Connect with us

Economy

G20 to improve trade governance

Published

on

World’s top economies known as G20 nations or Group of Twenty, accounting for 85 percent of the world trade, met in Chinese Shanghai on July 9-10 to discuss and find solutions for the global slowdown of economies, causing serious concerns globally. G20 economies decided to remain committed to an open global economy, and will further work towards trade liberalization and facilitation, said a statement released following the two-day G20 Trade Ministers Meeting in Shanghai.

At the opening session of the G20 trade ministers meeting, the first of its kind in G20 history, in Shanghai on July 9, 2016. China’s commerce minister said the outlook for the global economy remains grim despite its gradual recovery from the impact of the financial crisis.

The G20’s agenda have been gradually shifting from dealing with the aftermath of financial crisis to long term governance in recent years, with trade and investment emerging as another critical aspect along with financial and fiscal coordination,” said China’s Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng.

The G20 is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies. The G20 is made up of EU and the finance ministers and central bank governors of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States of America. The European Union is represented by the rotating Council presidency and the European Central Bank. Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meet regularly to discuss ways to strengthen the global economy, reform international financial institutions, improve financial regulation, and discuss the key economic reforms that are needed in each of the member countries.

The G20, the premier forum for its members’ international economic cooperation and decision-making, was founded in 1999 with the aim of studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability It seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organization. The G20 heads of government or heads of state have periodically conferred at summits since their initial meeting in 2008, and the group also hosts separate meetings of finance ministers and central bank governors.

The G20 started in 1999 as a meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. In 2008, the first G20 Leaders’ Summit was held, and its decisive and coordinated actions boosted consumer and business confidence and supported the first stages of economic recovery. G20 leaders have met eight times since 2008.

The G20 works closely with international organizations including the Financial Stability Board, the International Labour Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Co- operation and Development, the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. These and a number of other organizations are invited to attend key G20 meetings. Engagement groups such as B20, L20, T20 and W20 also convene to prepare policy recommendations for the G20 Summit during the year.

The G20 Summit continues to focus on measures to support global economic growth, with a strong emphasis on promoting job creation and open trade. The G7 was established in 1976 as an informal forum of seven major industrial economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. It was re-named the G8 after the entry of Russia in 1998. This March, the G7 voted to suspend Russia in response to escalating tensions with Ukraine that led to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Where the G7 seeks agreement on current economic issues based on the interests of those countries, the G20 reflects the wider interests of both industrial and emerging-market economies.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) statistics showed that global trade growth has slowed significantly since 2008, from an average of over seven per cent per year between 1990 and 2008, to less than three per cent between 2009 and 2015. The WTO unveiled a new trade-related index called the World Trade Outlook Indicator (WTOI) on Friday ahead of the meeting, which is designed to provide real time information on trends in global trade. The current reading suggested that trade growth will remain weak into the third quarter of 2016.

In June the World Bank cut its forecast for the global economy in 2016 from 2.9% to 2.4%. And in April the International Monetary Fund had cut its forecast to 3.2% from 3.4%. The current reading suggested that trade growth will remain weak into the third quarter of 2016. Also, G20 economies vowed to support low-income countries (LICs) to participate more in global value chains (GVCs) to drive global trade growth

Last year marked the fourth consecutive year with global trade growth below 3 percent. The meeting endorsed the G20 Strategy for Global Trade Growth, in which the economies will lead by example to lower trade costs, harness trade and investment policy coherence, boost trade in services, enhance trade finance, promote e-commerce development and address trade and development, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The world’s top 20 economies agreed to improve international trade governance in view of the global slowdown of global trade growth due to increasing anti-trade measures that have become more universal since 2009, said a statement released on Sunday after the two-day G20 Trade Ministers’ Meeting in Shanghai.

The Brexit vote by the UK to leave the EU has added to the global financial uncertainty.

Outcomes

The meeting endorsed the G20 Strategy for Global Trade Growth, in which the economies will lead by example to lower trade costs, harness trade and investment policy coherence, boost trade in services, enhance trade finance, promote e-commerce development and address trade and development.

The G20 economies recognised that GVCs, encompassing regional value chains (RVCs), are important feature of the global economy, and are important drivers of world trade. The economies would support policies to allow firms of all sizes, including small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in countries with different developing levels to participate in and fully utilize GVCs.

The G20 ministers agreed the world’s major economies to cut trade costs, boost trade and increase policy co-ordination and enhance financing. They also approved a trade growth plan. “We agree that we need to do more to achieve our common objectives for global growth, stability and prosperity,” the G20 ministers said in a statement.

G20 economies vowed to support low-income countries (LICs) to participate more in global value chains (GVCs) to drive global trade growth, it said. The G20 economies recognised that GVCs, encompassing regional value chains (RVCs), are important feature of the global economy, and are important drivers of world trade.

Some countries still practice protectionism policies though the idea of protectionism in a globalizing world is wrong. G20 members would facilitate developing countries and SMEs access to information on trade and investment opportunities, and provide further information to help them participate in GVCs and move up the value chain.

G20 members with capacity to do so would continue to help developing countries ‘and SMEs’ ability to adopt and comply with relevant national and international standards, technical regulations, and conformity assessment procedures.

The economies would support policies to allow firms of all sizes, including small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in countries with different developing levels to participate in and fully utilize GVCs. G20 members would continue to enhance capacity building to promote inclusive and coordinated GVCs and seek to develop and implement initiatives to assist developing countries, particularly LICs and SMEs in the areas that matter most to GVCs.

G20 members would continue to enhance capacity building to promote inclusive and coordinated GVCs and seek to develop and implement initiatives to assist developing countries, particularly LICs and SMEs in the areas that matter most to GVCs.

Such initiatives might include appropriate infrastructure, technology support, access to credit, supply chain connectivity, agriculture, innovation and e-commerce, skills training and responsible business conduct. G20 members with capacity to do so would continue to help developing countries ‘and SMEs’ ability to adopt and comply with relevant national and international standards, technical regulations, and conformity assessment procedures.

China warns on global economy and says G20 (and not G7) must lead global economy. China’s commerce minister says the outlook for the global economy remains grim despite it having overcome the impact of the 2008 financial crisis. Gao Hucheng said at a G20 meeting in Shanghai that major economies must lead the way in tackling problems, including slowing trade and sluggish growth.

The international community now expected the G20 to show initiative and leadership in solving economic growth problems.

China’s will host the main G20 summit later this year. “The global economy emerged from its previous low and is developing in a good direction, and the deep effects of the global financial crisis can still be felt. The revival and growth of the global economy is still lacking in strength,” Gao said, “Low levels of global trade and investment has not recovered to their pre-financial crisis levels.”

Economy

Is Myanmar an ethical minefield for multinational corporations?

Published

on

By

Business at a crossroads

Political reforms in Myanmar started in November 2010 followed by the release of the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and ended by the coup d’état in February 2021. Business empire run by the military generals thanks to the fruitful benefits of democratic transition during the last decade will come to an end with the return of trade and diplomatic sanctions from the western countries – United States (US) and members of European Union (EU).  US and EU align with other major international partners quickly responded and imposed sanctions over the military’s takeover and subsequent repression in Myanmar. These measures targeted not only the conglomerates of the military generals  but also the individuals who have been appointed in the authority positions and supporting the military regime.

However, the generals and their cronies own the majority of economic power both in strategic sectors ranging from telecommunication to oil & gas and in non-strategic commodity sectors such as food and beverages, construction materials, and the list goes on. It is a tall order for the investors to do business by avoiding this lucrative network of the military across the country. After the coup, it raises the most puzzling issue to investors and corporate giants in this natural resource-rich country, “Should I stay or Should I go?”

Crimes against humanity

For most of the people in the country, war crimes and atrocities committed by the military are nothing new. For instances, in 1988, student activists led a political movement and tried to bring an end to the military regime of the general Ne Win. This movement sparked a fire and grew into a nationwide uprising in a very short period but the military used lethal force and slaughtered thousands of civilian protestors including medical doctors, religious figures, student leaders, etc. A few months later, the public had no better options than being silenced under barbaric torture and lawless killings of the regime.

In 2007, there was another major protest called ‘Saffron Uprising’ against the military regime led by the Buddhist monks. It was actually the biggest pro-democracy movement since 1988 and the atmosphere of the demonstration was rather peaceful and non-violent before the military opened live ammunitions towards the crowd full of monks. Everything was in chaos for a couple of months but it ended as usual.

In 2017, the entire world witnessed one of the most tragic events in Myanmar – Again!. The reports published by the UN stated that hundreds of civilians were killed, dozens of villages were burnt down, and over 700,000 people including the majority of Rohingya were displaced to neighboring countries because of the atrocities committed by the military in the western border of the country. After four years passed, the repatriation process and the safety return of these refugees to their places of origin are yet unknown. Most importantly, there is no legal punishment for those who committed and there is no transitional justice for those who suffered in the aforementioned examples of brutalities.

The vicious circle repeated in 2021. With the economy in free fall and the deadliest virus at doorsteps, the people are still unbowed by the oppression of the junta and continue demanding the restoration of democracy and justice. To date, Assistant Association for Political Prisoner (AAPP) reported that due to practicing the rights to expression, 1178 civilians were killed and 7355 were arrested, charged or sentenced by the military junta. Unfortunately, the numbers are still increasing.

Call for economic disengagement

In 2019, the economic interests of the military were disclosed by the report of UN Fact-Finding Mission in which Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holding Limited (MEHL) were described as the prominent entities controlled by the military profitable through the almost-monopoly market in real estate, insurance, health care, manufacturing, extractive industry and telecommunication. It also mentioned the list of foreign businesses in partnership with the military-linked activities which includes Adani (India), Kirin Holdings (Japan), Posco Steel (South Korea), Infosys (India) and Universal Apparel (Hong Kong).

Moreover, Justice for Myanmar, a non-profit watchdog organization, revealed the specific facts and figures on how the billions of revenues has been pouring into the pockets of the high-ranked officers in the military in 2021. Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE), an another military-controlled authority body, is the key player handling the financial transactions, profit sharing, and contractual agreements with the international counterparts including Total (France), Chevron (US), PTTEP (Thailand), Petronas (Malaysia), and Posco (South Korea) in natural gas projects. It is also estimated that the military will enjoy 1.5 billion USD from these energy giants in 2022.

Additionally, data shows that the corporate businesses currently operating in Myanmar has been enriching the conglomerates of the generals and their cronies as a proof to the ongoing debate among the public and scholars, “Do sanctions actually work?” Some critics stressed that sanctions alone might be difficult to pressure the junta without any collaborative actions from Moscow and Beijing, the longstanding allies of the military. Recent bilateral visits and arm deals between Nay Pyi Taw and Moscow dimmed the hope of the people in Myanmar. It is now crystal clear that the Burmese military never had an intention to use the money from multinational corporations for benefits of its citizens, but instead for buying weapons, building up military academies, and sending scholars to Russia to learn about military technology. In March 2021, the International Fact Finding Mission to Myanmar reiterated its recommendation for the complete economic disengagement as a response to the coup, “No business enterprise active in Myanmar or trading with or investing in businesses in Myanmar should enter into an economic or financial relationship with the security forces of Myanmar, in particular the Tatmadaw [the military], or any enterprise owned or controlled by them or their individual members…”

Blood money and ethical dilemma

In the previous military regime until 2009, the US, UK and other democratic champion countries imposed strict economic and diplomatic sanctions on Myanmar while maintaining ‘carrot and stick’ approach against the geopolitical dominance of China. Even so, energy giants such as Total (France) and Chevron (US), and other ‘low-profile’ companies from ASEAN succeeded in running their operations in Myanmar, let alone the nakedly abuses of its natural resources by China. Doing business in this country at the time of injustice is an ethical question to corporate businesses but most of them seems to prefer maximizing the wealth of their shareholders to the freedom of its bottom millions in poverty.

But there are also companies not hesitating to do something right by showing their willingness not to be a part of human right violations of the regime. For example, Australian mining company, Woodside, decided not to proceed further operations, and ‘get off the fence’ on Myanmar by mentioning that the possibility of complete economical disengagement has been under review. A breaking news in July, 2021  that surprised everyone was the exit of Telenor Myanmar – one of four current telecom operators in the country. The CEO of the Norwegian company announced that the business had been sold to M1 Group, a Lebanese investment firm, due to the declining sales and ongoing political situations compromising its basic principles of human rights and workplace safety.

In fact, cutting off the economic ties with the junta and introducing a unified, complete economic disengagement become a matter of necessity to end the consistent suffering of the people of Myanmar. Otherwise, no one can blame the people for presuming that international community is just taking a moral high ground without any genuine desire to support the fight for freedom and pro-democracy movement.

Continue Reading

Economy

The Covid After-Effects and the Looming Skills Shortage

Published

on

coronavirus people

The shock of the pandemic is changing the ways in which we think about the world and in which we analyze the future trajectories of development. The persistence of the Covid pandemic will likely accentuate this transformation and the prominence of the “green agenda” this year is just one of the facets of these changes. Market research as well as the numerous think-tanks will be accordingly re-calibrating the time horizons and the main themes of analysis. Greater attention to longer risks and fragilities is likely to take on greater prominence, with particular scrutiny being accorded to high-impact risk factors that have a non-negligible probability of materializing in the medium- to long-term. Apart from the risks of global warming other key risk factors involve the rising labour shortages, most notably in areas pertaining to human capital development.

The impact of the Covid pandemic on the labour market will have long-term implications, with “hysteresis effects” observed in both highly skilled and low-income tiers of the labour market. One of the most significant factors affecting the global labour market was the reduction in migration flows, which resulted in the exacerbation of labour shortages across the major migrant recipient countries, such as Russia. There was also a notable blow delivered by the pandemic to the spheres of human capital development such as education and healthcare, which in turn exacerbated the imbalances and shortages in these areas. In particular, according to the estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO) shortages can mount up to 9.9 million physicians, nurses and midwives globally by 2030.

In Europe, although the number of physicians and nurses has increased in general in the region by approximately 10% over the past 10 years, this increase appears to be insufficient to cover the needs of ageing populations. At the same time the WHO points to sizeable inequalities in the availability of physicians and nurses between countries, whereby there are 5 times more doctors in some countries than in others. The situation with regard to nurses is even more acute, as data show that some countries have 9 times fewer nurses than others.

In the US substantial labour shortages in the healthcare sector are also expected, with anti-crisis measures falling short of substantially reversing the ailments in the national healthcare system. In particular, data published by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges), suggests that the United States could see an estimated shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034, including shortfalls in both primary and specialty care.

The blows sustained by global education from the pandemic were no less formidable. These affected first and foremost the youngest generation of the globe – according to UNESCO, “more than 1.5 billion students and youth across the planet are or have been affected by school and university closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic”. On top of the adverse effects on the younger generation (see Box 1), there is also the widening “teachers gap”, namely a worldwide shortage of well-trained teachers. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), “69 million teachers must be recruited to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030”.

From our partner RIAC

Continue Reading

Economy

Accelerating COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake to Boost Malawi’s Economic Recovery

Published

on

Lunzu market in southern Malawi. WFP/Greg Barrow

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries including Malawi have struggled to mitigate its impact amid limited fiscal support and fragile health systems. The pandemic has plunged the continent into its first recession in over 25 years, and vulnerable groups such as the poor, informal sector workers, women, and youth, suffer disproportionately from reduced opportunities and unequal access to social safety nets.

Fast-tracking COVID-19 vaccine acquisition—alongside widespread testing, improved treatment, and strong health systems—are critical to protecting lives and stimulating economic recovery. In support of the African Union’s (AU) target to vaccinate 60 percent of the continent’s population by 2022, the World Bank and the AU announced a partnership to assist the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) initiative with resources, allowing countries to purchase and deploy vaccines for up to 400 million Africans. This extraordinary effort complements COVAX and comes at a time of rising cases in the region.

I am convinced that unless every country in the world has fair, broad, and fast access to effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines, we will not stem the spread of the pandemic and set the global economy on track for a steady and inclusive recovery. The World Bank has taken unprecedented steps to ramp up financing for Malawi, and every country in Africa, to empower them with the resources to implement successful vaccination campaigns and compensate for income losses, food price increases, and service delivery disruptions.

In line with Malawi’s COVID-19 National Response and Preparedness Plan which aims to vaccinate 60 percent of the population, the World Bank approved $30 million in additional financing for the acquisition and deployment of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. This financing comes as a boost to Malawi’s COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness project, bringing World Bank contributions in this sector up to $37 million.

Malawi’s decision to purchase 1.8 million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines through the AU/African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) with World Bank financing is a welcome development and will enable Malawi to secure additional vaccines to meet its vaccination target.

However, Malawi’s vaccination campaign has encountered challenges driven by concerns regarding safety, efficacy, religious and cultural beliefs. These concerns, combined with abundant misinformation, are fueling widespread vaccine hesitancy despite the pandemic’s impact on the health and welfare of billions of people.  The low uptake of COVID-19 vaccines is of great concern, and it remains an uphill battle to reach the target of 60 percent by the end of 2023 from the current 2.2 percent.

Government leadership remains fundamental as the country continues to address vaccine hesitancy by consistently communicating the benefits of the vaccine, releasing COVID data, and engaging communities to help them understand how this impacts them.

As we deploy targeted resources to address COVID-19, we are also working to ensure that these investments support a robust, sustainable and resilient recovery. Our support emphasizes transparency, social protection, poverty alleviation, and policy-based financing to make sure that COVID assistance gets to the people who have been hit the hardest.

For example, the Financial Inclusion and Entrepreneurship Scaling Project (FInES) in Malawi is supporting micro, small, and medium enterprises by providing them with $47 million in affordable credit through commercial banks and microfinance institutions. Eight months into implementation, approximately $8.4 million (MK6.9 billion) has been made available through three commercial banks on better terms and interest rates. Additionally, nearly 200,000 urban households have received cash transfers and urban poor now have more affordable access to water to promote COVID-19 prevention.

Furthermore, domestic mobilization of resources for the COVID-19 response are vital to ensuring the security of supply of health sector commodities needed to administer vaccinations and sustain ongoing measures. Likewise, regional approaches fostering cross-border collaboration are just as imperative as in-country efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. United Nations (UN) partners in Malawi have been instrumental in convening regional stakeholders and supporting vaccine deployment.

Taking broad, fast action to help countries like Malawi during this unprecedented crisis will save lives and prevent more people falling into poverty. We thank Malawi for their decisive action and will continue to support the country and its people to build a resilient and inclusive recovery.

This op-ed first appeared in The Nation, via World Bank

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Defense1 hour ago

Iran in the SCO: a Forced “Look East” Strategy and an Alternative World Order

On September 17, a package of several dozen documents was signed in Dushanbe at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation...

Africa3 hours ago

Shaping the Future Relations between Russia and Guinea-Bissau

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Guinea- Bissau Suzi Carla Barbosa have signed a memorandum on political consultations. This aims...

Tech News5 hours ago

Online game showcases plight of our planet’s disappearing coral reefs

One of the world’s leading producers of online word games joined a global effort to help protect the planet’s coral...

South Asia7 hours ago

A Peep into Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Tricky Relations with Afghan Taliban

To understand the interesting relationship between the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as Pakistani Taliban, and the Afghan Taliban, one...

Environment12 hours ago

Act Urgently to Preserve Biodiversity for Sustainable Future — ADB President

The world must act urgently to preserve ecosystems and biodiversity for the sake of a sustainable future and prosperity, Asian...

Health & Wellness13 hours ago

Stockholm+50: Accelerate action towards a healthy and prosperous planet for all

The United Nations General Assembly agreed on the way forward for plans to host an international meeting at the highest...

Economy15 hours ago

Is Myanmar an ethical minefield for multinational corporations?

Business at a crossroads Political reforms in Myanmar started in November 2010 followed by the release of the opposition leader,...

Trending