it. 

The impact 
Tunisia is where the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings began, and the country’s “Jasmine Revolution” led to significant democratization. If Saturday’s election, which is expected to see low turnout, brings more Saied loyalists into the fold, it could mark the latest step in the president’s consolidation of power and be another sign Tunisia is sliding back into authoritarianism.

Dec. 18 – World Cup final  

Argentina will face France in the final of the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Qatar’s Lusail Stadium on Sunday, as the first tournament held in the Middle East comes to a close.

What’s happened so far 
Argentina reached the final after a shaky start that included a loss to Saudi Arabia during group play — considered one of the biggest upsets in tournament history — but rebounded with wins over the Netherlands and Croatia. Meanwhile, France will try to become the first side since Brazil in 1962 to win back-to-back World Cups after knocking off Morocco in the semi-finals. 

The impact 
As the most popular sporting event globally, the World Cup will spark large-scale celebrations — and unrest — regardless of the champion. Following France’s win over Morocco, at least 100 people were detained during unrest in Brussels, and a boy was struck and killed by a vehicle in France. Whoever wins, their title reign will be shorter than usual as the next World Cup will be held across 16 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico in summer 2026.

Dec. 18 – Paraguay primaries  

Paraguay’s political parties will choose their candidates for the April 2023 general election in a primary Sunday

What’s happened so far 
A total of 43 parties and movements are holding their primaries simultaneously. The list of candidates includes renowned politicians like former Ministers Arnoldo Weins and Juan Manuel Brunetti from the Fuerza Republicana party, former Public Treasury Minister Santiago Peña and Deputy Pedro Alliana from the Honor Colorado movement, and current President Mario Abdo Benítez and his predecessor Horacio Cartes, who are running for party board leaders. 

The impact 
More than 4.8 million party members and affiliates will elect both presidential and vice presidential candidates for the upcoming general election, as well as senators, deputies, governors and department heads. More than 11,140 polling stations will be set up around the country. Voter capacity at each polling station had to be increased after a fire at the Supreme Electoral Court destroyed more than 7,000 electronic voting machines and killed one person on Sept. 29. For the first time in the country’s history, some non-affiliates will be able to participate in the vote through the national census. 

Dec. 19 – Jan. 6 committee plans to release report  

The U.S. House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol will vote Monday to approve its final report and to refer individuals for prosecution or sanctions. The final report will then be released two days later.

What’s happened so far 
A bipartisan committee was formed to investigate the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol involving a pro-Trump mob attempting to overturn the 2020 election. With Republicans — the overwhelming majority of which oppose the committee’s existence — back in control of the House, the committee will present its final findings before the new Congress begins. 

The impact 
Despite being subpoenaed by the panel in October, former President Donald Trump, the central figure of the investigation, has not cooperated and his legal challenges to the order make it impossible to force him to appear before the new Congress takes over. The panel’s chairman has not said who will be targeted by the committee for prosecution or sanctions, but hinted at “five or six” categories of referrals, possibly including Trump. The committee is also reportedly planning for an investigation of its investigation when the House transfers power in January.

Dec. 21 – Israel’s Netanyahu mandate to form government ends

Israel’s incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has until midnight Wednesday to form a government.

What’s happened so far 
Israel’s current governing coalition lost a majority in the Knesset on April 6, triggering the country’s fifth national general election in less than four years. Netanyahu’s Likud party and his right-wing allies won a decisive majority in the elections, paving the way for the former prime minister to head into a sixth term. Netanyahu now has until the end of the week to certify coalition agreements and appoint government positions, including far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir who is expected to be awarded the position of national security minister.

The impact 
Netanyahu reportedly agreed to several theocratic reforms in exchange for coalition support from ultra-orthodox United Torah Judaism party, including a ban on electricity generation during the weekly Shabbat holiday, which would mark a considerable step toward reinforcing a Jewish theocracy in Israel. Analysts believe the inclusion of several far-right members in top levels of the Knesset will mean a much more violent approach to the conflict with Palestinians. Many members of the incoming coalition government, including Ben-Gvir, aim to expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and have a history of incitement to racism and support of terrorism groups.

Dec. 21 – Deadline to end Title 42 on border expulsions of migrants

The United States’ Title 42 immigration policy, which was enacted by the Trump administration early in the pandemic and allows the government to turn away asylum seekers on the U.S.-Mexico border over health care concerns, is set to expire Wednesday.

What’s happened so far 
While immigration and human rights advocates have criticized the use of the rule, current President Joe Biden has continued using the law to stabilize the growing influx of migration. In mid-November, a federal judge said Title 42’s usage for immigration concerns was “arbitrary and capricious” and accepted a five-week delay in striking it down in order to prepare for the expected increases.

The impact 
The end of border expulsions will set off a domino effect, and will inevitably challenge the U.S. government’s legal immigration policy and rhetoric once again. Current daily averages of approximately 7,500 detainments along the border could rise significantly, and that has pushed both sides of the political aisle to provide a bipartisan but contentious program before January, though it is unlikely to go through. The Biden administration has also appealed the decision in order to apply similar health laws and regulations to migration control in the future. 

Dec. 22 – Spanish air travel employees plan to strike over holidays  

Airport workers represented by Spain’s largest trade union, Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), and pilots for Spanish airline Air Nostrum will strike starting Thursday if not given significant raises.

What’s happened so far 
Aena, the majority public company that manages most Spanish airports, granted its workforce a productivity bonus in 2018 that was suspended during the pandemic. CCOO’s main demand is the resumption of the bonus, given that air travel numbers are close to pre-pandemic levels. Spain’s two other major trade unions, UGT and CGT, are currently not part of the strike. Airline pilots from domestic Spanish airline Air Nostrum are simultaneously involved in negotiations for a raise in line with inflation. Air Nostrum’s pilots are currently scheduled to strike on six days.

The impact 
The runup to Christmas is among the busiest travel weeks of the year, but Aena’s airports have thus far avoided the travel disruptions caused by post-pandemic understaffing by furloughing much of their workforce rather than firing and rehiring. The remaining 58 percent of Aena’s employees from the other trade unions are weighing joining CCOO after a decision from the Ministry of Finance on the resumption of the productivity bonus. At the same time, Air Nostrum stands to lose the 70 percent of its workforce represented by the Sepla union. If that happens, the Spanish government could step in and mandate some level of “minimum services.” 

What Else Matters

Satellite image of wildfires in Argentina back in February 2022
A wildfire burns in Argentina’s Iberá National Park in February 2022 amid a record-setting heatwave and ongoing drought. More than 1,000 fires burned earlier this year in the country’s northeast, ravaging farmland and killing wildlife. (Photo: NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey)

Drought in Argentina 

third consecutive year of dry conditions continues in Argentina’s heartland, leading to some of the worst farming in generations. This year is said to be the most damaging so far due to the ongoing La Niña weather phenomenon, which brings drier weather and cooler temperatures to South America. The drought has also exacerbated economic issues with farmers, including high export levies.

Watch for: Argentina accounts for a large portion of the world’s soy, corn, and wheat exports. That could cost the country billions of dollars on wheat alone. It also comes at a time when more wheat is needed to compensate for the grain lost because of the war in Ukraine. The scarcity will likely increase prices globally

Holiday travel disruption in the UK 

This week, two of London’s main airports — Gatwick and Stansted — were forced to close for several hours due to snow, leading to the cancellation of dozens of flights and leaving thousands stranded overnight. The first days of a rail strike also kicked off, forcing several train stations to shutter. The weather conditions led to the death of three young boys who fell into an icy lake near Solihull, England. In Scotland, several schools were forced to close due to frozen pipes and lack of heating.

Watch for: December will bring a month of unprecedented industrial action impacting all sectors of the British economy, creating disruption at an already busy time of the year. Millions face travel chaos over the next few weeks as winter weather continues to impact the U.K. at the same time as the strikes. Rail services will be disrupted with several days of industrial action planned, coupled with Border Forces services strikes at airports. Adding to the unrest, strikes are planned among staff at Royal Mail services and the first-ever industrial action by National Health Service nurses will also go ahead. The record number of strikes planned in the country follow weeks of disagreements between workers and government over salaries. More industrial action is expected in the new year with London Underground staff and possibly doctors and teachers planning to strike. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to bring in “new tough laws” to limit strike action in the country.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Dec. 16-23

Dec. 16

  • IMF Egypt loan decision
  • U.S. government funding deadline

Dec. 17

  • Tunisian Assembly of People’s Representatives Election

Dec. 18

  • Guinea-Bissau parliamentary elections
  • Hanukkah begins
  • World Cup final
  • Kosovo municipal elections
  • Paraguay primaries

Dec. 19

  • World Trade Organization General Council meeting
  • U.S. House Jan. 6 committee final meeting
  •  IMF Tunisia loan decision

Dec. 20

  • France’s Macron in Amman, Jordan, for Iraq conference

Dec. 21

  • Deadline to end Title 42 on U.S. border expulsions of migrants
  • UK ambulance workers strike
  • U.S. House Jan. 6 committee releases report
  • Deadline to form government in Israel

Dec. 22

  • Spanish airline workers strike

Dec. 24-30

Dec. 24

  • UK rail strikes
  • Christmas Eve

Dec. 25

  • Christmas Day

Dec. 27

  • Putin’s Federal Assembly presidential address

Dec. 31-Jan. 6 

Dec. 31

  • Germany stops buying Russian oil
  • New Year’s Eve
  • Pope Francis DR Congo and South Sudan visit
  • Stage of Dakar Rally 2022 begins

Jan. 1

  • New Year’s Day

Jan. 3

  • Philippines’ President Ferdinand Marcos starts multi-day state visit to China

Jan 7-13 

Jan. 7

  • Biden, Trudeau in Mexico

Jan. 8

  • Benin legislative elections

Jan. 9

  • Nigeria cash-withdrawal limit goes into effect
  • College Football Playoff National Championship

Jan. 10

  • France presents pension reform bill

Jan. 13

  • Czech Republic presidential elections

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