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Decisive Action and Change Needed to Reform and Rebuild a Better Lebanon

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A new damage and needs assessment following the August 4 explosion that rocked the city of Beirut calls for building back a better Lebanon based on the principles of transparency, inclusion and accountability to meet the demands and aspirations of the Lebanese people.

To help guide the urgently needed global response, the World Bank Group (WBG), in cooperation with the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) conducted a Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment (RDNA), in close partnership with Lebanese ministries, civil society organizations and other key stakeholders.

According to the RDNA’s preliminary estimates, the explosion caused between US$3.8 and US$4.6 billion in damage to physical stock, while losses including changes in economic flows as a result of the decline in the output of the economic sectors are estimated to be in the range of US$2.9 and US$3.5 billion. The most severely affected sectors are housing, transport and tangible and intangible cultural assets (including religious and archeological sites, national monuments, theaters, archives, libraries, monuments).

Public sector reconstruction and recovery needs for this year and the next are estimated in the range of US$1.8 and US$2.2 billion, with between US$605 and US$760 million needed in the immediate term until December 2020, and between US$1.18 and US$1.46 billion in the short term for the year 2021. The transport sector’s needs are the highest, followed by culture and housing.

Although its estimates are preliminary due to the rapid nature of the assessment that was carried out together in cooperation with partners under challenging circumstances, the RDNA lays the groundwork for an agenda for reform, recovery, and reconstruction that inspires hope for a better future for all Lebanese, and where the Lebanese people should have a leading role.

The three main economic effects of the explosion are: losses in economic activity caused by the destruction of physical capital; trade disruptions; and losses in fiscal revenues for the Government. Even prior to the explosion, Lebanon was facing compounded crises with pre-explosion projections of 2020 real GDP growth well into the negative double digits, driven by the spillovers from the Syria conflict, whereby

Lebanon continues to host the largest refugee per capita population in the world; a financial and economic crisis that includes an impaired financial sector, a currency crisis, very high inflation rates, a defaulting public sector; and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The disaster will not only exacerbate the contraction in economic activity, but also worsen poverty rates, which were already at 45 percent of the population just prior to the explosion.

Critical recovery needs in the next 3 months alone include an estimated US$35 to US$40 million for an immediate large-scale cash transfer to meet the basic needs of 90,000 affected individuals, and to create short-term jobs for 15,000 individuals. They also include provision of shelter for the most vulnerable displaced, low income, and middle-income households; repair of minimally and partially damaged housing for the lower income households. Immediate housing needs are estimated at between US$ 30 and US$35 million, while short-term needs for the year 2021 at between US$190 and US$230 million. In addition, US$225 to US$275 million in financial support is needed immediately to restore services of 5,200 micro firms and 4,800 small businesses that employ thousands of Lebanese. These small business recovery grants and soft loans will cover reconstruction, equipment and working capital needs to reopen activities and retain workforce.

Reconstruction efforts will require not only the rehabilitation and reconstruction of damaged buildings and infrastructure, but also the rebuilding of institutions and governance structures. In the port sector for instance, the report recommends that, beyond the emergency works needed to ensure Lebanon’s vital imports, the port is rebuilt in a holistic and modern way, better sited and sized, and governed by the most efficient and transparent practices.

The RDNA recommends a “Building Back Better” approach through a framework of Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction combining interventions that prioritizes the needs of the people, particularly the poor and most vulnerable, with structural reforms relating to macroeconomic stabilization, governance, private sector operating environment, and ensuring human security. These reforms should prevent corruption and elite capture.

Given Lebanon’s state of insolvency and lack of sufficient foreign exchange reserves, international aid and private investment will be essential for comprehensive recovery and reconstruction. Lebanon’s implementation of a credible reform agenda will be key to accessing international development assistance and to unlock external and private sector sources of financing.

The World Bank, the United Nations and the European Union are fully committed to working together with Lebanon and its people to build back a better Lebanon that puts its people’s needs first.

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Finance

Uzbekistan Continues to Modernize its Tax Administration System

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 The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved today the Tax Administration Reform Project in Uzbekistan, which is designed to improve the operational efficiency and effectiveness of the State Tax Committee (STC) and deliver better services to local taxpayers.

The project will be supported by a $60 million concessional credit from the International Development Association (IDA), with financing provided to the Government at a very low-interest rate and a repayment period of 30 years.

“The Government of Uzbekistan has prioritized reforms in the tax administration system to create a better business and investment environment. The new project will help the STC improve its work in the interest of taxpayers,” said Marco Mantovanelli, World Bank Country Manager for Uzbekistan. “In particular, the project will allow to broaden the tax base, leading to a reduction in the informal sector of the economy, which is estimated to be around 50% of GDP; to increase tax revenues; and to help firms and companies create new jobs, benefiting from a more efficient tax administration system.”

The project includes three key components directed at improving the STC’s operational, institutional, technological and human resource capacities, and promoting voluntary compliance across Uzbekistan.

Component 1 will invest in automating the STC’s core tax administration business processes. This includes developing the STC’s new tax management information system to reduce paperwork and simplify the process of paying taxes by businesses and individuals countrywide; upgrading hardware and technological infrastructure; creating a new data center for the STC; and improving governance and the planning capacity of the STC’s IT department.

Component 2 will assist with designing and implementing measures to reduce the informal sector of the economy. This includes improving the STC’s enforcement capabilities to detect and discourage tax evasion; encouraging businesses to stay out of the shadows, including through the use of non-tax incentives; and developing cooperative relationships with the private sector, including through designing new or simplified tax policies and procedures and building partnerships to change taxpayers’ behavior.

Component 3 aims to strengthen the STC’s human resource and institutional capacities to attract, develop, and retain skilled and knowledgeable tax officials. This includes improving STC’s human resources management policies and building capacity through the continuous professional development of tax officials. 

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Tech News

100 Start-ups Join WEF’s Technology Pioneers Community in 2021 Cohort

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The World Economic Forum announced today its 2021 Technology Pioneers, young and growing tech companies taking on top global concerns with innovative technologies and business models. From artificial intelligence (AI) to fintech, the 2021 Tech Pioneers cohort is using new tech to protect the climate, improve healthcare and much more.

“The 2021 cohort of Tech Pioneers includes many future headline makers at the forefront of their industries,” said Susan Nesbitt, Head of the Global Innovators Community, World Economic Forum. “These companies show great potential to not only shake up their industries but offer real solutions to global problems. They’ll bring great value to the World Economic Forum’s mission of improving the state of the world with their participation in the Technology Pioneers community.”

This year’s Technology Pioneers are emerging leaders in a wide range of industries that span healthcare, cleantech, AI, logistics and more. While at the cutting edge of their industries, many Technology Pioneers are also addressing global societal issues by using new tech to improve education options, address climate change issues and others.

Ceretai, for example, is a Technology Pioneer helping media companies uncover stereotypes and representation gaps in their content through automated diversity and equality analysis. Banyan Nation is using technology to support circular economy climate solutions in India. Century Tech is supporting personalized education options through combined innovations in learning science, AI and neuroscience.

This year’s cohort has the highest gender diversity yet, with over 30% of companies led by women. There are also 26 economies represented this year, with the United Arab Emirates, El Salvador, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe represented for the first time. All the 2021 Technology Pioneers are bringing great innovation to their regions.

FlexFinTx, for example, is building self-sovereign digital identities to help the over 400 million Africans that lack proper forms of identification. Meanwhile, Cambridge Industries is addressing climate change by developing sustainable city infrastructure to support waste-to-energy products.

Following their selection as Technology Pioneers, this year’s companies will join an impressive group of alumni that include many household names, such as Airbnb, Google, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Palantir Technologies, Spotify, TransferWise, Twitter and Wikimedia.

The 2021 cohort will also be invited to participate in World Economic Forum workshops events and high-level discussions throughout their two years in the community.

The 2021 Technology Pioneers include:

Africa

  • Cambridge Industries, Ethiopia: Innovating next-generation urban infrastructure through sustainable city parks
  • FlexFinTx, Zimbabwe: Building the next generation of identity management
  • Kuda Technologies, Nigeria: Providing Africans with access to credit and free banking services
  • Moringa School, Kenya:A workforce development platform serving African students
  • mPharma, Ghana:Building good health in Africa through technology-driven healthcare
  • Sokowatch, Kenya: Offering same-day delivery and working capital to African retailers

Asia Pacific

  • AI Medical Service, Japan: Developing the world’s first endoscopic AI for gastric cancer
  • Aspire, Singapore: Banking South-East Asia’s internet economy
  • Avant Meats, China: Biotechnology for healthy, tasty meats made sustainably without animals
  • Banyan Nation, India: Driving circular economy via technology-driven informal recycler integrative technology solutions
  • Black Lake Technologies, China: Cloud-based collaboration software empowering manufacturers with real-time data
  • Cinnamon, Japan: An AI platform to drive digital transformations
  • Civic Ledger, Australia: Helping the world reduce its water footprint
  • CredoLab, Singapore: Developing bank-grade digital credit scorecards built on mobile device metadata
  • DoBrain, Republic of Korea: Game-based learning to unlock and optimize children’s potential
  • Equota Energy, China: AI intelligence-based energy optimization, maintenance and carbon management company
  • HiNounou, China: Using AI to promote healthy ageing and intergenerational solidarity
  • Learnable, China: Interactive and explainable AI solutions on less data
  • MakinaRocks, Republic of Korea:Making industrial technology intelligent and delivering it as transformative solutions
  • mClinica, Singapore:Building the largest digital network of pharmacies in South-East Asia
  • Minieye, China: Using cutting-edge computer vision technology to lead automotive industry change
  • Ocean Protocol, Singapore: Unlocking the value of data – a new asset class
  • Praava Health, Bangladesh: A healthcare platform providing high-quality digital health and in-clinic experiences
  • SandStar, China: Providing leading computer vision technology for retail
  • Shannon Technology, China: A language-understanding intelligent service powered by advanced AI technology
  • Standard Energy, Republic of Korea:Manufacturer of vanadium ion batteries specifically for energy storage systems
  • Videonetics Technology, India:AI and deep learning-powered video computing platform development
  • Zyllem, Singapore:Software-as-a-service solution for logistics network management

Europe

  • Aave, United Kingdom: Built Aave Protocol, an open source and non-custodial liquidity protocol
  • Adhara, United Kingdom: Providing liquidity management and international payments for decentralized financial networks
  • Avrios, Switzerland: Empowering companies to own the true cost of mobility
  • Carbios, France: Green chemistry company providing an industrial solution to PET recycling
  • Century Tech, United Kingdom: Developing AI-based learning technologies
  • Ceretai, Sweden: Media diversity partner supporting companies with diversity strategies and insights
  • CloudNC, United Kingdom: Making manufacturing autonomous
  • Enapter, Italy: Providing green hydrogen technology through anion exchange membrane electrolyser manufacturing
  • EnginZyme, Sweden: Developing the definitive technology platform for sustainable chemical production
  • Greyparrot AI, United Kingdom: Waste recognition to increase transparency and automation in waste management
  • Hydrogenious, Germany: Enabling high-performing hydrogen value chains globally.
  • Parity Technologies, United Kingdom: Employing the blockchain pioneers who launched Ethereum, now building Polkadot
  • Polymateria, United Kingdom: A new scalable solution for the plastic pollution pandemic
  • Powell Software, France: Digital workplace solutions that improve the employee experience
  • PQShield, United Kingdom: Protecting information for the quantum era
  • Riaktr, Belgium: Developing software enabling telecom employees to make better data-driven decisions
  • Senseon, United Kingdom: A full-stack cyber-defence capability for the future, today

Latin America

  • Algramo, Chile: A platform connecting smart-reusable packaging with internet-of-things dispensers
  • Fondeadora, Mexico: Eliminating the inefficiencies related to the traditional banking system
  • Hugo Technologies, El Salvador: A multi-category marketplace for everyday products and services
  • Truora, Colombia: Fast, innovative, safe background checks and identity theft detection solutions

MENA

  • CHEQ, Israel: A global leader in customer acquisition security
  • CropX, Israel: Revolutionizing soil sensing, leading farmers into the connected soil era
  • MDClone, Israel: Self-service, big data, healthcare platform
  • MyndYou, Israel: Improving healthcare quality and lowering costs, engaging and listening
  • Phinergy, Israel: Clean energy generation and storage, using metals as energy carriers
  • Souqalmal, UAE: Building an online financial education platform in the Middle East

North America

  • 54gene, USA: Equalizing precision medicine
  • Airside Mobile, USA: Empowering businesses and people with privacy-based identity management
  • Akash Systems, USA: Manufacturing artificial diamond radios and satellites for low-cost internet access
  • AllStripes Research, USA: Unlocking new treatments for people affected by rare disease
  • Calibrate, USA: A telemedicine metabolic health business
  • CloudKnox, USA:Enabling organizations to implement least-privilege and zero-trust architecture
  • Crowdz, USA: Building a global ecosystem for good for receivables
  • DefinedCrowd, USA: A trusted data partner for AI
  • Diligent Robotics, USA: Building robots to support and empower patient care teams
  • Duality Technologies, USA: Enabling privacy-preserving collaboration and artificial intelligence on sensitive data
  • Dyndrite, USA: Powering the next generation of digital manufacturing
  • Enko Chem, USA:Crop health solutions, discovered and designed with intention
  • Evernym, USA:Leading globally in verifiable credential technology
  • FinMkt, USA: Omni channel and scalable point of sale financing software-as-a-service solutions
  • Gatik, USA: Developing and operating autonomous vehicles for B2B short-haul logistics
  • Gro Intelligence, USA: An AI-powered decision engine where ecology meets economy
  • Hazel Technologies, USA: Dedicated to solving the problem of food waste
  • HumanFirst, USA: Healthcare coming home, starting with digital clinical measures
  • Hypergiant, USA: Focusing critical infrastructure, space and defence using enterprise AI
  • Ionomr, Canada: Commercializing advanced ion-exchange materials to enable the hydrogen economy
  • January, USA: Analysing blood sugar and diet for diabetes control and prevention
  • Jopwell, USA: A diversity, equity and inclusion tech and human capital solution
  • Journera, USA: Helping brands improve marketing, customer experience and operations
  • Kobold Metals, USA: Deploying vanguard scientific computing to discover key battery material deposits
  • Kyndi, USA: Accurate and fast answers to any natural language question
  • LiveLike, USA: Converting passive audiences into engaged communities
  • Metabiota, USA: Building resiliency products and services for infectious disease threats
  • Mori, USA: Reducing waste and creating more sustainable supply chains
  • Natural Fiber Welding, USA: Creating circular and sustainable materials from plants and natural fibres
  • Numina, USA: Measuring street-level activity, privacy-first, to make the real world queryable
  • Pachama, USA: A tech-verified marketplace for nature-based carbon removals
  • Parsley Health, USA: Reversing chronic conditions with cutting-edge holistic medicine
  • Patientory, USA: Empowering users with insights from health data, improving health outcomes
  • Propel, USA: Helping low-income Americans make it through the month, every month
  • Propy, USA: An end-to-end real estate transaction platform facilitating transactions online
  • Reelgood, USA: An all-in-one streaming TV guide
  • Sinai Technologies, USA: Software to cost-effectively measure, analyse, price and reduce emissions
  • Skyhive, Canada: Optimizing human economies for companies, communities and countries
  • Tellus You Care:Improving eldercare with dignity and privacy
  • Unit21, USA: The command centre for risk, fraud and compliance
  • Upguard, USA: A cybersecurity platform that helps global organizations prevent data breaches
  • WooBloo, USA: Passionate about disrupting the smart home space
  • Wright Electric, USA: Building the next generation of aircraft – large, zero-emissions aircraft
  • Xanadu Quantum Technologies, Canada:A quantum technology company building fault-tolerant quantum computers using photonics
  • ZeroAvia, USA: The first practical zero-emissions, hydrogen-fuelled, powertrain technology provider for aviation

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Energy News

Korea shares experience of electric vehicles and renewable energy with Thailand

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The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is supporting South-East Asian countries in combatting climate change through policy consultation and capacity building in the areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

At an event organized in cooperation with the Korea Energy Agency (KEA) and Thailand’s Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency (DEDE), Ministry of Energy, Stein Hansen, UNIDO Regional Director and Representative of UNIDO Regional Office Hub in Thailand, highlighted the UNIDO project’s study on electric vehicle promotion in Thailand and the impact on the biofuel industry throughout the supply chain, and a road map to achieve 100% renewable energy use by industrial sector. 

Prasert Sinsukprasert, the Director General of DEDE, spoke about Thailand’s 20-year National Strategy plan and said the DEDE is delighted to partner with the project to come up with the draft policy of electric vehicles and roadmap to 100% renewable energy in Thai industry.

In a presentation on the current status and policies of electric vehicle distribution in the Republic of Korea, Minkoo Park remarked that in Korea the authorities provide incentives in the form of discounts on highway and parking charges and financial support for people purchasing electric vehicles. Hyein Jin provided information about Korea’s 2050 Carbon Neutrality Strategy.

All speakers agreed that the eco-friendly energy is challenging both in electric vehicles and renewable energy but that it is worth it to achieve sustainable growth.

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