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ADB Supports Philippines’ Financial Inclusion Reforms with $300M Loan

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $300 million policy-based loan to support the Philippine government’s efforts to boost inclusive growth by implementing reforms to expand Filipinos’ access to financial services, especially in unserved and underserved areas across the country.

ADB’s Inclusive Finance Development Program, Subprogram 2, is supporting reforms to help the government reach targets linked to the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion. These measures will strengthen the institutional and policy environment for financial inclusion, improve financial infrastructure, and increase the capacity and reach of service providers, especially rural banks and non-bank financial institutions.

“The Philippine government’s anti-poverty strategy aims to equip Filipinos in the bottom 40% of the income strata with education, skills, and livelihood assistance so they can break away from a vicious cycle of intergenerational poverty. Ensuring all Filipinos are part of the financial system is important to this approach,” said ADB Vice-President Ahmed M. Saeed. 

“Through this loan, ADB is partnering with the Philippines to implement innovative initiatives around digital finance to significantly improve poor Filipinos’ access to financial services and products as a way to lift their incomes and wellbeing,” said ADB Senior Financial Sector Specialist for Southeast Asia Kelly Hattel. 

According to the 2017 Global Findex Survey, the Philippines ranked among the lowest in Southeast Asia on almost all financial inclusion indicators. Only 34% of Filipino adults have an account at a formal financial institution, compared with 49% in Indonesia, 82% in Thailand, and 85% in Malaysia. The Philippines can expand financial access to poor Filipinos through credit, savings, insurance, pensions, and remittances.

Reforms supported by the loan are being implemented by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Philippine Guarantee Corporation (Philguarantee), the Philippine Statistics Authority, the Department of Justice, and the Insurance Commission. These reforms, which focus on the poorest 40% of the population and rural residents, aim to more than double the number of Filipinos holding an account at a formal financial institution by 2023.

Key reforms include the rollout of the country’s National Identification System, which will benefit all Filipinos and help speed up the delivery of social assistance programs, the launch of pilots on agriculture value chain finance, and public–private partnerships for crop insurance. The loan also supports government reforms to incorporate financial literacy programs in the country’s K-12 basic education curriculum and increase the use of digital payments in the country. It will help reorganize and strengthen Philguarantee’s operations, expand coverage of the credit reporting system, promote the use of cloud-based core banking technology among rural banks, and support the development of Islamic finance in the country.

These reforms will complement other programs ADB is supporting in the Philippines. For example, the $400 million Competitive and Inclusive Agriculture Development Program approved by ADB in August 2020 to help the government increase agricultural productivity and the $500 million Expanded Social Assistance Project approved in June 2020 to support education and health conditional cash transfers to poor households.

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Uzbek home appliance manufacturer Artel joins United Nations Global Compact

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This week, Artel Electronics LLC (Artel), Central Asia’s largest home appliance and electronics manufacturer, has become an official participant of the United Nation Global Compact (UNGC). Launched in 2000, the UNGC is a voluntary leadership platform for the development, implementation, and disclosure of responsible business practices. Artel becomes Uzbekistan’s third company to participate.

Artel joins over 10,000 companies worldwide, including Microsoft, Facebook and Nestlé, in affirming the Compact’s ten principles. These include a commitment to human rights, labour standards, sustainability, and anti-corruption.  The company will also seek opportunities to promote the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As one of the country’s largest companies, Artel’s membership will provide significant momentum towards the alignment of the Uzbek private sector with international standards.

Furthermore, Artel has become a founding member of the Coalition of Business Champions for the Sustainable Development of Uzbekistan. Artel will use its position alongside coalition partners to promote placing environmental and social considerations at the heart of the country’s growth. This builds on the company’s significant work on water provision, gender equality and education.

Bektemir Murodov, CFO of Artel Electronics, said: “We are delighted to join the UN Global Compact and become part of such a proactive global community of businesses working towards sustainable development. As a large Uzbek company, we have a huge responsibility to promote sustainability as well as international labour standards, human rights and anti-corruption. This reaffirms our commitment to these principles. 

We also know that this is a great opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading companies, and we look forward to taking an active part in the conversation around how to promote the SDGs in Uzbekistan.”

Becoming a participant of the UNGC is the next step in Artel’s ESG development. The company has restructured its corporate governance to align with international best practice, and continually works to increase the efficiency of its products and reduce the environmental impact of its operations. Artel also has significant social projects that focus on water access and education. Most recently, Artel promoted the UN’s 16 days of Activism against Gender-based Violence and will soon launch a Women’s Development Programme with a legal clinic to promote legal literacy and gender equality.

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EU Cohesion policy: Commission announces the winners of the REGIOSTARS Awards 2021

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Today, the European Commission has announced the winners of the 2021 edition of the REGIOSTARS Awards that reward the best Cohesion policy projects in the whole EU. This year’s REGIOSTARS competition received a record 214 applications and 14,156 people voted in the public choice’s category.

Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, commented: “My warm congratulations to the 10 winners of the EU Cohesion policy projects of 2021. They are role models for everyone who wishes to better the life of people with the use of EU funds. I hope they will inspire many others across the continent. For sure, with REGIOSTARS we have learnt that excellence and innovation are everywhere in Europe. You just need to look for them and highlight them as they deserve. We will keep looking for them and we will keep supporting them.”

The awards cover five categories and a public choice prize:

For ‘SMART Europe: Increasing the competitiveness of local businesses in a digital world’ (1st category) the award went to Integration 3D metal printing from Belgium. The project supports the implementation of the 3D metal printing technology in small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) through a very innovative integrated approach to knowledge and technology. The idea is easily transferable to other contexts with industrial tradition.

For ‘GREEN Europe: Green and resilient communities in urban and rural setting’ (2nd category) the award was given to ICCARUS (Gent knapt op) for providing a unique housing renovation financial scheme for 100 vulnerable homeowners in Ghent, Belgium. This project has a strong social component and is easily transferable, both to other places, including to less developed regions, and other sectors.

The award for ‘FAIR Europe: Fostering inclusion and anti-discrimination’ (3rd category) went to TREE – Training for integrating Refugees in the Euregion, which facilitates the integration of refugees through the  development of a needs-based training programme for practitioners working with refugees and migrants, and a qualification programme for social interpreters. The winners are from the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium.

Travelling Solidary Cannery received the award in the 4th category, ‘URBAN Europe: Promoting green, sustainable and circular food systems in functional urban areas’. The project provides the disadvantaged access to healthy and fair food at affordable prices all year round. At the same time, it develops a new range of professions centred on the production, valorisation, logistics and marketing of local products, but also of unsold products from supermarkets or surplus harvests. The winner is from Belgium.

Under the topic of the year: ‘Enhancing green mobility in the regions – European Year of Rail 2021’ (5th category) the winner is North-West Multimodal Transport Hub from the United Kingdom and Ireland. This project provides an increased rail capacity, a strong balance of services for cycling, public transport and active travel users in Londonderry and an encouraging modal shift from car to public transport.

Finally, the ‘Public Choice Award’ goes to BEGIN, a project that unites cities, citizens, and stakeholders through the co-creation of blue and green infrastructure projects in 10 EU cities in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium, Norway and Germany. The project aims at reducing flood risk by up to 30% and improving livability. Other public favorites were Balkan Road (under the 1st category), Baltazar (3rd category), Digital Farming Specialist (4th category) and Transporte A Pedido (5th category).

Background

The REGIOSTARS Awards are the yearly competition organised by the Commission since 2008: it has become Europe’s label of excellence for EU-funded projects under Cohesion policy that demonstrate innovative and inclusive approaches to regional development.

Each year, hundreds of projects compete in five categories: ‘Smart Europe’, ‘Green Europe’, ‘Fair Europe’, ‘Urban Europe’, and the topic of the year. The public can participate by voting for their favourite project among all finalists for the public choice award.

By bringing about solutions to common challenges and tapping into the biggest opportunities, the REGIOSTARS have inspired regions to deliver evermore-impactful EU Cohesion policy.

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This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: Ines Lee and Eileen Tipoe win the Bracken Bower Prize 2021

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Photo: Financial Times Live /flickr

The Financial Times and McKinsey & Company today announce that Nicole Perlroth is the winner of the 2021 Business Book of the Year Award for This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race, published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK), Bloomsbury (US), an analysis of the threat posed by the arms race between cyber criminals, spies and hackers fighting to infiltrate essential computer systems. 

The Award recognises a work which provides the ‘most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues’. It was awarded today to Nicole Perlroth at a ceremony at the National Gallery in London, co-hosted by Roula Khalaf, Editor of the Financial Times and chair of the panel of judges, and Magnus Tyreman, Managing Partner Europe, McKinsey & Company. The keynote speaker at the event was Tony Danker, Director-General, CBI. 

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends saw off strong competition from a shortlist of titles with subjects including climate change, racism, cyberweapons, meritocracies and risks to a sustainable and inclusive future. They will receive a prize of £30,000, with £10,000 going to each of the five runners-up.

Roula Khalaf, Editor, Financial Times said, “Nicole Perlroth has done something that hasn’t been done before: going this deep into the mysterious world of hackers. Cyber security isn’t featuring highly enough on CEOs’ agenda. I hope this award will prompt them to read this book and pay attention.”

Magnus Tyreman, Managing Partner Europe, McKinsey & Company, said: “Nicole Perlroth has written a book that is more than just a timely wake-up call to the fact that the world has largely ignored the realities and profound implications of the arms race between hackers, cybercriminals and businesses and national governments. It is an alarming book, one in which the author makes a compelling, granular and matter-of-fact case for how vulnerable global computer systems have become, and makes an urgent plea for specific and systematic action.”

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