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Fiscal Consolidation is Vital for Kazakhstan’s Adjustment to the New Normal

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Kazakhstan urgently needs to adopt a fiscal consolidation strategy and refocus its macro-fiscal policy to promote more diversified growth and high-quality job creation, says the World Bank in its Kazakhstan Public Finance Review.

The Review aims to help the authorities identify key areas for improvement of Kazakhstan’s fiscal policy framework to ensure fiscal sustainability in the medium-term and support economic transformation in the long-run.

“Fiscal consolidation efforts to be undertaken over the medium-term would provide an opportunity to review the Kazakhstan’s fiscal policy framework and the work of institutions with the goal of strengthening their coherence, credibility, and flexibility,” says Ato Brown, World Bank Country Manager for Kazakhstan. “Successful fiscal consolidation would require two things: reducing inefficient expenditure that distorts private sector incentives which will allow redirecting savings toward productivity-enhancing spending; and eliminating inefficient tax benefits that result in an uneven playing field for investment.”

Kazakhstan benefited greatly from the oil boom of 2000–14, which led to income growth and poverty reduction and helped build a fiscal cushion to stabilize the economy during downturns. As oil output more than doubled during the oil price super-cycle, the Government of Kazakhstan accumulated substantial fiscal savings in its oil fund, the National Fund of the Republic of Kazakhstan (NFRK). These savings were used for anti-crisis programs in 2007–10 and 2014-17. As a result, the NFRK balance has fallen from a peak of US$73 billion in 2014 to a projected level of US$53 billion by the end of 2017.

The oil-price shock in 2014 highlighted a structural shift to a “new normal” that requires more structural rather than countercyclical fiscal measures. Unlike a temporary crisis that can be managed by a countercyclical response to restore the macroeconomic stability, this structural shift—to a new, low oil-price environment—may persist for many years.

To adjust to the new normal, the authorities moved to a floating exchange rate regime in the second half of 2015 to stop the drawdown of foreign exchange reserves. However, an accompanying fiscal adjustment has not materialized yet. Some policy makers may still believe that the shock is cyclical and maintain hope that oil prices will recover.

The countercyclical fiscal stance adopted in 2014 led to an increase in the non-oil fiscal deficit, which is too high to ensure medium-term fiscal sustainability and threatens the long-term growth potential of the non-oil tradable economy.

The key challenge for economic policy now is to enhance the fiscal policy framework, improve efficiency and effectiveness of public spending, mobilize non-oil revenue, and strengthen fiscal policy institutions.

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Mexico officially joins IEA: First member in Latin America

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Mexico officially became the International Energy Agency’s 30th member country on 17 February 2018, and its first member in Latin America. The membership came after the signed IEA treaty (the IEP Agreement) was deposited with the government of Belgium, which serves as the depository state, following ratification by the Mexican Senate.

Mexico’s accession is a cornerstone of the IEA’s on-going modernization strategy, including “opening the doors” of the IEA to engage more deeply with emerging economies and the key energy players of Latin America, Asia and Africa, towards a secure, sustainable and affordable energy future.

The IEA Family of 30 Member countries and seven Association countries now accounts for more than 70% of global energy consumption, up from less than 40% in 2015.

“With this final step, Mexico enters the most important energy forum in the world,” said Joaquín Coldwell, Mexico’s Secretary of Energy. “We will take our part in setting the world’s energy policies, receive experienced advisory in best international practices, and participate in emergency response exercises.”

“It is a historic day because we welcome our first Latin American member country, with more than 120 million inhabitants, an important oil producer, and a weighty voice in global energy,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “The ambitious and successful energy reforms of recent years have put Mexico firmly on the global energy policy map.”

At the last IEA Ministerial Meeting, held in Paris in November 2017, ministers representing the IEA’s member countries unanimously endorsed the rapid steps Mexico was taking to become the next member of the IEA, providing a major boost for global energy governance.

They recognized that Mexico had taken all necessary steps in record time to meet international membership requirements since its initial expression of interest in November 2015. In December, the Mexican Senate ratified the IEP Agreement paving the way for the deposit of the accession instrument and for membership to take effect.

Mexico is the world’s 15th-largest economy and 12th-largest oil producer, and has some of the world’s best renewable energy resources. The IEA family will benefit greatly from Mexico’s contribution on discussion about the world’s energy challenges. The IEA is delighted to continue supporting implementation of Mexico’s energy reform with technical expertise, and further intensifying the fruitful bilateral dialogue of energy policy best practice exchange.

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Guterres: Korean nuclear crisis, Middle East quagmire eroding global security

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Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“Conflicts are becoming more and more interrelated and more and more related to a set of a new global terrorism threat  to all of us,” Mr. Guterres said in his keynote address at the opening ceremony on Friday of the Munich Security Conference.

For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the world is facing the threat of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which he called “a development made in total contradiction to the will of the international community and in clear violation of several resolutions of the Security Council.”

He said that it was essential to maintain “meaningful pressure over North Korea” to create an opportunity for diplomatic engagement on the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula within a regional framework.

“The two key stakeholders in relation to this crisis, the United States and [DPRK]” must be able to “come together and have a meaningful discussion on these issues,” he said, adding that it is “important not to miss the opportunity of a peaceful resolution through diplomatic engagement as a military solution would be a disaster with catastrophic consequences that we cannot even be able to imagine.”

The situation in the broader Middle East, which the UN chief said had become a “Gordian knot,” was also eroding global security, with that are crises that are “crossing each other and interconnected.”

Pointing to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and wars in Syria, Yemen and Libya, among others, Mr. Guterres said the entire Middle East has “became a mess,” with varied and intersecting fault lines.

He warned of the absence of a common vision in the region and said that even if interests are contradictory, the threats these conflicts represent would justify some efforts to come together.

Turning to cyber-security, Mr. Guterres called for a serious discussion about the international legal framework in which cyberwars take place.

“I can guarantee that the United Nations would be ready to be a platform in which different actors could come together and discuss the way forward, to find the adequate approaches to make sure that we are able to deal with the problem of cybersecurity,” he said, noting that artificial intelligence provides “enormous potential for economic development, social development and for the well-being for all of us.”

The Secretary-General said that Governments and others have been unable to manage human mobility. He warned that this had created mistrust and doubts about globalism and multilateralism.

“This is a reason why,” he said, “we need to be able to unite, we need to be able to affirm that global problems can only be addressed with global solutions and that multilateralism is today more necessary than ever.”

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Supporting tourism development in Africa through better measurement

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In an effort to better measure tourism growth and development in Africa, UNWTO signed a Cooperation Agreement with the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation for the Strengthening of the National Tourism Statistical System of Nigeria and the Development of a Tourism Satellite Account.

UNWTO is committed to developing tourism measurement for furthering knowledge of the sector, monitoring progress, evaluating impact, promoting results-focused management, and highlighting strategic issues for policy objectives.

On the occasion of the meeting between UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, and the Minister of Information and Culture of Nigeria, Mr. Lai Mohammed, the agreement to host the Sixty-First meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa and the Seminar on ‘Tourism Statistics: A Catalyst for Development’ in Nigerian capital, Abuja, from 4 to 6 June 2018, was signed.

The meetings will be open to the participation of UNWTO Member States and Affiliate Members, as well as invited delegations and representatives of the tourism and related sectors. Officials of immigration departments, national statistics bureaus, central banks and other relevant stakeholders will be invited to join.

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