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India’s Biggest Challenge: Pursuing Reforms Needed to Sustain 8% Growth for Decades

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With India expected to achieve 7.6% GDP growth this year and its global competitiveness rising, the country is at an inflection point, business, government and academic leaders told participants in the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum’s 32nd India Economic Summit. “The biggest challenge is to have sustainable growth of 8% for a couple of decades,” said Gita Gopinath, Professor of Economics at Harvard University. “Can India sustain this growth across political cycles?” To keep that pace of progress would entail further structural and institutional reforms, argued Gopinath, a Summit Co-Chair. “But if that is done, then it will be mind-blowing for India.”

“It is achievable,” declared Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry of India. “Across the states, we see that urge now – to see brighter days and to find the issues where we can come together, removing obstructions [to doing business] and moving forward on using technology.” John Rice, Vice-Chairman of GE in Hong Kong SAR and another Summit Co-Chair, agreed. “It is sustainable, but you have to think what is required for the 21st century and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With the convergence of digital and industrial, a different set of skills is required to win,” he said. The Indian government has the responsibility to ensure that people receive the necessary training. Added Rice: “You have to make sure you are investing in the right things, including basic infrastructure. You can’t do it if you have 200 million people without electricity.”

The opportunities for India and its 1.3 billion people are “tremendous”, said fellow Summit Co-Chair Anil Agarwal, Executive Chairman of Vedanta Resources in the United Kingdom. “I have never felt this buzz about India in the last two decades.” The prospects for small and medium-sized enterprises are especially good, he noted. In particular, development of India’s natural resources would contribute significantly to eradicating poverty, Agarwal explained. India’s many entrepreneurs are focusing on the domestic market, observed Summit Co-Chair Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Paytm, an Indian e-commerce company based in Noida, an industrial development in the National Capital Region. “For the first time, Indians are very proud of producing for India. Indian entrepreneurs are now accepting that we should build something for India, working for technology that will serve Indians.”

The impact that Indian entrepreneurs have had on Silicon Valley is proof of India’s edge in technology and innovation. “I greatly believe in it,” said Amitabh Kant, Chief Executive Officer of NITI Aayog, or the National Institute for Transforming India, a government policy think-tank. “India is used to innovating. But India needs to innovate in urbanization, sewage and for clean water. It has to innovate for people.” India’s start-ups “will disrupt the world,” predicted Kant, also a Co-Chair of the Summit. “They will disrupt health, education. They will do a lot more social innovation.”

“The promise of India has always been there,” said Johan C. Aurik, Global Managing Partner and Chairman of the Board of global consulting group A.T. Kearney in the US and a Summit Co-Chair. He remarked that India has broken into the ranks of the top 10 destinations for foreign direct investment in the world. “The government has become the facilitator of change,” he said, applauding the “Make in India” initiative launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 to encourage foreign and domestic companies to manufacture products in the country and create millions of jobs. “The challenges will be daunting with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the tensions between jobs and digital developments,” Aurik reckoned. “But we have to make sure that progress is inclusive.”

In remarks earlier in the session, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, said that, to drive new economic growth, it is critical for his country and its neighbours to build partnerships not just within South Asia, but also across the world, particularly in South-East Asia, Japan, Korea and Europe. Asia has emerged as an economic growth engine of the world, he said. And, while the West may have written the rules of globalization so far, “Asia will bail out the world” and will move to create its own system. He told participants that he and Indian Prime Minister Modi aim to conclude the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) by the end of this year. Sri Lanka is also working with five southern Indian states on a sub-regional cooperative arrangement. “We have the potential to work together,” Wickremesinghe said. “Let’s have the whole area around the Bay of Bengal be a vibrant place of economic cooperation. The growth is here.” Colombo is also discussing a free-trade agreement with Singapore.

In a video message to welcome participants, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, said that India has to continue its efforts to promote inclusion and master the challenges posed by the rapid technological changes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “Inclusiveness in India and in the world will be one of the most decisive objectives the world community and Indian society have to achieve,” he said.

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Abu Dhabi Fund for Development Loans Worth over US$50 Million Available

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Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) and The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) are inviting applications for more than US$50 million in funding through the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility. The ADFD-financed initiative is available to government-guaranteed renewable energy projects in developing countries that seek to increase energy access, improve livelihoods and advance sustainable development.

ADFD has committed US$350 million (AED1.285 billion) in concessionary loans over seven annual funding cycles to renewable energy projects recommended by IRENA.

The facility welcomes proposals for projects – especially those submitted by ministries, public utility entities and rural electrification agencies – that are able to obtain a government guarantee for the ADFD loan.

“Renewable energy can have a powerful impact on the livelihoods of people across the globe,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “It is the most cost-competitive option to expand access to energy and improve socio-economic welfare while creating jobs and empowering local communities. Now in its seventh funding cycle, the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility has a proven track record of driving positive change through renewable energy deployment, supporting developing countries to benefit from the energy transformation.”

For his part, His Excellency Mohammed Saif Al Suwaidi, Director General of ADFD, said: “Since its launch in 2012, the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility has continued to deliver on the UAE’s promise to introduce renewable energy solutions in developing countries as a sustainable and long-term alternative to conventional energy sources. Advancing the renewable energy sector helps achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, as well as create jobs and stimulate economic growth. We are proud of the milestones this facility has marked, and look forward to receiving cutting-edge and impactful applications for the seventh and final funding cycle.”

In the first five cycles, the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility allocated US$214 million to 21 renewable energy projects across the globe, covering up to 50 per cent of the project costs. The efforts will bring more than 100 megawatts of renewable energy capacity online, improving the lives of over a million people through energy access. Spanning Asia, Africa, Latin America and Small Island Developing States, the projects encompass the complete spectrum of renewable energy sources – wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass – and technologies. To fulfil its commitment to contributing a total of US$350 million towards sustainable development, ADFD will allocate all outstanding funds by the seventh and final cycle.

The projects selected for the sixth funding cycle will be announced in January 2019.

Summary applications for the seventh cycle will be accepted until 17:00 GST on 14 February 2019.

IRENA

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Digital Technology Will Help Djibouti Leap into the Future

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Digital technology will have a critical part to play in boosting Djibouti’s socio-economic development and meeting the ambitious goals set out in its national strategy, Vision Djibouti 2035. As a key step toward building a strong, inclusive digital economy, the Government of Djibouti and the World Bank are co-hosting a high-level event that will explore the potential benefits of digital development and propose a concrete roadmap of action.

“Disruptive technologies are creating new business models, opening up new markets, and giving consumers access to more products and services than ever before. It is hard to overstate the economic potential of these transformations,” said Ilyas Moussa Dawaleh, Djibouti’s Ministry of Economy and Finance. “In a country like ours, developing a high-performing digital ecosystem will provide a unique chance to stimulate the economy and create jobs. The Digital Economy conference starting today will bring us one step closer to this vision.”

“The digital sector will be key to improving the lives of Djiboutian people, expanding our economy, and strengthening our position as a logistics and commercial hub. With eight submarine cable landing on our shores, there is no doubt Djibouti has what it takes to become a digital leader in the region,” noted Abdi Youssouf Sougueh, Minister of Communications. “We are keen to bring in development partners like the World Bank to leverage this infrastructure to the fullest and reinforce all the other fundamentals that are necessary to nurture a vibrant digital economy.”

The conference will bring together a wide range of government representatives, technology pioneers, and development partners. Building on this uniquely diverse combination of knowledge and global perspectives, participants will assess Djibouti’s digital landscape, share international best practices, discuss how technology can help modernize all sectors of the economy, and outline a clear strategy and action plan for digital development in the country.

“Countries around the world are leveraging digital innovation to accelerate economic growth and build a better future for people, and Djibouti is very well positioned to gain from that approach,” said Boutheina Guermazi, World Bank Director for Digital Development. “I am confident this event will pave the way for close collaboration on digital development between the Word Bank, Djibouti, and countries across the Middle East and Africa.”

In addition to discussing Djibouti’s opportunities and challenges, the event will also highlight the need for bolder action on digital development engagement across the region.

Sessions will cover all key dimensions of digital development, with a focus on how to strengthen the five pillars of the digital economy: digital infrastructure; innovation and entrepreneurship; digital financial services and identification; digital platforms; and digital literacy and skills.

“Technological innovation holds great promise for Djibouti. By harnessing the full power of the digital economy, the country could see significant GDP growth, create a future-proof labor market, and raise living standards for all segments of the population. We stand ready to work hand in hand with Djibouti on this journey, to help create the right conditions for a thriving digital sector,” said Atou Seck, World Bank Resident Representative in Djibouti.

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The first shopping tourism project in Mexico

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Municipality of León (Guanajuato, Mexico) have signed an agreement to carry out the country’s first project to develop Shopping Tourism, with the support of the Ministry of Tourism of the State of Guanajuato.

The project is expected to serve as an international reference point and as a showcase at major tourism forums.

The Tourism Observatory of the State of Guanajuato has been a member of the UNWTO International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories since 2014. At the World Tourism Organization’s General Assembly held in Medellín, Colombia, in September 2015, Guanajuato expressed its interest in being one of the destinations to develop a project on shopping tourism, and León was the selected destination in light of the fact that 27% of its tourists visit the city to go shopping.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.

The project will help León (Guanajuato, Mexico) to develop innovative shopping tourism offerings that link the public and private sectors and that highlight the destination’s tourism attractions and products as well as tourism’s contribution to socio-economic development, which includes the creation of jobs directly in the tourism sector and in the many activities related to the sector.

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