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Greece begins a new chapter following the conclusion of its stability support programme

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Greece has successfully concluded a three year European Stability Mechanism (ESM) stability support programme with its place at the heart of the euro area and European Union secured.

The successful conclusion of the programme is a testament to the efforts of the Greek people, the country’s commitment to reform, and the solidarity of its European partners.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “The conclusion of the stability support programme marks an important moment for Greece and Europe. While their European partners have demonstrated their solidarity, the Greek people have responded to every challenge with a characteristic courage and determination. I have always fought for Greece to remain at the heart of Europe. As the Greek people begin a new chapter in their storied history, they will always find in me an ally, a partner and a friend.”

Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “The conclusion of the stability support programme is good news for both Greece and the euro area. For Greece and its people, it marks the beginning of a new chapter after eight particularly difficult years. For the euro area, it draws a symbolic line under an existential crisis. The extensive reforms Greece has carried out have laid the ground for a sustainable recovery: this must be nurtured and maintained to enable the Greek people to reap the benefits of their efforts and sacrifices. Europe will continue to stand by Greece’s side.”

A total of €61.9 billion in loans have been provided to Greece under this stability support programme on the basis of implementation of a comprehensive and unprecedented reform package. This stability support programme took a coordinated approach to tackle long-standing and deep-rooted structural issues that contributed to Greece experiencing an economic crisis.

Greece has taken measures to ensure its fiscal sustainability, bringing the general government balance from a significant deficit to surplus in 2017, which is projected to be maintained. These reform measures and consolidation efforts will have cumulative effects over time, and will thus continue to positively impact fiscal sustainability well beyond the conclusion of the programme.

The financial sector is now in a much stronger position as a result of successful recapitalisation operations, an overhaul of bank governance, and work to implement a strategy to reduce non-performing loans, which must be sustained.

The efficiency and efficacy of the public administration has been improved including through the introduction of new rules on the appointment, assessment and mobility of public sector employees; the establishment of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue; and measures to make the judicial system more efficient.

Finally, important structural measures have been put in place to improve Greece’s business environment and competitiveness to make Greece an attractive destination for investment and allow businesses already in place to expand, innovate and create jobs; as well as to establish sustainable and universal pensions, health care and social benefit systems, including a guaranteed minimum income scheme.

When taken together, these transformative reforms have laid the foundations for a sustainable recovery, putting in place the fundamental conditions needed for sustained growth, job creation and sound public finances in the years to come.

Improving economic indicators confirm that while work remains to be done, the efforts undertaken are already delivering tangible benefits by restoring order to public finances, reducing unemployment, and securing a return to growth. Economic growth has rebounded from -5.5% in 2010 to 1.4% in 2017 and is expected to remain around 2% in 2018 and 2019. The fiscal balance has progressed from a massive deficit of 15.1% in 2009 to a 0.8% surplus in 2017 (corresponding to a primary surplus of 4.2% in programme terms). Although unemployment remains unacceptably high, according to figures recently released by the Hellenic Statistical Authority, unemployment fell to 19.5% in May 2018, reaching a level below 20% for the first time since September 2011.

The conclusion of the programme marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another for Greece. It will be necessary to remain focused on fully addressing the social and economic consequences that are the legacy of the crisis years. This will require that the Greek authorities maintain ownership of reforms and ensure their sustained implementation, as per their commitments at the Eurogroup meeting of 22 June 2018. This is crucial to ingraining market confidence and strengthening Greece’s economic recovery, particularly in the immediate post-programme period.

Greece will be fully integrated into the European Semester of economic and social policy coordination to help ensure that the country and its people reap the full benefits of the efforts undertaken in recent years. In the post-programme period, the completion, delivery and continued implementation of reforms agreed under the programme will also be monitored through an enhanced surveillance framework.

The Commission’s Structural Reform Support Service will continue to assist the Greek authorities, upon their request, in the design and implementation of growth-enhancing reforms.

Background

Greece has benefitted from financial assistance from its European partners since 2010. The Greek authorities requested a new ESM stability support programme on 8 July 2015. The European Commission signed, on behalf of the ESM, a Memorandum of Understanding for a three year stability support programme on 20 August 2015.

On 23 June 2018, the Eurogroup confirmed that all of the prior actions under the fourth and final review of the stability support programme had been completed. The Eurogroup also reached an agreement on a strong package of debt measures, in addition to the short-term measures already in place, to ensure that Greece’s debt is sustainable in the longer run. On 6 August 2018, the ESM approved a final disbursement of €15 billion of financial assistance.

In total, €288.7 billion in loans have been provided to Greece since 2010. This includes €256.6 billion from its European partners and €32.1 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In parallel to the stability support programme, the Commission launched the plan for a “New Start for Jobs and Growth in Greece” in July 2015 to facilitate Greece maximising its use of EU funds to stabilise its economy and boost jobs, growth and investment. As a result of the exceptional measures adopted under the plan, Greece is now among the top absorbers of EU funds. For the period 2014-2020, Greece has already received almost €16 billion from a large pool of EU funds. This is equivalent to over 9% of the 2017 annual gross domestic product of Greece.

Greece is also the top beneficiary of the Juncker Plan’s European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), relative to GDP. The EFSI is now set to trigger well over €10 billion in investments and support more than 20,000 small and medium-sized businesses in Greece.

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Curbing Corruption in the Midst of a Pandemic is More Important Than Ever

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Progress against corruption can be made even under the most challenging conditions, a new World Bank report finds. At a time when unprecedented levels of emergency funds have been mobilized to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the report offers a fresh look at some of the most effective approaches and tools to enhance government accountability.

Enhancing Government Effectiveness and Transparency: The Fight Against Corruption focuses on ways to enhance the effectiveness of anti-corruption strategies in the sectors most affected. It serves as a reference guide to policy makers and anti-corruption champions as further work is needed to sharpen the application of traditional tools.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in large scale emergency spending by governments at rapid speed to revive the economy as well as protect the poor and vulnerable who suffer disproportionately. As countries embark on the road to a more resilient and inclusive recovery, prudent use of scarce resources in a transparent manner is critical,” said World Bank Managing Director Mari Pangestu, “Progress is possible in all environments and we are committed to work closely with our partners in government, civil society, and the private sector to address corruption and its corrosive impacts.”

Some of the unprecedented emergency spending against COVID-19 has occurred without adhering to the regular checks and balances. While speed is understandable, without proper controls, it exposes governments to a variety of corruption risks that may undermine the effectiveness of their responses. To foster greater accountability, the report calls on governments to clearly articulate their actions, enforce rules, address violations, and remedy problems as quickly as possible, and in a transparent manner.

The report covers five key thematic areas: public procurement, infrastructure, state-owned enterprises, customs administration, and service delivery, and cross-cutting themes such as open government initiatives and GovTech, with case study examples from around the world. It will help equip public sector officials and civil society with a modular set of approaches and tools that can be drawn upon and adapted to their specific country context. 

The report’s case studies show that measures to curb corruption are often opportunistic, targeting specific areas of vulnerability where and when the political space allows. But even when actions have apparently limited impact, they can provide important foundation for future progress.

In Bangladesh, the implementation of the e-Government Procurement, combined with increased transparency and citizen participation, halved the number of single bidder tenders which improved competition significantly; increased the number of contracts awarded to non-local firms; and led to better prices with successful bidders.

Colombia updated its e-procurement system to publish data in an open way following international standards.  As a result, single bid tenders in the public roads agency, INVIAS, went down from 30% to 22%, while cities like Cali saw competitive processes increase from 31% to 56% in about two years.

In Ukraine, making wealth declaration forms of public officials available online was recognized by citizens and the international community as a key tool in the fight against corruption. The latest data shows that close to 5,3 million documents in the e-declarations system are accessible to the public. As of mid-2020, the High Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine had 19 cases against officials accused of submitting false information in the Asset and Interest Declaration or intentionally not submitting a declaration.

In Afghanistan, the customs department has been progressively implementing a countrywide computerization of customs clearance operations. Although significant vulnerabilities exist and revenue loss at the borders remains a substantial challenge, revenue collected by customs has increased seven-fold between 2004 and 2019, and clearance time and the transparency of trade transactions has improved significantly.

The land reform program in Rwanda helped manage the conflicts around land and led to increased efficiency, transparency, citizen participation, and development of viable land governance institutions. Automation of land records reduced bribes paid to land registry officials as the information was in public domain.

“Institutions are incredibly important for implementing government policies, engaging civil society, and ensuring greater transparency in government operations,” said Ed Olowo-Okere, World Bank Global Director for Governance, “The global report highlights the importance of complimenting the traditional methods of dealing with corruption with advanced ones like GovTech and e-Procurement to address corruption, even in the most challenging and fragile environments.”

The World Bank Group, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries strengthen their pandemic response. We are supporting public health interventions, working to ensure the flow of critical supplies and equipment, and helping the private sector continue to operate and sustain jobs. We will be deploying up to $160 billion in financial support over 15 months to help more than 100 countries protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery. This includes $50 billion of new IDA resources through grants and highly concessional loans.

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A rapid rise in battery innovation is playing a key role in clean energy transitions

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Affordable and flexible electricity storage technologies are set to catalyse transitions to clean energy around the world, enabling cleaner electricity to penetrate a burgeoning range of applications. Between 2005 and 2018, patenting activity in batteries and other electricity storage technologies grew at an average annual rate of 14% worldwide, four times faster than the average of all technology fields, according to a new joint study published today by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the International Energy Agency.

The report, Innovation in batteries and electricity storage – a global analysis based on patent data, shows that batteries account for nearly 90% of all patenting activity in the area of electricity storage, and that the rise in innovation is chiefly driven by advances in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in consumer electronic devices and electric cars. Electric mobility in particular is fostering the development of new lithium-ion chemistries aimed at improving power output, durability, charge/discharge speed and recyclability. Technological progress is also being fuelled by the need to integrate larger quantities of renewable energy such as wind and solar power into electricity networks.

The joint study shows that Japan and Korea have established a strong lead in battery technology globally, and that technical progress and mass production in an increasingly mature industry have led to a significant drop in battery prices in recent years. Prices have declined by nearly 90% since 2010 in the case of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, and by around two-thirds over the same period for stationary applications, including electricity grid management.

Developing better and cheaper electricity storage is a major challenge for the future. According to the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario, for the world to meet climate and sustainable energy goals, close to 10 000 gigawatt-hours of batteries and other forms of energy storage will be required worldwide by 2040 – 50 times the size of the current market.

“IEA projections make it clear that energy storage will need to grow exponentially in the coming decades to enable the world to meet international climate and sustainable energy goals. Accelerated innovation will be essential for achieving that growth,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “By combining the complementary strengths of the IEA and the EPO, this report sheds new light on today’s innovation trends to help governments and businesses make smart decisions for our energy future.”

“Electricity storage technology is critical when it comes to meeting the demand for electric mobility and achieving the shift towards renewable energy that is needed if we are to mitigate climate change,” said EPO President António Campinos. “The rapid and sustained rise in electricity storage innovation shows that inventors and businesses are tackling the challenge of the energy transition. The patent data reveals that while Asia has a strong lead in this strategic industry, the US and Europe can count on a rich innovation ecosystem, including a large number of SMEs and research institutions, to help them stay in the race for the next generation of batteries.”

The joint study follows the publication earlier in September of the major IEA report Energy Technology Perspectives 2020, which has deepened the IEA’s technology analysis, setting out the challenges and opportunities associated with rapid clean energy transitions.

As governments and companies seek to make informed investments in clean energy innovation for the future, sector-specific insights like those offered by the joint study will be highly valuable, including for helping bring about a sustainable economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. The innovation study provides an authoritative overview of the technologies and applications receiving research attention – and of those that are underserved. It also shows where they stand in the competitive landscape.

Innovation is increasingly recognised as a core part of energy policy, and this year the IEA has been introducing more tools to help decision-makers understand the technology landscape and their role in it – and to track progress in innovation and the deployment of technologies. This includes a comprehensive new interactive guide to the market readiness of more than 400 clean energy technologies.

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Russia Among Global Top Ten Improvers for Progress Made in Health and Education

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Russia is among the top ten countries globally for improvements to human capital development over the last decade, according to the latest update of the World Bank’s Human Capital Index (HCI).

The 2020 Human Capital Index includes health and education data for 174 countries covering 98 percent of the world’s population up to March 2020.

Russia’s improvements were largely in health, reflected in better child and adult survival rates and reduced stunting. Across the Europe and Central Asia region, Russia, along with Azerbaijan, Albania, Montenegro, and Poland, also made the largest gains in increasing expected years of schooling – mainly due to improvements in secondary school and pre-primary enrollments. The report also shows that over the last 10 years Russia has seen a reduction in adult mortality rates. However, absolute values of this indicator remain high in the country with this progress now at risk due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Human capital contributes greatly to improving of economic growth in every country. Investments in knowledge and health that people accumulate during their lives are of paramount concern to governments around the world. Russia is among the top improvers globally in the Index. However, challenges persist and much needs to be done to improve the absolute values of Index indicators,” said Renaud Seligmann, the World Bank Country Director in Russia.

The HCI, first launched in 2018, looks at a child’s trajectory, from birth to age 18, on such critical metrics as child survival (birth to age 5); expected years of primary and secondary education adjusted for quality; child stunting; and adult survival rates. HCI 2020, based on data up to March of this year, provides a crucial pre-pandemic baseline that can help inform health and education policies and investments for the post-pandemic recovery.

Of the 48 countries in Europe and Central Asia included in the 2020 Human Capital Index (HCI), 33 are among the upper-third in the world, and almost all are in the top half. However, there are significant variations within the region.

In Russia, a child born today can expect to achieve 68 percent of the productivity of a fully educated adult in optimal health. It is at the average level for Europe and Central Asia countries and the third result globally among the countries of the same income group. There is a stark contrast between education and health subscales in Russia. While the education outcomes of the country are high and outperform many high-income peers, its health outcomes are below the global average.

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