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Bank Chiefs Optimistic About the Future

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After years of relentless focus on costs, settlements and regulations, the future of banking is looking brighter, agreed panellists in a session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. On the regulatory front, the majority predicted a significant paring-back of regulatory regimes such as Dodd-Frank, the Volcker rule and Basel IV.

The low interest rate environment over the past seven years has been tough for the banking sector, said Brian T. Moynihan, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Bank of America Corporation, USA. “Business confidence is reviving and the US economy will grow 2% this year,” he added. This, along with efficiencies gained from digital transformation within banks, will underwrite long-term recovery among US banks, he said.

António Horta-Osório, Chief Executive of Lloyds Banking Group in the United Kingdom, likened the banking system to the vascular system in the human body. “You don’t have strong economies in the long term if you don’t have a strong banking system,” he said. He also touched on the implications of Brexit, pointing out that, despite uncertainties, London continues to have structural benefits including time zone, attraction of global talent and the necessary infrastructure.

“The focus on regulations has perhaps been at the expense of growth,” said Mary Callahan Erdoes, Chief Executive Officer, Asset Management, JPMorgan Chase & Co., USA. She pointed to the fact that JPMorgan spends around $9 billion on internal controls and needs to deal with 25,000 line items and five different regulators just to fulfil their Dodd-Frank obligations. There is some optimism that this burden will lighten under the Trump administration, which is seen as being more business friendly. “Currently, less than 10% of cabinet positions have business experience; this will rise to more than 50% in the new administration,” she added.

Europe needs more structural reforms to become competitive, said Sergio P. Ermotti, Group Chief Executive Officer of UBS, Switzerland. Monetary policy was a necessary tool to escape the crisis but it has exhausted its effectiveness. “It’s time to normalize,” he added. He also called for a more constructive approach by regulators to international capital markets. Ermotti outlined the need for greater industry cooperation in dealing with complex back-office functions. “The notion of infrastructure-sharing in the banking sector is not new and needs to be embraced again,” he said.

We are looking forward to a more constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia, said Andrey L. Kostin, President and Chairman of the VTB Bank Management Board, VTB Bank, Russian Federation. “Mr Trump should remove sanctions from the leading Russian banks,” he suggested. This will help support privatization and improve efficiency in the Russian banking sector.

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Advancing the SDGs through impact investment

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Photo: UNIDO

Representatives of more than 20 Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) have come together to learn and deliberate about novel approaches in investment promotion.

The three-day training organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), together with its partners, the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA) and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), includes lecture and workshop sessions, as well as practical site visits and bilateral meetings.

The training reflects the fundamental premise that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved without enormous additional volumes of “quality” foreign and domestic investments – a finding which clearly emerged during the Vienna Investment Conference – Quality FDI, Growth and Development, organized by UNIDO in September 2016.

Participants in the training agreed that the focus of international investment promotion is shifting away from the mere financial side of international investments towards a wider combined economic, social and environmental impact – known as “impact investments”. They also recognized that many challenges remain to properly identifying and gauging impact investments, and confirmed the need to adjust services and instruments to augment the various dimensions of impact investments. UNIDO received important feedback on IPAs’ interest in participating in follow-up training on specific impact investing themes to be developed as part of a larger UNIDO Impact Investing strategy.

The training also provided participants with an opportunity for intensive networking and for deepening contacts with institutional stakeholders in Turkey, including the Republic of Turkey Prime Ministry Investment Support and Promotion Agency (ISPAT).

The joint workshop marked a concrete milestone in the implementation of the Memoranda of Understanding that UNIDO has concluded with both WAIPA and TIKA in 2016.

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ADB, B.Grimm Power Expand Support for Renewable Energy in ASEAN

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed a loan equivalent of up with $235 million to B.Grimm Power Public Company Limited (B.Grimm Power), one of the largest power producers in Thailand, to develop and enhance renewable energy capacity in member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“The development of renewable energy in Southeast Asia is critical to meet its energy needs and B.Grimm Power is at the forefront of the region’s fast growing alternative energy sector,” said Michael Barrow, Director General of ADB’s Private Sector Operation’s Department. “ADB is proud to once again partner with B.Grimm Power as it continues its expansion strategy in ASEAN member countries.”

ADB’s financing will support B.Grimm Power’s implementation of the ASEAN Distributed Power Project, which will expand renewable and distributed power generation into new markets in ASEAN including Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Viet Nam. The project will involve the execution and operation of distributed and utility-scale solar, wind, biomass, waste-to-energy, gas-fired power, energy storage, as well as associated infrastructure in ASEAN countries.

B.Grimm Power’s total distributed power generation capacity is expected to increase by over 50% to 2,500 megawatts (MW) by 2022, while the renewable energy share in its portfolio will rise from 10% to 30%.

ADB took a B1,968 million ($57.7 million) equity stake in B.Grimm Power as part of the company’s initial public offering in July 2017. ADB also administers a $20 million loan provided by the Canadian Climate Fund for the Private Sector in Asia under the Clean Energy Financing Partnership Facility.

B.Grimm Power is a subsidiary of the 140-year old conglomerate B.Grimm Group, operating in the energy industry since 1993 in Thailand. B.Grimm Power currently has a total capacity of 1,779 MW, operating 13 gas-fired plants, with 4 more under development or construction. In recent years, B.Grimm has diversified into renewable energy and is operating 15 solar power plants and 2 hydro power plants.

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Over 10,000 Refugees Resettled in UK Under Flagship Scheme

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Pre-departure orientation in Istanbul. © IOM

The United Kingdom is more than halfway towards meeting its commitment to resettle 20,000 people by 2020 through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), according to new figures revealed yesterday (22/10).

The latest quarterly Home Office immigration statistics show that 10,538 refugees have been resettled under the VPRS – one of the largest global resettlement programmes – since it began.

The VPRS is just one of the ways in which the UK is helping to resettle refugees. In 2017, a total of 6,212 people were resettled in the UK – a 19 per cent increase from 2016 – with 4,832 of these people coming through the VPRS. Some 539 people arrived under the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS), which will resettle up to 3,000 at-risk children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region by 2020. The latest figures take the total number of children that the UK has provided asylum or an alternative form of protection to since the start of 2010 to 28,000.

Earlier this week, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd visited a refugee camp in Lebanon, meeting families who have fled the war in Syria and speaking to officials from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) who are working closely with the Home Office to resettle families to the UK.

“As a country we can be proud that we are over half way towards honouring our commitment of resettling 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees who have fled Syria by 2020 so they can rebuild their lives here in safety,” Rudd said. “Nearly half are children and more people are arriving every month.”

“This week I went to Lebanon to see for myself the human impact of the Syrian conflict and talk to refugees about the challenges they face. I met a family who is due to be resettled in the UK and heard first-hand how important the resettlement scheme is and how it helps individuals, who have fled danger and conflict, to rebuild their lives. We are welcoming and supporting some of the most vulnerable refugees and I am grateful to all of the local authorities, charities and other organizations that have made it possible,” the Home Secretary added.

The VPRS is a joint scheme between the Home Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The UK works closely with UNHCR; IOM, the UN Migration Agency; and partners on the VPRS to provide life-saving solutions for the refugees most in need of protection, including people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, and women and children at risk.

“The UK has embarked on an impressive upscaling of the VPRS in a short period, setting in place structures to welcome highly vulnerable refugees and allowing them to gradually stand on their own feet again,” said UNHCR’s UK Representative Gonzalo Vargas Llosa.

“Collaboration between the central Government, local and devolved authorities and service providers has been commendable. I’ve been up and down the country meeting refugee families and local communities, and the strong support for this programme and refugee integration generally is something the UK should be proud of.”

IOM facilitates pre-departure health assessments, cultural orientation and travel for refugees going to the UK. IOM also supports national and local governments to develop integration programmes as part of a holistic migration management strategy.

“The UK has achieved a significant milestone for the VPRS by resettling over half of the 20,000 committed to be resettled by 2020,” said IOM UK Chief of Mission Dipti Pardeshi. “The generosity and welcome shown by the UK government and the British people to those resettled is commendable.”

“Today, less than one per cent of refugees worldwide have been resettled and the need continues to be dire. Resettlement cannot be viewed as a one-off effort. Countries must step up to resettle more refugees and to view this as part of a holistic process to help vulnerable refugees rebuild their lives.”

The UK’s resettlement schemes are just some of the ways the Government is supporting vulnerable children and adults who have fled danger and conflict. The UK remains the second largest donor in humanitarian assistance and has pledged £2.46 billion in UK aid to Syria and the neighbouring countries, its largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.

“I cannot wait to move to the UK,” says 11-year-old Shahed.  Most of her life has been overshadowed by the conflict in Syria. Last week her family arrived at the IOM offices in Beirut, Lebanon for the final preparations to resettle to the UK.

A big smile stretches across her face. She understands that this is an opportunity for a new beginning for her family, and Shahed’s plans are already in full swing.

“I want to study and one day be able to teach Maths, Geography or Philosophy. I also want to help other people.”

Shahed and her family will resettle to the UK under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme that has provided an opportunity for over 10,000 refugees to rebuild their lives since 2015.

Since 2012, across Syria and the region, the UK has provided at least 26 million food rations, 9.8 million relief packages, 10.3 million medical consultations and 8.3 million vaccines.

Source: IOM

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