Countries must act quickly and robustly to contain the coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic, the World Health Organization said on Friday, as it raised the global risk assessment of the infection to “very high”.
The development comes as WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed data showing that in the past 24 hours, China had recorded its lowest number of cases in more than a month (329), with 78,959 cases in total.
More than 36,000 people have also recovered from COVID-19 in China alone, WHO said.
Fear, rumour and stigma the greatest enemy
Speaking to the international press on Friday, UN chief António Guterres called on all governments to step up and do everything possible to contain the disease, without stigmatization, and respecting human rights, and appealed for solidarity, and full global support.
Echoing the words of Tedros, the Secretary-General emphasized the importance of preparation, rather than panic, and declared that the “greatest enemy right now is not the virus. It’s fear, rumors and stigma”.
Global spread continues
The rest of the world has continued to show an uptick in infections, however, with 4,351 cases confirmed in 49 countries and 67 deaths as of 6am in Geneva.
Tedros said that although the increase in the number of cases and affected countries in recent days was concerning, there was no evidence of the virus spreading freely in communities.
He added that 24 cases of infection had been exported from Italy to 14 countries and 97 cases had found their way from Iran to 11 countries.
“The continued increase in the number of cases and the number of affected countries over the last few days are clearly of concern,” he said. “Our epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously and we have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high at global level.”
First sub-Saharan case in Africa
In Nigeria, where the first case of infection has been
confirmed and isolated, the UN agency said it had “great confidence” that the
country could contain the virus.
This was thanks to the fact that the country has had success in dealing with other disease outbreaks, such as Lassa fever and measles – and it had invested significantly to do so – said WHO’s Dr Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.
Currently, more than 20 vaccines are in development around the world, along with several therapeutic medicines; the first results were expected within weeks, Tedros said.
Personal responsibility is critical
In the meantime, the best thing people can do is to be diligent about their personal hygiene, the UN health agency chief insisted, and look out for symptoms, which include a dry cough and fever, rather than a runny nose.
The preventative health advice is particularly important with regard to handwashing with soap or alcohol gels, sneezing or coughing into a tissue or the crook of your arm, and staying at home if you feel poorly.
Explaining the implications of the latest threat assessment, Dr Ryan said that while it was the highest level of alert, the aim was to encourage countries to act, rather than alarm them.
“We need to keep this virus slowed down, because health systems around the world – and I mean North and South – are just not ready…the risk of spread has clearly increased but the risk of impact has also increased because of what we see in health systems around the world.
Time to act is now
“It’s time to prepare, it’s time to get ready. It’s time to act and people need to take a reality check now and really understand that an all-of-government and an all-of-society approach (is required). It’s time to act.”
Echoing the need for aggressive action such as that implemented by China, WHO’s Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove noted that other countries which had followed its lead has seen similar successes in containing the virus, resulting in valuable breathing space for their health systems.
“In Singapore, you look at what has happened in terms of the cases they have had; they’re now seeing a rapid decline in cases. You see what happened in Nepal, there was an onward transmission there. You see what’s happened in Viet Nam, where there were some cases and now there’s no further cases”, she said. “These are all examples of where countries have been successful in containing this.”
She added: “The point is, the earlier we act…and how robustly in those initial cases, will determine if you’re dealing with a number of cases, one case, or a small cluster, or if you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands.”
World Bank and EU to Help Iraq Strengthen Public Financial Management Oversight
The Government of Iraq, the World Bank Group, and the European Union signed today a grant agreement aimed at strengthening the Government of Iraq’s institutions and mechanisms of fiscal accountability and oversight at federal and sub-national levels.
The project titled “Strengthening Public Financial Management (PFM) Oversight and Accountability Institutions” will benefit from jointly implemented US$12.5 million and is part of a technical assistance grant program signed back in September 2018 with the European Union to strengthen public financial management (PFM) oversight and increase the efficiency of public service delivery.
The program aims at improving PFM systems by strengthening payroll management through an IT platform. It will support transparency and accountability in the oil sector through the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative. It will foster the anti-corruption agency which can help retrieve stolen assets and the auditor general as well as support the reform of State-Owned Enterprises. Other features will be strengthening procurement systems through e-procurement and supporting integrity in reconstruction programs. The project will also assist in further tackling revenue mobilization and fiscal federalism and can be revisited in one year to align further with government priorities.
This project compliments the ongoing World Bank-financed project titled “Modernization of Public Financial Management Systems” of US$41.5 million, which aims to improve financial information management and transparency, cash management, public investment management and public procurement modernization at selected federal and governorate agencies.
“Now, more than ever, the importance of a strong public financial management system is critical”, said Ramzi Afif Neman, Head of World Bank Iraq Office. “The World Bank is committed to helping equip the Government of Iraq with mechanisms of fiscal accountability that are essential for sustainable reform, creation of a positive economic impact, and the restoration of public trust in the country’s financial institutions.”
“The efficient management of public finances and the delivery of services is critical in the achievement of public policy objectives, as well as for restoring the trust and social contract between Iraqi citizens and the country’s institutions”, said Martin Huth, European Union Ambassador to Iraq.
The project will support economic governance reforms at the federal level and in the Kurdistan region through technical assistance to many fiscal agencies, under the guidance of the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister’s office. The project is in line with the economic reform “White Paper” recently published by the Government of Iraq which supports the overall World Bank Group’s development objectives and portfolio in Iraq. The project is also in line with the SDGs and European Union’s development objectives.
APEC BEST Award Announced Top Female Entrepreneurs
The annual APEC Business Efficiency and Success Target Award, known as the APEC BEST Award, announced its 2020 winners, from a diverse group of effective entrepreneurs, innovators and managers around the APEC region.
Producer of gluten-free, healthy food products, Svetlana Shmakova, from Russia, won the top prize of APEC BEST Award with her company, Foodcode.
“The idea of Foodcode is not only about business, but also about protecting family and ensuring that we put health and well-being of people first, through quality, healthy and sustainably produce products,” Shmakova explained.
“The contest provided us with a unique opportunity to learn more about other business models, connect with fellow entrepreneurs and managers, explore new partnerships and expand our markets,” she added.
Meanwhile, Cherrie De Erit Atilano from the Philippines, founder and chief executive officer of sustainable food system and inclusive agribusiness of her company, AGREA, won the category of Best Top Manager in the post-pandemic economy.
“Inclusive and sustainable agriculture plays an even more critical role in the post-pandemic world,” Atilano said. “This award is a testament to the resiliency and compassion of women in the agricultural supply chain alongside men who persevered in bringing food to the table of both producers and consumers.”
“Women should play a significant role in our concerted efforts to recover and rebuild better as a region,” said Carolina Cuevas, Chair of the APEC Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy. “The innovation, creativity and resiliency shown by our women entrepreneurs and managers involved in the APEC BEST Award are the embodiment of this spirit.”
The contest is an initiative of Russia with China, Japan, Malaysia and Mexico as co-sponsors of this year’s contest. This year’s contest featured 20 nominees from 11 APEC economies, competing under the theme of “Women Business Leadership in Post-Pandemic Recovery.”
“All of us live in extremely challenging times now with the lingering negative impact of the economic and health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Natalia Strigunova of Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development. “We believe that women’s entrepreneurship should be a strong driver for post-pandemic recovery.”
Besides the 2020 APEC BEST Award grand prize and the award in the Best Top Managers category, the contest also awarded six winners in the following categories:
- Best Growth Potential: Lu Yunjuan, Beijing Snowlotus Biotechnology from China
- International Attractiveness: Winnie Chan Wei Wei, Bynd Artisan from Singapore
- Best Business Sustainability in Tackling the Pandemic: Norzilawaty Binti Mohd Isa, Lykke Familie Enterprise from Malaysia
- Fourth Industrial Revolution Project: Hanna Kim, Grip Corporation from Korea
- Best Family Business Support: Daniela Carolina Schneider Alvear, Celifamily Gluten Free from Chile
- Best Social Impact: Carys Mihardja, Carys Cares from Indonesia
“The goal of the APEC BEST Award is not only to promote women’s leadership and best practices amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to provide support to female entrepreneurs, replicate the best business models and expand their networks beyond their home economies to encourage more women to establish their own businesses,” added Irina Saltykova, who leads the APEC BEST Award project.
M&A valuations boom in the second half of 2020, despite COVID-19 impacts on the economy
M&A valuations are soaring, with rich valuations and intense competition for many digital or technology-based assets driving global deals activity, according to PwC’s latest Global M&A Industry Trends analysis.
Covering the last six months of 2020, the analysis examines global deals activity and incorporates insights from PwC’s deals industry specialists to identify the key trends driving M&A activity, and anticipated investment hotspots in 2021.
In spite of the uncertainty created by COVID-19, the second half of 2020 saw a surge in M&A activity.
“COVID-19 gave companies a rare glimpse into their future, and many did not like what they saw. An acceleration of digitalisation and transformation of their businesses instantly became a top priority, with M&A the fastest way to make that happen — creating a highly competitive landscape for the right deals,” says Brian Levy, PwC’s Global Deals Industries Leader, Partner, PwC US.
Key insights from the second half of 2020 deals activity include:
- Dealmaking jumped in the second half of the year with total global deal volumes and values increasing by 18% and 94%, respectively compared to the first half of the year. In addition, both deal volumes and deal values were up compared to the last six months of 2019.
- The higher deal values in the second half of 2020 were partly due to an increase in megadeals ($5 billion+). Overall, 56 megadeals were announced in the second half of 2020, compared to 27 in the first half of the year.
- The technology and telecom sub-sectors saw the highest growth in deal volumes and values in the second half of 2020, with technology deal volumes up 34% and values up 118%. Telecom deal volumes were up 15% and values significantly up by almost 300% due to three telecom megadeals.
- On a regional basis, deal volumes increased by 20% in the Americas, 17% in EMEA and 17% in Asia Pacific between the first and second half of 2020. The Americas saw the biggest growth in deal values of over 200%, primarily due to some significant megadeals in the second half of the year.
COVID-19 accelerates deals activity for digital and technology assets in a highly competitive market
In demand assets have commanded high valuations and fierce competition, driven by macroeconomic factors. These include low interest rates, a desire to acquire innovative, digital or technology-enabled businesses and an abundance of available capital from both corporate (over $7.6 trillion in cash and marketable securities) and private equity buyers ($1.7 trillion).
By comparison, assets in sectors that have been hardest hit by the pandemic like industrial manufacturing or those being shaped by factors such as the transformation to net zero carbon emissions are creating structural changes that companies will need to address. Where the future viability of their business models are challenged, companies may look to distressed M&A opportunities or restructuring to preserve value.
Deal makers widen assessment of value creation to non-traditional sources
Non-traditional sources of value creation such as the impact of environmental, social and governance factors (ESG) are increasingly being considered by deal makers and factored into strategic decision-making and due diligence, as they focus on protecting and maximising returns from high valuations and fierce demand.
“With so much capital out there, good businesses are commanding high multiples and achieving them. If this continues – and I believe it will – then the need to double down on value creation is now more relevant than ever for successful M&A,” says Malcolm Lloyd, Global Deals Leader, Partner, PwC Spain.
The impact of a hot IPO market on M&A
The last six months saw the prevalence of the use of special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) to pool investor capital for acquisition opportunities in a highly active IPO market. In 2020, SPACs raised about $70 billion in capital and accounted for more than half of all US IPOs. Private equity firms have been key players in the recent SPAC boom, finding them a useful alternative source of capital. More SPAC activity is expected in 2021, especially involving assets such as electric vehicle charging infrastructure, power storage, and healthcare technology.
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