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Forecast: Biden visits Ireland, tornadoes devastate U.S. South, and France’s Constitutional Council rules on pension reform

A large painted portrait of George Washington is in the center of this photo. On the very edge of the right portion of the photo you can see President Joe Biden standing in front of an Irish flag.

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.

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Week of April 7-14
A Look Ahead

April 10 – Nigeria to outlaw high-value notes  

Nigeria’s Central Bank has extended the deadline to exchange high-value naira notes until Monday.

What’s happened so far 
Nigeria’s Central Bank announced in 2022 that the old high-value notes of 200, 500 and 1,000 naira (equivalent to $0.43, $1.08 and $2.16 respectively) would be replaced in an attempt to help curb money laundering and promote digital payments. This culminated in February 2023 with protests across multiple cities, including the capital Abuja, over a shortage of fuel and the redesigned local currency notes, with anti-government demonstrators burning banks and ATMs as millions of people were unable to withdraw cash. The deadline to redesign the notes was eventually extended after the move triggered a cash shortage across the country.

The impact 
Last month, APC candidate Bola Tinubu was elected as the country’s president and backed the previous administration’s cashless policy. Despite assurances made by Tinubu and the Central Bank to ease cash scarcity in the country, analysts expect residents will continue living with limited cash circulation unless there is a significant separation with “the apex bank’s management approach.” Critics have accused Nigerian officials of poorly implementing the finance policy, which is estimated to have cost Africa’s largest economy approximately 20 trillion naira, or $43 billion. Analysts also called the policy unrealistic on a cash-reliant country where only about 45 percent of residents are estimated to regularly use banks, according to the World Bank.

April 11 – Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement 25th anniversary

U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland starting Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the Good Friday agreement peace deal.

What’s happened so far 
While several details have not yet been officially confirmed, Biden is expected to arrive in Belfast on Tuesday, one day after the official anniversary and ahead of a day of engagements Wednesday to celebrate the signing of a peace deal marking the end of decades of conflict in Northern Ireland. He will then travel south to spend the rest of the week in Ireland. Other U.S. politicians, including former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are expected in Belfast for an event on April 17-19 organized by Queen’s University.

The impact 
The anniversary celebrations come just weeks after the U.K. and the E.U. finally signed into law a Brexit deal for Northern Ireland after years of negotiations. However, they also come after Northern Ireland raised its terrorism threat level to severe for the first time since March 2022, citing a rise in activity from dissident Irish Republican Army factions, including a recent attack on a police officer. Reports suggest Biden could meet King Charles during his trip to Belfast since he is not expected to attend his coronation in London in May.

April 11 – U.K. civil servants strike  

More than 3,000 civil servants for the British government will go on strike Tuesday.

What’s happened so far
The strike will impact four U.K. government agencies, including the environment and forestry ministries. Workers are demanding an increase in pay, pension and job security. This round of government strikes comes in the wake of a prolonged rail strike campaign that has marked the largest-scale industrial action in the U.K. since the late 1980s.

The impact 
The April 11 strikes will precede what is expected to be a far larger day of strikes from the U.K.’s Public and Commercial Services Union on April 28. That day, more than 133,000 public servants are set to strike as the country continues to deal with the fallout from a cost of living crisis that has been ongoing since late 2021. 

April 12 – Kazakhstan raises fuel prices  

Kazakhstan will boost its retail prices of gasoline and diesel starting Wednesday.

What’s happened so far 
According to Astana’s acting energy minister, the price of gasoline will increase by 11 percent, with diesel jumping by 20 percent per liter. The increase is designed to bring Kazakh fuel prices more in line with neighboring countries to cut down on illicit exports, according to officials. Kazakhstan is oil-rich and has had some of the world’s lowest retail fuel prices for years through state control of pricing.

The impact 
The move is politically risky for Kazakhstan given retail fuel price hikes acted as the initial spark for the historic protests that swept the country in January 2022. While there has not been any indication that this price hike will trigger any protests in the authoritarian nation, the outbreak of any unrest would represent the first since President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ushered in a series of reforms and stripped former President Nursultan Nazarbayev of power following the unrest of early 2022. 

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April 13 – Indian opposition leader in court  

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi will appear before a court Thursday after being granted bail in his defamation case.

What’s happened so far 
Gandhi was suspended as a lawmaker in March, after he was sentenced to two years in prison over comments mocking the surname of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an electoral campaign speech in 2019 in a case filed by a member of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat. The move has been widely criticized by opposition representatives who claim this is an attempt by the government to undermine the country’s democracy and consolidate in power.

The impact 
Gandhi’s sentence was suspended by a court April 3 and he was granted bail until the next hearing on April 13 after appealing the ruling. Opposition supporters and Indian National Congress party members rallied outside the Surat court where the appeal was filed in support of Gandhi and to protest against the government. If Gandhi loses the appeal, he will be expelled from parliament and won’t be allowed to run as opposition leader for the upcoming national elections in 2024.

April 14 – French Constitutional Council rules on pension reform

France’s highest constitutional body will deliver a verdict on Friday on President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reform legislation, which has embroiled the nation in escalating protests since the beginning of the year.

What’s happened so far 
The constitutional court is made up of nine political grandees, including the former Prime Minister Alain Juppé. It is customary for all new legislation in France to be referred to the body, but this pension reform law is more controversial than most given it was forced through by the government without a vote under a constitutional provision known as Article 49.3. 

The impact 
The Constitutional Council must decide on two aspects of the legislation: the constitutionality of the government having forced the bill through the National Assembly without a vote, and a referendum proposed by about 250 leftist parliamentarians to limit the retirement age to 62. The council, which leans conservative, can decide to approve the legislation or reject some or all of it, which would force the government to re-examine the bill.

April 14 – Brazil’s Lula reschedules China trip

Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will travel to China next week for a trade-related visit and will meet with President Xi Jinping on Friday.

What’s happened so far 
Lula, who took office in January following last year’s contentious presidential election that threatened to plunge the country into crisis, postponed the trip after falling ill with a mild case of pneumonia. He’s expected to seek a reset in relations with China now that he’s in power, and he is expected to push for upgraded trade relations as Brazil attempts to position itself as a key partner of both the United States and China despite escalating tensions between the two.

The impact 
The two leaders are expected to discuss a number of issues including increased investment in Latin American projects. The meeting comes as China is seeking to further project its diplomatic power, following the brokerage of a detente between Saudi Arabia and Iran and a visit to Moscow that touted a China-led peace plan.

What Else Matters

An aerial photo of a neighbor. About a third of the dozens of homes are damaged from the path of a tornado.
An aerial view of a neighborhood in Little Rock, Ark., shows the extent of damage in the area following a tornado on March 31. (Photo: State Farm / Flickr)

Tornadoes in U.S.

Tornadoes have killed dozens of people across the United States over the past few weeks, leading scientists to issue warnings that violent storms will happen more frequently in the future as climate changes continue. More than 100 tornadoes touched down in states ranging from Arkansas to New Jersey in late March and early April, including an EF-3 twister in Delaware that was the strongest to hit the state in more than 60 years. 

Watch for: Scientists say the ingredients needed for tornadoes are now more prevalent in more places in the country, not just in the area nicknamed “Tornado Alley.” They also warn that tornadoes will escalate outside of the peak season, which is traditionally from March through May. Experts link the changes to global warming. New research found that by 2100, the number of supercells – large storms known for producing tornadoes – will increase by 6.6 percent

Colombia raises alert level for volcano 

Colombian authorities are cautiously watching activity within the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano along the border between the country’s Caldas and Tolima regions. Thousands of small earthquakes have been recorded inside the active volcano, pushing officials to not only increase the volcanic alert to orange, but also to preemptively evacuate 40 families from nearby towns. Colombian President Gustavo Petro has already held meetings with the disaster response agency and team in order to be prepared for a possible eruption. 

Watch for: Colombia has been wary of the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano since 1985 when an eruption led to mudslides that killed more than 25,000 people. The latest orange alert level for the volcano was in 2012 with similar precautions. While it ultimately did not erupt then, authorities remain extremely vigilant for a possible eruption. It is difficult to tell whether or not the volcanic activity will continue to intensify or if it will decrease, but expect further evacuations along the foothills of the volcano and other possible measures such as security perimeters nearby. 

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

April 7-14 

April 9

  •  Easter

April 9

  •  Nigeria outlaws high-value notes

April 11

  • French President Emmanuel Macron makes a state visit to the Netherlands
  • UK civil servants strike
  • Brazil’s president expected to travel to China
  • Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement 25th anniversary

April 12

  • Kazakhstan to raise retail gas prices

April 13

  • Indian opposition leader in court

April 14

  • French Constitutional Council to rule on pension bill
  • Brazil’s Lula reschedules China trip

April 15-21 

April 17

  • Boston Marathon

April 22-28 

April 22

  • Portugal to host bilateral summit with Brazil

April 23

  • London Marathon
  • North Kosovo local elections

April 26

  • South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visits Washington
  • Greece hosts annual economic conference in Delphi

April 27

  • UK teacher strikes

April 28

  • Pope Francis to visit Hungary

April 29-May 5 

April 30

  • Uzbekistan constitutional referendum
  • Israeli Knesset returns from recess
  • General elections in Paraguay

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