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A world where “nobody is left behind” remains a distant prospect

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Talent, not capital, will be the key factor linking innovation, competitiveness and growth in the 21st century, and we must each understand better the global talent value chain. Better data and metrics are critical to this understanding.

The Human Capital Index quantifies how countries are developing and deploying their human capital and tracks progress over time. The World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Report provides comprehensive information on the talent base in each country, including information on education levels of the employed, unemployed and the inactive members of the population as well as the specific qualifications of the latest entrants to the workforce.

When it comes to developing people’s talents and helping them reach their full potential, the concept of a world where no one is left behind remains a distant prospect. This is the case even in rich countries with well-developed educational systems and robust employment.

The index takes a life-course approach to human capital, evaluating the levels of education, skills and employment available to people in five distinct age groups, starting from under 15 years to over 65 years. The aim is to assess the outcome of past and present investments in human capital and offer insight into what a country’s talent base will look like in the future.

Globally, Finland tops the rankings of the Human Capital Index in 2015, scoring 86% out of a possible 100. Norway (2), Switzerland (3), Canada (4) and Japan (5) make up the rest of the top five. They are among a group of only 14 nations that have crossed the 80% threshold.

Among other large advanced economies, France is in 14th position, while the United States is in 17th position, scoring just under 80%. The United Kingdom holds the 19th spot and Germany 22nd. Among the BRICS, The Russian Federation (26) scores highest with a score of 78%, with China next at 64, having optimized 67% of its human capital. Brazil is in 78th place, followed by South Africa (92) and India (100).

In addition to the 14 countries that have reached 80% human capital optimization, 38 countries score between 70% and 80%. A further 40 countries score between 60% and 70%, while 23 countries score between 50% and 60% and nine countries remain below 50%.

“Talent, not capital, will be the key factor linking innovation, competitiveness and growth in the 21st century. To make any of the changes necessary to unlock the world’s latent talent – and hence its growth potential – we must look beyond campaign cycles and quarterly reports. Dialogue, collaboration and partnerships between all sectors are crucial for the adaptation of educational institutions, governments and businesses,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Results by Region

In addition to Finland, Norway and Switzerland, which occupy the top three spots overall, another four countries from Europe and Central Asia occupy the top 10, while another eight from the region are among the top 20. Albania (66), Turkey (68) and Moldova (71) hold the last places within the region. Italy (35), Greece (40) and Spain (41) are buoyed by their past human capital investments but are hampered by relatively low scores on quality of education measures, lifelong learning opportunities, labour force participation rates and unemployment.

In Asia and the Pacific, where the majority of the world’s population is concentrated, the spread between the highest and lowest performing countries is among the widest. After Japan, the best performing countries are New Zealand (9), Australia (13) and Singapore (24), while Nepal (106), Myanmar (112) and Pakistan (113) occupy the lowest positions. After China and India, the region’s third most populous nation, Indonesia, holds the 69th spot. Iran is in 80th position.

Chile (45) and Uruguay (47) are Latin America and the Caribbean’s human capital leaders. Argentina (48) and Mexico (58) follow next. Brazil, the most populous country in the region, is in 78th place. Nicaragua (90), Venezuela (91) and Honduras (96) occupy the last spots in the region. Overall, the gap between the best and worst performers in the Latin America and the Caribbean region is smaller than in other regions. While high-skilled employment is in the range of 20% of the workforce across the region, in several countries, such as Uruguay and Brazil, businesses perceive difficulties in finding skilled employees.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Israel (29) leads the way, followed by the United Arab Emirates (54) and Qatar (56). Jordan (76) and Egypt (84) outperform higher-income economies like Saudi Arabia (85) and Kuwait (93). Morocco (95) and Tunisia (98) follow next, while Algeria (114), Mauritania (122) and Yemen (124) hold the last spots in the region.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Mauritius (72) holds the highest position in the region. While another six countries rank between 80 and 100, another 17 countries from Africa rank below 100 in the index. South Africa is in 92nd place and Kenya at 101. The region’s most populous country, Nigeria (120) is among the bottom three in the region, while the second most populous country, Ethiopia, is in 115th place. With the exception of the top-ranked country, the region is characterized by chronically low investment in education and learning.

Results by Income Group

While the overall country scores are generally correlated with the GDP per capita, there are differences and overlaps between income groups, with some lower-income countries far outperforming richer ones.

Within the low income group, countries with a GDP per capita under $1,045, Tajikistan (65), Cambodia (97) and Bangladesh (99) perform well ahead Burundi (121) and Chad (123), the lowest-ranking countries within this income group.

Within the lower-middle income group, countries with a GDP per capita between $1,045 and $4,125, Ukraine (31), Armenia (43), Kyrgyz Republic (44) and the Philippines (46) place well ahead of Nigeria (120), Mauritania (122) and Yemen (124).

Within the upper-middle income group, countries with a GDP per capita between $4,126 and $12,745, Hungary (32), Kazakhstan (37) and Romania (39) rank at the top of this group, while Namibia (94), Tunisia (98) and Algeria (114) hold the last three spots.

Among the high income countries, those with a GDP per capita above $12,746, Finland, Norway and Switzerland hold the top three spots in the index overall. Barbados (77), Saudi Arabia (85) and Kuwait (93) hold the last three spots.

Business and Policy Implications

In addition to the index, the report provides the latest available information on the numbers of current and recent graduates in major fields of study in each country and detailed information on the population’s workforce activity as well as levels of education.

“Our goal is to support business leaders, policy-makers, civil society and the public in taking the informed, data-driven decisions that are needed to unlock human potential. The index shows that all countries – both rich and poor – have yet to optimize their human capital and calls for a new people-centric model of growth,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head of the Employment, Skills and Human Capital Initiative and co-author of the report.

The report and index were produced in collaboration with Mercer. “The Human Capital Index is a critical tool for global employers,” said Julio A. Portalatin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mercer. “It allows them to determine the most pressing issues impacting talent availability and suitability around the world today and identify those issues that have the potential to impact business success in the future – invaluable insight for guiding the allocation of workforce development and investments.”

Methodology

The Human Capital Index ranks 124 countries on how well they are developing and deploying their human capital, focusing on education, skills and employment. It aims to understand whether countries are wasting or leveraging their human potential. The report measures this distance from the ideal – or waste – by disaggregating data across five age groups to capture the full demographic profile of a country:

•Under 15 years – the youngest members of the population for whom education is assessed among the most critical factors

•15-24 years – youth for whom factors such as higher education and skills use in the workplace are assessed

•25-55 years – the bulk of the labour force, for whom continued learning and employment opportunities are assessed

•55-64 years – the most senior members of most workforce for whom attainment and employment opportunities are assessed

•65 and over years – the oldest members of the population, for whom both continued opportunity and health are assessed

The generational lens sheds light on age-specific patterns of labour market exclusion and untapped human capital potential. In total, the Human Capital Index covers 46 indicators. Values for each of the indicators come from publicly available data compiled by international organizations such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition to hard data, the index uses a limited set of qualitative survey data from the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey. The methodology also allows for comparisons within a country as well as between countries.

The Human Capital Index is among the set of tools provided by the Forum as part of its global initiative on Employment, Skills and Human Capital. The initiative produces analysis and insights focused on forecasting the future of jobs across major industry sectors as well as best practices from businesses that are taking the lead in addressing the skills gaps and unemployment. The initiative also creates public-private collaboration on jobs and skills in several regions of the world and within industry groups, with a focus on involving business in supporting education, lifelong learning, skills development and entrepreneurship.

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Iran has an integral role to play in Russian-South Asian connectivity

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Iran is geostrategically positioned to play an integral role in Russian-South Asian connectivity. President Putin told the Valdai Club during its annual meeting in October 2019 that “there is one more prospective route, the Arctic – Siberia – Asia.

The idea is to connect ports along the Northern Sea Route with ports of the Pacific and Indian oceans via roads in East Siberia and central Eurasia.” This vision, which forms a crucial part of his country’s “Greater Eurasian Partnership”, can be achieved through the official North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) and tentative W-CPEC+ projects that transit through the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The first one refers to the creation of a new trade route from Russia to India through Azerbaijan and Iran, while the second concerns the likely expansion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC, the flagship project of China’s Belt & Road Initiative [BRI]) westward through Iran and largely parallel to the NSTC. W-CPEC+ can also continue towards Turkey and onward to the EU, but that branch is beyond the scope of the present analysis. The NSTC’s terminal port is the Indian-backed Chabahar, but delays in fully developing its infrastructure might lead to Bandar Abbas being used as a backup in the interim.

CPEC’s Chinese-backed terminal port of Gwadar is in close proximity to Chabahar, thus presenting the opportunity of eventually pairing the two as sister cities, especially in the event that rumored negotiations between China and Iran result in upwards of several hundred billion dollars worth of investments like some have previously reported. The combination of Russian, Indian, and Chinese infrastructure investments in Iran would greatly improve the country’s regional economic competitiveness and enable it to fulfill its geostrategic destiny of facilitating connectivity between Russia and South Asia.

What’s most intriguing about this ambitious vision is that Iran is proving to the rest of the world that it isn’t “isolated” like the U.S. and its closest allies thought that it would be as a result of their policy of so-called “maximum pressure” against it in recent years. While it’s true that India has somewhat stepped away from its previously strategic cooperation with Iran out of fear that it’ll be punished by “secondary sanctions” if it continued its pragmatic partnership with the Islamic Republic, it’s worthwhile mentioning that Chabahar curiously secured a U.S. sanctions waiver.

While the American intent behind that decision is unclear, it might have been predicated on the belief that the Iranian-facilitated expansion of Indian influence into Central Asia via Chabahar might help to “balance” Chinese influence in the region. It could also have simply been a small but symbolic “concession” to India in order not to scare it away from supporting the U.S. anti-Chinese containment strategy. It’s difficult to tell what the real motive was since American-Indian relations are currently complicated by Washington’s latest sanctions threats against New Delhi in response to its decision to purchase Russia’s S-400 air defense systems.

Nevertheless, even in the worst-case scenario that Indian investment and infrastructural support for Iran can’t be taken for granted in the coming future, that still doesn’t offset the country’s geostrategic plans. Russia could still use the NSTC to connect with W-CPEC and ultimately the over 200+ million Pakistani marketplaces. In theory, Russian companies in Pakistan could also re-export their home country’s NSTC-imported goods to neighboring India, thereby representing a pragmatic workaround to New Delhi’s potential self-interested distancing from that project which could also provide additional much-needed tax revenue for Islamabad.

Iran must therefore do its utmost to ensure Russia’s continued interest in the NSTC regardless of India’s approach to the project. Reconceptualizing the NSTC from its original Russian-Indian connectivity purpose to the much broader one of Russian-South Asian connectivity could help guarantee Moscow’s support. In parallel with that, Tehran would do well to court Beijing’s investments along W-CPEC+’s two branch corridors to Azerbaijan/Russia and Turkey/EU. Any success on any of these fronts, let alone three of them, would advance Iran’s regional interests by solidifying its integral geo-economic role in 21st-century Eurasia.

From our partner Tehran Times

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The phenomenon of land grabbing by multinationals

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Since 2012 the United Nations has adopted voluntary guidelines for land and forest management to combat land grabbing. But only a few people know about the guidelines, which aim to protect small farmers particularly in Third World countries.

When multinational investors buy up fields for their huge plantations, the residents lose their livelihood and means of support and will soon only be sleeping in their villages. If they are lucky, they might find work with relatives in another village. Many also try their luck in the city, but poverty and unemployment are high. What remains are depopulated villages and the huge palm oil plantations that have devoured farmland. People can no longer go there to hunt and grow plants or get firewood. The land no longer belongs to them!

Land grabbingis the process whereby mostly foreign investors deprive local farmers or fishermen of their fields, lakes and rivers. Although it has been widely used throughout history, land grabbing – as used in the 21st century – mainly refers to large-scale land acquisitions following the global food price crisis of 2007-2008.

From 2000 until 2019 one hundred million hectares of land have been sold or leased to foreign investors and the list of the most affected countries can be found here below:

Such investment may also make sense for the development of a country, but it must not deprive people of their rights: local people are starving while food is being produced and turned into biofuels for export right before their eyes.

In 2012, after three years of discussion, the UN created an instrument to prevent such land grabbing: the VGGTs (Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security:

Detailed minimum standards for investment are established, e.g. the participation of affected people or how to safeguard the rights of indigenous peoples and prevent corruption. Formally, the document provides a significant contribution to all people fighting for their rights.

The document, however, is quite cryptic. The guidelines should be simplified and explained. Only in this way can activists, but also farmers and fishermen, become aware of their rights.

Others doubt that much can be achieved through these guidelines because they are voluntary. After all, the UN has little or no say in the matter and can do no more than that. If governments implemented them, they would apply them as they will.

In Bolivia, for example, there are already laws that are supposed to prevent land grabbing. In the Amazon, however, Brazilian and Argentinian companies are buying up forests to grow soya and sugar cane, often with the approval and agreement of corrupt government officials. Further guidelines would probably be of little use.

At most, activists already use the guidelines to lobby their governments. Together with other environmental and human rights activists, they set up networks: through local radio stations and village meetings, they inform people of the fact that they right to their land.

Nevertheless, in many countries in Africa and elsewhere, there is a lack of documentation proving land ownership. Originally, tribal leaders vocally distributed rights of use. But today’s leaders are manipulated to pressure villagers to sell their land.

The biggest investors are Indians and Europeans: they are buying up the land to grow sugar cane and palm oil plantations. This phenomenon has been going on since 2008: at that time – as noted above – the world food crisis drove up food prices and foreign investors, but also governments, started to invest in food and biofuels.

Investment inland, which has been regarded as safe since the well-known financial crisis, must also be taken into account. Recently Chinese companies have also been buying up thousands of hectares of land.

In some parts of Africa, only about 6% of land is cultivated for food purposes, while on the remaining areas there are palm oil plantations. Once the plantations grow two or three metres high, they have a devastating effect on monocultures that rely on biodiversity, because of the huge areas they occupy. There is also environmental pollution due to fertilisers: in a village, near a plantation run by a Luxembourg company, many people have suffered from diarrhoea and some elderly villagers even died.

Consequently, the implementation of the VGGTs must be made binding as soon as possible. But with an organisation like the United Nations, how could this happen?

It is not only the indigenous peoples or the local groups of small farmers that are being deprived of everything. The common land used is also being lost, as well as many ecosystems that are still intact: wetlands are being drained, forests cleared and savannas turned into agricultural deserts. New landowners fence off their areas and deny access to the original owners. In practice, this is the 21st century equivalent of the containment of monastery land in Europe that began in the Middle Ages.

The vast majority of contracts are concentrated in poorer countries with weak institutions and land rights, where many people are starving. There, investors compete with local farmers. The argument to which the advocates of land grabbing hold -i.e. that it is mainly uncultivated land that needs to be reclaimed – is refuted. On the contrary, investors prefer well-developed and cultivated areas that promise high returns. However, they do not improve the supply of local population.

Foreign agricultural enterprises prefer to develop the so-called flexible crops, i.e. plants such as the aforementioned oil palm, soya and sugar cane, which, depending on the market situation, can be sold as biofuel or food.

But there is more! If company X of State Y buys food/fuel producing areas, it is the company that sells to its State Y and not the host State Z that, instead, assigns its future profits derived from international State-to-State trade to the aforementioned multinational or state-owned company of State Y.

Furthermore, there is almost no evidence of land investment creating jobs, as most projects were export-oriented. The British aid organisation Oxfam confirms that many land acquisitions took place in areas where food was being grown for the local population. Since local smallholders are generally weak and poorly educated, they can hardly defend themselves against the grabbing of the land they use. Government officials sell or lease it, often without even paying compensation.

Land grabbing is also present in ‘passive’ Europe. Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Lithuania and Bulgaria are affected, but also the territories of Eastern Germany. Funds and agricultural enterprises from “active” and democratic Europe, i.e. the West, and the Arab Gulf States are the main investors.

We might think that the governments of the affected countries would have the duty to protect their own people from such expropriations. Quite the reverse. They often support land grabbing. Obviously, corruption is often involved. In many countries, however, the agricultural sector has been criminally neglected in the past and multinationals are taking advantage of this under the pretext of remedying this situation.

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No let-up in Indian farmers’ protest due to subconscious fear of “crony capitalism”

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The writer has analysed why the farmers `now or never’ protest has persisted despite heavy odds. He is of the view that the farmers have the subconscious fear that the “crony capitalism” would eliminate traditional markets, abolish market support price and grab their landholdings. Already the farmers have been committing suicides owing to debt burden, poor monthly income (Rs. 1666 a month) and so on.”Crony capitalism” implies nexus between government and businesses that thrives on sweetheart deals, licences and permits eked through tweaking rules and regulations.

Stalemate between the government and the farmers’ unions is unchanged despite 11 rounds of talks. The farmers view the new farm laws as a ploy to dispossess them of their land holdings and give a free hand to tycoons to grab farmers’ holdings, though small.

Protesters allege the new laws were framed in secret understanding with tycoons. The farmers have a reason to abhor the rich businesses. According to an  a  January 2020 Oxfam India’s richest one  per cent hold over four times the wealth of 953 million people who make up the poorest 70 per cent  of the country’s population. India’s top nine billionaires’ Inc one is equivalent to wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of the population. The opposition has accused the government of “crony capitalism’.

Government has tried every tactic in its tool- kit to becloud the movement (sponsored y separatist Sikhs, desecrated Republic Day by hoisting religious flags at the Red ford, and so on). The government even shrugged off the protest by calling it miniscule and unrepresentative of 16.6 million farmers and 131,000 traders registered until May 2020. The government claims that it has planned to build 22,000 additional mandis (markets) 2021-22 in addition to already-available over 1,000 mandis.

Unruffled by government’s arguments, the opposition continues to accuse the government of being “suit-boot ki sarkar” and an ardent supporter of “crony capitalism” (Ambani and Adani). Modi did many favours to the duo. For instance they were facilitated to join hands with foreign companies to set up defence-equipment projects in India. BJP-ruled state governments facilitated the operation of mines in collaboration with the Ambani group  just years after the Supreme Court had cancelled the allotment of 214 coal blocks for captive mining (MS Nileema, `Coalgate 2.0’, The Caravan March 1, 2018). Modi used Adani’s aircraft in March, April and May 2014 for election campaigning across the country.

“Crony capitalism” is well defined in the English oxford Living Dictionaries, Cambridge and Merriam –Webster. Merriam-Webster defines “crony capitalism” as “an economic system in which individuals and businesses with political connections and influence are favored (as through tax breaks, grants, and other forms of government assistance) in ways seen as suppressing open competition in a free market

If there’s one”.

Cambridge dictionary defines the term as “ an economic system in which family members and friends of government officials and business leaders are given unfair advantages in the form of jobs, loans, etc.:government-owned firms engaged in crony capitalism”.

A common point in all the definitions is undue favours (sweetheart contracts, licences, etc) to select businesses. It is worse than nepotism as the nepotism has a limited scope and life cycle. But, “crony capitalism” becomes institutionalized.

Modi earned the title “suit-boot ki sarkar” when a non-resident Indian, Rameshkumar Bhikabhai virani gifted him a Rs. 10 lac suit. To save his face, Modi later auctioned the suit on February 20, 2015. The suit fetched price of Rs, 4, 31, 31311 or nearly four hundred times the original price. Modi donated the proceeds of auction to a fund meant for cleaning the River Ganges. `It was subsequently alleged that the Surat-based trader Laljibhai Patel who bought the suit had been favoured by being allotted government land for building  a private sports club (BJP returns ‘favour’, Modi suit buyer to get back land, Tribune June21, 2015).

Miffed by opposition’s vitriolic opposition, Ambani’s $174 billion conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. Categorically denied collusion with Modi’s government earlier this month. Reliance clarified that it had never done any contract farming or acquired farm land, and harboured no plans to do so in future. It also vowed to ensure its suppliers will pay government-mandated minimum prices to farmers. The Adani Group also had clarified last month that it did not buy food grains from farmers or influence their prices.

Modi-Ambani-Adani nexus

Like Modi, both Adani and Ambani hail from the western Indian state of Gujarat, just, who served as the state’s chief for over a decade. Both the tycoons are reputed to be Modi’s henchmen. Their industry quickly aligns its business strategies to Modi’s nation-building initiatives. For instance, Adani created a rival regional industry lobby and helped kick off a biannual global investment summit in Gujarat in 2003 that boosted Modi’s pro-business credentials. During 2020, Ambani raised record US$27 billion in equity investments for his technology and retail businesses from investors including Google and Face book Inc. He wants to convert these units into a powerful local e-commerce rival to Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Inc. The Adani group, which humbly started off as a commodities trader in 1988, has grown rapidly to become India’s top private-sector port operator and power generator.

Parallel with the USA

Ambani and Adani are like America’s Rockefellers and Vanderbilt’s in the USA’s Gilded Age in the second half of the 19th century (James Crabtree, The Billionaire Raj: a Journey through India’s New Gilded Age).

Modi government’s tutelage of Ambanis and Adanis is an open secret. Kerala challenged Adani’s bid for an airport lease is. A state minister said last year that Adani winning the bid was “an act of brazen cronyism.”

Threat of elimination of traditional markets

Farmers who could earlier sell grains and other products only at neighbouring government-regulated wholesale markets can now sell them across the country, including the big food processing companies and retailers such as WalMart.

The farmers fear the government will eventually abolish the wholesale markets, where growers were assured of a minimum support price for staples like wheat and rice, leaving small farmers at the mercy of corporate agri-businesses.

Is farmers’ fear genuine?

The farmers have a logical point. Agriculture yield less profit than industry. As such, even the USA heavily subsidies its agriculture. US farmers got more than $22 billion in government payments in 2019, the highest level of farm subsidies in the last 14 years, and the corporate sector paid for it. The Indian government is reluctant to give a permanent legal guarantee for the MSP. In contrast, the US and Western Europe buy directly from the farmers and build their butter and cheese mountains. Even the prices of farm products at the retail and wholesale levels are controlled by the capitalist government. In short, not the principles of capitalization but well-worked-out welfare measures are adopted to sustain the farm sector in the advanced West.

Threat of monopsonic exploitation

The farmers would suffer double exploitation under a monopsony (more sellers less buyers) at the hands of corporate sharks.  They would pay less than the minimum support price to the producers. Likewise, consumers will have to pay more because the public distribution system is likely to be undermined as mandi (regulated wholesale market) procurement is would eventually cease to exist.

Plight of the Indian farmer

The heavily indebted Indian farmer has average income of only about Rs. 20000 a year (about Rs. 1666 a month). Thousands of farmers commit suicide by eating pesticides to get rid of their financial difficulties.

A study by India’s National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development found that more than half of farmers in India are in debt. More than 20,000 people involved in the farming sector died by suicide from 2018-2019, with several studies suggesting that being in debt was a key factor.

More than 86 per cent of India’s cultivated farmland is owned by small farmers who own less than two hectares of land each (about two sports fields). These farmers lack acumen to bargain with bigger companies. Farmers fear the Market Support Price will disappear as corporations start buying their produce.

Concluding remarks

Modi sarkar is unwilling to yield to the farmers’ demand for fear of losing his strongman image and Domino Effect’. If he yields on say, the matter of the farm laws, he may have to give in on the Citizenship Amendment Act also. Fund collection in some foreign countries has started to sustain the movement. As such, the movement may not end anytime soon. Unless Modi yields early, he would suffer voter backlash in coming elections. The farm sector contributes only about 15 per cent of India’s $2.9 trillion economy. But, it employs around half its 1.3 billion people. 

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