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World Bank Helps Bangladesh Modernize Cash Transfer Programs for Poor

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The government of Bangladesh today signed a $300 million financing agreement with the World Bank to improve the transparency and efficiency of its major cash transfer programs for the poorest and vulnerable, including the elderly, widows, and people with disabilities.

The Cash Transfer Modernization Project will help the Department of Social Services (DSS) modernize the country’s four major social protection programs using cash transfers by improving beneficiary targeting, program administration, and benefit payments. The programs are: the Old Age Allowance, Allowances for the Widow, Deserted and Destitute Women, Allowances for the Financially Insolvent Disabled, and Stipends for Disabled Students. These programs collectively reach more than six and a half million of the country’s poorest people.

An efficient, automated and transparent social protection service delivery system is critical to build resilience and create opportunities for the poorest people,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. “The World Bank is helping the government build common digital platforms to better administer safety net programs. This will help reduce administrative costs and errors by identifying the most vulnerable people with greater accuracy and transferring cash in a timely manner.”

In fiscal year 2018, Bangladesh spent about $5.8 billion on social protection, or about 2 percent of its Gross Domestic Product, and improving the efficiency of these programs will help Bangladesh to use public resources more effectively.

The DSS has already started digitizing beneficiary records of its cash transfer programs, and the project will help further strengthen case management and payment processes. To accurately identify recipients of cash transfers, the project will help integrate DSS’s management information system with the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics’ National Household Database. For more secure and accessible payments to beneficiaries, the system will be linked to the Finance Division’s centralized payment platform, and use a network of banking agents, among others. Such actions—utilizing existing or emerging systems—will help further develop an integrated social protection service delivery system in the country.

The government is committed to develop a digitized modern social protection service delivery system,” said Mahmuda Begum, Additional Secretary, Economic Relations Division. “This project is a critical step forward towards this vision and aligned with the National Social Security Strategy, 2015.

The agreement was signed at the Economic Relations Division by Mahmuda Begum and Qimiao Fan on behalf of the Government of Bangladesh and the World Bank, respectively.

The credit is provided by the International Development Association, the World Bank’s concessional lending arm, which provides grants or zero-interest loans.  The credit has a 38-year term, including a six-year grace period, and a service charge of 0.75 percent.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. The World Bank has since committed more than $29 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country. Bangladesh currently has the largest IDA program totaling $11.3 billion.

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Post-Pandemic Growth Needs New Skills for New Jobs that Are Open to All

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The World Economic Forum’s first Jobs Reset Summit convened more than 1,000 leaders from government, business and civil society to shape a new agenda for growth, jobs, skills and equity.

It follows the Forum’s January 2020 launch of the Reskilling Revolution online platform to create better jobs, skills and education for 1 billion people by 2030. The platform hosts global, national and industry coalitions.

The Forum’s Closing the Skills Gap Accelerators are a global network of national efforts to improve skills, redeploy upskilled workers and promote inclusion. At last week’s summit, three new countries – Georgia, Greece and Turkey – joined Bahrain, Brazil, India, Oman, Pakistan, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates to close skills and employment gaps in their countries.

“Closing the skills and employment gap has never been so urgent and vital to our economy and society as we recover from the pandemic. The Accelerator in Greece will work with major private-sector companies and Regeneration as the local coordinator to build partnerships that would mobilize investment for job creation and reskill our workforce for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Adonis Georgiadis, Minister for Development and Investment, Greece.

Georgia has set up a new platform, Skills Georgia, under the Accelerator, a public-private agency run as a non-profit organization that will “give the opportunity for the new generation to become more innovative; more start-up, tech and innovation-oriented with their entrepreneurial thinking,” said Tamar Kitiashvili, Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, Georgia.

Turkey is launching the Closing the Skills Gap Accelerator championed by three ministers – Industry and Technology; Education; and Family, Labour and Social Services – showcasing the cross-governmental collaboration required for rapid action on skills.

Leading policy-makers from Bahrain, Brazil and Pakistan provided updates on the efforts in their respective Accelerators to adapt to the pandemic and deliver skills to workers and out-of-work individuals. Brazil’s Deputy Minister of the Economy revealed that under Brazil’s Accelerator more than 8 million people will be trained to increase their future employability in the next two years. In Pakistan, the Minister for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources highlighted a standardization and accreditation system in more than 10,000 training centres across Pakistan, created in close partnership with the private sector. Bahrain’s Minister of Youth showcased the efforts focused on young graduates to equip them with the skills of tomorrow.

The Reskilling Revolution platform also hosts the Skills Consortium of top online education and training providers. These companies and organizations, including Coursera, Udacity and EdX, shared their support of workers in the current context and the opportunities for further delivering on the promise of online learning and training through better accreditation and recognition by employers.

Business-led and intra-industry collaborations were also announced at the summit to create solutions for workers who can be rapidly upskilled and redeployed to a different role within their sector, leveraging both online and in-person training. For example, Crescent Petroleum shared its partnership with Edraak to provide online learning for youth in the Middle East and North Africa region, with over 240,000 people already registered.

A New Agenda for Economic Growth, Revival and Transformation

A community of leading chief economists from the public and private sectors supported the development of the Forum’s Dashboard for the New Economy. The proposed set of macroeconomic targets aims to steer the COVID-19 recovery beyond GDP growth alone and give governments the impetus to put the focus on people, planet, prosperity and institutions.

The Forum also launched a priority list of 20 of the most promising Markets of Tomorrow that are poised to generate sustainable and inclusive job creation and growth beyond today’s economic models. A network of Closing the Innovation Gap Accelerators will be taking forward investments in these new markets and innovation ecosystems.

A New Agenda for Work, Wages and Job Creation

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, released during the summit, highlighted the “double disruption” faced by workers in the face of the pandemic recession coupled with accelerated automation.

A coalition of more than 60 chief human resources officers partnered with the World Economic Forum and Mercer to create a new set of principles for the future of work through the Resetting the Future of Work Agenda.

As part of a network of Preparing for the Future of Work Accelerators across nine industries, the Consumer Industry Acceleratorannounced an initiative to create “reskilling and redeployment pathways” for thousands of employees. Leena Nair, Chief Human Resources Officer, Unilever, announced the collaboration with Walmart, Accenture and Skyhive. “It’s the first of its kind, non-competitive, collaborative partnership,” said Nair. The coalition is inviting companies from across industries to join the response to deal with the scale of the reskilling challenge.

A New Agenda for Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice

In addition, Jordan joined 10 other economies, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Peru, Dominican Republic, Egypt and France, deploying the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators to enhance opportunities for women in the workforce.

“The government of Jordan is committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment as an effective tool to combat poverty, hunger and diseases. Today’s launch of the Jordan Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator will help us incorporate gender as a cross-cutting theme in our economic recovery plans. It is also in line with our longstanding public-private collaboration efforts to create more equitable growth,” said Nasser Shraideh, Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation.

The Future of Jobs Report highlighted how the impact of technology and the COVID recession on jobs has been worse for women, youth and lower-income workers. The newly launched Resetting the Future of Work Agenda highlights the win-win of diversity, equity and inclusion in this context, while the recent Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 4.0 Toolkithelps companies deploy the latest HR technologies to support this.

The Valuable 500 – committed to transforming disability inclusion through business leadership and opportunity, launched at the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2019 – announced an additional 100 members since January 2020. With 334 organizations worldwide, combined revenues of over $4.5 trillion and an employee base of 11.9 million, The Valuable 500, in partnership with the Forum, launched its Transformation Leadership Programme to build capability at leadership and C-suite level.

Notable Quotes from Leaders throughout the Summit

Environmental and social pressures have exposed the fault lines in the structure of global capitalism. Ray Dalio, Founder, Co-Chairman and Co-Chief Investment Officer of Bridgewater Associates, said: “Capitalism by its nature tends to create greater wealth gaps. There needs to be a coordinated effort to restructure how the machine works.”

Unilever’s Chief Executive Officer Alan Jope referred to COVID-19 causing a jobs crisis but urged action on two further crises, climate change and the nature of capitalism itself, “We must change the measures of success,” he said, moving beyond the preoccupation with measuring only GDP and profit as yardsticks for the recovery.

“We have a tech-savvy younger generation, and the challenge now is how do we equip them more”, said Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation of Egypt, and a Co-Chair of the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator in Egypt.

Jonas Prising, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ManpowerGroup, described a two-speed recovery from COVID-19. “Businesses that are able to adapt are recovering quicker than those that cannot. The same is true for the labour market. People with the right skills will come back faster.”

For Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “Coordination is missing in action,” he said. Yet, the only way to deal with issues of international trade, migration, climate change, employment and economic recovery from COVID-19 – even the search for a vaccine – is through multilateral cooperation.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and others called for the creation of a Global Social Protection Fund for those hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis. “About half of the world’s people have no social protection or any sense of security,” said Sharan Burrow, General-Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Geraldine Matchett, Co-Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Royal DSM highlighted how technology can help to enable fairer access to jobs and that “the COVID crisis has shown us that it’s very possible to change the definition and format of work.” Royal DSM is a founding partner of the Forum’s Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work framework.

Additionally, the OECD and the Education Commission announced at the summit new studies that promote new metrics for soft skills and a new common agenda for education.

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Going Digital is Necessary for Small Businesses to Survive

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APEC member economies must work together to promote and encourage the transition of the region’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to the emerging digital economy, urged Malaysia’s Minister of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives, Dato Sri Dr. Haji Wan Junaidi Bin Tuanku Jaafar.

“Going digital is not an option, it has to be done. It is a necessity to survive,” he said in his opening remarks of the APEC 26th Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting held virtually on Friday.

APEC ministers in charge of small and medium enterprise policy exchanged views to address the severe economic impact of the pandemic to MSMEs and detailed steps to build more resilient, inclusive and sustainable environment for the sector.

MSMEs play a significant role in the region’s economic growth, contributing around 40 to 60 percent to the growth domestic products of most APEC economies. As a response to the pandemic, APEC members have been providing support measures for the sector ranging from tax reliefs, wage subsidies, interest rates reduction, soft loans and refinancing, so that business owners and managers can sustain their operations and continue to contribute to the global economy.

“In the new normal, businesses must pivot their strategies and business models to adapt to the digital economy and incorporate innovation and technology in order to remain resilient,” he added. “Besides all the fiscal stimulus, it is equally imperative to support MSMEs to go digital while helping them to adjust and overcome the challenges.”

He cautioned members of the multi-faceted challenges and concerns of going digital, including data privacy, cybersecurity, digital fraud and the digital divide. He highlighted the importance of strengthening cooperation and collaboration within APEC member economies “during and beyond this pandemic.”

APEC has been consistent in acknowledging the significant contribution MSMEs give to the region’s economy and employment. In her remarks at the meeting, Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, highlighted that policy work undertaken by other APEC groups can contribute to helping MSMEs in the region.

“Support for MSMEs in APEC is cross-cutting and requires close partnership within our fora and the private sector,” she said. “We need to advance progress in structural reforms, trade facilitation and digital initiatives such as the single window implementation to make it easier, faster and cheaper to do business in the region and to ensure seamless flow of good and services within economies and across the borders.”

During the meeting, ministers endorsed a joint statement focusing on member economies’ commitment to support MSMEs in restarting and reviving their businesses through digitalization, innovation and technology.

Ministers also endorsed a new five-year vision to reinforce business ethics and integrity in health-related sectors called Vision 2025 launched earlier this month at the 2020 APEC Business Ethics for SMEs Virtual Forum under the world’s largest ethics pacts to strengthen ethical business practices in the medical device and biopharmaceutical sectors.

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Socially Responsible, Low-Carbon Capitalism Can Ensure ‘Job-Full’ Recovery From COVID-19

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COVID-19 has caused a jobs crisis but, if we are to recover from the pandemic, two more fundamental crises need tackling: climate change and the nature of capitalism itself. This was the view of leaders taking part in the World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit, which opened today.

“The low-carbon revolution will be a booming space for jobs,” said Alan Jope, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever, United Kingdom. Jope said he hopes the recovery from the pandemic will prove a turning point in the battle with climate change, because a greener business can drive both revenues and job creation.

According to the European Union, investments in renewable energy could create three times as many jobs as investing in fossil fuels. “One of the most dangerous mindsets in the world,” said Jope, “is to set up a false dichotomy between sustainability and economic growth.” Unilever has saved 800 million euros in sustainable sourcing, while attracting more customers through low-carbon products. A business that is trying to be responsible is a magnet for talent, he said, adding: “We see purpose as a pathway to better profits.”

Environmental and social pressures have exposed fault lines in the structure of global capitalism, which tends to perpetuate inequalities, said Ray Dalio, Founder, Co-Chairman and Co-Chief Investment Officer, Bridgewater Associates – one of the US’s leading hedge funds. “The profit-pursuing system won’t change educational disparity, for example, because profit is a self-reinforcing system,” he said, adding: “Capitalism by its nature tends to create greater wealth gaps.” Dalio pointed out that the wealthiest 40% of US citizens spend five times more money educating their children than the bottom 60%, accelerating inequalities in wealth and job opportunities. “There needs to be a coordinated effort to restructure how the machine works,” he said. Jope agreed the world needs to shift to a more “evolved model of capitalism” to create a job-full recovery. “We must change the measures of success,” he said, criticizing the preoccupation with measuring only GDP and profit.

Over half the global workforce will need to reskill in the future of work, according to the World Economic Forum. Businesses, civil society and governments all have to cooperate in reskilling their people, said Rania A. Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation of Egypt. This is easier in countries such as Egypt, as its largely young population is tech-savvy. However, as well as reskilling people, governments must invest in the digital infrastructure needed to enable the new generation of technology entrepreneurs to thrive. The minister emphasized the need for building inclusive societies, pointing out that Egypt was the first country in Africa and the Middle East to launch the Forum’s Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator project, launched a year ago.

Governments have an increasingly prominent role in directing financial flows, as the world emerges from the pandemic. The rate at which governments are borrowing and central banks are printing money means that decisions on where money and credit flow are becoming increasingly political, said Dalio. Decisions on state stimulus packages, for example, will have a major impact on job creation. Dalio also hailed ESG (environmental, social and governance) investing as a “very powerful force now.” He does not have high confidence in shareholders putting social good above financial gain, he said, “but with ESG investing and with governments redirecting funds in a totally different way, it’ll happen.”

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