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OECD joins with Japan to fight financial crime by establishing new academy

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OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría and Japan’s Minister of Finance Taro Aso presided today over a signing ceremony to establish a new centre of the OECD International Academy for Tax Crime Investigation in Wako, Japan.

The signing, which took place in the margins of the meeting of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, establishes the OECD Asia-Pacific Academy for Tax and Financial Crime Investigation. The Academy will be housed at the Wako Campus of the National Tax College, part of the National Tax Agency of Japan. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Commissioner of Japan’s National Tax Agency Takeshi Fujii and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

The OECD Asia-Pacific Academy for Tax and Financial Crime Investigation will provide intensive capacity-building courses for tax crime investigators and related law enforcement officials, including prosecutors, judges and anti-money laundering and anti-corruption officials- from Asia-Pacific countries. This will include broad-based courses on conducting and managing financial crime investigations (including digital forensics) as well as targeted courses on combatting specific types of tax and financial crimes, such as those associated with money laundering and VAT fraud.

“The Academy in Japan will draw together experts from the region, and allow them to work together in the fight against financial crime,” Mr Gurría said. “In doing so, it will strengthen not only the capacity of individual countries, but those of the whole region and beyond. We thank Japan for their generous contribution to making this initiative possible. We look forward to ensuring that the Academy trains and strengthens the capacity of tax crime investigators and law enforcement officials.”

Illicit financial flows, including those that derive from tax evasion and other financial crimes, have a large cost to government budgets and threaten the strategic, political and economic interests of all countries, with a particularly damaging impact in developing countries. These activities thrive in a climate of secrecy, inadequate legal frameworks, lax regulation, poor enforcement and weak inter-agency co-operation. Programmes offered by the OECD Asia-Pacific Academy for Tax and Financial Crime Investigation will be an important contribution to the wider work of the OECD Oslo Dialogue, which promotes a whole-of-government approach to fighting financial crime.

The establishment of the OECD Asia Academy for Tax and Financial Crime Investigation builds on the success of similar initiatives in other regions: the OECD International Academy for Tax Crime Investigation hosted by the Guardia di Finanza in Ostia, Italy; a pilot Africa Academy for Tax and Financial Crime Investigation launched by the OECD, Kenya, Italy and Germany following the G20 Africa Partnership conference in June 2017; and the OECD Latin America Academy for Tax and Financial Crime Investigation hosted by Argentina’s Federal Administration of Public Revenues in Buenos Aires since June 2018. Together, these efforts have trained more than 700 financial investigators from over 90 countries.

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EU and Singapore launch Digital Partnership

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EU and Singapore are strengthening their cooperation as strategic partners. Following the announcement of a new Digital Partnership between the EU and Singapore by President von der Leyen and Prime Minister Lee at the EU-ASEAN summit in December 2022, Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton and Singapore Minister of Industry and Trade S Iswaran signed a Digital Partnership that will strengthen cooperation between the EU and Singapore on digital technology areas. Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis and Minister Iswaran also signed Digital Trade Principles. A key deliverable of the Digital Partnership, the Principles seek to facilitate the free flow of goods and services in the digital economy, while upholding privacy.

The EU-Singapore Digital Partnership reflects the dynamic relation the EU has built with an open and outward-oriented economy and a vibrant logistics and financial hub in South-East Asia. Both sides have agreed to work together on critical areas such as semiconductors, trusted data flows and data innovation, digital trust, standards, digital trade facilitation, digital skills for workers, and the digital transformation of businesses and public services. This Partnership is in line with the 2030 Digital Compass, the European way for the Digital Decade and represents another key step in the implementation of the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.

The Digital Partnership will, for example:

  • Enhance research cooperation in cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and semiconductors;
  • Promote cooperation in regulatory approaches such as in the field of AI and Electronic Identification (eID);
  •  Foster investments in resilient and sustainable digital infrastructures, including data centres and submarine telecommunications cables for connectivity between the EU and Southeast Asia;
  • Ensure trusted cross border data flows in compliance with data protection rules and other public policy objectives;
  • Promote information exchange and cooperation in the field of cybersecurity;
  • Build alliances in international organisations and standardisation fora;
  • Facilitate digital trade, including by working towards joint projects such as paperless trading, electronic invoicing, electronic payments, electronic transactions framework.

Following the signature of the Partnership, an inaugural Digital Partnership Council was held, which set the priority areas of cooperation for the year ahead. It was co-chaired by Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton and Singapore Minister of Industry and Trade S Iswaran. Singapore and the EU agreed on key priorities of implementation for 2023: exploring common approaches in e-identification and in Artificial Intelligence governance as well as working on projects to facilitate digital trade and SME’s digital transformation.

The signature of the Digital Trade Principles represents a first tangible outcome of our digital partnership and a key step in the implementation of the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.  The principles demonstrate that the EU and Singapore share the same commitment to an open, fair and competitive digital economy, without unjustified trade barriers.

Background

The EU-Singapore Digital Partnership is the third signed with key partners in Asia. The first digital partnership was concluded in May 2022 with Japan during the 28th EU-Japan Summit, and the second with the Republic of Korea in November 2022. The Partnerships establish an annual high-level meeting – the Digital Partnership Council – led by Commissioner Breton on the EU side and the relevant Minister for each of the three partner countries. The Digital Partnership Councils provide the political steer, set the priorities for implementation and take stock of the progress achieved.

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The Green Deal Industrial Plan: putting Europe’s net-zero industry in the lead

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Commission presents a Green Deal Industrial Plan to enhance the competitiveness of Europe’s net-zero industry and support the fast transition to climate neutrality. The Plan aims to provide a more supportive environment for the scaling up of the EU’s manufacturing capacity for the net-zero technologies and products required to meet Europe’s ambitious climate targets.

The Plan builds on previous initiatives and relies on the strengths of the EU Single Market, complementing ongoing efforts under the European Green Deal and REPowerEU. It is based on four pillars: a predictable and simplified regulatory environment, speeding up access to finance, enhancing skills, and open trade for resilient supply chains.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “We have a once in a generation opportunity to show the way with speed, ambition and a sense of purpose to secure the EU’s industrial lead in the fast-growing net-zero technology sector. Europe is determined to lead the clean tech revolution. For our companies and people, it means turning skills into quality jobs and innovation into mass production, thanks to a simpler and faster framework. Better access to finance will allow our key clean tech industries to scale up quickly.”

A predictable and simplified regulatory environment

The first pillar of the plan is about a simpler regulatory framework.

The Commission will propose a Net-Zero Industry Act to identify goals for net-zero industrial capacity and provide a regulatory framework suited for its quick deployment, ensuring simplified and fast-track permitting, promoting European strategic projects, and developing standards to support the scale-up of technologies across the Single Market.

The framework will be complemented by the Critical Raw Materials Act, to ensure sufficient access to those materials, like rare earths, that are vital for manufacturing key technologies, and the reform of the electricity market design, to make consumers benefit from the lower costs of renewables.

Faster access to funding

The second pillar of the plan will speed up investment and financing for clean tech production in Europe. Public financing, in conjunction with further progress on the European Capital Markets Union, can unlock the huge amounts of private financing required for the green transition. Under competition policy, the Commission aims to guarantee a level playing field within the Single Market while making it easier for the Member States to grant necessary aid to fast-track the green transition. To that end, in order to speed up and simplify aid granting, the Commission will consult Member States on an amended Temporary State aid Crisis and Transition Framework and it will revise the General Block Exemption Regulation in light of the Green Deal, increasing notification thresholds for support for green investments. Among others, this will contribute to further streamline and simplify the approval of IPCEI-related projects.

The Commission will also facilitate the use of existing EU funds for financing clean tech innovation, manufacturing and deployment. The Commission is also exploring avenues to achieve greater common financing at EU level to support investments in manufacturing of net-zero technologies, based on an ongoing investment needs assessment. The Commission will work with Member States in the short term, with a focus on REPowerEU, InvestEU and the Innovation Fund, on a bridging solution to provide fast and targeted support. For the mid-term, the Commission intends to give a structural answer to the investment needs, by proposing a European Sovereignty Fund in the context of the review of the Multi-annual financial framework before summer 2023.

To help Member States’ access the REPowerEU funds, the Commission has today adopted new guidance on recovery and resilience plans, explaining the process of modifying existing plans and the modalities for preparing REPowerEU chapters.

Enhancing skills

As between 35% and 40% of all jobs could be affected by the green transition, developing the skills needed for well-paid quality jobs will be a priority for the European Year of Skills, and the third pillar of the plan will focus on it.

To develop the skills for a people centred green transition the Commission will propose to establish Net-Zero Industry Academies to roll out up-skilling and re-skilling programmes in strategic industries. It will also consider how to combine a ‘Skills-first’ approach, recognising actual skills, with existing approaches based on qualifications, and how to facilitate access of third country nationals to EU labour markets in priority sectors, as well as measures to foster and align public and private funding for skills development.

Open trade for resilient supply chains

The fourth pillar will be about global cooperation and making trade work for the green transition, under the principles of fair competition and open trade, building on the engagements with the EU’s partners and the work of the World Trade Organization. To that end, the Commission will continue to develop the EU’s network of Free Trade Agreements and other forms of cooperation with partners to support the green transition. It will also explore the creation of a Critical Raw Materials Club, to bring together raw material ‘consumers’ and resource-rich countries to ensure global security of supply through a competitive and diversified industrial base, and of Clean Tech/Net-Zero Industrial Partnerships.  

The Commission will also protect the Single Market from unfair trade in the clean tech sector and will use its instruments to ensure that foreign subsidies do not distort competition in the Single Market, also in the clean-tech sector.

Background

The European Green Deal, presented by the Commission on 11 December 2019, sets the goal of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The European Climate Law enshrines in binding legislation the EU’s commitment to climate neutrality and the intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

In the transition to a net-zero economy, Europe’s competitiveness will strongly rely on its capacity to develop and manufacture the clean technologies that make this transition possible.

The European Green Deal Industrial Plan was announced by President von der Leyen in her speech at to the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2023 as the initiative for the EU to sharpen its competitive edge through clean-tech investment and continue leading on the path to climate neutrality. It responds to the invitation by the European Council for the Commission to make proposals by the end of January 2023 to mobilise all relevant national and EU tools and improve framework conditions for investment, with a view to ensuring EU’s resilience and competitiveness.

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World News

Russia restored Syrian air base for joint use

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Jarrah Base, Syria (Photo Credit: TASS)

Russia and Syria have restored the ‘Al-Jarrah’ military air base in Syria’s north to be jointly used, Russia’s Defence Ministry said.

“Russian and Syrian military personnel restored the destroyed al-Jarrah airfield,” the ministry said on the Telegram messaging. “The joint basing of aviation of the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Air Force at the al-Jarrah airfield makes it possible to cover the state border.”

The small base east of Aleppo was recaptured from Islamic State fighters in 2017.

Russia has been a dominant military force in Syria since launching air strikes and ground operations there in 2015. It further asserted its presence after the United States pulled out its forces in 2019.

The conflict in Syria, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced millions and drawn in regional and world powers, has entered into a second decade, although fighting is at a lower intensity than in earlier years, writes ‘The National’ from Abu Dhabi, UAE.

With backing from Russia and Iran, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s government has recovered most of its territory.

Turkish-backed opposition fighters still control a pocket in the north-west, and Kurdish fighters backed by the US also control territory near the Turkish border.

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