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The Spectator: Why the economic war against Russia has failed?

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The West embarked on its sanctions war with an exaggerated sense of its own influence around the World, writes English ‘The Spectator’ with a taste of bitterness.

The other prong, though, has turned out to be blunt: the plan to wage economic war with Moscow, unleashing financial shock and awe on a scale never seen before. Russia was to be cut off almost entirely, with sanctions and boycotts on all imports and exports save for humanitarian ones such as medicines. Putin’s Russia, went the theory, would be impoverished into surrender.

Few people in the West are aware of how badly this aspect of the war is going. Europe has itself paid a high price to effect a partial boycott of Russian oil and gas.

UK fossil fuel imports from Russia totalled £4.5 billion in 2021; in the year to January 2023 that was – officially – down to £1.3 billion.

In 2020 the EU sourced 39 per cent of its gas and 23 per cent of its oil from Russia; in the third quarter of last year this was down to 15 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.

But these figures do not explain the scale of the failure to damage the Russian economy.

It soon became clear that while the West was keen on an economic war, the rest of the world was not. As its oil and gas exports to Europe fell, Russia quickly upped its exports to China and India – both of which preferred to buy oil at a discount than to make a stand against the invasion of Ukraine.

Worse, some of the Russian oil exported to India appears to have been siphoned back to Europe, with a rise in the number of ships taking refined oil from India through the Suez Canal.

There seems to be some siphoning in the other direction, too. An investigation by the German newspaper Bild has uncovered a disturbing growth in exports to countries bordering Russia.

The importing of German motor vehicles to Kazakhstan, for example, rose by 507 per cent between 2021 and 2022 and to Armenia by 761 per cent.

Exports of chemical products to Armenia increased by 110 per cent and to Kazakhstan by 129 per cent. Sales of electrical and computer equipment to Armenia are up 343 per cent.

What happens to these goods once they reach these former Soviet republics is not easy to establish, but one likely explanation is that they end up in Russia as diverted trade flows?

And even if such commodities are not formally being re-exported, many Russian citizens retain visa-free access to those countries and are able to take goods across the border.

The West has had a policy of trying to target wealthy Russians in particular with economic sanctions. But ironically they are the people who can most easily access western goods through diverted trade. It is they who have dual passports; they who can afford to travel abroad in order to shop for their luxury goods.

Short of a wholesale global boycott against Russia, it is very hard to prevent western-made goods reaching the hands of wealthy Russians.

The West embarked on its sanctions war with an exaggerated sense of its own influence around the world.

As we have discovered, non-western countries lack the will to impose sanctions on either Russia or on Russian oligarchs. The results of the miscalculation are there for all to see.

In April last year, the IMF forecast that the Russian economy would contract by 8.5 per cent in 2022 and by a further 2.3 per cent this year. As it turned out, GDP fell by just 2.1 per cent last year, and this year the IMF is forecasting a rise of 0.7 per cent.

The Russian economy has not been destroyed; it has merely been reconfigured, reorientated to look eastwards and southwards  rather than westwards, ‘The Spectator’ stresses.

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Lagarde: Euro, dollar status should not be taken for granted

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The United States and the euro zone should not take the international status of their currencies for granted as countries such as China and Russia seek to create their own systems, said Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank.

The dollar’s 80-year-old reign as the world’s reserve currency is being called into question by some commentators in light of China’s rise as a global power, burgeoning debt at home and geopolitical challenges to Western influence from Ukraine to Taiwan. Lagarde said “a new global map” was being drawn, with some countries seeking alternative invoicing currencies such as the as the Chinese renminbi or the Indian rupee, accumulating gold or setting up their own payment systems.

“These developments do not point to any imminent loss of dominance for the U.S. dollar or the euro,” Lagarde said in a speech. “So far, the data do not show substantial changes in the use of international currencies.”

“But they do suggest that international currency status should no longer be taken for granted,” she said at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Around 60% of the world’s foreign exchange reserves and international debt is denominated in dollars, with the euro a distant second at 20%, according to data compiled by the ECB.

U.S. authorities have so far dismissed the notion that the greenback’s global primacy, born with the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944, was about to end and even suggested it could be bolstered by the launch of a digital dollar.

The ECB president has sounded the death knell for the dollar and predicted the end of the world economy as we know it — does she know something we don’t? – asks POLITICO.

Deep in the Wyoming wilderness last month, Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, stood before a large audience of elite central bankers and casually predicted the collapse of the international financial order.

“There are plausible scenarios where we could see a fundamental change in the nature of global economic interactions,” Lagarde announced drily to the crowd, which was gathered for the annual central banker confab in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The assumptions that have long informed the technocratic management of the global order were breaking down. The world, she said, could soon enter a “new age” in which “past regularities may no longer be a good guide for how the economy works.”

“For policymakers with a stability mandate,” she added with understatement, “this poses a significant challenge.”

A “new age”? — and coming from a member of that most dreary and unimaginative of the global technocratic-priesthoods, the central bankers? The warning at Jackson Hole wasn’t even the first time Lagarde has fretted publicly about the fate of the international order of free markets, dollar dominance and globalization that she had a hand in creating. While others have raised the issue, Lagarde has been outspoken. Just in April, she was the first major Western central banker to raise explicit concerns about the fragility of the greenback, whose international dominance she said “should no longer be taken for granted.”

It was, all told, decidedly odd from the leader of the hallowed monetary authority, whose communications department rarely holds forth on anything more gripping than balance sheet policy and deposit rate adjustments. Coming from a woman whose long career in the upper echelons has been defined by a deference to the U.S.-led international order, it was apostasy, even. Most alarming was Lagarde’s seeming indifference to the power of her own words over the state of said international order.

But it’s hard not to wonder whether Lagarde, after a lifetime managing the global establishment from crisis to crisis, has identified a potential extinction event — and is making her pitch that, once more, it is she who ought to help the world avert it. “I agree she’s on to something,” said the retired fixed-income investor Jay Newman. “There will be big shifts in trade and investment.”  

“What Lagarde said is not the natural thing for a central banker to say, in the sense that they typically don’t go for the tail-risk as a baseline,” panicked one analyst in nervous anonymity, referring to a kind of risk that is rare but deadly. “Maybe she doesn’t realize what an unusual communication it is for a central banker — or maybe she knows something we don’t.”

So what does Lagarde want? The problem is it’s tricky to get a grip on what, if anything, actually moves her.  

What does she do for fun? She rarely reads for pleasure. Nobody interviewed by POLITICO has ever seen her read a book, or anything that isn’t a policy briefing. In terms of world-view, those who know her deduce that if she believes in anything she’s a centrist, or vaguely center-right. But most stop short at “pragmatic.”

Unlike many of the technocrats she finds herself surrounded by, however, she is a charming chancer and a skilled communicator. She possesses an uncanny, predisposition for finding the driving beat of history — and if not exactly seizing it, surviving it.

It is also highly likely that she earnestly believes things are taking a turn for the worse, and is, in a way, mourning the collapse of the globalized system that she shaped and that in turn shaped her. And in grappling with a world off balance, it helps to have a lawyer deliver the bad news. Effective monetary policy requires the synthesis of planetary volumes of data, and, as her colleagues say, Lagarde has the training to inhale great galaxies of the stuff, spending much of her waking life wading through dense briefing material. “Read the footnotes in her speech,” the veteran market-watcher Podolsky urged. “All she is doing is, lawyerly-like, reading — or having her staff read — all the staff research coming from the ECB, OECD, and IMF, and pulling out the pieces that support her questioning.”

As Lagarde has learned, predictions from a major central banker carry the risk of being self-fulfilling. “If she was finance minister nobody would pay attention,” noted the analyst speaking on condition of anonymity. With inflation raging, as Lagarde herself noted in a recent speech, the public is ever more attuned to the bank’s operations and communications, which makes the economy, in turn, more sensitive to Lagarde’s touch. This, she added, provides “a valuable window of time to deliver our key messages.”

And if armageddon never arrives? She’ll be well placed to take credit for averting it. Lagarde — as with most central bankers — was humiliated by the sudden rise in inflation. As Brad Setser, a former staff economist at the U.S. Treasury, said, her recent comments reflect a desire to emphasize the risks as a form of damage control. “It comes from a need to be reserved,” he said.

Call it ‘apocalyptic expectations management.’ If ECB policy fails to steer Europe safely through global economic fragmentation, Lagarde can quite comfortably say that, ‘Well, sorry, but she always warned it might.’

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Creating a Culture of Sustainability: ESG as a Guiding Principle

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In an ever-changing world, businesses are embracing environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) principles to navigate the complexities of the modern marketplace. It’s a strategic approach that encompasses environmental responsibility, social consciousness, and effective corporate governance.

This article will demystify environmental, social, and corporate governance for those new to the concept and explore its profound impact on boardrooms worldwide.

Understanding ESG: beyond acronyms

ESG , short for environmental, social, and corporate governance, is a framework that evaluates a company’s impact on ESG practices. This isn’t about mere corporate compliance; it’s about shaping a sustainable and responsible corporate culture.

At the heart of any organization’s ESG is its board of directors. These individuals hold a critical responsibility in setting the direction for the company’s ESG initiatives. Let’s explore how board members play a pivotal role in this transformative journey.

Environmental stewardship

The ‘E’ in ESG represents environmental responsibility. Boards are increasingly recognizing the importance of sustainable practices. This includes reducing carbon footprints, conserving resources, and investing in eco-friendly technologies. Environmental initiatives also encompass efforts to protect and preserve biodiversity, ensuring the long-term health of ecosystems for future generations.

Social responsibility

The ‘S’ highlights social consciousness. Board members are instrumental in fostering a socially responsible culture. This involves initiatives like philanthropy, community engagements, and ethical supply chain management. By prioritizing social responsibility, companies can build trust and strengthen their brand reputation.

Effective governance

The ‘G’ signifies effective corporate governance. Boards must ensure the organization adheres to ethical practices, transparency, and accountability. This includes board diversity and labor practices, appointing independent directors, implementing fair executive compensation, and establishing clear reporting mechanisms. Transparent governance is the backbone of ESG.

For further insights into ESG and modern governance, consider exploring related articles on trusted websites like ESG strategy.

The tools of modern governance: board portals

So, how do board members effectively implement and manage ESG strategies? Enter board portals, a critical component of modern governance. Board portals are specialized software platforms that streamline board meetings, communication, and document management. They enhance the efficiency of board member’s work and enable them to monitor ESG performance effectively. 

1. Streamlined communication

ESG discussion often requires open and efficient communication among board members. Board portals provide a secure environment for real-time discussions, ensuring that all voices are heard and decisions are made promptly.

In essence, document accessibility through board portals is not a mere convenience; it’s a strategic imperative for ESG-focused boards. It empowers board members with the information they need to make informed decisions, fosters transparency and accountability, and streamlines the reporting process.

2. Document accessibility

ESG strategies involve a plethora of documents, from sustainability reports to diversity statistics. Board portals centralize access to these documents, making them readily available to board members. This accessibility ensures that board discussions are well-informed and data-driven.

ESG strategies are the lifeblood of sustainability corporate culture, but they rely heavily on data and information. From sustainability reports delling environmental impact to statistics showcasing diversity and inclusion efforts, ESG-related documents are the foundation upon which a culture of sustainability is built.

3. Security and compliance

Maintaining the confidentiality of sensitive ESG data is not just a matter of legal obligation; it’s a commitment to upholding the principles of responsible corporate governance, transparency, and ethical conduct. Board portals incorporate robust security measures, including encryption and access controls. Board members must ensure the integrity and security of this data, aligning with the ‘G’ in ESG.

In conclusion: ESG as a guiding light

As ESG continues to gain prominence, boards are recognizing their power to drive meaningful change in environmental responsibility, social consciousness, and ethical governance. The adoption of board portals further enhances their capacity to implement and monitor ESG strategies effectively.

In essence, ESG isn’t an acronym; it’s a guiding principle for businesses committed to a sustainable and responsible future. As we look ahead, companies that embrace ESG wholeheartedly are not only fostering a culture of sustainability but also positioning themselves for success in a world that values environmental and social responsibility more than ever.

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What Happens to Employee Insurance Benefits When Bankruptcy Occurs?

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Employee health insurance is one of the most crucial aspects of employee benefits packages provided by companies across the globe. It not only plays a pivotal role in attracting and retaining talent but also ensures the well-being and financial security of employees and their families. However, in the ever-changing landscape of the business world, companies may encounter financial challenges, including bankruptcy. This article delves into the significance of employee health insurance and explores what happens to it when bankruptcy occurs.

The Importance of Employee Health Insurance

Employee health insurance, also called group health insurance policy  is a valuable benefit that offers a multitude of advantages for both employees and employers. Here’s an in-depth look at why it holds such immense importance:

Attracting and Retaining Talent: In a job market, offering comprehensive health insurance is a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining top talent. Prospective employees often consider health benefits as a significant factor when evaluating job offers. By providing quality healthcare coverage, companies can stand out and build a loyal workforce.

Employee Well-Being: Employee health insurance is fundamentally about safeguarding the well-being of a company’s most valuable asset—its workforce. Access to healthcare ensures that employees can seek medical attention when needed, leading to early diagnosis and treatment of health issues. This not only promotes individual health but also enhances overall productivity.

Financial Security: Medical expenses can be a substantial financial burden, especially for major illnesses or surgeries. Health insurance provides financial security by covering a significant portion of medical costs. It helps employees and their families avoid crippling medical bills and potential debt.

Peace of Mind: Knowing that they have health insurance coverage, employees can focus on their work being worry-free about the financial implications of medical emergencies. This peace of mind contributes to a more engaged and productive workforce.

Preventive Healthcare: Many health insurance plans include coverage for preventive healthcare services such as vaccinations and health check-ups. This encourages employees to prioritize their health and take proactive measures to prevent illnesses.

Tax Savings: In several countries, including the United States, employers may receive tax incentives for providing health insurance to their employees. This further underscores the financial advantages of offering health benefits.

Reduced Absenteeism: When employees have access to healthcare, they are more likely to address health or related issues promptly. This leads to reduced absenteeism, as employees are less likely to take sick days due to untreated illnesses.

What Happens to Employee Health Insurance in Bankruptcy?

While the importance of employee health insurance is undeniable, financial challenges, including bankruptcy, can raise concerns about the fate of these benefits. Here’s an overview of what typically happens to employee health insurance when a company faces bankruptcy:

Immediate Impact on Coverage: Bankruptcy proceedings can have an immediate impact on employee health insurance coverage. In some cases, the company may continue providing coverage during the bankruptcy process, while in others, coverage may be terminated or significantly altered.

Potential Changes in Coverage: Bankruptcy may lead to changes in the structure of health insurance plans offered by the company. These changes could include reduced coverage, higher deductibles, or changes in the network of healthcare providers.

Impact on Retiree Benefits: Companies that provide retiree health benefits may also be affected by bankruptcy. Retiree health benefits can be impacted as the company seeks to restructure its financial obligations.

Notification and Communication: Employers are typically required to notify employees of changes to their health insurance coverage, especially when it involves the termination of coverage. Communication is crucial during bankruptcy proceedings to ensure that employees understand their options and rights.

Legal Obligations: Employers are legally obligated to follow specific regulations and laws when altering or terminating employee health insurance coverage during bankruptcy. Failure to comply with these laws can result in legal consequences.

Impact on Employee Morale: Changes in health insurance coverage, especially those resulting from bankruptcy, can significantly impact employee morale. It’s essential for employers to communicate openly with their employees and provide support and resources to navigate the changes effectively.

Alternatives for Employees: In some cases, employees may need to seek alternative health insurance coverage, such as purchasing individual policies or exploring government-sponsored healthcare programs, depending on their eligibility and the country’s healthcare system.

The Need for Separate Health Insurance In Addition to Having Group Health Insurance

Having a group health insurance plan through your employer is undoubtedly valuable, but there are several compelling reasons why individuals should consider having separate or individual health insurance coverage in addition to the group plan. While group health insurance provides a baseline level of coverage, individual health insurance can offer additional benefits and financial security. Let’s delve into the need for separate health insurance:

Portability: Group health insurance is typically tied to your current employer. If you change jobs or lose your job, you may lose access to your group plan. Having separate health insurance ensures that you have continuous coverage regardless of your employment status. This portability is particularly crucial in today’s dynamic job market.

Customization: Group health plans are designed to cater to the needs of a broad employee base. They may not provide coverage for specific medical conditions, treatments, or medications that you or your family members require. Individual health insurance allows you to customize your coverage to match your unique healthcare needs.

Comprehensive Coverage: Group health plans often have limitations, including caps on certain treatments, exclusions, or restrictions on coverage. Individual health insurance policies tend to offer more comprehensive coverage options, including access to a broader network of doctors and hospitals.

Family Coverage: While group health insurance typically covers the policyholder and often their immediate family members, individual health insurance allows you to tailor coverage for your entire family, including spouse, children, and dependent parents. This ensures that all your loved ones have adequate protection.

Long-Term Security: Group health plans can change from year to year, and the coverage offered by your employer may evolve. With individual health insurance, you have the option to lock in your coverage for a more extended period, providing long-term security and stability for your healthcare needs.

Choice of Insurer: With a group health plan, you have little control over the insurer or the specific plan. In contrast, individual health insurance allows you to choose the insurance company that aligns with your preferences, reputation, and customer service.

Supplementary Coverage: Group plans may have gaps in coverage, such as limited dental, vision, or mental health benefits. Having individual health insurance allows you to supplement these areas with additional policies tailored to your needs.

Coverage During Job Transition: In between jobs or during career changes, there may be gaps in your employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. Having separate health insurance ensures you remain protected during these transitions, preventing lapses in healthcare coverage.

Financial Protection: Group health insurance often comes with cost-sharing arrangements like deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. Individual health insurance policies offer various deductible and copayment options, enabling you to select a plan that best suits your budget.

Retirement Planning: As you plan for retirement, individual health insurance can bridge the gap between employer-sponsored coverage and Medicare eligibility. It ensures that you have continuous healthcare coverage throughout your retirement years.

Tax Benefits: In many countries, including the United States, individual health insurance premiums may be tax-deductible, providing potential tax benefits that are not available with group plans.

Tailored Network: Individual health insurance allows you to choose healthcare providers and hospitals that are most convenient or preferred for you. This can be especially important if you have specific medical needs or prefer a particular doctor.

While group health insurance provides valuable coverage, having separate health insurance offers flexibility, customization, and continuity of coverage. It’s essential to assess your unique healthcare needs, budget, and long-term goals to determine if individual health insurance is a necessary addition to your existing group plan. Ultimately, the combination of both group and individual health insurance can provide comprehensive protection and peace of mind for you and your family’s health and financial well-being.


Employee health insurance is a vital component of employee benefits packages, offering numerous advantages for both employees and employers. It ensures the well-being and financial security of employees, promotes a healthier and more engaged workforce, and aids in talent recruitment and retention.

However, in challenging financial times, such as bankruptcy, the fate of employee health insurance can be uncertain. Employers facing financial difficulties must carefully consider the impact of bankruptcy on their employees’ health coverage and adhere to legal obligations and regulations.

Navigating the complexities of bankruptcy and its impact on employee health insurance requires open communication, legal compliance, and a commitment to supporting employees during challenging times. Ultimately, even in the face of bankruptcy, employers should strive to maintain their commitment to the well-being of their workforce to the best of their abilities.

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