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APEC Modernizes Anti-Corruption Controls

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Anti-corruption and law enforcement officials from the APEC member economies are recalibrating their efforts to safeguard businesses and livelihoods in the Asia-Pacific against wrongdoing.

Officials built momentum for innovative checks on bribery and corruption during policy consultations in Port Moresby, fleshing out preventative measures for the changing technological landscape and ways to fast track their adoption in the region.

“The challenge for our economies now is not necessarily how resilient we are to the effects of corruption,” explained Dr Lawrence Kalinoe OBE, Acting Secretary for Justice in Papua New Guinea’s Department of Justice and Attorney General. “The challenge is how resilient our systems are to prevent corruption.”

“We are stepping up coordination in APEC to facilitate newer, better ways to deter corrupt practices, not just react to them,” added Roselyn Gwaibo, Chair of the APEC Anti-Corruption and Transparency Working Group. “Our aim is to close conduits for abuse that impede vital services, harm the environment and undermine prosperity in each of our economies.”

The focus is on capturing and assessing data to improve transparency, the identification of conflicts of interest and preemption of misdeeds within government and the private sector. Examples range from online reporting of human resources, asset, travel and procurement information that is readily available to the public to secure whistleblowing channels.

“New mobile and digital technologies are making it easier than ever to collect, scrutinize and share information that could raise corruption red flags,” noted Claudia Ortega Forner of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Chile.

“If there is cause for concern, the deployment of innovative disclosure mechanisms can increase the likelihood that it will be detected and addressed more quickly,” Ortega Forner continued. “Getting a handle on corruption before it unfolds is imperative to ensuring well-functioning institutions and re-building public trust in them.”

The progress of APEC’s push to optimize corruption controls could in turn significantly boost business conditions in the region, reducing transaction touch points and exchanges of cash that hinder efficiency, invite crimes of opportunity and elevate risk.

It is also turning attention in APEC to the need to keep pace with the increasing sophistication of fraud that may exploit the rise of innovations such as online payment systems, secure transaction records, or blockchain, and crypto currencies.

“Advances in digital data capture and automated transactional analysis can be powerful weapons in the fight against corruption, for example, in the early identification of money laundering and other illicit transactions put through the financial system,” said David Wilson, Chief Risk Officer of Australia New Zealand Banking Group in Papua New Guinea.

“When there is integrity in markets, it improves their attractiveness to business and that drives trade, investment, and promotes job creation and sustainable growth,” concluded Wilson. “Technology investment is important to the success of anti-corruption reforms. APEC is encouraged to look at opportunities where advances in technology can support these goals.”

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Georgia Boosts Investment in Energy Sector, with World Bank Support

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The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved today a US$ 62 million loan to Georgia for the Energy Supply Reliability and Financial Recovery Project, financed by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

The project aims to help increase electricity supply reliability in the western part of Georgia, ensure the financial viability of Georgia State Electrosystem (GSE), and help GSE access long-term commercial financing. This will be achieved through three components of the project: strengthening of the power transmission network, support to financial recovery of GSE and preparatory work to access capital markets, and support to GSE to raise long-term commercial financing.

“The project will increase electricity supply and prevent outages across Georgia’s regions, furthermore, it will assist GSE to tap into even greater domestic and international financing resources,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus.

“In addition to the benefits of reliable electricity supply for the country, the project will offer innovative solutions that can help GSE change its traditional model of financing and set the stage for long-term financial viability and access to capital markets,” said Arthur Kochnakyan, World Bank Senior Energy Specialist and the Task Team Leader for the Project.

The Georgian power sector has undergone significant reforms over the last two decades with positive outcomes. Extensive regulatory and market reforms, focused on deregulation and privatization, have helped improve service quality in the power sector and the financial visibility of sector entities. As a result of past reforms, the power sector has gone from near complete operational and financial collapse to reliable electricity supply with sector companies in adequate financial standing. The regulatory framework is robust overall, but some challenges remain. As such, the project will help the Government address these challenges in line with its energy strategy.

This project is consistent with the World Bank’s latest Country Partnership Framework 2019-2022 for Georgia, and will also help the country achieve the targets under its Nationally Determined Contribution.

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Ukraine Needs Faster Growth to Boost Living Standards

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Ukraine’s economy grew by 3.3 percent in 2018, supported by a good harvest and strong consumption growth from higher wages, pensions, and remittances, according to the World Bank’s latest Ukraine Economic Update. However, investor confidence has been held back by uneven reform progress, election-related uncertainties, and high borrowing costs, with growth of 2.7 percent projected in 2019.

“In order to accelerate economic growth, Ukraine needs swift progress on key unfinished reforms,” said Satu Kahkonen, World Bank Country Director for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. “This includes opening the agricultural land market, unbundling the energy sector, strengthening governance of state-owned banks, making progress on anticorruption, and safeguarding fiscal stability.”

If the key reforms progress swiftly, economic growth is projected to rise to 3.4 percent in 2020 and 3.8 percent in 2021. By contrast, if reforms do not progress, growth would fall below 2 percent as investor confidence deteriorates and macroeconomic vulnerabilities intensify.

Ukraine faces macroeconomic vulnerabilities from large public debt repayments obligations in 2019-2021 and pressures on current expenditures. This will require mobilizing adequate international financing and further strengthening public finances to meet the fiscal deficit target. Particularly important in this regard is affordable implementation of recent reforms in health, education, pensions, public administration, and social assistance.  It will also be important to put in place a more equitable and growth-friendly tax system.

Tapping Ukraine’s growth potential …

According to the World Bank’s Special Focus Note on Ukraine’s growth potential, achieving strong growth for an extended period of time is critical for Ukraine to catch up with the income levels of neighboring European countries.

If the status quo and the growth rate of recent years continues, it will take Ukraine more than 50 years to reach the income levels of today’s Poland.

While Ukraine has made progress over the last five years in strengthening the foundations for sustainable growth, the economy continues to be constrained by unfinished reforms that lead to low productivity, over-reliance on commodity-based exports, limited foreign direct investment and global economic integration, and weak institutions.

Going forward, Ukraine’s key challenge is not to achieve high growth next year or for a few years, but rather to make economic growth faster, last longer, and kinder by giving equal opportunity to all.

Achieving higher and sustained economic growth will require progress on further critical reforms to boost productivity and investment, including in the following areas: rule of law and property rights protection; land reform; governance and supervision in the financial sector; competition in the gas sector; and logistics and connectivity to fully leverage external trade opportunities.

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UN: Libya on verge of civil war, threatening ‘permanent division’

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The damage done to Libya will already take “years to mend” but unless fighting around the capital Tripoli stops, the country risks “descending into a civil war which could lead to the permanent division of the country”.

That was the blunt assessment of UN Special Representative to Libya, Ghassan Salamé,  who also heads the UNSMIL Support Mission, briefing the Security Council on Tuesday, following weeks of intensifying conflict in and around the outskirts of Tripoli, instigated by the self-styled Libyan National Army forces of General Khalif Haftar who also leads a parallel administration based in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Mr. Salamé said grimly, that he had spent two years hoping to avoid having to deliver such a bleak in-person briefing to the Council, noting there were already 460 dead – 29 civilians – since the offensive began in early April. More than 2,400 have been injured, and 75,000 forced from their homes, the majority civilians, with half of the displaced women and children.

Violence began on the eve of an UN-backed National Conference planned to bring more than 150 representatives together from across the country, which had to be postponed. “There was great public excitement about what the conference could yield” said the top UN official, “in terms of a way forward to end Libya’s eight-year long period of transition” which threw him “into the deepest level of sadness for the opportunity lost”.

Tripoli violence could spark ‘long and bloody war’ across region

“I am no Cassandra” he added, referencing the mythical Greek figure who uttered prophesies which nobody believed, “but the violence on the outskirts of Tripoli is just the start of a long and bloody war…imperilling the security of Libya’s immediate neighbours and the wider Mediterranean”.

Mr. Salamé noted that in southern Libya, terrorist group Daesh, or ISIL, was flying its distinctive black flags, and reportedly had been responsible for four attacks, killing a total of 17, with more than 10 wounded, and eight others kidnapped, since Libya’s militias turned their guns on each other this year, not the common extremist threat.

“There are numerous reports of extremists, persons under international sanctions, and individuals wanted by the International Criminal Court appearing on the battlefield on all sides. All parties must publicly disassociate themselves from such elements without delay and refer to the ICC those for whom arrest warrants have been issued”, he said.

He bemoaned the flow of weapons back into the country noting “many countries” were providing arms to all sides. “Without a robust enforcement mechanism, the arms embargo into Libya will be come a cynical joke. Some nations are fuelling this bloody conflict; the United Nations should put an end to it”, he added.

Turning to the humanitarian needs he said health facilities were struggling to cope, with 11 ambulances “directly hit” by airstrikes, rockets and shelling. “I am appalled by the apparent disregard for the due protection of personnel engaging in vital medical tasks”, he noted, expressing deep concern for the rise in abductions, disappearances and arbitrary arrests in the past 6 weeks. He called on the Council’s “unequivocal support” in applying International Humanitarian Law.

UN remains ‘alongside the Libyan people’

Mr. Salamé said despite scaling-down non-essential UN staff in Tripoli and Benghazi, “we remain in Libya alongside the Libyan people to deliver as best we can”, with over 42,000 receiving aid so far. He said through local democratic elections held since 30 March, the people were showing their stoical resolve too, saying it was “vital to keep the pilot light of democracy alive”, and appealed for Council support to “the municipal election process.”

“There is no military solution” he reiterated, “and it is high time for those who have harboured this illusion to open their eyes and adjust themselves to this reality. Libya’s mosaic of communities cannot be governed without alliances and relationships stretching across the whole country”. He said Libyans would need to adjust in light of the attempts to take Tripoli by force since 4 April.

“A better future is still possible, but we all must be seized with the fierce urgency of now, while the front lines remain on the outskirts of Tripoli, and before the battle moves, God forbid, to the capital’s more densely populated neighbourhoods. This will require concerted and immediate action by the international community”.

He concluded with a call for the Council to act immediately, in support of politics over any military solution. “Full civil war in Libya is not inevitable. It may occur by the will of some parties, and by the inaction of others. I hear Libyans resigning themselves to a conflict of many months or even many years. My duty, and

that of this family of nations, is to tell them: ‘No. You need to stop the fighting and stop it now, for the sake of your loved ones, for the sake of your country, and for the sake of international peace and security.’”

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