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Blue Economy and the opening of new horizons in Bangladesh

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The sea is called the lungs of the earth. The land beneath the sea is a world full of diversity and abundance of life. Professor Gunter Pauli, an Australian citizen, gave the first idea of ​​the huge economic potential. In 2010, at the invitation of the United Nations, the idea of ​​formulating an environmentally friendly sustainable economic framework was expressed in his speech.

Blue economies are the water resources of the oceans, the resources of the oceans and the economies that surround the oceans. Blue Economy means the color of the sea is blue. That is why the sea-centric economy is called Blue Economy. The main components of Blue  economy are mineral resources, water resources, transportation services, energy resources, tourism industry etc. The planned use and sustainable development of these will bring huge potential to the maritime economy. Like other countries in the world, Bangladesh will be able to use its marine resources for economic development.

Bangladesh has already established absolute sovereignty and sovereignty over 1,17,173 square km of waters from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on March 14, 2012 over the dispute over the Bay of Bengal with Bangladesh and Myanmar through historic sea conquest. The mineral resources of the Bay of Bengal in the south of our country are not found in any other sea or bay in the world and it is said that whoever controls the Bay of Bengal will control the whole of South Asia. That is why the superpowers are trying to occupy the Bay of Bengal.

Blue Economy  is becoming more and more popular in the world at present. By 2050, the world’s population will be about 950 million. We have to lean towards sea resources as we are forced to provide food to this huge population. The developed nations of the world are already harnessing marine resources and increasing their economic growth. Ninety percent of Indonesia’s national economy is dependent on the sea, and the government has already taken steps to ensure that, if implemented successfully, the value of resources extracted from the sea would be 10 times the budget. Australia currently earns 44 billion from their marine resources. Now the question is what are the future prospects of blue economy in the dark bay of maritime resources of Bangladesh, how will Bangladesh be able to create employment through blue economy and what will be the future economy of Bangladesh ??

There is a gulch like area in the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh, which is about 6 km long and is known as a fish sanctuary. There are 450 species of fish, 337 species of snails and oysters, 6 species of turtles, 36 species of shrimps, 10 species of dolphins and 5 species of lobsters in the Bay of Bengal. These include the economic demand for snails, snails, shellfish, crabs, octopuses, and sharks, and are widely considered as food in many countries. There are also marine weeds, creepers, shrubs. Medicinal weeds from the Bay of Bengal are processed to make medicines for various diseases and among these weeds, Espirulina is the most valuable which is consumed as food in China, Japan and various European countries. It is possible to make different types of sauces, bitumen, etc. from marine fish with food, fish oil, which will result in employment and earn huge amount of foreign exchange. There is also a lot of demand for tuna fish in the Bay of Bengal.

According to the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, the total mineral reserves in the beach sand are 4.4 million tons. Of this, the actual stock is 16 lakh 44 thousand tons. Out of 16 types of minerals in the Bay of Bengal, there is a possibility of extraction of 1 million tons of mineral sand in 13 places. Molybdenum, manganese, crust, copper, lead, zinc, sulfide are found in the deep sea floor and raw material clays of cement industry have been found 30 to 60 km deep in the bottom of the sea. Monazite is a very valuable substance in mineral sands and is used in atomic bombs and nuclear reactors. At the bottom of the Bay of Bengal there are ores called manganese edible, phosphorus deposits, polymetallic sulfide. These ores refine rare metals, including cobalt and lead, and can be used in shipbuilding and chemical plants. There are also gems, pearls, gold, silver, corals and other precious gems.

Precious metals uranium and thorium have been found in the deep and shallow seas of the Bay of Bengal. It is expected that 1-5 metric tons of salt will be exported if advanced technology is used in the production of good commercial salt along the coast. Black gold is found in Maheshkhali, Teknaf, Nijhum Island, Kuakata in Cox’s Bazar which is affecting our economy.

There is darkness in the gas field in the Bay of Bengal. There are 200 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in 23 blocks of the Bay of Bengal from which crores of rupees can be earned.

There is potential tourism industry around the Bay of Bengal. Various industries will be formed around this industry and there will be huge employment. Millions of tourists will flock to enjoy the natural beauty of the Bay of Bengal.

There is a possibility of increasing international trade through the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh is already building international standard ships and exporting them abroad and at present Bangladesh is in the 3rd position in ship exports. The ship breaking industry is also gaining popularity in the world.

Businesses can be expanded locally and internationally through the resources extracted from the sea. The demand for local products in Cox’s Bazar and Kuakata markets is high among tourists. Demand for this specialty has grown significantly as a result of recent corporate scandals.

The Blue Economy is not only the expansion of the ocean economy, but also the opening up of eco-friendly new horizons by mitigating the risks of climate change. In addition, the role of the sea in poverty alleviation, increase in capital flows, investment-friendly environmentally friendly infrastructure development, reduction of unemployment, job creation, elimination of regional and gender disparities and sustainable development is immense. About 80 percent of human food and livelihoods and world trade is handled by sea.

It is possible to implement the Blue economy by making proper use of the resources of the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh. The Bay of Bengal is considered as the “mine of gems” of Bangladesh. The Bay of Bengal, the heart of South Asia, is of great commercial importance as it is easy to communicate with different countries. The Government of Bangladesh has already set up an “Oceanographic Research Institute” in Cox’s Bazar district to take the Blue economy forward. Again, maritime economy has been given priority in the master plan of Bangladesh Delta Plan-2100. The Blue Economy Cell was formed in 2014. Therefore, with the proper utilization of the resources at the bottom of the Bay of Bengal, the wheel of Bangladesh’s economy will turn and the future has bright aspects.

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Economy

Tech layoffs and Indian IT Professionals

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According to a report in the Washington Post, nearly 30%-40% of the 200000 workers laid off by IT companies like Google, Microsoft etc, since November 2022 are Indians. Several of these workers are on non-immigrant visas — H1B and L1 Visas. H1B is a non-immigrant work visa which enables US companies to employ individuals with specialised skills. If those on H1B visas do not find a new job within 60 days, they will have to leave the US. This would result in numerous logistical problems – for instance children of many of these individuals are enrolled in schools, and these individuals would also have to sell their properties. One suggestion which had been made is that these companies can extend the termination date for IT professionals on H1B visas by a few months.

It would be pertinent to point out, that several organisations are trying to help Information Technology (IT) professionals in their job search and also in influencing US policy makers of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). While some of these individuals may be fortunate enough to find opportunities within the US, and a few would also be willing to relocate to India, if they are economically sound, others need to look at possible alternatives. While one possible alternative is Canada, which in recent years has been going all out to attract skilled tech professionals. After the inward immigration policies of the Trump administration, several professionals shifted to Canada (in 2019 the number of Indians who received permanent residency of Canada was over 80,000 while in 2016 less than 40,000 Indians received Canadian residency). Under the Global Skills Strategy program – the Canadian equivalent of the H1B – the processing time of immigration process for skilled workers to two weeks this has also resulted in Canada being a preferred destination for Indian IT professionals in recent years.

These professionals can also explore the possibility of options like UAE. UAE has been making a special effort to attract skilled professionals through its Golden Visa Program – a  10 year residency visa. Earlier, one of the reasons why the west was a preferred destination for Indian professionals vis-à-vis the UAE was that the latter did not provide long term visas. The introduction of the golden visa could make the UAE as a favoured destination for IT professionals given its proximity to India as well as the high living standards. Apart from this, the Golden Visa does not impose restrictions regarding dependents and family members can be sponsored regardless of their ages.

It is not just the UAE, even Japan is trying to attract professionals and has recently announced that individuals who have graduated from top universities can stay back for a period of two years (currently they can only stay for 90 days). Singapore which in recent years has emerged as preferred destination for Indian professionals has also emerged as an attractive destination for IT professionals. Between 2005 and 2020, the proportion of Indian professionals in Singapore has doubled and this has been driven to a large degree by the demand for tech professionals.

Many of the individuals who have been laid off by US companies can also take advantage of the increasing opportunities in India in the start-up sector and the recent thrust on digitalisation in India. Both the central and state governments should try to woo some of these individuals. A number of state governments, such as Kerala, have devised policies aimed at assisting expats who have returned from overseas to start business ventures.

Seeing the changes which are taking place in the IT Sector globally as well as some of the increasingly insular immigration policies of western countries, it is important that Indian students as well as professionals think innovatively and look at alternative avenues. Western companies as well as companies also need to bear in mind, that if other countries like UAE, Singapore, Japan and possibly countries like Vietnam and Taiwan, with strong research eco-systems and infrastructure, begin to open their doors to skilled IT professionals, then the west is unlikely to remain the primary choice for IT professionals in the longer run.

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Free-Market Capitalism and Climate Crisis

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Free market capitalism is an economic system that has brought about tremendous economic growth and prosperity in many countries around the world. However, it has also spawned a number of problems, one of which is the climate crisis. The climate crisis is a global problem caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. These externalities are chiefly a consequence of day to day human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and conventional agriculture. The climate crisis is leading to rise in temperatures, sea levels, and more erratic weather patterns-The floods in Pakistan and depleting cedars of Lebanon are vivid instances for these phenomena, which are having a devastating impact on the planet.

One of the main reasons that free market capitalism has contributed to the climate crisis is that it prioritizes short-term economic growth over long-term environmental sustainability. Under capitalism, companies are primarily motivated by profit and are not required to internalize the costs of their pollution. This means that they are able to pollute without having to pay for the damage that they are causing. Additionally, the capitalist system is based on the idea of unlimited growth, which is not sustainable in the long-term. As long as there is an infinite demand for goods and services, companies will continue to produce them, leading to ever-increasing levels of pollution and resource depletion.

Another pressing issue that free market capitalism is recently going through is that it does not take into account the externalities of economic activities. Externalities are the unintended consequences of economic activities, such as pollution and climate change. Under capitalism, companies are not required to pay for the externalities of their activities, which means that they are able to continue polluting without having to pay for the damage that they are causing. In her book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs Climate” Naomi Klein argues that the current system of capitalism is inherently incompatible with the urgent action needed to address the Climate crisis.

To address the climate crisis, it is necessary to put checks and balances over the free market capitalism and/or make a way towards a more sustainable economic system. This can be done through a number of different effective policies, such as:

Carbon pricing: This can be done through a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, which would make companies pay for the carbon emissions that they are producing. In the article “The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends” authors suggest that revenue-neutral carbon tax is the most efficient and effective way to reduce the carbon emissions.

Increasing renewable energy investments: an increment in the investments in clean energy technologies, such as solar and wind power, can result in the reduction in  the use of fossil fuels.

Regulating pollution: Governments can regulate pollution to limit the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere.

Encouraging sustainable practices: Governments can encourage sustainable practices, such as recycling and conservation, to reduce the use of resources.

It is remarkable that evolving Capitalism can be harnessed to address the climate change. The private sector has the resources and innovation to develop and implement new technologies and sustainable practices, but they need the right incentives and regulations to do so. Finding the balance between economic growth and environmental protection must be a priority for capitalists.

The free market capitalism has been the driving force behind global economic growth, but at the same time, it has contributed to the ongoing climate crisis. The solution to this problem is not to reject capitalism, but rather to reform it to the societies’ suitable demands. Government should consider providing a level playing field so as to make the probable transition from fossil-based energy systems to Green energy technologies possible. The capitalists should not consider short-termism over long term environmental sustainability. Government intervention to put a price on carbon emissions, invest in renewable energy, regulate pollution, and encourage sustainable practices is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis and build a sustainable future for all. However, here is the catch:  Is achieving net-zero-carbon emissions by mid-century a probable target? The answer is quite uncertain, however it is critical point to strive for in the face of  escalating Climate Crisis.

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Egypt’s “Too Big to Fail” Theory Once Again at Test

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Authors: Reem Mansour & Mohamed A. Fouad

In the wake of 2022 FED’s hawkish monetary policy, the Arab world’s most populous nation, Egypt, saw an exodus of about USD20bn of foreign capital.  A feat that exerted pressure on the value of its pound against the dollar slashing it by almost half.  This led to USD12bn trade backlog accumulating in Egypt’s ports by December 2022.

Meanwhile, amidst foreign debt nearing USD170bn, inflation soaring to double digits, and a chronic balance of payment deficit, Egypt became structurally unfit to sustain global shocks; the country saw its foreign debt mounting to 35% of GDP, causing the financing gap to hover at USD20billion. 

While it may seem all gloom and doom, friends from the GCC rushed to inject funds in the “too big to fail” country, sparing it, an arguably, ill-fate that was well reflected in its Eurobond yields spreads and credit default swaps, a measure that assesses a sovereign default risk. 

For the same reason in early 2023, the IMF sealed a deal worth of USD3bn, with the government, which unlocked an extra USD14bn sources of financing from multilateral institutions, and GCC sovereign funds, to fill in a hefty portion of the annual foreign exchange gap, albeit  a considerable amount averaging USD6bn per annum is yet to be sourced from portfolio investments.  

With the IMF stepping in, the Egyptian government agreed on a structural reform program that requires a flexible exchange rate regime, where the Egyptian pound is set to trade within daily boundaries against the US dollar, rationalize government spending, especially in projects that require foreign currency; and most importantly the program entails stake-sales in publicly owned assets, paving the way for the private sector to play a bigger role in the economy.

In due course, through its sovereign fund, Egypt planned initial offerings for shares in companies worth about USD5-USD6bn, and expanded the sale of its shares in local banks and government holdings to Gulf investment funds. 

Through the limited period of execution of these reforms, the EGP hit a high of 32 against the greenback, and an inflow of portfolio investments amounting to USD1bn took place, according to the Central Bank of Egypt. 

Simultaneously, Citibank International, cited a possible near end of the devaluation of the Egyptian pound against the US dollar.  Also, in a report to investors, Standard Chartered recommended to buy Egyptian treasury bills, and pointed to the return of portfolio flows to the local debt market in the early days of January, 2023. Likewise, Fitch indicated the ability of the Egyptian banking sector to face the repercussions of the depreciation of the pound, and that the compulsory reserve ratios within Egyptian banks are able to withstand any declines in the value of the pound because they are supported by healthy internal flows of capital.

While things seem to be poised for a recovery, the long term prospects may lack sustainability.  The Egyptian government needs to accelerate its plans to shift gears towards a real operational economy capable of withstanding shocks and dealing with any global challenges. Egypt, however has implicitly held the narrative that the country is ‘too big to fail”. This is largely true to the country’s geopolitical relevance, but even this has its limitations when the price to bail far outweighs the price to fail.

Former President George W. Bush’s administration popularized the “too big to fail” (TBTF) doctrine notably during the 2008 financial crisis. The Bush administration often used the term to describe why it stepped in to bail out some financial companies to avert worldwide economic collapse.

In his book “The Myth of Too Big To Fail” Imad Moosa presented arguments against using public fund to bail out failing financial institutions. He ultimately argued that a failing financial institution should be allowed to fail without fearing an apocalyptic outcome. For countries, the TBTF theory comes under considerable challenge.

In August 1982, Mexico was not able to service its external debt obligations, marking the start of the debt crisis. After years of accumulating external debt, rising world interest rates, the worldwide recession and sudden devaluations of the peso caused the external debt bill to rise sharply, which ultimately caused a default. 

After six years of economic reform in Russia, privatization and macroeconomic stabilization had experienced some limited success. Yet in August 1998, after recording its first year of positive economic growth since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia was forced to default on its sovereign debt, devalue the ruble, and declare a suspension of payments by commercial banks to foreign creditors.

In Egypt, although the country remains to face a number of challenges, signs remain relatively less worrying than 2022, as global sentiment suggests that leverage will be provided in the short-term at least. Egypt’s diversified economy, size and relative regional clout may very well spare the country the fate of Lebanon. However, if reforms do not happen fast enough, the TBTF shield may become completely depleted.

Hence, in order to avoid an economic fallout scenario a full fledged support to the private sector’s local manufacturing activity and tourism is a must.  Effective policies geared towards competitiveness are mandatory, and tax & export oriented concessions are required to unleash the private sector’s maximum potential and shift Egypt into gear.

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