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Blockchain and crypto-currencies: An insightful interview on the digital revolution

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The concept of crypto-currencies is undoubtedly a revolution in the world of finance. However, there is something more than only currencies that qualifies for being revolutionary. The linchpin on which this edifice of digital currency rests is Blockchain.  An open, distributed ledger that forms a chain of links. Everyone can see it, access it. There is no need for any third party. A can make a transfer to B any time without any “other” party being involved. Yes, like the reader I had a plethora of questions. Is this some form of financial rocket-science? What are the main pillars of this world? What is its use? How can if effect the world? How can it affect us? So on and so forth. Hence, in order to understand this new concept I decided to embark on this journey to comprehend the scope of Blockchain and subsequently, these currencies. One should not expect tips on trade and currency buying recommendation from the string of interviews that I plan to conduct. However, those who want to truly understand and realize the potential of Blockchain and crypto-currencies, may find these interviews insightful.

The first interview answers many questions but raises new ones too. Mr. Francesco and Mr. Luigi both were kind enough to give their time for the interview. Below is the introduction of both of the gentlemen.

Francesco Abbate – Finance Director at Procter & Gamble, co-founder of decrypto.biz (you’ll read more about this below), CEO at Swiss Crypto Advisors. With 15 years of high level Finance experience in a multinational environment, coupled with many years of study and interest first in Bitcoin and then in crypto-currencies he is not only an investor & trader but also an orator, public speaker in the world of crypto.

Luigi Matrone – Former global brand manager at Procter & Gamble, co-founder and CEO at E-Business Institute, a consulting firm that provide digital and e-business solution for companies. Investing in the crypto world since few years, also co-founder and CEO of Smarter-chains, a digital platform helping manufacturers drive margin improvement and customer centricity by leveraging new technological capabilities.

I tried to get out some tips. But I got much better than only tips.

How is the weather in Davos? Blockchain must have been a dominant part of the narrative at the recent WEF?

It is quite cold and it snowed a lot here, but the super-hot topic was undeniably blockchain, there were so many discussion panels on this, it is clearly one of the most debated area, with people interested in this from all industries. It shows that this is getting traction, although we are still at a very early stage.

Let’s begin with the value. Because in the end it is the ‘value’ that is going to determine the usage, prevalence and future of cryptos. What is the intrinsic value of Bitcoin/crypto? They are not backed up by gold like $ dollar or guaranteed by the government?

That is a very good point. Actually since 1973 Nixon abandoned the gold coverage of $ dollar so we entered into the fiat money era. We are personally the opposite of an anarchist and I like and value order and governments, although to be fair people in Argentina or Zimbabwe might have a different idea of what trust in the government means.

When it comes to intrinsic value it all depends on circumstances and what people are willing to use to transfer value. We started with barter deals, we went through gold, fiat money, credit cards…and credit card was a big revolution decades ago as people could not see the real money. In prisons often cigarettes are used as a mean of value transfer, so it is all relative and what matters is what people are willing to attribute value to, not always this might be what is guaranteed by a government.

So ultimately value is a matter of trust. But how can we believe in Bitcoin if it is not regulated? We often read of hacks and theft. I wouldn’t leave my money on the mercy of these cyber-crooks.

Very important point indeed. We get this question every day. Bitcoin in itself as a protocol and as a software is fully regulated, there are rules for everything, the code is open source and everyone can read it. You can see how new Bitcoin are created roughly every 10 minutes as rewards for mining, how transactions are signed and broadcasted, how the ledger is validated and maintained. You can’t change the rules without consensus; it is a “distributed democracy system”. And in itself the system is completely secure, not because we say so but because that is how it mathematically works, the block-chain itself practically immutable thanks to the amount of computational power necessary to add every block to the block-chain, it is just mathematically impossible to go back and change the content or orders of transaction, you can’t lose your Bitcoin or get stolen this way. What indeed happened and will continue to happen is hacks to personal accounts which are not protected, or to exchanges which are centralized. This has nothing to do with Bitcoin itself, it is either a personal fault (you are responsible for your security, like you would not give your credit card pin to strangers), or the result of a centralized player exchanging money for Bitcoin. If you leave your Bitcoin on exchanges and their central server gets hacked, then you can lose. Again, the point here is not to leave Bitcoin on exchanges and use basic security and safety procedures to be protected, we also take care of education and consultancy about this in www.decrypto.biz. As always, the users are the weakest point of the chain, but this can be minimized with specific knowledge, tools, and good practice.

For laymen like me, how would you explain the  concept of Blockchain and thereof, Bitcoin (other currencies)? Can you explain to the readers how does Bitcoin actually works? 

Another important question.It is critical to divide Bitcoin and Blockchain and do not confuse them. In simple terms, the Blockchain is a public ledger of transaction, like we all know in accounting or in any database. The critical difference is that it is decentralized, i.e. there are no central copies and it is distributed on a number of nodes (computers) in the network, and it is mathematically protected so that its content and order can never be altered of forged. Hence this has huge applications in every business where the transmission of data is important, as everything about this can be done in a better, cheaper, faster and more secure way on a Block-chain. Imagine things like insurances, notaries, auditing just to mention a few.

Once we understand this, we better get why Bitcoin is on a Block-chain. To use a simplified metaphor, Bitcoin is an application of a technology (Block-chain). Bitcoin is actually just a digital file that lists accounts and money like a ledger, simply this ledger is in a Block-chain. Hence it is decentralized, transparent, auditable, resistant to outages, permission-less, censorship resistant, and most importantly there is no trust required. No one has to trust anyone as the mathematics behind Bitcoin makes it possible to do transactions without any central authorizations like you need for a bank wire.

Francesco Abbate (left) Luigi Matrone (right)

So when do you see yourself becoming a multimillionaire? Long term prospects of investing in crypto-currencies?

Let’s just say that we think we are only at the beginning of the journey, the adoption rate for Bitcoin is still well below 1%, so imagine what the price might be once this is broadly adopted and with a much higher number of transactions processed per second. Most importantly, we are of the view that there is a huge potential for some coins beyond Bitcoin, and we are still very much on time to enter. We think there is a lot of money to be made if you invest wisely, manage trading emotions, and study the fundamentals of what you are trading with, this is when you can have sizeablereturns, and this is what we want to study and analyze.

Personally, we are in crypto for the long term, we believe some of the projects behind the coins are here to stay and transform many industries, everything which is about transmission of data is going to be hugely affected by this, it is a revolution that will catch many by surprise and unprepared. While short term we will continue to see high volatility and market turmoil as on January 16th, this is nothing new in the financial markets and we consider it a normal phase in a general adoption journey, we have gone through 7 drops higher than 30% just in last 12 months, we never sold in panic but always carefully analyzed the set up and bought when we believed the panic was about to be over. We will not manage our funds personally in the future; will have them managed by a trusted specialized fund.

What is Decrypto? What is your plan for future?

Decrypto.biz exists to democratize access to crypto-currencies. Our goal is to educate people while giving them analysis on crypto-currencies so that we can all understand what’s happening in this new economical era of decentralization and drive ecosystem adoption while making new investments and profits.

We are here because The Block-chain technology is at an early stage of development and crypto-currency adoption is still relatively limited.

As a result, the education offer currently available is either very complex or technically designed for insiders (programmers, nerds…) or shamefully rudimentary (YouTube Do-it-Yourself). Information is asymmetric and Web is flooded with myriads of news and countless data across thousands of sites, blogs and social media. Lots of people are interested in investing in crypto-currencies, but they don’t know (or don’t have the time to learn) what are the key steps to start. And the technical knowledge to operate safely, properly and profitably.

For this reason we offer a comprehensive educational program for people who are eager to understand the world of crypto-currency but don’t necessarily need or have the time to understanding all what’s behind. We developed ways to find important news before others do. We issue a crisp newsletter to recap the key news of the day. We use a private Telegram channel for the breakthrough news which may require short term actions. We share the insights gathered through technical and fundamental analysis. To make them actionable we provide a simple guide on how to start trading in 10 steps and regular market update.

Personal predictions? Do you have any? Would you like to share?

In this world you hear anyone claiming to be an expert and going into predictions of specific prices by coin. We will try to make a different prediction: that the long term bullish trend will stay intact for major coins having a real tangible user case (Ethereum, Zcash, Bitcoin, Monero, Litecoin among the top) and they will all significantly increase in value. I also think that volatility will stay very high; we will keep having very steep declines followed by super bullish rally through the full 2018. Lastly, we predict that 2018 is the year when big investors’ money will significantly enter the game, both Goldman Sachs and Mike Novogratz for example admitted to be working on building crypto trading desks and hedge funds, it will be interesting.

This very thought that in case the currencies go up and people realize their profits, gives this whole scenario a shade of skepticism. Do you really think that the masses can become rich? All of them? This is what everyone is expecting, isn’t it?

We think it is important to first understand what these currencies really do and are, and the most important thing is to understand that just few of them are real currencies (Bitcoin, Litecoin, Bitcoin cash), many of them are simply tokens of equity of a company. In simple words, people are buying companies at a very early stage hoping that their Block-chain based business model can disrupt a specific industry (finance, banking, insurance, gaming, gambling, auditing, etc). Once you understand this, then you can make sound business decisions based on their product, their business model, their team, their go to market plan. Hence, if you make money it is because you saw very early a profitable business model ahead, this is what we try to do as well at Decrypto, we analyze markets and companies to try and understand if they are undervalued and has potential to grow. If you only start trading in this world because you think things will increase we think you are doing something fundamentally wrong, this is where you end up buying at the top, panic selling few weeks later, or maybe you could even win short term some money, but that is like playing roulette, we don’t do that.

Some people make money because of their understanding of the market and have the ability to trade it; others lose them because they are just moved by greed and emotions. With decrypto.biz we want to show people that there is a learn what’s happening with this new technology,understanding why certain coins (companies) have a potential, and provide education and analysis material to interested people.

What is an ICO? Are they as lucrative as these coins? 

ICO in simple terms is a way for innovative and Block-chain based companies to raise funds for their developments. You don’t have to go to banks or VC firms, you split your companies in small pieces called tokens, you assign a value to each one expressed typically in Bitcoin or Ethereum, and you ask people to contribute with Bitcoin and Ethereum if they want to buy a part of your company. We would say it is an evolved form of crowd-funding. Like everywhere in this world of cryptos we can have amazing opportunities and epic scam. In 2016 up to mid-2017 almost every ICO went well, and people just made money without great level of analysis, many of them returned more than 1000x to date (NXT, Iota, Ethereum, Stratis, and many others). Things changed, regulations are more stringent, cases of very poor business models and fraudsmultiplied, we think there are still some of them who can revolutionize specific industries but it is getting more and more complex and you should be extremely scrupulous in your analysis, this requires a high level of technical, financial, and business knowledge

What happens today is that people have a very partial view of this, and vast majority just invest in specific coins “because it is going up” or “everyone talks about it”. That to us is a recipe for failure, and not the reason why we have faith in the Block-chain and crypto-currency world. What we do, and what we try to communicate on decrypto.biz is analyzing the fundamentals of the companies behind these coins, what is their business model, who is on the team, what’s their business plan, their revenue forecast, when they will have their prototype in the market, etc. There are amazing companies which are just born and in next months can revolutionize the way we think about notary, real estate, gambling, ticketing, digital identity, and much more… The new Amazons are here, but you don’t find them by chance, our motto at Decrypto is that “success is no accident”

Before we conclude the interview and ask for your final verdict. A piece of advice for the readers? Also, few tips (just kidding!)

There are always 3 things we tell everyone who asks us for tips on a daily basis on this market

Study, understand what you are doing. If you do not have time nor knowledge, don’t do it or find an expert advisor. This is how we started decrypto.biz, getting access and knowledge is complex and we do want to educate people and democratize access to the crypto world.

Don’t put more money than you are willing to lose, don’t sell your house for this!

Don’t start if you can’t handle emotions, this will remain volatile, again either you are able to manage this or you’d better have someone doing this for you, like a hedge fund.

I hope you enjoyed reading the interview! But as I said in the starting, my curiosity has increased now. We’ll try to dig deep into this technology and currencies.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. I will send them to both the gentlemen.

Independent Economic Analyst, Writer and Editor. Contributes columns to different newspapers. He is a columnist for Oilprice.com, where he analyzes Crude Oil and markets. Also a sub-editor of an online business magazine and a Guest Editor in Modern Diplomacy. His interests range from Economic history to Classical literature.

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Economy

Financial Bubbles in the Coronavirus Era

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There is reason to believe that the coronavirus will not be going anywhere soon. What is more, IMF experts warn that problems that existed before the pandemic will only worsen in the coming decades. One of these problems is the state of the global financial market, which is more susceptible to all kinds of financial bubbles than ever before.

When we talk about financial bubbles, we usually mean a sharp increase in the value of assets in an economic climate that has either stagnated or started to deteriorate. A similar situation is currently unfolding on the American stock market, which is experiencing an extraordinary rise in the value of hi-tech companies against the background of a record drop in GDP (by over 30 per cent in the second quarter of 2020) and a projected budget deficit (−15.5 per cent). This rise has been caused by three factors: 1) a soft monetary policy as a result of the need to service the rapidly growing public and corporate debt; 2) the huge liquid resources at the disposal of legal entities and individuals that are frantically looking for ways to make a profitable investment in anticipation of the increased risks and systemic uncertainties brought about by COVID-19; and 3) the speculative excitement caused by the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution. In order for us to judge how likely the optimistic sentiments of the global financial markets are to change, let us consider the impact of these factors separately.

The Debt as it Stands

A key element of the “new abnormality” that has characterized both the development of the global economy as a whole and the U.S. economy, in particular, is the debt model of economic growth. Investment and business activity has stagnated as interest rates around the world are hovering around zero, while the U.S. dollar (a key reserve currency) stubbornly refuses to depreciate and has even strengthened its value on the forex markets on a number of occasions, despite the fact that the situation at home is worsening. For example, U.S. national debt increased by $4 trillion in the first nine months of 2020, from $22.7 to $26.7 trillion. This is the largest increase in U.S. national debt ever. A considerable amount of this debt is financed through the extraordinary growth of the U.S. stock market, which currently accounts for over half of the combined capitalization of the world’s stock markets. A correction on the stock market (caused by an increase in interest rates, for example) could trigger numerous defaults on debt obligations. According to Fitch Ratings, more defaults were announced in the first five months of 2020 than in the whole of 2019 and may reach record numbers by the end of the year (the current record holder is 2009). And more than half of all corporate defaults around the world have occurred in North America.

Let us recall that the value of financial assets dropped by $50 trillion during the 2008–2009 crisis. However, central banks and the fiscal authorities compensated for these losses by injecting roughly the same amount of liquidity into the market. But the newly created financial resources did not jolt consumer demand, as had been hoped. Rather, they were largely swallowed up by various segments of the global financial market. International portfolio investments alone more than doubled in 2008–2019 – by $35 trillion.

The history of capitalism is not short on examples where the state tried to solve debt problems at the expense of the market, leading to the creation of financial pyramids. In 1720, for example, two giant financial bubbles burst at almost the same time in Europe. In an effort to clear themselves of the massive debts they had accumulated during the War of the Spanish Succession, the governments of France and England encouraged the growth of cash in circulation. This money was pumped into equity securities of Mississippi Company in France and the South Sea Company in England, which were joint-stock companies created with backing from their respective governments. The companies promised their investors huge profits that would come from overseas territories. The proceeds from the sale of shares were used to buy back government debt instruments. The stock market bubbles that appeared in France and Great Britain were the result of the governments trying to rid themselves of their excessive debt burdens and to stimulate their respective economies through inflation and debt-equity swaps. In a way, the current excitement on the U.S. stock market is reminiscent of the situation three hundred years ago.

A New Digital Bubble?

As of late September 2020, the four largest companies in the world by market capitalization were American digital brands: the computer giants Apple and Microsoft and the internet companies Amazon and Alphabet (Google). The total market capitalization of these companies has more than doubled this year to over $6 trillion. “Pessimists” believe that the U.S. over-the-counter (OTC) market is currently experiencing another boom similar to the dot-com bubble that burst in 2000. Meanwhile, “optimists” point to the huge success of FAANG stocks, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, as justification for the current market explosion. Shares in these companies outperformed the market throughout the 2010s, and prices have soared against the background of the pandemic. They currently make up 23 per cent of the total capitalization of the U.S. S&P 500 Index.

The growth in the market value of these companies is directly related to the activities of private and institutional investors around the world, who invest their savings in banks and various investment funds with their highly developed infrastructure in order to receive guaranteed profits. A number of retail investors have given an additional impulse to the dynamics of the OTC market by purchasing shares in newly created companies in the digital economy that have connected to free trading platforms such as Robinhood.

At the same time, the “optimists” believe that the comparisons with the dot-com bubble of 2000 are not entirely appropriate. A number of arguments support this claim: 1) the ratio between the market value of shares and the total annual profit is lower – 26.9 in September 2020 versus 45.8 in March 2000; 2) companies in the digital economy turn in real profits, as opposed to expected future returns; and 3) Nasdaq OTC hi-tech growth rates are more moderate – 23 per cent per year on average, compared to 43 per cent per year in the seven years before the tech bubble burst in 2000.

The dynamics of the market on the eve of the financial crisis in 2008–2009 were also characterized by an “irrational euphoria” similar to what we are seeing today. Back then, in the depths of the crisis, the G20 introduced a supranational financial monitoring system that was designed to prevent destabilizing spikes and falls in asset prices. However, experience has taught us that regulation cannot keep up with market innovation and is perennially unprepared for new challenges, primarily the digitalization of the global economy.

Technology and Politics

Historically, financial bubbles have tended to form whenever new revolutionary technologies have appeared, be it the invention of railways, electricity, automobiles, etc. Many new technologies have appeared during the Fourth Industrial Revolution (from smartphones and 3D printers to blockchain technologies and artificial intelligence) that have led to the mass automation of business processes and, consequently, the loss of jobs for a large part of the workforce, thus reducing production and operating costs significantly.

At the same time, we have not seen galloping inflation as a natural market reaction during this global crisis (all other things being equal) to the cheap money policy that has dominated the past decade. On the one hand, prices have been kept in check by the pandemic, which has pushed households and companies to hold onto their savings and made consumption more difficult due to the partial blocking of the economy. On the other hand, in the present context, a sizeable portion of the newly created liquidity is immediately swallowed up by the stock market, the U.S. stock market in particular, which continues to grow thanks to the advance funding of new technologies that are being developed at a fantastic pace. Exactly how long such a model can survive depends on at least three factors: 1) whether or not the soft monetary policy of near-zero or negative interest rates pursued by central banks will continue; 2) the ability of the market to adapt to new technological transformations; and 3) the smooth running of the international monetary system based on the U.S. dollar.

As for the latter, its functioning largely depends on the political system in the United States, and on the results of the November presidential elections in particular. One of three things will likely happen after that: 1) the current configuration of the global financial system will remain in place, with a few minor alterations here and there; 2) the existing system will undergo a major upheaval; and 3) the global financial system as we know it will collapse and a new model will take its place.

If the first scenario plays out, then the world economy will most likely continue to function in the same institutional format that we know today. If the second scenario prevails, then the radical reform of the existing system of global institutions could give the RIC countries (Russia, India and China) the bargaining power to insist on more favourable conditions for their integration into the world economy (for example, by moving away from reliance on the U.S. dollar in international transactions, promoting the use of their national currencies more actively, re-evaluating their positions within the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank alongside their partners in BRICS in order to effectively obtain a collective veto power, etc.). The third scenario would make it possible to create regional monetary and financial systems (as full-fledged independent financial structures of the emerging multipolar world) on the basis of various regional financial institutions that already exist, increasing the role of national currencies in mutual settlements and international financial instruments (or through the creation of new international liquidity in the form of national collective settlement monetary units).

Where Does Russia Stand amid the Global Turbulence?

The Russian economy demonstrated greater resilience during the first wave of the coronavirus crisis than the economies of both developed countries and the economies of its partners in BRICS. Despite the sharp decline in world prices for carbon fuel (Russia’s main export), in terms of key macroeconomic indicators, Russia has managed to maintain more stable positions than the G7 countries. As a result, the IMF predicts that Russia will have the lowest budget deficit among the world’s major economies by the end of 2020 (−4.8 per cent), with relatively low unemployment (4.9 per cent).

The Russian Federation is, in a sense, protected from financial bubbles as (unlike the United States) as it is more focused on developing the real sector of the economy rather than the financial sector. At the same time, the main problem of Russia’s integration into the global economy is the lack of stabilizing mechanisms to counter the volatile and hard-to-predict elements of the global financial market. We are talking here about the lack of a reserve currency, something that many countries use to protect themselves against external shocks, especially during periods of global crisis, when the demand for reserve assets rises sharply. Let us consider the following example. Russia has been a net creditor in the global financial system for years. As of year-end 2019, Russia’s external financial assets exceeded its external financial liabilities by $358 billion. Meanwhile, its investment income balance amounted to −$50 billion. This lop-sidedness is down to the fact that Russia places its international reserves in low-yield foreign assets and serves its foreign financial liabilities at higher interest rates. What this means is that the Russian Federation has been subsidizing those countries that issue reserve currencies for years while not always receiving adequate compensation and now living in economic isolation in the form of economic sanctions. In this context, Russia urgently needs to create its own reserve currency similar to the transferable rouble that the Soviet Union used in its trade with the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance in 1964–1990 and which existed long before other collective currencies (such as the special drawing rights, the European Currency Unit and the euro) were developed. This mechanism removed a number of inconsistencies at the regional level (the problem of imbalances in particular) that we are now seeing in connection with the use of the U.S. dollar as a means of carrying out international settlements, loans and investments around the world.

An oft-cited report by Goldman Sachs predicts that Brazil, Russia, India and China (the BRIC countries) will all be among the world’s top five economies by 2050 and, tellingly, the stock market is not the main source of financial resources for any of them. A common problem for the BRIC countries is the need to develop the enormous potential of their domestic markets by implementing large-scale infrastructure projects. A kind of dual system of monetary circulation whereby foreign trade is carried out using monetary units of account could help make this happen. Such a model would make it possible to separate the intrinsic value of money (its purchasing power) from its extrinsic value (its exchange rate). This is necessary to prevent newly created value (through the financial market) flowing from regions with low productivity to regions with high productivity. This is precisely what is happening in the Eurozone, and it is deepening the structural imbalances in the single European market. In addition, such a system would help resolve the issue of creating international liquidity without the need to move the national currency out of circulation to form unproductive national reserves or carry out speculative transactions.

Conclusion

The global economy has fallen into the trap of “new abnormality,” where incessantly creating money does not solve pressing socioeconomic problems. Other countries are following in the footsteps of the United States, repeating its domestic policy. This has resulted in the further deepening of social inequalities and imbalances at the national and global levels. Bearing in mind the fact that the United States’ share of global gross domestic product has been falling over the past 20 years, it is entirely possible that the U.S. dollar may be used less frequently in international transactions, even though the exchange rate proves favourable from time to time. To make matters worse, the unusual reaction of the markets to the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve System, along with the growing political tension in the United States, increases the risk of the destabilization of the current financial system. It should be stressed here that global economic leadership has always been tied to the leading countries consolidating their positions in both the economic and financial spheres. Clearly, we have reached the point where the only thing that will help stabilize the world economy in the long term is the more active involvement of the BRICS countries in the functioning of the global financial system.

From our partner RIAC

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Economy

Innovative ideas and investment opportunities needed to ensure a strong post-COVID recovery

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After the huge success of its opening day, AIM Digital, the first digital edition of the Annual Investment Meeting, continued to gain momentum as it reached Day 2. The three-day mega digital event, an initiative of the Ministry fo Economy, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, concluded its second day with interactive activities that catalysed investment-generation, knowledge-enhancement, and local, regional and international collaborations.

Joined by more than 15K participants from over 170 countries, including 70+ high-level dignitaries from across the globe, the second day of AIM Dıgital witnessed a wide range of major events, from the Conference, Exhibition, Investment Roundtables, and Regional Focus sessions to Conglomerate Presentations and Startups competitions; all geared towards providing opportunities to achieve a digital, sustainable & resilient future.

In his keynote speech in the FDI session, Ministers Roundtable: Adapting to the New Flow of Trade and Investment, His Excellency Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, said: “It is my distinct honor to welcome you to the UAE’s first-ever digital edition of the Annual Investment Meeting. Thank you to everyone participating, including our panelists from the Governments of Costa Rica, Canada, Nigeria and Russia. Today’s discussion on how countries are ensuring the free flow of trade and investment could not be more timely, especially as the world grapples with the economic recovery and moves toward building a more resilient, post-COVID economy. The pandemic has significantly impacted global markets that created new challenges for trade and investment. While the challenges ahead are enormous, the UAE sees tremendous opportunity for governments and business leaders to work together through trade and investment to reshape policies, create new partnerships, leverage new technologies, and build a future global economy that is more diverse, inclusive, and sustainable. We know that FDI can bring new technology and know-how, lead to new jobs and growth, and is often the largest source of finance for economies – making today’s discussion even more imperative.”

He further stated that FDI has played a critical role in the UAE’s economic growth, with policies and measures in place, such as the Foreign Direct Investment Law enacted in 2018 to further open the UAE market to investors in certain sectors, and the issuance of Positive List, which allows for greater foreign investment across 122 activities, and increasingthe UAE’s FDI value by 32% in 2019.  He also mentioned that the UAE came in 16th of 190 countries in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business 2020 Ranking due to the country’s digitization strategies and promising business regulatory environment.

His Excellency Al Zeyoudi furthered: “The UAE is continuing to refine and implement policies that will maximize competitiveness, increase collaboration, and provide opportunities to facilitate trade and investment. Our aim is to become the #1 country for foreign investment, target zero contribution from oil to our GDP in the next 50 years, and support research, development, and innovation. The UAE’s trade and investment strategy is centered on economic diversification and focuses on enhanced investment in industries such as communications, Blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotics, and genetics. We are also initiating measures to strengthen our position as a regional leader in supplying financial and logistical services, infrastructure, energy supplies, and other services.”

He added: “The UAE believes that increased partnership and cooperation with governments and the private sector will be key to achieving our objectives. We view platforms such as the Annual Investment Meeting as instrumental in bridging the gap between nations and supporting global efforts to strengthen international trade and investment. Through this platform, we hope that participants will uncover new, innovative ideas and investment opportunities needed to build back better and ensure a strong post-COVID recovery.”

Furthermore, world-class speakers shared their viewpoints in Day 2 of the Conference highlighting Foreign Direct Investment, Foreign Portfolio Investment, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Startups, Future Cities, and One Belt, One Road, including H.E. Amb. Mariam Yalwaji Katagum, Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment of The Federal Republic of Nigeria; Victoria Hernández Mora, Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce of Republic of Costa Rica; Hon. Victor Fedeli,  Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade of Ontario, Canada; and Sergey Cheremin, Minister of Moscow City Government Head of Department for External Economic and International Relations, among others.

Two Investment Roundtables were also held successfully at the second day of AIM Digital, concluding  with strategies to facilitate sustainable, smart and scalable investments. The Energy Roundtable was led by Laszlo Varro, the Chief Economist of International Energy Agency, which works with countries around the globe to structure energy policies towards a secure and sustainable future. Among the notable participants include H.E. Arifin Tasrif,  Minister for Energy & Mineral Resources of the Republic of Indonesia; and H.E. Gabriel Obiang, the Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of Equatorial Guinea. The Agriculture Roundtable was led by Islamic Development Bank Group, the multilateral development bank working to promote social and economic development in Member countries and Muslim communities worldwide, delivering impact at scale.

In addition, the second set of National Winners competed on Day 2 of the AIM Global National Champions League. Overall,  a total of 65 countries competed at this international startups competition. The top five global champions that will win a total prize of USD50,000 will be announced on the last day of AIM Digital.The competition was launched in a bid to help startups in maximizing their potential to attract funding and promote their business ideas to a global audience, getting utmost exposure and expanding their network.

Participating in the Conglomerate Presentation feature of AIM Digital is Elsewedy Electric led by Eng. Ahmed Elsewedy, its President and CEO. Elsewedy Electric began as a manufacturer of electrical components in Egypt 80 years ago, and Electric has evolved into a global provider of energy, digital and infrastructure solutions with a turnover of EGP 46.6 billion in 2019, operating in five key business sectors, namely Wire & Cable, Electrical Products, Engineering & Construction, Smart Infrastructure and Infrastructure Investments. As part of its commitment to sustainability, it has established green energy and smart metering projects across Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

The Regional Focus Sessions featured the regions of Asia and Latin America and explored the risks, challenges and opportunities for growth and regional cooperation.  Regional Focus Session on Asia brought together government officials and investment authorities from the ASEAN Member States and discussed their strategies to create a borderless and sustainable bloc that will push organic growth, as well as their approaches to gain resilience in the economy. Regional Focus Session on Latin America highlighted the significance of regional and international partnerships to combat the current pandemic and boost trade, investments and employment within the region.

Moreover, Country Presentations on Day 2 presented the outstanding features and investment opportunities in Colombia, Egypt and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia which highlighted the countries’ status as attractive investment destinations.

Another highly anticipated event in the largest virtual gathering of the global investment community is the announcement of winners for the Investment Awards and Future Cities Awards which will take place on Day 3 of AIM Digital.AIM Investment Awards will grant recognition to the world’s best Investment Promotion Agencies and the best FDI projects in each region of the globe that have contributed to the economic growth and development of their markets.   Likewise, AIM Future Cities Awards will give tribute to the best smart city solutions providers and for outstanding projects that have resulted to enhanced operational efficiency and productivity, sustainability, and economic growth.

Day 1 of AIM Dıgital welcomed the presence of globally renowned personalities such as the UAE Minister of Economy, His Excellency Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri who emphasised the vision of UAE’s wise leadership for the post-COVID era, reflecting great significance to enhancing the readiness of the country’s government sector, raising efficiencies and performance at the federal and local levels. Keynote remarks were delivered by H.E. Juri Ratas, the Prime Minister of Republic of Estonia; H.E. Rustam Minnikhanov, the President of the Republic of Tatarstan; H.E. Dr. Bandar M. H. Hajjar, the President of Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDB Group); H.E. Mohammed Ali Al Shorafa Al Hammadi, the Chairman of Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED); and Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The UAE Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs, His Excellency Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, underlined in his Keynote Address for the SME Pillar, that it is crucial for Startups and SMEs to be given opportunities to bounce back from the impact of pandemic and provide a conducive environment that will empower them to have the capability of supporting growth and success.

The Global Leaders Debate featured prominent keynote debaters such as Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP); Mohamed Alabbar, the Founder of Emaar Properties, Alabbar Enterprises and Noon.com; Mohammad Abdullah Abunayyan, the Chairman of ACWA Power; and Arkady Dvorkovich, the Chairman of Skolkovo Foundation, who discussed the strategies to restructure the economies in overcoming the consequences of the pandemic.

The first digital edition of the Annual Investment Meeting with the theme “Reimagining Economies: The Move Towards a Digital, Sustainable and Resilient Future, will be held until the 22nd of October 2020.

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Economy

H.E. Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi: Our aim is to become the #1 country for foreign investment

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It is my distinct honor to welcome you to the UAE’s first-ever digital edition of the Annual Investment Meeting. Thank you to everyone participating, including our panelists from the Governments of Costa Rica, Canada, Nigeria and Russia. Today’s discussion on how countries are ensuring the free flow of trade and investment could not be more timely, especially as the world grapples with the economic recovery and moves toward building a more resilient, post-COVID economy.

As you know, the pandemic has significantly impacted global markets, creating new challenges for trade and investment. According to the United Nations’2020World Investment Report, global FDI flows are estimated to decrease by up to 40% this year, dropping well below their value of $1.54 trillion in 2019. This would bring global FDI below $1 trillion for the first time since 2005. Global FDI flows are expected to decline even further in 2021, by 5% to 10%, and only in 2022 do we expect to start seeing markets recover.

While the challenges ahead are enormous, the UAE sees tremendous opportunity for governments and business leaders to work together through trade and investment to reshape policies, create new partnerships, leverage new technologies, and build a future global economy that is more diverse, inclusive, and sustainable. We know that FDI can bring new technology and know-how, lead to new jobs and growth, and is often the largest source of finance for economies – making today’s discussion even more imperative.

For the UAE, FDI has played a critical role in our economic growth. In 2019, the UAE was the largest recipient of FDI in the region, largely due to our increased focus over the years on enhancing local conditions to attract FDI. With policies and measures in place, such as our Foreign Direct Investment Law enacted in 2018 to further open the UAE market to investors in certain sectors, and the issuance of our Positive List, which allows for greater foreign investment across 122 activities, the UAE was able to increase our FDI value by 32% in 2019. The UAE also came in 16th of 190 countries in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business 2020 Ranking due to our digitization strategies and promising business regulatory environment.

The UAE is continuing to refine and implement policies that will maximize competitiveness, increase collaboration, and provide opportunities to facilitate trade and investment. Our aim is to become the #1 country for foreign investment, target zero contribution from oil to our GDP in the next 50 years, and support research, development, and innovation. The UAE’s trade and investment strategy is centered on economic diversification and focuses on enhanced investment in industries such as communications, Blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotics, and genetics. We are also initiating measures to strengthen our position as a regional leader in supplying financial and logistical services, infrastructure, energy supplies, and other services.

The UAE believes that increased partnership and cooperation with governments and the private sector will be key to achieving our objectives. We view platforms such as the Annual Investment Meeting as instrumental in bridging the gap between nations and supporting global efforts to strengthen international trade and investment. Through this platform, we hope that participants will uncover new, innovative ideas and investment opportunities needed to build back better and ensure a strong post-COVID recovery.

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