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Public Investment Boosts Growth in Western Balkans

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Growth for the Western Balkan region is estimated to strengthen to 3.5 percent for 2018, according to the latest Western Balkans Regular Economic Report, Higher but Fragile Growth. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia are estimated to grow at rates between 2.5 percent and 4 percent.

While employment also rose in five of the six countries in the region, the 91,400 new jobs created between July 2017 and July 2018 were significantly fewer than the 214,000 added one year earlier. Most new jobs are appearing in the industry and services sectors.

“Across the region we are seeing growth supported by public investment and spending,” says Linda Van Gelder, World Bank Regional Director for the Western Balkans. “Countries that saw their private investment increase also saw faster growth. Although untargeted social spending and public wages have had a positive impact on growth in the short-term, they increase fiscal vulnerabilities. Increasing private investment and exports is a more sustainable way to grow.”

In most Western Balkan countries, high and rising public debt is coupled with fiscal and external imbalances, making the outlook vulnerable to an increase in financing costs should financial markets tighten. Sustaining long-term growth thus requires domestic reforms that unleash private investment and exports.

The report also calls for greater economic integration to promote higher, sustained growth and stimulate job creation. Increased integration between Western Balkan counties focusing on trade, investment, mobility, and digital integration is needed to accelerate growth, overcome small and fragmented national markets, and ensure long-term economic stability.

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Finance

COVID’s led to ‘massive’ income and productivity losses

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Job losses or reduced working hours due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic cost the world the equivalent of 255 million jobs in 2020, the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Monday, noting that the “massive impact” was nearly four times the number lost during the 2009 global financial crisis. 

According to the ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work, the losses resulted in an 8.3 per cent decline in global income, before factoring in support measures, equivalent to $3.7 trillion or 4.4 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP). 

Recovery scenarios 

While there is still a high degree of uncertainty for 2021, the ILO estimates projected that most countries could see a relatively strong recovery in the second half the year, as COVID-19 vaccination programmes take effect. 

ILO put forward three scenarios: a baseline estimate showing a 3 per cent decline; a pessimistic forecast indicating a 4.6 per cent loss, and in the most optimistic scenario, a 1.3 per cent decrease in working hours through this year. 

“The signs of recovery we see are encouraging, but they are fragile and highly uncertain, and we must remember that no country or group can recover alone”, Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General said

“We are at a fork in the road. One path leads to an uneven, unsustainable, recovery with growing inequality and instability, and the prospect of more crises. The other focuses on a human-centred recovery for building back better, prioritizing employment, income and social protection, workers’ rights and social dialogue”, he added. 

“If we want a lasting, sustainable and inclusive recovery, this is the path policy-makers must commit to.” 

Women and children most vulnerable 

In terms of sectors and groups, women were more affected than men, as were younger workers, ILO said. 

“Globally, employment losses for women stand at 5 per cent, versus 3.9 per cent for men. In particular, women were much more likely than men to drop out of the labour market and become inactive”, it added. 

Similarly, younger workers either lost jobs, dropped out of the labour force, or delayed entry into it.  

‘Lost generation’ risk 

“The employment loss among youth (15-24 years old) stood at 8.7 per cent, compared to 3.7 per cent for adults. This highlights the all too real risk of a lost generation” according to ILO. 

Accommodation and food services was the worst hit sector, where employment declined by over 20 per cent, on average, followed by retail and manufacturing.  

In contrast, the information, communication, finance and insurance sectors, grew in the second and third quarters of 2020. Marginal increases were also seen in mining, quarrying and utilities. 

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Human Rights

Syria: 18 children killed since the start of the year

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The brutal fighting in Syria continues to exact a terrible toll on children, with at least 18, including a one-year-old killed in incidents involving explosive weapons and unexploded ordnance, since 1 January, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Sunday. At least 15 others were wounded. 

“Children and families in Syria have suffered so much over the past decade, with still no end in sight,” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director said in a statement

“With each week, the fast-spreading COVID-19 pandemic is making it harder for families to survive and provide even basic education and protection for their children,” she added. 

Families hit hard by fighting, poverty and severe weather are reeling under fuel shortages and mounting food prices. The situation is further complicated by lack of basic services and destroyed civilian infrastructure, such as water services. 

“Water disruptions force civilians to rely on unsafe water which exposes people, particularly children, to contracting potentially deadly waterborne diseases,” Ms. Fore said. 

Fighting ‘must end’ 

Across the war-ravaged country, about 4.8 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, making up about 45 per cent of the 11 million overall in need of aid, according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). 

In spite of daunting challenges, UNICEF and humanitarian actors continue to work tirelessly to support millions of children and families, Ms. Fore said, adding “but we cannot do it alone, we need funding, we need better access.” 

“And most importantly we need everyone to protect children and keep them out of harm’s way. The violence in Syria must end,” she stressed. 

Millions out of school 

UNICEF also called on warring parties in Syria to protect education facilities and personnel.  

“While the war continues, education remains the beacon for millions of children. It is a right that should be protected and persevered,” Muhannad Hadi, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis; and Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement on Sunday. 

“We call upon those fighting to refrain from attacks on education facilities and personnel across Syria,” they urged. 

More than 2.4 million children – of whom 40 per cent are girls – are out of school, and one in three schools inside Syria can no longer be used because they were destroyed, damaged or are being used for military purposes, according to UNICEF. 

Mr. Hadi and Mr. Chaiban also appealed for funds for education programmes.  

“Sustainable and long-term funding to education will help to bridge the gap and incorporate children in education, and provide them with the skills they need to rebuild their country when peace returns to Syria.” 

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Tech News

Deloitte Bolsters Cyber Threat Hunting Capabilities with Root9B Acquisition

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Deloitte & Touche LLP announced today its acquisition of substantially all the assets of Root9B, LLC (R9B), a leading provider of advanced cyber threat hunting services and solutions. The deal will bolster Deloitte’s existing Detect and Respond cyber client offering with R9B’s deeply experienced cyber operations professionals and its award-winning threat-hunting and risk assessment solutions.

“Commercial and government entities contend with cyber adversaries who use incredibly sophisticated technology to penetrate legacy defenses and take advantage of expanding attack surfaces,” said Deborah Golden, Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory Cyber and Strategic Risk leader and principal, Deloitte & Touche LLP. “The addition of R9B’s business will expand our complement of skilled cyber professionals and leading technologies, while also offering our clients an advantage against adversaries.  Our newly combined powerful and innovative solutions for preventing, detecting and mitigating cyber threats are unlike anything we’ve seen available in today’s market.”

Beyond offering tailored managed services and solutions focused on cyber threat hunting/detection and response focusing on unique organizational needs, R9B also offers tech-enabled vulnerability assessment and penetration testing, defense forensics and incident response, as well as defensive security and hunt operator training.   

With the addition of R9B’s business, Deloitte’s Cyber Detect and Respond offering will continue to help clients gain a leading edge in cyber defense, integrate fragmented security toolsets, achieve efficiencies in security operations programs, accelerate response time to potential threats and provide data-driven threat insights. 

“Deloitte continually works to provide outstanding value to our clients,” said John Peirson, Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory CEO.  “Adding R9B’s business to our existing cyber practice is just one more way we’re accelerating meaningful investments into the innovative approaches we offer our clients as they work to manage emerging threats.” 

R9B founder and CEO Eric Hipkins added, “Our shared commitment to our clients’ missions and recognition of the importance of combining exceptional technology, people and processes to solve the most challenging security problems of our day makes joining Deloitte a logical next step in our story. At Deloitte, we’ll be able to accelerate scaling and development of offerings we consider vital to proactive cyber threat hunting and remediation.” 

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