EU member states must ensure careful and efficient implementation of economic recovery plans that support inclusion and growth to bounce back from the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, says a new World Bank report.
The World Bank’s latest EU Regular Economic Report – entitledInclusive Growth at a Crossroads – finds that the unprecedented and exceptional policy response of governments and EU institutions has cushioned the worst impacts on employment and income. However, the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated deep-seated inequalities, halting progress in multiple areas including gender equality and income convergence across the EU member states. A further three to five million people in the EU today are estimated to be ‘at risk of poverty,’ based on national thresholds benchmarked before the crisis.
The report highlights that effective recovery programs can reinforce progress on the green and digital transitions underway across the region. With the crisis continuing to unfold, government support schemes and the rollout of vaccines in a timely manner will remain essential to bolstering the resilience of firms, workers, and households. Given the longevity of the crisis and the impact on the most vulnerable, many governments have opted to extend the duration of support throughout 2021.
“A green, digital and inclusive transition is possible if economic policy is increasingly geared towards reforms and investment in education, health and sustainable infrastructure,” said Gallina A. Vincelette, Director for the European Union Countries at the World Bank.
With an output contraction of 6.1 percent in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the sharpest peacetime recession in the EU. Governments will need to ensure targeted and active labor market policies are in place to support an inclusive recovery. The report highlights that special attention should be given to already vulnerable workers such as youth, the self-employed, and those in informal employment. These groups are more likely to face employment adjustments during the crisis and may face longer spells of unemployment or periods outside the labor force.
Women have been disproportionately impacted by work disruptions during the pandemic, particularly in the sectors facing the worst effects of the crisis. This was also highlighted in the 2020 Regular Economic Report produced by the World Bank, which found that at least one in five women will face difficulty returning to work compared to one in ten men. It has been harder for women to resume work due to the sectors and occupations that they are working in and because of the additional care burdens that have fallen disproportionately on their shoulders – a manifestation of increasing inequities in home environments.
“As recovery takes hold, it will be important for carefully targeted and coordinated policy support to continue to mitigate the impact of the crisis, with measures increasingly targeted towards vulnerable households and viable firms. Policy makers will also need to strike a balance between helping those that need it most, while enhancing the productivity of the economy and keeping debt at manageable levels,” added Vincelette.
World Bank’s Regional Action in Europe and Central Asia
To date, the World Bank has committed more than $1.7 billion to help emerging economies in Europe and Central Asia mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. Since April 2020, around $866 million has been approved through new emergency response (MPA/Vaccines) projects. In addition, up to $904 million is being reallocated, used, or made available from existing projects and lending, including additional financing, to help countries with their COVID-19 response.
The World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects suggests that growth will be strong but uneven in 2021. The global economy is set to expand 5.6 percent—its strongest post-recession pace in 80 years. The recovery largely reflects sharp rebounds in some major economies.
Modi Urges All Countries to Embrace Sustainable Lifestyles
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India used his address to the Davos Agenda 2022 to call on all countries to shift from a throwaway culture towards more sustainable lifestyles. Modi emphasized that while India is home to 17% of the world’s population, it contributes only 5% of global emissions.
“It is very essential that we move away from today’s take-make-use-dispose economy and towards a circular economy,” he said. India, which co-launched the International Solar Alliance at COP26 to ensure universal access to affordable solar energy, today generates 40% of its energy from non-fossil sources. Modi underlined that the next phase of India’s growth will be “green, clean, sustainable and reliable”.
The prime minister questioned the ability of the world’s multilateral organizations to meet challenges that did not exist when they were created. He said that reforming these institutions is “the responsibility of every democratic country”. In a clear call for greater global cooperation, he said: “Today, more than ever before, countries need each other’s help – this is the only path to a better future.” He offered India’s vision of One Earth One Health as a means of responding to global challenges, from the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change.
India is an entrepreneurial powerhouse that has created 10,000 new start-ups in the past six months and over 40 unicorns in 2021, Modi said, propelling the country into the top three in the world for billion-dollar new ventures. Its digital infrastructure is developing rapidly, with over 4.4 billion transactions taking place on its United Payments interface in the past month alone. Over the period 2020-2021, India attracted $82 billion in foreign direct investment – a new record. Modi said India is committed to becoming a trusted partner for global supply chains.
In a bid to improve the ease of doing business, Modi outlined the measures his government is taking to reduce government intervention to the minimum. He has done away with over 25,000 tax compliances in the past year and deregulated most sectors for investment, except for defence, aerospace and telecoms. His government is investing $1.3 trillion on connectivity-related infrastructure through its GatiShakti National Master Plan, which includes connecting over 6,000 villages through optical fibre. The plan’s aim, he said, is to “give new impetus to seamless connectivity for movement of goods, people and services”. India is also investing $26 billion to boost manufacturing and resilient supply chains.
The Prime Minister also spoke to the importance of collective and synchronized action to face global challenges. He highlighted new technology as an important area for countries to act together, “Another example is cryptocurrency. Given the kind of technology it is associated with, the decisions taken by a single country will be insufficient to deal with its challenges.”
Modi said India enters 2022 “infused with self-confidence”. Its economic growth is projected to hit 8.5%. It has already administered 1.6 billion COVID-19 vaccines. And, he added: “Our multilingual, multicultural environment is a great strength [that] teaches us not just to think of ourselves in times of crisis but to work in the best interests of the world.”
Xi Jinping Calls for Greater Global Cooperation to Tackle Common Challenges
President Xi Jinping of China called for stronger international cooperation in overcoming shared global challenges including defeating COVID-19, revitalizing the economy and addressing climate change, in the opening session of the World Economic Forum’s virtual event, the Davos Agenda 2022.
Xi outlined that the international community is still locked in a tenacious battle against what he called “a once-in-a-century pandemic”. Calling for greater global cooperation, he said: “The fight against the pandemic is proving to be a protracted one. COVID-19 is resurging with different variants and spreading faster than before. He added that shifting blame will only cause delays in response.”
Speaking in a special address to business, government and civil society leaders taking part in the week-long virtual event, he laid out a three-pronged approach to safeguard people’s health. First, countries need to strengthen active cooperation on research and development of medicines. Second, leaders need to build multiple lines of defence against the coronavirus. Third, countries need to fully leverage vaccines by ensuring equitable distribution, boosting vaccination rates and closing the global immunization gap.
Xi said that China is doing its part, having already sent more than 2 billion doses of vaccines to more than 120 countries and international organizations, to be closely followed by at least another 1 billion doses.
As the world emerges from the depths of pandemic gloom, Xi cautioned that several risks threaten to derail economic recovery, including disruptions in global supply chains, tight energy supply and rising commodity prices. He said: “If major economies take a U-turn in their monetary policies, there would be serious negative spillovers which will challenge global economic and financial stability.”
To fully unleash the vitality of the world economy, he also called for less protectionism, especially on trade. Economic globalization is an unstoppable trend which will not veer off course, he said, despite counter-currents along the way: “We should remove barriers, not erect walls. We should open up, not close off. We should seek integration, not de-couple.”
Xi highlighted China’s reform path. He pointed out that China’s domestic growth in 2021 hovered around a healthy 8% annually, with the country achieving its dual target of high growth with low inflation. Nevertheless, he also said Chinese leaders are aware of the further work necessary to achieve prosperity that benefits all people. “We remain committed to reform and opening up,” he said. “A rising tide indeed lifts all boats.”
On climate change, the Chinese president said that China stands ready to help the international community realize the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development and to achieve carbon neutrality in the long term. He outlined that China would honour its word to achieve carbon peaking by 2030 followed by specific industry plans towards carbon neutrality. Xi pointed out that China has the world’s biggest carbon market and clean energy capability.
Xi also cautioned that “weaponizing economic, scientific and technological issues will gravely undercut international efforts to tackle common challenges”. He said: “Developed countries should take the lead in honouring their emission reductions, deliver on their commitment to financial and technological support and create conditions for developing countries to address climate change,” he added.
Klaus Schwab, the World Economic Forum’s Founder and Executive Chairman, thanked China for taking an active part in collaborative global efforts to combat shared challenges. “The year 2022 will provide a unique opportunity for global leaders to work jointly towards a more inclusive, more sustainable and more prosperous world,” Schwab said. “We must unite despite the different views we hold; ultimately we belong to a single global humanity whose fate is increasingly interconnected.”
Competition to Find Solutions to Reduce Overfishing in Coastal Fisheries
The World Bank Coastal Fisheries Initiative – Challenge Fund (CFI-CF) is launching a competition to seek collaborative solutions to reduce overfishing by supporting coordination among fishers and collaboration across seafood value chains. The competition seeks innovative solutions that promote the productive and sustainable use and management of coastal fish stocks in Cabo Verde, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Peru. Both new and established coalitions of fishing and coastal communities, businesses, and/or nonprofit organizations are invited to apply.
Overfishing is among the biggest challenges threatening the health of the world’s oceans, the livelihoods of millions living in coastal communities, and the business opportunities of seafood and related industries. Each year, global fisheries lose out on US$83 billion in economic benefits due to overfishing (World Bank “The Sunken Billions Revisited”), a sum that could instead be productively reinvested in people, communities, and economies. Limited coordination among fishers and seafood stakeholders has blocked the development of viable solutions to overfishing, resulting in the continued loss of natural resources and economic benefits.
“The Coastal Fisheries Initiative – Challenge Fund is committed to improving coastal fisheries, which are important sources of food and livelihoods for local communities. This competition is a call to action to bring together all of the actors in the seafood industry to tackle this perennial problem of overfishing,” said Mimi Kobayashi, Senior Environmental Economist at the World Bank and team leader of the CFI-CF. “Although this issue remains challenging, we are confident that we will receive some innovative and game-changing solutions.”
This competition aims to mobilize the collective power of fisheries and seafood stakeholders to design and implement solutions that systematically reduce overfishing in a self-sustained way by effectively engaging stakeholders. Solutions should address the restoration of already degraded fish stocks, while protecting people who are impacted when fishing is reduced.
Eligible applicants will receive mentoring and coaching support to improve their approaches and then can re-apply to increase their chances of winning.
One winner and one runner up will be selected in Cabo Verde, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Peru and announced at a virtual Knowledge Sharing Event in Spring 2022. Winners and runners up will participate in a week-long series of virtual events designed to share knowledge and experience in advancing productive and sustainable coastal fisheries. They will also receive dissemination support from the World Bank and acceleration services to improve and implement their solutions from competition partners.
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