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Lao PDR: Economic Recovery Challenged by Debt and Rising Prices

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While sectors of the Lao economy are beginning to recover from the slowdown caused by COVID-19, the country faces stiff challenges associated with long-standing macroeconomic imbalances, according to the World Bank’s latest economic update for the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Increasing public debt levels and rising global prices are endangering macroeconomic stability and threatening living standards, according to the Lao PDR Economic Monitor — Restoring Macroeconomic Stability to Support Recovery.

Laos’ economy is forecast to grow by 3.8 percent in 2022, up from an estimated 2.5 percent in 2021, provided that ongoing debt renegotiations are successful and that strict COVID-19 containment measures do not return. The country currently enjoys a trade surplus and continues to attract foreign investment. The energy and mining sectors have been buoyant, while agricultural and manufacturing exports are supported by strong external demand and higher commodity prices. A gradual recovery is also expected in domestic services.

However, inflation reached 9.9 percent in the year to April 2022, up from under 2 percent last year, while long-term job losses and business closures caused by the spread of COVID-19 continue to put pressure on household incomes. With prices rising faster than earnings, many low-income families are at risk of falling into poverty, especially in towns and cities.

“Problems caused by two years of lockdowns and restrictions for COVID-19 are now being compounded by rising prices, especially for fuel and food, partly because of the war in Ukraine and the rapid depreciation of the kip,” said World Bank Country Manager for Lao PDR Alex Kremer. “For Laos, because of government debt and poor revenue collection, the situation is particularly challenging. The top policy priority is therefore to increase public revenue by reviewing tax exemptions.”

Public debt levels have increased considerably since 2019, increasing to 88 percent of GDP in 2021, with the energy sector accounting for over 30 percent of the debt stock. Foreign currency reserves remain low.

The report recommends restoring macroeconomic stability, chiefly by increasing both revenue collection and spending efficiency. The country also needs to strengthen debt management and transparency, to improve the stability of the financial sector through legal and regulatory tools, and to scale up targeted cash transfers to the poor.

The latest Lao Economic Monitor also looks at Laos’ gradual transformation from a land-locked to a land-linked country through infrastructure development, and suggests several reforms that could reduce the risks and maximize the benefits of the large investments being made in roads, rail, and logistics parks. These reforms include building connecting roads to ensure that farmers and businesses can access new infrastructure, making border crossings more efficient, and improving the business environment to attract investment and generate jobs. Laos should also promote sectors where it has a comparative advantage, for example, in high-value added manufacturing goods, agricultural products, and nature-based tourism.

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Finance

How to Prepare for Your First Year in College

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Securing college admission is an achievement you should be proud of. It feels even more fulfilling if you are admitted to your dream college. Many people were interested in the opportunity, and getting it is the best thing that can ever happen to you. Therefore, you shouldn’t take the opportunity for granted.

However, the transition isn’t always easy for students. Most of them do not know what to expect in college, which makes them anxious. For others, moving away from home for the first time is intimidating. Besides, some individuals may not know how to deal with the financial and academic challenges they may face in college.

Are you done with high school, and you’re now looking forward to college adventures? Here are excellent tips to help you prepare for your first year in college.

Schedule a Tour and Get to Know Your College

Most students wait until the admission day to have a college experience. If you do that, it may take you a lot of time to understand the environment. Consequently, you may not focus on your studies early on. Checking out the outline of the campus on online platforms may also not help as you may miss many details.

You should schedule a tour of the campus and have a first-hand experience with the environment. During the tour, confirm the location of important offices. Moreover, you should know the class venues and the library. It will make your life easy when you finally begin to study.

Work on Your College Budget in Advance

Financial issues are among the serious challenges collegians face. While the expenses are limitless, there are limited sources of income. If you’re not careful, you may run out of money before the end of a given study period. You may get carried away by the daily shopping, luxury items, and the push to spend on entertainment.

Before you begin your first college semester, create a functional budget. Identify your sources of income. After that, list your college expenses. Allocate money to all your expenses, beginning with the basic needs. The luxuries should come last.

Sharpen Your College Writing and Study Skills

College life isn’t all butterflies and rainbows. There is serious work to do, and you may have to study more than you used to when in high school. The grades you’ll attain in different papers like essays, dissertations, and case studies will determine if you’ll move to the next level or not. So you have to sharpen your writing skills, or you’ll find yourself seeking essay help online.

Read journals, books, and essays written by experts. It will help improve your study skills and your ability to read fast. Besides, you can mimic the styles you see in these materials when completing your college assignment. The chances of getting good grades in college increase when you are a good writer and reader.

Set Realistic College Academic Goals

The main reason for going to college is to acquire skills that can help you in life. Professors do not award grades randomly. You should convince them that you understand the course concepts by submitting excellent papers. Otherwise, you may fail to graduate at the right time.

Some people begin college education without a plan. If you do that, you may not achieve what you want. Set realistic goals and specify the level of competence you intend to achieve at the end of your course. You should have short-term, medium-term, and long-term academic goals to act as a motivation to work harder.

Improve Your Time Management Skills

Time is one of the most critical aspects of a college education. If you do not organize your activities perfectly, you may become overwhelmed. Remember, it will not always be about academics; you’ll have extracurricular activities to participate in, you’ll also need to socialize, and may be you’ll have a part-time job. Therefore, it will be important to balance everything.

Look at the college academic and activity schedule in advance. Assess the deadlines and purpose to begin working on important tasks early. You’ll have higher chances of college success if you work within deadlines.

Excellent ways of enhancing time management include:

  • Working on the most important tasks first
  • Avoiding distractions
  • Avoiding procrastination
  • Creating time to relax

Take-Home Point

Although your first college semester may be scary, you can make things easier for yourself. Touring your college of choice will help release some tension as you’ll not be a total stranger to the new environment when you finally get admitted. Creating a budget will also help avoid financial problems, thus making your life easier. Lastly, you should set realistic goals and work on your time management skills.

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Finance

Unlocking the Triple Returns from Social, Tech and Green Jobs

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New insights and initiatives at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2022 seek to launch a jobs recovery to strengthen resilience and dynamism in economies, businesses and societies in the midst of a turbulent outlook.

Investing in education, health and care jobs can yield a triple dividend – boosting economic activity, expanding employment opportunities and generating social mobility. New modelling of the United States economy suggests that investing $1 in social jobs would yield a $2.3 return. The model estimates that $1.3 trillion in the social jobs of tomorrow could unlock $3.1 trillion in GDP returns and create 11 million jobs by 2030.
 
These jobs include 4.2 million teaching jobs, 1.8 million jobs for personal care and service workers, and 900,000 jobs in healthcare. These are the key findings of the World Economic Forum’s new report Jobs of Tomorrow: The Triple Returns of Social Jobs in the Economic Recovery, published at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 today.
 
Developed in collaboration with Accenture, the report finds that the associated increases in productivity, increased GDP and tighter labour markets will lead to a parallel increase in real wages. Aided by technology and better skills, the jobs of tomorrow have the potential to lift living standards globally. After more than two years of turmoil in the global economy and a continued uncertain outlook, leaders need to support workers in pivoting towards a future which works for everyone. Higher wage, higher-quality, future-ready jobs are possible and benefit companies, workers and economies alike.

Good Work in the New Economy
 
As many employers and workers seek a “new normal” after the disruptions of the past few years, there is an opportunity to develop a new vision for the future of work, one that is ready for the new economy and society. Five key issues have emerged that need to be addressed to ensure better work for workers and employers alike: volatility in wages and the cost of living; divergence on the demand for flexibility; silent pandemic in well-being; an erosion of diversity, equity and inclusion gains; and the need for a reskilling revolution.
 
The Good Work Framework, a second report released at the Annual Meeting, drawing from the views of employers, unions and experts and developed in collaboration with Mercer, proposes enhancing job quality through five objectives and associated goals: promote fair pay and social justice; provide flexibility and protection; deliver on health and well-being; drive diversity, equity and inclusion; and foster employability and learning culture.
 
The Jobs Consortium
 
To support this broad agenda and to mobilize the required investments globally, the first meeting of the Jobs Consortium was held at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos. The initiative comprises CEOs and ministers championing productive employment, growth in the jobs of tomorrow, new standards in the workplace and better wages for all.
 
Underpinning the Jobs Consortium is a shared understanding of the need to expand opportunity and quality in the jobs of tomorrow, with a particular focus on social, green and tech jobs as the high-growth, job-creating sectors of the future. The initiative is supported by insight products, action frameworks and a collaboration platform, which develop expert knowledge to drive tangible change, and will work closely with initiatives on developing skills for the global workforce.
 
Refugee Employment and Employability
 
Refugees are a particularly vulnerable group, often excluded from the labour markets of host economies. Over 6 million refugees have left Ukraine since February 2022, adding to the estimated 31 million people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced across borders.
 
As businesses mobilize to assist refugees with integration into host communities and workforces, the World Economic Forum’s Chief Human Resources Officers community, drawn from over 140 organizations, has launched a Refugee Employment and Employability Initiative. The initiative will pilot its work with supporting learning and job opportunities for Ukrainian refugees in Europe in its first phase and draw best practices to build a methodology for supporting system-wide global support from employers for refugees.
 
“Our ambition is to lead with action and we know that refugees bring a broad set of skills, experience and perspectives that benefit societies and businesses. Helping people find work isn’t just a humanitarian effort, it’s also good for business,” said Jesper Brodin, CEO of Ingka Group.

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New Initiative to Strengthen Cross-Border Investment in the Digital Economy

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A pioneering effort to facilitate cross-border investment in the digital economy was launched this week at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022.

The new initiative on digital foreign direct investment, the Digital FDI initiative, will implement projects in several countries to help grow Digital FDI, as the reforms to attract such investment must take place at a country level. The first digital FDI project will take place in Nigeria.

Over the past few years, the Forum has worked to find the right partners to guide the work, develop principles published in the white paper launched in 2020 and share the potential for cooperation at the G20 and other platforms of corporation.

Attracting Digital FDI requires creating digital-friendly investment climates through targeted and country-specific policies, regulations and measures. These investments involve new business models, often based on data and technology, and platform economies, as well as using non-traditional assets. The Digital FDI initiative will aim to identify and implement enabling reforms through public-private projects in emerging markets and developing countries.

“Global FDI is rebounding, following the COVID-19 pandemic, and investment in the digital economy could not come at a better time. These country projects will help grow FDI into the digital economy, which is key for long-term growth, competitiveness and sustainable development”, said Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum.

The Digital FDI initiative will be delivered as a joint effort between the World Economic Forum and the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO), a new international organization that seeks to enable digital prosperity for all.

“As the first and only global multilateral focused on enabling digital prosperity for all, the DCO is partnering with the Forum on a Digital Foreign Direct Investment initiative to help countries develop digital FDI-friendly investment climates. We invite digital innovators with a commitment to economic development and inclusion to join us,” said Deemah Al Yahya, Secretary-General, DCO.

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