The Deputy Minister for Planning and Finance H.E. U Set Aung joined the World Bank Vice President for East Asia and Pacific Ms. Victoria Kwakwa in a launch event for the second volume of the Myanmar Poverty Assessment.
The new report, jointly produced by the Ministry of Planning and Finance and the World Bank using the 2015 Myanmar Poverty and Living Conditions Survey, is the second of the two-part Myanmar Poverty Assessment, which recommends a revision and rebasing of poverty estimates to reflect changing consumption patterns in Myanmar. The revised poverty measures used in Myanmar include durables such as mobile phones and updated calorie estimates courtesy of the Ministry of Health and Sports.
Consistent with the findings of the first assessment, poverty has declined significantly since 2004, falling from an estimated 48.2 percent to 32.1 percent in 2015. Using the new measures, some 15.8 million people live in poverty in Myanmar.
“Having a more detailed understanding of the characteristics and profiles of those most in need and the constraints they face enable us to prepare appropriate responses – and help reduce poverty for everyone in Myanmar,” said U Maung Maung Tin, Director-General, Planning Department of Ministry of Planning and Finance.
Poor households tend to have fewer working age adults and more dependents, and fewer resources that can generate income, such as land or farming tools. The extreme poor are disproportionately in the agriculture sector as casual laborers or as small holder farmers, and have few alternatives for income.
The report highlights the economic impact of health and weather related shocks, estimating that half the country suffered from such shocks over a twelve-month period and 4 percent of potential work days were lost due to ill-health. Coping strategies such as reducing spending on food or adding more debt can impact the families’ ability to bounce back and ultimately affect long-term growth.
“Now with a better understanding and consensus on the levels and distribution of poverty in Myanmar, the World Bank is in a better position to support Myanmar’s efforts to reduce poverty and promote inclusive growth for all.” said Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific. “Inclusion so that growth and opportunities benefit the poor and near-poor is critical for peace and prosperity.”
The poverty assessment is part of a series of analytical works outlined in the Country Partnership Framework (CPF), the World Bank Group’s first full strategy for Myanmar in 30 years. The strategy supports reforms that promote growth in rural areas, invests in services that work towards better nutrition, health, education, infrastructure, and more jobs.
WTO, World Economic Forum and eWTP launch joint public-private dialogue to open up e-commerce for small business
A new initiative designed to drive public-private dialogue on e-commerce was launched today (11 December) by the World Trade Organization, the World Economic Forum and the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP). The initiative, entitled ‘Enabling E-commerce’, aims to bring together leading voices from governments, businesses and other stakeholders to begin a high-level conversation on e-commerce policies and practices that can benefit small businesses.
The launch event took place in Buenos Aires, on the margins of the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference. Director-General Roberto Azevêdo was joined by Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, representing the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP), and Rick Samans, Head of Global Agenda, Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum.
E-commerce is a growing force in global trade and has the potential to make the world economy more inclusive by creating opportunities for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and expanding choice for consumers. However, for MSME engagement in e-commerce to grow rapidly worldwide, reforms to industry practices and government policies are needed.
The Enabling E-commerce initiative will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to develop a clearer understanding of how to enable MSME e-commerce around the globe. It will also encourage research and knowledge sharing on the practical challenges faced by MSMEs and serve as a bridge between global e-commerce practice and policy.
DG Azevêdo said: “There has been a groundswell of interest in e-commerce at the WTO – and in its potential to lift up small businesses around the world. The vibrant debate on these issues has shown the desire of many WTO members to bridge the digital divide, and to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities of e-commerce. The Enabling E-commerce initiative will therefore provide a valuable resource – bringing a range of stakeholders together to further explore these issues. I want to thank the World Economic Forum and eWTP for this initiative.”
Jack Ma said: “The Enabling E-commerce Initiative envisions a world where small businesses, young people and developing countries can succeed in the global marketplace. The problem with globalization is that its benefits have not been made available to all. We cannot stop globalization, we must improve it. If business and government work together, we can create a more inclusive trade model to expand the benefits of globalization to those who have been left behind.”
Richard Samans said: “We have an opportunity to harness innovation to create a more inclusive global economy. As the international organization for public-private cooperation, the World Economic Forum will work with WTO and eWTP to bring all interested stakeholders together to deepen understanding of how to facilitate cross-border ecommerce for small business.”
The initiative will start its work early in 2018, with a high-level meeting at Davos in January. This will be followed up by other conversations, including a major event in Geneva later in the year.
The Green Deal Industrial Plan: putting Europe’s net-zero industry in the lead
Commission presents a Green Deal Industrial Plan to enhance the competitiveness of Europe’s net-zero industry and support the fast transition to climate neutrality. The Plan aims to provide a more supportive environment for the scaling up of the EU’s manufacturing capacity for the net-zero technologies and products required to meet Europe’s ambitious climate targets.
The Plan builds on previous initiatives and relies on the strengths of the EU Single Market, complementing ongoing efforts under the European Green Deal and REPowerEU. It is based on four pillars: a predictable and simplified regulatory environment, speeding up access to finance, enhancing skills, and open trade for resilient supply chains.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “We have a once in a generation opportunity to show the way with speed, ambition and a sense of purpose to secure the EU’s industrial lead in the fast-growing net-zero technology sector. Europe is determined to lead the clean tech revolution. For our companies and people, it means turning skills into quality jobs and innovation into mass production, thanks to a simpler and faster framework. Better access to finance will allow our key clean tech industries to scale up quickly.”
A predictable and simplified regulatory environment
The first pillar of the plan is about a simpler regulatory framework.
The Commission will propose a Net-Zero Industry Act to identify goals for net-zero industrial capacity and provide a regulatory framework suited for its quick deployment, ensuring simplified and fast-track permitting, promoting European strategic projects, and developing standards to support the scale-up of technologies across the Single Market.
The framework will be complemented by the Critical Raw Materials Act, to ensure sufficient access to those materials, like rare earths, that are vital for manufacturing key technologies, and the reform of the electricity market design, to make consumers benefit from the lower costs of renewables.
Faster access to funding
The second pillar of the plan will speed up investment and financing for clean tech production in Europe. Public financing, in conjunction with further progress on the European Capital Markets Union, can unlock the huge amounts of private financing required for the green transition. Under competition policy, the Commission aims to guarantee a level playing field within the Single Market while making it easier for the Member States to grant necessary aid to fast-track the green transition. To that end, in order to speed up and simplify aid granting, the Commission will consult Member States on an amended Temporary State aid Crisis and Transition Framework and it will revise the General Block Exemption Regulation in light of the Green Deal, increasing notification thresholds for support for green investments. Among others, this will contribute to further streamline and simplify the approval of IPCEI-related projects.
The Commission will also facilitate the use of existing EU funds for financing clean tech innovation, manufacturing and deployment. The Commission is also exploring avenues to achieve greater common financing at EU level to support investments in manufacturing of net-zero technologies, based on an ongoing investment needs assessment. The Commission will work with Member States in the short term, with a focus on REPowerEU, InvestEU and the Innovation Fund, on a bridging solution to provide fast and targeted support. For the mid-term, the Commission intends to give a structural answer to the investment needs, by proposing a European Sovereignty Fund in the context of the review of the Multi-annual financial framework before summer 2023.
To help Member States’ access the REPowerEU funds, the Commission has today adopted new guidance on recovery and resilience plans, explaining the process of modifying existing plans and the modalities for preparing REPowerEU chapters.
As between 35% and 40% of all jobs could be affected by the green transition, developing the skills needed for well-paid quality jobs will be a priority for the European Year of Skills, and the third pillar of the plan will focus on it.
To develop the skills for a people centred green transition the Commission will propose to establish Net-Zero Industry Academies to roll out up-skilling and re-skilling programmes in strategic industries. It will also consider how to combine a ‘Skills-first’ approach, recognising actual skills, with existing approaches based on qualifications, and how to facilitate access of third country nationals to EU labour markets in priority sectors, as well as measures to foster and align public and private funding for skills development.
Open trade for resilient supply chains
The fourth pillar will be about global cooperation and making trade work for the green transition, under the principles of fair competition and open trade, building on the engagements with the EU’s partners and the work of the World Trade Organization. To that end, the Commission will continue to develop the EU’s network of Free Trade Agreements and other forms of cooperation with partners to support the green transition. It will also explore the creation of a Critical Raw Materials Club, to bring together raw material ‘consumers’ and resource-rich countries to ensure global security of supply through a competitive and diversified industrial base, and of Clean Tech/Net-Zero Industrial Partnerships.
The Commission will also protect the Single Market from unfair trade in the clean tech sector and will use its instruments to ensure that foreign subsidies do not distort competition in the Single Market, also in the clean-tech sector.
The European Green Deal, presented by the Commission on 11 December 2019, sets the goal of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The European Climate Law enshrines in binding legislation the EU’s commitment to climate neutrality and the intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
In the transition to a net-zero economy, Europe’s competitiveness will strongly rely on its capacity to develop and manufacture the clean technologies that make this transition possible.
The European Green Deal Industrial Plan was announced by President von der Leyen in her speech at to the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2023 as the initiative for the EU to sharpen its competitive edge through clean-tech investment and continue leading on the path to climate neutrality. It responds to the invitation by the European Council for the Commission to make proposals by the end of January 2023 to mobilise all relevant national and EU tools and improve framework conditions for investment, with a view to ensuring EU’s resilience and competitiveness.
Russia restored Syrian air base for joint use
Russia and Syria have restored the ‘Al-Jarrah’ military air base in Syria’s north to be jointly used, Russia’s Defence Ministry said.
“Russian and Syrian military personnel restored the destroyed al-Jarrah airfield,” the ministry said on the Telegram messaging. “The joint basing of aviation of the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Air Force at the al-Jarrah airfield makes it possible to cover the state border.”
The small base east of Aleppo was recaptured from Islamic State fighters in 2017.
Russia has been a dominant military force in Syria since launching air strikes and ground operations there in 2015. It further asserted its presence after the United States pulled out its forces in 2019.
The conflict in Syria, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced millions and drawn in regional and world powers, has entered into a second decade, although fighting is at a lower intensity than in earlier years, writes ‘The National’ from Abu Dhabi, UAE.
With backing from Russia and Iran, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s government has recovered most of its territory.
Turkish-backed opposition fighters still control a pocket in the north-west, and Kurdish fighters backed by the US also control territory near the Turkish border.
NATO tanks for Ukraine provoke contradictions in the alliance
After a drawn-out back and forth between Ukraine, the U.S. and European NATO countries, the first deliveries of Western-made tanks for the Ukrainian military have been announced, informs MSN.
According to CNN, Germany reportedly did not want to take the step of delivering the tanks without their U.S. partners also doing so despite the UK having pledged 11 Challenger-2 tanks previously. Since then, the U.S. has announced to deliver one battalion, or 31 Abrams tanks. Germany has said it will part with 14. Poland, the most outspoken about wishing to deliver its Leopard 2s, will reportedly also sent 14, while 18 will come out of the Netherlands. More deliveries are expected from Norway, Finland and Spain, while Portugal is also in the process of officially signing off on the matter.
Mean while Brazil refuses to sell tank ammo for Ukraine and Brazilian President Lula da Silva shot down an offer to sell tank ammunition to Germany for use in Ukraine, Brazilian newspaper ‘Folha de Sao Paulo’ reported. A vocal critic of the West’s policy toward Ukraine, Lula has striven to remain neutral on its conflict with Russia.
Lula reportedly considered asking Berlin to guarantee that it would not send the ammunition to Ukraine, but ultimately declined the offer, “arguing that it was not worth provoking the Russians.”
Lula has condemned the US for pouring tens of billions of dollars into Ukraine’s government and military, and suggested last year that US President Joe Biden “could have avoided [the conflict], not incited it.”
He also declared that NATO leadership should have reassured Russia that Ukraine would never be allowed to join the US-led military bloc, which was one of Moscow’s key demands for peace before it sent troops into the country.
The transfer of Leopard tanks to Ukraine does not end the problems of the German government, stress Polish press. The avalanche caused by this brawl could sweep away not only Olaf Scholz’s office, but Germany itself. Geopolitical delay and constant maneuvering between Moscow and Kyiv have seriously undermined the international prestige of Germany. Now Berlin must maintain its influence in the European Union and NATO and restore its credibility as an ally in the international arena.
Germany will supply Ukraine with fourteen Leopard 2 A6 tanks from the resources of the Bundeswehr. This is the second most modern model in the German army. However, this is a drop in the ocean of what actually Germany could pass on to Ukrainians attacked by Russia. Leopard manufacturer Rheinmetall said that Germany could supply as many as 139 Leopards from the resources of the Bundeswehr, although not immediately and not in the latest version. By April, 29 modern vehicles could be delivered to Ukraine, and 22 more by the end of the year.
It’s no secret that the Germans were not going to make such a decision regarding the Leopards, and certainly not so soon. Scholz did not want to go overboard and subject himself to accusations from the Kremlin that Berlin was leading to an escalation of the conflict. The German chancellor hoped that the Americans, and possibly other countries, would also hand over their vehicles (modern M1 Abrams tanks), which would disperse responsibility.
However, Washington had other plans.
After almost a year of war, it finally wanted to force the Germans to make an ‘independent, courageous decision’ that clearly supported the Ukrainians. That is why it delayed the announcement of the transfer of “Abrams” to Kyiv until the last moment. However, in the end, American tanks will go to the front.
We are witnessing the end of the domination of the Franco-German tandem in Europe. Europe has become polycentric, and the last year has deprived Germany of its special role on the continent.
This change is connected with the “Easternism” of the EU. This is the effect of shifting the EU’s point of view more towards its eastern members, who understand better than the “old EU” what is happening on the continent now.
The war in Ukraine and the approach of the German authorities to this conflict also portend serious social and cultural changes in Germany itself.
But not only the culture of pacifism and unconditional dialogue is coming to an end in Germany. The war in Ukraine has exposed with great force the failure of the concept of the postmodern state, which Berlin began to implement during the rule of Chancellor Merkel. Germany has imagined itself as a big Switzerland, which invests in the economy and the well-being of its own citizens, and allied obligations are a secondary issue.
The dispute over the transfer of Leopards to Ukraine showed everyone another consequence of Germany’s policy in the field of diplomacy and security. Germany has ceased to be not so much a global, but even a continental leader. To make matters worse, there is a growing question in NATO about whether Germany remains even an ally to count on in times of trouble.
What is the future for Germany in the European arena? The answer is co-leadership. Germany (but also France) will have to look for different allies for their plans and ideas in various fields.
However, this is good news for other EU countries. Many of them will now be able to enter the game and have more influence on decision making. “Now it will be possible to exert much more pressure on Germany, but only some countries will be able to do this.
However, the end of unconditional dominance in the EU does not mean the end of the geopolitical problems that Germany has brought upon itself. The situation is unfavorable either within NATO or, more broadly, in the world. The fall of the political significance of Germany on the European and world scene has become a fact.
This is largely due to the growing tension between Berlin and Washington. The Americans are tired of hedging the German government and constantly playing along with each other. They see Germany as the European leader, but they are annoyed that this leader has run away from responsibility whenever he could during the last year.
Germany is becoming more and more isolated in security policy. Not only in Europe, but in the world as a whole. They are unable to cooperate with either France or the United States; key partners in the EU and NATO.
The degradation of the international position and confidence of foreign partners in Germany is also a serious problem for NATO. The war in Ukraine has threatened the unity of the Alliance, as some countries, despite the emergency nature of the situation, continue to play primarily against themselves…
This article is another disturbing evidence of serious contradictions within the European Union. Eastern countries are trying to seize the initiative in the Allience, relying on the support of the US and Britain. Old Europe is losing authority and strength. But will the EU survive under the new “eastern leadership”?
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