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Time to invest in Russia despite sanctions threat?

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The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Thursday, June 11:

1Time to invest despite sanctions threat? “Despite this uncertainty, however, some market participants argued there were “bargains” in Russia.”There is significant opportunity here. The one thing with Russia is that it generally goes from being the worst (performing) stock market to the first stock market in a very rapid rate,” Simon Fentham-Fletcher, chief information officer of Freedom Asset Management, told CNBC Europe’s “Squawk Box” Wednesday. His company specializes in investment in emerging markets, such as Russia. Certain sectors – such as retail and real estate – were thriving, Fentham-Fletcher said, speaking from Moscow” writes Holly Ellyatt for the CNBC.

2Duqu 2.0: computer virus ‘linked to Israel’ found at Iran nuclear talks venue. “The security company Kaspersky discovered the virus, which it said was a new variant of the Duqu worm, itself a variant of the state-sponsored computer virus Stuxnet, used to attack Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in 2010. Known as Duqu 2.0, the new worm was, Kaspersky said, used to attack three European hotels where the P5+1 talks involving the US, UK, Germany, France, Russia, and China with the EU concerning Iranian nuclear capabilities were held over the last 18 months. Kaspersky did not identify the hotels or say who was behind the attack. However, Israel is thought to have deployed the original Duqu worm to carry out sensitive intelligence gathering” writes Samuel Gibbs for the guardian.

3In his opening speech at the Fifth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions Wednesday in Kazakh capital Astana, President Nazarbayev said the trust that has been built in the decades since World War II has been lost. Describing Islam as a “tolerant” religion, Nazarbayev said that it was “blasphemous” to use it as an excuse for extremism and terrorism.”The destruction of centuries-old cultural heritage sites in Iraq and Syria cannot be called anything else but anti-humane acts,” he said. Kazakhstan can be a model for religious freedom, added Nazarbayev, “The key foundation is tolerance and openness.” Attended by 80 delegations from 42 countries, the two day inter-religious meeting, which takes place once every three years, is aimed at shaping resolutions for global threats and challenges through communication among religious leaders.

4Azerbaijan blocks Amnesty visit ahead of European Games. Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, said the crackdown by authorities “only highlighted their desperate attempts to create a criticism-free zone around the games”. He added that the legacy of the event would be to “further encourage repressive authorities around the world to view major international sporting events as a ticket to international prestige”. In its new report, the London-based group said the government’s campaign against activists had left Azerbaijan “without independent voices”.”Behind the image trumpeted by the government of a forward-looking, modern nation is a state where criticism of the authorities is routinely and increasingly met with repression,” said the report, which was released on Wednesday. [BBC]

5Kazakhstan has finished negotiating the terms of a deal to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), capping 20 years of efforts to take part in the world of mainstream commerce. The country’s WTO accession package will go for final approval before WTO members on June 22.”I congratulate WTO members and the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the historic step taken today,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said on June 10. “I look forward to welcoming Kazakhstan to the WTO.”Ambassador Vesa Himanen of Finland, who chaired the WTO working party that negotiated the deal with Kazakhstan, said it was “one of the most challenging negotiations in the 20-year history of the organization.” [TASS]

6Russia has no contract with Iran to import its oil, but may help resell it on the world market, according to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak. Already the two countries cooperate in a variety of commercial sectors. One key aspect is Russia supplying fuel for Iran’s nuclear power reactor at Bushehr in central Iran on the Persian Gulf coast. Last August’ deal could be essential for Iran, whose crude exports have plunged by more than half – from 2.5 million barrels per day to about 1 million barrels per day – since 2011, when the international community tightened sanctions. Any company trading with Iran is forbidden under the sanctions from doing business with the U.S. and Europe. Iran recently has expressed hope and even confidence that the sanctions imposed on it may be lifted soon” writes Andy Tully for the Oilprice.

7BRICS Bank Could Change the Game. “There are challenges to overcome. Researcher Wood thinks that “the bank’s short term challenges will be logistical, completing basic things like hiring staff, building internal operational procedures, and so on. Once this is completed, two larger challenges will present themselves. First, making a decision on what projects to fund, which will involve answering difficult questions on what type of projects the bank prioritizes, where it most wants to operate, and what role political priorities might play. Second, would be in building relationships with existing funders, like the World Bank and AIIB, to assure the BRICS bank doesn’t have to bear all the risk of the projects it gets involved in” writes Kester Kenn Klomegah for the Modern Diplomacy.

8Why Almaty should get the 2022 Winter Olympics. “In contrast with the grassroots opposition that scuttled Norway’s bid, Kazakhstan’s bid has overwhelming public support. Two polls were conducted to gauge national opinion on the Games. A poll that the International Olympic Committee commissioned showed 87 percent support. A poll that the Almaty 2022 organization conducted showed 79 percent support. One reason Almaty’s cost proposal is so reasonable is because it’s already built or renovated most of the facilities needed for the Olympics. A lot of the work was done for the 2011 Asian Winter Games – the building of a ski jump and the renovation of the Medeu skating rink, for example. Almaty will build additional facilities for the 2017 Winter Universiade, an Olympic-caliber event for student athletes 17 to 28” writes Hal Foster for the Tegri News.

9Iran and Azerbaijan are two neighbor countries and friends with lots of cooperation in various sectors which has grown in recent years and can go further, Jalil Eslami, deputy director of ports and special zones affairs of Iran’s Ports and Sailing Organization told Trend June 10. The official stressed that maritime cooperation can help Iran-Azerbaijan relations. There are agreements on cooperation in the maritime sector and there are sisterhood pacts between Iranian and Azerbaijani ports, he said. Eslami in particular pointed to maritime transit and tourism as one of the sectors with great development opportunities. Having in mind the growing tourism attractions, it is necessary to provide the infrastructure for transporting over 25 million passengers by 2025, and improving the quality and quantity of maritime transportation services, he noted.

10Russia’s Unending Balkan Intrigues. “Russia’s Leninst-style foreign policy egoism as well as its historical efforts to oust the West from the Balkans and create a sphere of influence there go hand in hand; together, they represent Moscow’s unending efforts to control the Balkan region. One of the most practical regional issues for Moscow is the transmission of Russian energy through the Balkans to Central Europe. Russia aims to cement a monopoly on providing this energy; yet, it neglects to do the practical things necessary to build pipelines or win local governments’ willing assent to its plans. In seeking to eliminate rivals to its regional energy strategies, Russia is obstructing Azerbaijan’s efforts to buy a 66-percent stake in the Greek gas grid operator DESFA. Moscow has long coveted not only the Greek grid but also other distribution networks throughout Europe” writes Stephen Blank for the Jamestown.

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine.

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Finance

Jordan: US$85 million for a New Industry Development Fund

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The World Bank has approved US$85 million in financing for the Jordan Support for Industry Development Fund Project, which aims to promote investments and exports in the manufacturing sector through the operationalization of a new Industry Development Fund. The fund is one of the commitments Jordan has made under its Economic Priority Plan 2021–2023.

Jordan urgently needs to create inclusive and broad-based job opportunities to promote resilient recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, requiring a shift towards a resource-efficient, export- and investment-driven growth model. Manufacturing, among the largest employers in Jordan’s economy, suffered acute shortages of cash during the COVID-19 pandemic. To diversify and expand their exports, and generate more jobs, companies now need to move out of survival mode to a new level of competitiveness.  

The Government of Jordan is establishing the Industry Development Fund to put its development policies and programs on manufacturing into practice. The government asked for the World Bank’s support in designing and operationalizing the fund as an efficient, transparent, and effective delivery platform for support for firms, and as a key financial enabler for industrial transformation. Its focus will be upgrading and modernizing industries; export development and promotion; and incentivizing companies toward high performance in areas critical to the sector reaching its full potential, such as increased climate-responsiveness and female employment.  

The Industry Development Fund is a key instrument in our Economic Priority Plan 2021–2023 to help firms in the industrial sector recover and build back better following the COVID-19 crisis,” said H.E. Nasser Shraideh, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of Jordan. “It will serve as a stimulus to promote private sector-led investment, as well as modernization, upgrading, and export development, which are key engines of growth for the Jordanian economy.

The project aims to support more than 500 export-oriented firms directly through the fund’s programs and to mobilize at least US$17 million in additional private capital. It will also support the building of effective delivery mechanisms and a robust governance and operational capacity, enabling the fund to support the transformation of the industrial sector in the longer term.

Jordan’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has been broad-based, but many sub-sectors are operating below their pre-pandemic level and external shocks have led to higher unemployment, especially for women and the youth,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, Mashreq Regional Director, World Bank Group. “This project will complement the integrated package of support for private sector development that the Bank and the Government of Jordan are implementing to foster enhanced public-private partnerships for inclusive and resilient recovery and growth.” 

The main activities financed by the Fund will include: (i) Industry upgrading and export development programs; (ii) Outcome-based incentives program; and (iii) Easing access to export credit insurance and to new supply chain finance products.

The project prioritizes gender balance and includes measures to ensure the inclusion of women business leaders/owners and employees, and of various vulnerable groups in the fund’s programs.

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Tech News

Implications of remote conformity assessment for developing countries

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The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is pleased to announce the launch of a publication titled “Remote conformity assessment in a digital world: Opportunities, challenges and implications for developing countries”.

The publication provides a high-level overview of how remote assessment/audit techniques have developed in recent years and applied in different conformity assessment contexts. It also highlights the associated benefits of such techniques along with the challenges and implications for the future. 

Quality Infrastructure is the combination of initiatives, institutions, organizations, activities, and people that help ensure products and services meet customers’ requirements. Conformity assessment is a central part of this important work as it links regulation, industry, and markets. Evidence shows that establishing a Quality Infrastructure can assist a nation in pursuing a development track in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Remote assessments/audits play a crucial role in the context of digital transformation of Quality Infrastructures around the world, with the global disruptions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic having accelerated this process and injected urgency into the adoption of new technologies. where the use of remote assessment techniques to ensure the continuity of conformity assessment and confidence in its outcomes became a strategic imperative.

The need to stay abreast of the latest developments to ensure that no country is left behind in the increasingly digitalized world of conformity assessment makes this publication relevant for developing countries and a wider audience. Pragmatic steps that can be taken to address this need are presented accordingly.

UNIDO remains committed to continuing its support to developing countries, assisting them in overcoming the challenges and making the most of the opportunities posed by the growing use of remote assessment techniques.

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Tech News

Privacy vs Security in the online world

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New technological developments and the rise of the internet allowed many people access to the digital world by making it possible to do so from anywhere and anytime. But, with all its benefits, this has significantly increased the amount of data we have on the internet. From cookies to the browser and device fingerprinting, we leave data behind every time we visit a website. How private or secure is your data online?

What is the difference between privacy and security?

Some people use these terms interchangeably, but there is a difference between them. Privacy is related to your right to control your personal information and how that information is used, while security determines how that personal information is protected.

For example, you can choose to share your data on a social media platform, which is a matter of privacy, while how that platform protects that data is a matter of security. The same applies to signing on the eCommerce site. You are choosing to disclose your data to them to use their services, but it is up to them to keep your data safe, maintaining your privacy and security. If they sell or release your information to a third party, your privacy would be compromised, but not necessarily security. In a successful cyberattack, both your security and privacy have been compromised.

Compromised privacy doesn’t necessarily threaten your online safety, but it remains an essential aspect of it.

Dangers of privacy and security loss

With our growing online presence, more and more of our personal data ends up online. This data is in danger of being compromised by companies selling or sharing it with unauthorized 3rd parties to be used for advertising, political manipulation, or other nefarious purposes. The risk gets even higher on social media, where people reveal various details about them that malicious parties can use. Luckily, they are starting to realize the importance of data privacy. According to the research, 81% of people are more concerned about their social privacy than last year.

The loss of privacy is real, but how does this impact our security? The truth is it leaves us vulnerable to various types of cyberattacks and fraud attempts, such as data breaches and identity fraud. The threat from cybercriminals, hackers, and fraudsters keeps growing with our rising dependence on the internet. While the cyber attacks are nothing new, the truth is that the development of technology has allowed them to step up with their malicious attacks, making them harder to trace and able to affect more people than ever. According to the Telegraph, cyber fraud is currently the fastest-growing category of crime, and it shows no signs of slowing down. But does that mean you have to stop using the internet to remain safe from these threats? Of course not; you just need to take the proper steps to minimize the risk while enjoying your online life.

How can you ensure your privacy and security online?

With our digital footprints growing constantly, it is time to start taking necessary actions to protect ourselves.

  1. The first step you need to do is install Antivirus and Firewall programs to protect yourself from various cyber threats. Just remember to keep them up to date, and you will significantly reduce the danger.
  2. Practice good password hygiene. More than 80% of data breaches directly resulted from poor passwords, which is why you should never use easily guessable passwords such as your date of birth or even something simple like “123456”. You should also always choose unique and complex passwords for all of your accounts, making it harder for cybercriminals to gain access to different accounts.
  3. Reduce the risk of your account data being stolen and used for malicious purposes by not saving credit and debit cards in the system when making online purchases. The truth is that every website is vulnerable to attack. You don’t want to put yourself at unnecessary risk because you need to invest a few more seconds to type in your card details.
  4. Be mindful of what you share online and on social media. Most people are not aware of how public the data on social media actually is, and they keep oversharing. This can allow cyber criminals and fraudsters to discover important personal information and use it for their malicious actions. Review your privacy settings on social media sites and think twice before posting something personal.

Cybercriminals and fraudsters keep evolving their methods to exploit as many people as they can reach. Learn how to protect yourself and stay safe online.

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