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Economies vs. coronavirus

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As the coronavirus pandemic advances worldwide coming to the fore is the ability of economies to hold out against an increasingly likely global recession.

Throughout the past year, a number of economists predicted a deterioration in international and country situation in 2020. However, at that moment, the researchers cited “classical” macroeconomic reasons for such a recession – the trade war, the slowdown in leading economies, the growing “bubbles” in stock markets, factors of cyclic nature. As for more radical forecasts, even their authors categorized them as “shocking” or “unbelievable.” No one could contemplate a global epidemic, capable of literally “putting on quarantine” billions of people.

“The fight against the pandemic came as a shock of a scope, if not the Great Depression of the 1930s, then at least the Great Recession of 2008–2009,” – says Oleg Shibanov, professor at the Russian Economic School, in Vedomosti. In the face of the coronavirus, there emerged a watershed between countries that have demonstrated the ability to quickly and effectively respond to the epidemic – “this is South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong”, along with one-party China, which mobilized a well-trained military and civilian state apparatus to fight against coronavirus, “and those Western countries that turned out to be unprepared, ” – says Pierre Lelouch, former French Secretary of State for European Affairs, in an interview with Le Figaro.

From the structural point of view, the closure of dozens of businesses and even the entire sectors of the economy in most countries of the world, combined with the fall of stock markets “during February and March” has caused a drop in demand in most countries of the world. Quarantine inevitably limits consumer access to the service sector, which is fraught with disaster for small and medium-sized businesses, which, for example, in South Korea, make up more than half of national economy. Also, it is completely unclear as to how the transportation industry, tourism industry, public catering can recover after the crisis. In addition, a major problem to be tackled with is the absence, for understandable reasons, of reliable epidemiological models that would allow governments to predict with high precision the development of a pandemic and its economic consequences.

For example, experts have information on the economic indicators of US metropolitan areas during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918-19. They show that the more drastic measures the authorities used to combat the epidemic, the higher their economic performance was after it ended. However, The Economist says, the age-related characteristics of coronavirus mortality are very different from the Spanish flu. Unlike then, when it was about an industrial economy, today it’s mainly about the economy of services. Therefore, the outcome may be different.

Economists have traditionally used the concept of “growth model” to describe the key characteristics of the economic systems of individual countries. They also use this model to predict the policies of the authorities in the context of economic crises. However, at present most leading economies or economic associations are characterized by a mixed model which requires the adoption of measures that contradict each other. And therein lies a huge problem.

Thus, the EU faced the pandemic in a situation where the chances for meeting the criteria for EU membership in case of an unfavorable turn of events in the global economic environment were very limited for most countries in the eurozone. The slowdown in European economies during the 2000s – 2010s led to an increase in budget deficits in many countries. The current crisis hit Europe, first of all, countries that are already burdened with high debt. For example, Italy’s public debt could reach 160 percent of GDP by the end of this year – which “could provoke panic in the state bond market.” As a result, one of the first “victims” of coronavirus was the EU Stability Pact.

The current crisis is different for Europe compared to the previous ones also because the pandemic is “unpredictable” and because “Europeanism” was weakened by other crises of the last decade. ”. The situation in the eurozone is“ much worse than in 2009 ”, because forecasters underestimate the “implosion of economic processes.” “The recession promises to be longer and deeper”. According to the ECB, the EU may require a package of fiscal measures of up to 1.5 trillion euro until the end of the year. Like during the euro crisis, Europe has split. Paris, Rome and Madrid, supported by a growing number of other countries, are demanding common “corona bonds” to share the burden of fighting the epidemic and its economic consequences. This is because countries that rely on consumption for growth combat the negative consequences of the epidemic, first of all, by supporting incomes at the highest possible level.

On the other hand, where export is the main driver of the economy, it is first necessary to support the sustainability of the current balance sheets of enterprises and keep jobs. That’s why Germany, which, they predict, will see a 10 percent economic decline in the first quarter, and Austria and the Netherlands, for the evening of April 8, strongly oppose the “uncontrolled printing of money.” Finally, it is not clear what long-term effect for the common market will come from the restoration of border controls and entry bans. “No less than the existence of the EU could be put at stake”,experts say.

The US growth model is highly questionable as well. While it leans on a fairly large service sector, significant exports, the main driver of the economy is consumer spending. According to critics, the American economy cannot survive a long period of national quarantine without catastrophic consequences. A total halt in economic activity will destroy the social fabric of society and bring the existing growth model down to its knees. However, a “reset” of the economy, which the Trump administration continues to dream about, “will turn the pandemic into a plague.”

Unlike the 2008 crisis, all the emergency measures taken by the FRS in recent weeks have not stabilized the markets. The more than two-trillion aid package, formally approved by the Congress, leaves the most burning question unanswered: who should be the recipients of this support, businesses or citizens? Usually, Washington chooses businesses. But in this case, the authorities face a dramatic upsurge in unemployment, which has not been observed for the past 60 years. Meanwhile, it is the employment factor that can become key in determining the winner in the upcoming presidential election. For the incumbent administration, Henry Kissinger points out, “public trust in American ability to manage the situation at home” is at stake.

A dual situation is observed in China. On the one hand, Beijing, according to official figures, has managed to at least put the epidemic under control. In economic terms, China is “in a strong position”, possessing the world’s largest reserves, significant liquid assets, and industrial capacities that can not only quickly compensate for the losses of recent months but give a new powerful impetus to Beijing’s greater economic presence throughout the world. At the same time, China is confronted with “the weakened and over-credited United States and Europe, which are threatened by a widespread financial crisis that will follow the collapse of their economies”.

On the other hand, the Chinese economy is heavily dependent on exports to other countries, which have declined sharply in recent months, and on imports, which suffer as well following closures of production facilities and ports around the world. In addition, China has reported an incessant slowdown over the past few years. The high debt of businesses and problems in the banking sector have worsened amid the “corona crisis”. In terms of global markets, China poses a threat to the US debt market if circumstances force Beijing to sell off dollar reserves. Finally, the slowdown, not to mention the decline of the Chinese economy, will play a major role in lowering commodity prices, since China holds the world’s second position in annual imports.

Lower-priced commodities can destabilize the economies of dozens of developing countries that depend on their exports. On March 30, UNCTAD published a report stating that “for developing countries, the consequences of the pandemic … proved worse than what they had to go through in 2008.” Devaluation hit particularly hard on Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and South Africa. According to UNCTAD experts, the shortage of funds for developing countries to fulfill their financial obligations in 2020 and 2021 will amount to up to 2 trillion. dollars. “This could lead to a debt crisis in which many direct and indirect lenders in industrially developed countries will be dragged into.” Finally, in many developing countries, most people have no savings and governments do not have enough funds to support those who have lost their jobs. Even a relatively short nationwide quarantine can send the economies of such countries into decline. According to media reports, by April 6, “at least 85 states had turned to the IMF for assistance.”

According to pessimists, there is a good reason to believe that the longer the quarantine lasts, the greater structural damage it will cause to any economy. The professional skills of workers, as well as their social networks, will also be affected. According to optimists, “America and Europe will put the economic crisis out with money, while incomes lost due to the epidemic will be reimbursed from the budgets and all problems will be sent into the infinitely distant future.” And the economic models that demonstrated growth before the Covid-19 crisis will return to it within 2-3 years.

Finally, governments in many countries will surely resort to measures aimed at restoring or expanding national production in strategically important sectors, including the food and medical industries. Domestic market support policy is gaining popularity again. “This is in line with the strategy of Donald Trump in the USA, the strategy of Boris Johnson in the UK and Shinzo Abe in Japan. The goal is not so much as to limit international trade, but to create a sound domestic market, which will make it possible to reduce its dependence on conflicts and the blows of world trade ”.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, the authorities in most countries will have to spend “much more than they think.” The consequences of the pandemic in the form of rising government debt and spikes in inflation will not take long to present themsevles. Markets may find themselves “replaced by governments”; and people in most countries of the world “will want to restore national prerogatives, especially regarding … the health sector.”

Any strategy adopted by the authorities in the current conditions will entail significant social and economic damage. Therefore, a search for the best model for adapting the economy to the comprehensive challenge of the pandemic will most likely be conducted by trial and error. The errors, unfortunately, will cost human lives. In the end, countries that succeed in picking a more effective model will gain a tangible advantage in economic competition in the “post-virus” world.

From our partner International Affairs

Economy

Future Economy: Micro-Manufacturing & Micro-Exports

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Recovery now forces economies to emerge as dynamic entrepreneurial landscapes; today, the massively displaced working citizenry of the world may not return to old jobs, but with little help slowly shifting towards entrepreneurial startups as new frontiers to create economic independence and increased local grassroots prosperity. Today, the latest global influences of trendy entrepreneurialism optimizing available options like high quality “Micro-Manufacturing” and high value added “Micro-Exporting” now common discussions on the main streets of the world.  Although, this is not an easy task, but still very doable for so many and promises local uplifts. Smart nations are awakening to such bold notions and entrepreneurial driven agencies mandated to foster local economies are using virtual events to rise up with global rhythm and rich contents.

 Therefore, the blueprints and new models of today on upskilling SME exporters and reskilling for better-designed manufacturing, nation-by-nation and city-by-city are mobilization ready ideas to optimize abandoned talents. Nevertheless, such upskilling and reskilling of masses demands already skilled leadership of most of the gatekeepers of local economic development venues. 

Furthermore, global competitiveness has raised the bar and now only high quality value added goods and services traded for the wide-open world. The conveyer belts of technology and zoomerang culture of virtual connectivity flourishes platform economies. Missing are the advanced skills, complex problem solving and most importantly national mobilization of entrepreneurialism on digital platforms of upskilling to foster innovative excellence and exportability. SME and Startups must advance on global thinking, optimize access, and maximize image and quality superiority to reach the farthest markets with deeper pockets.

This is not an easy task. Methodical progressions needed. Study how Pentiana Project tabled advanced thinking on such trends during the last decade. Export Promotion Agencies, Chambers of Commerce, Trade Associations and most SME and midsize economic developments bodies all called for bold and open debates. For fast track results, follow the trail of silence and help thought leadership to engage in bold and open debates and give them guidance to overcome their fears of transformation.

Small enterprises must now open to new world of 200 nations and 10,000 cites

Micro-Exporters: Upskilling Startups to think like global exporters; the pandemic recoveries across the world coping with a billion displaced all have now critical needs of both upskilling and reskilling. Upskilling is the process of learning new skills to achieve new thinking. Reskilling is the process of learning new skills to achieve new performances. What is exporting, how to start at micro-levels and how to expand globally with technology are new challenges and promising options.

Micro-Manufacturers: Reskilling Startups to think like smart manufacturers; the real goals for startups to enlarge and base thinking on reskilling for “real value creation” becomes mandatory. How to start by thinking better, design quality with creative global age strategies and advance?  Advanced Manufacturing Clusters in various nations will greatly help, but understanding of global-age expansion of value offerings with fine production is a new art and commercialization to 200 nations a new science.

The future of economies, The arrival of Virtual leadership and Zoomerang culture is a gift from pandemic recovery, although at infancy, the sector will not only grow but also alter global commerce for good. Once successful the traditional advertising and marketing models dying, direct access live interaction is now far superior to mass-mailing and social media screaming.  The zoomerang impact of global thought leadership now forcing institutions to become armchair Keynote speakers and Panelists to deliberate wisdom from the comfort of their homes round the clock events has arrived.

The Difficult Questions: Nation-by-nation,when 50% of frontline teams need ‘upskilling’ often 50% of the back-up teams need ‘reskilling’ so how do you open discussions leading to workable and productive programs? Each stage challenges competency levels and each stage offers options to up-skill for better performances. Talent gaps need fast track closing and global-age skills need widening. New flat hierarchical models provide wide-open career paths and higher performance rewards in post pandemic recovery phases. When executed properly such exercises match new skills and talents with the right targeted challenges of the business models and market conditions. The ultimate objective of “extreme value creation” in any enterprise must eliminate the practices of ‘extreme value manipulations”.

First Three Steps:  In order to mobilize a startups revolution along with a small medium business economy, start by identifying 1000 to 10,000 high enterprises anxious to grow for national global markets. To quadruple exportability, select a small leadership team, from local trade Associations, Economic Development Bodies and Chambers of Commerce responsive to calls of upskilling and reskilling as critical steps. Suggest roundtable discussions to reach local, national or global audiences to spread the message. Explore such superior level debates to mobilize local businesses.  Most importantly, such mobilizations are not new funding dependent they are deployment hungry and execution starved. Futurism is workless, uplifting mental powers towards better value-added production of goods and services will save economies.  Optimize zoomerang culture and use virtual events to raise the bar on thought leadership. The world is moving fast and best to join the pace.

The rest is easy

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Portugal’s crisis management: “Economic patriotism” should not be tied to ideological beliefs

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The economic policy of the Hungarian government has provoked fierce criticism in the last decade, as it deviated from the neoliberal mainstream and followed a patriotic path, putting Hungarian interests in the foreground. While many link this style of political economy to the conservative position of the Orbán-government, in Portugal, a left-wing administration followed a similarly patriotic line to overcome the symptoms of the Eurozone crisis, showcasing that economic patriotism is not tied to ideologies, but is merely responsible thinking.

The catastrophic path of austerity

According to the theory of austerity, the government by implying austerity measures, “puts its finances in order”, hence the state does not become indebted and consequently investors’ confidence in the economy returns. However, if we think about what we really mean by austerity (tax increases, wage cuts, budget constraints, etc.), even the theory itself sounds counterproductive. Not surprisingly, this theoretical counter productivity has been demonstrated in practice in several cases.

One of the best examples is the case of Portugal, which along with Greece and other Southern-European nations was probably hit the hardest by the financial crunch. While all of the “GIPS” (Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain) entered a steer recession, Portugal somehow managed to overcome it more successfully than its regional peers, but before that, it felt the bitter taste of neoliberal structural reforms.

Although the case of Portugal was not as traumatic as the ones of its Southern-European counterparts, in order to keep its debt under control, stabilize its banks and introduce “growth-friendly” reforms, Lisbon negotiated a € 78 billion bailout package in 2011, in exchange for a rigid austerity program aimed at the 2011-2014 period, orchestrated by the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB), the infamous “Troika”.

The neoliberal recipe did not differ much from that of Greece, and the then ruling Passos Coelho conservative government faithfully followed the structural reforms demanded by the “group of three”: working hours increased, number of bank holidays fell, holiday bonuses were abolished, wages and pensions have also been cut by 20 per cent, while public spending on health and education was drastically cut, and due to escalating privatizations, public assets have also been sold off quickly.

Despite the fact that by 2014 the country’s budget deficit as a share of the GDP had fallen to 4.5 per cent from the staggering11.2 per cent recorded in 2011 and the current account showed a surplus – as domestic demand fell apart, forcing companies to export –Portugal was still on the brink of social and economic collapse.

Public debt soared to more than 130 per cent of the GDP, tens of thousands of businesses went bankrupt, unemployment rose to 17 per cent and skyrocketed to 40 per cent amongst the youth. As a result, many talented Portuguese fled abroad, with an estimated 150,000 nationals emigrating in a single year.

The post-2015 turnaround

Things only began to change in 2015, when the Portuguese elected Anotnio Costa as Prime Minister, who was the mayor of Lisbon under the years of the crunch. Shortly after his election, Merkel encouraged the center-left politician to follow the neoliberal prescription proposed by the “Troika”, while her Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, underlined that Portugal would make a “serious mistake” if it decided not to follow the neoliberal doctrine and would eventually be forced to negotiate another rescue package.

Not being intimidated by such “threats”, Costa ditched austerity without hesitation, restored working hours, cut taxes and raised the minimum wage by 20 percent in the course of just two years. Obviously, his unpopular position made him crush with Brussels, as his government allowed the budget deficit to reach 4.4 per cent, compared to the agreed 2.7 per cent target. However, in May 2016, the Commission granted Costa another year to comply, and since then Portugal has consistently exceeded its deficit targets.

Tourism also largely assisted the post-15 recovery, to which the government placed great emphasis, so that in 2017 the number of visitors rose to a record high, reaching 12.7 million. Concurrently, Portugal has significantly improved the international reputation of its businesses and products, which contributed to increasing the country’s export revenues and attracting foreign investment.

Furthermore, Costa has raised social spending and at the same time planned to invest state revenues in transport, environmental infrastructure and energy, initiatives that could be extremely beneficial, as they would not only significantly improve the country’s sustainability, but also boost job creation, something that yet again indicates how important public investment is to an economy.

Additionally, Portugal has become an undervalued tech-hub, with plenty of start-ups offering good employment opportunities in addition to fostering innovation. The government with several initiatives, seeks to create a business-friendly ecosystem for them, under which they can thrive and boost the economy to the largest extent. It is thus not surprising, that Portugal has been the fastest growing country in Europe when it comes to the number of programmers.

Finally, one of the Costa’s top priorities, has been to lure back emigrated Portuguese who moved abroad during the crisis. To this end, tax cuts are offered to Portuguese citizens who choose to return home.

In a sum, since Costa stepped into office, Portugal has undergone a rapid recovery: economic growth has returned, unemployment has fallen radically, the public debt was also set on a downgrading path, while the budget remained well-balanced despite the increased spending, with Costa himself explaining that “sound public accounts are compatible with social cohesion”. Even Schäuble acknowledged Portugal’scrisis management, by actually calling Mário Centeno – the finance minister of the Costa government – the “Cristiano Ronaldo” of finance ministers.

Of course, not everything is bright and wonderful, as the country has emerged from a large crisis, the effects of which cannot be eliminated in just a few years. Public debt is still amongst the highest in the EU and several other challenges lie ahead for the South-European nation, especially by taking into consideration that the world economy just entered yet another crisis.

Furthermore, according to many, it was not Costa who led the recovery, but Portugal passively benefited from a strong recovery in Europe, falling oil prices, an explosion in tourism and a sharp drop in debt repayment costs. Indeed, it has to be taken into account that Portugal entered the recession in a relatively better position than many of its spatial counterparts and the relatively high quality of its domestic institutional infrastructure and policy-adaptation capacity aided the previous government to efficiently complete the memorandum of understanding (MoU) as early as 2015. Nevertheless, this is not a sufficient reason to discredit the post-2015 government’s efforts and justify the harsh austerity measures implied by the Troika. Taking into account that austerity never really provided decent results, it becomes evident that Costa’s policies were quite effective.

Economic patriotism should not be connected to ideologies

While in the case of Hungary and Poland “economic patriotism” has been fiercely criticized despite its prosperous results, this spite tendency has been an outcome of strong politicization in economic policy analysis. Even though the political context is verily important, it is also crucial to interpret economic policy independently, in order to take away valuable lessons and identify mistakes. Political bias is not a fortunate thing, as it is absolute and nullifies debate and hence development.

The case of Portugal is a perfect example, as it provides sound evidence, that a patriotic economic policy can be exercised by governments from all across the political spectrum and that the notion should not be connected to political and ideological beliefs. The left-wing Costa-government with its policy-making demonstrated that a solution always exists and that requires a brave, strong and decisive government, that pursues its own plan in the interests of the ‘patrie’, regardless of its positioning.

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The Question Of Prosperity

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Galloping economic woes, prejudice, injustice, poverty, low literacy rate, gender disparity and women rights, deteriorating health system, corruption, nepotism, terrorism, political instability, insecure property rights, looming energy crisis and various other similar hindrances constrain any state or country to be retrograded. Here questions arise that how do these obstacles take place? How do they affect the prosperity of any country? No history, geography, or culture spawns them. Simply the answer is institutions that a country possesses.

Institutions ramify into two types: inclusive and extractive. Inclusive political institutions make power broadly distributed in country or state and constrain its arbitrary exercise. Such political institutions also make it harder for others to usurp rights and undermine the cornerstone of inclusive institutions, which create inclusive economic institutions that feature secure property rights, an unbiased system of law, and a provision of public services that provide a level playing field in which people can exchange and contract; it also permits the entry of new businesses and allow people to choose their career. On the contrary, extractive political institutions accord clout in hands of few narrow elite and they have few constrains to exert their clout and engineer extractive economic institutions that can specifically benefit few people of the ruling elite or few people in the country.

Inclusive institutions are proportional to the prosperity and social and economic development. Multifarious countries in the world are great examples of this. Taking North and South Korea; both countries garnered their sovereignty in same year 1945, but they adopted different ways to govern the countries. North Korea under the stewardship of Kim Il-sung established dictatorship by 1947, and rolled out a rigid form of centrally planned economy as part of the so-called Juche system; private property was outlawed, markets were banned, and freedoms were curtailed not only in marketplace but also in every sphere of North Korea’s lives- besides those who used to be part of the very small ruling elite around Kim Il-sung and later his son and his successor Kim Jong-Il. Contrariwise, South Korea was led and its preliminary politico-economic institutions were orchestrated by the Harvard and Princeton-educated. Staunchly anticommunist Rhee and his successor General Park Chung-Hee secured their places in history as authoritarian presidents, but both governed a market economy where private property was recognised. After 1961, Park effectively taken measures that caused the state behind rapid economic growth; he established inclusive institutions which encouraged investment and trade. South Korean politicians prioritised to invest in most crucial segment of advancement that is education. South Korean companies were quick to take advantage of educated population; the policies encouraged investment and industrialisation, exports and the transfer of technology. South Korea quickly became a “Miracle Economy” and one of the most rapidly growing nations of the world. Just in fifty years there was conspicuous distinction between both countries not because of their culture, geography, or history but only due to institutions both countries had adopted.

Moreover, another model to gauge role of institutions in prosperity is comparison of Nogales of US and Mexico. US Nogales earn handsome annual income; they are highly educated; they possess up to the mark health system with high life expectancy by global standards; they are facilitated with better infrastructure, low crime rate, privilege to vote and safety of life. By contrast, the Mexican Nogales earn one-third of annual income of US Nogales; they have low literacy rate, high rate of infant mortality; they have roads in bad condition, law and order in worse condition, high crime rate and corruption. Here also the institutions formed by the Nogales of both countries are main reason for the differences in economic prosperity on the two sides of the border.

Similarly, Pakistan tackles with issues of institutions. Mostly, pro-colonial countries are predominantly inheritors of unco extractive politico-economic institutions, and colonialism is perhaps germane to Pakistan’s tailoring of institutions. Regretfully, Pakistan is inherited with colossally extractive institutions at birth. The new elite, comprising civilian-military complex and handful aristocrats, has managed to prolong colonial-era institutional legacy, which has led Pakistan to political instability, consequently, political instability begot inadequacy of incentives which are proportional to retro gradation of the country.

Additionally, a recent research of Economic Freedom of the World (WEF) by Fraser Institute depicts that the countries with inclusive institutions and most economic freedom are more developed and prosperous than the least economic free countries; countries were divided into four groups. Comparing most free quartile and least free quartile of the countries, the research portrayed that most free quartile earns even nine times more than least free quartile; most free quartile has two times more political and civil rights than least free quartile; most free quartile owes three times less gender disparity than least free quartile; life expectancy tops at 79. 40 years in most free quartile, whereas number stands at 65.20 in least free quartile. To conclude this, the economic freedom is sine quo non for any country to be prosperous, and economic freedom comes from inclusive institutions. Unfortunately, Pakistan has managed to get place in least free quartile.

In a nutshell, the institutions play pivotal role in prosperity and advancement, and are game changer for any country. Thereby, our current government should focus on institutions rather than other issues, so that Pakistan can shine among the world’s better economies. For accomplishing this highly necessary task government should take conducive measures right now.

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