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EAEU intending to create Eurasian brands

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“We must focus on global integration projects that would create Eurasian brands and help promoting our goods at the third countries’ markets”. This was stated by the Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) Tigran Sargsyan speaking in Moscow at the plenary session of the XIII International Conference “Eurasian Economic Integration”.

The participants of the annual event arranged by the Eurasian Development Bank discussed the challenges and prospects for Eurasian integration.

Tigran Sargsyan noted that over the years of its existence the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) has proved its solidity and efficiency notwithstanding its young age. Next year, the EAEU countries will celebrate the fifth anniversary of signing the Treaty on the Union.

The EEC observes the increase in mutual trade, improvement of its structure, and strengthening of cooperation ties. “This shows that implementing main principles enshrined in the Union’s treaty has positive results for the Union’s economic growth. The Commission assesses the potential of this effect as about 1% of Gross National Product’s annual growth”, – highlighted the Chairman of the EEC Board.

A solid achievement of the EAEU is the third countries’ increasing interest in developing and deepening trade and economic cooperation with the Union. “This proves that the EAEU has established itself as a genuine integration association”, – believes Tigran Sargsyan.

Recently, the EEC has entered into a number of memoranda in Singapore: a memorandum of understanding with the ASEAN and a memorandum of cooperation with the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand. The Commission expects to sign a similar document with MERCOSUR. In May 2018, trade and economic agreements with China and Iran were concluded. The work is ongoing on international tracks approved by the Heads of the EAEU States in order to create free trade areas with Egypt, India, Israel, Singapore, and Serbia. Five rounds of negotiations with Singapore were held. Tigran Sargsyan expressed his hope that in 2019 it would be possible to enter the home stretch on the issue of creating an FTA with the Republic.

“Concluding FTA agreements with these countries is a serious potential for inducing economic growth in our States, and ramping up exports to these countries’ markets. It also means the possibility of additional investment attraction”, – reported the Chairman of the EEC Board.

Tigran Sargsyan also named the problems to be solved with a view to promote Eurasian integration. In his opinion, they are related to “under-integration” within the Union’s space. There are obstacles inhibiting the implementation of the “Four Freedoms” principle, and these must be removed. This is exactly the task the Heads of the Member States set for the EEC.

“Obstacles result from uncoordinated actions. Therefore, the States must pursue agreed policies. Such trends in global economy as protectionism, protection of domestic manufacturers, trade wars are unacceptable in our Union”, – stressed Tigran Sargsyan.
These agreed policies are underlain by harmonization of national legislations, in particular, in financial sphere. Upon instruction of the Presidents, national and central banks of the participating countries are developing the Concept of the EAEU common financial market.

The Chairman of the EEC Board also mentioned the necessity to form Eurasian brands similar to “Airbus” project in the European Union. “We need to launch such large-scale cooperation projects with the participation of all the partners within the Union, which would enable us to hold ourselves out as a united entity in relation to third countries”, – he stated.

The Commission is actively working over creation of a Eurasian brand in jewelry branch, as the Union countries have relative advantages in this field. The work is under way on forming a Eurasian brand in lighting engineering. The EAEU Digital Agenda is being implemented, which encompasses all the areas of activity of the participating countries. About 30 initiatives – major digital projects – are now being examined by the EEC Digital Office, some of them to win funding in 2019.

The Chairman of the EEC Board mentioned that the Commission was interested in cooperation under such projects with the EADB. “The key role in financing such global integration projects may belong to the Eurasian Development Bank”, – reckons Tigran Sargsyan.

Due to increasing demand in the EAEU countries for settlements in national currencies, the Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Development Bank Andrey Belyaninov proposed to develop the Eurasian system of financial messaging. “For further promotion of settlements in national currencies within the Eurasian space we need to create a Eurasian financial messaging system using our “regulatory sandboxes” capabilities, – he said.

The Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation Alexey Kudrin considers the EAEU’s task on deepening relations between the participating countries, eliminating barriers, forming common standards and new regulation models, in particular, within the financial market, to be an element of integration.

Whereas the Eurasian integration heavily relies upon its largest economy – the Russian economy, the Russian Federation shall, as a country creating the market for all countries, drive up rates of economic growth, remove barriers and enable the participants from the Union countries to access public procurement. “At this point, Russia shall sometimes make a compromise, then it will provide the impetus for the Union’s development”, – Alexey Kudrin believes.

The plenary session was also attended by the Deputy Minister of Finance of the Russian Federation Sergey Storchak, the Deputy Chairman of Vnesheconombank – Member of the Board Andrey Klepach, the Deputy Chairman of the Board of JSC “Development Bank of Kazakhstan” Dmitry Babichev, and the Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research University Higher School of Economics Sergey Karaganov.

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Finance

Credit Suisse to pay $475 million to U.S. and U.K. authorities

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Credit Suisse Group AG has agreed to pay nearly $475 million to U.S. and U.K authorities, including nearly $100 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission, for fraudulently misleading investors and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in a scheme involving two bond offerings and a syndicated loan that raised funds on behalf of state-owned entities in Mozambique.

According to the SEC’s order, these transactions that raised over $1 billion were used to perpetrate a hidden debt scheme, pay kickbacks to now-indicted former Credit Suisse investment bankers along with their intermediaries, and bribe corrupt Mozambique government officials. The SEC’s order finds that the offering materials created and distributed to investors by Credit Suisse hid the underlying corruption and falsely disclosed that the proceeds would help develop Mozambique’s tuna fishing industry. Credit Suisse failed to disclose the full extent and nature of Mozambique’s indebtedness and the risk of default arising from these transactions.

The SEC’s order also finds that the scheme resulted from Credit Suisse’s deficient internal accounting controls, which failed to properly address significant and known risks concerning bribery.

“When it comes to cross-border securities law violations, the SEC will continue to work collaboratively with overseas law enforcement and regulatory agencies to fulfill its Enforcement mission,” said Gurbir S. Grewal, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Our action against Credit Suisse today is yet another example of our close and successful coordination with counterparts in Europe and Asia.”

“Credit Suisse provided investors with incomplete and misleading disclosures despite being uniquely positioned to understand the full extent of Mozambique’s mounting debt and serious risk of default based on its prior lending arrangements,” said Anita B. Bandy, Associate Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “The massive offering fraud was also a consequence of the bank’s significant lapses in internal accounting controls and repeated failure to respond to corruption risks.”

A London-based subsidiary of Russian bank VTB separately agreed to pay more than $6 million to settle SEC charges related to its role in misleading investors in a second 2016 bond offering. According to the SEC’s order, the second offering as structured by VTB Capital and Credit Suisse allowed investors to exchange their notes in an earlier bond offering for new sovereign bonds issued directly by the government of Mozambique. But the SEC found that the offering materials distributed and marketed by Credit Suisse and VTB Capital failed to disclose the true nature of Mozambique’s debt and the high risk of default on the bonds. The offering materials further failed to disclose Credit Suisse’s discovery that significant funds from the earlier offering had been diverted away from the intended use of proceeds that was disclosed to investors. Mozambique later defaulted on the financings after the full extent of “secret debt” was revealed.

The SEC’s order against Credit Suisse finds that it violated antifraud provisions as well as internal accounting controls and books and records provisions of the federal securities laws. Credit Suisse agreed to pay disgorgement and interest totaling more than $34 million and a penalty of $65 million to the SEC. As part of coordinated resolutions, the U.S. Department of Justice imposed a $247 million criminal fine, with Credit Suisse paying, after crediting, $175 million, and Credit Suisse also agreed to pay over $200 million in a penalty as part of a settled action with the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority.

VTB Capital consented to an SEC order finding that it violated negligence-based antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. Without admitting or denying the findings, VTB Capital agreed to pay over $2.4 million in disgorgement and interest along with a $4 million penalty.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Lesley B. Atkins and Douglas C. McAllister with assistance from Wendy Kong of the Office of Investigative and Market Analytics, Carlos Costa-Rodriguez of the Office of International Affairs, and supervisory trial counsel Tom Bednar. The case was supervised by Ms. Bandy. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Fraud Section, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, and the United Arab Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority.

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Development

Iraq: An Urgent Call for Education Reforms to Ensure Learning for All Children

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A girl student in Basra, Iraq, who benefits from a UNICEF/WFP education stipend programme. UNICEF

Learning levels in Iraq are among the lowest in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region and are likely to decline even further because of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on education service delivery, including prolonged school closures.

These low learning levels are putting the future of Iraqi children and the country at risk. A new World Bank report says that while, now more than ever, investments are needed in education to recover lost learning and turn crisis into opportunity, these investments must be accompanied by a comprehensive reform agenda that focuses the system on learning outcomes and builds a more resilient education system for all children. 

The World Bank Group’s new report, Building Forward Better to Ensure Learning for All Children in Iraq: An Education Reform Path, builds on key priorities in education recently identified in the Government of Iraq’s White Paper and the World Bank Group’s Addressing the Human Capital Crisis: A Public Expenditure Review for Human Development Sectors in Iraq report, and provides actionable reform recommendations to boost learning and skills.

Human capital is essential to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth. However, according to the World Bank’s 2020 Human Capital Index (HCI), a child born in Iraq today will reach, on average, only 41% of their potential productivity when they grow up. 

At the heart of Iraq’s human capital crisis is a learning crisis, with far-reaching implications. Iraq’s poor performance on the HCI is largely attributed to its low learning levels. COVID-19 has led to intermittent school closures across Iraq, impacting more than 11 million Iraqi students since February 2020. This report highlights that, with schools closed over 75% of the time and opportunities for remote learning limited and unequal, Iraqi children are facing another reduction of learning‑adjusted years of schooling. Effectively, students in Iraq are facing more than a “lost year” of learning. 

Iraq can use lessons learned from the current health crisis, turn recovery into opportunity, and “build forward better,” to ensure it provides learning opportunities for all Iraqi children especially its poorest and most vulnerable children” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director. “The World Bank is ready to support Iraq in building a more equitable and resilient post-COVID-19 education system that ensures learning for all children and generates the dividends for faster and more inclusive growth”.  

The report Building Forward Better to Ensure Learning for All Children in Iraq: An Education Reform Path puts forward for discussion sector-wide reform recommendations, focusing on immediate crisis response as well as medium and long-term needs across six key strategic areas:  

1. Engaging in an Emergency Crisis response through the mitigation of immediate learning loss and prevention of further dropouts.

2. Improving foundational skills to set a trajectory for learning through improved learning & teaching materials and strengthened teacher practices with a focus on learning for all children.

3. Focusing on the most urgently needed investments, while ensuring better utilization of resources.

4. Improving the governance of the education sector and promoting evidence‑based decision‑making.

5. Developing and implementing an education sector strategy that focuses on learning and “building forward better”.

6. Aligning skills with labor market needs through targeted programs and reforms.

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Development

More Funding for Business and Trade to Help Lao PDR Recover from Pandemic

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The World Bank and the Government of Lao PDR have agreed to scale up a Competitiveness and Trade Project that will improve the ability of businesses to recover from the economic effects of COVID-19 as part of the government’s emergency response to the pandemic. The additional financing will provide a US$6.5 million grant through the Lao Competitiveness and Trade Multi-Donor Trust Fund supported by Australia, Ireland, and the United States.

The extra funding follows a request by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce for additional resources to help the government and private sector respond to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and related restrictions. The Lao economy, which had already been slowing since 2018 following floods, drought and crop disease outbreaks, has been hit badly by the pandemic since early 2020, causing poverty to rise by an estimated 4.4 percentage points.

This additional financing complements the government’s approach of providing rapid and direct relief to vulnerable firms and to adjusting government services to the effects of COVID-19. Helping viable businesses to survive and grow will help them maintain and create jobs, thereby driving economic recovery.

The ministry has been implementing the original Lao PDR Competitiveness and Trade Project since late 2018 with $13 million of credit and grants from the World Bank and the trust fund. The project works to improve the processes required to start and operate a business, and to reduce the costs of doing business in Laos. Measures to lower trade costs and facilitate trade flows include streamlining regulations to reduce the time that goods spend at borders. Business Assistance Facility grants are available to help companies improve their competitiveness, while the project also supports improved policy making and transparency, along with stronger public-private policy dialogue.

According to H.E. Somchith Inthamith, Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce, “the new financing will be used to scale up and extend activities under the original project, such as decreasing the time required for goods to clear customs, and increasing the ability of our producers to connect to markets. Additional resources will be used to help new Lao firms set up, and aid existing companies seeking grants to mitigate the impact of COVID-19”.

Mariam Sherman, Country Director for the World Bank in Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos, said that over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the country has faced significant economic stress, especially considering the effects of the crisis on important trade partners. “This project has been prepared with urgency”, she said. “It can help the Lao government accelerate policy changes and regulatory reforms that will improve the ease of doing business, facilitate trade, and support company competitiveness. Such reforms will help Lao firms weather shocks, increase their ability to do business on the ground, and provide access to international markets for necessary inputs and outputs”.

The Lao Competitiveness and Trade Multi-Donor Trust Fund is a continuing effort to improve the efficiency of development assistance for trade in the Lao PDR, by pooling resources from the World Bank, Australia, and Ireland for increased efficiency of implementation, reduced transactions costs and greater impact on-the-ground.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank Group has committed over $125 billion to fight the health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic, the fastest and largest crisis response in its history. The financing is helping more than 100 countries strengthen pandemic preparedness, protect the poor and jobs, and jump start a climate-friendly recovery. The Bank is also providing $12 billion to help low- and middle-income countries purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.

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