Recent research by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has brought to light the significant macroeconomic impact of citizenship by investment programmes on many small states. In the Caribbean region where five small states offer them, the industry jumped from 0 per cent of regional GDP in 2007 to a substantial 5.1 per cent in 2015. At a country level, the figures, are even more impressive, with the industry contributing 14 per cent of GDP in St Kitts in 2014 and 9.5 per cent in Dominica in 2015-16.
Noting these impressive figures, I think my last blog – which discussed the strengths and weaknesses of citizenship by investment – understated its economic importance to the small states that have these programmes.
The impact and challenges of the citizenship by investment industry deserve an in-depth look.
Simultaneously, the governments tend to use the income of these programmes to address the issues that arise from their vulnerability as a small state.
In Dominica, funds from the programme have been used to aid the recovery from devastating hurricanes and tropical storms. Similarly, in Antigua and Barbuda, the income is being used in the reconstruction of Barbuda, which was badly damaged by hurricane Irma. In Grenada, 40 per cent of the income is put into a contingency fund to clear debts or deal with natural disasters.
However, the income from citizenship by investment programme is volatile. There are upcoming challenges to the industry which need to be handled with care if it is to be sustained. These challenges can be classed into three categories – international, regional and national.
International challenges: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is exploring the potential abuse of citizenship programmes to circumvent the common reporting standard and avoid tax payments. If this issue is not tackled effectively, this may signal the beginning of further international regulation of this industry, possibly blacklists.
Regional challenges: The last five years have seen an increase in the number citizenship by investment programmes offered in the Caribbean, rising from two between 1993-2012 to five between 2013-2015. Following the growing competition, there have been changes to programme structures and decreases in fees, which many fear signal a “race to the bottom” for those in the industry. While the governments had planned to sign an MoU on the margins of the Caribbean Community Heads of Government Meeting last February, which never transpired. Without an agreed set of parameters of the industry, all countries stand to lose out.
National challenges: The citizenship can be a personal and sacred thing, particularly for people without the means to acquire another one or the interest in doing so. For the locals of the countries which offer citizenship programmes, there are fears that programmes are subject to corruption. There have been whispers of diplomatic passports being issued and people making money under the table. If the industry is to succeed, it needs to be properly managed with transparency and integrity. From a social perspective, governments need to consider how to avoid creating enclaves of the super wealthy and causing resentment among the locals.
I recently gave a presentation at the Global Investment Immigration Summit and highlighted these critical challenges. I noted the Commonwealth’s continued support for small states in finding innovative ways to obtain development funds and its assistance to help them keep this revenue source open and sustainable. Given the importance of this economic lifeline for many small states, they were receptive to the offer of support.
Perhaps, there is a role for the Commonwealth in helping the industry to define parameters and standards. But is that enough for small states? Beyond setting the parameters to achieve true sustainable benefits of these programmes, countries should think carefully about how the revenue can create jobs and boost economic growth.
For me, this economic lifeline should not be held forever, but rather, should be used to help countries get back on a sustainable path.
Retirees worldwide will outlive their savings by a decade – and women will fare worse
Retirees in six major economies can expect to outlive their savings by years. Women should prepare to bear the brunt of such shortfalls, going without retirement savings for at least two years longer than their male counterparts.
As government and employer-sponsored retirement plans are under strain globally, individuals have found themselves to be increasingly responsible for their retirement savings. Despite this, savings have not accelerated fast enough to make up for the deterioration of traditional retirement plans, suggests a new report by the World Economic Forum, Investing In (and for) Our Future.
In six economies analysed, most male retirees can expect to live past their savings by nearly a decade. Women can expect to go even longer without their savings, as they will likely live more than 10 years without retirement savings to rely on due to their longer average lifespans.
These shortfalls can vary greatly by country and gender; men in the United States are expected to outlive their savings by about eight years while women in Japan will live nearly 20 years past their savings account. Despite these vast differences, the average retiree in Australia, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, or the US will not be able to last through retirement on savings alone.
These shortfalls must be addressed, by both individuals and policy-makers, to ensure that seniors can enjoy life throughout their non-working years.
Governments must act to create retirement landscapes that prevent savings shortfalls. Currently, retirement policies in many countries, including India and China, can often hinder optimal retirement savings and investments.
Though governments should act, they would be wise to avoid implementing one-size-fits-all retirement policies as individual retirement needs can vary greatly from person to person. Instead, governments should change, or even roll back, their regulations to allow individuals to make investments that will increase their long-term returns.
A new report from the World Economic Forum identifies two key investment changes governments should allow so individuals can most effectively address their savings gaps. Both identified actions aim to optimize investment so retirement savers can achieve higher yields from their savings.
1. Consider risk from the perspective of someone saving for retirement
“The real risk people need to manage when investing in their future is the risk of outliving their retirement savings,” said Han Yik, Head of the Institutional Investors Industry, World Economic Forum. “As people are living longer, they must ensure they have enough retirement funds to last them through their longer lives. This requires investing with a long-term mindset earlier in life to increase total savings later on.”
Many people are far too risk-averse in their retirement investing. While consistent saving is important to build retirement money, being mindful of long-term returns on retirement portfolios is crucial to ensuring that an individual doesn’t outlive their savings. Many young to middle-age savers should change their risk outlook, understanding that outliving their savings is a far greater risk to them than short-term investment risk.
2. Diversify the investment of saving accounts, by geography and asset type
While focusing on long-term returns is often beneficial for retirement savers, diversification can preserve those returns by mitigating overall investment risk.
Currently, most retirement investment vehicles are largely based on traditional equity and fixed-income investments that have the advantages of being easy to value as well as having high liquidity. However, given the long-term nature of retirement savings, that liquidity comes at a cost. Although they require adequate understanding and sound financial advice, investment in alternative assets, particularly illiquid assets, can bring strong diversification benefits to a retirement investment portfolio.
In this area, again, policy-makers must ensure their retirement policies do not hamper the ability of individuals to make the best long-term choices for their portfolios. In most countries, default retirement options focus on liquidity and the ability to perform daily valuations at the expense of long-term growth. Governments should consider changing or even rolling back these regulations to allow retirement savers to invest in the assets best suited to their individual retirement goals.
In addition, many retirement portfolios also tend to have a heavy domestic focus. Diversifying the geography of investments in portfolios can reduce risk to home country economic events. By expanding the locations of their investments, retirement savers, particularly savers from smaller economies, can protect themselves from market or economic slumps in an individual economy while still maximizing their returns.
Decumulation, or spending in retirement, is another key area of well-being after the working years yet there is far less research dedicated to it.
For instance, today’s retirement spending projections are based on the rule that retirees will withdraw 4% of their portfolio each year they are retired. However, the World Economic Forum and Mercer suggest that this estimate does not match how retirees spend in the real world, with much higher spending in early retirement years and less as retirees age. This spending volatility highlights the need for new retirement solutions that both allow for flexible spending while also ensuring savings that last through retirement.
“With populations around the world living longer than ever before, we need far more creative decumulation solutions for longevity protection” says Rich Nuzum, President, Wealth at Mercer. “There are some alternative solutions emerging such as pooled annuity funds, but older individuals are going to need a more diverse range of financial tools to help protect against longevity risk.”
Some countries, such as the UK and the Netherlands, have begun to recognize the importance of robust policies for the decumulation period and are even considering rolling back regulations for retirement savings. However, there is much more to be done in this area to ensure that seniors can thrive during their period of enjoying the funds they have worked so hard to save over their working years.
Sustainable development: Within reach in Iran and Asia and the Pacific
Climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of natural disasters in Asia and the Pacific. The tragic loss of life and the destruction wrought by recent flooding in the Islamic Republic of Iran is a reminder of the threat to lives, livelihoods and societies posed by extreme weather events. A reminder that only an integrated response to economic, social and environmental challenges can pave the way to sustainable development.
The floods which swept across the Islamic Republic of Iran in spring this year were devastating. They affected 10 million people and 500,000 people were displaced of which half were children. Hospitals and schools were destroyed, denying 100,000 children and education and thousands access to basic health care. Large sections of the country’s road network were affected, which will weigh on the economy, but also impact on many families’ daily lives. Damages have been estimated at $4.7 billion, a third of which concern the agricultural sector, critical to many livelihoods.
Yet as tragic and costly as the recent floods have been, they are also part of a wider phenomenon: the increasing risk of natural disasters outpacing resilience in the Islamic Republic of Iran and in Asia and the Pacific. Sand and dust storms, drought, desertification and wind erosion are all expected to rise in South-West Asia by 2030. Intensified by climate change, these disasters are becoming increasingly frequent. They hit the poor and vulnerable hardest, particularly in informal settlements. Some of Iran’s least developed provinces have suffered the most, with successive sand and dust storms destroying crops and infrastructure, and undermining people’s health, study and work.
These challenges exemplify why economic, social and environmental considerations must be considered together, if we are to effectively mitigate the consequences of natural disasters and achieve sustainable development. Evidence from across the globe tells us ignoring the social impact of economic growth can place a huge strain on societies, and at its worst lead to instability and conflict. Ignoring the environmental cost of economic growth in many parts of our region has led to climate change and an increased risk of natural hazards, which entrench poverty and perpetuate inequality. Nowhere is an integrated, multilateral response needed more than in Asia and the Pacific, the most disaster-prone region in the world.
With this in mind, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has worked with the Islamic Republic of Iran to establish the Asian and the Pacific Centre for the Development of Disaster Information Management (APDIM) in Tehran. It will deliver targeted capacity development for disaster information management and knowledge sharing. A regional cooperation mechanism for combatting the sand and dust storms has already been adopted. This will work to reduce the causes of risk of multiple hazards, develop a sand and dust storms alert system and tap regional partnership networks to enhance technical support where it is most needed.
My ambition is for APDIM to fit into a broader regional development and cooperation effort. One to reduce the inequality and environmental degradation which have accompanied recent exponential economic growth in our region. Our analysis shows the investment needed to achieve sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific is within reach. Developing countries’ investment needs stand at an additional $1.5 trillion per year, or five percent of their combined GDP. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, we estimate investments needed to climate-proof basic infrastructure are equivalent to roughly 1 per cent of Iran’s GDP in 2018. Further investment would be required in education and people centered approaches to build resilient communities and economy.
Sustainable development which balances economic growth with the need for social inclusion and environmental protection is essential to ensure a prosperous Iran today and a clean, compassionate and safe future for our children. Investing in people, as well as investing in skies, land and water can ensure that future. The Islamic Republic Iran has the means and the will. Yet persistence will be required to achieve this ambition, and the United Nations family stands ready to assist in any way it can in the months and years ahead.
A sustainable greener future needs green employment skills
change and environmental degradation are among the greatest challenges of our
times. The signatory states of the 2015 Paris Agreement on
climate change recognized the need for urgent action. But a
commitment to environmental sustainability by itself is not enough. On the one
hand, climate change and environmental degradation reduce productivity and
destroy jobs and the effects fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable. On
the other hand, the transition to a green economy has the potential – if
handled correctly – to create tens of millions of sustainable jobs.
So far 183 countries have committed to the Paris Agreement target (of keeping the rise in global temperatures to less than two degrees Celsius) by submitting national determined contribution (NDCs) documents that detail the adaptation and mitigation measures they plan. However, while two-thirds of these NDC’s recognize the importance of boosting capacity development and public knowledge of climate change, fewer than 40 per cent include any plans for skills training (or retraining) to support their implementation. What’s more, more than one in five have no plans for any training or capacity development measures at all.
should ring alarm bells. Commitments to greening economic sectors such as
energy, agriculture, waste management, manufacturing and transport can’t
advance into concrete change if the necessary skills are not available. It is
women and men with the right knowledge and skills who will take the decisions,
and develop and maintain the technology, green production processes and
sustainable investment strategies that are outlined in the NDCs and other
Skilling, reskilling and upskilling covers not just technical skills but, core/soft skills (such as environmental awareness, analytical skills, teamwork, innovation, communications, leadership, negotiation abilities, and management and entrepreneurship skills), which can offer a comparative advantage because they can easily be transferred across occupations. Other most wanted skills include sales and marketing, customer handling, repair, digital skills, scheduling and budgeting, to mention just a few examples.
These issues will be discussed at the Global Forum, Boosting Skills for a Just Transition and the Future of Work (6 June), where the Key Findings of a forthcoming report Skills for a greener future (to be published later this year) will be discussed. The report includes information from 32 countries. The aim of the Forum is to highlight the need for concrete action on skills, identify occupational needs, skills gaps, and response strategies related to a sustainable future of work, and discuss possible multi-lateral collaboration that can advance green human capital.
We know this will require massive investment. But it can create millions of new jobs and repurpose many existing ones. Particular attention must be paid to ensuring that women are included in relevant skills training, so that these measures help reduce the gender gap and combat gender stereotypes rather than entrenching them. The number of high-skilled and – especially – middle-skilled jobs have the potential to grow if there is investment in relevant skills training. Workers in construction, manufacturing, agriculture and sales may gain employment if the green transition is supported by skills development. This requires good coordination across different ministries and between public and private sectors. Yet, our review of 32 countries shows that current policies are often piecemeal and lack subsequent action.
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