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Trust

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It’s all a matter of trust, and, frankly, the people don’t trust you. “You” refers to the government, big business and the media. The lack of trust applies to a huge assortment of entities.

It starts with the present federal government administration, including the President and his vast assortment of gurus. It continues with congress and the judiciary, state and local governments. It extends to big business concerns such as the defunct Enron company, some auto and oil industry firms, numerous banks, several Wall Street investment brokerages, behemoths including AIG, and specific claim-dodging insurance companies. The list goes on ad infinitum.

Government officials of all stripes, Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), their business executives and media moguls better wake up and change their ways. Past history has caught up with them. It’s a history reeking from failures, lack of oversight, corruption, fraud, greed, lies, shams, gimmicks and outright incompetence. The people grow weary of it all and are becoming angry. A restive populace indicates a desire for change, but this time people want the right kind of change.

Things folks would like to change run the gamut from the simple through the complex to the sublime. Let’s consider a few examples starting with a simple one like a typical ad offering a product on sale for $19.95. Why not say it like it is? The people know that the item is not really on sale in the first place, and that it is actually rounded off at an out-of-pocket cost of $20.00. They are not impressed with the ploys and gimmickry employed with slick sales tactics. In fact, they find these rather tedious and disgusting. Again, a newspaper subscription promotion offering the Sunday paper for $1.00 a copy per month for a full year sounds good, right? The catch is that one must pay for the subscription by allowing the newspaper to debit your credit card for payment. Otherwise the price increases from $4.00 to $6.25 per month. Of course, the promoter does not divulge this information until the potential customer is asked for their credit card information. Then the subterfuge becomes clear, and the client exhibits a degree of irritability at having been temporarily duped. It all ends in a waste of time, effort and no sale. Now some people would call these shrewd business tactics, gimmicks or ploys; others would label them as they are – deceit or outright lies.

There are other simple business gimmicks (let’s call them little lies) that people would like to change as well. The favorite deceptions of the business community are the rebate versus a straightforward, simple discount; the “plus postage and handling” ploy; and the usurious interest rates and excessive overdraft fees on credit cards by banks. We have all encountered these odious practices and have acquired a built-in aversion to them. The business community should reconsider these gimmicks and eliminate them. The majority of their potential customers have already done so in their own minds.

Some of the more complex things that folks would like to change might be exemplified in   the many pork barrel projects inserted into numerous hand bills passed by our politicians at the various levels of government. As any past president or governor can testify, the line item veto is needed here in order to defeat the pork barrel riders attached to valid legislation without vetoing the entire hand bill. Does the “bridge to nowhere in Alaska” or the “$600 toilet housing with seat” for U.S. Air Force aircraft ring a bell with anyone? Of course, our elected politicians would never consider allowing the line item veto to become law. That would ruin their pork barrel tactics; it would take the cover off their deceit and wholesale hypocrisy. Ah, but there is always the next election at which the electorate can level the playing field by eliminating those politicians deserving of censure and rebuke for their misdeeds. The hypocrites involved in such shenanigans seem to forget that they will ultimately pay the price. Admittedly, however, too many of them get away with their deceptions for too long a time before justice catches up with them, if it ever does.

Government is not the only culprit. What of the oil industry’s artificially inflated gasoline and oil prices, especially as a prelude to seasonal climate changes, long weekends and traditional holidays – are these prices possibly manipulated by oil company executives just as they are by the oil producing nations? This manufactured price inflation is only superseded by the outright greed exhibited at annual bonus or retirement times by industry CEOs.  

One of the things people would like to change that has been getting a lot of attention lately is the health care program. This issue and attempts to resolve it border on the sublime. Yes, all agree that health care reform is needed and that no one solution will satisfy all of the people. Yet we must ensure that in trying to correct the ills of the past, we don’t incur even greater flaws in the future program. Formerly, the insurance companies controlled too much; at present they still do; in future they better not. Additionally, hospital and doctor fees have been outrageously high and must be tempered and moderated. The people, too, must be educated to impose self-discipline so as not to abuse the new system that will eventually be established. And most important of all is that oversight must be established and enforced to keep everyone relatively honest.

The Obama Administration and Congressional Health Care Proposals all claim that their respective plans will be paid for out of savings from the current health care program, primarily MEDICARE. This is indeed a wild assumption, and there is no reason to believe that it will be so. Fraud, waste and abuse have not been stopped over all the past years of the currently existing program and won’t be stopped by implementing any new health plan. Why is this the case? Corruption, waste and abuse will continue because of human nature. Even if strict oversight is established, people in government, business and citizens-at-large will find ways to defeat the system and continue their wasteful, abusive and corrupt ways. Wherever people and money are involved, fraud, waste and abuse will follow. The best we can hope for is to keep some modicum of discipline and preventive control.

Equally sublime are unsubstantiated assertions of racial discrimination, liberal claims of conservative obstructionism, and conservative claims of democratic socialism regarding the health care issue. These are all balderdash. The liberal and conservative entities are simply pursuing their separate agendas rather than searching for ways to compromise and come to agreement. The liberals promote their relative agenda of universal health care for everyone and include a public option, complete coverage for abortion, contraception, sterilization, human embryonic stem cell therapy, euthanasia and assisted suicide. The conservatives want universal coverage as well but oppose the public option for economic reasons and all of the other dubious and controversial coverages on moral grounds. They do not want tax dollars used to promote those efforts which they consider to be morally wrong and intrinsically evil. The quest for compromise and agreement continues on the health care issue, as does polarization of liberal and conservative political and business positions. Sooner or later a solution will be reached through compromise. Hopefully, the compromise will overcome all the sublime arguments and will result in an improved, economical and morally acceptable health care plan for all with adequate oversight to prevent, or at least subdue, fraud, waste and abuse.

Now let’s get back to the primary issue of trust. It is not so much the President and CEOs that cause our disbelief, although they are not exempt. It is, rather, all the President’s men and corporate business executives in general that contribute to the public’s mistrust. It is the President’s corps of operatives and gurus with their past extremely liberal or even radical histories and their present hidden agendas that contribute to the public’s suspicions as to the administration’s true motives and goals. As a consequence, those same suspicions apply to President Obama himself, since he appointed his cabinet and collection of gurus. As for business in general, we the people have always been wary of its hypocrisy and sleazy, deceptive practices. Where else did the warnings “buyer beware” and “get it in writing and signed” originate? “By their works you shall know them.” Therein lies a clue to the people’s mistrust. A greater degree of transparency by all concerned would help to reduce or eliminate that mistrust.

In an effort to be transparent, the President tries to explain and clarify his position on each important issue facing the nation with frequent media events and public speeches. Yet these are unconvincing; they amount to overexposure and information overload. He is trying too hard. If his positions on the issues are so good for the people and the country, why aren’t they obviously so? Why does he feel that he must convince us of their worth? Why is it that half of this nation’s people don’t believe him?

They don’t believe him because it is a matter of trust. The people are suspicious and lacking in trust of President Obama’s administration, and he who leads it, because the final results of the administration’s initiated actions on the important issues are still pending. President Barack Obama talks a good story, but words are cheap. Shakespeare expresses it best: “. . . truth hath better deeds than words to grace it.” Earning the people’s trust depends on achieving positive results on critical problems such as health care, the economy, jobs, trade, the housing and credit markets, the deficit, and successful handling of the Afghan and Iraqi Wars, for example. These issues and their outcome will determine whether the people’s trust will be bestowed or withheld. All of these matters, and more, are currently unresolved. We shall have to wait and see how things work out regarding the critical issues of the day. Meanwhile, doubt and mistrust prevail.

Despite all the suspicion, fear and anxiety, the President and his administration, congress and the judiciary, CEOs, their corporate executives and the media must be given the benefit of a doubt – at least temporarily. They must be given time to prove that they are worthy of trust, once again. After all of the debacles and misfires of the past several years, this will be a monumental task. We wish them well in pursuit of their goals and the people’s trust, all the while keeping in mind the biblical admonition – “By their actions you shall know them.”

Amidst all the turmoil and doubt, one might be prompted to consider two possible prophecies – that of a young man pursuing his liberal vision, or one of an old man dreaming his conservative dream. Whichever prophecy is realized, we must not sell our souls to the devil, yet all must take a stand and abide by it. We, the people, must choose wisely. We must caution our government, big business, and the media to take heed lest past and present foul deeds incur the people’s wrath and lead to anarchy. The powers that be must beware of what changes they institute lest they reap the whirlwind. And reap it they will if they do not regain the people’s trust. They must remember the prophet Jonah’s warning to Nineveh to repent. Armageddon draws near.

Economy

Economic Growth in Africa Rebounds, But Not Fast Enough

MD Staff

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Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth is projected to reach 3.1 percent in 2018, and to average 3.6 percent in 2019–20, says Africa’s Pulse, a bi-annual analysis of the state of African economies conducted by the World Bank, released today.

The growth forecasts are premised on expectations that oil and metals prices will remain stable, and that governments in the region will implement reforms to address macroeconomic imbalances and boost investment.

“Growth has rebounded in Sub-Saharan Africa, but not fast enough. We are still far from pre-crisis growth levels,” said Albert G. Zeufack, World Bank Chief Economist for the Africa Region. “African Governments must speed up and deepen macroeconomic and structural reforms to achieve high and sustained levels of growth.”

The moderate pace of economic expansion reflects the gradual pick-up in growth in the region’s three largest economies, Nigeria, Angola and South Africa. Elsewhere, economic activity will pick up in some metals exporters, as mining production and investment rise. Among non-resource intensive countries, solid growth, supported by infrastructure investment, will continue in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), led by Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. Growth prospects have strengthened in most of East Africa, owing to improving agriculture sector growth following droughts and a rebound in private sector credit growth; in Ethiopia, growth will remain high, as government-led infrastructure investment continues.

For many African countries, the economic recovery is vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices and production,” said Punam Chuhan-Pole, World Bank Lead Economist and the author of the report.  “This underscores the need for countries to build resilience by pushing diversification strategies to the top of the policy agenda.”

Public debt relative to GDP is rising in the region, and the composition of debt has changed, as countries have shifted away from traditional concessional sources of financing toward more market-based ones. Higher debt burdens and the increasing exposure to market risks raise concerns about debt sustainability: 18 countries were classified at high-risk of debt distress in March 2018, compared with eight in 2013.

“By fully embracing technology and leveraging innovation, Africa can boost productivity across and within sectors, and accelerate growth,” said Zeufack.

This issue of Africa’s Pulse has a special focus on the role of innovation in accelerating electrification in Sub-Saharan Africa, and its implications of achieving inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction. The report finds that achieving universal electrification in Sub-Saharan Africa will require a combination of solutions involving the national grid, as well as “mini-grids” and “micro-grids” serving small concentrations of electricity users, and off-grid home-scale systems. Improving regulation of the electricity sector and better management of utilities remain key to success.

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Economy

Multilateral Development Banks Present Study on Technology’s Impact on Jobs

MD Staff

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Rapid technological progress provides a golden opportunity for emerging and developing economies to grow faster and attain higher levels of prosperity. However, some disruptive technologies could displace human labor, widen income inequality, and contribute to greater informality in the workforce. Tapping new technologies in a way that maximizes benefits, mitigates adverse effects, and shares benefits among all citizens will require public-private cooperation and smart public policy.

That is one of the main conclusions of a new study, The Future of Work: Regional Perspectives, released today by four regional multilateral development institutions: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The study, which was presented at a seminar hosted 19 April at the IDB in Washington, D.C., explores the potential impact of technology in global labor markets and identifies concrete actions countries can take to prepare for the changing nature of jobs and leverage the benefits of emerging technologies.

The Future of Work: Regional Perspectives analyzes the challenges and opportunities presented by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics in what is known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Potential challenges include increased inequality and the elimination of jobs, as well as the high degree of uncertainty brought about by technological change and automation. The greatest opportunities come from gains in economic growth that can result from increased productivity, efficiency, and lower operating costs.

The study includes chapters focusing on how new technological developments already are affecting labor markets in each region.

In the case of Asia and the Pacific, ADB research shows that even in the face of advances in areas such as robotics and artificial intelligence, there are compelling reasons to be optimistic about the region’s job prospects. New technologies often automate only some tasks of a job, not the whole. Moreover, job automation goes ahead only where it is both technically and economically feasible. Perhaps most importantly, rising demand—itself the result of the productivity benefits that new technologies bring—offsets job displacement driven by automation and contributes to the creation of new professions.

“ADB’s research shows that countries in Asia will fare well as new technology is introduced into the workplace, improving productivity, lowering production costs, and raising demand,” said Yasuyuki Sawada, ADB’s Chief Economist. “To ensure that everyone can benefit from new technologies, policymakers will need to pursue education reforms that promote lifelong learning, maintain labor market flexibility, strengthen social protection systems, and reduce income inequality.”

The publication was launched with a panel discussion featuring senior officials of the four regional development banks leading the study: Luis Alberto Moreno (IDB President), Charles O. Boamah (AfDB Senior Vice-President), Takehiko Nakao (ADB President), and Suma Chakrabarti (EBRD President). They were joined by Susan Lund (Lead of the McKinsey Global Institute) and Pagés, one of the co-authors.

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Economy

Circular economy: More recycling of household waste, less landfilling

MD Staff

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EU Parliament backs ambitious recycling targets, under legislation on waste and the circular economy, adopted on Wednesday.

Improving waste management will not only benefit the environment, climate, and human health. The four pieces of legislation are also part of a shift in EU policy towards a circular economy, i.e. a system where the value of products, materials and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible.

By 2025, at least 55% of municipal waste (from households and businesses) should be recycled, says the text, as agreed with Council of Ministers. The target will rise to 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035. 65% of packaging materials will have to be recycled by 2025, and 70% by 2030. Separate targets are set for specific packaging materials, such as paper and cardboard, plastics, glass, metal and wood.

Landfilling to become an exception

The draft law also limits the share of municipal waste being landfilled to a maximum of 10% by 2035. In 2014, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden sent virtually no municipal waste to landfill, whereas Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Latvia and Malta still landfill more than three quarters of their municipal waste.

Textiles and hazardous waste from households will have to be collected separately by 2025. By 2024, biodegradable waste will also have to be either collected separately or recycled at home through composting.

Reduce food waste by 50 %

In line with the UN sustainable development goals, member states should aim to reduce food waste by 30% by 2025 and 50% by 2030. In order to prevent food waste, member states should provide incentives for the collection of unsold food products and their safe redistribution. Consumer awareness of the meaning of “use by” and “best before” label dates should also be improved, say MEPs.

“With this package, Europe is firmly committed to sustainable economic and social development, which will at last integrate industrial policies and environmental protection”, said lead MEP Simona Bonafè (S&D, IT). “The circular economy is not only a waste management policy, but is a way to recover raw materials and not to overstretch the already scarce resources of our planet, also by profoundly innovating our production system”.

“This package also contains important measures on waste management, but at the same time goes further, by defining rules taking into account the entire life cycle of a product and aims to change the behaviour of businesses and consumers. For the first time, Member States will be obliged to follow a single, shared legislative framework”, she added.

Background: what is a circular economy?

A circular economy implies reducing waste to a minimum as well as re-using, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products. Moving towards a more circular economy will reduce pressure on the environment, enhance security of supply of raw materials, increase competitiveness, innovation and growth, and create jobs.

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