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A UN-backed boost for women-run businesses in the developing world

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A client in Cambodia supported by IIX’s WLB1 (Women’s Livelihood Bond 1)., by Impact Investment Exchange. Photo: UN

Many women running small businesses in emerging markets in developing countries have to juggle their business objectives with family obligations and personal savings goals. By supporting a women-focused bond providing loans to microfinance institutions and impact enterprises, the UN is helping women entrepreneurs facing similar challenges, to succeed in their professional and private lives.

Sokkheng, who runs a village store in Cambodia with her husband, lacked confidence when it comes to choosing the best approach to reinvest in her business, potentially making her vulnerable to economic and financial risks.

Today, her prospects have markedly improved, thanks to the support of a microfinance institution with a history of promoting the well-being of rural society, backed by a loan from the world’s first financial product focused on women to be listed on a stock exchange; the product is called the Women’s Livelihood Bond Series (WLB Series) and has been launched by Impact Investment Exchange (IIX).

Microfinance, major impact

The microfinance company approved a microloan for Sokkheng’s store and, crucially, provided expert financial advice. According to a UN-backed study, around 89 per cent of Cambodian adults find it challenging to manage their personal finances.

Financial education is an important way to ensure that more people can establish savings priorities, spend in a smarter way and, crucially for women entrepreneurs such as Sokkheng, feel more fully informed when they take out loans or look for other forms of financial support.

Armed with the information she received, Sokkheng now has better cash management knowledge, helping her to improve the profitability of her business. She also signed up for microinsurance, which now provide her with additional economic security in times of emergencies.

Forging stronger bonds

The microfinance institution that helped Sokkheng has been able to scale up its operations and help more women borrowers, thanks to IIX’s WLB1, the first in a series of gender bonds, listed on the Singapore Exchange. IIX’s WLB Series is designed to create sustainable livelihoods for some two million women in Cambodia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India.

Following the success of the first bond, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), have partnered to provide support for the second bond in the series.

This support came in the form of a grant to help IIX to undertake impact monitoring and to help scale up the WLB Series.

The second WLB (WLB2), a $12 million bond, focuses on supporting 250,000 women in the region: capital is lent to several microfinance institutions and impact enterprises (companies which look to make a positive impact to society, alongside making a profit), chosen because they improve women’s access to finance, essential goods, assets that generate income, and vocational training.

Commenting on the launch of the second bond, Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, said “we are proud to announce our partnership with IIX’s Women’s Livelihood Bond Series, which embodies the bold innovations that are needed to advance progress for the world’s poorest communities.”

Judith Karl, Executive Secretary of UNCDF, said, “We are excited to work with IIX, ESCAP, the Rockefeller Foundation and other key partners to demonstrate that viable investment vehicles can be created to attract finance from the international capital markets to the countries and people that need it most.”

Life for Sokkheng and her family has been transformed by IIX and microfinance: her business has expanded, and her household income has grown. She can now set aside savings every month, and look forward to a comfortable, and secure retirement.

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Turkish Airlines and Turkish Cargo Rise to the Top Amid Pandemic

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M. İlker Aycı, Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee of Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines successfully ended the fiscal year 2020 with 6.7 billion USD revenue, which accounts for 50% of the preceding year’s level, with a net loss of only 836 million USD. During these uncertain times, the airline was also able to maintain its robust route network. According to Eurocontrol, in April 2021 Turkish Airlines operated an average of 685 flights per day – almost double the number of the closest competitor in Europe, Lufthansa. In 2020, Turkish Airlines flew 28 million passengers, with an impressive load factor of 71%. Currently, the airline serves 179 international destinations with 16 intercountry and 58 intercontinental flights. The new Istanbul Airport also stayed on top: even with a 68% loss of traffic, it was still Europe’s most successful airport as of March 2021, with 616 departing and arriving flights.

This success is based on cost cutting activities, capex reduction and active capacity management. In fact, Turkish Airlines achieved such performance without relying on any governmental cash injections. Furthermore, agreements with Boeing and Airbus on fleet growth will further decrease the aircraft financing needs of Turkish Airlines by around 7 billion USD in the coming years.

“Our success as the best performing flag-carrier airline in Europe is not coincidental. Apart from the multiple measures we took, we owe this success to our dedicated staff. While other airlines faced layoffs, we did not part ways with any of our colleagues during this process. Instead everyone within Turkish Airlines accepted salary cuts from up to 50% depending on the role and responsibilities. The exceptional sense of unity within our staff is what sets Turkish Airlines apart: together as a family, we decided that no member of the Turkish Airlines family would be left behind during this crisis.”, says Turkish Airlines’ Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee, M. İlker Aycı.

Turkish Airlines also turned the pandemic into an opportunity to increase its cargo operations, with 50 of its passenger aircrafts being reconfigured to increase its cargo fleet capacity. Turkish Cargo managed to become one of the top five air cargo companies in the world and the 6th largest cargo company. The company increased its market share in total global cargo revenue from 0.6% in 2009 to 4.7% in 2020. As of February 2021, one in 20 cargo flights around the world were handled by Turkish Cargo.

This allowed Turkish Cargo to deliver 50,000 tons of medical supplies, including more than 45 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, to destinations all over the world. In addition, new technologies and innovative solutions have been developed. One example is SmartIST, one of the largest air cargo facilities in the world, which is scheduled to open this year. Located at Istanbul Airport, the facility uses modern technology such as drones and automated robots to process and deliver goods even faster. 

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How to Make Your Hospitality Business More Sustainable

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Climate change and its impact on the world has been a major news story for decades, but it’s only in recent years that awareness has been pushed to the fore. This is thanks to the actions of activists such as Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough.

However, it’s also because 2020 was the joint hottest year on record, tying with 2016 – although, unlike 2016, there was no El Nino event last year to contribute to these temperatures.  

While there is pressure on companies to play their part and think more sustainably, there are things that smaller businesses can do too. As someone who runs a hospitality business, you can make operations more environmentally aware. If you want to think green, here are some ideas to help. 

Consider the materials

How much paper does your business use? There’s a real trend for cardboard menus and paper flyers showcasing the latest dining deals. Hotel rooms are filled with directories and leaflets, too – and these need replacing when they get tatty.

To resolve the issue, try switching to digital. Create online menus that diners can access, have a screen detailing the latest meal deals and specials, and introduce tablets to bedrooms in your hotel. If you’re reluctant to include tablets, try creating a directory on the TV where guests can browse the services your hotel offer, from breakfast serving times to the food on offer.

Rethink utilities

How much electricity does your business use a day? How much water is wasted?

Try looking at introducing motion sensitive lighting to avoid empty rooms being lit. Also, while it can be tricky to encourage guests to think about the water they use, you can get your staff to set an example by switching off taps when not in use. Even small changes can both save energy and money.

Manage waste

Hospitality businesses see a lot of waste, especially hotels. There’s paper waste, bottles, and food waste to consider, among other things.

Having a robust recycling system in place can help to keep your business sustainable. Introduce recycling bins in guest bedrooms and have these in offices too to encourage best practice.

Additionally, separate food waste bins for your restaurant are an essential part of waste management. By keeping food waste separate, it can be easily removed from the premises.

As with any waste management, there are risks here. Staff could cut themselves on glass or encounter other injuries, so think about how to keep your team safe while they do their job. Arm protection and overalls, for instance, can be useful.

Look at the décor

As well as the day-to-day operations in your business, it’s worth thinking about the materials used in the design and décor. Where possible, try to source reclaimed furniture and trawl the vintage and flea markets for beautiful pieces that could work well in your hotel foyer or guest rooms.

By taking the time to reassess the way your business runs, you could find that you’re lowering your carbon footprint and becoming more sustainable.

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Uzbekistan Continues to Modernize its Tax Administration System

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 The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved today the Tax Administration Reform Project in Uzbekistan, which is designed to improve the operational efficiency and effectiveness of the State Tax Committee (STC) and deliver better services to local taxpayers.

The project will be supported by a $60 million concessional credit from the International Development Association (IDA), with financing provided to the Government at a very low-interest rate and a repayment period of 30 years.

“The Government of Uzbekistan has prioritized reforms in the tax administration system to create a better business and investment environment. The new project will help the STC improve its work in the interest of taxpayers,” said Marco Mantovanelli, World Bank Country Manager for Uzbekistan. “In particular, the project will allow to broaden the tax base, leading to a reduction in the informal sector of the economy, which is estimated to be around 50% of GDP; to increase tax revenues; and to help firms and companies create new jobs, benefiting from a more efficient tax administration system.”

The project includes three key components directed at improving the STC’s operational, institutional, technological and human resource capacities, and promoting voluntary compliance across Uzbekistan.

Component 1 will invest in automating the STC’s core tax administration business processes. This includes developing the STC’s new tax management information system to reduce paperwork and simplify the process of paying taxes by businesses and individuals countrywide; upgrading hardware and technological infrastructure; creating a new data center for the STC; and improving governance and the planning capacity of the STC’s IT department.

Component 2 will assist with designing and implementing measures to reduce the informal sector of the economy. This includes improving the STC’s enforcement capabilities to detect and discourage tax evasion; encouraging businesses to stay out of the shadows, including through the use of non-tax incentives; and developing cooperative relationships with the private sector, including through designing new or simplified tax policies and procedures and building partnerships to change taxpayers’ behavior.

Component 3 aims to strengthen the STC’s human resource and institutional capacities to attract, develop, and retain skilled and knowledgeable tax officials. This includes improving STC’s human resources management policies and building capacity through the continuous professional development of tax officials. 

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