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ADB Supports Smarter Country Programming, Stronger PPPs in Pakistan

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Pakistan agreed to chart new ways to pursue more robust and inclusive ADB investments in the country by scaling up public-private partnerships (PPPs) to tap private sector resources and meet Pakistan’s rising infrastructure needs.

The 3-day consultation workshop, titled “ADB Country Programming and Public-Private Partnerships in Pakistan,” which started on 14 May at Bhurban near Islamabad, will be attended by over 100 delegates including senior government officials, economists, planners from federal and four provincial governments, and ADB staff. Participants will discuss development opportunities and pipeline of projects as part of ADB’s Country Operation Business Plan, 2019–2021, for Pakistan.

ADB Country Director for Pakistan Ms. Xiaohong Yang and ADB Office of Public-Private Partnerships Director Mr. Takeo Koike opened the workshop by reiterating ADB’s continued commitment to support Pakistan in achieving its key development goals outlined in the ADB-Pakistan country partnership strategy. Ms. Yang called for closer coordination and consultation between ADB and partners to ensure smarter investment programs to better respond to Pakistan’s evolving priorities, particularly in the education and health sectors, as well as in energy, transport, agriculture, and institutional reforms.

Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom Head of Economic Growth Group Ms. Patricia Seex expressed her appreciation for ADB and the government’s efforts in facilitating an enabling environment and effective regulatory framework to promote PPPs at the national and provincial levels to increase Pakistan’s economic growth—needed to create jobs and help Pakistan achieve middle-income status.

Chairman of the Planning and Development Board for Punjab Mr. Mohammad Jahanzeb Khan and Head of PPP Cell and Member of the Planning and Development Board of Punjab Mr. Agha Waqar Javed reaffirmed the government’s commitment to work closely with ADB in delivering high quality development projects and programs. They also provided updates on reforms to improve regulatory and policy frameworks conducted by the government intended to encourage greater private sector participation in public sector development programs with the federal and provincial governments.

Pakistan’s public investment in infrastructure has historically fallen short of the estimated annual investment need of 7.6% of the country’s gross domestic product, or about $20 billion per year.

The current surge in infrastructure spending reaching more than 67% of the total development budget in the public sector requires effective fiscal consolidation measures and strategies to reduce the deficit and increase efficiencies, including mitigating potential fiscal risks posed by PPPs. The outstanding infrastructure financing from local commercial banks in 2016 was only about $4 billion, with 65% of the local bank’s lending going into energy projects.

“Project financing in Pakistan is only offered by a few commercial banks, with little or no role of capital markets or other financial institutions,” said Ms. Yang. “This leads to lack of sufficient financial depth and backing in the country’s domestic credit markets to accommodate the long-gestation of infrastructure projects. In the meantime, we are in short supply of a well prepared and bankable PPP pipeline.”

Ms. Yang added, “In this regard, I commend the Sindh and Punjab provincial governments’ efforts to develop their investment frameworks to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to invest in infrastructure. The private sector has responded positively, but more needs to be done to create an effective fiscal risk vetting and management regime for greater private sector partnership in the public sector.”

ADB is already providing a total of $200 million in loans for projects supporting PPPs in Punjab and Sindh. The investments will augment and assist the provincial government’s efforts to increase the commercial viability of projects, as well as mobilize more private sector participation in PPPs. The loans will also help develop PPPs across sectors, and improve the government’s ability to review, develop, and implement sustainable and fiscally responsible PPP projects. ADB’s efforts are supported by DFID, through a $24 million grant and a $4 million technical assistance, both administered by ADB.

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Commission revealed 12 winners of VET Excellence Awards

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The European Vocational Skills Week took place across Europe and beyond last week (from 16 to 20 May). Organised by the European Commission every year, it is an occasion to celebrate best practices in Vocational Education and Training (VET), bringing together everyone involved – from local, to national and regional authorities, students, teachers and education and training organisation stakeholders – to showcase the benefits VET offers to young people and adults alike. This year’s sixth edition focused on ‘VET and the Green Transition’, supporting people to acquire the necessary skills for the green transition, in line with the European Green Deal.  

At the VET Excellence Awards ceremony, the Commission announced the winners of this flagship prize in different categories. An accountancy apprentice from Greece, the Piedmont Region in Italy, and a Swedish tree care programme have received the European Vocational Skills Week Excellence Award 2022, along with 9 other award winners.

Vice-President for Promoting the European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “It is great to see so many outstanding nominees and winners, celebrating the true benefits that vocational education and training can offer to everyone, young people and adults alike. They showcase the transformational impact that education and training can have on people’s careers and lives. I would also like to give a ‘special mention’ for our partners in Ukraine. We have been working closely together, also through the European Training Foundation, and will continue doing so, to support on topics such as qualifications, to help the Ukrainian people in these extremely difficult times.”

Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, said: “The green transition can become a real job engine if people receive the right support they need to thrive in their careers and the changing labour markets. The VET Excellence Awards help us identify the best approaches to become fit for the green economy, overcoming today’s labour shortages in key sectors such as construction, manufacturing and energy. I would like to congratulate all the nominees and VET learners, and to thank the thousands of providers of vocational education and training for their dedication.”

This year’s winners

The Commission awarded 12 prizes in four categories and one special mention to apprentices, projects, companies and regions, from the EU, neighbouring and neighbourhood countries, who have successfully used VET to build a greener, more digital and more inclusive society.

The award winners include:

  • Evangelos Pouftas, an apprentice with an accountancy firm in Greece, who demonstrated the key role of apprentices in accelerating the digital transition of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), by helping the company’s clients to digitalise their work, such as setting up online services to remain competitive, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased remote working.
  • The Piedmont Region of Italy,with the support of theEuropean Social Fund, promoted to young learners a culture of sustainability in food production and consumption along the agri-food chain.
  • The ‘Veteran Tree Management Skills Certification’ project of Stiftelsen Pro Natura. This Swedish programme, funded by Erasmus+,is designed to raise the standard of the caring for trees that have an exceptional value for nature conservation, landscape or culture, known as ‘veteran trees’.

Further award winners are:

  • AKMI S.A., Greece
  • Programme ‘Working inclusion and equal opportunities for the most disadvantaged’, ALMI BILBAO S.A.L., Spain
  • Cyclades –  5th Evening Vocational High School of Patra, Greece
  • Environmental and Agricultural Education in School, Georgia
  • Prof. Dr. Linda Clarke, University of Westminster, United Kingdom
  • ÖBB Infrastruktur AG, Austria
  • Otto Stöckl Elektroinstallationen GmbH, Austria
  • Riga State Technical School, Latvia
  • Virtual Dawn, Finland

In addition to the prizes in the different categories, a special mention went to Ukrainian partners who, along with the European Training Foundation, have been reforming their education and training systems, focusing on qualifications, the future of skills in key economic sectors, and governance arrangements to modernise the system and to bring it closer to the system in the EU.

EU actions to promote VET

The Commission is actively promoting vocational education and training as part of its work to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, and specifically the right to education, training and lifelong learning. This is also important to achieve the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan EU headline target that all partners committed to at the Porto Social Summit: at least 60% of all adults should participate in training every year.

On 1 July 2020, the Commission proposed a Council Recommendation on vocational education and training, to make VET more modern, attractive, flexible and fit for the digital age and the green transition. This proposal is embedded in other Commission initiatives, such as the European Skills Agenda and the Communication on Youth Employment Support – A Bridge to Jobs for the next generation.

In addition, the Commission put forward in December 2021 proposals for Individual Learning Accounts and Micro-credentials, to help open up more opportunities for people to find learning offers, and employment opportunities.

The European Commission also supports vocational education and training through significant funding, such as through the European Social Fund Plus (with total budget of almost €99.3 billion for 2021-2027), Erasmus+, and the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which has ‘reskilling and upskilling’ as one of its seven flagship areas for reforms and investments. 

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Oxfam Calls for Wealth Tax on Billionaires to Benefit Women in Informal Sectors

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Oxfam International Executive Director Gabriela Bucher today called for a wealth tax on billionaires to benefit women plunged into poverty by the pandemic, in her remarks during a session on gender parity at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 in Davos-Klosters.

Bucher noted that “some industries are in fact doing extremely well and billionaire wealth has risen greatly during the two years of the pandemic but, on the other side, women have been left out” as millions, especially in the Global South, lost their jobs in the informal sector. She noted that achieving gender equality will now take 136 years, with the pandemic pushing back progress by a generation.

Bucher called for structural changes to the economy, such as through taxation. “By and large those profiting at the top are mostly men and the whole system is really structured on the shoulders of women in the sense of unpaid care work,” she said. “We advocate taxing wealth to fund solutions”, she said. The key “transformative policy” that needs funding is childcare to enable women to work, along with a push to get girls back into education, and more women and girls vaccinated in the Global South.

Bucher noted the need to tackle the “pandemic of domestic violence” which affected one in two women during COVID-19, according to the UN. She also called for the rights the International Labour Organization grants to organized labour to be extended to workers in the informal labour.

Reflecting a positive perspective from the Global North, Jonas Prising, Chairman and CEO of ManpowerGroup, pointed to ways in which the pandemic could benefit gender parity. “Many organizations have realized that in-person presence in the workplace does not equate to productivity,” he said, adding: “The lasting legacy of the pandemic is going to be greater flexibility, which we think will enable women to participate easier in the absence of support structures such as childcare.”

However, that flexibility has to be well-managed to ensure that those working outside the office are not at a disadvantage when it comes to promotion. Meanwhile, said Prising, in the current environment of a skills-short labour market, essential workers are seeing their wages rise. This will benefit women seeking to get back into the workforce, he said. “Employers are looking for skilled workers. Women are more skilled and more educated than men yet are 20% under-represented, so employers will understand they need to attract female talent into their workforces.”

Stephanie Trautman, Chief Growth Officer of global tech company Wipro, highlighted the inconsistency in how companies promote men and women. “For a long time, we promoted men based on their potential, we promoted women based on their performance,” she said. However, in the past 12 months the company has doubled the number of women in leadership positions, unlocking tremendous untapped potential.

“We have to be purposeful without necessarily being quota-driven,” she said, “because I don’t think women want that. We want to be in leadership positions because we deserve to be in leadership positions”. Trautman also noted that “we need to be deliberate about training and development, helping women come in and out of the workforce throughout their careers”.

Steve MacMillan, Chairman and CEO of medical device and diagnostics company Horologic, emphasized the importance of getting the right data to reveal gender gaps and challenges. He criticized the “single-minded focus” on the single metric of COVID-19 cases during the pandemic, which have “closed our eyes” to the many other issues facing women. For example, more than 1 billion women did not see a health professional during 2021. “We can count the number of COVID cases in every country by day, but we can’t count how many women are getting raped, how many women are coming down with HPV, how many women are being abused at home. There are so many other things that we are missing.”

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Indian CEOs’ Alliance to Supercharge Race to Net Zero

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The World Economic Forum today launched the India chapter of the Alliance of CEO Climate Action Leaders to supercharge India’s climate action and decarbonization efforts.

Part of the World Economic Forum’s Climate Action Platform, the Alliance will continue efforts to achieve the vision outlined in the white paper released last year, Mission 2070: A Green New Deal for a Net Zero India, on India’s low-carbon transition by 2070. It will bring together the government, businesses and other key stakeholders to achieve the Indian Prime Minister’s ambitious, five-part “Panchamrit” pledge, which includes the country’s net-zero by 2070 target.

As a major global economy, India’s role in mitigating climate change is critical and India Inc. must add its full weight to the country’s efforts, as well to the global endeavour, against global warming,” said Sumant Sinha, Co-Chair, Alliance of CEO Climate Action Leaders India, and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ReNew Power.

A collaboration between the management consultancy Kearney and the Indian think-tank Observer Research Foundation, the Alliance will serve as a high-level platform to support business leaders in planning and implementing plans and programmes to achieve climate targets, including net-zero economic growth. It will leverage learnings and experiences from global projects such as the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders and the First Movers Coalition.

“The Alliance becomes part of our comprehensive nature and climate action agenda in India which includes collaborative initiatives such as Trillion Trees, Moving India for rapid electric vehicle deployment, clean energy financing, Food Innovation Hubs, Stakeholder Capitalism metrices and Clean Skies for Tomorrow,” said Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum.

“The signs of climate change with varying temperature & weather patterns impacting human lives are clearly visible to all of us. Hence, the global initiative and commitment towards climate change, is indeed a positive sign of hope. We believe that it is absolutely possible for us to achieve 1.5℃ target from the Paris agreement. We at Mahindra, have launched a number of major initiatives – Greening ourselves, decarbonising our industry and Rejuvenating our planet – and believe that we are making strong progress to be Carbon neutral by 2040. WEF’s Alliance of CEO Climate Action Leaders India is a decisive, collaborative step to scale up our efforts this decade in the race to net-zero. Every step we take together, matters to Mother Earth”, said Anish Shah, Co-Chair, Alliance of CEO Climate Action Leaders India and Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mahindra Group.

A just transition could generate annual business opportunities worth over $10 trillion and create 395 million jobs by 2030 worldwide. India alone could create more than 50 million net new jobs and generate over $15 trillion in economic value.

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