Unrest in Georgia. On Sunday, police clashed with protesters demonstrating against the construction of a hydropower plant in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge – an area populated mainly by ethnic Chechens. Several people, including police officers, were injured. The incident occurred days before Russian military forces will hold joint drills with Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia. The drills will include a squadron of attack and transport helicopters that will remain on the Russian military base in Abkhazia after the drills. The location of the military exercises is unknown, but they will reportedly include 3,000 servicemen, tanks, self-propelled artillery and Russian Black Sea Fleet ships.

Chinese exporters’ BRI concerns. China’s small and medium-sized exporters are increasingly wary of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. At the annual China Import and Export Fair in Guangdong province, Chinese traders told the South China Morning Post that the infrastructure-focused project does little to help small and medium-sized exporters, adding that subsidies to attend such fairs seemed to be the only benefit of the initiative for businesses of their size. They’re also concerned that the initiative will increase the level of competition they face and that they see trade fairs as bad for business because many foreign vendors participate, not out of an interest in buying Chinese goods, but to study Chinese products so they can offer competitive alternatives. Emerging manufacturing hubs of particular concern included India, Vietnam and Cambodia. Nearly 400 foreign manufacturers participated in this year’s China Import and Export Fair, 60 percent of which come from BRI countries.

Italy’s privatization plans. As part of its budget agreement with the European Commission, Italy’s government is supposed to privatize 17 billion euros’ ($19 billion) worth of state assets in 2019 to offset higher government spending. But considering that it’s late April and Rome has yet to announce official preparations for such a sale, that looks unlikely; the Italian Parliamentary Budget Office, or UPB, said last week that the target was unachievable. Failure would likely push Italy’s debt-to-gross domestic product ratio – 132.2 percent as of 2018 – up by at least 1 percentage point, and by 2022, it would reach 135 percent, according to the UPB. Earlier this month, Rome revised its 2019 growth forecast down to 0.2 percent, the same as the European Commission’s projections for the country, while acknowledging that its deficit for the year would reach 2.4 percent – the same figure that sparked the dispute late last year. Without privatizations or a major increase in the sales tax, the UPB said the budget deficit would climb to 3.4 percent in 2020, 3.6 percent in 2021 and 3.8 percent in 2022, well above the EU cap of 3 percent.

Saudi caution over increasing oil supplies. Saudi Arabia has expressed concern about helping the U.S. ensure oil prices do not increase once Iranian sanction waivers are lifted. On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that, as of May 2, the U.S. will stop issuing waivers that allow countries to continue importing Iranian oil without penalty. Washington then asked Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production to help offset the decreased Iranian supplies. But when the Saudis increased supplies last year after the sanctions were initially imposed, the U.S. then decided to grant waivers to certain countries, meaning the total global supply increased and prices fell. This time around, the Saudis seem more hesitant to agree to the U.S. request. According to an anonymous OPEC source who spoke to Reuters, Saudi Arabia wants a guarantee from the U.S. that it will not grant any more waivers before it agrees to cooperate.

Honorable Mentions