MacroScope

Game of chicken in Kiev

No sign of tensions calming on the streets of Kiev, in fact today we could have a new flashpoint.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov’s cabinet is holding its weekly meeting in the government building which protesters have blockaded since Monday, paving the way for a possible showdown.

Popular pressure, following President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to reject an EU trade deal and turn back to Russia, is being matched by the markets, and it is from there that the potential tipping point could come.

The cost of insuring Ukrainian debt against default has been driven up to a level not seen since January 2010. Ukraine faces gas bills and debt repayments next year of more than $17 billion. Investors fear that the country could run out of cash to repay maturing debt and central bank calls on depositors to avoid a bank run suggests it fears just that.

Yanukovich is in China but Beijing tends to be longer on promises of help than hard cash in these situations. That leaves Moscow since it’s virtually impossible to imagine Kiev acceding to the sort of conditions the IMF would demand in return for help, with elections looming in 2015.

Big ambition for Equatorial Guinea

This week has seen a rush of key policymakers and business executives from Africa flocking to London. Apart from Sierra Leone, oil and gas executives have been discussing the outlook for Equatorial Guinea, a small central African state rich in oil.

Equatorial Guinea made a relatively rare foray into the global news earlier this month for a presidential pardon of  former British army officer Simon Mann, who was serving a 34-year prison sentence in the country for his role in a failed coup d’etat in 2004.

Gabriel Obiang Lima, vice minister of mines, industry and energy, was in London to talk about his ambition for the country. “Our aim is not to be the Kuwait of the region. It’s to be the Singapore of the region,” he told dozens of business executives in a conference in London on Wednesday.