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Could a Ukraine-style crisis happen in Kazakhstan?

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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Welcome to the Caspian Daily, where you will find the 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region. We appreciate ideas, reports, news and interesting articles. Send along to Caspian[at]moderndiplomacy.eu or on Twitter: @DGiannakopoulos

1In a region described as the “pivot of history’, where great power rivalry has often been a cause of conflict and tension, governments are sensitive to anything that might upset the existing balance of relations. This is already having an effect in fostering new alignments and complicating plans for Eurasian integration under Russian leadership. David Clark for New Statesman.

2Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has pledged to move forward in constructing a railroad line from Turkmenistan to China. Berdymukhammedov, on his first official visit to Kyrgyzstan on August 5, said after talks with Kyrgyz counterpart Almazbek Atambaev that the two discussed energy and security issues that hold “great importance for the whole world.””The construction of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China via Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan will be implemented in the very near future,” Berdymukhammedov said, without elaborating. Atambaev said Berdymukhammedov’s two-day visit to Bishkek was “the new phase of the development of ties between the two nations.”

3Russia and France cancel $1.3 billion warship deal. The two countries have terminated a contract worth 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) for France to supply two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships to Russia. The deal was signed in 2011 but France faced pressure to withdraw from the arrangement after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. The French government suspended delivery of the ships last year. Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande said in a joint statement that the parties had reached a “mutually acceptable agreement.” Russia will be reimbursed for money already paid under the contract, and France will retain ownership of the helicopter carriers. Russian media reported that more than one billion euros had already been deposited in a Russian bank account by France.

4Kazakhstan: United Nations Security Council 2017-2018. Kazakhstan is scooping up high-profile chairmanships in regional organizations for two primary reasons: to advance Kazakhstan’s image as a peacemaker and mediator; and to fulfill President Nazarbayev’s vision for Kazakhstan of being the “Eurasian Bridge,” linking Asia to Europe. With a track record of high participation in international organizations, Kazakhstan can benefit from and build lasting trade and political and economic relationships. Obtaining the UNSC seat reinforces Nazarbayev’s multi-vector foreign policy and adds diversity to the Asia bloc of countries of the 15 member UNSC. Samantha Brletich for Modern Diplomacy.

5Tourism sector observes growth in Azerbaijan. The tourism sector of Azerbaijan has marked a minimum of 20 percent growth, said Tural Aleskerov, an independent expert in the field of tourism. The first European Games held in June in Baku is the reason for this increase, he believes. To attract more tourists into the country, Azerbaijan facilitated visa procedures for foreign citizens wishing to watch the Games.Over 2 million tourists came to Azerbaijan last year, which amounted to about one billion manats (over $950,000 million) in revenue from tourism. In the near future, the country is expected to increase its tourist flow up to 5 million a year. Nigar Orujova for Azernews.

6What opportunities will Azerbaijan get as result of lifting of sanctions against Iran? Azerbaijan has several advantages over the West. First of all, the geographical location plays a major role here. The proximity to Iran simplifies trade relations. Currently, the trade turnover between the countries is not high. As of 2014, it amounted to only $186.6 million (0.6 percent of the total trade turnover of Azerbaijan). However, after the lifting of sanctions, one can be confident in the growth of trade between the countries.Second, Europe and Iran have a certain lack of confidence. Being a neighbor of Iran, Azerbaijan has much in common with this country. Therefore, one can assume that Azerbaijan will have an advantage over the European companies.Of course, most likely, the oil and gas sector will remain the basis of economic cooperation between the two countries. But, nevertheless, there are other areas where Azerbaijan and Iran could cooperate, for example, Iran’s mining sector. Azad Hasanli for Trend.

7The Irony of Revolution: JCPOA as Youth Coercion Tool in Iran. When one considers that Iran has expended a great deal of resources over previous decades on building up its nuclear program, there has to be a serious reason for it to give up its nuclear aspirations now. Iran has spent billions of dollars on building infrastructure: nuclear reactors, centrifuges, and facilities; attaining nuclear materials; and thousands of man-hours expended on uranium enrichment. So why after all that material, time, and man-power investment does Iran reverse course and agree to curb its nuclear aspirations? Dr. Matthew Crosston for Modern Diplomacy.

8Pakistan and Turkmenistan are set to engage in talks in a bid to take a giant leap forward in executing the US-backed transnational pipeline project that will connect four countries in Central and South Asia. Gas companies of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have already established a company that will build, own and operate the natural gas pipeline, which will be 1,800km long, starting from Turkmenistan and reaching India after passing through Afghanistan and Pakistan. The four state-run gas companies will have an equal share in the pipeline operator. According to officials, the shareholding agreement was reached before selecting the consortium leader.

9The International Monetary Fund has improved its forecast for GDP growth in Kazakhstan in 2016. The organization reported that Kazakhstan’s GDP growth will be 3.25 percent in 2016 while the country’s economy will increase by 2 percent.”Real GDP growth is projected to decelerate to 2 percent in 2015. Weaker demand from Russia and China, lower oil prices, confidence effects, and continuing delays in the Kashagan oil field are the main factors behind the projected slowdown. Next year, growth is projected to pick up to 3.25 percent, driven by gradual recovery in oil prices and external demand,” the IMF said on August 5.

10Resolving territorial disputes in the Far East – Kuril Islands. A dispute over Kuril Islands is the reason why Russia and Japan still after more than 70 years have not signed a peace treaty to end the World War II. Could compromise about so long stagnating conflict which was so far discussed by Gorbachev, Yeltsin and also by Putin, be found this year during Russian planned visit in Japan? Teja Palko for Modern Diplomacy.

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

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Africa-Europe Alliance: Four new financial guarantees worth €216 million

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The European Commission signed today four guarantee agreements worth €216 million that will help unlock €2 billion to invest in renewables, urban infrastructure and start-ups in Africa and the Neighbourhood. The guarantees were signed with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the German KfW Group and the Spanish development cooperation agency, Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID), at the 4th Strategic Board meeting of the External Investment Plan (EIP).

Commenting on these financial guarantees, Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, said: “The agreements signed today, worth €216 million, will aim to unlock €2 billion in new investment in Africa and the EU Neighbourhood. These guarantees share in the risk and help mobilise and attract public and private investments. They will help boost the supply of renewable energy to communities and businesses in Africa and the EU Neighbourhood, help small businesses invest and create jobs, and make African cities more resilient to growing populations and the effects of climate change. They are an example of how the EU’s new Green Deal initiative benefits citizens of our partner countries outside the EU”.

Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi added: “We want to ensure an investment boost that will drive forward growth and provide concrete benefits and opportunities to the people, for example when it comes to big infrastructure projects or the support to young entrepreneurs. The direct support to investment is a key element, but so are good governance and a conducive business environment that helps attracting investment, both domestic and foreign. This is why the External Investment Plan supports our partner countries also in developing more effective legal frameworks, policies and institutions that promote economic stability, sustainable investment and inclusive growth.”

Four guarantees, one goal: more investment where it’s needed the most

These guarantees will significantly boost investment in renewable energy and increase access to finance for small businesses (MSMEs), while also improving investment in urban infrastructure and services in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the EU Neighbourhood.

·     Resilient City Development (RECIDE)

This €100 million guarantee agreement is signed with AECID, the Spanish development cooperation agency. It targets Sub-Saharan Africa and the EU Neighbourhood. It will help cities develop public-private partnerships and lower the risks for private investors involved in financing urban infrastructure, focusing on: energy efficiency, flood protection, public transport, water sanitation and solid waste treatment. The guarantee reassures lenders that they will recover at least some of their investment in the event of losses and lowers borrowing costs.

·     Boosting Investment in Renewable Energy 

This €50 million guarantee agreement with EBRD will help to scale up investment in renewable energy in Ukraine and in the EU Southern Neighbourhood, in particular in Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia. It will substantially boost renewable energy potential. The guarantee will help to generate a total investment of up to €500 million and is expected to provide 340 MW of additional installed renewable energy capacity.

·     Supporting Investment in Sustainable Energy 

This €46 million guarantee agreement with the KfW Group will help to expand the generation of renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa and cut the region’s carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency. It will partially cover the offtake risks in renewable energy projects, such as windfarms and solar energy. This guarantee will give many more people access to energy and reduce power shortages. 

·     SME Access to Finance

This €20 million guarantee agreement with EIB is targeting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the EU Neighbourhood, with a particular focus on young entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs and start-ups. It will provide affordable funding to small businesses, with less access to finance because local financial institutions consider them as riskier clients. The guarantee is providing local banks and financial institutions a first loss credit protection. This guarantee will sustain around 18,000 jobs and support 1,000 small businesses. 

These guarantees are part of the External Investment Plan, which aims to mobilize more than €47 billion by 2020 in public and private investment for development in countries neighbouring the EU and in Africa using €4.6 billion in EU funds.

Background

The EU External Investment Plan has three pillars. The first is finance. Through financial guarantees, the EU mitigates the risk in countries with difficult environments so that private investors and development banks will lend to entrepreneurs or finance development projects. Three guarantee agreements had previously been signed so far: Nasira Risk-Sharing Facility and FMO Ventures, with the Dutch Development Bank and Archipelagos – One Platform for Africa, with Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), the Italian Development Bank, and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The plan’s second part is technical assistance. This funds experts who help authorities, investors and companies develop new projects. Technical assistance may include, for example, market intelligence and investment climate analysis, targeted legislative and regulatory advice, support to partner countries in implementing reforms, chains and identification, preparation, and help to carry out necessary investments.

The third pillar consists of investment climate support. The EU works closely with governments in partner countries to help them improve the conditions which investors need like a good business environment and political and economic stability. The EU also brings together governments and business to discuss investment challenges.

The External Investment Plan is a key part of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, launched in September 2018 with the objective of creating 10 million jobs in five years, boosting investment and promote sustainable development. The von der Leyen Commission intends to use the full potential of the External Investment Plan to boost private capital and investment, including through further guarantee agreements.

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Defining the Decade of Delivery: 50th Annual Meeting Calls for Stakeholder Responsibility

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The 50th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting closed today, a historic meeting bringing all stakeholders together to shape a cohesive and sustainable world.

World Economic Forum President Børge Brende said “Our 50th Annual Meeting has been truly remarkable, due to the real progress that we created on a spectrum of issues where public-private collaboration is crucial. We laid the basis for a decade of delivery.”

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), told participants that we are in a better place in January 2020 than we were in October 2019. There are several drivers for this positive momentum: trade tensions are receding; central banks have loosened monetary policy; and global industrial production is bottoming out.

The IMF’s economic forecast is for 3.3% growth this year and 3.4% next year. This level of growth was characterised as “sluggish”, and governments were called on to enact structural reforms and boost spending.

In 2019, 29 central banks globally reduced rates 71 times and it is now time to pass the baton on to fiscal policy. “We need to go beyond monetary stimulus – fiscal policy needs to become more aggressive,” Georgieva added.

Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, shared this relatively sanguine outlook. Uncertainties have abated on issues like trade and Brexit, she said, and it is likely that income growth and low unemployment will eventually be reflected in prices.

“The European Central Bank has launched a broad strategic review, the first since 2003, to revisit the bank’s processes and policies and to recommend structural changes,” she said, committing to delivering the outcomes of this review at the next Annual Meeting.

Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, said: “The US economy continues to be the bright spot in the world.” The economic outlook for 2020 is very robust, he added. Inflation remains muted, incomes are rising and unemployment is near historic lows.

“Trade negotiations have started with both the EU and the UK and we look forward to completing both of those deals this year,” he said.

Haruhiko Kuroda, Governor of the Bank of Japan, said: “We expect Japan’s economy to grow by 1% to 1.5% this year.” Nevertheless, inflation in Japan is stubbornly low. Continued accommodative monetary policy will be required for some time to achieve the 2% inflation objective, he added.

Climate risk is quite real for Japan, he said. In the fourth quarter of last year, the Japanese economy experienced negative growth largely because of two large typhoons. These types of natural disasters are intensifying and Japan stands ready to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat global climate change.

Germany has embarked on an expansionary fiscal policy programme, said Olaf Scholz, Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance of Germany. Taxes have been reduced by about $25 billion a year, investment in infrastructure is at record levels and R&D spending is targeted to reach 3.5% of GDP.

“Germany’s economy remains strong and we expect these investment measures to have a material impact on demand,” he added.

However, we must act urgently on sustainability issues, he said. Europe will continue to lead on climate change, with a target to be carbon neutral by 2050 backed by investments in the green economy and renewable energy.

Outcomes of the Annual Meeting 2020

In a letter sent to participants in advance of the Annual Meeting, Klaus Schwab, the Forum’s Founder and Executive Chairman, and the heads of Bank of America and Royal DSM, asked all members and partners to commit to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or earlier. In part inspired by this, the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 saw a number of outcomes that made progress towards a more cohesive and sustainable world:

Cohesive World

Skills and Work

· The Reskilling Revolution was launched to provide better education, skills and jobs to 1 billion people by 2030, with the initial backing of the governments of Bahrain, Brazil, Denmark, France, India, Oman, Pakistan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and the United States as well as business partners, including PwC, Salesforce, ManpowerGroup, Infosys, LinkedIn, Coursera Inc. and The Adecco Group. Commitments to provide better education, skills and work for 250 million people have already been made. The Forum’s Global Shaper community further pledged to provide skills to 100,000 people in vulnerable communities.

· Six leading platform companies – Cabify, Deliveroo, Grab, MBO Partners, Postmates and Uber – became founding signatories of the Forum’s Charter of Principles for Good Platform Work.

· The Valuable 500 initiative of companies committed to placing disability inclusion on their leadership agendas that was launched last year in Davos, announced that 241 companies from 24 countries have pledged their support.

· Ingka Group (IKEA) and Royal DSM became founding members of the Forum’s Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work initiative. McKinsey joined as knowledge partner.

· The Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality, which was launched in Davos last year to accelerate inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, announced that it has grown its membership to 17 international businesses.

Inclusive Growth

· The International Business Council, incorporating 140 of the world’s largest companies, agreed to support efforts to develop a core set of common metrics and disclosures that could be used to measure private sector progress against key environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

· The Forum also became a founding partner this week, alongside Refinitiv, United Nations and others in the Future of Sustainable Data Alliance. The alliance focuses on improving the quality of ESG data available to governments and investors to inform decision-making.

· The Davos Friends of Africa Growth Platform launched with the support of the Presidents of Botswana and Ghana to promote entrepreneurism in Africa. The platform’s initial target is to reach 1 million entrepreneurs by the end of 2020.

· A strategic partnership was signed between the World Economic Forum and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to accelerate progress towards inclusive and sustainable growth globally.

· Some 42 organizations, including businesses from mining, automotive, chemical and energy that have a combined revenue of $1 trillion dollars agreed on 10 guiding principles for a sustainable battery value chain, enabled by a traceability platform called Battery Passport.

· The Australian state of Queensland announced it will join the Forum’s Global Lighthouse Network in a bid to help small and medium-sized enterprises adopt advanced manufacturing technologies.

Saving Lives

· CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations that was launched in Davos in 2017, today announced the initiation of three programmes to develop vaccines against the novel coronavirus, nCoV-2019, in partnership with Moderna and the Wellcome Trust. The swift action was made possible by the fact that the leaders of the partner organizations were all in Davos.

· GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, celebrated its 20th anniversary. GAVI was launched at the Annual Meeting 2000 with the backing of the Gates Foundation, World Health Organization, pharmaceutical companies and governments to bring vaccines to children who lacked access. Since then, GAVI has reached 760 million children.

· The World Economic Forum announced a partnership with the Global CEO Initiative (CEOi) to form a coalition to accelerate diagnostics and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

· The Forum initiated Ending Workplace Tuberculosis, a multi-sector initiative aimed at tapping into the business community to help stop TB in countries affected disproportionately by the disease.

Trade

· Ministers at Davos announced negotiations between 99 economies on a new international agreement on investment facilitation at the WTO. The agreement is aimed at making it easier for investment to flow between economies while increasing its development impact.

· As theUS and France agreed a detente on digital tax during the Annual Meeting, the Forum received a mandate from multistakeholder partners to further build multistakeholder understanding of and input to international tax reforms and assist the search for broadly supported solutions.

· The Forum partnered with the Japanese government on a multistakeholder effort to find practical mechanisms to enable free “Data Free Flow with Trust” in support of the Osaka Track process that was initiated at the G20 in 2019.

Civil Society

· The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship announced that its community has improved the lives and livelihoods of more than 622 million people in 190 countries since 2000. Impacts include distributing $6.7 billion in loans or value of products and services; mitigating more than 192 million tonnes of CO2; improving education for more than 226 million children and youth; improving energy access for more than 100 million people and driving social inclusion for over 25 million people.

· 11 NGO executives united to stop sale of .org domain to a private equity firm. Executive directors of Greenpeace International, Access Now, Human Rights Watch, ACLU, International Trade Union Confederation, Sierra Club, Amnesty International, Consumer Reports, 350.org, Color of Change and Transparency International released an open letter on 21 January 2020 “calling on the leaders of Internet Society (ISOC) and Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to stop the sale of the .org top-level domain to private equity firm Ethos Capital”.

Sustainable World

Combating climate change

· 1t.org, a new multistakeholder initiative aimed at supporting efforts to grow, conserve and restore 1 trillion trees by the end of the decade was announced. Within the first days of its launch, the US and China announced support. Salesforce announced a new commitment to plant 100 million trees; Colombia confirmed its existing commitment to plant 180 million trees by 2022; Pakistan reaffirmed its 10 billion trees campaign; and the Global Shapers also committed to planting 1 million trees by 2021 across its 400 hubs worldwide.

· New members signed up to the Forum’s community of CEO Climate Leaders. The community are committed to helping their respective companies meet the Paris Climate Goals. New members include: AstraZeneca; Bayer AG; BBVA, Dalmia Cement; Jacobs Engineering Group; JLL; Newmont Corporation; OVG Real Estate, and Zurich Insurance Group.

· The Sustainable Markets Initiative, backed by a Sustainable Markets Council, was launched by HRH The Prince of Wales in collaboration with the World Economic Forum with the goal of bringing about a transition to sustainable markets and rapid industry-wide decarbonization.

· The Forum’s Advanced Manufacturing and Production community launched the Carbon Reduction in Manufacturing Initiative with Johnson & Johnson, Schneider Electric and Unilever, with support from Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management to achieve a goal of cutting carbon emissions in manufacturing by 50% by 2030.

· The Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance of 16 pension funds and insurers committed to helping achieve the Paris Climate Goals added the Church of England and Generali as new members. The alliance’s portfolio now stands at $4.3 trillion.

· The Champions for Nature, a high-level group calling for raised ambition on nature, was launched. It is chaired by the Executive Director of UN Environment Programme, the CEO of Unilever, and the President of Costa Rica. The launch followed a new report Nature Risk Rising which found that over half the world’s total GDP – is moderately or highly dependent on nature.

Sustainable Development Goals

· Frontier 2030 was launched as a platform to leverage the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals. The platform is chaired by UNDP in partnership with the governments of Botswana, South Korea and Norway, as well as private sector commitment from Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Arm, Planet Labs, X, Amazon Web Services and Chipsafer. It is hosted by the World Economic Forum.

· The Food Action Alliance was launched by over 25 partners of the World Economic Forum, UN agencies, companies, farmer organizations, civil society, and finance institutions to scale collective action and transform foods systems to be sustainable, nutritious and healthy, efficient and inclusive.

· A new multistakeholder partnership, SDG500, was launched to mobilize $500 million towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in emerging markets through a series of six blended finance funds. SDG500 is a partnership between the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nations Capital Development Fund, Smart Africa, Stop TB Partnership, the IDB Lab of the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Trade Centre, CARE USA, and Bamboo Capital Partners.

A Cohesive and Sustainable Fourth Industrial Revolution

Emerging Technologies

· The Forum partnered with a community of 40 central banks, international organizations, academic researchers and financial institutions to create a framework to help central banks evaluate, design and potentially deploy Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

· The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with 100 stakeholders, produced theEmpowering AI Toolkit to help board members better understand the positive and negative implications of deploying artificial intelligence.

· The Government of Brazil, together with the World Economic Forum and key business stakeholders, rolled out a set of new scalable policy interventions to increase successful adoption of industrial internet of things technologies by small and medium-sized enterprises in manufacturing.

· Partners of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Global Network, including Brazil, Colombia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, expanded their commitment to ensuring responsible and ethical governance of smart city technologies through the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance, led by the World Economic Forum.

· The World Economic Forum’s Global AI Council, launched in 2019, collaborated with UNICEF to create guidelines for AI-supported toys for under seven-year-olds, as well as identifying young people under the age of 18 to sit on a Global AI Youth Council.

Cybersecurity

· A group of private-sector leaders from cybersecurity companies, services providers and global corporations along with law enforcement agencies, Interpol and Europol, agreed to work together with the World Economic Forum through 2020 to foster a global public-private alliance against cybercrime.

· A group of telecommunications stakeholders, including BT, Deutsche Telekom, Du Telecom, Europol, Global Cyber Alliance, Internet Society, Korea Telecom, Proximus, Saudi Telcom, Singtel, Telstra and ITU, endorsed new principles combating high-volume cyberattacks that could protect up to 1 billion consumers in 180 countries.

· A community of key stakeholders from international organizations, government and business was formed to reinforce cyber resilience in global aviation.

· Navdeep Bains, Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and Ajay Banga, CEO of Mastercard, announced a $510 million investment by Mastercard to establish a new global Intelligence and Cyber Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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CAR Economic Update: A Call for Domestic Revenue Mobilization to Sustain Growth

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The second edition of the Central African Republic (CAR) Economic Update, which was published today by the World Bank, examines evolving economic trends in the country and proposes options to boost domestic revenue by improving tax and customs policy and administration.

Titled “Strengthening Domestic Revenue Mobilization to Sustain Growth in a Fragile State,” the report notes that the improved security situation is leading to brighter economic prospects, with the real GDP growth rate estimated at 4.8% for 2019. The authors indicate that although the country’s growth rate has outpaced that of countries in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) and Sub-Saharan Africa, it continues to lag behind peer countries such as Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mali, Niger, and Uganda.

CAR has not experienced sustained growth since gaining independence in 1960. With the signing of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in February 2019, the economic outlook is, however, positive,” states Wilfried A. Kouamé, World Bank economist and lead author of the report. “The successful implementation of the peace agreement is critical for jumpstarting growth. By implementing this agreement in the run-up to the elections, we are expecting growth of around 5% in the medium term.”

The report also reveals that while CAR is still at high risk for debt distress, its efforts to streamline public expenditure and clear domestic arrears are driving down the public debt level to below CEMAC and Sub-Saharan Africa averages and bringing it closer to the debt levels of its peers.

Han Fraeters, World Bank Country Manager for the Central African Republic, explains that “this report aims to help the government and its development partners identify opportunities and address challenges in order to move forward on combating extreme poverty. Domestic resources will therefore have to be mobilized to boost public revenue and enhance delivery of basic public services, which are pivotal to guiding the country into a virtuous cycle of peace and security. The upcoming elections will require sound fiscal discipline and provide a unique opportunity to place the country on a path of sustained growth.” 

The report presents a number of options to address the growing needs of Central Africans:

Strengthen the social contract: The social contract between the State and its citizens, which is vital to mobilizing tax revenue, was undermined by the recent crisis. To strengthen the social contract, the State must undertake to improve the efficiency and quality of goods and social services, while restoring the trust of taxpayers to encourage them to move out of the informal sector and pay their taxes.

Broaden the tax base: CAR’s tax revenue currently accounts for approximately 8% of GDP, which is below its potential and among the lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa. CAR could consider increasing the tax rates on alcohol and tobacco products in the short term, and reducing the number of tax brackets that hinder business creation and development in the long term. 

Improve property tax collection:  Legislation on property taxation has not been updated to reflect recent economic developments. Current revenue collection is inefficient and is based on a declarative system that narrows the tax base. New legislation could generate close to CFAF 12 billion (roughly $22 million).

Limit tax exemptions: In 2016, tax exemptions were a major source of lost tax revenue for the country (almost CFAF 2.4 billion or roughly $4 million). A significant share of these exemptions were granted to the private sector and related primarily to VAT. The adoption of the new investment charter in 2017 and the implementation of reforms aimed at curbing tax exemptions and improving the business environment to attract private investment require the firm commitment of the authorities and a formal legal system to institute legal proceedings in the event of abuse.

Modernize the tax system: Strengthening tax administration capacity is critical to improving the tax system. This requires heavy investment in the computerization of public administrations and the purchase of the equipment and software needed to improve revenue collection.  Computerization will help curb abuse and corruption, trace transactions related to taxes and duties, facilitate the sharing of information between tax and customs authorities, and enhance the efficiency of financial boards.

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