Nations of the world, enthralled in their own custom-tailored masks at the masquerade-ball of Coronavirus struggling to calm restless citizenry already wrapped in colorful flags chanting hymns of survival and populism. What’s not musical is the outdated lips-service, watery promises, putty economical ideas all rejected for composting.
The Masquerade Ball of Coronavirus: advancements on human endeavor neglected, now liberated harshly by Coronavirus; in simultaneous synchronization across the 200 nations a new world-order of new business hierarchy appears, where critically thinking isolated for higher productivity, performance and profitability measured on new digital platforms, remote working, replacing old corporate bureaucracies and global dominance of downtown cores.
No, please, do not blame the national leaderships; expectancy on this special expertise was never there, caught in their own convictions, political agenda and Teleprompter guidance they are doing their best. The political rhetoric is numbing, the ignorance of science and lack of skills to understand managing restless citizenry is unforgiving. The time to face the music has arrived. The time to change the economic values measurement systems has arrived.
Unfortunately, neither required are the photo-ops; nor the regular G50 or G100 lalalands but surely a G200 –a 200 nations gathering, 24-Hour Marathons of collaborations on humanity, global mobilization of Coronavirus medical facts based deployments, interconnected conference via latest circuitry streamed to the world now being critically missed since last 100 days. Political posturing precluded such demonstration of special global level leadership; the collaborative synthesizim to bring all diversity and tolerance under a global umbrella… the bonfires of crumbled egos are now on slow-burn displays. Chaos increases…fears surmounts, failures becoming visible. Credit goes to selected leadership around the world and their medical teams for leading the charge under most difficult and unprepared circumstances.
Nations witnessed extensive overseas mobilizations of armies over decades are now in panic figuring out national mobilization to combat internal crisis. Sadly, if you end up, outside your hospital lying of pavement outside somewhere in the parking lots without help and equipment, no one will help you, the echo of the promises and lingering trials and errors on the down streaming of absolute shut-down and civil order during last 100 days are living proof of incompetency.
Needed is a voice, trusted by nation; professionalism on science, respected by global medical community and national shut down except crucial services. Most importantly, needed a national mobilization of brain-power of working citizenry to optimize from their own quarantined habitats and apply maximum innovative ideas on existing resources via remote working to create a parallel working economy, where connectivity and dialogue will bring normalcy to our national and global structure of continuity.
Wars of Silence:
In a world where economic dysfunctionalities already visible from space, muffled and gagged, the total absence of real truth-seeking authoritative national debates on hardcore issues of small and midsize business economy is where the silent anaconda of incompetency resides. All over the world, silence on these internal economic development issues are now becoming proof of incompetency and further creating increased restlessness. Suddenly, liberated, the Coronavirus has brought the world together, slowly, the silent majority of connected-billions developing a new mindshare…
In Simultaneous Synchronizations a Global Metamorphosis Challenges Corporate Thinking…
Workers of the world; majority with low wages, cannot afford to wake up in hours of darkness, depart away from the huddles of loved ones, commuting till ending up in crowded undergrounds, small elevators, climbing floors to find a lonesome desk to stay strapped till the bell rings at the end of day and drag themselves back to far away home to start the process allover next day… still worshipped today, this work model died decade ago.
Office work declared as cruelty to mankind; eliminate from the global enterprise model and replace by a smart phone backed by smart LIVE face-to-face enterprise systems so that the liberated worker force can create and produce far more via inter-linked global age where smart work is ‘invisible work’ for minds alone processed in their own free moving spaces. A very small percentage of workers may still be required in special places in special settings or so called offices, but too eliminated like manpower lifting millions boxes now done by robotized warehouses.
Manpower concepts declared an outdated optimization model, defined over millennia, term ‘manpower’ needs new definitions, most work touched by manpower now replaced by robotization, now needs new understanding of replacements and compensations.
Human-Power; declared as self-discovered superior state of mind for critical thinkers and complex problem solvers frontiers, identified as masters of robots and automation, while denier of change declared as slaves of robots, mandatory national upskilling and reskilling and national mobilization of entrepreneurial protocols will fix such issues. Without bold debates the muted progress will further decline.
Small Medium Business Economy; all over the world, the SME of the future is a very smart entity, globally savvy, technologically driven, block-chained, AI+AR+VR, entrepreneurial center creating local grassroots prosperity. Nation by nation, this largest economic block will overtake the national productivity performance and assist global financial crisis. Critically needed, the digital platforms on National Mobilization of Entrepreneurialism Protocols offering free upskilling, reskilling and uplifting hidden national talents, especially women-owned businesses, liberated from bureaucracy and traditional anti-SME funding banking systems.
Abandoned art of value creation; declared as mandatory certification requirements to measure economic progress, replacing adding fake value-manipulations totaled as progress. The real grassroots prosperity advancements are principled in real value creation and not value-manipulations.
Global charter of rights; declared as affirmation to global rules of mankind and civility, needs massive revision on civil liberties, human rights and social justice to allow societies to become highly diverse and tolerant and abide national rules. Out we came out of caves not to re-enter.
Education; declared as top quality, free from top to bottom, nationalized and heavily public funded, top pay for teachers and with very real entrepreneurial thinking. Universities recall degrees with apologies, payout refunds with time and opportunities lost.
Alvin Toffler’s concepts of ‘electronic cottage’ spoke volumes on such progress of enterprise by replacing offices with hyper connected devices with staff in highly comfortable leisure zones or common-working-spaces as rainforest themes, as mental-comforting-habitats over four-walled- desk-chair-contraptions. This was eighties. Today, climate change issues demand elimination of billions driving to work, often in most energy dependent and uncomfortable situations while all the latest freely available interconnectivity and face to live actions because the ‘managerial’ concept always seeing an empty desk still considered ‘body missing’ from work, where paper shuffling and rubber stamping mentality have not yet crossed over the idea of hiring of ‘minds’ and not ‘bodies’ and allow 99% mundane work be done via AI. Most neglected all over the world, the upskilling and reskilling of workforce to tackle global age, last three decades leadership assumed YouTube and Universities were doing this, they were unable to decipher the regression. Coronavirus may create such simultaneous remote working global test for millions of enterprises of the world and change office-working forever.
Futurism is workless; as artificially driven technologies cunningly steal all office work, come next 1000 days the global economic chaos may force a march of billion crowding on boulevards of the world. Workless, jobless, and officeless, tired they march…never ever in the history of mankind assembled such number of once mighty, highly skilled, educated and experienced subjected to replacements by their own technological advances.
Mona Lisa Smile: Equally, no nation is safe from the onslaught of Mona Lisa smile gender-fluid robots entering our gender free work spaces and asking us politely, at least the first time, to leave our offices and never return back. Second time their asking labeled as robotic misbehavior.
The world is changing very fast, this is no longer a cliché, and it’s now an explicit warning.
Mirrors on the walls: when fixing obesity demands a life-size mirror, the national citizenry must also find a large enough nation-size mirror. When grassroots prosperity in chaos and small medium business economy crushed without national mobilization of entrepreneurialism on digital platforms on innovative excellence and exportability, nations are simply doomed.
National gatekeepers of midsize business economic agenda must demonstrate global age skills to combat meltdown; Abundances and neglects will not just stir up the big drunk elephant of fake-economy in the china shop but it will directly force anaconda of incompetence to strangle further silence and quietly create demand for big budgets for riot gears. A masquerade ball of populism will start the orchestra.
Is this the worst of times; or the most opportune of times?
That lonesome crave of flying; the caterpillar under pretence of deep sleep unlearns crawling and relearns flying, breaking chrysalis spreads colorful wings and fly out in the new world. The Coronavirus is doing its job, a test of leadership nation by nation, in the short and long run the truth, diversity and tolerance will win, choose wisely and plan precisely the coming 1000 days.
Isolate and stay in safe spaces… unpredictable times ahead
GCC Countries Back on Path to Economic Growth after Contraction Due to the Pandemic
Following a year of economic distress, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) economies are expected to return to an aggregate growth of 2.2% in 2021, according to the latest issue of the World Bank Gulf Economic Update (GEU) titled “COVID-19 Pandemic and the Road to Diversification”. This growth is buoyed by the global economic recovery, projected at 5.6% and the revival of global oil demand and international oil prices.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the decline in global oil demand and prices dealt the GCC countries a health crisis and a commodity market shock causing a GDP contraction 4.8% in 2020.
Fiscal deficits are projected to persist for most over the forecast period, however. The three countries with the largest deficits in 2020 – Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman – are projected to remain in deficit throughout 2021-23, but at narrower ratios to GDP in 2023 than during the economic downturn in 2020.
According to the GEU, the oil supply cutbacks and the four-year-low average oil price of US$41.30 per barrel slashed the group’s goods and services exports by 8.1% in real terms and turned the current account surplus of 6.8% of GDP in 2019 into a deficit of 2.9% of GDP in 2020.
Non-oil GDP is proportionately larger now in all the GCC countries than it was 10 or 20 years ago, but much work remains to be done. Many are still highly reliant on oil and gas exports, which remain over 70% of total goods exports in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman, and on oil revenues, which exceed 70% of total government revenues in Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain.
“While the GCC has done a lot in the last year to contain the effects of the pandemic on their economy, including procuring vaccinations early on, they must continue to reform their public sector finances,” said Issam Abousleiman, World Bank Regional Director of the GCC Countries. “The region needs to strengthen their competition policies to harness the benefits of telecommunications and the digitalization of economic activity.”
The sixth issue of the GEU focuses on fiscal revenues and structural reforms including strategic investments in digitalization and telecommunications, which can help enable more economic diversification.
Promoting private sector development remains at the core of national and regional economic diversification efforts. The GCC managed to complete only two state-owned enterprise privatization transactions and only two public-private partnership (PPP) agreements in 2020, but it was a difficult year for commerce and investment anywhere.
Also, advancing the telecommunications frontier is a strategic investment sector for diversification and post COVID-19 recovery, that will serve the GCC well. Past investments in the sector accorded the GCC sizable benefits during the pandemic as quarantines, lockdowns, and restrictions forced public health surveillance, wholesale and retail commerce, public and private education, banking and financial services, and private and government office work onto digital channels. Strategic investment in advanced telecommunications technologies, including 5G, is underway in the GCC. But beyond capital spending on infrastructure, the telecommunications sector would benefit greatly from improvements in the legal, regulatory, and competition frameworks under which service providers operate.
GCC Countries Outlook
Bahrain: Bahrain will continue to rely on fiscal support measures in 2021 to overcome the economic contraction in 2020. GDP growth is expected to reach 3.3% in 2021 and remain at the same pace during the medium-term.
Kuwait: Oil exports will continue to drive Kuwait’s growth dynamics. Economic growth is forecast to rebound to a moderate 2.4% in 2021, before ramping up to an average 3.2% in 2022-23.
Oman: Oman’s economy is forecast to recover in 2021, albeit at a moderate 2.5% growth rate as a sizable infrastructure investment program gains momentum. Medium-term growth is projected to average 5.3% over the forecast period.
Qatar: Qatar is forecast to post a strong growth rebound with LNG demand in South and East Asia underpinning medium-term prospects. Qatar’s economy is projected to grow by 3% in 2021 before accelerating to 4.1% in 2022 and 4.5% in 2023.
Saudi Arabia: Firmer global oil demand will support Saudi Arabia’s economic recovery in 2021 with GDP growth expected to reach 2.4% in 2021. Medium-term growth is projected to average 3% over the forecast period.
United Arab Emirates: The UAE is expected to swing back to growth in 2021, estimated at 1.2%, before accelerating to 2.5% in 2022 and 2023 driven by government expenditures and the staging of Expo 2020 in October 2021.
Passing the Test of the Covid Pandemic
For love of domination we must substitute equality; for love of victory we must substitute justice; for brutality we must substitute intelligence; for competition we must substitute cooperation. We must learn to think of the human race as one family.– Bertrand Russell
The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.– Bertrand Russell
The COVID pandemic delivered a blow to the world economy through multiple channels. The labour supply was adversely affected by record high mortality rates, which may also deliver longer-term effects. With respect to economic policy, rather than stimulating greater cooperation the pandemic resulted in additional restrictions and greater proclivity towards self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Another channel was the negative impact on travel and labour mobility, as well as services and small business development.
More generally, the Covid pandemic proved to be a major test for the national, regional and international systems of governance. The international system as well as regional institutions proved to be unprepared and ill-equipped to address the blows of the crisis. At the national level the economic system was tested with respect to the governance system, the resiliency of the health care system as well as the trust of the population in the policies of the authorities (in particular the receptiveness of the calls for vaccination).
In the sphere of international cooperation the shortcomings of the current framework are illustrated by the lack of common efforts across countries in developing and providing vaccines to the global community. A straight-forward and sensible solution in the context of the current crisis would have been to widen the possibilities for the population to get access to a greater array of vaccines – this would in turn raise the participation rate of the population in vaccination. Equally as sensible would be joint efforts across countries in working on more effective vaccines. Instead, there is the intensifying “vaccine protectionism” and efforts to undermine trust in the vaccines created in “competitor countries”.
There is also a lot more that the international community could do to provide assistance to the least-developed economies. In 2020, official development assistance (ODA) by member countries of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) (comprises developed economies, including the EU and the United States) amounted to USD 161.2 billion, representing 0.32% of their combined GNI. Initial estimates indicate that within total ODA, DAC countries spent USD 12 billion in 2020 on COVID-19 related activities. As a result, ODA assistance in 2020 increased by 3.5% compared to 2019 and reached its highest level ever recorded. Such an increase, while important in view of the challenges faced by developed economies themselves, falls short of the rising needs of the least developed countries that were hard-hit by the sharp fall in FDI and remittance inflows due to the pandemic-induced restrictions. It has to be noted also, that ODA levels declined in 13 out of 30 members of DAC in 2020.
One of the key initiatives in the context of the assistance of the G20 countries to heavily-indebted developing economies was the provision of debt-relief to cope with the shock of the COVID pandemic. According to the OECD the total debt relief extended by advanced economies in 2020 amounted to USD 541 mn. At the same time, according to China’s Ministry of Finance, the Export-Import Bank of China as well as the China International Development Cooperation Agency have suspended debt service payments from 23 countries totalling more than USD 1.3 bn. Overall, the total debt relief provided by China to developing countries under the G20 framework reached USD 2.1 bn, which is the highest among the G20 members in terms of the size of the deferred funds.
Apart from ODA and debt relief there are also gaps in areas such as trade policy, most notably with respect to the lingering (and at times rising) protectionism affecting least-developed economies during the outbreak of the pandemic. The recent World Bank study of the implications of restrictive trade policies during the COVID crisis underscored that least-developed economies could be among the hardest hit. The response of the international community needs to be focused on improving developing countries’ market access, as well as the supplies from developed economies of medical equipment and technologies for national healthcare systems.
In the end, “enlightened self-interest” and “invisible hands” as guiding principles have not served the global community well. If the challenge of the current pandemic is ever to be decisively surmounted, it is going to be through a joint response. The hope is that this common effort will be transformational for the global community and will lead to emergence of new pathways and institutions for international cooperation. The changing “superstructure” of technological and material advances will necessitate an evolution in the “base” of human values. The effects of the current pandemic as well as the rising pile of other global imbalances and vulnerabilities are a reflection of the disconnect between the heights of the technical and material advances/ambition and the shaky foundation of the weakening values of international cooperation.
The important point to realize in the context of the current crisis is that it is not a one-off stumbling block on the road to greater prosperity in the future. There are just too many vulnerabilities and road-bumps along the current path that necessitate an outright rethink of the development itinerary. This relates in particular to risks such as cyber-security, inequality and environment/energy security. These fragilities are the opposite side of the advances made by the global community in areas such as computer-science, economic modernization and higher rates of industrialization in the developing world. Further ambitions along these important trajectories will increasingly call for ways to strengthen ethical standards and international cooperation.
From our partner RIAC
Half a Decade On – Reflecting on Russia’s Unsung Successes
In 2016, as the incoming World Bank lead economist for Russia, I started writing about Russian economic issues. It is now time to bid goodbye. As a professional analyst of the Russian economy over the last 5 years, I can summarize my experience in one sentence: things in Russia are never as bad as they seem, but they are never as good as they can be, either.
Just in the last 6 years, Russia has managed to attain remarkable macro-stability. Inflation, which was in double digits, is in now in manageable territory. The country is less reliant on oil and gas today than 5 years back. These are no small achievements. On the other hand, as I – and many others have written – sagging potential growth holds progress back. But these issues are well-known. In this final column, I would like to recognize three lesser-known Russian developmental successes that often fly under the radar screen.
First is Russia’s increase in life expectancy – from 65.3 years in 2000 to 72.7 years in 2018. This has been mostly due to a drop in the number of deaths caused by non-communicable diseases (i.e. diseases that are not infectious or contagious such as heart attacks and stroke) and external causes (such as road accidents and homicides). Mortality rates for both adults and particularly children have also been decreasing since the 2000s. Even more recently, infant mortality decreased by 36 percent from 2011 to 2017 and maternal mortality decreased by 49 percent in the same period. While the pandemic engulfs us all, it is worth taking a longer-term perspective to recognize legitimate improvements in Russia’s life expectancy.
Second is Russia’s progress in financial literacy. Russia is no stranger to financial crises. While governments anywhere and everywhere have the primary responsibility in preventing and managing them, an important factor that is only being recognized is the need for individuals to become more informed about making financial decisions.
As an early adopter, Russia has recognized the benefits of financial literacy, and made remarkable strides in increasing literacy across both adult populations and school children. This is thanks to both top-down efforts by the Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Russia, and bottom-up ones, which have included tapping into schools, libraries, and other community platforms to reach a large and diverse segment of the population. Indeed, Russia was ranked the first among 132 countries in the Child & Youth Finance International Global Inclusion Awards in 2016. It also ranks in the top 10 of G-20 countries for financial literacy.
Third is Russia’s progress in improving its tax administration. The history of taxes in Russia hark back to medieval times, with Prince Oleg imposing the first known “tribute” on dependent tribes. Catherine the Great is known to have said “Taxes for a government are same as sails for a boat. They serve to bring her faster into a harbor without flipping over by their burden”.
Building on lessons learnt over centuries, Russia today is at the global forefront of tapping technology and real-time source data and has managed to shift from a culture of tax evasion to tax compliance. Tax non-compliance, notably in value-added taxes, for instance, has shrunk from double digits a few years ago to less than 1 percent today, with minimal human involvement. Russia’s success in modernization of its tax services is not as well known as it ought to be, but global interest is slowly but steadily growing.
Surely, these achievements are not the end of the road. When it comes to life expectancy, male life expectancy is behind female life expectancy by almost 10 years, and this gap needs to be shrunk. Financial literacy, consumer protection, and safeguards for privacy and data protection need to keep pace as cryptocurrencies and digital fraud become more commonplace. And gains in tax administration may be washed out without complementary tax policies. Yet, these unsung successes deserve more recognition, both within and outside Russia.
One of the more unusual analysis the World Bank undertook was to figure out how wealthy is Russia. We found that Russia’s wealth lies not in its abundant natural resources (as important as they are), or its physical infrastructure (as mighty as some of it may be). Rather, Russia’s wealth derives from the ingenuity and creativity of its people. Indeed, almost half of all Russia’s wealth derives from its human capital — the cumulative experience, knowledge, and skills of Russians. Only then is it followed by physical capital (about a third), and natural capital (about a fifth). Anecdotally too, I can reaffirm that to be the case. In my interactions with students in various universities and high schools, I have witnessed their keen engagement, their sharp and pointed questions, their sense of humor, and above all, a passion to improve their country. I am indeed privileged to have played a small role in this journey.
PS: There is one other area I would like to draw your attention to, and that is climate change. While the politics are what they are, the science and economics are undeniable. In Russia, in addition to federal initiatives, it is encouraging to see positive signs emerging from within Russian regions, such as Sakhalin and Murmansk, which are vying to become carbon-free zones. As I had written earlier, the one mistake not to make about Russia is to treat it as a single unit of analysis. Doing so would be like being unaware that a Matryoshka doll is not empty! Indeed, Russian regions may be at the forefront of addressing climate change and we might be in for a (pleasant) surprise – this space is therefore worth keeping on an eye on.
First appeared in the Russian language on Kommersant.ru via World Bank
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