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Greece can turn its education system into a source of inclusive and sustainable growth

MD Staff

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With a qualified and well-engaged teacher workforce, motivated 15-year-old students with a strong sense of school belonging, and one of the lowest dropout rates across the European Union, Greece is well placed to build a strong and inclusive education system.

Education for a Bright Future in Greece recognises the Greek Government’s efforts to increase the quality and equity of the education system through a combination of innovative policies and deep structural reforms. The current government’s efforts to improve the governance of schools and education institutions and resources, can provide students with the environment, knowledge and skills needed to contribute to more inclusive and sustainable growth, boosting productivity and well-being, according to the new OECD report.

Strongly affected by the economic crisis, the Greek education system has suffered a series of cuts in public spending (a decline of close to 36% in nominal terms over the past decade), and a recruitment freeze of public civil servants which has impacted wages and resulted in the hiring of new teachers on short-term contracts. This is affecting the quality of schools and the education system as a whole as it deals with an increasingly diverse student body, including high levels of child poverty and a larger proportion of migrant and refugee students. Results from the OECD PISA global education survey show that the performance of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics and science remains below the OECD average.

In this complex context, the Greek education system is facing several structural challenges, including a high proportion of substitute teachers, a highly centralised school system, the need for better professional development support for teachers, the effects of widespread shadow education, and weaknesses in tertiary education.

“Now that Greece’s economic prospects are improving, it is time to centre attention on building a highly performing education system that puts children at its centre. Greece can turn its education system into the dynamo of a more inclusive and sustainable growth. Building on international best practices, reforms should consider more autonomy for schools and school principals, a solid accountability framework, and a culture based on evaluation. In the context of the digital revolution, that is affecting all aspects of life, prioritising the skills and competencies of Greek children, youth and workers will be key.” said Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff and Head of the OECD-Greece Joint Steering Committee, launching the report in Athens with Kostas Gavroglu, Greek Minister of Education, Research and Religious Affairs.

The current reform agenda should also focus on providing teachers with greater contractual stability and innovative tools for professional development, giving stronger roles to school principals, as well as developing a set of strategic principles for tertiary education policy-making and raising quality of in-school lessons to tackle shadow education.

Streamlining and improving the governance and financing of the education system and its schools would also help. For individual schools to thrive, governance and funding should be aligned. This requires developing an overall future-oriented vision of education for Greece, providing financial clarity on resources available, giving schools an identity and capacities of their own and creating a permanent teacher workforce in schools. It is also important to make progress in developing an evidence-based system to measure progress of school performance and evaluations. Lastly, raising standards in higher education would also help address mismatches between the skills of tertiary graduates and the skills employers need, as well as reduce the high levels of graduate unemployment. To implement these changes and many of the recommendations of the Review, Greece will need to give education expenditure the importance this sector deserves. Considering the dire impact of the crisis in this sector’s budget, educational public spending will have to recover.

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Asia and the Pacific grows in importance for Global Tourism

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in partnership with the Global Tourism Economy Research Centre (GTERC), presented its Asia Tourism Trends Report today at the Global Tourism Economy Forum in Macao (China). The report shows Asia and the Pacific outperforming all world regions in growth in international arrivals since 2005.

‘UNWTO/GTERC Asia Tourism Trends – 2018’ shows that international tourist arrivals in Asia and the Pacific grew 6% in 2017 to reach 323 million, around a quarter  of the world’s total. Of all world regions Asia and the Pacific, the second-most visited after Europe, has grown the fastest in international tourist arrivals since 2005. Arrivals increased an average of 6% per year, above the world average of 4%.

Rapid economic growth in a region with over half the world’s population, coupled with rising air connectivity, travel facilitation and large infrastructure projects, have boosted international travel in the region. This has had a large impact on Asian destinations’ tourism earnings, which have steadily increased from 17% of the world total in 2000 to 29% in 2017. This is equivalent to US$ 390 billion in tourism receipts.

Asia and the Pacific plays a vital role as a source market as well, fuelling much growth in both regional and long-haul destinations. The region produced 335 million international travellers spending US$ 502 billion in 2017, 37% of the world total. Around 80% of these visits were concentrated in Asia destinations. Outside the region, 56% of the long-haul trips were to Europe.

EU-China Tourism Year

To celebrate the EU-China Tourism Year 2018, the report looks at international tourism between China, the largest economy in Asia, and the block of 28 European Union (EU) countries.

It finds that 5.7 million Chinese tourists travelled to Europe in 2016, of which 3.5 million went to the EU. In reverse, 5.5 million Europeans travelled to China in 2016, 3.1 million of whom from EU countries.

China’s Greater Bay Area – a major outbound area

The last chapter of ‘UNWTO/GTERC Asia Tourism Trends – 2018’ provides an insight into the Greater Bay Area of China, a project to create a large socio-economic zone and tourism area comprising the two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao, as well as nine cities in Guangdong Province. According to the report, the Greater Bay Area is China’s fastest-growing tourism region and the Pearl River Delta home to several cities with high tourism development including Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Foshan.

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Energy efficiency is the cornerstone for building a secure and sustainable energy system

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A global effort to deploy the right energy efficiency policies could, on its own, see greenhouse gas emissions peak quickly and then fall even as the global economy doubles between now and 2040, according to the IEA’s latest analysis on energy efficiency.

Energy Efficiency 2018 examines the opportunities for improving global energy efficiency to 2040, and finds that efficiency gains alone could allow the world to extract twice as much economic value from the energy it uses compared to today. Doing so would reduce energy bills for consumers by more than $500 billion dollars per year, lower energy imports and cut air pollution in cities – a key issue for many countries.

The report sets out a vision for 2040 with 60% more building space and 20% more people, and double global GDP, while using only marginally more energy than today and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 12%. Delivering this vision requires an immediate step up in policy action. For example, countries would need to continue to push up the efficiency of both cars and trucks, building on the progress made in recent years.

Another priority is the efficiency of air conditioners, as highlighted in the IEA’s recent report The Future of Cooling. This demonstrated that air conditioners could be twice as efficient as they are today with the right policies in place. Global investment in energy efficiency will need to rise significantly, but this investment will pay back threefold through energy savings alone.

This new analysis comes in the wake of the new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that reminds us that global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak quickly and then decline for the world to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement. Energy efficiency and bioenergy – two areas where the IEA has been shining a light recently – are both critical to this effort.

Energy Efficiency 2018 outlines a global strategy focused on what governments can do to capture the economic, social and environmental benefits of enhanced energy efficiency. IEA’s global analysis of energy efficiency has identified the key actions that can deliver the most positive impact. This includes improving the efficiency of buildings and industry. It also highlights the importance of areas such as aviation and shipping, where energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important.

“While various countries are endowed with different energy resources – whether it’s oil, gas, wind, solar or hydropower – every single country has energy efficiency potential,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “Efficiency can enable economic growth, reduce emissions and improve energy security. Our study shows that the right efficiency policies could alone enable the world to achieve more than 40% of the emissions cuts needed to reach its climate goals without requiring new technology. Thanks to the critical importance of energy efficiency in building a secure and sustainable future, the IEA considers it the ‘first fuel’ and facilitates the exchange of best practices among advanced and emerging economies.”

Recent trends show that policy efforts have weakened in recent years. In other words, the improvements in energy efficiency that were seen in recent years are now slowing down as fewer new standards and policies were introduced in the past two years. This has contributed to the acceleration in energy demand growth that was observed in 2017.

This weakening of efficiency progress is concerning at a time when global energy demand is growing, especially as the new IEA analysis shows just how much potential gains remain. To answer this question, the report asks what would happen if all energy efficiency opportunities were taken up. All the opportunities identified are fully cost effective and use only technologies already available today.

The report introduces the IEA’s Efficient World Strategy, which identifies where the efficiency opportunities exist and sets out the policies required to be put in place to capture them. It offers a blueprint to Governments to improve their economies and lower their emissions. It also maps out how to meet key elements of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals relating to energy.

“The IEA is working actively with Governments across the world to enact the right policies for enhancing energy efficiency,” said Dr Birol. “We know there is an appetite for focused solutions, and this is what the Efficient World Strategy offers. We look forward to working with countries to deliver the benefits of energy efficiency, and we call on governments to prioritise the actions that can help them meet their energy and climate goals.”

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Changing Nature of Competitiveness Poses Challenges for Future of the Global Economy

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The changing nature of economic competitiveness in a world that is becoming increasingly transformed by new, digital technologies is creating a new set of challenges for governments and businesses, which collectively run the risk of having a negative impact on future growth and productivity. This is the key finding of the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, which is published today.

According to the report, which in 2018 uses a brand new methodology to fully capture the dynamics of the global economy in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, many of the factors that will have the greatest impact in driving competitiveness in the future have never been the focus of major policy decisions in the past. These include idea generation, entrepreneurial culture, openness, and agility.

The new tool maps the competitiveness landscape of 140 economies through 98 indicators organised into 12 pillars. For each indicator, using a scale from 0 to 100, it indicates how close an economy is to the ideal state or “frontier” of competitiveness. When combining these factors, the United States achieves the best overall performance with a score of 85.6, ahead of Singapore and Germany. The average score for the world is 60, 40 points away from the frontier.

One unifying theme among the world’s most competitive economies is that they all possess considerable room for improvement. For example, while the report’s Global Competitiveness Index finds that Singapore is the most ‘future-ready’ economy, it trails Sweden when it comes to having a digitally skilled workforce. Switzerland, meanwhile, has the most effective labour for reskilling and retraining policies and US companies are the fastest when it comes to embracing change.

One of the report’s most concerning findings is the relative weakness across the board when it comes to mastering the innovation process, from idea generation to product commercialization. Here, 103 countries score lower than 50 in this area of the index which is topped by Germany, followed by the United States and Switzerland. The report notably finds that attitude towards entrepreneurial risk is the most positive in Israel and tends to be negative in several East Asian economies. Canada has the most diverse workforce and Denmark’s corporate culture is the least hierarchical, both critical factors for driving innovation.

“Embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution has become a defining factor for competitiveness. With this Report, the World Economic Forum proposes an approach to assess how well countries are performing against this new criterion. I foresee a new global divide between countries who understand innovative transformations and those that don’t. Only those economies that recognize the importance of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be able to expand opportunities for their people,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.

Openness must be complemented by inclusion

At a time of escalating trade tensions and a backlash against globalization, the report also reveals the importance of openness for competitiveness. For example, those economies performing in indicators that denote openness such as low tariff and non-tariff barriers, ease of hiring foreign labour and collaboration in patent application among others also tend to perform well in terms of innovation and market efficiency. This data suggests that global economic health would be positively impacted by a return to greater openness and integration. However, it is critical that policies be put in place to improve conditions of those adversely affected by globalization within countries.

The report also presents a strong argument that redistributive policies, safety nets, investments in human capital, as well as more progressive taxation aimed at addressing inequality do not need to compromise an economy’s levels of competitiveness. With no inherent trade-off between competitiveness and inclusion, it is possible to be pro-growth and inclusive at the same time. For example, workers in the Index’s ten most competitive economies work on average five hours less per week than workers in the three BRICS economies – Brazil, India and Russia – for which working time data is available.

A key message from the report is the need for a broad-based approach to raising competitiveness – a strong performance in one area cannot make up for a weak performance in another. This is especially true when it comes to innovation: while it is true that a strong focus on technology can provide leapfrogging opportunities for low and middle income countries, governments must not lose sight of ‘old’ developmental issues, such as governance, infrastructure and skills. In this light one worrying factor thrown up by this year’s Index is the fact that, for 117 of the 140 economies surveyed, quality of institutions remains a drag on overall competitiveness.

“Competitiveness is neither a competition nor a zero-sum game—all countries can become more prosperous. With opportunities for economic leapfrogging, diffusion of innovative ideas across borders and new forms of value creation, the Fourth Industrial Revolution can level the playing field for all economies. But technology is not a silver bullet on its own. Countries must invest in people and institutions to deliver on the promise of technology.” said Saadia Zahidi, Member of the Managing Board and Head of the Centre for the New Economy and Society.

Regional and country highlights

With a score of 85.6 out of 100, the United States is the country closest to the frontier of competitiveness. It notably leads the Business dynamism pillar, thanks to its vibrant entrepreneurial culture, the Labour market pillar (score of 81.9 out of 100) and the Financial system (92.1) pillar. These are among the several factors that contribute to making the US’ innovation ecosystem one of the best in the world (86.5, 2nd behind Germany). The country’s institutional framework also remains relatively sound (74.6, 13th). However, there are indications of a weakening social fabric (63.3, down from 65.5) and worsening security situation (79.1, 56th)—the United States has a homicide rate five times the advanced economies’ average. It is far from the frontier in areas such as checks and balances (76.3, 40th), judicial independence (79.0, 15th), and corruption (75.0, 16th). The country also lags behind most advanced economies in the Health pillar, with healthy life expectancy at 67.7 years (46th), three years below the average of advanced economies, and six years less than Singapore and Japan. Finally, ICT adoption is relatively low compared to other advanced economies, including aspects such as mobile-broadband subscriptions and internet users. With a score of 71.2, the United States trails Korea by a full 20 points.

In addition to the United States, other G20 economies in the top 10 include Germany (3rd, 82.8), Japan (5th, 82.4) and the United Kingdom (8th, 82.0). G20 results are highly diverse. Almost 30 points, and 80 ranks separate the United States from Argentina (81st, 57.5), the worst performing G20 economy.

Singapore ranks second in the overall rankings (score of 83.5), with openness as the defining feature of this global trading hub and one of the main drivers of its economic success. The country also leads the infrastructure pillar, with a nearly perfect score of 95.7, thanks to its world-class transport infrastructure and connectivity.

Besides Singapore and Japan, Hong Kong SAR (7th, 82.3) is the third economy from East Asia and the Pacific region in the top ten, confirming the widely held view that overall growth momentum in the region is set to last. These three economies boast world-class physical and digital infrastructure and connectivity, macroeconomic stability, strong human capital, and well-developed financial systems. Australia (14th, 78.9) and Korea (15th, 78.8) are among the top 20. The biggest gap in this region lies in the development of an innovation ecosystem—New Zealand ranks 20th on the Innovation Capability pillar, while the Republic of Korea ranks 8th. Emerging markets such as Mongolia (99th , 52.7), Cambodia (110th, 50.2) and Lao PDR (112th, 49.3) are only half way to the frontier, making them vulnerable to a sudden shock, such as a faster-than-expected rise in interest rates in advanced economies and escalating trade tensions.

Of the BRICS grouping of large merging markets, China is the most competitive, ranking 28 in the Global Competitiveness Index with a score of 72.6. It is followed by Russia which is ranked 43. These are the only two in the top 50. Next is India, which ranks 58, up five places on 2017: with a score of 62, it registers the largest gain of any country in the G20. India is followed by South Africa, which falls 5 places this year to 67. Last is Brazil, which slips 3 places to 72.

Europe is made up of a very competitive north-west, a relatively competitive south-west, a rising north-east region and a lagging south-east. Despite continuing fragility from recent political shifts, the continent’s basic competitiveness factors, such as health, education, infrastructure and skills, are firmly in place. Sweden (9th, 81.7) is the highest ranked of the Nordic economies, while France (17th, 78.0) is among the top 20. The greatest disparities in the region lie in national innovation ecosystems, with countries in Eastern Europe and the Balkans lacking basic innovation infrastructure, while countries such as Germany and Switzerland set the global standards for innovation.

Chile (33rd, 70.3) leads the Latin America and the Caribbean region by a wide margin, ahead of Mexico (46th, 64.6) and Uruguay (53rd, 62.7). Venezuela (127th, 43.2) and Haiti (138th, 36.5) close the march. The region’s competitiveness remains fragile and could be further jeopardized by a number of factors including increased risk from trade protectionism in the United States; spillover of Venezuela’s economic and humanitarian crisis; policy uncertainty from elections in the region’s largest economies, and disruptions from natural disasters threatening the Caribbean. Insecurity and weak institutions are two of the biggest challenges for most countries.

Competitiveness performance in the Middle East and North Africa remains diverse, with Israel (20th, 76.6) and the United Arab Emirates (27th, 73.4), leading the way in the region. Saudi Arabia is in 39th position with a score of 67.5 out of 100. A focus on intra-region connectivity, in combination with improvements in ICT readiness and investment in human capital would improve the region’s capacity to innovate, foster business dynamism and increase its competitiveness performance.

Seventeen of the 34 sub-Saharan African economies studied are among the bottom 20, and the region’s average (45.2) placed it less than halfway to the frontier. Mauritius (49th, 63.7) leads the region, ahead of South Africa and nearly 30 points and 91 places ahead of Chad (140th, 35.5). Kenya is in 93rd position with a score of 53.7 while Nigeria is in 115th position with a score of 47.5 out of 100.

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