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Lebanese-Chinese Partnership in the Midst of the Lebanese Economic Decline

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Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon Wang Kejian (R, front) and Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan (L, front) sign at a handover ceremony of medical supplies donated by China in Beirut, Lebanon, April 16, 2020. (Photo by Bilal Jawich/Xinhua)

Unfortunately, it seems that the Lebanese economic scenario is similar to the Venezuelan scenario. I am not optimistic. There is no glimmer of hope on the horizon, and it is likely that 2021 will be “the year of the major Lebanese economic setback.” COVID-19 has established new economic rules on many countries with fragile economies, including Lebanon, as many of the huge global institutions have gone bankrupt and the world has turned to a social welfare system, especially in the days of quarantine and lockdown. However, the Lebanese crisis began before the pandemic. The Lebanese media has been equipped with psychological weapons to spread poisons against the Lebanese authority, and the scenes of riots, cracking, and insults supported both externally and internally have not ended. These tools perfectly performed their destructive mission.

The Lebanese economic crisis is due to an external decision taken by the United States administration, the decision to impoverish and starve. President Trump’s administration prevented the transfer of funds from abroad to Lebanon in dollars, thus receiving the money in Lebanese pounds coincided with the increase in the exchange rate of the Lebanese pound against the dollar. The second step is to prevent Lebanese banks from delivering deposits to depositors in dollars, so the depositor loses more than half the value of the deposits if he/she agrees to withdraw money according to the exchange value determined by the bank. The third step is to prevent international aid to Lebanon, both Arab and foreign. The World Bank has linked aid to Lebanon to crippling conditions such as demarcating the borders with Israel, while insisting on the maritime borders that contain oil but according to international conditions, in addition to keeping the Syrian refugees and passing demands such as resettlement. These conditions thwarted the efforts of the Lebanese delegation to the World Bank.

It is true that the Lebanese system is “democratic,” but the banking system in Lebanon is a “disguised dictatorship.” So the governor of the Banque du Liban is a ruler by his order, it is a detachment from state authority. Article 26 of the Monetary and Credit Law and the Establishment of the Central Bank stipulates that the ruler enjoys the broadest powers to manage the Central Bank and conduct its business. Consequently, no one is capable of stopping or putting an end to the governor of the Banque du Liban. The Central Bank has its own authority, which is independent of the rest of the Lebanese authorities. The governor of the bank exercises his authority alone and in some cases within agencies, but the final decision is up to him. The governor has acquired broad powers and continues to aspire to expand his powers even more despite the total economic collapse in Lebanon. The role of the governor’s four deputies is advisory and does not affect the ruler’s decisions. He appoints and dismisses employees and the implementation of the Monetary and Credit Law depends on him. The Lebanese law granted the bank’s governor many and wide powers, and he also became the custodian of the state’s financial and monetary policies.

Some point out that Lebanon is a cash-sufficient country, and the Lebanese state possesses immovable capital that pumps huge amounts of money, and I support this proposal. The Lebanese banks are filled with huge amounts of money from local, Arab and international depositors, in addition to the permanent remittances of expatriates, which constitute a vital economic artery to Lebanon in dollars. Consequently, the ruler’s suggestion that Lebanon is a collapsed and economically bankrupt country is a fragile part of the US scenario, which aims to “impoverish and starve” the Lebanese people by draining the Lebanese market of dollars by means previously mentioned, and then co modifying the dollar and manipulating its exchange rate. Every Lebanese banker who has agreed to implement these unfair economic decisions against Lebanon is a traitor and worse than the enemy against the Lebanese people. Honour requires stepping down and not behaving in the dark tunnel.

The official Lebanese system has always been directly or indirectly loyal to the West, for France was the guardian of Lebanon, and it is the country that granted Lebanon its independence, and a large group of Lebanese are still associated with this state. France is still morally present in Lebanon. The deteriorating political situation forced French President Emmanuel Macron to personally come to Lebanon and gather all political leaders and draw up a road map. Lebanon has been linked economically with the Arab Gulf states, as these countries were the main financiers for Lebanon in the reconstruction, financing of economic projects and the promotion of tourism. A large part of the Lebanese workforce is in the Gulf countries, as they transfer money in US dollars to Lebanon. Saudi Arabia, for example, was a sponsor of national reconciliation in the past, and it called for the Taif Agreement to end the Lebanese civil war, and the Lebanese government’s presidency has a moral connection with Saudi Arabia. Therefore, Saudi satisfaction is a permanent condition for the formation of governments in Lebanon. The US is the party with the greatest influence through Lebanon’s financial links and banking laws. The US has an economic and political moral force that greatly affects Lebanon. The current crisis that Lebanon is going through is mainly related to decisions of the US administration, just as it is the case with Venezuela, Iran and others.

Unfortunately, despite Lebanon’s historical ties with its Western allies, the recent decision was to abandon Lebanon and pursue a policy of impoverishment and starvation against a culturally, religiously and socially diverse country. A true friend is at a time of adversity and difficulties. It has become evident that Lebanon is nothing more than a tool in the hands of the West to achieve goals and pass interests in the Middle East. It seems that this tool is no longer useful and it has been abandoned. However, in the eastern part of the globe, states, governments and peoples have never followed the path of domination and imposing decisions on their friends, and I particularly mention the Chinese state. China’s foreign policy stipulates the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of others, respect for the sovereignty of other countries and mutual benefit. All powerful countries in ancient and contemporary history enslaved people, plundered wealth, and widened the rift between them and the poor countries. However, it is clear that China does not aspire to be a pole or to rule the world alone as the US and its predecessors did. Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that China aspires to build a “participatory society with a shared destiny.”The Chinese state takes into account the interest of all nations and is therefore not selfish.

Lebanon has a bitter and unsuccessful experience with the West. The established alliances with most Western capitals led to economic collapse and catastrophic failure on all levels. On the other hand, the Chinese were and are still open to a partnership with Lebanon. Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon Wang Kejian indicated that China is open to partnering with Lebanon on the condition of formal governmental cooperation with the Chinese side. The most important Western and Arab capitals are moving east and expanding their economic and political relations with the Chinese, but it seems that Lebanon is forbidden to go east. The US decision was taken years ago to prevent Lebanon from allying with the Chinese or establishing a strategic partnership because that contradicts US interests, taking into account the geopolitics of Lebanon on the borders with Syria, Israel and the Mediterranean. The Lebanese government had previously requested a postponement of the partnership with the Chinese, while the neighbouring countries from all sides were flocking to partner with China, to name but a few: Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and others.

Some Lebanese still prefer everything coming from the West. This bad habit has brought the homeland through a dark tunnel, and a segment of the Lebanese is still insistent on partnering with the West and believes that there is no point in partnering with eastern countries. Lebanon at this stage lies in the abyss. It is not in an alliance with the East and is mortgaged to the West. This reality should not continue. Therefore, a bold decision must be made, either total dependence of the West and complete surrender or alliance with the East, thus replacing the Western allies with Eastern allies while retaining some Friendships and good relations with Western countries that respect Lebanon’s sovereignty and do not interfere with its internal affairs. My vision is that the only way out for a new Lebanon is through new alliances and a new system that will hand over the reins of affairs to specialized youth, away from political and official interference. This coincides with the proposal of the Chinese delegation regarding its partnership with Lebanon.

We do not have to wait and waste time. The time factor has become negative for Lebanon. It worsens the deterioration of the economic situation. I turn to His Excellency the President of the Republic to take this frank message into consideration, “The salvation of Lebanon is to go east and reach out to the Chinese.” On the election of the President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed him with a message on November 4, 2016 stating, “I attach great importance to developing Sino-Lebanese relations in order to make joint efforts with you to further develop friendly relations and mutual cooperation between China and Lebanon, which is beneficial on the two countries and the two peoples better.”The Chinese are open to cooperation, but this partnership will not become a reality except with official Lebanese cooperation, as Ambassador Wang Kejian pointed out. The issue of the Lebanese-Chinese partnership will remain present and we will not stop calling for it until it turns into a full partnership and that the Lebanese-Chinese relations rise to the level of the extraordinary relationship.

Mohamad Zreik is an independent researcher, doctor of international relations. His areas of research interests are related to the Foreign Policy of China, Belt and Road Initiative, Middle Eastern Studies, China-Arab relations, East Asian Affairs, Geopolitics of Eurasia, and Political Economy. Mohamad has many studies and articles published in high ranked journals and well-known international newspapers. His writings have been translated into many languages, including French, Arabic, Spanish, German, Albanian, Russian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, etc.

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A New Horizon for Kazakhstan’s Economy

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On September 1, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivered an address that outlined the nation’s priority areas for development. Primarily focusing on Kazakhstan’s economic trajectory, the President’s remarks have a significant impact on the activities and initiatives of public authorities, including quasi-public sector companies like Samruk-Kazyna, a sovereign wealth fund of Kazakhstan, which owns several major companies in the country.

Rethinking Tariff Policy

President Tokayev emphasized the necessity of reforming the tariff policy and introducing adequate market tariffs for entities subject to natural monopolies. This marks an important shift from the existing approach, which has reached its limits. Adopting a cost-plus principle for tariffs will enable us to discontinue subsidies to the economy. This, in turn, will facilitate timely preventive maintenance, thereby reducing the risk of industrial disasters. This policy overhaul will ensure break-even in the areas of activity, bolster the investment attractiveness of our companies and a number of industries, and ultimately lead to increased dividends and social payments. We have already been collaborating with the Government to systematically increase tariffs, taking into account the 10-12% inflation corridor set by regulators to ensure social stability.

Focusing on Exploration

Tau-Ken Samruk, our national mining company, is currently engaged in exploration projects with leading international companies like RioTinto, Fortescue Metals Group, and others. With Kazgeology joining the structure of Tau-Ken Samruk this year, the number of exploration projects has increased from 15 to 45, expanding the exploration area from 1887.7 km² to 13,609 km². Notably, we are focusing on copper, gold, lead, and zinc, as well as rare metals like tungsten, molybdenum, and yttrium. Joint ventures registered in Kazakhstan will own the extraction rights to these minerals if confirmed. Geological exploration work will be carried out not only by Tau-Ken Samruk, but also by the world’s largest uranium producer Kazatomprom, national oil and gas companies KazMunayGaz and QazaqGaz in their areas of activity.

Energy Goals for the Next Five Years

The President has set a goal to commission 14 GW of new energy capacity over the next five years. This includes the Samruk-Kazyna projects aimed at restoring the first unit of Ekibastuz GRES-1, a coal-fired thermal power station, expanding GRES-2, and constructing GRES-3. These initiatives focus on traditional coal energy.

In addition, the Fund’s portfolio features gas generation projects, the largest of which involve the reconstruction of Almaty CHPP-2 and CHPP-3, as well as the construction of a combined cycle power plant in the Turkestan region.

Special emphasis is being placed on the development of renewable energy sources, particularly hydroelectric power plants. Plans include constructing wind farms with a capacity of up to 5 GW in collaboration with foreign partners such as Total Eren, Acwa Power, Power China, Masdar, and China Power International Holding. The projects also encompass the construction of counter-regulators for Kapshagai HPP and Shulba HPP.

According to forecasted data, a capacity increase of approximately 9 GW is expected by the end of 2028.

Transport and Logistics

Strategic upgrades are in progress to improve our existing transport infrastructure and eliminate bottlenecks. Several significant infrastructure projects are currently underway, including the construction of second lines on the Dostyk–Moiynty section, and the development of new railway lines: Bakhty–Ayagoz, Darbaza–Maktaaral, as well as a bypass line around Almaty.

Alongside the widespread modernization of railway infrastructure across the country, the North–South transport corridor stands out as a promising focus area. Plans are in place to upgrade railway sections leading to the Bolashak station, which is located at the border with Turkmenistan.

Simultaneously, initiatives to boost terminal capacity are in the works both within Kazakhstan and abroad. Noteworthy projects include establishing a container hub in Aktau, constructing a terminal at Xi’an port in China, and creating a dry port at Bakhty station, among others. Kuryk port is receiving special focus; the construction of its ferry complex is nearly complete, and activity along the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route is ramping up.

The expected economic impact of these initiatives is substantial, with freight traffic projected to increase by an estimated 50 million tons annually. These efforts aim to transform Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, Kazakhstan’s national railway company, into a comprehensive transport and logistics enterprise.

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Economic development on horizon

Kazakhstan is at a historically significant crossroads. The President’s address underlines a multitude of opportunities that we are keen to seize. For decades, Samruk-Kazyna has collaborated with international entities, and we firmly believe that collective business efforts are the most effective approach for the 21st century.

To attract major long-term investors, stability and clear profit plans are essential. In line with the President’s recommendations, we are refining our tax policy to make it more investor-friendly, among other initiatives. These comprehensive efforts not only offer us a robust toolkit for economic development but are already yielding tangible results. I have immense faith in Kazakhstan’s economic potential and am confident that the global business community will recognize and appreciate the favorable conditions being nurtured in our nation.

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The High Percentage of Informal Employment in Indonesia: Causes and Implications

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In most developing countries, the informal economy accounts for a large portion of the national economy and it often has a negative connotation because of inferior working conditions, low-productivity firms, and disrespect for the rule of law. The firms and workers as well as their output and production activities that are unregistered and do not pay taxes account for a significant and growing share of total economic activity. In Indonesia, BPS-Statistics Indonesia (BPS-Statistic Indonesia, 2022) records that the informal sector reaches 59.31% with more informal economy workers in rural areas. It captures three provinces including Papua (84,11%), West Sulawesi (77,25%), and West Nusa Tenggara (75,36%), with the highest percentage. The informal sector – where most MSMEs operate – employs more than 61 percent of Indonesia’s total workforce (The World Bank, 2010). From a government or formal perspective, the large participation in the informal sector becomes an issue that must be resolved because restricts the government’s ability to provide support for public goods and services (tax issue) and hinders economic growth.

In addition, policy-makers assume that their status (as companies and informal workers) would put them at a disadvantage relative to formal firms because they may not be able to legally obtain credit from formal financial sources, access government programs or facilities, or export products. The fact that is not surprising anymore is, even though actors in the informal sector know those losses mentioned by the government, most of them remain in their position. This phenomenon is interesting to examine because it has a lot to do with economic growth, social welfare, human capital, institutional issue, to development in various sectors. Therefore, this paper will analyze why the percentage of informal employment remains high in Indonesia despite many efforts by institutions and state agencies.

The Informal Sector: Exclusion & Exit Theory

Informal employment is a phenomenon in which firms and workers are unregistered with social security administrations, meaning their work activity and income are outside the tax control of the state and of the legal provisions in labor matters – most of them are small firms. Some literature analyzes the reasons firms or workers choose to remain in the informal sector on the one hand and the reasons other companies register their firms (and workers) and pay taxes. Perry et al. (2007) highlight informality through two lenses, exclusion & rational exit. The exclusion theory argues that the informal sector exists because workers could not find jobs in the formal sector, more precisely they are excluded from critical state benefits or modern economic circuits. Those exclusions include segmentation in the labor market, burdensome entry regulations that prohibit small firms shift to formality and growth, and informality as a defensive measure toward excessive tax and regulatory burdens. Therefore, the rational exit theory states that the net benefits of joining the formal sector are negative. Firms and workers choose to engage with formal institutions based on cost-benefit analysis, depending on their assessment of the net benefits associated with formality and the state’s enforcement effort and capability. This view suggests that high informality results from a massive choice to leave formal institutions by firms and individuals. It implies societal demand on the quality of the state’s service provision and enforcement capability.

They also argue that formality increases rapidly with firm size and productivity. So, formality can be seen as an input in the production process that is not really needed by small firms. However, most micro firms remain too small to benefit sufficiently from formality to overcome their various costs (a survey of informal Mexican micro firms). Other reasons are the high costs and time required to register or the high costs of operating as a registered business. In their research, the degree of formality increases as the firm grows larger and their demand for formalization increases, as does the probability of detection by authorities. Firms choosing to register do have better performance or, the firms that started operations being registered exhibit higher levels (on average) of labor productivity than their equivalent unregistered peers (survey in Latin America). However, there is evidence that, in some cases, informality reflects defensive evasion of possibly excessive regulation. In short, firms not only consider the cost and benefit of formality but their environment that does not demonstrate demand for its expected benefits also influences their decision. For the last, even if the government reduced registration costs, it would not lead to formalization. In other cases, such as unskilled workers – with lower formal wages, they may find that paying social protection and expected returns from a formal job do not exceed their consumption or greater flexibility and income they can get as informal workers. Especially when they have social protection alternatives from private or noncontributory programs (Perry et al., 2007). However, informality is a multidimensional phenomenon in which exclusion and exit mechanisms depend on each country based on its institutions, historical background, and legal frameworks.

The analyses highlight the characteristics of informal workers, their motivations, and their preference for the benefits and non-monetary characteristics of jobs such as flexibility, autonomy, stability, and mobility. Most of these informal workers seem to choose their jobs according to their individual needs, particularly their desire for flexibility and autonomy, and their abilities (comparative advantage). Either independent workers (firm owner and self-employment) or informal salaried workers are related to the exclusion and exit model. Most independent workers choose their jobs voluntarily, exit the formal social protection system, and underline the non-monetary of self-employment. In contrast, most informal salaried workers are excluded from more desirable jobs, either as formal workers or self-employed. They also choose not to contribute to social security and health insurance plans (exit) mainly because of low incomes and their employer’s decision not to offer benefits. Based on Perry’s research in Latin America, most of the self-employed do not appear to be excluded from the formal sector but they choose to exit (rationally, cost-benefit) of formality. They considered their minimal human capital, access to other assets, and low aggregate productivity in the economy. Informal employment then becomes a better option than suitable jobs in formal ones.

The dualism of the Informal Sector

Furthermore, Rizki, Suryadarma, & Suryahadi (2020) used dual economic theory in their research on informal workers in Indonesia in the 1996-2014 period. The dual economy theory argues that the informal and formal sectors co-exist, and are fundamentally different. They produce different products, with different labor, capital, and technological inputs that automatically have different productivity levels, and also pay different levels of wages and serve different consumers. This theory assumes that changes in registration costs will have no impact on the size of the informal sector in the dual economy model. Only economic growth could solve this issue because it will reduce the size of the informal sector while encouraging the formation and expansion of formal firms (Rafael La Porta & Andrei Shleifer, 2014).

 Based on Rizki et al. research, Indonesia with its large informal sector in which 57 percent of the 125 million working population are informal workers (50% in the non-agriculture sectors since 2000), the transition from informal to formal jobs is very gradual and can be rapidly overturned by an economic crisis. Although, indeed, between 1996 and 2014, they found evidence that the informal sector seemed to shrink along with economic growth, however, it took a very long time. The results from the first job trend examination show individuals whose first job was as a low-tier informal (LTI) worker, almost half remained in that position through the next 8 to 19 years, and another 45 percent became low-tier formal (LTF) workers for at least one year. Their findings emphasize that the dual economy is divided between low-tier and high-tier employment, rather than informal and formal employment. Even if they shift, they are still at a low-level of employment. However, they have a relatively good chance of switching to LTF work because of the earnings premium that LTI could gain is large and statistically significant (42%). Hence, the research recommends, instead of creating policies that try to encourage low-level informal sector workers to become high-tier informal sector workers – as most policymakers in developing countries desire, the government should be advised to create jobs, even if low-tier ones, that LTI can apply for.

Another research from William, Horodnic, & Windebank (2017) on the dual informal labor market with a case study in the European Union. They see the informal economy both as the ‘exclusion’ and ‘out’, and as internal dualism of it. The evaluation was carried out on a dual informal labor market composed of an exit-driven ‘upper tier’ and exclusion-driven ‘lower tier’ of informal workers. Their analysis resulted in the finding that 24% of participants did so for pure exclusion reasons, 45% for pure exit reasons, and 31% for a mixture of both exclusion and exit rationales. So, it is not purely for exit or exclusion rationales, instead, there is an internal dualism of the informal sector, with some involved in the informal sector being exit, others exclusion, and yet others driven by a mixture of both motives. However, the weight given to exit and exclusion is not uniform across the European Union. Exclusion is more common in Southern Europe and East-Central Europe but less in Nordic nations and Western Europe. Based on their analysis, the exclusion-driven ‘lower tier’ was identified as more likely to be populated by the unemployed and those living in East-Central Europe, and the exit-driven ‘upper tier’ by those with fewer financial difficulties and who live in the Nordic countries. In sum, the informal sector is not purely a necessity-driven realm for excluded populations or purely a result of a desire to exit a burdensome and over-regulated formal sector, it is a mixture of both exclusion and exit rationales.

Institutional Perspective

In addition to examining the phenomenon of the high percentage of informal employment in developing countries through the perspective of economic literature, the author will also look at it from an institutional perspective. Williams & Harodnic (2015), through the lens of institutional theory, reveal that there is a strong relationship between tax morale and participation in the informal economy. The lower the level of tax morale, the higher the level of participation in the informal economy. They mention that not only formal institutions (codified laws & regulations) – government morality – define institutional strength (non-compliance; enforcement) but also informal institutions (societal morality) such as norms, values, and principles. So, in the case of the informal economy, they argue that there is an asymmetry between government morality and societal morality, thereby resulting in a large percentage of the informal economy. The finding (case: the UK population) is people who participate in the informal economy have significantly lower tax morale than those in formal ones.

Indonesia’s Informal Employment

Based on the literature reviews and theories above, the author observes that in the Indonesian case, the exclusion theory is not really relevant (directly) as a reason for the high percentage of the informal sector, especially since the period 2018-after the pandemic COVID-19 until now. During that period, the government amended and passed regulations that ease and facilitate access for MSMEs and workers to enter the formal economy. For instance, the central government has also reduced registration fees (Directorate General of Intellectual Property, Trademark) and business taxes (1% to 0.5%) (Directorate General of Taxes) which have been implemented since 2018, but participation in the informal economy is still large. There are still many informal economy actors who are reluctant to transform into the formal sector. They still assume that the procedure for formalizing (registration) their business is too complicated – and expensive, although the government has reduced and simplified registration. Even the registration of the Taxpayer Identification Number (Nomor Pokok Wajib Pajak/NPWP) – as a requirement for access to capital loans at the Bank, paying taxes, and reporting the Annual Tax Return (Surat Pemberitahuan Tahunan/SPT) can be done at the tax office or through the online site at which incidentally makes it easier for the community (theoretically). On the other hand, the formation of the Job Creation Law No. 11/2020 (widely known as the “Omnibus Law”) should also support informal workers and MSMEs to shift, but this is not the case.

The high informal sector in Indonesia is more relevant viewed through a rational exit lens in which MSMEs (and workers) choose to be informal because the costs of formality are greater than its benefits. They assume that formalizing their enterprises (mostly small one) are costly and not worth the benefits they get. They have to pay business taxes (Article 2 (5) Law No. 36/2008 on Income Tax; Government Regulation (PP) No. 23/2018 on Income Tax) and have to deal with regulations related to employment (the Job Creation Law No. 11/2020), product certification, and they have to pay business taxes (Article 2 (5) Law No. 36/2008 on Income Tax; Government Regulation (PP) No. 23/2018 on Income Tax) and have to deal with regulations related to employment (the Job Creation Law No. 11/2020) and product certification, and procedures they find complicated and time-consuming to perform. Most of the MSMEs in Indonesia are small – and mostly run by the lower middle class. Lower middle-class informal actors prefer to remain in the informal sector because they enjoy benefits such as not having to pay taxes – but enjoy tax advantages, wage rates that are not limited by labor regulations, not spending time with registration and administration processes that they consider complicated, and other advantages of not following the rules.

So, the author sees this as more of a human capital and societal morality issue. Small businesses and workers in the informal sector are constrained to meet standards in the formal sector due to their low capacities, such as inadequate skills, low education, and lack of knowledge about technology-digitization, which indeed affects their mentality and performance (productivity, efficiency, marketing, management). This fact is in line with the dual economy theory of informality. Furthermore, from an institutional perspective, the informal sector is a matter of enforcement and societal resistance which requires changing the values and beliefs of the population by trying to harmonize regulations and soft policies, so that trust, self-regulation, and high commitment can grow. Hence, in its implementation, the government must have clear indicators for MSME development. MSME development programs must be synergized so that they do not run separately in each ministry/institution. It is necessary to map and differentiate in handling problems based on the size of MSMEs, worker skills, and class so that empowerment is carried out on target. In conclusion, besides the significance of the institution, meaningful enforcement effort and capacity from above and societal cooperation from below, are very important indicators to create a strong institution. Lack of enforcement capacity relative to societal resistance becomes one of the causes of the high percentage of the Indonesian informal economy. It is also important to pay attention to increasing skills in line with the needs of the labor market. It seems that what is important is no longer whether they become informal (which always has a negative connotation) or formal (good one), but how to empower those at the middle and lower levels so that their capacity and morale support economic growth and prosperity economically and socially.

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CBDC vs Cryptocurrency: The Future of Global Financial Order

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In the rapidly evolving digital era, the global financial landscape is undergoing profound transformation. At the heart of the debate on the future of digital currency, two concepts dominate the discussion: Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) and cryptocurrency. While both offer distinct visions for the future of global finance, there are strong indications that CBDCs hold greater potential to be adopted as a global standard.

A study by the Atlantic Council, a US-based think tank, reveals that 130 countries, representing 98% of the global economy, are currently exploring digital versions of their currencies. Nearly half of these are in advanced stages of development, testing, or launch. All G20 nations, except Argentina, are in these advanced stages. Eleven countries, including some in the Caribbean and Nigeria, have launched their CBDCs. Meanwhile, China has tested its CBDC with 260 million people across 200 different scenarios. However, despite the global push for CBDCs, countries like Nigeria have seen disappointing adoption, while Senegal and Ecuador have halted their developments. Here are some fundamental reasons why CBDCs hold more promise than Cryptocurrencies in setting global financial standards:

1. Authority and Regulation

  One of the primary advantages of CBDCs is the oversight and regulation by central banks. With a central authority controlling its circulation and use, CBDCs offer a higher level of trust and security for users and other stakeholders. CBDCs, supervised by central banks, are deemed safer due to a centralized authority ensuring consistent policy and regulation application. The ability to track and monitor transactions to prevent illegal activities, value stability, advanced security infrastructure, legal protection, and monetary control by central banks enhance user trust and security. Moreover, with central bank backing, CBDCs have backup and recovery mechanisms ensuring the digital currency’s integrity and availability.

2.  Stability and Sustainability

Cryptocurrencies often face high price volatility, hindering their acceptance as a stable medium of exchange. In contrast, CBDCs, backed by central banks, are expected to offer more consistent value stability. Cryptocurrency price volatility is often driven by speculation, low liquidity, news and regulatory responses, and market immaturity. The nascent crypto market, dominated by retail investors, tends to move based on emotions like fear or greed rather than fundamental analysis. On the other hand, CBDCs, regulated by central banks, are designed for stability, expected to provide more consistent value stability than decentralized cryptocurrencies.

3.  Financial System Integration

CBDCs, issued and overseen by central banks, offer easier integration into existing financial infrastructure. With full backing from central banks and existing legal and regulatory frameworks, CBDCs can seamlessly integrate into traditional banking and financial systems, facilitating cross-border transactions and exchanges with traditional currencies. For instance, Swift, a financial messaging service provider, is focusing on CBDC interoperability. They’ve initiated beta testing with several central banks and over 30 financial institutions to ensure new digital currencies operate smoothly alongside current fiat currencies. This aim seeks to address potential global fragmentation in CBDC development.

 In contrast, cryptocurrencies, with their decentralized nature, might face challenges integrating with existing financial infrastructure due to the absence of a central authority and regulatory challenges, as well as acceptance by financial institutions.

4. Global Acceptance

As an official currency issued by central banks, CBDCs have the potential for widespread acceptance among nations, becoming an integral part of the global financial order. CBDCs, being official currencies issued by central banks, enjoy the trust and credibility of a nation’s monetary authority, facilitating their acceptance among the public. For instance, China’s Digital Yuan, backed by the People’s Bank of China, has seen extensive domestic acceptance. Moreover, CBDCs are designed to integrate with existing payment systems, as seen with the Sand Dollar project in the Bahamas that enables transactions via smartphones. On an international level, CBDCs can facilitate cross-border monetary cooperation, with countries like ASEAN members considering the interoperability of their CBDCs to ease trade and investment.

5. Transparency and Accountability

The ability to track CBDC transactions provides governments with an effective tool to enhance financial oversight and tax compliance. The transparency offered by CBDCs facilitates the identification of potentially unreported transactions and the detection of suspicious transaction patterns related to money laundering or terrorist financing. Additionally, with real-time monitoring, governments can promptly detect and respond to illegal activities, such as fraud, ensuring the integrity and security of their financial systems remain intact.

6. Promoting Financial Inclusion

CBDCs can play a pivotal role in promoting financial inclusion, providing access to financial services for those previously marginalized from traditional banking systems. CBDCs hold immense potential to boost financial inclusion, especially for those marginalized from traditional banking systems. With easy access via mobile devices and low transaction costs, CBDCs make financial services more accessible, especially in rural or remote areas.

Furthermore, the ease of account opening and cross-border transactions at more efficient costs supports migrant workers and those previously challenged by conventional banking services. For example, the Sand Dollar project in the Bahamas has showcased how CBDCs can expand access to financial services across the islands, allowing residents on remote islands to transact using just a mobile phone. Such initiatives demonstrate how CBDCs can be a crucial tool in promoting financial inclusion globally.

7. Monetary Policy Control

With CBDCs, central banks have an additional tool to implement monetary policy, allowing for more timely and effective interventions in the face of economic crises. CBDCs grant central banks enhanced capabilities to implement monetary policies. With better liquidity control and the ability to apply negative interest rates, central banks can respond more quickly and accurately to economic condition shifts.

Moreover, CBDCs allow for faster monetary policy transmission, such as direct stimulus provision to public accounts, and provide access to real-time transaction data. This capability is crucial as it allows for quicker responses to potential crises, maintaining economic and price stability. Additionally, swift and accurate actions from central banks in crisis situations can boost public trust in financial institutions and the government. Thus, CBDCs can be a vital tool in a central bank’s monetary policy toolkit, reinforcing their role in safeguarding a nation’s economic well-being.

While cryptocurrencies offer benefits like decentralization and privacy, the lack of consistent regulation and high volatility make them less ideal as a global financial standard. On the other hand, CBDCs, with the backing and regulation of central banks, promise a new era in a more stable, transparent, and inclusive global financial landscape.

In the context of modern diplomacy, the acceptance of CBDCs as a global standard can facilitate cross-border economic cooperation, strengthen bilateral and multilateral relationships, and advance sustainable development agendas. As a step towards a more integrated and harmonious future, CBDCs might be the key to transforming the global financial order.

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