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Polish Economy to Shrink in 2020 due to Pandemic

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The Polish economy is on course to record its first recession in nearly three decades, with an expected contraction of 3.9 percent this year, according to the latest edition of the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia Economic Update, released today.

Easing of pandemic-related restrictions, normalization of economic activity in many sectors, the large economic package being implemented by the government, as well as recovery in key trading partners, are expected to support a moderate recovery in 2021.

According to the World Bank, growth in Poland is expected to reach 3.5 percent in 2021. The projected recession in 2020 is less pronounced than the 4.2 percent contraction anticipated in June, while the recovery in 2021 is expected to be faster than the previously-forecasted 2.8 percent. Considerable downside risks to this outlook persist, however.

“The Polish economy was strong when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Many years of uninterrupted growth, prudent macroeconomic policies, access to EU funds and social programs have helped cushion the effects of the crisis and limit the negative consequences,” says Marcus Heinz, World Bank Resident Representative for Poland and the Baltic States. “At the same time, the pandemic is a reminder that the crisis is sparing no-one. Therefore, we have to start investing in a post-pandemic resilient recovery by strengthening health care, education, and improving the investment climate, among other measures.

The pandemic-induced contraction in 2020 is also expected to increase poverty in all countries in Europe and Central Asia. Based on the $5.50 per day poverty line, customarily used in upper-middle-income countries, an additional 6 million people may slip into poverty. 

The pandemic has adversely affected education and health in the region. The virus has already killed thousands of people, and some people who survive will suffer long-term damage to their health. School closures may lead to learning losses equivalent to one-third to one full year of schooling, and they are likely to exacerbate inequalities by disproportionately affecting students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

A special analysis in the report finds that improving access to and quality of tertiary education and reducing adult risk factors for health are key for a resilient recovery in the region. While countries in the region provide relatively good basic education and health services, as measured by the World Bank’s Human Capital Index, more needs to be done for individuals and countries to succeed in the future.

“Just surviving is not enough, nor is simply completing basic education. Adults need to remain healthy, active and productive throughout their lives,” said Asli Demirgüç-Kunt, World Bank Chief Economist for Europe and Central Asia. “It is especially important to reduce the health risks of obesity, smoking and heavy drinking which can jeopardize active and productive aging, and to ensure higher education institutions prepare students for the challenges of today’s job markets.”

Across the region, more than 18 percent of the population is obese, nearly 23 percent of people are heavy episodic drinkers, and nearly 26 percent are current smokers. These health risks are particularly high in Eastern Europe and Russia, where adult life expectancy is also the lowest in the region. Prevalence of these risks increases not only the likelihood of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, but also the mortality and morbidity consequences of infectious diseases like COVID-19.

Good quality higher education is critical for people to remain competitive in fast-changing labor markets. Improving higher education in countries of Western Balkans, Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, and Central Asia would also help them retain their high-skilled labor force in the face of sustained out-migration.

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New ways of thinking and working are necessary to reap blockchain benefits in capital markets

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The World Economic Forum today released Digital Assets, Distributed Ledger Technology, and the Future of Capital Markets. Across the capital markets ecosystem, institutions are facing a combination of intensified competitive dynamics and accelerating technology advancements, presenting opportunities and challenges both to incumbents and new entrants. Although DLT is not a panacea, the report underlines how it can positively impact costs, market liquidity and balance sheet capacity while reducing the complexity, opacity and fragmentation of capital markets.

Written in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the report is based on nearly 200 interviews and eight global workshops with capital market incumbent players, new entrants, regulators and governments. It presents use cases from equity markets, debt markets, securitized products, derivatives, securities financing and asset management.

DLT can address real challenges and inefficiencies in some markets by providing a trusted, shared source of truth between market participants. However, the future is uncertain as there is no agreed path for market-wide adoption. What’s more, as institutions still decide where to invest, varying strategies create tensions.

The report calls for a balance between innovation and market safeguards through standardization, the breaking down of silos and regulatory engagement. According to the authors, fundamentally transforming markets will require new ways of thinking and working across the industry.

“Following several years of intense hype, examples of use cases where inefficiencies and challenges are being solved with blockchain are starting to emerge across capital markets,” said Matthew Blake, Head of the Future of Financial Services, World Economic Forum. “With the future for blockchain in financial services still being defined, a nuanced look at the opportunities this technology offers right now is particularly important for the financial services industry.”

“Distributed ledger technology has come of age as it begins to enhance efficiencies, reduce operating costs and create new business models in capital markets, but the use cases and solutions are respective to each asset class,” said Kaj Burchardi, Managing Director, BCG Platinion. “Whilst this makes sense from a commercial perspective, it has led to a complex patchwork of initiatives. For capital markets to unilaterally adopt DLT, they will require cross-institutional alignment to realize the game-changing market opportunities it can offer.”

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Russian Nornickel signed a deal with UK chemicals giant Johnson Matthey

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Russian Nornickel, the world’s largest metal producer has signed a deal with Johnson Matthey (JM) on long-term supply of critical metals for their battery materials production in Finland.

The Finnish government is actively developing production sites for battery components. Finnish budget for 2021 includes additional funding of EUR 300 million for Finnish Minerals Group to promote investments for the production of precursor and cathode active materials used in lithium-ion batteries in Finland.

Earlier in April Nornickel announced plans to ramp up sustainable nickel and cobalt production at its refinery in Finland — NN Harjavalta — in response to the growing European demand for high quality and responsibly sourced metals for the EV industry. NN Harjavalta’s product range will be playing an important role in satisfying Johnson Matthey’s requirements for its precursor and cathode active materials production in Finland as well as for its existing factory in Poland.

Johnson Matthey announced the development in Finland of its second commercial plant with a nameplate capacity of 30 kt of ultra-high energy density cathode materials required by EV producers. The factory will be powered solely by renewable energy and incorporate an innovative effluent treatment solution.

Nornickel and Johnson Matthey have also signed a memorandum of understanding to explore options to further extend metal supply in the future. The parties also intend to collaborate in other important parts of the battery materials value chain, including new metal dissolution technology, circular economy opportunities, and tokenization of the supply chain using blockchain technology. Implementation of token-based smart contracts allows combining metal deliveries with complete provenance as well as ESG credentials including carbon footprint to ensure the unprecedented level of responsible sourcing.

The deal will allow the Russian and British company to define joint sustainable development initiatives.

“We are delighted for this opportunity to develop our business together with Johnson Matthey — a new important player in the Finnish battery materials ecosystem — and help the company expand on the European EV market. Our memorandum should enable us to identify mutually beneficial sustainability initiatives that support the ambition of achieving the most sustainable battery materials value chain in Europe,” commented Vladimir Potanin, President of Norilsk Nickel.

Earlier, Norilsk Nickel signed a letter of intent to establish a battery recycling cluster in Harjavalta, Finland, to serve the electric vehicle market in partnership with Finnish energy company Fortum and German world’s leading chemical company BASF. This will successfully complete the “closed loop” recycling cycle for critical metals present in used batteries.

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Bangladesh Economy Shows Early Signs of Recovery Amid Uncertainties

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Bangladesh’s economy is showing  nascent signs of recovery backed by a rebound in exports, strong remittance inflows, and the ongoing vaccination program, says a new World Bank report, “Bangladesh Development Update- Moving Forward: Connectivity and Logistics to strengthen Competitiveness,” launched today.

After being severely affected by the COVID 19 pandemic—which slowed growth and for the first time in two decades reversed the poverty reduction trend—the economy is recovering gradually.

Over the first half of FY21, factories reopened and exports rebounded. However, the economy faces elevated risks in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In Dhaka and Chittagong, the country’s two largest cities, recent surveys pointed to a recovery in the labor market in the first half of FY21. With gradual restoration of livelihoods, food security in poor and slum areas improved. In Chittagong, the percentage of adults working had returned to pre-COVID levels by February 2021.  

Despite the uncertainty created by COVID-19, the outlook for Bangladesh’s economy is positive. Much of the pace of recovery will depend on how fast mass vaccination can be achieved,” said Mercy Miyang Tembon, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan. “The World Bank will support a resilient recovery, helping Bangladesh achieve green, smart, and inclusive growth.”

In FY21, growth will be supported by a recovery in manufacturing as export demand strengthens, a rebound in construction supported by accelerating public investment, and robust service sector growth as the vaccination campaign progress. inflation is projected to remain close to Bangladesh Bank’s 5.5 percent target, and the fiscal deficit is projected to remain at 6 percent of GDP.

Risks to the outlook remain elevated. A fragile global economic recovery could dampen demand for RMG products and limit job opportunities for migrant workers. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated financial sector risks stemming from nonperforming loans and weaknesses in bank governance and risk management.

Improving logistics performance could help accelerate the recovery and improve competitiveness. The report outlines opportunities to modernize the logistics system to ensure business continuity and build resilience. This can be achieved through a system-wide strategy to increase logistics efficiency; improve the quality, capacity, and management of infrastructure; improve the quality and integration of logistics services; and, achieve a seamless integration of regional logistics services. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unpreceded global recession,” said Bernard Haven, World Bank Senior Economist, and co-author of the report. “Protecting households affected by the pandemic remains an urgent priority, while structural reforms can help accelerate the recovery.”

The Bangladesh Development Update is a companion piece to the South Asia Economic Focus, a twice-a-year World Bank report that examines economic developments and prospects in the South Asia Region, and analyzes policy challenges faced by countries. The Spring 2021 edition titled South Asia Vaccinates, launched on March 31, 2021, shows that economic activity in South Asia is bouncing back, but growth is uneven, recovery remains fragile, and the economic outlook is precarious. The report also focuses on the different dimensions of vaccine deployment and provides a cost-benefit analysis of vaccination in the region. 

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