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South Asia Must Ramp Up COVID-19 Action to Protect People, Revive Economies

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Amid the mounting human toll and global economic fallout triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, South Asian governments must ramp up action to curb the health emergency, protect their people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, and set the stage now for fast economic recovery, says the World Bank in its twice-a-year-regional update.

Released today, the latest South Asia Economic Focus anticipates a sharp economic slump in each of the region’s eight countries, caused by halting economic activity, collapsing trade, and greater stress in the financial and banking sectors.  

In this fast-changing and uncertain context, the report presents a range forecast, estimating that regional growth will fall to a range between 1.8 and 2.8 percent in 2020, down from 6.3 percent projected six months ago. That would be the region’s worst performance in the last 40 years, with temporary contractions in all South Asian countries. In case of prolonged and broad national lockdowns, the report warns of a worst-case scenario in which the entire region would experience a negative growth rate this year.

This deteriorated forecast will linger in 2021, with growth projected to hover between 3.1 and 4.0 percent, down from the previous 6.7 percent estimate.

“The priority for all South Asian governments is to contain the virus spread and protect their people, especially the poorest who face considerably worse health and economic outcomes,” said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region. “The COVID-19 crisis is also an urgent call-to-action moment to pursue innovative policies and jumpstart South Asian economies once the crisis is over. Failure to do so can lead to long-term growth disruptions and reverse hard-won progress in reducing poverty.”

The impact of the pandemic will hit hard low-income people, especially informal workers in the hospitality, retail trade, and transport sectors who have limited or no access to healthcare or social safety nets. The report notes that the COVID-19 shock will likely reinforce inequality in South Asia. As played out across the region, the sudden and large-scale loss of low paid work has driven a mass exodus of migrant workers from cities to rural areas, spiking fear that many of them will fall back into poverty. While there are no signs yet of widespread food shortages, the report warns that a protracted COVID-19 crisis may threaten food security, especially for the most vulnerable.

In the short term, the report recommends preparing weak healthcare systems for greater COVID-19 impacts, as well as providing safety nets and securing access to food, medical supplies, and necessities for the most vulnerable. To minimize short-term economic pain, the report calls for establishing temporary work programs for unemployed migrant workers, enacting debt relief measures for businesses and individuals, and easing inter-regional customs clearance to speed up import and export of essential goods.

Once lockdown restrictions are loosened, South Asian governments should adopt expansionary fiscal policies combined with monetary stimulus to keep credit flowing in their economies. Since many South Asian countries have limited fiscal space, these policies should target people worst hit by the freeze on economic activity. The report urges governments to adopt temporary spending measures and coordinate with international financial partners to avoid unsustainable long-term debt levels and fiscal deficits.

“After tackling the immediate COVID-19 threat, South Asian countries must keep their sovereign debt sustainable through fiscal prudence and debt relief initiatives,” said Hans Timmer, World Bank Chief Economist for the South Asia Region. “And looking beyond the present crisis, lie great opportunities to expand digital technologies for payment systems and distant learning to unlock remote areas in South Asia.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic circumstances within countries and regions are fluid and change on a day-by-day basis. The analysis in the report is based on the latest country-level data available as of April 7, 2020.

The World Bank Group is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries strengthen their pandemic response, increase disease surveillance, improve public health interventions, and help the private sector continue to operate and sustain jobs. It is deploying up to $160 billion in financial support over the next 15 months to help countries protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery.  

REAL GDP AT MARKET PRICES IN PERCENT
CountryFiscal year2019(e)2020(f)2021(f)2022(f)
AfghanistanDecember to December2.9-5.9 to -3.83.3 to 3.95.2 to 6.2
BangladeshJuly to June8.22.0 to 3.01.2 to 2.92.8 to 3.9
BhutanJuly to June3.92.2 to 2.92.0 to 2.53.1 to 3.5
IndiaApril to March6.14.8 to 5.01.5 to 2.84.0 to 5.0
MaldivesJanuary to December5.2-13.0 to -8.56.3 to 7.35.0 to 5.5
Nepalmid-July to mid-July7.11.5 to 2.81.4 to 2.92.7 to 3.6
PakistanJuly to June3.3-2.2 to -1.30.3 to 0.93.2 to 3.3
Sri LankaJanuary to December2.6-3.0 to -0.50.2 to 1.22.0 to 2.5
  REVISION TO FORECASTS FROM OCTOBER 2019
CountryFiscal year2019(e)2020(f)
AfghanistanDecember to December-8.9 to -6.8-0.2 to 0.4
BangladeshJuly to June-5.2 to -4.2-6.1 to -4.4
BhutanJuly to June-5.2 to -4.5-3.9 to -3.4
IndiaApril to March-1.2 to -1.0-5.4 to -4.1
MaldivesJanuary to December-18.5 to -14.00.7 to 1.7
Nepalmid-July to mid-July-4.9 to -3.6-5.1 to -3.6
PakistanJuly to June-4.6 to -3.7-2.7 to -2.1
Sri LankaJanuary to December-6.3 to -3.8-3.5 to -2.5

Notes: The 2020 and 2021 numbers represent the lower and upper bound of the forecast range. For India, 2020 refers to FY19/20. e: Estimate f: Forecast. Source: World Bank

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Finance

The various ways you can buy gold

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Gold is usually valued as a commodity, currency, and investment for many years. This is why it’s still popular nowadays among investors because you can use gold as a hedge against inflation, currency devaluation, or deflation.

And, because of its ability to give you financial protection during times of economic uncertainty, it can be a good idea to invest in physical gold. Keep in mind that the gold market can be quite liquid and there are various ways in which you can gain exposure to gold including gold bars and coins. This page discusses the various ways you can buy gold.

Physical gold

Physical gold can offer you a direct exposure to gold. When gold is in bulk form, it’s called a bullion, and it can be minted into gold coins or cast into bars. The value of a gold bullion is usually based on its purity and mass rather than the monetary face value. Remember that if gold coins are issued with the monetary face value, the market value still depends on its fine gold content.

You can purchase physical gold from private mints, government mints, jewelers, and precious metal dealers. Because different gold sellers can give the same gold at different prices, it’s crucial for you to do research so that you can find the ideal deal. When you buy physical gold, you need to pay the full price.

Physical gold ownership can involve several costs like the insurance costs, storage costs, transaction fees, and markups related to purchasing and selling the commodity. Also, there can sometimes come with the processing fees as well as a small lot fees, especially if you are making small purchases. Collectively these costs cannot be that significant to affect you when you decide to invest a small portion of your portfolio in gold, but they can also be overwhelming if you want to have a large exposure. Check https://goldtrends.net/gold-ira-companies/ before you invest in gold.

Gold EFTs

EFTs are not like physical gold because you can buy them like shares on any stock exchange. The good thing about EFTs is that it allows you to get access to gold and you can avoid some costs like storage costs, markups, and many more. However, you should expect that you can lose a certain percentage of your investment’s value to the expense ratio of the fund. An expense ratio refers to the recurring annual fee that is charged to the funds to pay for administrative costs and management expenses. As a result, it’s always a good idea to weigh your options when it comes to choosing gold EFTs or having a gold IRA.

It’s also important to note that you need to pay a commission when you decide to purchase and sell an EFT. Many online commissions are usually affordable, but they can always add up if you happen to be an active trader. Besides, most brokers usually charge a high commission, especially for broker-assisted trades, special order types, and automated phone orders. To address the cost concerns that come with EFTs, some brokers are now giving commission-free online trading for some type of EFTs.

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How to ensure your Canadian public documents will be recognized in the EU?

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If you are moving to the EU for work or educational purposes, or you want to live there for a long time and you plan on using your Canadian public documents in different countries throughout the European Union, you must first go through a process so these documents are recognized in the EU. In Canada, this process is called Document Authentication and Legalization, however, others call it Attestation. Before going abroad, you might consider asking a professional company that handles document authentication Canada to help you out with the requirements needed, especially if time isn’t on your side.

Although you can organize the legalization of your documents yourself, if this is your first time authorizing these documents, it might take up a lot of your time and energy. Reputable agents can help speed up the process, so you can get on with the rest of your tasks before your travel to the EU.

What Business Documents do you need to Have Legalized Before entering the EU?

If you want to get your documents authenticated in Canada, you have to get the Department of Foreign Trade and International Affairs to stamp each document. If you are traveling to the EU for business, you might need to get the following documents authenticated:

  • Certificate of export
  • Shipping Document
  • Corporate documents that can be used while in the EU
  • Commercial invoice
  • Certificate of free sale
  • Pharmaceutical certificate
  • Distributorship Agreements

If you travel to the EU without these documents in order, you might find it difficult to carry out the work you had planned. Expect the European Union authorities to inspect these documents thoroughly. If you decide to go it alone instead of hiring an agent to help you out, make sure that you have plenty of time because a lot of these documents can take a long time to get legalized.

Personal Documentation

Although you won’t need these documents if you want to travel to the EU, if you plan on staying there for an extended period, you might need them at some stage. For these files to be recognized throughout the EU, you will need them authenticated. Here are a few examples of the documents you will want to get authorized before you hop on the plane:

If you arrive in the EU without this documentation authenticated, trying to get them recognized in the EU won’t be easy. To make sure your time in the EU goes smoothly, you should make sure that everything is finalized in Canada first.

Travelling to the EU during the Pandemic

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, a lot of areas around Europe have enforced quarantines on those entering from Canada. Each country has its own rules, so before you jet off, find out what the current situation is like. These Covid-19 regulations normally depend on the current situation in Canada, and most embassies will post details on their official website. If you can’t see them on their website, consider making direct contact with the embassy’s officials. Keep in mind that these rules are subject to change, so you should find out the details before you travel.

If you are fully vaccinated, you should have no problems getting into most countries throughout the EU. However, the EU doesn’t recognize every vaccine, even some that are approved by the WHO.

Most of the European countries are accepting fully vaccinated Canadians, but they will ask to see your proof of vaccination. Make sure you bring your travel health certificates with you, as they will show the dates when you received your first and last vaccination. If you haven’t received your vaccinations, then you might be allowed to enter without going into quarantine if you have already had the virus, as long as you have your PCR test completed.

What is the Visa situation for Canadian’s wanting to go to Europe?

At the moment, as long as you have your Covid-19 documents prepared and a valid Canadian passport with at least three blank pages, Canadians should have no issues entering the EU. However, this is going to change in the near future. From the beginning of 2023, Canadians who wish to go on a vacation or plan on working in the EU will have to apply for a travel pass. If you want to enter all the countries in the Schengen Area, you will need to apply for this travel pass online first. This pass is known as the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). This electronic scheme was made so the EU can keep track of those travelling around the EU. Canada already has a similar system in place known as the Canadian Electronic Travel Authorization.

You must apply for this before your travel to the EU, but until then, you can still enter with a valid passport. A lot of folks misunderstood the new process and thought it was going to start in early 2021, but the EU released a press release to explain that the changes will be enforced in 2023. However, this isn’t a visa that grants people access to the EU.

What is the Legalization of a Document?

Authentication or legalization of a document that is issued in Canada is a process that will verify, prove, and confirm the genuineness of the position of an official. Each document needs to be stamped by authorized people to allow for it to be recognized throughout the EU.

A lot of the time, the process is theoretically easy. You must submit the documents to get Global Affairs Canada. Every single document must get an official stamp if they are to be recognized. Once they are all stamped, you might have to submit them to the country’s embassy in Canada on where you are planning on going to in the EU so they can be legalized.

Conclusion

Although the process sounds easy, if you are an individual company wanting to do business in the EU, the process can cause a lot of stress. Trying to source the correct documentation and other paperwork might prove to be a lot more challenging than you initially thought. If you have invested heavily, and you are desperate to get to the EU as soon as possible, the process might take a lot longer if you plan on doing it all yourself.

There are plenty of agents out there that can help you through the entire process. They will review your documents before you hand them over to Global Affairs and the embassy, and they will be able to give you expert advice on the process. Experienced agents will understand the current requirements that the Global Affairs officials are looking for. Without having these documents organized before your trip who will struggle to do business in the EU. If you do business without having the paperwork on hand, you could find yourself in trouble with authorities in the EU, which will reflect badly on your business the next time you plan on working inside the European Union.

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Energy News

IRENA and the ESA Agree to Advance Energy Transition in Space Activities

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The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) today to advance the global energy transition through space-based services and products. The new partnership was signed by the two Director-Generals Francesco La Camera and Josef Aschbacher in pursuit of the common goal to ensure sustainable long-term socio-economic development within planetary boundaries.

Data and images from satellites can play a significant role to help countries better assess the geographical potential of renewables, identify the best locations for projects, forecast weather patterns and support long-term planning of new renewable generation capacity and infrastructure.

Francesco la Camera, IRENA’s Director-General said: “Today’s partnership opens a new avenue of cooperation to advance the international cooperation on energy transition globally. While an energy system underpinned by renewables is key to decarbonising our world in line with climate goals, renewables bring socioeconomic benefits with economic opportunity and social equity at its heart. By combining IRENA’s knowledge on energy transition with ESA’s space research and technology, we can accelerate the low-carbon energy transition and promote sustainable growth.”

Under the agreement, IRENA and ESA will make use of space assets and data to improve renewable generation site location, access to energy, electrification modelling, renewable resource mapping and smart grid planning. Urban energy system planning with focus on local renewables may also benefit from satellite data while enhancing system resilience.

Making use of digital technologies including 5G and combining for example satellite imagery with artificial intelligence and big data provide a unique opportunity to enable a wider space economy and support energy transitions across the world.

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