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Cash crisis in India

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] W [/yt_dropcap]orld attention was fully focused on US presidential poll as Republican Donald Trump was leading on November 08 as Indian premier Narendra Modi announced in the night on Indian TV channels about the state ban of currency notes, making life miserable for the people without enough money in hand.

While making the announcement to discontinue Rs 500 and 1,000 banknotes , the government had also announced closure of bank branches and ATMs next day. It also announced the launch of newer notes of Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 from November 10.

India has plenty of money but not got locked in banks, houses, offices, and elsewhere, including hidden underneath to avoid taxes to the government and people of India are unable to use them as government of India has banned currency notes of denomination of Rupees 500 and 1000, causing the first ever serious cash crisis in India.

Modi has indeed declared another surgical attack, now on the helpless Indians.

Demonetization measure is too harsh for the common masses who have very limited resources.

The result is people are not buying things, business establishments have no business, as banks allow only 2000 thousand rupees a day for the peole to withdraw or exchange. New rules are being announced complicating the life of common people while the rich and corporates have their own “channels” of money transfer and expenditures.

The BJP government of Narendra Modi abruptly announced a ban of big notes of denominations 500 and 1000 that played huge role in trade and even ordinary business. In fact, high value currencies have ceased to be legal tender from 8 November midnight when PM Modi announced the new financial measures. There has huge rush since 09 November at the bank branches as customers throng to deposit their Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes or exchange them with Rs 100/50 notes.

The Modi government explains the measures as being necessary to end black and bad money floating along with the genuine notes, causing inflation, whereas experts say corruption is the cause of inflation and poor quality of life of common people. Whether or not PM Modi would be able to contain the dirty cash and make the value of Indian money strong, people are suffering a lot, while the regime has not been able to control the corporate funding of elections, thereby bring Indian democracy closer to American.

Demonetization effect

The recent demonetization of currency notes reveals the sad state of our public discourse on government policy. The combination of braying anchors on TV channels and opinions on social media show how to mangle a discourse.

Demonetization of high denomination currency has created big problems to common people and law and order situation is being created with police being deployed outside banks to control the queue. The issue has reached the parliament. The Winter Session of Parliament opened on Nov 16 with a united Opposition mounting an assault on the government over demonetization, saying it had led to “economic anarchy” in the country. The opposition parties also demanded a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the alleged selective leak of information before the official announcement. Joining ranks over the raging issue, parties like Congress, JD(U), RJD, SP, BSP, Trinamool Congress, Left and AIADMK slammed the government, particularly targeting PM Modi, for making Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination notes invalid and said the “ill-timed” and “ill-conceived” step had severely hit the common people, the farmers and the poor.

While Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day, the seven-hour-long debate in Rajya Sabha, however, remained inconclusive. The debate in Rajya Sabha continued till 6 pm as there were repeated demands by the opposition members that the Prime Minister should be present in the House to listen to the members. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said PM Modi, who did not come to the Rajya Sabha, should at least be present tomorrow and possibly intervene.

During a discussion on demonetization, which was taken up after suspension of all business in response to notices given by a host of opposition members, a scathing attack was made on the government which strongly defended the step as one taken in national interest and to end corruption and black money, which it linked to terror activities in the country.

Opposition attack on Modi in parliament

In an all-day debate in parliament today, opposition leaders like Anand Sharma of the Congress said they are not opposed to the reform, but to what they described as the lack of preparation to manage the cash crunch. The government has emphasized that if the notice for the initiative had been longer, the move would not have been effective.

Congress is the major opposition in parliament. Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma sought a probe into “selective leakage” of the demonetization move, which he termed a “Nadirshahi farman” (autocratic order). Initiating a debate after listed business was suspended to take up a discussion on the 8 November decision to withdraw old higher denomination currency, Sharma used wit and humor to attack Modi for being insensitive to problems caused to the common man. He asked Modi to state where he got Rs 23,000-24,000 crore, estimated by the International Money Watch Group, for his Lok Sabha elections. He also asked if cheque or credit card payments were made to organize his rally at Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh a few days ago. Alleging that the information on demonetization was selectively leaked, he said, “Your BJP units have deposited crores (just before the 8 November decision).” Sharma sought to know from the Prime Minister as to “who wants to kill him”, referring to the Prime Minister’s speech in Goa where he had said that with demonetization resulting in “Looting of their 70 year corrupt earnings, they will destroy me, they can kill me”. “There should have been an ordinance for demonetization. But no ordinance was brought. This is a Nadirshahi farman (autocratic order),” Sharma said.

The decision to demonetize high currency notes was leaked to a select few. Secrecy was not maintained on this issue. It was published in a Gujarati newspaper long back and even other newspapers wrote about it,” said Sharma. “There should be a probe into the selective leakage of information,” he said, asking: “What did the government do to prepare for effective implementation of the policy.” He also sought to know from the government which law gave it the right to impose limits on withdrawing money from peoples’ own accounts. “An atmosphere has been created by the government where questioning them has become a parameter to decide one’s nationalism,” said Sharma. He sought to know from the Prime Minister as to from where the “15 thousand crore rupees spent on your mega election campaign come from”. “Did you pay for your recent Ghazipur rally through credit card,” Sharma said mocking the government for asking people to use plastic money for day-to-day expenses. After withdrawing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, restrictions were placed even on foreign tourists who could not get their currency changed.

The Modi government rejected as baseless the opposition charge that there was “leakage” of the 8 November decision that benefited BJP, and said everyone was taken by surprise which is why there are “initial” problems.

The government argues that the honest tax payer is being rewarded as he does not have to worry about his cash deposits. For once the honest tax payer is in a privileged position which is rare and shocking for him.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had informed Parliament in August that fake currency was 0.02 percent of the total currency in circulation. If 0.02 percent by government admission is counterfeit currency, how can that be made the base to remove 86 percent of currency in circulation. An undeclared emergency has put common people in grave inconvenience, he said while crime money, ill-gotten wealth and that accrued through corruption or tax evasion is black money. One wonders if money in the market, or in households or with farmers, workers and employees was also blackmoney.

Key opposition leaders

BSP chief and former UP chief minister Mayawati demanded the presence of the Prime Minister in the House to hear out the Opposition parties and address their concerns. Mayawati questioned the government’s preparedness for the demonetization of high-value bank notes, accusing it of spending the last ten months on settling the black money of its people. “The government has said that they spent ten months preparing for this decision. Ten months was a long time to prepare. If they were serious about it, they would have prepared well for all the problems that people are facing today.” “If the government had spent ten months preparing for it, then why do they need another 50 days? There is something fishy.”

While the masses are in pain, PM Modi keeps taking after creating a national crisis and Mayawati said he must be sleeping after taking pills, adding that the poor and the middle classes were the worst sufferers. “It is an immature decision taken in haste and the whole country feels that is an ‘economic emergency’,” she said adding that it was like a “Bharatbandi situation.”

The hardship is real especially among lower income categories that do not have bank account and need cash for emergencies. Their trouble is painful and affects the society emotionally. There is no justification logical or emotional for this pain. An emotional pain cannot be justified by logic, neither should an economic decision rest on emotional arguments. The reason an emotional justification is pulled in is because of the nationalist fervor or color being given to an economic decision.

The nationalistic line or patriotic one is wrong all it shows is the intellectual drought that TV channels suffer from these days. Their desire to kowtow the government line crosses limits of ridiculousness and borders on stupidity. Though the line is supported by those in the government and is detrimental as it will affect economic decisions in the future. People are not stupid to be swept by such fervor. TD will not reduce or remove corruption. The artifice is high and is the favorite line of criticism for opposition politicians. Especially, as the government is introducing a higher denomination Rs 2000 note and reintroducing Rs 500 and Rs 1000.

To understand, TD by itself does not remove black money or will get rid of it. One, it will help to bring more people in the banking system as they stop relying on cash, particularly traders and jewellers. Second, currency as stock is not going vanish anytime, it cannot go away, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 are also going to come back. This step is a shock therapy to the system. To put the fear in the minds of people who do not pay taxes or use cash to hide unaccounted income. Clever politicians have tried to explain that black money is no longer kept in cash but in gold and real estate.

Like all criticism it is easy. There is no single step or action that can get India rid of black money irrespective of what politicians say. The reason it is black is because the system is not able to capture it. No country has been able to successfully capture it, which is why tax havens exist. TD affects a small percentage of it, but should this step not be taken because it affects a small percentage. Should we wait endlessly until we find that brahmashastra that will destroy black money. If incremental steps help they should be taken.

This shock required surprise, surprise required secrecy that means not many people knew. Therefore the system is still not ready. Hence the hardship! Though the secret argument cannot be used for justifying the hardship as once announced banks need to get their act together. Especially as the nail that has lost the kingdom is the tray in ATM machine that is not able to take a Rs 2000 note.

Yechury Mamata, Mayawati

CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said that of the 130 crore population in the country, only 2.6 crore have credit cards. He took a dig at Modi and narrated the infamous quote of Queen Marie Antoinette during the French revolution who had said that people can eat cakes when they don’t have bread. “We have Modi Antoinette who says ‘If you don’t have paper, use plastic'”. Alleging that a BJP unit in Kolkata deposited Rs 1 crore in Indian’s Bank Account on 8 November, he said “prove me if I am wrong.” He added that Prime Minister was advertising for Paytm while talking about cashless economy.

The CPM leader said 1/5th of the economy is black economy and people who kept black money invested it in real estate, gold etc. That is why the imports surged and stated that it was this PM only who had stated that 95 percent of the black money is stashed offshore and is in safe havens. “PM is cleaning a pond to kill crocodiles but big crocodiles have survived and only small fishes are dying.” He also demanded that corporate funding of all political parties should stop and there should be a system of state funding for elections to which Kurien said “why don’t you move a private members bill in this regard.”

Seeking immediate withdrawal of demonetization exercise, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met President Pranab Mukherjee along with leaders of National Conference, AAP and NDA ally Shiv Sena and submitted a memorandum voicing serious concern over the crisis arising out of ban on Rs 1000 and Rs 500 currency notes. She said the situation arising out of demonetization has triggered a sort of constitutional crisis.

Expressing concern over the problems being faced by the people after the demonetization move, she said “We have requested the President to speak to the government and decide on this and bring back normalcy in the country. President was once the Finance Minister and knows country’s situation better than anyone else, he will take appropriate action.” Leaders of the other opposition parties including Congress, Left parties, SP and BSP did not took part in the protest march. Describing as “dictatorial and draconian step” the government’s demonetization move, the memorandum has sought its immediate suspension. “Stop harassment of the common people by lifting of all sorts of restrictions recently thrust upon them,” the five-page memorandum said, and added “ensure that supply of essential commodities in adequate quantities be restored in the markets forthwith.”

Before beginning the march from Parliament, Mamata said “The march is to save common people from disaster.” The ban has affected the normal functioning of the household as there is no money available. However, the Shiv Sena differed on the issue and insisted the government to extend the deadline of accepting the old currency notes.

Mamata also said “Those with black money have been supported, but taxpayers are suffering”, and added that the situation arising out of demonetization has triggered a sort of constitutional crisis and financial emergency. Seeking the intervention of the President in the “interest of common people to alleviate the untold suffering, helplessness and financial insecurity that they are facing now”, the memorandum said “withdraw this draconian demonetization measure immediately.” Pitching for a broader campaign against demonetization, involving various political parties, Mamata yesterday met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Both the leaders discussed the crisis for about 40 minutes but Kejriwal reportedly expressed his reservation to come along with Shiv Sena on a same platform.

Mamata had approached other parties, including Congress and Left, to join the march against the demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes, saying “common people are suffering because of it.” However, Congress and Left though opposing the demonetization move preferred not to join the rainbow platform created by Mamata against the government. Undeterred by the absence of major political parties she marched ahead.

Positives approach

On a day when the opposition launched an offensive against the government over the abrupt withdrawal of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes, there was a rare exception. Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar, expressed his “total support” for the ban, introduced last week by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Fake notes will disappear,” said Kumar in his home state, sharing rare agreement with PM Modi, who has said the reform will attack the roots of black or untaxed money, counterfeited currency and corruption.

The parliament decried the ban on notes as a move that is punishing the poorest and weakest, who suddenly find themselves cashless.

Eight days after the old notes were cancelled, with just a few hours’ notice, banks are swarming with huge crowds desperate to get to the counter or an ATM to collect some new currency. A new version of the Rs. 500 note is still a rarity; the 2000 rupee note is being rejected by many vendors who say they cannot provide change for the high-denomination bill.

Nearly 48 billion dollars have been deposited in banks so far, as people turn in the old notes. And though the lines at banks in cities are long, it is in villages that a crisis is threatened with lakhs who are excluded from the banking system.

For now, people can exchange Rs. 4,500 of old notes for new ones – after this swap, indelible ink is used on the customer to ensure it remains a one-time exchange; upto Rs. 24,000 can be withdrawn per week from a bank account; Rs. 4,500 can be withdrawn from an ATM per card per day. The government has repeatedly said it is working night and day to reconfigure ATM machines, which need bigger trays to stock the new currency. The Reserve Bank of India has also confirmed that it has made special arrangements to help villages by dispatching micro-ATMs

The Positives approach of Bihar CM Nitish should be misunderstood for support for the BJP government at all.

Observation

If the cash crisis, if not controlled effectively, could lead to a serious economic and financial catastrophe making India a weak nation among third world nations. If the government is unable to tackle the black and other flirty money, that could have serious impact on the future of Indian politics.

Moving towards cashless economy was fine but even the most developed economies of US or Europe has not achieved that objective yet. If they had, the US central bank would have stopped printing dollars, European Central Bank won’t be printing Euros and UK central banks would have stopped printing pound sterling.

The move is without preparedness and people will punish BJP in 2019 during general elections. People of five states going for elections including Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab will punish BJP.

The common people, especially the poor and the housewives were put to great hardship through this move and if elections are held today they will teach this government a lesson, he said, adding that majority of women who saved money through household savings were upset with the move. It shows the shallowness of the TV anchors as intelligentsia. It also shows social media has the ability to influence the trajectory of public debate. It does not portend well for a democracy when the crowd is used as the arbiter for policy. The broad segment of the public discourse can be easily drawn as it is shorn of all nuances and can be easily clubbed into segments.

The hardship is real, but griping about it is not an argument for or against TD. An opinion based on hardship is just that a gripe.

The nationalistic and the ideological jingoists are not too different. As both do not see facts they only see political angles to every policy. They are criticising this step because it will not rid India of black money.

Criticism is always the lowest form of intelligence as it is an argument without a solution. Anybody can make it does not take any effort. Just because there an opinion exists does not make it right.

Today, social media gives every man the means to broadcast their opinion. But if you have a solution with that opinion it may be just a mite more useful. Otherwise, it is just another voice shouting loudly.

Demonetization move, causing hardship for the common people, is an economic decision that has far reaching ramifications. The hardship caused to people is not the reason temporary demonetization should not be done. Please note it is a temporary demonetization (TD). If the measure is hardship government should not take any step that causes it even it is long term interest of the people.

Undoubtedly PM Modi and BJP are now focusing on the assembly poll in UP and next Parliament poll. UP poll results will have impact on the future elections in the country. After the loss of Delhi and Bihar, BJP would be hard-pressed to be seen as the loser of UP also. But BJP has no hopes whatsoever of winning state UP which is now being ruled by the Samajwadi Party (SP) and opinions reveal a plus point for the BSP of Mayawati in UP.

Economy

Is Your Neighborhood Store Safe? Amazon and Store Closings

Meena Miriam Yust

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Amazon has reached the far corners of the earth… and the highest elevations.  Delivery men venture 11,562 feet up in the Himalayas to leave a package.  While the company may serve a useful purpose in remote regions, its phenomenal growth also reveals that no town is immune from its less desirable consequences.  The online retailer’s omnipresence has been all too apparent in Chicago, New York, and London in recent months, where stores have been closing in droves.

Treasure Island Foods of Chicago, a family-owned business started by Christ Kamberos in 1963, announced at the end of September that after 55 years it was closing all remaining stores in just two weeks.  Now, the lights are out and the shadows empty shelves are all that remain, with the scent of fresh sourdough and gyros cooking on the spit only in shoppers’ reminiscences as they walk by the darkened windows.

Julia Child once described Treasure Island as “America’s Most European Supermarket.”  In my memory, it was unforgettable.  The stores always had treasure troves for every season, from delicious green picholine olives from France, to liver pâté and English Blue Stilton at Christmas, and of course, Marmite.  Not to mention exotic cookies and chocolates from all over the world: marzipan and chocolate from Switzerland and Austria, shortbread from Scotland, and crisp butter wafers from the Netherlands are a few examples.  It was a haven for special gifts during the holidays.

Treasure Island was not alone in the struggle to survive amidst food delivery apps and Amazon.  Not only were customers buying goods online, but Amazon was also shifting into the grocery market by taking over Whole Foods.  Not surprisingly, Chicago’s other local grocery chain Dominick’s closed in 2014.  The city lost one of its most beloved bakeries too in 2017 when the Swedish Bakery closed after 88 years in business.  Gone were the days of mouth-watering rum balls, Princess Torte laden with green marzipan, and toska cake.  In its final days an estimated 500 customers per day flocked in to have one last tasty treat.

Purchasing items online might be convenient but the trend has serious costs for many industries, not only food.  Retail has been hit hard.  Sears recently filed for bankruptcy and is closing 142 stores.  So did Toys R Us, shuttering its outlets last summer.  Luxury goods retailer Henri Bendel announced in September that its stores will be closing too, after 123 years.

What’s more the change is not just in the United States.  In the UK, Marks & Spencer plans to close 100 stores by 2022.  Debenhams and House of Fraser in London are also in trouble.  In March of 2018, Sweden’s H & M reported the lowest first quarter profits in more than a decade, down 62%.  When large international stores are being squeezed, one can understand how local shops are struggling to keep afloat.  A recent Atlantic article observes that Manhattan is becoming a “rich ghost town.”  So many store fronts once filled with interesting items are now empty, a trend that the author predicts will move to other cities.  Will the choices for future shoppers be restricted to chain stores and dark unrented windows?  Local small retailers unable to afford high rents are gradually being nudged out of existence.  They need help.

Could Local Currencies Save Our Neighborhood Stores?

The answer may be introducing local currencies.  Studies have shown that municipal currencies stimulate the local economy.  They serve as shock absorbers and protect in times of recession.

Switzerland has had the WIR since 1934 and Ithaca, New York introduced its own currency known as Ithaca Hours in 1991.  Ithaca Hours started out with 90 individuals who were willing to accept the currency as a payment for their work, and expanded to become one of the largest local currency systems in the U.S.  Ithaca’s example was an inspiration for municipal systems in Madison, Wisconsin, and Corvallis, Oregon.

The UK also has several local currencies including the Bristol Pound.  The former Mayor of Bristol accepted his entire salary in Bristol Pounds, and more than 800 businesses accept the local currency.

Once local currencies are in circulation, consumers can continue using their national currency to purchase from large retailers and from online giants like Amazon.  Their local currency, though, is typically used at local businesses.

As an example, were a Chicago currency implemented, consumers might use their U.S. dollars to purchase goods online but would use their Chicago currency to buy locally.  Legislators and communities could thus lend a helping hand to local gems that remain in our towns.  Lutz Cafe and Pastry Shop, for instance, established in 1948, is unique to Chicago, and creates some of the most delicious cakes in the world.

By 2003, there were over 1,000 local currencies in North America and Europe.  Yet this is a mere fraction of the total number of cities.  If local currencies expanded to a majority of towns, perhaps our beloved neighborhood stores would be able to survive the online onslaught.

The Benefits of Preserving Local Shops

Consumers lose a service every time a small shop shuts down.  A local paint store, for instance, can provide advice on what paint to use for a particular purpose, how to use it, etc.  Nowadays, in many towns, these stores have closed.  Consumers’ options are limited to buying online without input from an expert, or from a large national chain, where they will be lucky to find advice comparable to that from a specialized store.  The same holds true for many kinds of home repair.

Then there is the charm of familiar faces at the corner store.  Growing up near Treasure Island as a child, I could scarcely forget the cherry-cheeked cherub-like server at the deli counter.  After noticing this eight-year-old’s tendency to gorge on free olive samples once a week, he would always laugh heartily with those chubby cheeks and remark with a chuckle that I would end up eating all the olives before reaching the check out line.  Ordering specialty olives online is just not the same.  There may be no checkout line, but also no one to talk or joke with.  The same is true for the automated Amazon Go stores.  The nice deli server today is out of a job after decades of service.

Another hidden cost of online purchases is environmental.  Aside from fossil fuel emissions, delivery of a parcel requires packaging, and often bubble wrap, made of low-density polyethylene, a form of plastic that comprises 20% of global plastic pollution.  Reusable bags and a neighborhood store within walking distance are clearly better for the environment.

Amazon’s reach extends to places like Leh, India, high in the snow-covered Himalayas, where many of its goods may not be available in town.  And one can appreciate and understand the value of online purchases in such rural communities.  In fact that was exactly the original purpose of Sears with its iconic catalogue.

Yet in cities where one can readily buy the same items in stores nearby, we have to try to refrain from the convenience of one-click shopping.  The more we purchase online items, the more we pollute the environment and kill local stores.  Without small businesses, cities will eventually become homogenized with block after block of chain retailers, or dark empty windows, as has started to happen in Manhattan.  The character of a quaint town or a trendy metropolis becomes obsolete.

Gone will be the unique gift shops and the luxury tailor.  When the British high street becomes indistinguishable from U.S. ghost towns and when the only place to eat is a chain burger joint, the fun of traveling and the adventure of new places will be lost forever.  The vibrant world of new flavors and experiences will be no more.

So please think twice before clicking an online purchase.  You may be signing your local store’s death warrant.

Author’s note: this piece first appeared in CounterPunch.org

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Economy

Azerbaijan: Just-in-time support for the economy

MD Staff

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Over the last two decades, oil has been the defining factor for Azerbaijan; not only for its economic growth but also for its development. During the first ten years of the millennium, Azerbaijan experienced an explosion in wealth. As oil GDP, comprising half of the sectoral share of the economy, grew by an average of 21 percent per year, fueled by global upsurge of oil prices and increased production. Total GDP grew more than tenfold: from US$6 bn to US$66 bn.  This was accompanied by rapid decline in poverty, from 49.6% to 7.6%, increase in real wages, and middle-class growth.

However, after the decline in global oil prices in 2014, nearly by half, the reduction of oil revenue caused a domino effect in the economy. The double devaluation of the Azerbaijani manat in 2015 erased half of the manat’s value against US dollar. and subsequent fiscal adjustment together with ongoing banking sector distress led to a 3.8% contraction in GDP (2016). This was accompanied with the rising of traditionally low levels of government debt (from 8.5% in 2014 to 22% in early 2018) primarily due to devaluation of manat.

On December sixth, 2016, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has signed a decree approving the “Strategic roadmaps for the national economy and main economic sectors.” The decree for reforms spanned across 11 sectors, from tourism to agriculture, and aimed to decrease the over-reliance to the oil and gas sector.

Azerbaijan – World Bank Partnership

Under very tight deadlines, Azerbaijani ministry of finance started working on a roadmap, that would reform the economy which had been impaired by a number of negative shocks such as lower oil prices, weak regional growth, currency devaluations in Azerbaijan’s main trading partners, and a contraction in hydrocarbon production. As a long-term partner of the World Bank Group (WBG), they reached out for support in developing a public finance strategy for the medium term at the beginning of 2016. To be able to broach such a broad project, different teams within WBG worked together closely to provide just-in-time support and to cover various facets of the macro-fiscal framework. Government Debt and Risk Management (GDRM) Program, a World Bank Treasury initiative targeting middle income countries funded by countries funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) worked on the debt management portion of the issue. The Macroeconomics, Trade and Investment Global Practice advised on macroeconomic and fiscal framework and debt sustainability analysis.

Providing a macro-fiscal outlook, analyzing debt sustainability and proposing debt management reforms

The ministry of finance and WBG joint teams had a thorough review of the macro-fiscal and borrowing conditions and honed in three interlinked issues:

  • The need for sustainable financing: While the level of direct debt was expected to remain modest, the sharp increase in the issuance of public guarantees would lead the public and publicly-guaranteed (PPG) debt trajectory to be higher in the next five years.
  • Fiscal Rules: Azerbaijan was exploring fiscal rules involving the use of the country’s oil assets, based on recommendations from the IMF.
  • The country was facing high exchange-rate and interest-rate risks, due to 98% of the central government debt being in foreign currency and two thirds in variable interest rates.

With that in mind, the teams tested different borrowing strategies to cover the 2017-2021 period under baseline and different shock scenarios, analyzing debt sustainability, and the composition of the public debt portfolio weighing it against the national risk tolerance. They also recommended several measures to better enable the debt management operations: revising and submitting the Debt Management Law to parliament; improving the reporting system; improving the coordination between the ministry of finance; the central bank and the Sovereign Oil Fund; developing a credit risk assessment capacity in the ministry and improving the IT system, and eventually looking at developing a domestic debt market.

Azerbaijan develops the public finance strategy

In December 2017 Azerbaijan ministry of finance shared the debt management strategy, with the President’s office. The proposed strategy comprised a macroeconomic policy framework, a borrowing plan, and associated institutional and legal reforms. In August 2018, President Aliyev enacted and published the “Medium to long term debt management strategy for Azerbaijan Republic’s public debt”. The strategy outlines the main directions of the government borrowing during 2018-2025 based on sound analysis. It puts a limit of 30% of GDP for the public debt in the medium term, with a moderation to 20% of GDP by 2025. The authorities also envisage gradual rise in domestic debt, to develop the local currency government bond market. To reflect the changing macroeconomic outlook and financial conditions, the strategy document will be updated every two years.

“As World Bank, our mission is ending extreme poverty and building shared prosperity,” said Elena Bondarenko, the Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management team member. “It is our privilege to provide just-in-time support to our member countries when they most need it. Especially if we can help build resilience to the economy before further shocks cause major damage.”. “The work doesn’t stop here,” said GDRM Program Task Team Leader Cigdem Aslan. “The GDRM Program will continue its support through the implementation phase of the recommendation and help build capacity for the development of the domestic market for government securities.”

World Bank

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Economy

Knowledge economy and Human Capital: What is the impact of social investment paradigm on employment?

Gunel Abdullayeva

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Social policy advocates claim the development of the European welfare state model on three phases as follows: traditional welfare state until 1970s; neo-liberal welfare state until the mid-1990s and finally social investment state model afterwards of the mid-1990s.  At the first time, on the European Union level, to bring the social investment policy to the political agendas after the 1990s economic hardship, the European Council adopted the Lisbon Strategy in 2000. In fact, the Lisbon Strategy was successful with respect to the employment. In the latter, the social investment state paradigm has fostered once more in the Europe with the “Social Investment Package: Towards Social Investment for Growth and Cohesion” in 2013 by the European Commission that targeted to “prepare” individuals, families and societies for the competitive knowledge economy by investing in human capital from an early childhood together with increase female participation in the workforce.

Generally, social investment idea emerged as a link between social insurance and activation in employment policies and upgrading human capital. Hemerijck (2014) defined the concept of the social investment state to facilitate the “flow” of labour market transitions, raising the quality of human capital “stock” and upkeeping strong minimum income guarantee as social protection and economic stabilization “buffers”. The underlying idea of the social investment strategy has been argued to modernize the traditional welfare states and guarantee their sustainability in line with the response to the “new social risks” such as skill erosion, flexible market, insufficient social insurance and job insecurity.

Economic aim of social investment paradigm is divided into two types by Ahn& Kim (2014),in the following way:The social democratic approach based on the example of the Nordic countries and the liberal approach of the Anglo-American countries. To make the distinguish more clear, the social democratic approach aims to increase the employment for all working classes and strength human capital. On the other hand, liberal approach applies selective strategy which is more workfare policy oriented and covers vulnerable class. In this regard, cross country analyses show that the Scandinavian countries have been the forerunners of social investment and perform the childcare and vulnerable group targeted policies at their best.

Studies have viewed the social investment state approach as a new form of the welfare state and reshaped social policy objectives that addressed to promote labour market participation for a sustainable employment rather than simply to fight against unemployment. Since the beginning, the social investment strategy directs to protect individuals from social and economic threats by investing in human capital through labour market trainings, female (family – career) and child care policies, provision of universal access to education from the childhood. On doing so, the social investment as a long term strategy aims to reduce the risk of future neediness in contrast to the traditional benefit oriented welfare state that focuses on short term mitigation of risks. Or to put it differently, the social investment “prepares” children and families against to economic and social challenges rather than “repair” their positions in such problems later. In short, social investment policies are characterized as a predictor rather than a recoverer. Mainstream social investment argument is that redesigned welfare state model more focuses on work and care reconciliation policy as strengthening parental employment in the labour market is an important factor to exit poverty and support families especially mothers. On the other hand, human capital measures such as education and trainings improve life course employability, particularly for market outsiders as well as human investment guarantees better job security in today`s more flexible job market.

In reality, an economic development and employment is friendly to each other. Thus, income comes from the market through employment as a paid employment is foundation of household welfare. Likewise, a welfare is purchased in the markets. Arguably, unemployment leads to the poverty and social exclusion in the societies. Hereby, work based policy regarded as a sustainable anti-poverty strategy. The welfare states in order to guarantee households` net income and well-being in the post industrialized labour market have turned to invest in preventive measures such as human capital. The human capital (cognitive development and educational attainments) is a must for the dynamic and competitive knowledge economy. Educational expenditures yield on a dividend because they may/make citizens more productive but we need to push the logic much further (Andersen, 2002). In fact, social investment state by being more female and child care policy oriented predicts an importance of the education for a well-being of society and more developed economy in the future. Thus, employment policies need to link with family policies to be more effective in response to the unemployment, poverty and social exclusion. Social investment state as a new shape of the active employment policies invests in education particularly of women and children to prevent unemployment and poverty from the beginning. One hand, addresses to the ageing problem of European societies social investment strategies aim to mobilize motherhood with an employment. On the other hand, by promoting family polices, social investment strategy directs to reduce child poverty and safeguard child welfare in the line with better social and economic conditions of childhood.

What is certain that, social investment state implies human capital strategy. To increase an employment and long term productivity of individuals, social investment policies interchanged with the provision of social insurance. In other words, the social service policies took over the place of the cash benefit oriented policies. It is probably fair to say, the human capital strategies link social investment policies to employment outcomes. Simply, to see the correlation between the social investment paradigm and employment, human capital policy measures (education and trainings) are needed to be checked as a direct labour market value.  Since they are the most effective activation measures in skill investment to respond to the knowledge economy, more educated and skilled manpower boosts the labour supply in turn results income equality which is a traditional goal of the social democracy.  In this context, social investment state is addressed to reach high quality employment by its human investment orientation. As Andersen, (2002) argues, “We no longer live in a world in which low-skilled workers can support the entire family. The basic requisite for a good life is increasingly strong cognitive skills and professional qualifications”.

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