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St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2018: Building a Trust Economy

MD Staff

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SPIEF 2018 was held under the slogan “Building a Trust Economy,” and this year reached new heights, both in terms of scale and results. With its numerous achievements, it would be fair to call it an innovative, technological, and indeed breakthrough event.

“In spite of the sanctions imposed by a number of countries, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum demonstrated that Russia is a land of opportunity. The 17,000-plus participants arriving from 143 countries is testament to that fact. Over the past few years, SPIEF has developed to become an international platform, with its main achievement being the creation of a space where the spirit of trust prevails. Trust is a key asset in the business world, and discussions at the Forum focused on this crucial aspect,” said Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation and Executive Secretary of the SPIEF Organizing Committee Anton Kobyakov at the event’s closing press conference.

Guests from every continent, and representatives from international organizations such as the UN, IMF, OPEC and others spoke ever more profusely on the need to operate in a single economic space and find new areas of common ground in a changing world. President of France Emmanuel Macron was one of the honoured guests at the Forum. He commented that “Russia must have a leading voice in the Council of Europe.” He also expressed the belief that Russia and the EU’s united approach to the inviolability of underlying multilateral agreements in international politics was a key factor for the world today.

Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe commented, “The slogan of our Forum this year is ‘Building a Trust Economy.’ It is my belief that we can deem Japan and Russia as together engaged in building this economy of trust… We now stand at a historical turning point; the path we should take and efforts we should make are all entirely clear. It is working for future generations in Japan and Russia. It is Japan and Russia becoming a major force for safeguarding and fostering regional and global prosperity for the Japanese and Russian peoples, further deepening their relationship, mutual trust, concluding the peace treaty and building up lasting peace and stability between our two nations.”

Speaking at the Forum plenary session, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, noted that “Russia has put in place an admirable macroeconomic framework – saving for a rainy day, letting the exchange rate float, introducing inflation targeting, and shoring up the banking system.”

“This year, the Forum has come to resemble a crossroads of civilizations. Only at SPIEF has everything been put in place to ensure that discussions are open, as opposed to politically charged. It is where participants from various countries and growing economies discuss economic issues. There is no place in the world other than SPIEF that provides such an opportunity, which is why we have seen the numbers of participants grow from year to year,” said Anton Kobyakov.

During this year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, over 3,000 flights arrived at and departed from Pulkovo Airport, including over 800 private flights. By way of comparison, SPIEF 2017 saw over 2,500 flights, including over 700 private flights.

Business Programme

The main programme incorporated over 150 business events across the Forum’s numerous venues. These events were split into four distinct themes: “Technology for Leadership,” “Harnessing Russia’s Growth Potential,” “Human Capital in the Digital Economy,” and “The Global Economy in an Era of Change.”

The Forum’s central event was the plenary session, featuring President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. He commented: “Today what we need are not trade wars, or even temporary trade armistices, but rather a fully-fledged trading world. The slogan of this year’s Forum in St. Petersburg is ‘Building a Trust Economy’. I am convinced – and experience bears this out – that the role of trust as a factor affecting development will grow further.”

Events Held On the Eve of SPIEF 

In the run-up to the FIFA World Cup, SPIEF held a special event entitled “From the First to the Twenty-First” for officials and business figures from Latin America and the Caribbean. In a ceremony broadcast live on Russia 24, television presenter Sergey Brilev handed a capsule of earth from the Estadio Centenario to the government of St. Petersburg. The Estadio Centenario in Montevideo (Uruguay) has a special place in global football history as the stadium that hosted the first World Cup in 1930.

23 May also saw the “Australia–Russia Business Re-connection: How and Why?” business breakfast take place for the first time. The event was organized by the Roscongress Foundation’s partners in Australia: the Australia–Russia Dialogue Forum and the ADC Forum. Later on, a business lunch took place entitled “Development of Trade and Economic Cooperation between the EAEU and ASEAN. Russia’s Role in the Process.” The event was attended by business representatives from EAEU and ASEAN.

The discussion platforms Russian Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Forum (SME Forum) organized by the Roscongress Foundation together with All-Russian Non-Governmental Organization of Small and Medium Business OPORA ROSSII and the SME Forum partner Russian Small and Medium Business Corporation saw lively debates on business practices, some of which were held in a new, interactive format. The topic of small and medium enterprise continued as part of the main SPIEF 2018 business programme.

This was the third year that issues related to women in business also took centre stage on the eve of SPIEF 2018. An international forum entitled “Increasing the Contribution of Women to Economic Growth and Prosperity: Creating an Enabling Environment” brought together around 200 female participants representing the Russian regions.

Elsewhere, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Leningrad Region’s “Women as Leaders” conference saw animated discussions on the involvement of women in a changing economy.

The initial discussions on these topics will continue in just a few months’ time, with St. Petersburg hosting the Second Eurasian Women’s Forum on 21–22 September.

Officical SPIEF Programme

The official opening ceremony took place on the first day of the Forum – 24 May. Welcoming addresses were given by Governor of St. Petersburg Georgy Poltavchenko, and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Achim Steiner. Poltavchenko made assurances to Forum participants that Russia has been and will always remain a reliable partner.

In total, 68 business events took place that day in various formats. Topics under discussion included digitalization, the future of the labour market, energy, and a breakthrough in the Far East. Participants at the Valdai Discussion Club session focused on the effect the crisis in international relations is having on the global economy, and possible ways to resolve the standoff between Russia and the West. The first day ended with a discussion on smart cities.

Issues concerning international cooperation came under focus on the second day, which also saw a number of business dialogues between countries take place. Participants identified new opportunities for implementing joint projects, modern mechanisms by which to promote exports on overseas markets, and ways to cooperate on removing administrative barriers. The business programme for 25 May included 51 events. The highlight was the plenary session, featuring President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe, Vice President of the People’s Republic of China Wang Qishan, and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde. Furthermore, country’s leaders conversed again during Russia–France and Russia–Japan bilateral dialogues. Additionally, Vladimir Putin met with the heads of world’s information agencies and a held a meeting with the leaders of international companies.

Events took place as panel sessions, roundtables, and business dialogues. They provided platforms by which leading specialists, experts, and politicians could discuss topics such as the resources and economy of the Global Ocean, the potential of the Arctic, and the in-demand technologies of the future.

The closing day of the Forum saw 41 events take place, including 22 events held as part of the International Youth Economic Forum – a permanent SPIEF fixture for the younger generation. The day began with a business breakfast for representatives of the IT industry. According to those present, as much as 20% of global GDP today is tied to digital transformation, making it perilous to underestimate its impact. On the same day, American Chamber of Commerce in Russia and EY unveiled the results of a joint study on trade and economic ties between Russia and the USA.

The B20 Regional Consultation Forum was a special event at SPIEF 2018, and saw participants discuss recommendations for G20 leaders for the forthcoming summit in Buenos Aires, which will take place this year from 30 November to 1 December.

In what has now become tradition, SPIEF hosted the presentation of the results of the Russian Regional Investment Climate Index for the fourth time. Tyumen Region climbed five places to convincingly take first position. Completing the top five were Moscow, Tatarstan, Leningrad Region, and Tula Region.

The Roscongress Foundation is a socially oriented non-financial   development institution that puts a special emphasis on the health care in the Russian Federation, including improving the quality of life (creating the system of long-term care for senior citizens, developing palliative care in Russia, promoting healthy life style, etc.).

SPIEF 2018 held a number of sessions and interviews on increasing life expectancy that brought in representatives of the Government of the Russian Federation, as well as Russian and foreign experts.

Investing special effort in this area, the Roscongress Foundation strives to become the leading single platform for discussing national goals, objectives and priorities to improve the quality of life in Russia (in accordance with Executive Order of the President of the Russian Federation “On National Goals and Strategic Objectives for Development of the Russian Federation through to 2024” dated 7 May 2018).

Agreements

The global character of SPIEF was made even more apparent – and the communication platform even more attractive for talks – by the number of major projects and agreements that took shape. As of 30 May, 593 agreements had been signed at SPIEF, worth a total of RUB 2.625 trillion (counting agreements where the figures were not classified as commercial secrets).

The biggest of these were the following:

  • A strategic cooperation agreement between Rosneft, Vnesheconombank and VEB Leasing worth up to RUB 400 billion for financing projects and providing leasing services.
  • An agreement of intent between the Eurasian Development Bank and Belkomur Interregional Company to form a syndicated loan of up to RUB 278 billion to fund the construction of the Belkomur railway line.
  • Several long-term contracts with a total value of USD 2.1 billion between Rosneft and 12 importing companies based in Mongolia for the supply of petrol and diesel fuel.
  • An agreement worth USD 1.5 billion to construct a natural gas processing plant in the town of Ust-Luga (Leningrad Region), signed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the Japanese company Marubeni Corporation, the Baltic Gas Chemical Company, and Invasta Capital. The plant, which will convert natural gas to methanol, will have a capacity of 1.7 million tonnes per year.
  • An agreement between Nizhnekamskneftekhim and Deutsche Bank (Germany) to open a credit line of EUR 807 million, to be provided by a consortium of five European banks.

In addition, the Roscongress Foundation signed cooperation agreements with the Association of Lawyers of Russia and 21 Russian federal subjects: the Leningrad, Kaliningrad, Kirov, Murmansk, Novgorod, Penza, Pskov, Rostov, Ryazan, Samara, Saratov, Sverdlovsk, Tver, Tomsk, and Chelyabinsk Regions, and the Republics of Adygea, Altai, Buryatia, Karachaevo-Cherkess, Crimea, and Khakassia. The aim of the agreements is to build collaboration between the parties on raising the investment attractiveness and export potential of the regions.

The Roscongress Foundation’s international partner network is continuing to increase. SPIEF 2018 saw the signing of agreements with the Association of European Businesses; the Federation Of Pakistan Chambers Of Commerce & Industry; the Union of Chinese Entrepreneurs in Russia; the ASEAN Business Club, the Norwegian-Russian Chamber of Commerce; the Mexican Business Council for Foreign Trade, Investment and Technology (COMCE); the General Confederation of Entrepreneurs of Argentina; the Croatian Chamber of Economy; the Israeli Russian Business Council; the Polish Investment and Trade Agency; the Ladies in the Frontline business association, MEDEF International; the Boao Forum for Asia; the Moscow Centre for International Cooperation; and the Centre for the Development of Women’s Entrepreneurship.

A number of agreements with charity and socially oriented organizations has been signed as part of a plan to develop the social platform launched by the Roscongress Foundation.

The agreements cover cooperation within the social development sphere.

Additionally, agreements have been signed with sports organizations, such as the Russian Golf Association and the Golf Estate Management Company. This cooperation will focus on running sporting programmes for economic forums, including golf tournaments held at Peterhof Golf Club under the aegis of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum to promote sport, both in the corporate sphere and among the general public.

Other organizations to sign cooperation agreements with Roscongress were the Central Union of Consumer Societies of the Russian Federation; the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library; Rosconcert; Rostelecom; VSK; MZS and Partners; the Deposit Insurance Agency; the Water Supply and Treatment Cluster Management Company in St. Petersburg; SVEKO FSUE; and Electrificatciya PJC.

In 2019 under the auspices of the United Nations Organization Russia will host the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS). The event will take place at the INNOPROM venue in Yekaterinburg. The appropriate agreement has been signed during SPIEF 2018.

Importantly, an agreement was signed between the management of the Made in Russia national brand and Novgorod Region to work together on promoting the Novgorod Rus regional brand. An agreement with Zenden Group will result in the establishment of Made in Russia’s first regional office, also in Novgorod Region.

International Youth Economic Forum (IYEF)

Following the decree of the President of the Russian Federation on establishing an on-going youth platform during SPIEF, the Forum hosted the International Youth Economic Forum (IYEF) organized by the Roscongress Foundation and the Federal Agency on Youth Affairs (Rosmolodezh). During the event young leaders of local and international business discussed contemporary challenges and awarded the winners of the All-Russia competition My Country – My Russia.

IYEF brought together graduate and post-graduate students from more than 15 Russian universities, including St. Petersburg State University, Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Higher School of Economics, National University of Science and Technology MISIS, Russian Social University, People’s Friendship University of Russia, St. Petersburg State University of Economics, etc.

The youth platform created by the Roscongress Foundation together with partners allows future managers to take part in the forum with no participation fee. They get a chance to network with big business representatives and hear their success stories. Direct communication between different generations helps raise future entrepreneurs, foster international relations, and get acquainted with potential employers. Within the next five to ten years the entrepreneurs return to the Forum as new participants ready to share their experience, eager to represent their company on the international level, and take part in the international global processes.

A great example of SPIEF 2018 of the latter is presence of opinion leaders from academic, business and media environments from G20, BRICS and EEU invited by the Russian Centre for Promotion of Internal Initiatives supported by the Roscongress Foundation and the Government of St. Petersburg. Among them were the participants of the meeting of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin with youth G20 leaders at SPIEF 2013. During this brief period they managed to find their way in politics and business and now they head various youth, research and civic organizations. Five years later young leaders meet in St. Petersburg again.

Youth agenda at SPIEF 2018 included meetings with officials, representatives of international companies, members of business communities, and experts. Young leaders of G20 and EEU held a series of brainstorms about the place Russian economy occupies in the global world, and about the future of digital economy. Additionally, they discussed creating a youth entrepreneurial network that would help develop horizontal interaction of G20 and EEU young leaders, as well promote business projects among the SME participants.

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Côte d’Ivoire: Robust growth under the looming threat of climate change impacts

MD Staff

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According to the Economic Update for Côte d’Ivoire, published today, the short- and medium-term outlook for the Ivorian economy remains positive. The economy is expected to maintain a steady trajectory, with GDP growth of 7 to 7.5% in the coming years. Titled “So Tomorrow Never Dies: Côte d’Ivoire and Climate Change,” the report highlights the urgent need to implement measures to ensure that climate change impacts do not imperil this economic progress and plunge millions of Ivorians into poverty.

“The solid performance of the Ivorian economy, which registered growth of almost 8% in 2017, is essentially due to the agricultural sector, which experienced positive climate conditions. The economy also benefited from a period of calm after the political and social instability of the first half of 2017 and from more favorable conditions on international markets,” said Jacques Morisset, Program Leader for Côte d’Ivoire and Lead Author of the report. “The Government also successfully managed its accounts, with a lower-than-expected deficit of 4.2% of GDP, while continuing its ambitious investment policy, partly financed by a judicious debt policy on financial markets.

However, the report notes that private sector activity slowed in 2017 compared with 2016 and especially 2015, which may curb the pace of growth of the Ivorian economy in the coming years. Against the backdrop of fiscal adjustment projected for 2018 and 2019, it is critical that the private sector remain dynamic and become the main driver of growth. This is particularly important in light of the uncertainty associated with the upcoming elections in 2020, which could prompt investors to adopt a wait-and-see approach.

As economic growth in Côte d’Ivoire relies in part on use of its natural resource base, the authors of the report devote a chapter to the impact of climate change on the economy. They raise an alarming point: the stock of natural resources is believed to have diminished by 26% between 1990 and 2014. Several visible phenomena attest to this degradation, such as deforestation, the depletion of water reserves, and coastal erosion. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change could reduce GDP across Africa by 2% to 4% by 2040 and by 10% to 25% by 2100. For Côte d’Ivoire, this would correspond to a loss of some CFAF 380 billion to 770 billion in 2040.

This report sounds an alarm in order to spark a rapid and collective wake-up call,” said Pierre Laporte, World Bank Country Director for Côte d’Ivoire. “Combating climate change will require prompt decisions and must become a priority for the country to maintain accelerated and sustainable growth over time.”

The report pays special attention to coastal erosion and to the cocoa sector, which represents one third of the country’s exports and directly affects over 5 million people. With 566 km of coast, Côte d’Ivoire now boasts a coastal population of almost 7.5 million people, who produce close to 80% of the national GDP. Two thirds of this coast is affected by coastal erosion, with severe consequences for the communities and the country’s economy.

The Ivorian Government, which is already aware of this challenge and has prepared a strategy to confront it, must expedite its implementation. This would have the two-fold effect of developing a “green” economy and creating new jobs.

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A future of work based on sustainable production and employment

Simel Esim

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On the first Saturday of July each year, the international community celebrates the International Day of Cooperatives. This year’s theme, Sustainable consumption and production of goods and services is timely, as the ILO works towards a future of work that is based on sustainable production and employment models.

As head of the ILO’s Cooperative Unit, I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact of cooperatives’ commitment to sustainable consumption and production.

In Northern Sri Lanka, for instance, after years of civil war, I saw how cooperatives helped build the resilience of local communities.

A rapid assessment at the start of the ILO’s Local Empowerment through Economic Development project (LEED) indicated that cooperatives were the only “stable” structures present in Northern Sri Lanka before, during, and after the conflict. Since 2010, the project has been supporting agriculture and fishery cooperatives by securing fair trade certification for their products and helping them establish market links.

I’ve also listened to inspiring stories from other parts of the world of how cooperatives have joined forces to contribute to sustainable consumption, production and decent work – often through cooperative-to-cooperative trade.

Some of these stories were shared at a recent meeting in Geneva of cooperative and ethical trade movements.

We heard how Kenyan producer cooperatives’ coffee has found its way on the shelves of Coop Denmark and how biological pineapples from a Togolese youth cooperative are being sold in retail cooperatives across Italy. We heard how consumer cooperatives in East Asia have developed organic and ecolabel products, while educating their members about the working conditions of producers and workers, as well as on reducing food waste and plastic consumption. We also shared ILO experiences in supporting constituents in the field.

The emerging consensus from the meeting was that cooperative-to-cooperative trade can help lower the costs of trade, while ensuring fairer prices and better incomes for cooperative members and their communities. Opportunities exist not only in agricultural supply chains, but also in ready-made garments and other sectors.

Cooperatives at both ends of the supply chain have been joining forces to shorten value chains, improve product traceability and adopt environmentally-friendly practices. At the ILO we have been working with our constituents to improve the social and environmental footprint of cooperatives around the world.

As the ILO continues to promote a future of work that is based on sustainable production and employment models, a priority for us in the coming years is to facilitate the development of linkages between ILO constituents and cooperatives. The aim is to encourage joint action towards responsible production and consumption practices, the advancement of green and circular economies and the promotion of decent work across supply chains.

Source: ILO

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Mongolia’s Growth Prospects Remain Positive but More Efficient Public Investment Needed

MD Staff

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Mongolia’s economic performance has improved dramatically with GDP growth increasing from 1.2 percent in 2016 to 5.1 percent in 2017 and 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2018. While short- and medium-term economic prospects remain positive, Mongolia faces core structural vulnerabilities that hinder its potential, according to Mongolia Economic Update, the latest World Bank report on Mongolia’s economy launched here today. The report also highlights the importance of improving efficiency of its public investment programs given extensive consequences from the overambitious and unrealistic investment programs implemented in the past.

“Last year was a good year for Mongolia with favorable commodities prices and the successful implementation of the government’s economic recovery program,” said Dr. Jean-Pascal N. Nganou, World Bank Senior Economist for Mongolia and Team Leader of the report. “This resulted in improved fiscal and external balances, triggering a slight decline of the country’s public debt.

The recovery is expected to accelerate with a GDP growth rate averaging more than 6 percent between 2019 and 2020, driven by large foreign direct investments in mining. Other than agriculture, which was severely affected by harsh weather conditions during the winter, most major sectors including manufacturing, trade, and transport are expected to expand significantly. On the back of increasing exports and higher commodity prices, economic growth will continue to have a strong positive impact on government revenue, contributing to the reduction of the fiscal deficit.

The unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent in the last quarter of 2017, compared to 8.6 percent a year earlier. Still, it increased to 9.7 percent in the first quarter of this year, reflecting Mongolia’s highly seasonal employment patterns due to difficult working conditions in the winter, especially in construction, agriculture, and mining.

The report highlights possible short- and medium-term risks including political risks, regional instability, climate shocks, and natural disasters. The most critical risk identified is a sudden relaxation of the government’s commitment to full implementation of its economic adjustment program supported by development partners.

In addition, the economy remains vulnerable to fluctuations in global commodity prices and a productivity gap. The best long-term protection against these two vulnerabilities is the diversification of the Mongolian economy.

To create a strong buffer against economic vulnerabilities, the government and donors should give a high priority to economic diversification that helps counter the ups and downs of the mining sector. Investing in human capital and strengthening the country’s institutions are the best way to support diversification, together with sound investments in crucial infrastructure,” said James Anderson, World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia.

The report takes a closer look at public investment programs implemented over the past five years, which surged until 2015, contributing to large increases in public finance deficits and the public debt. Mongolia needs to review and reshape its public investment policies and decision-making processes to improve efficiency of public spending, including clear project selection and prioritization criteria, as well as proper maintenance of existing assets.

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