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A Challenging Budget

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Rank and file of the country keenly waiting for upcoming budget. This will be very important as well as challenging for the government of the day. Generally, the corona virus pandemic has made it difficult for all countries to manage economy, and particularly for Pakistan. Never in history of 73 years such kind of pressure was felt while presenting annual budget, like this one for fiscal year 2020-2021. 

The Federal Board of Revenue estimates a revenue loss of Rs.450 billion in the first quarter (July-September) of the next fiscal year in case the partial lockdown remains. In case of an extension in the lockdown, the tax body will see another shortfall of Rs.350 billion. The government plans to set revenue collection target between Rs.4.5 trillion to Rs.4.7 trillion in the budget for fiscal year 2020-2021. The final decision will be taken after discussing the plan with International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Overall economic indicators are sliding downward and showing negative trend. Exports are at halt from past six months. Tourism sector is entirely closed for both internal and external visitors. Flight operations are stopped and adding more losses to exchequer. Inflow of remittances which is an important source of foreign exchange, is showing dismal picture due to lockdown all over the world. Investors are getting back their investment due to fear of heavy loss due to prevailing uncertainty after pandemic. Moreover, business activity is at lowest ebb in the country. Thus, whole emerging situation after the corona virus spread, has badly affected collection of revenue and set target of the year.

Already, the Gross domestic product (GDP) during last six months reduced to Rs. 41.3 trillion, from Rs. 44 trillion. There are apprehensions GDP can further reduce, if lockdown amid corona virus prevailed for next few months. Taking all these into consideration, and health emergency prevalent today in country, making it difficult for government to lay out policy as they did in past time. It is just few days ahead when budget will be unveiled in National Assembly. Thus, this historic budget will set the motion, and way forward when Prime Minister, Imran Khan is persistently opposing lockdown, and also warning the nation of peak in cases yet to come in July and August.

What actually will be offered as a relief to ordinary people in budget is unclear? How government will sustain pressure of IMF and their set condition? Is this budget will ensure compensation to all who loss their earning source? Or this budget will overburden ordinary people to repay the debt to IMF and other international lenders. The answer to these question lay with budget to come in few days. Yet, it is important to mention here that people expect in such a challenging time  socio-economic protection as well as sound health conditions.

It is an undeniable fact that leadership emerges in testing time. Such time actually work as historic moment for leadership. During that time one can emerge and even loss his worthiness in the eyes of his people. So, corona virus has given that opportunity to PM when he can rise or can be membered as a failure due to global pandemic. In order to cash this opportunity what he needs is to lead from front. For instance, Jacinda Arden, prime minister of New Zealand is undoubtedly a successful world leader. She  led the fight against corona virus from front, and stay strong and steadfast in her decisions amid the pandemic. Resultantly, from past few days there is no infected patient in her country, and still observing lockdown, and screening of the people who are coming from abroad. Likewise, Imran Khan needs to come ahead when our country is still few weeks away to touch the peak in number of reported cases.

Previously, a premature resumption of business and a few other sectors were given permission to carry their activity. Knowingly or unknowingly that decision from government was a mistake as per medical experts because mantra of social distancing came to an end by that way, and surely could bring an exponential surge in cases in the country. What was feared before easing lockdown, came us in no time and today we are at number 15 in the world as per total reported cases. In addition, our economy is gradually moving toward ‘banana economy’.

There is still few days when we have new fiscal year. It is a time, ruling class sitting at the top should not revise the errors make in past days. their decisions must be people centric as well as bold enough to stem the spread of virus in country. There should be consensus on it that we are in health emergency which must be averted by preferring people health than anything else. For that purpose, doctors and paramedics issues be solved on priority basis in order to encourage them in fight against global pandemic.

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Economy

On the Role of Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) in Supporting a Green Recovery

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Perhaps one of the few areas where a consensus is crystallizing across the major powers of the global economy is on the urgency of advancing the green environmental agendas and reducing the carbon emissions. Global institutions such as the IMF are emphasizing the need for a green recovery to take hold in the world economy as the global community emerges from one of the starkest crises in the past century. The world’s sovereign wealth funds as a powerful force in international financial markets could play a vital role in advancing green projects as well as green finance. This is particularly relevant for Russia, where the National Wellbeing Fund could be partly invested into green financial instruments.

At this stage there is a number of global networks and initiatives that bring together the world’s largest institutional investors, including sovereign wealth funds, to drive the green investment agenda. These include European Long Term Investors, the Institutional Group on Climate Change and the Network on Climate Risk. Some of the wealth funds from the Middle East, including the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the Kuwait Investment Authority, the Qatar Investment Authority and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, are signatories to the One Planet SWF Framework. The meeting held by the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds in 2016 “participants highlighted that SWFs are particularly well-positioned to become trailblazers in green investment”.

Recent data and surveys reveal a growing integration of the green agenda into the decision-making and strategies of the world’s sovereign wealth funds. These were the findings of an inaugural survey of 34 sovereign wealth funds, representing 43% of the world’s sovereign funds, conducted in September by the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds and the One Planet Sovereign Wealth Funds .

The survey reveals that climate-related strategies represent more than 10% of portfolios for 30% of responding wealth funds. The survey also found that these funds made 18 investments in agriculture technology, forestry and renewables opportunities in 2020 at a total value of $2 billion, up from eight investments valued at $324 million in 2015. Overall, according to the survey “sovereign wealth funds have invested more than $5 billion in agritech, forestry and renewables opportunities over the past five years as part of an increased push toward climate change-aware investing”.

Just over a third of responding funds (36%) have a formal climate-change strategy in place, with 55% of these funds adopting the policies since 2015 and 30% since 2018.

The survey came up with the following recommendations to wealth funds based on the survey findings:

· to adopt and implement climate-related strategies;

· to seek appropriate talent and expertise;

· to explore board member and executive education;

· to use metrics to show not only climate impact but also comparable returns and risk reduction;

· to communicate to all stakeholders the strategic importance of climate change;

· to partner with peers and international initiatives to share experience and generate greater leadership from within the wealth fund network.

The latter recommendation dovetails the recent Valdai Club initiative to enhance cooperation among the largest sovereign wealth funds against the backdrop of the Covid pandemic. In particular, in 2020 the Valdai Club together with Shafi Aldamer and Curran Flynn from King Fahd University of Oil and Minerals advanced the proposal to create a platform for the sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) of G20 countries to boost long-term cooperation, direct investments, and the formation of bilateral/trilateral/multilateral investment accords. The findings of this policy brief were included in the T20 communiqué, which encourages the G20 to promote “the creation of a platform that would bring together the sovereign wealth funds of its members, possibly in coordination with the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds.”

Such a platform would encourage the G20 states to strengthen their economic cooperation, bolster mutual interests, improve multilateralism, and develop opportunities for their SWFs. Additionally, it would act as an emergency tool in easing the impact of a global crisis, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, as it can be employed as an anti-crisis measure via the investments of the G20 states’ SWFs. One important venue of cooperation for such a platform for sovereign wealth funds could be the elaboration of green investing principles and benchmarks for the major sovereign wealth funds, which in turn would support the advancement of a green recovery in the global economy in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic.

As regards Russia’s sovereign wealth funds, most notably the National Wellbeing Fund (NWF), which by Q1 2021 has accumulated more than USD 180 bn in overall resources there may be a case for investing part of the liquid reserve into green instruments, including sovereign green bonds. In particular, the investment guidelines for the NWF may involve a formal target on the share of green assets in the Fund’s portfolio. These in turn may include corporate and sovereign green bonds from advanced economies as well as an allocation reserved for Russia’s corporate and sovereign green bonds. The latter would potentially deliver a significant boost to the development of Russia’s green bond market. Currently green bonds account for just 1.5% of total corporate bonds outstanding in Russia and the emergence of sizeable demand from Russia’s sovereign wealth fund would raise the potential growth for this very important market segment.

From our partner RIAC

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5 things you should know about the state of the global economy

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Is this the year we overcome the global economic crisis caused by the pandemic? Are our jobs in danger? Who has lost the most in the crisis and what can be done to recover? As the UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs (DESA) prepares to launch the mid-year update of the 2021 World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) report, here are five things you need to know about the state of the global economy.

1) US and China bounce back, but a slow recovery for developing countries 

While economic output in the United States and China is expected to grow robustly and lift global growth, many developing economies are not expected to return to pre-pandemic output levels anytime soon. The pandemic is far from over for most developing countries where vaccination is advancing slowly, and fiscal pressures have intensified.

2) The situation of the most vulnerable has become even more precarious

Lockdowns and social distancing measures resulted in large job losses in contact-intensive and labour-intensive service sectors, which predominantly employ women. The pandemic has also exposed the vulnerability of informal employment, which is the main source of jobs in many countries and which offers less job security, social protection and access to healthcare.

3) Global trade recovery is strong, particularly in Asia

Merchandise trade has already surpassed pre-pandemic levels, buoyed by strong demand for electrical and electronic equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other manufactured goods. Trade in services remains constrained by restrictions on international travel. While exports from Asian economies have soared, exports from Africa, Western Asia, and the Commonwealth of Independent States has stalled.

4) The COVID-19 crisis has inflicted more harm on women and girls

This crisis disproportionately affected women, who suffered significant job and income losses, contributing to the worsening of gender poverty gaps. Burdened by increased home care duties, many girls and women gave up on schools, and the workforce altogether. Returning to school and work might take longer or may not happen at all for many of them, further widening gender gaps in education, income and wealth.

5) Countries need to do more to address the uneven impact of the COVID-19 crisis

There is an urgent need for countries to formulate better targeted and gender-sensitive policies to drive a more resilient and inclusive recovery from the crisis. Though on the frontlines of the pandemic, women have been under-represented in pandemic related decision-making and economic policy responses. The severe and disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and girls call for more targeted policy and support measures for women and girls, not only to accelerate the recovery but also to ensure that the recovery is inclusive and resilient.

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Biden’s shift from neo-liberal economic model

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Mercantilism; which was the ‘Hall of Fame’ from 15th-18th Century had emerged from the decaying of feudal economic system in Europe.  It was initially started from the Mediterranean trade in bullion on the cities like Venice, Genoa and Pisa. In the course of history, this idea was challenged by the writings of John Lock’s Second Treatise of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration with larger than life of Adam Smith’s, The Wealth of Nations of 1776—gave rise to Classical Liberalism. This idea also even started shaking during the 1930s followed by the Great Depression. The Keynesian economic model came to escape the consequences of this Great economic shortfall till 1970s. Afterwards, Neo-liberalism was the ‘lifeline of the global economy’. Soon, this also diminished from the rapid financialization and globalization process of 1990s. The financialization, which was the ‘Heart of the Town’ till 2008; devastated by the 2008 financial crisis. The US government rescued this crisis via Dodd-Frank Act and greater stimulus package to economy. And, lastly current COVID-19 pandemic crisis is much more powerful than that of 1930’s Great Depression or any other crisis in observable history. To cope of with this crisis, Biden administration is rescuing the economy with comprehensive stimulus package by challenging the internationally accepted  fundamental economic model.

Today, Keynesian economic model is taking shape in the US. The central theme of Keynesian theory —measured as the sum of the spending by households, business, and the government; which Biden is doing so by $640 billion housing plans over 10 years to provide affordable, safe housing for all individuals, by increasing tax for corporations and high-income filers by $3.3 trillion. In addition to this, he is creating massive government spending ($2trillion) on infrastructure for job creation, spending on public goods( health care, education, job, security, child care), and less interested in fiscal deficits and his more critical view on an unregulated market controlled by big corporations.  These steps of Biden correlated with that of the Keynesian economic model (the model which remained ‘talk of the town’ from WWII to the 1970s).  Following this, new Washington Consensus is born against the low levels of government spending, minimizing fiscal deficits, nonintervention, and deregulation in the market, and liberations of trade and foreign investment.  All these ‘values’ are undermined by the current Biden administration.

The world economy is in the same historical place as that of WWII followed by the great depression comparing today of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, whenever there is an unprecedented shock on capitalism; it has always transformed itself within. From the Mercantilism(16th-18th Century), Classical liberalism, Keynesian/ neoliberalism, and financialization–capitalism has survived astonishingly. This new ‘Bidenomics’ will behave as an influential replica in the other parts of the world as the land, labor, capital, and productivity is impacted immensely by the COVID-19 pandemic. This succeeding market intervention by the US government could replicate in other international liberalism followers nations of the world. The era of government-led intervention in the market started.

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