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Post-crisis restrictions on international banking can blunt growth prospects in developing countries

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Growing restrictions imposed on foreign banks operating in developing countries since the 2007/9 global financial crisis are hampering better growth prospects by limiting the flow of much-needed financing to firms and households, a World Bank report warned on Tuesday.

International banking can have important benefits for development, but is no panacea, and carries risks. Developing economy policymakers would do well to consider how to maximize the benefits of cross-border banking while minimizing its costs, the World Bank’s Global Financial Development Report 2017/2018: Bankers without Borders says.

The 2007-2009 crisis and economic downturn prompted an extensive re-evaluation of the benefits and costs of international banking and led to restrictions that brought a decade-long surge in financial services globalization and cross-border lending to a halt. However, developing countries may need to reconsider the value of international banks as critical gateways to global credit and faster economic growth, even as they continue to manage risks, the report says.

“As aspirations continue to rise all over the world, and the banking sector evolves, there is a critical question: will finance be a friend or foe in the fight to end poverty?” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “International banking does create risks of exporting instability, especially for countries with poor regulations and institutions, and those risks need to be mitigated. But without a competitive banking sector, the poor will not be able to access basic financial services, many businesses will be locked out of markets, and growth in developing countries will stall.”

Bank finance is essential for a vibrant private sector, particularly for nurturing small and medium-sized businesses. Developing countries can maximize benefits from a stronger banking system while shielding against risks through improving information sharing through credit registries, vigorously enforcing property and contract rights, and guaranteeing strong supervision of banks.

Rise of Developing Economy Banks

As advanced economy banks retrenched after the crisis, developing country banks stepped into the void and expanded across borders, accounting for 60 percent of new bank entries since the downturn. The result has been an increase in banking relationships between developing countries and regionalization of international banking operations.

For example, Africa’s Ecobank started in Togo and now has operations in 33 countries across the continent. It also has offices in Paris, Beijing, Dubai, Johannesburg, and London, which allows it to attract capital from wealthy countries to invest across Africa.  

At the same time, the total asset size of the world’s largest banks increased by 40 percent, raising concerns that regulatory efforts since the crisis have failed to address the risk of banks that are too big to fail. In the face of greater uncertainty about the benefits of openness, many countries have viewed the recent expansion of the world’s largest international banks with alarm and have restricted foreign banking. Nearly 30 percent of developing countries have put in place restrictions on foreign bank branches. These curbs are depriving many economies of opportunities to access global credit that could benefit businesses and households.    

“Openness to international banking is no guarantee of financial development or stability,” said World Bank Research Director Asli Demirguc-Kunt. “But a wealth of research shows how the right policies and institutions can ensure that openness leads to greater competitiveness, smoothing of local economic shocks, and increased access to the scarce capital needed to spur growth.”

Done right, enabling foreign bank entry and improving financial openness – alongside well-functioning capital markets — can offer systemic benefits, including improved financial stability, greater competition, and improved resilience to economic shocks.   

The report also examines both rewards and risks of rapidly expanding financial technology that works globally and across borders through digital products, with examples ranging from companies like Kenya’s mobile money platform, M-Pesa, to the peer-to-peer Lending Club.

These technologies can speed transactions, lower costs, improve risk management, and extend financial services to underserved populations. However, they also pose risks through a lack of safety nets, potential abuse of personal data, and electronic fraud.

“While developing countries suffered collateral damage from the global financial crisis, the benefits of openness are too large to ignore,” said Shanta Devarajan, World Bank Senior Director for Development Economics. “Achieving the levels of economic growth needed to end poverty depends on a competitive and stable financial sector.”

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World Bank Group Announces $50 billion over Five Years for Climate Adaptation and Resilience

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The World Bank Group today launched its Action Plan on Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience. Under the plan, the World Bank Group will ramp up direct adaptation climate finance to reach $50 billion over FY21–25. This financing level—an average of $10 billion a year—is more than double what was achieved during FY15-18. The World Bank Group will also pilot new approaches to increasing private finance for adaptation and resilience.

“Our new plan will put climate resilience on an equal footing with our investment in a low carbon future for the first time. We do this because, simply put, the climate is changing so we must mitigate and adapt at the same time,” said World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva.We will ramp up our funding to help people build a more resilient future, especially the poorest and most vulnerable who are most affected.”

The increase in adaptation financing will support activities that include:

  • Delivering higher quality forecasts, early warning systems and climate information services to better prepare 250 million people in at least 30 countries for climate risks;
  • Supporting 100 river basins with climate-informed management plans and/or improved river basin management governance;
  • Building more climate-responsive social protection systems; and
  • Supporting efforts in at least 20 countries to respond early to, and recover faster from, climate and disaster shocks through additional financial protection instruments.

In addition to boosting finance, the Plan will also support countries to mainstream approaches to systematically manage climate risks at every phase of policy planning, investment design, and implementation.

“This Action Plan is a welcome step from the World Bank,” said Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and co-chair of the Global Commission on Adaptation. “The world’s poorest and most climate vulnerable countries stand to benefit from its increased finance and support for longer term policy change.”

The Action Plan builds on the link between adaptation and development by promoting effective and early actions that also provide positive development outcomes. For example, investing in mangrove replanting may protect a local community against sea level rise and storm surges, while also creating new opportunities for eco-tourism and fisheries. Early and proactive adaptation and resilience-building actions are more cost-effective than addressing impacts after they occur.

The Action Plan also includes the development of a new rating system to create incentives for, and improve the tracking of, global progress on adaptation and resilience. The new system will be piloted by the World Bank in FY19-20 and rolled out to projects in relevant sectors by FY21.

The Action Plan on Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience forms part of the World Bank Group’s 2025 Targets to Step Up Climate Action which were launched in December 2018, during the UN’s COP24 in Poland.

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Making Globalization Work: Climate, Inclusiveness and International Governance Top Agenda of the WEF 2019

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The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2019 will take place on 22-25 January in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. The meeting brings together more than 3,000 leaders from business, government, civil society, academia, arts and culture, and media, as well as the foremost experts and young leaders from all over the world.

Convening under the theme, Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the purpose of the meeting is to identify new models for peace, inclusiveness and sustainability to suit a world where further global integration is inevitable and where existing models of global governance struggle to foster concerted action among the world’s powers.

“This fourth wave of globalization needs to be human-centred, inclusive and sustainable. We are entering a period of profound global instability brought on by the technological disruption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the realignment of geo-economics and geopolitical forces. We need principals from all stakeholder groups in Davos to summon the imagination and commitment necessary to tackle it,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

The programme of this year’s Annual Meeting expands on the theme in depth and breadth across more than 350 sessions, nearly half of them webcast. Sessions are organized in a series of global dialogues:

A global dialogue on geopolitics in a multiconceptual world to enable candid and constructive discussion on how to drive future cooperation along with a global dialogue on peace and

A global dialogue on the future of the economy to better reflect the structural changes inherent in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and achieve sustainable growth and long-term societal well-being

A global dialogue on industry systems and technology policy to define the principles for new and emerging technologies to ensure that they are underpinned by a values-based framework

A global dialogue on risk resilience to promote systems thinking to radically improve our collective management of the key environmental systems and to ensure adequate digital cybersecurity

A global dialogue on human capital and society to revisit the notion of work and well-being and to move away from consumption and materialism to a more humanistic focus.

A global dialogue on institutional reform to rethink the global institutional frameworks that emerged in the 20th century and adapt them to ensure relevancy for the new political, economic and social context

Top political leaders taking part are: Ueli Maurer, President of the Swiss Confederation 2019 and Federal Councillor of Finance of Switzerland; Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan; Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil; Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany; Wang Qishan, Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China; Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of Italy; Pedro Sanchez, Prime Minister of Spain; Barham Salih, President of Iraq; Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; Sebastian Kurz, Federal Chancellor of Austria; Ivan Duque, President of Colombia; Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minster of Ethiopia; Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland; Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel; Faiez Al Serrag, Prime Minister of Libya; Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands; Jacinda Ardem, Prime Minister of New Zealand; Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway; Rami Hamdallah, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority; Martin Alberto Vizcarra Cornejo, President of Peru; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Cyril M. Ramaphosa, Prime Minister of South Africa; Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda; Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of Viet Nam; and Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe.

Leaders from International Organizations include: Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations; Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); Kristalina Georgieva, Chief Executive Officer, World Bank; Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Roberto Azevedo, Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO); Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF); and Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Leaders from civil society are: Yasunobu Aihara, General Secretary, Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Jtuc-Rengo); Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC); Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International; Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director, Greenpeace International; Denis Mukwege, Founder, Panzi Foundation, 2018 Nobel Peace Laureate; Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch; Marco Lambertini, Director-General, WWF International; Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair, Transparency International; Maria Ressa, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Editor, Rappler.com; Elizabeth H. Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO); Peter Sands, Executive Director, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GF); Debbie Stothard, Secretary-General International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); and Luca Visentini, General Secretary, European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

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Is Haiti better prepared for disasters, nine years on from the 2010 earthquake?

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Half a capital city destroyed, 220,000 reported dead and 1 million residents displaced. This was the toll of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which struck on 12 January, nine years ago.

Staff at the UN Mission in Haiti were also affected, and there were 102 UN casualties, including the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Hédi Annabi and his deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa. It was the “biggest single loss of life in the history of UN Peacekeeping,” the then-President of the UN Staff Union, Stephen Kisambira, said at the time.

One of the survivors was Sophie Boutaud de la Combe, today the head of communications for the UN Mission for Justice in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), who was seven months pregnant at the time and just a few days away from home leave. She had been in the headquarters of MINUJUSTH’s predecessor, the UN Stabilisitation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), when the quake hit.

The building completely collapsed, but Ms. Boutaud de la Combe managed to escape through a collapsed wall. For many hours, she and her surviving colleagues searched through the rubble, looking for anyone still trapped under the building. Two days later, she reluctantly left Haiti, a situation she describes as “a trauma,” her instinct being to help the UN and the people of Haiti. She eventually returned to the country in 2013, happy to be able to play a part in the rebuilding of the country, and honour her lost colleagues with her work.

Some nine years after the earthquake, the situation in Haiti is very different. The government, says Ms. Boutaud de la Combe, is now much better prepared for similar natural disasters. “A few months ago there was an earthquake in the north of the country. The state was prepared and they sent their people to support those affected, without MINUJUSTH involvement. It was not a major earthquake, but now the population knows how to react. And most importantly, we hear regularly how important it is to build better, to build strongly in case an earthquake would hit, not to endanger the people.”

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