Corruption is not only a crime but immoral and the “ultimate betrayal” of public trust, the UN Secretary-General has said, calling on everyone to work together and stamp out the global scourge, in all its forms.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Secretary-General António Guterres underlined that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, corruption was proving to be even more damaging in its impact on the most vulnerable.
‘New opportunities’ for exploitation
“The response to the virus is creating new opportunities to exploit weak oversight and inadequate transparency, diverting funds away from people in their hour of greatest need,” the Secretary-General said.
Corruption during the pandemic can seriously undermine good governance globally, and send the world even further off-track in in its efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he added.
There are also very direct risks to health: “Unscrupulous merchants peddle faulty products such as – defective ventilators, poorly manufactured tests or counterfeit medicines”, said Mr. Guterres, noting that collusion among those who control supply chains has led to outrageous price hikes, skewing the market and denying many people life-saving treatment.
The UN will continue to prioritize transparency and accountability, in and beyond the COVID-19 response, the UN chief pledged.
Verify suppliers, determine fair prices
The Secretary-General called on Governments to be careful and not act in haste, making sure to vet suppliers, and ensure fair pricing of essential goods as supply chains continue to be under strain.
He also urged everyone to join hands against corrupt and exploitative acts.
“We must work together to stop such thievery and exploitation by clamping down on illicit financial flows and tax havens; tackling the vested interests that benefit from secrecy and corruption; and exercising utmost vigilance over how resources are spent nationally”, urged Mr. Guterres.
We must create more robust systems for accountability, transparency and integrity without delay, he added.
Everyone has a part to play
Mr. Guterres also called for governments and leaders to be transparent and accountable, and for businesses to act responsibly, highlighting the importance of a vibrant civic space and open access to information.
Whistle-blowers who expose wrongdoing, must get the legal protection they deserve, in calling out corruption.
“Technological advances can help increase transparency and better monitor procurement of medical supplies,” explained the Secretary-General, adding that anti-corruption bodies should be supported and empowered.
UN Convention against Corruption
The Secretary-General also urged nations to use a vital tool, provided by the UN: adopted by the General Assembly in 2003, the United Nations Convention against Corruption, entered into force in December 2005. It currently has 187 States Parties.
It is the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument, and its far-reaching approach and the mandatory character of many of its provisions make it a unique tool for developing a comprehensive response to corruption.
Through five key areas – preventive measures; criminalization and law enforcement; international cooperation; asset recovery; and technical assistance and information exchange – the Convention covers many different forms of corruption, such as bribery, trading in influence, abuse of functions, and various acts of corruption in the private sector.
Russian Nornickel signed a deal with UK chemicals giant Johnson Matthey
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.
Bangladesh Economy Shows Early Signs of Recovery Amid Uncertainties
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.
26 million jobs lost in Latin America and the Caribbean during a year of the pandemic
The Latin American and Caribbean region lost 26 million jobs as a result of the pandemic, and started 2021 with a complex employment landscape aggravated by new waves of contagion and slow vaccination processes that make the prospects for recovery in labour markets more uncertain, says a new technical note from the International Labour Organization (ILO).
“The quest for better normality will require ambitious action to recover from setbacks in the world of work”, warned Vinícius Pinheiro, ILO Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, when commenting on the note, which presents the latest data on the impact of COVID-19 over the past year.
“It is now time to rebuild the jobs lost by the pandemic and create new decent work opportunities,” Pinheiro said, noting that despite adversity, action must be taken and consensus reached so that “2021 is the year of vaccination and economic recovery with more and better jobs”.
However, the ILO Regional Director highlighted that “in the pursuit of recovery, addressing pre-existing conditions in the region will be unavoidable and those conditions are key to understanding why the impact of the pandemic on employment was so strong. Many of the challenges we had before the pandemic remain in place, although they are now more urgent”.
“High informality, small fiscal spaces, persistent inequality, low productivity and poor coverage of social protection, coupled with problems that still persist such as child labour and forced labour, are part of the ongoing challenges in the region”, he added.
The ILO regional technical note, “The employment crisis in the pandemic: Towards a human-centred job recovery”, emphasizes that the labour impacts were devastating in the second quarter of 2020 when the employment and participation indicators plummeted, and then partially recovered.
However, by the end of 2020 the region’s average employment rate had fallen from 57.4 per cent to 51.7 per cent, a sharp drop equated to the loss of around 26 million jobs, of which 80 per cent, or more than 20 million people, left the workforce.
This significant exit from the workforce was unprecedented and has been characteristic of 2020. By comparison, the unemployment rate has only partially reflected the magnitude of the difficulties faced by labour markets in the region, increasing by just over 2 percentage points between 2019 and 2020, from 8.3 per cent to 10.6 per cent.
This situation would have begun to change, explained Roxana Maurizio, ILO Regional Labour Economics Specialist and author of the technical note, who commented that in 2021 there could be “a significant increase in the employment rate when millions of people who had ceased to participate in the labour force return to the workforce”.
In addition to lost jobs, the region experienced a sharp contraction in working hours, as well as a reduction in labour incomes, which account for 80 per cent of what people in Latin America and the Caribbean earn. The region has recorded the largest losses in hours worked worldwide.
The ILO’s technical note indicates that during the crisis both formal and informal employment experienced very pronounced contractions, but with greater intensity for the latter and for this reason the informality rate was reduced (temporarily), in the context of the widespread collapse in employment demand, especially in the early months of the pandemic.
But that situation has already started to change.
“There is a high risk of informalization that adds to the already high levels of labour informality that countries had before the pandemic”, said Maurizio.
According to available data from seven countries, employment recovery in the second half of 2020 has been almost entirely contracted by informal employment growth. These occupations account for more than 60 per cent of the total increase in employment.
“The formal work deficit, in turn, is likely to become more apparent to certain types of workers such as young people, women and adults with lower qualifications – groups that traditionally experience greater difficulties in accessing formal employment”, she added.
“The macroeconomic collapse has disproportionately impacted some segments of the population, amplifying labour and social gaps – especially gender gaps – that characterize the region”, she continued.
“The outlook for economic recovery by 2021 is modest and still very uncertain, so expectations about a possible reversal of the critical labour market situation should be very cautious”.
The ILO has proposed developing recovery strategies based on a Policy Framework with four main pillars: stimulating the economy and employment; support businesses, jobs and incomes; protect workers in the workplace; and resort to social dialogue to find solutions.
The technical note highlights that in a scenario as complex as the current one “social dialogue and the building of new consensuses, pacts or agreements are more relevant than ever” to advance the recovery of employment.
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