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BRICS Business Forum Trade and Investment Cooperation: A path for the future

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On October 28, the BRICS Business Council (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) during the forum reviewed its joint work for the previous years, discussed at length current business issues and, in particular tried to choose a path for the future. The Business Council was launched at the BRICS Summit in 2013 in Durban. Since its establishment, the BRICS Business Council has made its primary task to increase or broaden trade and investment among the member countries.

While it has recorded a considerable success and positive performance, this year has been different due to the spread of coronavirus. That has not deterred them but rather the BRICS plans to turn the disease-climate into a platform to search for new drivers of trade and economic growth in the subsequent years.

In 2020, Russia holds rotating leadership of the BRICS. Consequently, the meeting was coordinated from Moscow by the head of the Russian chapter of the BRICS Business Council, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation Sergey Katyrin. It is worth to explain that the BRICS Business Forum held with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation.

Ahead of the opening, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sent a special message of greetings, and the Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov addressed the participants. In his address, Ryabkov noted that by working together, the group could add substantial momentum to the development of trade and investment among members, and in the interests of population. In assessing the consequences of the pandemic, he urged the group to come up with collective approaches for overcoming them.

“The world economy has entered a recession. Global GDP is shrinking, and so are international trade, investment and demand for key exports. The global value chains are disrupted, while financial markets are in constant state of turbulence. There are many other problems we face today, and will have to deal with in the future,” he told the participants.

“The crises in the economy and trade could make the world more prone to conflict and seriously undermine international cooperation, further exacerbating the deficit of trust. The gap between the rich and the poor is once again growing. Our common goal is to prevent the most negative scenarios from materializing. Against this unfavorable backdrop, we are witnessing attempts to make a political issue out of the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe that this is the worst thing to do at a time when we need to work together to fend off today’s threats,” Ryabkov pointed out.

According to him, overcoming the economic fallout from the crisis is a priority. In this context, there is the need to focus on restoring the global economy, driving growth and expanding trade, as well as repairing the industrial chains. He added, “We cannot forget about climate change, sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I think the BRICS countries will have to look past this horizon to proactively contribute to shaping the long-term global agenda.”

In an optimistic vision for the future, the business community in the five countries has a special responsibility in this regard. Businesses are uniquely equipped to swiftly adapt to a new reality, and create much needed jobs during major crises like the current one. This is a huge asset. The BRICS governments will continue to support businesses in every possible way. In this context, the BRICS Business Forum and Business Council are essential for devising effective solutions to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

Besides, there were plenary sessions held under theme: “COVID-19 and the economic development of the BRICS countries: problems and actions” and “Challenges and opportunities for sustainable development: pathways to a green economy.”

The BRICS countries represent the key economies of their regions and therefore have a special responsibility to develop actions to contain the COVID19 pandemic. They bear the main burden on the development and implementation of a policy of economic recovery from the consequences of the pandemic.

The session “Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Development: Pathways to a Green Economy” discussed an agenda for action on climate change and finding ways to sustain economic, industrial and energy development while reducing carbon emissions. The session participants concluded that it is necessary to study carefully the directions of sustainable economic development in the current situation.

Russian Chamber President Sergey Katyrin referenced BRICS Business Forum 2020 as “business marathon” and noted that nine panel sessions discussed topical areas of cooperation, and these include industry, trade, digital technologies, agriculture, healthcare, energy, ecology and women’s entrepreneurship.

According to forum documents, the three-day forum, both online and offline, brought together about 90 speakers, representatives of government bodies, financial institutions, business and public organizations from all countries of the association. The main topic of the forum this year was “Business Partnership of the BRICS: a Common Vision of Sustainable Inclusive Development” – and that “inclusiveness” refers to the collective efforts to overcome common challenges.  

One of the main tasks is updating the Strategy for Economic Partnership of BRICS until 2025, to continue identifying promising directions for developing business cooperation among BRICS countries. In addition, the plan also focuses on business-to-business engagements in the interests of creating tangible inter-trade transactions and exploring investment opportunities among the member countries.

Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Denis Manturov highlighted, in particular, some issues of the development of industrial cooperation within the BRICS. The heads of the national parts of the BRICS Business Council – Jackson Schneider (Brazil), Onkar Kanwar (India), Xu Lirong (China), Busisiwe Mabuza (South Africa) – spoke about various issues of interaction, exchanged ideas and experiences in solving urgent problems and challenges that currently face the group.

They discussed the impact of the pandemic on industrial production, ways to restore the economies of the BRICS countries, the possibility of digitalization and automation in creating a favorable climate. They also considered the development of women’s entrepreneurship within the BRICS and the role of the Women’s Business Alliance, which began its activities in the year of Russia’s chairmanship in BRICS.

The BRICS Business Council will meet to sum up and approve the annual report on November 10. That will be ahead of the XII BRICS Leaders’ summit scheduled for November 17. The theme of the meeting of the leaders is “BRICS Partnership in the Interests of Global Stability, Common Security and Innovative Growth.”

Russia last chaired BRICS in 2015, held a summit in the provincial city of Ufa in Bashkortostan. Russia also presided over the group back in 2009, before BRIC turned into BRICS following South Africa’s accession. The five BRICS countries together represent over 3.1 billion people, or about 40 percent of the world’s population.

MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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Economy

Fashion Week & Sustainability

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Fashion is always fun and constantly evolving. Old fashion styles are still being popular and new trendy styles are being designed and distributed in the market every day. We can also see people wearing various types of fashion styles starting from business wear, casual, retro to streetwear, etc in everyday life. The personality and the culture reflect the fashion style of a person. Although we shouldn’t judge the personality of a person based on the fashion style, the social status and personality of people can be perceived more or less from the way they style themselves like;” You are what you wear”. Indeed, fashion plays a vital role in the culture, society as well as in economy. France, Italy, UK, and so on have been using fashion ad a soft power which is one of the essentials for economic growth.

The successful “Fashion Week” events from the fashion capitals and their influence on the current and upcoming fashion trends have proved the reputation of the fashion industry. The original fashion week which was initially named “ Press Week” was started in New York City in 1943. Then, in 1984, London Fashion Week was organized by the British Fashion Council and became the first fashion show with live broadcasting. After that, the London Fashion week was followed by the Milan Fashion week arranged by the National Chamber for Italian Fashion which presented the luxurious Italian designer brands. In 1933, the French Fashion Federation organized the Paris Fashion Week which is famous for the “haute couture”. Later the Miami Fashion Week was started in 1989, then discontinued and continued again in 2005. Unlike the other big four fashion weeks, the Miami Fashion week showcases the swimwear brands around the world and is usually held before the big four fashion week events.

Fashion Weeks are being held twice a year, usually in February and September, and divided into spring/summer and fall/winter to showcase seasonal collections. During the fashion week, London, New York City, Milan, Paris, and Miami which are regarded as the international fashion capitals, designers from famous luxury brands present their upcoming collections on the runway. The luxury brands also hire popular celebrities as brand ambassadors and attract buyers and fashionistas around the world. The fashion industry has a great impact on the economy. According to the statistics of Women’s Wear Daily, the fashion week created a total of $887 million with approximately 232,000 participants in more than 500 shows. Fashion Weeks are concentrated on sustainability lately. Hence, in London Fashion Week for this season, designers combine sustainability to their collections. Moreover, In New York Fashion Week 2021, we can see the sustainable designs but still, there are criticisms evolving that event is not sustainable enough because not all designers follow sustainability aspects. Also, recent Milan Fashion had the latest designs from brands like Max Mara, Genny, and so on, which align with sustainable rules. Likewise, in Paris Fashion Week,brands like Chloe, Stella McCartney, etc present their designs align with the values of sustainability but other big-name brands can’t able to integrate sustainable facts into their brands. Based on a recent McKinsey report, the fashion show which lasts for 10 to 15 minutes costs around $1 million. But the number of profits from the fashion week exceeds that amount. According to Fashion United’s calculations, New York Fashion Week, leading all the Fashion Weeks, earned  540 million euros per fashion week.

Although generating abundant profits, some brands are lacking to integrate sustainability and hence, the whole Fashion Week event couldn’t shift towards sustainability. The brands are only focusing to maximize their profits. They constantly produce trendy fashions and attract the consumers to buy each and every latest product. Honestly, sustainability can increase the cost of production, so most brands couldn’t shift to sustainable production. As a result, the brands neglect their impact on the environment such as carbon emissions, massive amount of water consumption, pollution of rivers and streams etc as well as their impacts on the society like labor exploitation etc.

However, the “Degrowth” theory which emphasizes on reduction of production, consumption and shifting the priority of the society based on sustainability seems to be usable for the brands to approach sustainability. Based on the degrowth, the lesser the production, the lesser the consumption. Sustainable products have better quality and long life which makes the consumers spend less on unnecessary purchases. On the other hand, designer brands also have limited products and are usually sold out before they create other seasonal collections. The quality of the designer brands has a great reputation and are useable for a long time. So, some might argue that they are different from fast fashion brands. In reality, the supply chain and source of raw materials of some designer brands are unknown and the companies don’t even have transparency about the wages of the workers in the factories. Some brands even had a history of labor exploitation in their supply chain. For this reason, it is questionable that if sustainability and profitability coexist. Indeed, there are various ethical brands for instance; Stella McCartney, Levi’s, Patagonia, and so on, that are committed to advocating for sustainability and produce eco-friendly products only.

Sustainability means “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Thus, we have to take accountability to reduce environmental impacts while creating values according to the triple bottom line -people, planet, and profit. The fashion industry accounts for 2% of the global GDP and is one of the biggest industries globally. Being the growing industry, it has the responsibility for transparency and sustainability, thus, even all the famous Fashion Events around the world are trying to showcase sustainable fashion and influence the consumers. In addition, Fashion Events that are focused on sustainability have emerged in Asia as well as in ASEAN. Hence, ASEAN still has the best opportunity to create a 100% sustainable fashion industry globally.

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An Uneven Recovery: the Impact of COVID-19 on Latin America and the Caribbean

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Employment rates in some Latin American and Caribbean countries have experienced a relative recovery, although in most, rates fall short of pre-pandemic levels. The quality of available jobs has also declined, as has the number of hours of paid work per week, according to data from a new survey by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

The High-frequency Phone Surveys, the second phase of which was implemented this year in 24 countries of the region, provides a snapshot of families’ well-being and their perceptions regarding the crisis. The goal is to take the pulse of the region and measure the impacts of the pandemic in key areas such as the labor market, income and food security, gender equality, and household access to basic services, such as education, health (including the COVID-19 vaccine), Internet connectivity and digital finance. The survey took a representative sample of the population aged 18 and over with access to a telephone in each country.

“The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the pre-existing inequalities in the region, where the most vulnerable and poorest groups have been disproportionately affected,” said Luis Felipe López-Calva, UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “This survey allows us to take the pulse of the region and propose evidence-based solutions.”

“The pandemic severely impacted millions of families in the region,” said Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, World Bank Vice-president for Latin America and the Caribbean. “These surveys we present today are crucial for obtaining current data on the scope of the crisis and for recommending informed measures to help improve the quality of life in our countries.”

Survey results demonstrate that the crisis particularly affected women, both because of the stronger initial impact on them and their slower labor market recovery. Mothers of young children (aged 0 to 5 years) have been most affected. In fact, a year and a half after the onset of the crisis, women are twice as likely as men to be unemployed owing to the pandemic. This situation is exacerbated by an increase in women’s household responsibilities, including supervision of children in remote education, and a higher incidence of mental health problems.

For the region as a whole, the employment rate stood at around 62 percent, almost 11 percentage points below the pre-pandemic level. Employment rates surpassed pre-crisis levels only in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

Moreover, formal employment fell 5.3 percent in the region while self-employment grew 5.7 percent, and the proportion of workers employed in small businesses (maximum of four workers) increased by 8 percent. These figures point to a deterioration in the quality of available employment. Even among the employed population, regional survey results identified a decrease in weekly hours of paid work, from 43 to 37, confirming this negative trend.

The survey data found that 28 percent of people employed before the pandemic lost their jobs, and more than half (17 percent) of those with a job before the pandemic have left the labor force. These impacts disproportionately affected women with young children: 40 percent of female workers over 18 with children aged 0 to 5 years lost their pre-pandemic job, compared to 39 percent of women in general and 18 percent of men.

The pandemic had a greater impact on less educated workers (both men and women). Thirty-five percent of those with a primary education or less lost their job during the pandemic, as did 28 percent of employees with a secondary education. Approximately 19 percent of individuals with a tertiary education became unemployed.

Survey data revealed that as a consequence of labor market setbacks, just over half of the households in the region have not yet managed to recover their pre-pandemic income levels. This situation occurred despite government efforts to help families through direct transfer programs and other benefits. Approximately 38 percent of survey respondents had received emergency cash transfers.

The survey demonstrated that food insecurity still affects 23.9 percent of households in Latin America and the Caribbean. This figure is almost double that reported by households prior to the pandemic — 12.8 percent. However, most countries have improved in this area with respect to the levels observed in June 2020.

Results also demonstrated that more than a year after the onset of the crisis, 86 percent of school-age children and youth receive some type of education (face-to-face or remote). However, figures vary widely across countries: in Guyana and Guatemala, it is 64 percent while in Peru and Chile, it reaches 95 and 97 percent, respectively. Additionally, education coverage falls below pre-pandemic levels in the countries surveyed. Just under a quarter of students in the region attended face-to-face classes.

Access to health services improved significantly. However, the percentage of unvaccinated people remains high in some countries. Eight percent of the regional population has not been vaccinated or is not willing to receive a vaccine. This percentage is especially high in the Caribbean: 60 percent in Haiti, 49 percent in Jamaica and 43 percent in Saint Lucia and Dominica.

Finally, according to the survey results, the use of mobile banking and online transactions (e-commerce) rose sharply during the pandemic. The use of digital payments also increased — currently, 26 percent of survey respondents said they used mobile wallets. The highest increases were among the rural population, the population over age 55 and those with low levels of education (primary or less).

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Economy

Gender-based violence in Bangladesh: Economic Implications

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Violence against women is one of the most heinous crimes perpetrated in today’s   world. However, despite the gravity of the violence perpetrated against women, it is still the pervading reality in the world. Bangladesh is also afflicted with this malaise of violence against women which is manifested in the deluge of news across the media about the violence against women in various  form .While Bangladesh has made commendable strides in the economic front, the  perennial subjugation of the women who account  for virtually half of its population remains a hurdle. Against this backdrop, this article investigates the economic toll incurred to the economy owing to the entrenched culture of systemic violence in our country.

Women constitute nearly half of the population of Bangladesh. As such, their innate potentials have considerable bearing on the socio-economic progress of the country. Admittedly, advancement of a country in socio-cultural indicators presupposes the simultaneous improvement of  women from the subjugated position culturally attributed to them. It is impossible  to envisage a prosperous thriving economy without the contribution and participation of the women equally. Therefore, the lack of women’s participation commensurate with their capabilities   hinders the development of the country.

One of the obstacles women confront in their journey of transforming into human capital is perhaps the retrograde views that society harbor about the traditional gender role of the women which fetter their contribution to the economy and society by bestowing them only  the  circumscribed role of  looking after the domestic affairs and rearing and educating child. The pastoral as well as urban culture   perpetuate these traditional gender roles and deny women a free rein over their fate. Whenever  women   disavow the preordained and predictable roles  provided by the society, they  have  to face mounting pressure from society so as to conform to the prevailing norms .Failing to  conform to the  regressive gender role will spell grave consequences for the women .When the society fails to cower the woman with the threats that are at its disposal ,it resort to the egregious path of violence. While   violence against women is one of the most reprehensible crime one can ever commit, it however is normalized through a power dynamics that  reinforces the overbearing male role and relegate women to the subjugation. Therefore, the culture of violence against women isn’t anomalous rather is embedded in the prevailing  patriarchal power dynamics which deem chastising women for their  rebellious attitude is solicited and  invoke often contrived and distorted religious edicts in order to legitimize their deplorable crime. Moreover, the culture of violence against women which has been  aptly termed as a epidemic by the United Nations  is rooted in the prevailing socio-economic  structure of the country that  systematically condone the browbeating of women into submission to patriarchal  norms and wield violent measures when the woman stubbornly gainsay their patriarchal hegemony.

While the social, cultural and health toll of the violence perpetrated against women is undoubtedly strenuous, the economic losses incurred by the violence and the opportunities nipped in the bud owing to violence against women also need to be taken into account in order to the adequately discern the deleterious ramifications of the violence against women .However, despite profound economic toll that are inflicted due to the violence against women, it is still unaddressed in the economic literature worldwide and discussion and cognizance about this momentous issue and its economic implications still scant.

As has been mentioned earlier, women constitute the lynchpin of the economy of Bangladesh which has been adequately manifested in the participation of women in Bangladesh’s much-heralded RMG sector and other productive sectors. However, this success of the economy   overshadows the plight and perils  this working class women confront in their bid to become economically productive. The violence against women is systemically entrenched in the country and women’s engagement in the economic activities are frowned upon by the society and culture .Therefore ,the this patriarchal fetter women behind the door of their  houses  and worst women are inflicted  physical and mental violence in event of questioning the dictates of the elders and the male custodians. Therefore , the fundamental impact of violence against women on the economy of the country related to the untapped opportunities due to the constrains imposed by the patriarchal society on women under the pretext of social, religious and cultural norm. This threat alone or normalization of the gender role of the women as a care-giver hinder women in taking part in the economy on a par with their male counterparts  .

Beside the lost  opportunities that can be tapped, the violence against women has numerous other implications on the economy. Firstly, the violence against women inevitably  results in the physical damage and mental trauma of the victim which has enduring toll on her. Therefore ,violence against women translate to toll on the health of the victim and therefore the cost incurred on the victim due to medical fees  as a result of the violence is also included in the economic cost of violence against women. Secondly, the violence against women also leads to diminished productivity of the victim due to the health hazards. Therefore, violence against women has implicit economic cost on the economy as a result of the lost productivity.

Thirdly,the cycle of the violence against women negatively sensitize women in not challenging the sacrosanct patriarchal norms and therefore women fit themselves with the prevailing adverse society and they themselves reproduce and reinforce these norms .Therefore, a vicious cycle set in which prevents women to actualize their potential and stymie them in their path of realizing their goal .This result a sense of apathy in women with regards to education and other means of social mobility and they deliberately avoid the economically productive activities that are deemed taboo by the prevailing social norms and cultural ethos.

Moreover, violence against women is an egregious form of crime perpetrated by a   patriarchal agent while the society has entrenched roles, norms and ethos that condone and encourage such outrageous violence .Moreover, a vicious cycle is at play in the gender based violence. The economic repercussions of the violence committed against women is considerable. Violence against women hinder the development  of the women commensurate with their inherent potential which nip the dreams of women in the bud. Besides, gender based violence also deter women in challenging the prevailing patriarchal norms and undertaking productive economic activities that are frowned by the patriarchal society and are deemed taboo. Moreover, a widespread sensitization in societal level as well as a drastic  overhaul of the patriarchal structure is necessary in order to avert the adverse socio-economic consequences of gender-based violence and extirpate the heinous root of this deplorable crime.

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