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Factal Forecast: Taiwan opens to Chinese tourists, Argentina’s electoral campaign begins, and Trump to be arraigned

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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.

While Lebanon is still in the throes of its worst economic and financial crisis in modern history, its government is facing renewed calls for reform, most recently by new interim central bank chief Wassim Mansouri. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Agnese Boffano discuss how the central bank’s vow not to loan the government any money to cover its deficit may impact the crisis and why widespread protests may be on the horizon. 

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of September 1-8
A Look Ahead

Sept. 1 – Taiwan to reopen borders to mainland Chinese citizens

Taiwan will once again begin allowing mainland Chinese citizens on group tourist or business visas to enter the island Friday after a three-year hiatus, despite limited reciprocity and heightened military tensions across the strait. 

What’s happened so far 
Travel between mainland China and Taiwan was curbed in 2019, when China halted individual tourism permits for Taiwan amid tensions over sovereignty claims. The coronavirus pandemic then suspended virtually all travel between the two, with Taiwan largely retaining restrictions on mainland Chinese visitors even after reopening its borders to most of the world last year. China continues to conduct military exercises that cross the unofficial median line of the Taiwan Strait, recently holding a day of drills around Taiwan following Taiwan Vice President William Lai’s brief stopover in the United States. 

The impact 
China, which has been gradually expanding the list of countries its citizens are permitted to visit since the pandemic, has yet to add Taiwan, or respond to Taiwan’s olive branch. Beijing did express a willingness to welcome Taiwan tour group visits earlier this year, however, in a push for closer ties ahead of presidential elections on the island next January.

Sept. 2 – Start of electoral campaign in Argentina

On Saturday, after official lists of candidates and their parties are submitted, the electoral campaign will begin in Argentina ahead of the Oct. 22 election. 

What’s happened so far 
In the country’s primaries earlier this month, Javier Milei, far-right libertarian candidate and current member of the Chamber of Deputies, won over 30 percent of the vote, beating candidates Sergio Massa and Patricia Bullrich of Argentina’s long-standing parties. While Milei garnered the most votes, the Juntos Por El Cambio coalition had more votes than Massa’s justicialist Peronist party, which had its worst primaries result in decades. Candidates and parties will have 50 days of campaigning before voters decide on who their next president will be.

The impact 
Milei’s rise to win the primaries as a single candidate is a shock to the country’s political powerhouses, but the primaries showed that the race is largely open with the opposition coalition and Peronist parties following closely behind. It is unlikely any one candidate wins a majority in the general elections in late October, and a run-off election would then be held between the two top candidates on Nov. 19.

Sept. 2 – Launch of India’s first space-based observatory to study the sun

India will launch Aditya-L1, its first ever space-based observatory to study the sun, on Saturday, according to the country’s space agency.

What’s happened so far 
Named after the Sanskrit word for the sun, the craft aims to “get a deeper understanding of the sun” through studying concepts like solar winds, which can cause disruptions on the earth. The spacecraft is expected to take more than 120 days to reach the halo orbit around the point L1 of the Sun-Earth system, around 932,000 miles from the Earth.

The impact 
The solar probe’s launch comes days after India became the first country to land a spacecraft on the unexplored south pole of the moon. The country’s space program is also lauded for its cost-effective missions, with its latest moon mission costing less than the budget for the Hollywood space films “Gravity” and “The Martian.”

Sept. 5 – New Zealand senior doctors hold first-ever strike

Approximately 5,000 senior doctors and dentists working in New Zealand hospitals will hit the picket lines Tuesday for a two-hour nationwide work stoppage over an ongoing pay dispute, the first of three planned in the coming weeks.

What’s happened so far 
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has urged doctors to return to the bargaining table for further negotiations, and says the government will work in good faith to resolve the impasse. Meanwhile, union leadership says the most recent offer fails to keep up with inflation or address substandard working conditions, but cautioned that the strikes have been timed in a way to minimize disruptions to patients.

The impact 
The strikes come as New Zealand grapples with a significant health care worker shortage, with an estimated staffing gap of 1,700 doctors and 220 dental practitioners, figures the union have called “extremely conservative.” With a general election looming in October, the government is likely motivated to reach an agreement, with Hipkins saying “I live in hope,” when asked if there would be a resolution before voters head to the polls.

Sept. 6 – Trump and co-defendants to be arraigned in Georgia  

Former President Donald Trump and his co-defendants will be arraigned in Georgia on Wednesday.   

What’s happened so far 
A grand jury in Fulton County indicted Trump along with 18 others on Aug. 14. The 41-count indictment accuses Trump and his co-defendants, including lawyer Rudy Giuliani and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, with unlawfully conspiring to “conduct and participate in a criminal enterprise” after Trump lost the 2020 election. Trump and several of his co-defendants have denied any wrong-doing. 

The impact 
While Trump is already facing three other indictments, the Fulton County case is drawing much attention as it is under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law, something usually reserved for the mafia.

Sept. 7 – Chevron LNG workers in Australia plan industrial action

Workers at two large liquified natural gas (LNG) plants in Australia are due to go on strike Thursday.

What’s happened so far 
Negotiations between unions and Chevron, the owner of the plants, are ongoing over pay and working conditions in hopes of avoiding the looming strikes. While the exact details of the strike actions remain unclear, Reuters reports that employees are set to strike for three hours beginning Sept. 7 and progressively increase the time spent striking.

The impact 
Gas prices surged at the announcement of the impending strike given that the two plants combine to account for more than 5 percent of global LNG production. European prices in particular rose sharply on the news given the continent’s reliance upon global LNG supplies following the decline in imports from Russia in the wake of last year’s full invasion of Ukraine. 

Sept. 8 – Rugby World Cup in France

France begins hosting the seven-week Rugby World Cup on Friday, with the first match taking place at the country’s national stadium in Paris.

What’s happened so far 
The tournament, which takes place every four years, will see 20 nations play against one another in nine cities, including Marseille, Lyon and Nantes. Like the opening match, the final game takes place in Paris on Oct. 28. Around 600,000 fans are expected to travel to France for the tournament.

The impact 
Alongside typical crowd control concerns, some of the French cities that are hosting games are grappling with a rise in drug-related violence, which has left several civilian dead or injured in recent weeks. France has also seen violent demonstrations over pension reform plans and the police shooting of a teenager in the recent months. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin asked security services to monitor individuals involved in the June demonstrations in an effort to avoid potential unrest. The Rugby World Cup is the first of two large sporting events France is hosting in the coming months, the second being the Paris Olympics in 2024, meaning lessons learned from the policing of the first event will likely be carried forward to the latter.

What Else Matters

Gabon soldiers on Wednesday went on state television and claimed to have seized power and annulled the country’s election results. (Photo: Gabon 24 Live)

Lebanon economic crisis

Lebanon’s interim Central Bank Gov. Wassim Mansouri said Friday that the institution would not lend the government more money to help bridge the current budget deficit, either in U.S. dollars or in the local currency. The government approved the 2023 budget a week prior with a 24 percent deficit, despite the Central Bank specifically asking for a deficit-free budget. The Lebanese pound has lost more than 95 percent of its value in the past four years since a financial meltdown in late 2019, worsened by years of political deadlock and an inability to address people’s grievances following the deadly 2020 Beirut port explosion. The country has also failed to meet reforms set by the International Monetary Fund to unlock a $3 billion aid package.

Watch for: Mansouri also said last week that he had “no answer” for depositors on whether they would be able to access their money from local banks, as the country continues to impose strict withdrawal limits for customers. Analysts fear this latest statement will trigger Lebanese depositors to conduct “robberies” as those seen in late 2022 where individuals, including some armed, entered banks demanding to have their savings withdrawn. Riad Salameh, who stepped down as Lebanon’s Central Bank governor after a 30-year tenure, is likely to remain in Lebanon to face legal battles amid corruption allegations and arrest warrants overseas, although analysts believe a trial is unlikely to yield answers given the country’s highly politicized judiciary.

Gabon military coup

Mutinous soldiers from Gabon’s Republican Guard announced on state television Wednesday that they had closed all borders, dissolved state institutions and seized power from President Ali Bongo in a military coup. Their announcement came hours after Gabon’s electoral commission declared Bongo the winner of the Aug. 26 presidential elections, extending his family’s 55-year dynastic rule. Sporadic gunfire was heard in the capital Libreville prior to the soldiers’ announcement but it was unclear whether anyone was injured. Bongo is under house arrest, according to the coup leaders. His son was also detained.

Watch for: Gabon is a major regional oil producer and member of OPEC. The organization has not yet commented on the military coup. French energy company Total, which controls 75 percent of Gabon’s oil production together with Shell and Perenco, said it would ensure the safety of its employees but did not say whether it would halt operations in the wake of the coup. France, a close ally of Gabon and President Bongo, condemned the military takeover and called for the election results to be respected. France also has around 350 troops stationed in Gabon, the remainder of its fast-dwindling military presence in Central and Western Africa following coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. 

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Sept. 2-8 

Sept. 3 

  • Start of electoral campaign in Argentina

Sept. 4

  • ASEAN summit in Jakarta

Sept. 5

  • First-ever senior doctor’s strike in New Zealand
  • Taiwan president to visit Eswatini
  • Greek foreign minister to visit Turkey 

Sept. 6 

  • Announcement of MORENA party presidential candidate in Mexico

Sept. 7 

  • NFL season begins
  • Chevron strike in Australia

Sept. 8

  • Rugby World Cup in France

Sept. 9-15

Sept. 9

  • Maldives elections
  • Possible military parade in North Korea
  • G20 summit in India

Sept. 10

  • President Biden to visit Vietnam
  • Russia-organized elections in annexed portions of Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions

Sept. 11

  • Norway’s municipal and county council elections
  • EU parliament plenary

Sept. 13

  • EU State of the Union

Sept. 14

  • IMF staff to visit Sri Lanka
  • Taiwan opposition candidate to visit US

Sept. 16-22

Sept. 18 

  • World Court to hear Russian objections to Ukraine case
  • UN General Assembly begins
  • Saudi Arabia’s Ades International Holding is set to list in Riyadh

Sept. 20

  • Sri Lanka says China’s Sinopec to start operations

Sept. 22

  • Pope Francis visits Marseille, France

Sept. 23-29

Sept. 23 

  • 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China

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