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Away From Dollar: Russia, China creating own gold market

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

1As Western central banks continue their manipulation of the gold price in order to prop up flagging fiat currencies, two of the world’s largest bullion hoarders are fashioning their own gold market which will function outside the dollar system. This new approach is connected closely with the China-led New Silk Road project and the Shanghai-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). In May 2015 Beijing announced it had established a state-run gold investment fund, aiming to bolster China’s role in global gold trade. The new initiative is a part of China’s ambitious One Belt and One Road plan. The “Silk Road Gold Fund” will invest in mining projects in the regions along the New Silk Road encouraging central banks of its members to increase their holdings in the precious metal. [mining.com]

2Russia, Iran Plan To Expand Military Cooperation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the Kremlin plans to develop military and technical cooperation with Iran after international sanctions against Tehran are lifted under a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. Lavrov made the remarks following talks in Moscow with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on August 17. Russian media reports said the two discussed the possible delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missiles from Russia to Iran and new contracts to build nuclear power plants in Iran.

3Trans-Caspian transport route: what does it mean for Azerbaijan? The member-states of the Trans-Caspian international transport route will be able to earn $1 billion in freight transportation for the first few years, Akif Mustafayev, TRACECA (Europe-Caucasus-Asia) transport cooperation program national secretary on Azerbaijan, told Trend News. The profit of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey as a result of the transportation via this route will increase in the future. “The train has arrived from China to Azerbaijan, but it is necessary that this route gets extended through Georgia and Turkey, and then further to Europe,” he said. “Work is currently underway in this regard, and the arrival of the first train gives hope that the work will be completed in the near future.”In general, as the national secretary said, all the projects realized recently, including the construction and reconstruction of the railway in Azerbaijan, the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway’s section and a new international seaport in Alat, are aimed at high-level cargo transportation from China to Europe.

4Azerbaijan’s model of interfaith harmony. The Valley Outreach Synagogue, one of the most influential Jewish synagogues in Los Angeles, hosted a presentation on Azerbaijan on August 14, 2015. Attended by over 500 members of the Synagogue, the event featured Nasimi Aghayev, Azerbaijan’s Consul General in Los Angeles. Synagogue’s Spritual Leader Rabbi Ron Li-Paz noted that during the turbulent times of religious intolerance and violence in various parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, Azerbaijan stands out as a beacon of tolerance, interfaith harmony and secularism. He called Azerbaijan “a ray of hope in the darkness” and an exemplary model of religious tolerance and acceptance.

5Iran’s energy ministry and the State Agency on Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources (SAARES) are set to enter into a deal on enhancing generation of renewable energies, a deputy energy minister said. Houshang Falahatian was quotes by shana as saying on Tuesday that Iran plans to add 1,000mg it to power generation by renewables. Once sealed, Azeri companies active in the field of renewable energies will start cooperating with MAPNA group in Iran for developing projects for generation of power from renewable energy resources.

6Goods transfered from Central Asian countries to Bandar Abbas – port by Persian Gulf in southern Iran – will recieve 35 percent transfer discount, Hossein Ashouri, an official with Iran’s railroad organization said. He added that Iran also gives 40 percent discount to the transfer of goods from Central Asia to Pakistan via the Iranian railroad, IRNA news agency reported August 17. The official further said that a two-way discount is also to be given to the transfer of goods between Iran’s northeastern border city of Sarakhs and Turkey.

7Russian energy company Rosneft said on Monday it had registered to take part in the 13th licensing round organised by Brazilian national energy agency Agencia Nacional do Petroleo, Gas Natural e Biocombustiveis. Rosneft said that 10 oil basins and blocks, located onshore and offshore, would be put up for sale at the licensing round.

8More than 700 Russian and foreign companies from 30 countries will put their products on display at the MAKS-2015 aerospace show. According to exhibition director, 40 Iranian companies are also due to showcase their products and achievements in MAKS-2015, including Iran Air Show, Qom International Airport, and Sharif Hamrah Pazhouhan Science and Technology Co. Unlike previous years, Iranian firms and companies have been provided with a larger space in the exhibition this year. Several satellites and launchers, jet engines, navigation systems, helicopters and airplanes are among the Iranian products to go on display in MAKS-2015.

9Yuan’s devaluation to impact Kazakh economy. The decision of the world’s second-largest economy – China – to devalue its national currency has unsettled global financial markets. Sabit Khakimjanov, the director of research at the Halyk Finance JSC, believes that the depreciation of the yuan might increase the likelihood for the devaluation of Kazakhstan’s national currency, the tenge. “First, yuan’s depreciation will further strengthen overvaluation of tenge. This is certainly an additional handicap for Kazakh producers, but when considering the fact that tenge has greatly overvalued against the ruble by 20-25 percent in real terms, the devaluation of yuan by 2 percent is relatively not too big,” he told local media. Several experts consider the devaluation of yuan as a positive factor for Kazakh exporters; while others claim that the depreciation of the Chinese currency not will have any impact on either the Kazakh economy, or the tenge, as Kazakhstan is not a rival of China. [Azernews]

10Three days for Constitution Day in Kazakhstan. This year, Kazakhstan celebrates the 20 years anniversary of the Constitution. The anniversary of the Constitution will be celebrated along with the 20th anniversary of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan.

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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IEA holds high-level workshop on the future of electricity

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Participants in the IEA's electricity workshop will help focus the work of the next World Energy Outlook's fuel focus on electricity (Photograph: IEA)

The future of electricity will be the “fuel” focus of the next World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency’s flagship publication, to be released in mid-November.   

As part of an agency-wide effort on this WEO electricity focus, the IEA hosted a high-level workshop in Paris on Tuesday, bringing together decision makers and leading experts from around the world to provide strategic guidance on the analysis and share their experience. The workshop marked a high point in the IEA’s “Year of Electricity,” examining various aspects of the transformation of the electricity sector this year.

The workshop was attended by representatives from 75 organisations, covering a wide range from government, industry, utilities, manufacturers, downstream, consulting, industry associations, research and academia. It also included a broad regional coverage, with participants representing more than 40 countries, from the IEA family and beyond.

The future looks bright for electricity, which is set to grow at twice the rate of overall energy demand to 2040. In 2016, total power sector investment surpassed that of oil and gas for the first time, propelled by renewables, mostly solar and wind. Meanwhile 1.1 billion people still lack access to electricity globally, new demand is coming from electric mobility, digitalization, cooling and heating.

And the nature of electricity supply is undergoing a major transition, from a century-old foundation of dispatchable fossil fuels to ever cheaper variable renewables, with related market reforms underway. The power sector is responsible for close to 40% of energy-related greenhouse-gas emissions, 60% of coal use and 36% of natural gas use. Understanding changes in the power sector is therefore essential to analysing progress towards environmental goals and understanding global energy trends.

The objectives of the WEO’s focus on electricity will include:

– Assessing the long-term outlook for electricity demand, with insights on traditional and new sources of demand growth such as electric vehicles, digitalization, cooling and energy access in developing countries, and the emerging need for responsive demand.

– Providing in-depth analysis of the speed of the transition underway in electricity supply – highlighting global issues and regional perspectives – based on the latest market data, technology developments and government policies.

– Investigating the implications on electricity security, environmental protection and economic development, with insights on market designs.

– Exploring key uncertainties, resulting from the pace of deployment for new technologies, market and policy developments, and changing consumer preferences.

In addition, this year’s WEO will also have a focus on oil and gas producing economies.

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ADB Operations Reach $32.2 Billion in 2017- ADB Annual Report

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) Annual Report 2017, released today, provides a clear, comprehensive, and detailed record of ADB’s operations, activities, and financial results over the past year.

Annual operations of ADB reached a record $32.2 billion in 2017, as the bank continues to meet Asia and the Pacific’s growing development needs, according to the Annual Report. This was a 26% increase from the year before.

ADB’s total operations of $32.2 billion last year consisted of $20.1 billion in loans, grants, and investments from its own resources (up 51% from 2016) including nonsovereign operations of $2.3 billion (a 31% increase from 2016); $11.9 billion in cofinancing from bilateral and multilateral agencies and other financing partners; and $201 million in technical assistance (a 11% increase from 2016).

These figures are based on ADB’s new performance measure of “commitments,” or the amount of loans, grants, and investments signed in a given year. ADB introduced this measure in 2017 to promote project readiness at approval stage, expedite post-approval steps, and get closer to project disbursement, by placing more emphasis on when the projects are signed, rather than when they are approved by ADB’s Board of Directors.

“We began a new chapter in meeting development needs across Asia and the Pacific in 2017,” said ADB President Takehiko Nakao. “With the merger of the bank’s concessional Asian Development Fund lending operations with the ordinary capital resources balance sheet from the start of 2017, ADB has a solid capital base to support our operations going forward.”

Mr. Nakao added, “We continue to combine finance with innovative solutions to respond better to the region’s diverse and specific challenges and needs, such as rapid urbanization, climate change, and growing demand for water and energy.”

ADB’s financing of climate mitigation and adaptation reached a record $4.5 billion in 2017, a 21% increase from the previous year. The bank is now in a good position to achieve its $6 billion annual climate financing target by 2020. ADB also mobilized an additional $606 million from external financing, bringing total climate financing to $5.2 billion last year.

The Annual Report emphasizes the importance of partnerships for ADB in scaling up project financing, and for sharing development knowledge and expertise. With the support of donors, ADB established five new trust funds in 2017 that will unlock capital for climate investments through innovative financial products, increase private sector participation in climate change mitigation and adaptation projects, help cities prepare high-priority urban infrastructure investments, increase mobilization of domestic resources, and integrate high-level technology into infrastructure project designs.

On the downside, ADB’s disbursements decreased to $11.1 billion in 2017 from $12.3 billion in 2016, according to the Annual Report. Cofinancing also fell short of ADB’s targets.

“We will come up with concrete measures to increase disbursements and cofinancing, building on the new ADB procurement policy approved in April 2017 and ongoing efforts to leverage the bank’s resources,” said Mr. Nakao.

The Annual Report 2017 presents a more comprehensive picture of ADB operations than the previous annual reports in terms of numbers and institutional data. It provides expanded sections on financial highlights, sector and thematic work, and knowledge. ADB’s specific assistance to countries and regional programs, lists of trust funds and corporate reports, and organizational structure are also added.

The figures in the report update the provisional operations numbers released by ADB in January.

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New Funding for Mindanao Trust Fund to Strengthen Peace and Development in Southern Philippines

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Efforts to bring peace and progress in Mindanao were reaffirmed today following the signing of a new agreement that will build more socioeconomic infrastructure and improve literacy in conflict affected areas.

The new Program Partnership Agreement signed by the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) – the development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – and humanitarian organization Community and Family Services International (CFSI) entrusts the two parties to implement the USD 3.2 million grant with financing from the Mindanao Trust Fund for Reconstruction and Development (MTF).

The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) also provided complementary funding amounting to 1 million euro to support similar activities.

“This new partnership agreement strengthens Normalization under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. It will help improve the quality of life of people in conflict-affected areas through community participation and the pursuit of sustainable livelihood within a peaceful, deliberative society,” said Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. “For four years, we have been reaching out to our fellow Filipinos in the south, touching lives and taking ‘peace by piece’ steps towards a developed Bangsamoro.”

Established in 2006 with support from development partners including the Australia, Canada, European Union, Sweden, New Zealand, and the United States, and administered by the World Bank, the MTF consolidates international development assistance for the socioeconomic recovery of conflict-affected communities in Mindanao and seeks to build confidence in the normalization process with the MILF.

From 2006 to 2017, development partners have provided PHP 1.4 billion (USD 28.9 million) to the program. Within this period, results delivered by the MTF-Reconstruction and Development Project include 573 projects that improved infrastructure, strengthen livelihoods and functional literacy in 315 conflict-affected communities across 75 municipalities. Nearly 650,000 people now benefit from clean water, better roads, and more post-harvest facilities and access to farming and fishing equipment.

“The support of the Philippine government and development partners towards projects that strengthen the Bangsamoro’s capacities to improve their socioeconomic conditions reinforce people’s trust on the Bangsamoro peace process and the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” said MILF Peace Implementing Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal.

The project also supported activities to improve livelihoods, infrastructure, and basic literacy in the Six Acknowledged MILF Camps: Camps Abubakar, Omar, Rajamuda, Badre, Bushra, and Bilal. The decision of Secretary Dureza of OPAPP, the MILF, and development partners to further intensify these efforts through the MTF highlight the partners’ commitment to peace and development in Mindanao.

“Greater economic opportunity and access to basic services foster hope in conflict-affected areas, which can build understanding and collaboration among community members. The World Bank is committed to supporting efforts that enhance the prospects for peace in Mindanao,” said Mara K. Warwick, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.

“Australia is a longstanding supporter of peace and development in Mindanao, and is proud to be a partner for change in the second phase of the Mindanao Trust Fund,” said Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely. “As the first phase has already shown, the socio-economic infrastructure and literacy projects it will provide can have a remarkable impact for communities in Muslim Mindanao.”

“One of the biggest challenges for development policies is to tackle the most vulnerable communities affected by multiple conflicts and threats; to not leave them behind. This complex aim needs joint resources from national and international stakeholders following a sound local leadership. MTF has acted as a valuable driver of such efforts,” said Juan Pita, General Coordinator of AECID.

The MTF has a steering committee that oversees the implementation and evaluation of the program. It is chaired by OPAPP, BDA, and the World Bank, which also serves as the trust fund secretariat.

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