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APEC Needs to Look Beyond Numbers, Bring Concrete Benefits to People

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The current volatility and uncertainty of the international trade environment requires APEC to be dynamic, said Dato’ Sri Norazman Ayob, Deputy Secretary General of Industry of Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

“Integration of the global supply chain carries inherent systemic risk of disruption to domestic economies in the event of a major breakdown along the value chain,” he said during his remarks at a dialogue with stakeholders focused on APEC’s post-2020 vision in Putrajaya on Wednesday. “Businesses would need to constantly reassess their business models to ensure business continuity.”

Notwithstanding, the ever-changing environment requires constant rebalancing measures from regulators and industry players to encourage domestic industrial development to ensure economic growth remains sustainable. 

Norazman argued that as the premier economic forum in the region, APEC needs to realign its priorities to look at economic growth beyond creating equal opportunities and prosperity through trade and investment, “but also tangible benefits to the people.”

He noted that APEC’s goal of free and open trade in the region, otherwise known as the Bogor Goals, has brought integration to the region by reducing trade barriers and addressing regulatory issues.

Average tariffs within APEC have fallen from 17 percent in 1989 to 5.3 percent in 2018. During the same period, APEC’s share of world’s trade increased from 41 percent to 48 percent. APEC economies account for more than 80 percent of Malaysia’s total trade.

“Despite these achievements, we are very much living in a world where uncertainty is the new normal and economies have to be prepared to constantly embrace change in order to survive in the current global environment,” Norazman explained.

One of the key deliverables for Malaysia as the host of APEC this year is to lead the development of the new APEC vision that will guide the forum’s work in the next decades.

Guided by the overarching concept of “Shared Prosperity”, Malaysia plans to introduce initiatives to enable trade and investments to generate concrete outcomes for the people in the region.

According to Norazman, Malaysia will promote the development of the digital economy and encourage effective use of advanced technologies to improve living standards, create equal employment opportunities and achieve a more balanced growth across the region.

“The Post-2020 Vision has to ensure that people are put at the core of the discussion,” he concluded. “A more holistic approach that includes inclusivity, equality and sustainability can be explored in ensuring that no one is left behind.”

Senior Officials from APEC economies will gather in Putrajaya on 21-22 February 2020 to discuss the initiatives and work plans for the year.

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The World Bank Strengthens Support to Argentina’s Most Vulnerable Families

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The World Bank Board of Directors today approved a new US$ 300 million operation to support Argentina’s efforts to strengthen its social protection system and minimize the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable families.

The additional US$300 million in financing for the “Children and Youth Protection Project” seeks to improve coverage of family allowance programs administered by the National Social Security Administration (ANSES) and to accelerate the process to include 350,000 children who are still not covered by the Universal Child Allowance (AUH). It will also support the introduction of improvements in ANSES processes to guarantee continued coverage, especially when a parent loses a formal job.

“We appreciate the support of the World Bank in one of the topics on the agenda of the national government’s strategic priorities, which is to accompany those who have the least. This project advances in that direction,”. said Gustavo Beliz, Argentina’s Strategic Planning Secretary.

“Argentina is struggling with Covid 19, which creates new public investment demands. In response to this difficult health and financial situation, the World Bank is supporting investments to protect the most vulnerable population,” said Jordan Schwartz, World Bank Director for Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. “This financing aims to make the social protection system more inclusive and effective, and to prevent families from slipping into poverty, or assisting them once that has occurred.”

The World Bank has supported the AUH program since it was first implemented in 2009. The program forms part of the broader ANSES family allowance system. This benefit is paid for each child under age 18 whose parents are unemployed or informally employed, or who are independent workers or domestic workers and who earn less than the minimum wage. Currently, more than four million children receive the AUH benefit and nearly nine million are covered by the group of family allowances. Participation in the program has increased beneficiaries’ school attendance and fulfilment of medical checkups.

Since 2016, the “Children and Youth Protection Project” has successfully contributed to closing AUH coverage gaps. Initially, over 1.5 million children could not be included in the eligibility process of ANSES programs – today the challenge is to include the 350,000 remaining children.

The additional project financing is a variable-spread loan with a 32-year maturity period and a seven-year grace period.

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Mongolia: World Bank Mobilizes $2.2 Million to Strengthen Medical Diagnostic Services

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The World Bank mobilized US$2.2 million to help strengthen Mongolia’s hospital services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will be used to purchase the most needed medical diagnostic equipment in the country.

This immediate financing is being provided under the ongoing E-health project which seeks to improve integration and utilization of health information and e-health solutions for better health service delivery in selected pilot sites.

This immediate financing will help Mongolia safeguard its people from the potential COVID-19 outbreak in the country and make sure that they have access to early diagnosis and care,” – said the World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia Andrei Mikhnev.

Diagnostic equipment procured under this funding include 15 stationary and 12 mobile digital X-ray equipment and 41 ultrasound machines. Deliveries are expected in the beginning of April.

“We believe that this additional  equipment would strengthen the country preparedness to deal with disease outbreaks like COVID-19,” – said Dinesh Nair, Senior Health Specialist of the World Bank. “We will continue actively engaging with the government to help strengthen health systems, disease surveillance, and diagnosis.

On March 17, the World Bank Group also    pledged  $14 billion in immediate support to assist countries coping with the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. This financing is designed to help member countries, among them Mongolia, take effective action to respond to, and, where possible, lessen the tragic impacts posed by the global pandemic.

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Peru Will Receive US$ 50M from the World Bank to Strengthen Key Social Protection

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The World Bank Board of Directors today approved a US$ 50 million loan to strengthen key policies and strategies to increase human capital accumulation in Peru, particularly in the most vulnerable social sectors.

The Human Capital Development Program will focus on improving the delivery of social protection and early childhood development services, especially at the local level, and in strengthening professional development and management systems in education. Guaranteeing access to quality social protection, health and education services throughout the lifecycle is crucial for ensuring that individuals can develop the basic knowledge and skills they need to become productive members of society.

Over the past two decades, Peru has sharply reduced its poverty and inequality rates. It has also made significant strides in education and learning, as well as in decreasing chronic malnutrition and in implementing early childhood development policies. Notwithstanding, the country needs to reinforce its investments in human capital to further narrow inequality gaps and to guarantee that prosperity reaches all social sectors.

“The Peruvian government has undertaken the challenge of making multisector efforts to guarantee that all children reach their enormous potential and that they can become key players in the country’s development,” saidMarianne Fay, the World Bank Director forBolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. The World Bank is accompanying Peru in this effort. “We provide technical and financial assistance for development policies that invest in people and that help to unlock and accelerate the generation of human capital, as well as to create synergies in the investments made in early childhood development to maximize results,” she added.

To this end, the program seeks to improve the comprehensive delivery of social protection and early childhood development services, as well as education quality and management. It will also support priority political and institutional reforms in the social sector and the linkage of policies implemented by the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion and the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry of the Economy and Finance will implement the program using a multisectoral and territorial approach, in close coordination with the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion and the Ministry of Education.

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