If trade barriers are overcome, trade within South Asia can increase three-fold, from $23 billion to $67 billion, suggests a new World Bank report. Sri Lanka has the potential to more than double its exports to South Asia. Increased intraregional trade will provide a greater variety of goods and services at cheaper prices for Sri Lankan consumers, better access to inputs for producers and exporters, increased investment, export diversification and growth.
South Asia is the world’s most rapidly growing region. It is also the world’s least integrated region. Man-made trade barriers have hampered intraregional connectivity and kept South Asian countries from maximizing their prospects. Trade within South Asia accounts for only 5 percent of the region’s total trade, compared for 50 percent in East Asia and the Pacific. Sri Lanka’s exports to South Asia are equivalent to only 11 percent of its global exports.
The report, A Glass Half Full: The Promise of Regional Trade in South Asia, launched today, highlights four critical obstacles to regional trade – border tax distortions, nontariff barriers, connectivity costs, and trust deficits – and offers options for policymakers to address them.
The report helps to quantify commonly known benefits associated with a more integrated South Asia. For example, the actual value of Sri Lanka’s exports to South Asia is $1.2 billion, but the potential value is $2.8 billion. This $1.6 billion gap between the two is equivalent to 15 percent of Sri Lanka’s total global exports. Closing the gap will not only enhance but also help diversify Sri Lanka’s trade.
“Sri Lanka is brimming with possibilities for greater regional integration,” says Dr. Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “Trade barriers and insufficient connectivity to the region are preventing Sri Lanka from maximizing the benefits of its proximity to South Asia.”
In addition to tariffs, para tariffs such as port and airport development levy and cess create an anti-export bias. Para tariffs more than double the average import tariff in Sri Lanka. Additionally, 44 percent of Sri Lanka’s imports are not provided concessional treatment under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement. And about 23 percent of its exports to South Asia suffer from the same non-concessional treatment. Non-tariff measures further increase the cost of imports.
Limited air connectivity with South Asia also raises the cost of trade, particularly in services. One success story is air services liberalization between India and Sri Lanka. Increased air connectivity between the two countries since 2003 has lowered costs, and increased passenger traffic and the volume of air cargo. There are now 147 weekly flights between Sri Lanka and India, and since 2005 India has been the biggest source of tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka. The number of Indian tourists tripled from 113,323 in 2005 to 356,729 in 2016, as a result.
“Air services liberalization between Sri Lanka and India serves as a potent example for the rest of South Asia,” says Sanjay Kathuria, World Bank Lead Economist and lead author of the report. “Given the region’s complicated history, size asymmetries, and a trust deficit, policy shifts need to be implemented gradually. Air services liberalization entailed small steps backed by persistence which cumulatively made a substantial impact.”
Recommendations provided in the report include targeting sensitive lists and para tariffs to enable real progress on SAFTA. It also calls for a multi-pronged effort towards addressing non-tariff barriers, focusing on information flows, procedures, and infrastructure.
ADB Private Sector Deal to Promote Solar Power in Afghanistan
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed a $4 million loan with a special purpose vehicle and subsidiaries owned by the 77 Construction, Contracting, and Trading Group (77 Group), an international civil works contracting firm headquartered in Turkey, to help build a 15.1 megawatt (MW) solar power plant and promote the development of renewable energy in Afghanistan.
The borrower is Barakat Kandahar Solar Energy (BKSE), a special purpose vehicle majority owned by 77 Afghanistan, a subsidiary of 77 Group. The co-borrowers include three subsidiaries of 77 Group. The agreement was signed by Principal Investment Specialist at ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department Ms. Sonali Tang, and Chairman, BKSE, and owner of 77 Group Mr. Suleyman Ciliv.
“Having a stable, sustainable, and reliable energy source is important for the growth and development prospects of Afghanistan, where power generation and access is one of the lowest in the world,” said Senior Public–Private Partnership specialist at ADB’s Office of Public–Private Partnerships Mr. Mohammed Azim Hashimi. “ADB’s support for this important project will help provide long-term financing that is not available locally to build and operate a state-of-the-art solar power plant in Afghanistan.”
“77 Group would like to thank ADB for paving the way for investors in Afghanistan by supporting the first private sector-financed independent power producer ,” said 77 Group representative and project director Mr. Burak Unsal. “77 Group is keen to work with ADB on future renewable energy investment projects.’’
Afghanistan ranks in the bottom 5% in terms of per capita electricity usage, with only 30% of the country’s population connected to the grid in 2015. In terms of energy mix, solar power accounts for only about 1% or 3 MW of the country’s total installed generation capacity. This is despite Afghanistan having about 220,000 MW of solar power generation potential. The Government of Afghanistan aims to develop the country’s renewable energy generation, including solar power, so it can contribute at least 5,000 MW (40% share) to the national grid by 2032.
The Kandahar Solar Power Project will install a 15.1 MW solar photovoltaic power plant and related facilities, increasing the supply of clean power to the domestic grid in Afghanistan. The power plant will generate about 27.5 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually and avoid 8,500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. It will also help lift the share of renewable energy in the country’s total installed power generation capacity to between 4,500 MW and 5,000 MW by 2032.
ADB will also administer a $3.85 million loan from the Canadian Climate Fund for Private Sector in Asia II (CFPS II) for the project. CFPS II was established in March 2017 to support greater private sector participation in climate change mitigation and adaptation in low and lower middle-income countries in Asia and the Pacific.
Erasmus+: a turning point in the lives of 5 million European students
New evidence shows that Erasmus+ makes students more successful in their personal and professional lives and helps universities to become more innovative, according to two new independent studies released today by the European Commission.
The large-scale studies based on the feedback from nearly 77 000 students and staff and over 500 organisations measure and analyse the impact the Erasmus+ programme has on its main beneficiaries. Results show how the EU programme helps prepare young Europeans for the new digital era and thrive in their future careers. Erasmus+ also boosts innovation capacity of universities, their international engagement and ability to answer the needs of the labour market.
Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics said: “It is impressive to see how Erasmus+ enables young people to thrive in the modern labour market and in a more diverse society. I am happy to see that Erasmus+ graduates feel more ready to take on new challenges, have better career prospects and are more aware of the benefits the EU brings to their daily lives. At the same time, universities that take part in Erasmus+ are not only more international but also better placed to respond to the needs of the world of work.”
The key findings of the studies are:
Erasmus+ helps students find their desired careers and get jobs quicker
Over 70% of former Erasmus+ students say that they have a better understanding of what they want to do in their future careers when they return from abroad. Their experience abroad also enables them to re-orient their studies to better match their ambitions. The higher education impact study further reveals that 80% were employed within three months of graduation and 72% say their experience abroad helped them get their first job. Nine in ten Erasmus+ alumni say they make use of the skills and experiences acquired abroad in their daily work. Erasmus+ addresses skills mismatches by focusing on soft and interdisciplinary skills development businesses need.
Erasmus+ boosts European sense of belonging
More than 90% of Erasmus+ students also improve their ability to work and collaborate with people from different cultures and feel they have a European identity. The biggest impact is on the students who felt less convinced about the EU prior to their exchange and the students that spent time in a more culturally different country. Of all Erasmus+ students those coming from Eastern Europe identify the most with the EU.
Erasmus+ supports digital transformation and social inclusion
Erasmus+ cooperation projects make the majority of participating universities better prepared for digital transformation. Making use of new technologies and innovative teaching and learning methods helps strengthen their international cooperation and innovation capacity. Academic staff, who made use of Erasmus+ are more open to involving staff from enterprises in their courses than their non-mobile peers, around 60% compared to 40%. More than 80% of academics report that their experience abroad has led to the development of more innovative curricula. Moreover, two out of three participating universities stated EU-wide projects also contribute to increasing social inclusion and non-discrimination in higher education.
Other findings show that former Erasmus+ students are more satisfied with their jobs compared to those who have not gone abroad. They also have careers that are more international and are almost twice as likely to work abroad. Erasmus+ also supports entrepreneurship. One in four cooperation projects contributed to entrepreneurial education and strengthened entrepreneurship. A third of projects helped create spin-offs and start-ups.
Between 2014 and 2018, more than 2 million students and staff in higher education undertook a learning, training or teaching period abroad as part of the Erasmus+ programme. During the same period, almost 1 000 Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships between higher education institutions and 93 Knowledge Alliances between universities and businesses received EU funding. More than 40% of these trained students and academic staff in forward-looking skills related to environment and climate change, energy and resources, digital (ICT and digital skills) and entrepreneurship.
The two studies (Erasmus+ Higher Education Impact study and the Erasmus+ Higher Education Strategic Partnerships and Knowledge Alliances study) assessed the impact of the programme on its two main beneficiaries: individuals and organisations.
For the first study, almost 77 000 responses, including from around 47 000 Erasmus+ students, 12 000 graduates and 10 000 staff members with Erasmus+ experience were analysed. The findings of the second study are based on responses from 258 Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships and Knowledge Alliances (representing 504 organisations) awarded funding in 2014-2016 as well as 26 detailed case studies.
IEA holds Energy Efficiency Training Week in Paris
The International Energy Agency is hosting its 11th Energy Efficiency in Emerging Economies Training Week from 20 to 24 May. More than 120 energy efficiency professionals from 40 countries have come together in Paris for the event.
The objective of the training week is to enable participants to learn from leading experts in the field and from each other, strengthening the knowledge and networks needed to meet some of today’s most pressing challenges. The weeklong activities focus on the critical role of energy efficiency in mitigating growing energy demand across all sectors in the world’s fastest‑growing economies.
Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, kicked off the event by stressing the importance of energy efficiency as the first fuel. “Many of the challenges the world is facing today – climate change, energy security, access to electricity – can be met at a large scale only by implementing the right energy efficiency policies,” he said.
Ambassadors from Brazil, Switzerland and the United Kingdom joined Dr Birol in the open plenary session to share their experiences and support for the training week. His Excellency, Mr. Carlos Márcio Cozendey, Ambassador and Delegate of Brazil to International Economic Organisations in Paris, commended the opportunity that the training week presents. “Energy efficiency will remain very important in Brazil, and international cooperation through the IEA and bilateral cooperation with different countries will be an important part of that,” he said.
Participants are engaged in one of five parallel courses, which focus on energy efficiency in buildings, industry, appliances and equipment, cities, and indicators and evaluation. Experts from the IEA are guiding participants through an interactive agenda, with lectures, discussions, practical exercises, site visits and group activities.
The IEA will host its first Energy Efficiency Training Week for Africa later this year and a specialised training programme on green buildings in Singapore from 16 to 18 July. Please keep an eye on our website for registration opening dates.
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