On May 8, 2018, President Donald J. Trump announced that The United States would unilaterally withdraw from the July 2015 JCPOA Treaty.
The P5 + 1 Treaty had defined a strong limitation of Iran’s production of fissile material, in exchange for a partial lifting of trade sanctions, not only in the oil sector.
On November 5, 2018, the USA reintroduced a vast series of sanctions against Iran, with the obvious and immediate effect of pushing the Brent barrel price to 73.17 US dollars.
It should be recalled that the Brent Crude is one of the three oil price benchmarks, which derives from the trading criteria of the oil extracted in the North Sea, for which there are other types such as Forties, Osemberg and Ekofisk, known with the generic name of BFOE.
Brent is the easiest oil to refine and also to transport and is therefore the most commercialized type.
The other benchmarks are the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and the Dubai-Oman. But there are also others, which are less widespread and commercialized.
Hence the criterion of US sanctions against Iran – which have never been so harsh – is eminently political.
This happens despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – the UN agency located in Vienna, which monitors the proper implementation of the JCPOA, from which the USA has unilaterally walked out -maintains that, before the US withdrawal, Iran did not infringe the rules of the 2015 agreement on the extraction and production of enriched uranium and plutonium.
Therefore the United States wants to reach an economic crisis of such intensity that the Iranian people themselves cannot fail to turn against the Shiite regime to overthrow it definitively.
Hence an “Arab spring” in a non-Arab country, triggered not by returning jihadists – as happened in Cyrenaica against Gaddafi’s Libya – but by a very severe economic crisis.
What if the oil sale crisis triggered a new production mechanism in Iran? And what if the energy geopolitics of Central Asia were not so prone to US wishes?
As certified by the International Monetary Fund, Iran went into recession precisely because of renewed US sanctions.
Can we believe that, in the Internet era, the Iranian people do not know it?
Vaste programme en effet, as General De Gaulle used to say. A vast program indeed was the one of the “Arab spring” induced by the economic crisis – like all the others, which failed miserably. As demonstrated by Germany in the 1930s, by the USA after 1929, by Italy after the Euro, by Argentina after Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo and by many other dollarized and later abandoned countries, the political effects of a severe recession are never predictable.
President Trump and his ruling class said they wanted “to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero”.
Well, but how? Preventing the USA, China, Russia and India from buying the Iranian oil, right now that oil contracts denominated in renmimbi are starting in China – some of them precisely with Iran?
What would happen if – as history has taught us, even recently – the people united even more with the Iranian political elite?
This could also happen, considering that the sanctions enable the Iranian Shiite regime to become the only de facto distributor of prebends, income and support for all the Iranian crowds.
Only with tolerance for the parallel shadow economy, which is already thriving in Iran, can the Shiite regime stay in power without much trouble.
On top of it, the project of the Iranian Shiite regime could be to widen the already great divide between Europe and the United States, so as to later use the EU to avoid the US sanctions altogether.
France, Germany and Great Britain have recently registered a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to avoid the US sanctions.
How does this SPV work? In essence, it is a company specialized in a securitization operation.
The SPV becomes the transferee of groups of homogeneous securities to be allocated to the service of what it issues to fund the operation itself.
The INstrument in Support of Trade EXchanges (INSTEX) concretely operates to provide services that favour trade between the EU and Iran.
It is not a bank, but it coordinates all EU payments to Iran, given that the Iranian exporters want and buy Euros to trade, obviously, with the EU, but the European banks are very reluctant to accept Euro funds originated in Iran.
Considering that the US sanctions affect anyone who trades with Iran, the EU banks are in fact afraid of being totally excluded from the North American market, as would actually be the case according to the rules recently enacted by President Trump.
Certainly the European States, which are always so fearful of the USA, even when it would not be needed, have not set up such a company for nothing.
And indeed, in early 2017, European food exports to Iran were worth 298 million euros, while EU similar imports from Iran totaled 292 million euros.
EU medicine exports amounted to 951 million euros and imports were slightly lower.
In short, INSTEX should work well, although for small amounts. However it will operate, above all, as a mask for EU contracts with Iran and as supplier of euros to Iran, after the creation of derivatives.
Will this be enough? We do not believe it.
But let us revert to oil.
With the new US sanction regime, the United States has accepted – with a six-month renewal to be negotiated at each expiry date – that only six countries can still buy oil and its by-products from Iran.
These countries are China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India, Turkey, Greece and Italy.
Italy – a diligent child with some need for US funding and political support to avoid being sanctioned – has already canceled purchases from Iran.
Iraq hasalso been given a specific 90-day time limit, as from March 2019, to keep on buying energy from Iran, considering the stable electricity and energy crisis in that country.
It should be recalled that, in 2017, the above mentioned six countries received over 75% of Iranian oil and by-products exports of that year. Nevertheless, after the second cycle of US sanctions, only three countries have continued to buy much oil from Iran, namely Turkey, China and India.
Thus Iranian oil production fell from 3.8 million barrels a day in May 2018 to 2.7 million barrels a day in December 2018.
We will analyze the current data, which has strong geopolitical relevance.
Cui prodest? Probably only Russia.
In all likelihood, the growth of oil exports requested to OPEC by President Trump will be accepted both by Saudi Arabia, which always needs to sell, and – above all – by the Russian Federation, which follows the fluctuations of the Saudi OPEC and also needs to cash fresh liquidity quickly.
Japan, however, is satisfied with the pace of oil imports from Russia.
Furthermore, China is also right in expecting an increase in Russian natural gas imports via the “Power of Siberia” pipeline.
We cannot still rule out the possibility of a further pipeline bringing Russian gas from the North, through North Korea, to South Korea.
Another piece of the Iranian puzzle, given the excellent relations between North Korea and Iran – also at military level.
The bank assets frozen as a result of the current US sanctions are above all 1.9 billion US dollars of the Central Bank of Iran in US banks, as well as additional 50 million US dollars strictly owned by diplomats. Also the proceeds of the British Assa Company, which controls the interests and stakes of Bank Melli in New York, are still frozen in the United States, with many real estate properties owned in various US States, as well as the funds to compensate the victims of Iranian terrorism – an asset which is worth 46 billion dollars.
After the second and current cycle of sanctions, in the USA there are still 38 entities, mainly dealing with oil and gas, which are officially and collectively named Execution of Imam Khomeini Order (EIKO).
However, the “policy line” of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards that dominate much of the Iranian economy is still in place.
It should be recalled that the Pasdaran policy line is to widen the economic and political gap between the EU and the USA.
In fact, shortly the Iranian government will announce that it has granted to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as many as five of the seven oil exploration areas not yet officially disclosed.
One of these areas will be a substantial portion of the large oil site of Yadavaran.
With Sinopec, China has already stopped oil exploration in Yadavaran, because it wants Iran to pay all the fines that may possibly be imposed by the USA for any breaking of sanctions.
Obviously the funds coming from the exploitation of the new section of the Yadavaran oil site can be used by the Pasdaran to finance the Hezbollah and all the other Shiite guerrilla activities in the Middle East and in the rest of the world.
It should be recalled that the Pasdaran control as many as 27 Iranian oil companies and the Revolutionary Guards’ network also controls as many as 200 Iranian companies, which have many different goals.
The idea of the above mentioned European “vehicle” will be the main instrument of the Pasdaran operation on oil and natural gas.
They will accumulate euros in the EU importers’ coffers to reach such a level of EU currency to be received in bilateral trade as to stimulate Iran’s economy, including the oil-based one.
From the substitution of imports to the substitution of the trading currency – this is the Revolutionary Guards’ project.
The EU, however, has always maintained that Iran has never broken the terms of the JCPOA Treaty and this is what also CIA states.
The triangular trading system, however, has already been organized.
The USA has promised Germany – the actual EU leader – that, if Europe accepts US sanctions on Iranian oil, it will never impose sanctions on Iran’s natural gas, which is also the EU’s real commercial target.
Hence if the gas and petchem trade between Iran and the EU increases, the likelihood of a US military attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran will decrease proportionally, unless the USA materially closes the strategic route of the Iranian oil and gas trade, namely the Strait of Hormuz.
Otherwise, the way out for Iran would be standard sales to Russia, with a 50 billion US dollars of annual payments by the latter, to have preference over Iran’s entire oil and gas sector, as well as increase military collaboration, and finally achieve Russia’s de facto control over Iran’s oil and gas production.
Iranian exports, however, keep on rising.
In March, Iranian oil exports reached 1.7 million barrels a day, with a 70% increase compared to the previous three months.
The peak was reached in April 2019, with 2.8 million barrels a day – an average of 2.4 million crude oil barrels per month over the previous three months.
One of the main reasons for this peak in Iran’s oil is the Chinese demand – oil that China can now buy at a discount thanks to the US sanctions.
With the second cycle of US sanctions China is allowed to buy 360,000 crude oil barrels.
Obviously it will continue to buy what it needs even after the US sanctions being fully effective.
However – as the Saudi intelligence services claim -whatever happens, at the end of the sanction regime, the reduction in Iranian oil sales is expected to be40% on oil and by-products.
This is a minimum, but stable limit for the Iranian Shiite regime to stay afloat.
But this will not substantially change the relations between the Shiite government and the big crude oil importers that will still be able to change, divert and silence the new US sanctions.
Future Economy: Micro-Manufacturing & Micro-Exports
Recovery now forces economies to emerge as dynamic entrepreneurial landscapes; today, the massively displaced working citizenry of the world may not return to old jobs, but with little help slowly shifting towards entrepreneurial startups as new frontiers to create economic independence and increased local grassroots prosperity. Today, the latest global influences of trendy entrepreneurialism optimizing available options like high quality “Micro-Manufacturing” and high value added “Micro-Exporting” now common discussions on the main streets of the world. Although, this is not an easy task, but still very doable for so many and promises local uplifts. Smart nations are awakening to such bold notions and entrepreneurial driven agencies mandated to foster local economies are using virtual events to rise up with global rhythm and rich contents.
Therefore, the blueprints and new models of today on upskilling SME exporters and reskilling for better-designed manufacturing, nation-by-nation and city-by-city are mobilization ready ideas to optimize abandoned talents. Nevertheless, such upskilling and reskilling of masses demands already skilled leadership of most of the gatekeepers of local economic development venues.
Furthermore, global competitiveness has raised the bar and now only high quality value added goods and services traded for the wide-open world. The conveyer belts of technology and zoomerang culture of virtual connectivity flourishes platform economies. Missing are the advanced skills, complex problem solving and most importantly national mobilization of entrepreneurialism on digital platforms of upskilling to foster innovative excellence and exportability. SME and Startups must advance on global thinking, optimize access, and maximize image and quality superiority to reach the farthest markets with deeper pockets.
This is not an easy task. Methodical progressions needed. Study how Pentiana Project tabled advanced thinking on such trends during the last decade. Export Promotion Agencies, Chambers of Commerce, Trade Associations and most SME and midsize economic developments bodies all called for bold and open debates. For fast track results, follow the trail of silence and help thought leadership to engage in bold and open debates and give them guidance to overcome their fears of transformation.
Small enterprises must now open to new world of 200 nations and 10,000 cites
Micro-Exporters: Upskilling Startups to think like global exporters; the pandemic recoveries across the world coping with a billion displaced all have now critical needs of both upskilling and reskilling. Upskilling is the process of learning new skills to achieve new thinking. Reskilling is the process of learning new skills to achieve new performances. What is exporting, how to start at micro-levels and how to expand globally with technology are new challenges and promising options.
Micro-Manufacturers: Reskilling Startups to think like smart manufacturers; the real goals for startups to enlarge and base thinking on reskilling for “real value creation” becomes mandatory. How to start by thinking better, design quality with creative global age strategies and advance? Advanced Manufacturing Clusters in various nations will greatly help, but understanding of global-age expansion of value offerings with fine production is a new art and commercialization to 200 nations a new science.
The future of economies, The arrival of Virtual leadership and Zoomerang culture is a gift from pandemic recovery, although at infancy, the sector will not only grow but also alter global commerce for good. Once successful the traditional advertising and marketing models dying, direct access live interaction is now far superior to mass-mailing and social media screaming. The zoomerang impact of global thought leadership now forcing institutions to become armchair Keynote speakers and Panelists to deliberate wisdom from the comfort of their homes round the clock events has arrived.
The Difficult Questions: Nation-by-nation,when 50% of frontline teams need ‘upskilling’ often 50% of the back-up teams need ‘reskilling’ so how do you open discussions leading to workable and productive programs? Each stage challenges competency levels and each stage offers options to up-skill for better performances. Talent gaps need fast track closing and global-age skills need widening. New flat hierarchical models provide wide-open career paths and higher performance rewards in post pandemic recovery phases. When executed properly such exercises match new skills and talents with the right targeted challenges of the business models and market conditions. The ultimate objective of “extreme value creation” in any enterprise must eliminate the practices of ‘extreme value manipulations”.
First Three Steps: In order to mobilize a startups revolution along with a small medium business economy, start by identifying 1000 to 10,000 high enterprises anxious to grow for national global markets. To quadruple exportability, select a small leadership team, from local trade Associations, Economic Development Bodies and Chambers of Commerce responsive to calls of upskilling and reskilling as critical steps. Suggest roundtable discussions to reach local, national or global audiences to spread the message. Explore such superior level debates to mobilize local businesses. Most importantly, such mobilizations are not new funding dependent they are deployment hungry and execution starved. Futurism is workless, uplifting mental powers towards better value-added production of goods and services will save economies. Optimize zoomerang culture and use virtual events to raise the bar on thought leadership. The world is moving fast and best to join the pace.
The rest is easy
Portugal’s crisis management: “Economic patriotism” should not be tied to ideological beliefs
The economic policy of the Hungarian government has provoked fierce criticism in the last decade, as it deviated from the neoliberal mainstream and followed a patriotic path, putting Hungarian interests in the foreground. While many link this style of political economy to the conservative position of the Orbán-government, in Portugal, a left-wing administration followed a similarly patriotic line to overcome the symptoms of the Eurozone crisis, showcasing that economic patriotism is not tied to ideologies, but is merely responsible thinking.
The catastrophic path of austerity
According to the theory of austerity, the government by implying austerity measures, “puts its finances in order”, hence the state does not become indebted and consequently investors’ confidence in the economy returns. However, if we think about what we really mean by austerity (tax increases, wage cuts, budget constraints, etc.), even the theory itself sounds counterproductive. Not surprisingly, this theoretical counter productivity has been demonstrated in practice in several cases.
One of the best examples is the case of Portugal, which along with Greece and other Southern-European nations was probably hit the hardest by the financial crunch. While all of the “GIPS” (Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain) entered a steer recession, Portugal somehow managed to overcome it more successfully than its regional peers, but before that, it felt the bitter taste of neoliberal structural reforms.
Although the case of Portugal was not as traumatic as the ones of its Southern-European counterparts, in order to keep its debt under control, stabilize its banks and introduce “growth-friendly” reforms, Lisbon negotiated a € 78 billion bailout package in 2011, in exchange for a rigid austerity program aimed at the 2011-2014 period, orchestrated by the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB), the infamous “Troika”.
The neoliberal recipe did not differ much from that of Greece, and the then ruling Passos Coelho conservative government faithfully followed the structural reforms demanded by the “group of three”: working hours increased, number of bank holidays fell, holiday bonuses were abolished, wages and pensions have also been cut by 20 per cent, while public spending on health and education was drastically cut, and due to escalating privatizations, public assets have also been sold off quickly.
Despite the fact that by 2014 the country’s budget deficit as a share of the GDP had fallen to 4.5 per cent from the staggering11.2 per cent recorded in 2011 and the current account showed a surplus – as domestic demand fell apart, forcing companies to export –Portugal was still on the brink of social and economic collapse.
Public debt soared to more than 130 per cent of the GDP, tens of thousands of businesses went bankrupt, unemployment rose to 17 per cent and skyrocketed to 40 per cent amongst the youth. As a result, many talented Portuguese fled abroad, with an estimated 150,000 nationals emigrating in a single year.
The post-2015 turnaround
Things only began to change in 2015, when the Portuguese elected Anotnio Costa as Prime Minister, who was the mayor of Lisbon under the years of the crunch. Shortly after his election, Merkel encouraged the center-left politician to follow the neoliberal prescription proposed by the “Troika”, while her Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, underlined that Portugal would make a “serious mistake” if it decided not to follow the neoliberal doctrine and would eventually be forced to negotiate another rescue package.
Not being intimidated by such “threats”, Costa ditched austerity without hesitation, restored working hours, cut taxes and raised the minimum wage by 20 percent in the course of just two years. Obviously, his unpopular position made him crush with Brussels, as his government allowed the budget deficit to reach 4.4 per cent, compared to the agreed 2.7 per cent target. However, in May 2016, the Commission granted Costa another year to comply, and since then Portugal has consistently exceeded its deficit targets.
Tourism also largely assisted the post-15 recovery, to which the government placed great emphasis, so that in 2017 the number of visitors rose to a record high, reaching 12.7 million. Concurrently, Portugal has significantly improved the international reputation of its businesses and products, which contributed to increasing the country’s export revenues and attracting foreign investment.
Furthermore, Costa has raised social spending and at the same time planned to invest state revenues in transport, environmental infrastructure and energy, initiatives that could be extremely beneficial, as they would not only significantly improve the country’s sustainability, but also boost job creation, something that yet again indicates how important public investment is to an economy.
Additionally, Portugal has become an undervalued tech-hub, with plenty of start-ups offering good employment opportunities in addition to fostering innovation. The government with several initiatives, seeks to create a business-friendly ecosystem for them, under which they can thrive and boost the economy to the largest extent. It is thus not surprising, that Portugal has been the fastest growing country in Europe when it comes to the number of programmers.
Finally, one of the Costa’s top priorities, has been to lure back emigrated Portuguese who moved abroad during the crisis. To this end, tax cuts are offered to Portuguese citizens who choose to return home.
In a sum, since Costa stepped into office, Portugal has undergone a rapid recovery: economic growth has returned, unemployment has fallen radically, the public debt was also set on a downgrading path, while the budget remained well-balanced despite the increased spending, with Costa himself explaining that “sound public accounts are compatible with social cohesion”. Even Schäuble acknowledged Portugal’scrisis management, by actually calling Mário Centeno – the finance minister of the Costa government – the “Cristiano Ronaldo” of finance ministers.
Of course, not everything is bright and wonderful, as the country has emerged from a large crisis, the effects of which cannot be eliminated in just a few years. Public debt is still amongst the highest in the EU and several other challenges lie ahead for the South-European nation, especially by taking into consideration that the world economy just entered yet another crisis.
Furthermore, according to many, it was not Costa who led the recovery, but Portugal passively benefited from a strong recovery in Europe, falling oil prices, an explosion in tourism and a sharp drop in debt repayment costs. Indeed, it has to be taken into account that Portugal entered the recession in a relatively better position than many of its spatial counterparts and the relatively high quality of its domestic institutional infrastructure and policy-adaptation capacity aided the previous government to efficiently complete the memorandum of understanding (MoU) as early as 2015. Nevertheless, this is not a sufficient reason to discredit the post-2015 government’s efforts and justify the harsh austerity measures implied by the Troika. Taking into account that austerity never really provided decent results, it becomes evident that Costa’s policies were quite effective.
Economic patriotism should not be connected to ideologies
While in the case of Hungary and Poland “economic patriotism” has been fiercely criticized despite its prosperous results, this spite tendency has been an outcome of strong politicization in economic policy analysis. Even though the political context is verily important, it is also crucial to interpret economic policy independently, in order to take away valuable lessons and identify mistakes. Political bias is not a fortunate thing, as it is absolute and nullifies debate and hence development.
The case of Portugal is a perfect example, as it provides sound evidence, that a patriotic economic policy can be exercised by governments from all across the political spectrum and that the notion should not be connected to political and ideological beliefs. The left-wing Costa-government with its policy-making demonstrated that a solution always exists and that requires a brave, strong and decisive government, that pursues its own plan in the interests of the ‘patrie’, regardless of its positioning.
The Question Of Prosperity
Galloping economic woes, prejudice, injustice, poverty, low literacy rate, gender disparity and women rights, deteriorating health system, corruption, nepotism, terrorism, political instability, insecure property rights, looming energy crisis and various other similar hindrances constrain any state or country to be retrograded. Here questions arise that how do these obstacles take place? How do they affect the prosperity of any country? No history, geography, or culture spawns them. Simply the answer is institutions that a country possesses.
Institutions ramify into two types: inclusive and extractive. Inclusive political institutions make power broadly distributed in country or state and constrain its arbitrary exercise. Such political institutions also make it harder for others to usurp rights and undermine the cornerstone of inclusive institutions, which create inclusive economic institutions that feature secure property rights, an unbiased system of law, and a provision of public services that provide a level playing field in which people can exchange and contract; it also permits the entry of new businesses and allow people to choose their career. On the contrary, extractive political institutions accord clout in hands of few narrow elite and they have few constrains to exert their clout and engineer extractive economic institutions that can specifically benefit few people of the ruling elite or few people in the country.
Inclusive institutions are proportional to the prosperity and social and economic development. Multifarious countries in the world are great examples of this. Taking North and South Korea; both countries garnered their sovereignty in same year 1945, but they adopted different ways to govern the countries. North Korea under the stewardship of Kim Il-sung established dictatorship by 1947, and rolled out a rigid form of centrally planned economy as part of the so-called Juche system; private property was outlawed, markets were banned, and freedoms were curtailed not only in marketplace but also in every sphere of North Korea’s lives- besides those who used to be part of the very small ruling elite around Kim Il-sung and later his son and his successor Kim Jong-Il. Contrariwise, South Korea was led and its preliminary politico-economic institutions were orchestrated by the Harvard and Princeton-educated. Staunchly anticommunist Rhee and his successor General Park Chung-Hee secured their places in history as authoritarian presidents, but both governed a market economy where private property was recognised. After 1961, Park effectively taken measures that caused the state behind rapid economic growth; he established inclusive institutions which encouraged investment and trade. South Korean politicians prioritised to invest in most crucial segment of advancement that is education. South Korean companies were quick to take advantage of educated population; the policies encouraged investment and industrialisation, exports and the transfer of technology. South Korea quickly became a “Miracle Economy” and one of the most rapidly growing nations of the world. Just in fifty years there was conspicuous distinction between both countries not because of their culture, geography, or history but only due to institutions both countries had adopted.
Moreover, another model to gauge role of institutions in prosperity is comparison of Nogales of US and Mexico. US Nogales earn handsome annual income; they are highly educated; they possess up to the mark health system with high life expectancy by global standards; they are facilitated with better infrastructure, low crime rate, privilege to vote and safety of life. By contrast, the Mexican Nogales earn one-third of annual income of US Nogales; they have low literacy rate, high rate of infant mortality; they have roads in bad condition, law and order in worse condition, high crime rate and corruption. Here also the institutions formed by the Nogales of both countries are main reason for the differences in economic prosperity on the two sides of the border.
Similarly, Pakistan tackles with issues of institutions. Mostly, pro-colonial countries are predominantly inheritors of unco extractive politico-economic institutions, and colonialism is perhaps germane to Pakistan’s tailoring of institutions. Regretfully, Pakistan is inherited with colossally extractive institutions at birth. The new elite, comprising civilian-military complex and handful aristocrats, has managed to prolong colonial-era institutional legacy, which has led Pakistan to political instability, consequently, political instability begot inadequacy of incentives which are proportional to retro gradation of the country.
Additionally, a recent research of Economic Freedom of the World (WEF) by Fraser Institute depicts that the countries with inclusive institutions and most economic freedom are more developed and prosperous than the least economic free countries; countries were divided into four groups. Comparing most free quartile and least free quartile of the countries, the research portrayed that most free quartile earns even nine times more than least free quartile; most free quartile has two times more political and civil rights than least free quartile; most free quartile owes three times less gender disparity than least free quartile; life expectancy tops at 79. 40 years in most free quartile, whereas number stands at 65.20 in least free quartile. To conclude this, the economic freedom is sine quo non for any country to be prosperous, and economic freedom comes from inclusive institutions. Unfortunately, Pakistan has managed to get place in least free quartile.
In a nutshell, the institutions play pivotal role in prosperity and advancement, and are game changer for any country. Thereby, our current government should focus on institutions rather than other issues, so that Pakistan can shine among the world’s better economies. For accomplishing this highly necessary task government should take conducive measures right now.
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