Inter Press ServiceEconomy & Trade – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 21 Jul 2018 00:49:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Balancing Trade Warshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/balancing-trade-wars/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=balancing-trade-wars http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/balancing-trade-wars/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 13:53:52 +0000 Sunita Narain http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156804 Sunita Narain* is Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) & Editor of Down to Earth magazine

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Sunita Narain* is Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) & Editor of Down to Earth magazine

By Sunita Narain
NEW DELHI, Jul 20 2018 (IPS)

A global trade war has broken out. The United States fired the first salvo and there has been retaliation by the European Union, Canada, China and even India. Tariffs on certain imported goods have been increased in a tit-for-tat reaction.

Sunita Narain

Analysts see it as a limited war in the understanding that Donald Trump is all for “free-trade”. But this view denies the fact that a tectonic shift is taking place in the world. It is a war for ascendency to global leadership; a contest between the US and China.

China is heaving its might on the world. President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative is an open call for its global influence. In July 2017, China launched the ambitious plan to invest in the technology of the future—artificial intelligence.

There are dark (unconfirmed) whispers about how it is going about acquiring many new-age technologies by rolling over western companies operating in vast markets.

The last century belonged to the US and Europe with Russia as the communist outlier. China became mighty all because of the emergence of the free trade regime in the world. Just some 35-odd years ago, it was behind the iron curtain.

But then the World Trade Organization (WTO) was born in January 1995. China’s trade boomed. It took over the world’s manufacturing jobs. India, too, found its place by servicing outsourced businesses like telemarketing. “Shanghaied” and “Bangalored” entered the lexicon—as jobs (and pollution) moved continents.

This way, globalisation fulfilled its purpose to usher in a new era of world prosperity. Or so, we thought.

Instead, globalisation has made the world more complicated and convoluted. In early 1990s, when the discussions on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) were at its peak, there was a clear North-South divide.

The then-developed world pushed for opening up of trade. It wanted markets and protection through rules on “fair” trade and intellectual property. The then developing world was worried what the free trade regime would do to its nascent and weak industrial economies.

More importantly, there were fears of what these new open trade rules would do to its farmers, who would have to compete with the disproportionately subsidised farmers of the developed world.

In 1999 tensions flared up at the WTO ministerial meet in Seattle. By this time, reality of globalisation had dawned and so it was citizens of the rich world who protested for labour rights, worried about outsourcing of their jobs and environmental abuses.

But these violent protests were crushed. The next decade was lost in the financial crisis. The new winners told the old losers that “all was well”.

Today Trump has joined the ranks of the Leftist Seattle protesters, while India and China are the new defenders of free trade. The latter in fact want more, much more of it.

But again, is it so straightforward? All these arrangements are built on the refusal to acknowledge the crisis of employment. The first phase of globalisation led to some displacement of labour and this is what Trump is griping about.

But the fact is that this phase of globalisation has only meant war between the old elite (middle-classes in the world of trade and consumerism) and the new elite. It has not been long enough or deep enough to destroy the foundations of the livelihoods of the vast majority of the poor engaged in farming. But it is getting there.

But this is where the real impact of globalisation will be felt. Global agricultural trade remains distorted and deeply contentious. The trade agreements targeted basics like procurement of foodgrains by governments to withstand scarcity and the offer of minimum support price to farmers.

Right now, the Indian government is making the right noises that it will stand by its farmers. But we will not be able to balance this highly imbalanced trade regime if we don’t recognise that employment is the real crisis.

It is time that this round of trade war should be on the need for livelihood opportunities. Global trade talks must discuss employment not just industry. It must value labour and not goods.

This is what is at the core of the insecurity in the world. It is not about trade or finance. It is about the biggest losers: us, the people and the planet.

The link to the original article follows:
https://www.downtoearth.org.in/

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Sunita Narain* is Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) & Editor of Down to Earth magazine

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“The Sustainable Bioeconomy, a Path Towards Post-Extractivism”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 03:55:57 +0000 Ela Zambrano http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156798 Ela Zambrano interviews TARSICIO GRANIZO, Ecuador’s minister of Environment

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Ela Zambrano interviews TARSICIO GRANIZO, Ecuador’s minister of Environment

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Blockchain can solve third world problems but who will bell the cat?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/blockchain-can-solve-third-world-problems-will-bell-cat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=blockchain-can-solve-third-world-problems-will-bell-cat http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/blockchain-can-solve-third-world-problems-will-bell-cat/#respond Thu, 19 Jul 2018 19:16:53 +0000 Ehtesham Shahid http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156791 “Is blockchain made of gold”? My wife’s rather amusing question during a random research turned out to be more than just comic intervention. It raised a pertinent point though. Wouldn’t it be good if we dealt with blockchain like gold, which is traditional, time-tested and a commodity with proven value? Blockchain is nothing of that […]

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By Ehtesham Shahid
Jul 19 2018 (Al Arabiya)

“Is blockchain made of gold”? My wife’s rather amusing question during a random research turned out to be more than just comic intervention.

It raised a pertinent point though. Wouldn’t it be good if we dealt with blockchain like gold, which is traditional, time-tested and a commodity with proven value?

Ehtesham Shahid

Blockchain is nothing of that sort though. It is not a commodity but an online database that anyone anywhere with an internet connection can use. Unlike traditional databases, owned by banks and governments, a blockchain doesn’t belong to anyone.

ALSO READ: One less app for the rich, few more for the poor

It creates a system through which two people who don’t know each other can trade, without intermediary. In other words, it’s a network that has the potential to make middlemen redundant, banks and financial institutions irrelevant and can directly connect goods and services to consumers and markets.

In an ideal world, effective implementation of blockchain can make financial ecosystem more inclusive, enhance efficiency of health records storage, take land registration documentation to another level and enhance security in digital transactions. In other words, it is here to stay.

A new era?

Yelena Kensborn, an entrepreneur who believes in blockchain, calls it the “start of a new era, where items, thoughts and services can move freely and independently of each other”. Yelena has in her sights a world where everything is connected and one that seeks balance.

“We will have a more transparent society and this transparency will enable us to trust each other and the computers on a completely new level. And when this trust is established, we can do a lot and achieve great things,” she insists.Using such a technology has numerous benefits but for us to move from proof of concept to scale, someone quickly needs to bell the cat.

Ehtesham Shahid

Peter Johnson, who is developing blockchain to apply to humanitarian crises, also looks at the big picture.

ALSO READ: Banking on technology to create jobs of the future

“The money is transferred directly, with no bank or other financial intermediary taking a processing fee, and the information about the transaction is unchangeable. If everyone used such a service, there would be no need for banks or credit card companies anymore,” says Johnson.

Shahin Colombowala, Germany-based Principal Consultant at Digital, Infosys, puts things in perspective.

“Basically it is taking bookkeeping and making it in a global distributed system that is tamper proof,” she says, clarifying that blockchain imitates transactions with physical objects in the real world.

“So, if I gave you my 100 dollar note, I wouldn’t have it anymore and you would have it. I cannot copy the note. I cannot give you the note and say it is still in my wallet,” she makes it simple for me to understand.

Simple inferences

Here is what I deduce from all these explanations. Blockchain can address many third world challenges such as poverty, unemployment, healthcare and corruption. I am making a case for its implementation in third world countries simply because that is where it is needed the most.

Imagine the two billion poor people around the world, with no access to banking system, ending up on the highway – via their mobile phones of course – and reaping the benefits of a blockchain set-up, which connects them to their employer or consumer of their goods and services.

EXCLUSIVE: Without technology humans would last just six months, Kevin Kelly

The same applies to small businesses that struggle to get finances through banking channels and constantly need new markets to expand and thrive. The biggest hurdle to poor and marginalized around the world is corruption where welfare funds meant for the needy routinely end up in the pockets of a few.

A transparent method that tracks allocation of funds, including foreign aid, throughout the disbursal phase will only make things easier. Already, GPS-added transparency in land registration is doing wonders in some poor countries.

Humanitarian community

A glimpse of the possibility it offers unfolded in Jordan where 10,000 refugees in a camp housing displaced Syrians were able to pay for their food by way of entitlements recorded on a blockchain-based computing platform.

The World Food Program’s “Building Blocks” route revealed other benefits too. Through blockchain, the UN body aims to cut payment costs, better protect beneficiary data, control financial risks, and respond more rapidly in the wake of emergencies.

All that is easier said than done though. Attempts to make blockchain mainstream has returned a mixed bag in third world countries so far. Responses have ranged from ignorance to disbelief, even utterly dismissive.

ALSO READ: Why Bill Gates is partially correct about ‘robot tax’

The question of what happens to cyber criminals who are attracted to cryptocurrencies also remain unanswered and we are all aware of the controversies surrounding bitcoin.

Using such a technology has numerous benefits but for us to move from proof of concept to scale, someone quickly needs to bell the cat. The response is sure to be different in different parts of the world.

Until that happens, my little surplus cash would occasionally go toward gold chain for my wife.

Ehtesham Shahid is Managing Editor at Al Arabiya English. For close to two decades he has worked as editor, correspondent, and business writer for leading publications, news wires and research organizations in India and the Gulf region. He loves to occasionally dabble with teaching and is collecting material for a book on unique tales of rural conflict and transformation from around the world. His twitter handle is @e2sham and he can be reached at Ehtesham.Shahid@alarabiya.net.

This article was first published in Al Arabiya English.

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Immigration, Lot of Myths and Little Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/immigration-lot-myths-little-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=immigration-lot-myths-little-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/immigration-lot-myths-little-reality/#comments Tue, 17 Jul 2018 16:03:25 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156748 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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The Italian Navy rescues migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

According to the latest statistics, the total flow of immigrants so far in 2018 is 50.000 people, compared with 186,768 last year, 1,259,955 in 2016 and 1,327,825 in 2015. The difference between reality and perceptions is so astonishing, we are clearly witnessing one of the most brilliant manipulations in history.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The latest survey carried out of 23,000 citizens of France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States shows an enormous level of disinformation. In five of those countries, people believe that immigrants are three times higher than they actually are.

Italians believe they account for 30% of the population when the figure is actually 10%, an average which is lower than the media of the European Union. Swedes are those closest to reality: they believe immigrants account for 30%, when in fact the figure is 20%.

Italians also believe that 50% of the immigrants are Muslim, when in fact it is 30%; conversely, 60% of the immigrants are Christian, and Italians think they are 30%.

In all six countries, citizens think that immigrants are poorer and without education or knowledge, and therefore a heavy financial burden. Italians think that 40% of immigrants are jobless, when the figure is close to 10%, no different from the general rate of unemployment.

Meanwhile, the 7th report on the economic impact of immigration in Italy from the Leone Moressa Foundation, which based its research on Italian Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) data, has presented some totally ignored facts.

The 2.4 million immigrants in Italy have produced 130 billion euros, or 8.9% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) – an amount larger than the GDP of Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia. In the last five years, out of a total of nearly 6 million Italian companies, 570.000 – or 9.4% of the total – were started by immigrants. Tito Boeri, president of Italy’s national pension agency INPS, has told Parliament that immigrants give 11.5 billion euro to the system, more than what they cost. He also stressed that Italy is going through a demographic crisis, with only seven births for every eleven deaths.

The old right was not against immigrants, also because they provided cheap labor. It was mildly nationalist but was never xenophobic (Jews apart). The alternative right is not interested in statistics and economics. It is interested only in stirring fear, to get to power.

Well, Matteo Salvini, the emerging Italian leader, who has based all his political success on making immigrants the greatest threat facing Italy, answered on Twitter: Boeri lives on Mars. And that was the end of the story. For more than 50% of Italians, Salvini’s tweet was more conclusive than real statistics.

The same happened with the outgoing Director General of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), William Swing, who quoted a study conducted by the IOM and McKinsey Global Institute which “determined that although only 3.5% of the world’s population are migrants, they are producing nine percent of the global wealth measured in GDP terms, which is more than four percent than if they stayed at home”. This made no impact on Trump electors, white rural and red collars, who are convinced that immigration is a threat to the country, even though they all have immigrant roots.

In other words, facts are irrelevant. Perceptions count more.

Let us take Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is being weakened by the immigration issue, barely escaping a revolt of her Minister of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, who is leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Merkel’s party.

The shy and timid Trump was glad to come to Seehofer’s help, tweeting that the people of Germany are “turning against” their government over the issue of migration, which has led to an increase in crime. The fact that Germany has witnessed a strong decrease in crime is, of course, irrelevant for someone who has made more than 3,750 false statements over his 38.187 tweets (as of July 14).

Now, Trump’s tweets have 53,111,505 followers (as of July 15). The total circulation of the 1,331 dailies newspapers in the United States is close to 62 million, but the total circulation of the 100 largest dailies is below 10 million copies. So, whatever they write is massively overwhelmed by Trump’s tweets.

Trump is not alone in his campaign … he has allies in Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Italy’s Matteo Salvini, Poland’s Jaroslaw Kazynscky, Austria’s Sebastian Kurz, Slovakia’s Peter Pellegrini and the Czech Republic’s Milos Zeman, all in power. Then, in the wings, we have Marine Le Pen in France, Nigel Farage in Great Britain and so on for nearly every European country, with the exception of Spain and Portugal. All together, they have been using immigration, nationalism and xenophobia as the tool of the new “alternative right” for success.

Let us go back to the case of Germany. Bavaria, which is threatening Berlin’s government, is the richest state in Germany, with a population of 12.2 million people. Munich is the third largest city, after Berlin and Hamburg, with 1.4 million people, is the second largest employer in the country, and has attracted immigrants, which are all together less than 200,000. The local daily, Suddeutsche Zeitung, estimates Muslims at 32.000.

Alternative for Germany (AfD), the extreme right-wing party that won 13% of the vote (and 92 seats in parliament) in the last elections, is essentially based on an anti-immigrant platform. In a poll in March it narrowly surpassed the centre-left Social Democrats for the first time in history. The poll, by INSA and commissioned by the newspaper Bild, showed AfD support at 16% compared with the SPD’s 15.5% – a  new low for what has traditionally been one of Germany’s largest parties.

In the last polls, AfD appears to win over CSU in Bavaria, where Muslim immigrants are rare. But the main base for AfD comes from the old East Germany, where immigrants are one-quarter of those in West Germany. So, there is no rational link between reacting to the presence of immigrants and votes. AfD wins more votes where there are fewer immigrants.

The CDU is now running frantically towards extreme right-wing, xenophobic positions in order not to lose out to the AfD. It will probably lose anyway since history shows that voters always prefer to vote the original than copies. But Germans, and Bavarians, are thought to be rational people.

The statistics are clear. Each year there are 300,000 less working people. Of the 80.6 million Germans, only 61% is of working age. In 2050, this will shrink to 51%, and those older than 65 will increase from 21% to 33%. The birth rate in Germany is 1.5%, while a birth rate of 2.1% is necessary to keep the population at the same level. The huge influx of immigrants has increased the birth rate to a modest 1.59%. Immigrants tend to imitate local trends and do not have many children.

Therefore, it is clear to all that within two decades productivity will decline dramatically (some say by 30%) because of less people working, and there will be not enough payers to keep the pension and social security systems going. It will be the end of the German locomotive.

The same consideration applies throughout Europe, which has a statistical birth rate of 1.6, meaning that it will lose close to one million people each year. The UN Population Division considers that Europe should have an influx of 20 million immigrants just to maintain its course. This is clearly impossible in today’s political system.

With impeccable observation, Spanish philosopher Adela Cortina has noted that football players, artists and rich people, even those who are Muslims, like princes are most welcome in Europe. Those who are not welcome are the poor. So, she wrote a book on why we are not faced with real xenophobia. What we face, she wrote, is aporofobia, a term she coined using the word ‘apora’, the Greek word for ‘poor’. In fact, this defence of European civilisation is an updated version of colonialism.

And yet we have plenty of data about the positive impact of immigration. The last is a very complex study over 30 years of immigration, carried out by the very respected French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and published by Science Advances, on the 15 European countries which received 89% of demands for asylum in 2015, the year of the great influx from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

After four years, partly due to the length of the bureaucratic process, GNP rises by 0.32%. Impacts on the fiscal system are also relevant. Prof. Hippolyte D’Albis, one of the authors, observes that initially immigrants are of course a cost, but this public money is reinvested in society, and for ten years they produce more wealth than the general population. After ten years they melt into the general statistics.

It is obvious that the dream of people who come in Europe to escape hunger or war is to find a job as soon as possible, pay taxes and contributions to ensure their stability and future, and work hard. At least for a decade.

And it is interesting to see the difference between the new right and the old right. The old right was not against immigrants, also because they provided cheap labor. It was mildly nationalist but was never xenophobic (Jews apart). The alternative right is not interested in statistics and economics. It is interested only in stirring fear, to get to power.

 

People gathered in the United States to protest against immigrant children being taken from their families last month. The protesters called for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished. Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S. Credit: Fibonacci Blue

 

Reality is fake news. Trump has claimed that the 250,000 demonstrators opposed to his visit to Great Britain and kept him out of the centre of London, were in fact his supporters. You need not be only a narcissist, you also need to reverse reality.

The question, therefore, is what has happened to people? Trump’s changing the intention of 250,000 demonstrators would once have attracted ridicule. Not now: for Trump’s supporters, his tweets are undisputed truth.

His meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un brought the vaguest of results, He walked out of the Iran deal, which had several pages of agreement, saying it did not address issues. At the July NATO summit in Brussels, he attacked everybody, and then said that all had engaged to increase to their military budget  to 4% (the United States stands at 3.6%). In his visit to the United Kingdom, he scolded beleaguered Prime Minister Theresa May, defended a hard Brexit and saluted resigning Minister of Foreign Affairs and hard Brexiter Boris Johnson as his favorite. He told May that he had not come to negotiate, but to obtain what he wanted. He then met Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that the United States was responsible for the bad relations between the two countries, that Putin was to be believed when he said that there was no Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections, and that the intelligence agencies and the Department of Justice, with the probe into those elections by special counsel Robert Mueller, were an American disgrace. When in US history has a president scolding his allies and praising enemies of the United States raised not even an eyebrow from the Republican US electorate, which is now Trumpian over and above anything else?

The fact of the matter is that, as a survey released in June last year by Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) shows, the concept of democracy itself is in danger.

The survey asked more than 3,000 scholars and country experts to evaluate each of 178 countries on the quality of core features of democracy. At the end of 2016, most people lived in democracies. Since then, one-third of the world population, or 2.5 billion people, have gone through “autocratisation”, in which a leader or group of leaders begins to limit democratic attributes and rule more unilaterally.

Four of the most populous countries – India, Russia, Brazil and the United States – have been affected by autocratisation. Other large countries in democratic decline in the past !0 years include Congo, Turkey, Ukraine and Poland.

The United States fell from 7th to 31st place in just two years. The US Congress does not like to be able to put reins on the president, the opposition party appears unable to have any influence over the governing party, and the Judiciary is becoming much more partisan than balanced. The US Supreme Court looked like a counterweight to the Executive, but now its ranking has slipped to 48th place.

A poll by the McKinsey Institute found that today a full 41% of Americans would not mind not living in democracy if the leader they liked were to remain in power beyond the constitutional term.

It is fact that people elect those they like, and therefore any country has the leader its voters elect, be it Putin, Erdogan, Orban, Trump … and not centuries ago Mussolini and Hitler. If they want to listen to saviours sent by God, who care nothing about reality, that is their right. We can only mourn the growing somnambulism of people.

The serious problem is that this view of the world will only bring with a disaster in the not too distant future. It is really urgent, for example, to create an immigration policy, to establish criteria for those that the industrialised countries need to be able to to remain in global competition.

This will not happen. All immigrants are presented as a threat, just as a cynical road to power, regardless of reality. Africa’s population will double in the next few decades. Nigeria will grow to 400 million, the present population of Europe. Sixty percent of Africa’s population is now under 25, compared with 32 percent in the United States and 27 percent in Europe.

Are Europeans going to machine gun the immigrants, (as some xenophobes are already asking) and decline to a region of old people, with little if no pension and a non-existent social system? Is Europe going to lose its original identity, and the values that are enshrined not only in the European constitution, but also in those at national level?

The French Parliament has eliminated the term “race” from its constitution, and the Portuguese government will give Portuguese citizenship to immigrants who have a stable job after one year.

On the other hand, the government of the Netherlands, with the support of parliament, has decided that will refuse to allow children born by Dutch parents enrolled with ISIS to return on the grounds that those children have been born and raised in a climate of hate and violence, and thus constitute a danger for Dutch society.

The Netherlands was once a symbol of tolerance, and for centuries refugees went there, fleeing from religious or political conflicts. Today, the Netherlands has a population of 17.2 million people, with a high standard of living. How many such ISIS children are there? The astounding number of 145! Would it not be possible to find 145 families where those children – who have no responsibility for their situation – could forget the horrors they went through and enjoy the benefits of their nationality which, by international law, is considered non-waiverable? Meanwhile, the United States is separating more than 5.000 children from their immigrant parents.

Under this unprecedented face of the West, is this the new Europe and United States that their citizens want?

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Excerpt:

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Q&A: Air Pollution Remains Cause for Alarm in Asiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/qa-air-pollution-remains-cause-alarm-asia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-air-pollution-remains-cause-alarm-asia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/qa-air-pollution-remains-cause-alarm-asia/#respond Tue, 17 Jul 2018 13:44:59 +0000 Sinsiri Tiwutanond http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156734 IPS correspondent Sinsiri Tiwutanond spoke to Global Green Growth Institute’s director-general Dr. Frank Rijsberman about Asia's fight against air pollution.

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On any given day, a pall of smog and dust hangs over Kabul's streets. It clings to the face, burns the eyes, and stains the hands. It bathes the cars, often stuck bumper-to-bumper in traffic, and occludes the view of the distant mountains. Credit: Anand Gopal/IPS

By Sinsiri Tiwutanond
BANGKOK , Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

At the start of the year the pollution in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, reached six times the World Health Organization’s guideline levels for air quality.

Yet the levels, which appear higher than those of South Korea’s capital Seoul—where most people monitor the air pollution levels daily—is not treated with equal concern because of a lack of general awareness. This is despite the fact that air pollution has become the largest cause of premature deaths in Asia.

“When I went to Vietnam, I realised no one thought there was an air pollution problem because no one was directly addressing it. It was worse than Seoul when we checked the level there. In Seoul, people talk about air pollution everyday. In the morning, you check the air quality to see if you need a mask or if the kids can play outside. In Hanoi, the problem is just as bad but people just don’t know about it,” Global Green Growth Institute’s director-general Dr. Frank Rijsberman told IPS.

GGGI is one of the organisations working directly with governments in the region to tackle the growing concern of air pollution, as it has become the largest cause of premature death in many nations.

A study released by the WHO this March found air pollution to be the most lethal environmental threat to human health in Asia.  "Pollution is the largest cause of premature death now, even more than smoking." -- GGGI director-general Dr. Frank Rijsberman

The WHO estimated around 2.2 million of the global seven million premature deaths each year occur in low and middle-income countries, most of them in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The study also found that the world’s megacities exceed the WHO’s guideline levels for air quality by more than five times.

Inefficient energy use in households, industry, agriculture and transport sectors, and coal-fired power plants were the major sources attributed to outdoor air pollution, while the lack of access to clean cooking fuels and technologies contributed most to indoor pollution. The latter puts women and children as the biggest group at risk.

As a result, two-thirds of Southeast Asian cities saw a five percent growth in air pollution between 2008 and 2013 according to a WHO report in 2016. However, the report noted that more governments were increasing their commitments to reduce air pollution.

On his latest visit to Bangkok, Rijsberman spoke to IPS about the efforts governments in the region are making to mitigate the risks from air pollution, and key areas the region needed to focus on before the effects of pollution become irreversible.

Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman says the issue of air pollution in Asia has become “surprisingly alarming”. Credit: Sinsiri Tiwutanond/IPS

Q: You were in Singapore for the World Cities Summit prior to your Bangkok visit. Can you share some of the key insights and trends discussed on the panel?

There was a lot of focus on smart cities at the social innovation panel I was part of. I am very excited about electric mobility from the environmental perspective but also because it is a more sustainable, affordable and healthier form of public transportation.

For example, three-wheelers are the most important form of public transport in Vientiane, Laos, but it is also the biggest source of air pollution.

So we are working on a project to replace these three-wheelers with electric ones. Most of the things I talked about was a shift in perspective to focus on basic public services that need to be more sustainable, inclusive and help to improve the quality of life for the citizens.

Q: Where do you see the impact most visible now that Asia has become a key battleground in the fight against air pollution?

The issue is surprisingly alarming everywhere. The most immediately visible [impact can be seen] in places like Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia where you cannot even see the other side of the street during winter. The government had to declare a national emergency last year and we worked on a whole series of projects to help reduce that, mostly focusing on indoor air pollution.

A lot of the locals still heat their tents with coal and that means that the children have incredible levels of pneumonia, asthma and bronchitis. Air pollution is actually the second-largest cause of premature deaths for children in Mongolia. But there is also cause for alarm in countries where it is not as clearly visible and people are not so aware of the problem.

Q: What are some of these places that are still falling behind in pollution awareness?

Air pollution is virtually everywhere in Asia in the big cities because of transport, coal-fired power plants and industry. Even in less-developed rural areas where you don’t expect the level to be as high.

Eighty percent of people in Cambodia are still cooking food on an open fire and using coal for heating and as a result, indoor air pollution is a huge problem for them. Pollution is the largest cause of premature death now, even more than smoking. It is something that worries us a lot and plays a large part in green growth.

Q: Who do you see as leaders within the region on these issues?

There are quite a few leaders now in renewable energy for electricity production. India, however, is moving fast in positioning itself in the renewable energy industry. The prices have drastically decreased because of large-scale subsidy options where the Indian government says for the next 100 megawatts you can build a power plant or if you want you can offer us the cheapest form of energy.

For those options, the prices have come down comparatively to coal, which used to be assumed as the cheapest option. As a result, a lot of the companies abandon their plans to build coal-fired power plants, which is a huge change.

Southeast Asia appears to have small success but by and large, it is still waiting to take off. However, it can grow very rapidly once it has a breakthrough. In Vietnam late last year, they introduced some good policies for net metering, feed-in-tariff and power purchase agreement. There is a lot of interest but the breakthrough is likely to come in the next one or two years.

Q: What are some challenges facing this breakthrough?

Southeast Asia is variable. In Cambodia, the government is interested in renewable energy but the ministry of environment also just recently signed a contract for a coal-fired power plant. I think we just need to ensure that the stakeholders can see these investments as financially viable on top of the immediate environmental consequences.

We are working on that in quite a few places.

Q: Lastly, what do you think are some areas that have been overlooked in the region?

Only 20 percent of the total global energy use goes to electricity and power production. The other two large parts are mobility/transport and buildings. In Asia, energy efficiency in building materials or cooling and heating structures are hugely important. The technology tends to be there but there is remarkably little interest.

In Mongolia, we are working to prepare a project to improve these existing Soviet-style housing where people control the temperature by opening windows. Everything is over heated and it is the worst way to manage energy. We are proposing to them to retrofit these buildings by insulating them and improving the temperature control. The project will be successful to us if by the end of the year we can mobilise the finance to retrofit the 15,000 apartments with better insulation and e-meters.

Energy efficiency in general whether it is for air conditioning or building is a huge topic, which has not received enough attention. It is as good as adding new energy if you can improve energy efficiency. It is something we think can be shared more within the region.

The post Q&A: Air Pollution Remains Cause for Alarm in Asia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Sinsiri Tiwutanond spoke to Global Green Growth Institute’s director-general Dr. Frank Rijsberman about Asia's fight against air pollution.

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Greening the Way for Thailand’s First Green and Smart Cityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/greening-way-thailands-first-green-smart-city/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=greening-way-thailands-first-green-smart-city http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/greening-way-thailands-first-green-smart-city/#respond Mon, 16 Jul 2018 15:29:00 +0000 Sinsiri Tiwutanond http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156704 Thailand’s industrial sector must focus on sustainable and green development to remain competitive in the region. “It is more expensive to operate in Thailand than other neighbouring countries. If we don’t develop smart cities, it will be more difficult for us to attract foreign investors,” Global Green Growth Initiative (GGGI) programme manager for Thailand Khan […]

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The country has seen an increase in awareness for green growth from public and private sectors in recent years. Credit: Irwin Loy/IPS

By Sinsiri Tiwutanond
BANGKOK , Jul 16 2018 (IPS)

Thailand’s industrial sector must focus on sustainable and green development to remain competitive in the region.

“It is more expensive to operate in Thailand than other neighbouring countries. If we don’t develop smart cities, it will be more difficult for us to attract foreign investors,” Global Green Growth Initiative (GGGI) programme manager for Thailand Khan Ram-Indra told IPS. GGGI is an international organisation that works with developing and emerging countries to create programmes according to a sustainable green growth model.

Thailand has seen an increase in awareness of green growth from public and private sectors in recent years under the government’s Thailand 4.0 initiative — an economic strategy that seeks to transform the nation’s economy from one reliant on manufacturing to a value-based economy focused on innovation, higher technologies and green industries.

At the heart of this ambitious endeavour is Thailand’s industrial sector. As the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia, the industrial sector accounts for almost 40 percent of the country’s GDP. It also happens to be a significant contributor to pollution and reduced energy security within the country.

The sector alone accounts for 37.1 percent of the country’s total energy consumption, while 27.9 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are attributed to its operations. According to GGGI’s study to support the government’s climate change master plan, it finds that this translates to a net economic loss of roughly USD900 million to the Thai economy.

“This issue is quite new and the industry might not have a clear idea on how to approach it. This is where GGGI can come in to help guide them. The other thing is that we can help to identify bankable projects to achieve their green vision. This is where GGGI plays a critical role in mobilising private finance and developmental projects,” Ram-Indra said.

The industry has also experienced difficulties, with an economic slowdown between 2015 to 2016, labour shortages and depleting natural resources. However, the investment outlook is more positive this year thanks to a boost in investment in industrial estates through the government’s approval of the new Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) law in late February.

The USD45 billion EEC project in the country’s industrial east is the latest in a series of measures rolled out to stimulate investment in the Thai economy and is projected to generate USD39 billion over the next decade.

Ram-Indra believes the EEC will provide significant potential and growth for the sector, but also warns that to maintain its competitive edge, the industry needs to look towards green investments.
Ram-Indra sees the creation of more sustainable industrial parks as an enhancement to the bottomline.

“This green investment will help people on the ground, including the owners and investors to save costs through energy efficiency and higher productivity from the workforce because they are able to enjoy a better quality of living.”

GGGI estimated in their roadmap to support Thailand’s climate change master plan that the Thai economy can potentially save about USD100 million if the manufacturing sector implements GHG reduction projects. The sector’s potential for green improvements is one of the main reasons why the organisation chose to work closely with industrial estates, Ram-Indra explained. Furthermore, the policy is also in line with working towards Thailand’s commitment to the Paris Agreement by cutting its GHG emission by 20 to 25 percent by 2030.

Dr. Frank Rijsberman, GGGI’s Director-General, and Vikrom Kromadit, CEO of AMATA Corporation PCL at the MoU signing ceremony for Green and Smart Industrial Town Development. Credit: Sinsiri Tiwutanond/IPS

In its most recent effort on Jul. 12, GGGI signed a memorandum of understanding with one of Thailand’s largest industrial estate operator’s, AMATA Corporation PCL. Under the MoU signed by GGGI’s Director-General Dr. Frank Rijsberman and AMATA’s CEO Vikrom Kromadit, AMATA will be GGGI’s first partner from the private sector in implementing its green city development programme.

“With AMATA, we want to demonstrate that industrial estates can be very different. The Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT) is doing some interesting developments to improve the quality of these places and certain environmentally projects. But we think the vision for the industrial estates can be radically different. They could be zero-carbon or zero-waste. There are great places to cut down the commuting time,” Rijsberman told IPS.

He added that AMATA employed a large number of people “and if they all spend two hours commuting each way, you can cut down that [with] a better public transport system.”

“Not only is the environment improved, but the quality of life for those people. We think these industrial estates can be model smart cities. We want to demonstrate that they can still be commercially attractive investments but have a radically different impact on the people’s quality of life and environment,” he said.

GGGI has assisted Indonesia set up 12 special economic zones or SEZs. According to a GGGI report, the “policy interventions to enable green projects in these four sectors would yield sufficient returns and create USD870 Million in potential net economic benefits.”

“AMATA is interesting to us because we also have states in Vietnam where there are about 230 of these special economic zones. They are just starting in Laos and Myanmar. Our intent is that once we demonstrate to AMATA how this can work, it should have an impact on industrial estates in Thailand and throughout the region.

“We are doing other projects along the same line in Vietnam, our green investment specialist is working with a company to install solar roofing in the park and helping them to work with banks and working out the best business model. The idea is if one is successful, then it can really scale,” Rijsberman said.

For Kromadit, the future of the country’s development depends on having a smarter and better facility environment. He hopes the MoU will help push future developments to see environmental issues including access to greener spaces on top of reducing pollution as incentives for investment in the EEC.

GGGI’s work also considers the societal aspect affecting the community and workforce in and around the industrial estate. “We are looking to improve the quality of life for those people including cleaner air, lessening their transportation time and overall improving the standards of living,” Ram-Indra said.

Thai manufacturers and industrial estate operators should take confidence in the transition towards eco-industrial developments by looking towards one of its biggest competitors, Indonesia. A recent study by consulting firm Solidiance showed Indonesia’s top five green industrial parks have produced encouraging results.

Companies that have reused their water were able to decrease 10 to 15 percent from costs for purchasing new water and lowering their production costs. Cost saving on energy maintenance can reach up to 7 to 15 percent by employing green technology such as solar cells and LED lights. The study also projected that green space could generate a higher return for the company in the long run (over 50 years). One industrial city marketing manager noted that in addition to continued engagement between stakeholders and the local community, the community benefitted from better housing.

IEAT has implemented a similar programme with the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate. The programme reported an improvement in public sentiment towards the industrial sector and enhanced cooperation between communities and more companies adopting environmentally and socially responsible mechanisms in their businesses.

Tara Buakamsri, Country Director, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, told IPS he would like to see greater community engagement in the IEAT programmes.
“To ask whether the idea of eco-industrial estates can be sustainable, it has to be in the context of a framework for good governance that require transparency and check and balances between all the stakeholders involved. We need to involve the local communities that live around the estates as well.”

Ram-Indra hoped the success of the AMATA partnership and other sustainable industrial parks would not only signal other companies to follow suit, but also act as a model for other countries especially those in the Southeast Asia region.

“My concern is that the change is not happening fast enough. There needs to be a bigger push from all the stakeholders involved,” he said.

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Africa Could be Next Frontier for Cryptocurrencyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/africa-next-frontier-cryptocurrency/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-next-frontier-cryptocurrency http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/africa-next-frontier-cryptocurrency/#respond Mon, 16 Jul 2018 14:55:49 +0000 Pavithra Rao http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156721 Pavithra Rao, Africa Renewal*

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Interest in cryptocurrency, a form of digital currency, is growing steadily in Africa. Some economists say it is a disruptive innovation that will blossom on the continent.

By Pavithra Rao
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 16 2018 (IPS)

Cryptocurrency is not bound by geography because it is internet based; its transactions are stored in a database called blockchain, which is a group of connected computers that record transactions in a ledger in real time.

The difference between cryptocurrency and, say, Visa or Mastercard, is that a cryptocurrency is not now regulated by government and doesn’t need middlemen, and transactions rely on the internet, which means they can happen anywhere in the world.

The big cryptocurrency global brands include Bitcoin, Litecoin, XRP, Dash, Lisk and Monero, but Bitcoin leads the pack in Africa. Created in 2009 by a person or people with the alias Satoshi Nakamoto, investors hope Bitcoin becomes the new mode of financial transaction in the digital age.

“Africa is rarely mentioned among the largest markets for cryptocurrency, but it may be set to steal a march over other markets,” says Rakesh Sharma, a business and technology journalist.

Sharma says that citizens of countries battling high inflation are likely to opt for cryptocurrency, because “with their paradigm of decentralization, cryptocurrencies offer an alternative to disastrous central bank policies.”

Stealing a march

South Sudan’s inflation rate was 102% between September 2016 and September 2017, according to the World Bank. Other countries with double-digit inflation rates include Egypt, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is no surprise that some of these countries are among the main Bitcoin economies in Africa.

The main Bitcoin countries are Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe, according to gobitcoin.io, a website dedicated to Bitcoin news in Africa. The BBC adds that cryptocurrency is gaining ground in Uganda.

When Zimbabwe’s inflation skyrocketed in 2015, forcing authorities to print $100 trillion notes (each worth just $40), some Zimbabweans turned to Bitcoin.

Zimbabweans and citizens of other African countries transact in Bitcoin “as opposed to their local currencies, which are plagued with hyperinflation,” comments Emmanuel Tokunbo Darko, vice president of marketing for ICOWatchlist.com, a platform that hosts cryptocurrency tokens.

There will be 725 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa by 2020, according to the GSM Association, which represents the interests of mobile operators globally. That means more Africans will have the tools to plug into the cryptocurrency ecosystem, says Sharma.

“I check my Bitcoin every day [on my mobile phone] and any chance I can get. Any minute, any hour, anytime, as often as I can,” Peace Akware, a Ugandan millennial, told the BBC.

Bitcoin spreads
That African governments are not now regulating cryptocurrency may be a factor spurring its growth on the continent; however, there is no guarantee that governments will not change their current mindset.

Rather than simply not wanting to, governments may be powerless to regulate cryptocurrency, the Nigerian central bank indicated recently. Currently tackling the country’s 12% inflation rate, the Nigerian apex bank announced that it could not control or regulate Bitcoin, “just the same way no one is going to control or regulate the internet. We don’t own it.”

Fearing a collapse of the banking industry or arbitrary appropriation of money by the government, Africans without access to banks and who live in politically unstable countries could be attracted to cryptocurrency. “Bitcoin transactions help to eliminate the procedural bottlenecks that plague traditional banking and financial services,” Darko explains.

Some 15 cryptocurrency-related operations began in Africa in the past year alone, reports Sharma. But South Africa–based Luno Exchange, established in 2013 and now boasting 1.5 million customers in over 40 countries worldwide, is the first to be based in Africa.

Others, particularly cryptocurrency-based remittance services, are popping up in various countries. These services include Abra, which operates in Malawi and Morocco, GeoPay in South Africa, BitMari in Zimbabwe and London-based Kobocoin, which was launched by Nigerian entrepreneur Felix Onyemechi Ugoji.

The Plaas Application is a mobile app that enables farmers to manage their stock on the blockchain.

Launched in 2013, Kenya’s BitPesa facilitates virtual remittances transfers to both African and international locations, to and from individuals’ mobile wallets, where cryptocurrency is stored. LocalBitcoins.com in Kenya reported trading volumes in excess of $1.8 million as of December 2017, underlining the lucrativeness of the business.

“I started mining Bitcoin [in Nairobi, Kenya] in September 2017 and, so far, this is the best business I have ever tried,” Gladys Laboi told Africa Renewal, adding: “Under six months, I earned $800 after investing in $700.”

Not to be left out, some governments are moving into the virtual currency terrain. Tunisia’s eDinar is a government-issued digital currency. Senegal is in the process of creating eCFA, which, if successful, could be emulated by other Francophone countries in Africa.

There will be government-issued cryptocurrencies in Africa in the near future, predicts Shireen Ramjoo, ceo of Liquid Crypto-Money, a South Africa-based cryptocurrency consulting firm.

Industry experts believe that cryptocurrency will be around for years. That Bitcoin users can send money to just about anywhere there is an internet connection for relatively small fees and with no third-party interference is an advantage that standard government-issued currencies cannot offer.

“Every single computer device on the surface of the planet with an internet connection can access information on the blockchain and make ‘transactional’ inputs onto it. The information cannot be distorted, deleted, modified or destroyed, and [the] computer device has the same information as everybody,” says Darko.

Another recommendation is that transactions are anonymous, and users’ information is private and safe; there is little possibility of identity theft, which is common with other forms of digital payment.

As of December 2017, the global demand for cryptocurrency had increased to the extent that a Bitcoin sold for $20,000. Its value had been $1,000 one year prior.

Ponzi scheme
Nevertheless, some industry watchers refer to cryptocurrency as a risky and temperamental scheme, citing the crash to $8,700 in the value of Bitcoin last February, from a high of $20,000 in December 2017.

Without regulations, cryptocurrency is a double-edged sword; there may be gains from time to time, but any precipitous crash in price could leave investors with no escape route. Manasseh Egedegbe, an investment manager based in Nigeria, says that Bitcoin’s frenzied price surge seems like the dot-com bubble at the turn of the millennium.

There is also the fact that cryptocurrency can be used by criminals to funnel funds. In 2011 Bitcoin was a currency of choice for drug peddlers, according to the US Justice Department, which seized almost $48 million worth of illegal contrabands that year, and discovered that the criminals involved had made transactions totaling 150,000 Bitcoins (approximately $130 million.

Countries such as Bangladesh, Ecuador and Kyrgyzstan believe the risks outweigh the gains and have banned Bitcoin as well as initial coin offerings or ICOs, which are used by start-ups to evade the demand for capital by banks and other financing institutions.

Quartz Africa, an online business news publication, reported last December that a similar scheme, Mavrodi Mundial Moneybox (MMM), once had over two million users in Nigeria, while also operating in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

There are reports that South Africa’s central bank is actively studying cryptocurrency and may institute guidelines to foster innovation. Those guidelines could be a slippery slope to regulation. The Sunday Times of South Africa reported in March that 27,500 individuals, including South Africans, lost more than $50 million when they were duped into transferring their Bitcoins into an online wallet. The publication called it “one of the biggest scams to hit South Africa.”

At 22% (the world average is 48%), Africa has the lowest rate of Internet usage of any region, according to a 2017 report by the International Communications Union, which may undercut optimistic projections of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology on the continent. Also, poor power supply in many countries continues to impede the internet access on which cryptocurrency largely depends.

Despite some analysts likening Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to a Ponzi scheme, many Africans are taking the risk to invest in them.

Other experts, such as Darko, believe Africa should warmly embrace the innovation. “Truth be told, Africa needs blockchain technology and its resultant cryptocurrencies more than any part of the world,” he says

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information. The link to the original article follows: https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/april-2018-july-2018/africa-could-be-next-frontier-cryptocurrency

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Excerpt:

Pavithra Rao, Africa Renewal*

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Will Trump’s Trade War Make America Great Again?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/will-trumps-trade-war-make-america-great/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-trumps-trade-war-make-america-great http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/will-trumps-trade-war-make-america-great/#respond Mon, 16 Jul 2018 14:26:11 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156713 The United States has had the world’s largest trade deficit for almost half a century. In 2017, the US trade deficit in goods and services was $566 billion; without services, the merchandise account deficit was $810 billion. The largest US trade deficit is with China, amounting to $375 billion, rising dramatically from an average of […]

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By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY & KUALA LUMPUR, Jul 16 2018 (IPS)

The United States has had the world’s largest trade deficit for almost half a century. In 2017, the US trade deficit in goods and services was $566 billion; without services, the merchandise account deficit was $810 billion.

The largest US trade deficit is with China, amounting to $375 billion, rising dramatically from an average of $34 billion in the 1990s. In 2017, its trade deficit with Japan was $69 billion, and with Germany, $65 billion. The US also has trade deficits with both its NAFTA partners, including $71 billion with Mexico.

President Trump wants to reduce these deficits with protectionist measures. In March 2018, he imposed a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminium, a month after imposing tariffs and quotas on imported solar panels and washing machines. On 10 July, the US listed Chinese imports worth $200 billion annually that will face 10% tariffs, probably from September, following 25% tariffs on $34 billion of such imports from 7 July.

 

Do US trade deficits reflect weakness?

The usual explanation for bilateral trade deficits is price differentials. However, the US accuses such countries of ‘unfair’ trade practices, such as currency manipulation, wage suppression and government subsidies to boost exports, besides blocking US imports.

Trump views most trade deals such as NAFTA as unfair. His team insists that renegotiating trade deals, ‘buying American’, a strong dollar and confronting China will shrink US trade deficits.

Anis Chowdhury

But the country’s overall trade deficit, offset by capital inflows, is related to the gap between its savings and investments. The US spends more than it produces, thus importing foreign goods and services. Cheap credit fuels debt-financed consumption, increasing the trade deficit.

Total US household debt rose to $13.2 trillion in the first quarter of 2018, the 15th consecutive quarter of growth in the mortgage, student, auto and credit card loan categories. American consumer debt was more than double GDP in 2017.

US government budget deficits have also been growing. From 67.7% of GDP in 2008, US government debt rose to 105.4% in 2017. The federal budget deficit was $665 billion in FY2017, rising 14% from $585 billion in FY2016.

The US budget deficit was 3.5% of GDP in 2017. According to the US Congressional Budget Office, it will surpass $1 trillion by 2020, two years sooner than previously projected, due to Trump tax cuts and spending increases.

The growing US economy may also increase the trade deficit, as consumers spend more on imported goods and services. The stronger dollar has made foreign products cheaper for American consumers while making US exports more expensive for foreigners.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

These underlying economic forces have become more important than policies in raising the overall trade deficit, while bilateral deficits reflect specific commercial relations with particular countries. Thus, disrupting bilateral trade relations may only shift the trade deficit to others.

 

Have the cake and eat it?

So, why does the US have a structural trade deficit? As the de facto international ‘reserve currency’ after the Second World War, the US has provided the rest of the world with liquidity. Its perceived military strength means it is seen as a safe place to keep financial assets. Of about $10 trillion in global reserves in 2016, for example, around three fifths were held in US dollars.

US supply of international liquidity by issuing the global reserve currency offers several economic advantages. It also earns seigniorage from issuing the main currency used around the world, due to the difference between the face value of a currency note and the cost of issuing it.

With growing foreign demand for dollars, the US can run deficits almost indefinitely by creating more debt or selling assets. Demand for dollar-denominated assets, e.g., US Treasury bonds, raises their prices, lowering interest rates, to finance both consumption and investment.

While foreign investors buy low-yielding, short-term US assets, Americans can invest abroad in higher-yielding, long-term assets. The US usually reaps higher returns on such investments than it pays for debt, labelled America’s ‘exorbitant privilege’.

Thus, for the US to enjoy the ‘exorbitant privilege’ of the dollar’s role as the major reserve currency, it must run a chronic trade deficit. Therefore, giving up the dollar’s global reserve currency status will have major implications for the US economy, finances and living standards.

 

Can the US win Trump’s trade war?

Barry Eichengreen noted that countries in military alliances with reserve-currency issuing countries hold about 30% more of the partner’s currency in their foreign-exchange reserves than countries not in such alliances. Instead, Trump has prioritized reducing trade deficits to strengthen the US dollar and dominance while disrupting some old political alliances.

As the US retreats from the global diplomatic stage, use of other reserve currencies, including China’s renminbi, has been growing, especially in Europe and Africa. Thus, ironically, as Trump wages trade wars on both foes and friends, China will probably gain, both geopolitically and economically.

The resulting global economic shift will not only hurt the US dollar and economy through the exchange rate and borrowing costs, but also its geopolitical dominance.


Anis Chowdhury
, Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University (Australia), held senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Blue Economy Movement Gains Traction in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa/#respond Mon, 16 Jul 2018 10:42:42 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156707 An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs–particularly extreme poverty and hunger. Countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and the Seychelles–which has already established the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy–are recognising the need […]

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A coastal city, Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, is an area where people have relied on the ocean for food and employment for as long as they have lived there. An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jul 16 2018 (IPS)

An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs–particularly extreme poverty and hunger.

Countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and the Seychelles–which has already established the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy–are recognising the need to diversify their economies.

“The African Union has also adopted the blue economy, which is about exploiting resources such as oceans, lakes and rivers, into its 2063 development agenda for socio-economic transformation,” Danson Mwangangi, an independent economic researcher and analyst, tells IPS.

He says that for agrarian economies like Kenya, “agriculture alone will not be sufficient to drive the economy since the sector is facing many challenges, including shrinking farmlands, pest infestations and unpredictable weather changes.”The blue world will only be a win for Africa if there are strategies in place to exploit and protect it. -- Caesar Bita, head of underwater archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya

In Kenya, for instance, World Bank statistics show that in 2017 alone maize production dropped 20 to 30 percent due to insufficient rains and army worm infestation. The country has an annual maize shortfall of eight million bags per year.
Against this backdrop, experts are urging African countries to diversify and look beyond land-based resources by exploring the blue economy as it presents immense untapped potential.

The World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in their 2018 policy brief make a strong case in favour of the blue economy.
Mwangangi says that it can significantly enable Africa to improve its volumes of global trade, achieve food security and meet its energy demands.

Ocean renewable energy has the potential to meet up to 400 percent of the current global energy demand, according to the International Energy Agency.

“Seventy percent of African countries are either coastal or islands, we need to harness such valuable coastlines,” says Caesar Bita, head of underwater archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya.
He tells IPS that the blue world can significantly transform the lives of communities that live closest to those bodies of water since they lead very precarious lives.

According to John Omingo, head of commercial shipping at the Kenya Maritime Authority, very little has been done in the way of harnessing these vast water-based resources for economic gain.
“Africa’s coastline is about 31,000 kilometres long and yet trade among African countries accounts for 11 percent of the total trade volume, which is the lowest compared to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Europe and America,” he expounds.

Bita tells IPS that while Africa is the largest island on earth as it has the Atlantic Ocean on the west; the Indian Ocean on the east; the Antarctic ocean on the south, and the Mediterranean and Red Sea on the north, “there is very little shipping that is going on in Africa. African-owned ships account for less than 1.2 percent of the world’s shipping.”

Ahead of the upcoming Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, that will be co-host by Kenya and Canada this November, in Nairobi, economic experts are optimistic that the blue economy movement is gaining traction.
The high-level conference is expected to advance a global agenda on sustainable exploitation of oceans, seas, rivers and lakes.

One of Freetown’s larger fishing harbours is Goderich Beach, less than 30 minute’s drive from the city’s downtown core. There, a single motorised boat can bring in as much as 300 dollars worth of fish in a single day. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

“Holding the conference in Africa with Canada as a co-host is also very strategic and shows that the continent is coming into this agenda as an important partner. Some of the most important gateways for international trade are actually in Africa,” says Bita.
Mwangangi says that African countries will need to assess their own individual capacities and interpret the blue economy in the manner that makes most economic sense to them.

“The concept is not a one-size-fits-all. Each country will need to evaluate what water-based natural resources are at their disposal,” he says. “On the Indian Ocean side of the continent where we have South Africa and Mauritius, countries tend to embrace an industrial approach,” he adds.

Research shows that South Africa’s Operation Phakisa, a national development plan, also places a focus on the blue economy as it is expected to create one million new jobs by 2030 and add approximately USD13 billion into the country’s economy.

Experts also point to Mauritius which is among the smallest countries in the world but has territorial waters the size of South Africa, making the small nation one the strongest blue economies in Africa. It ranked as Africa’s wealthiest nation based on its per capita income in 2015. Bita adds that Mozambique, which lies alongside the Indian Ocean, is characterised by the highest species of diverse and abundant natural resources.

Kenya is among African countries that are developing strategies to mainstream the blue economy within its national economic blueprint. Bita says that this East African nation’s blue economy includes maritime transport and logistics services, fisheries and aquaculture, tourism as well as the extractive industries such as the offshore mining of gas and oil, titanium and niobium.

Nonetheless, environment experts, including Bita, have expressed concerns that ongoing talks on the blue economy have largely revolved around full exploitation, in order for countries to develop rapidly in the next 10 years, and little on sustainability.

“This is a problem since there is evidence to show that oceans resources are limited. For instance, explorers have presented evidence to show that at least 90 percent of the largest predatory fishes have disappeared from the world’s oceans,” he cautions.

The blue world will only be a win for Africa if there are strategies in place to exploit and protect it, he adds.

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Japan: the Land of the Rising Robotshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/japan-land-rising-robots/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=japan-land-rising-robots http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/japan-land-rising-robots/#respond Fri, 13 Jul 2018 12:39:31 +0000 Todd Schneider - Gee Hee Hong and Anh Van Le http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156697 Todd Schneider is deputy division chief, Gee Hee Hong is an economist, and Anh Van Le is a research assistant, in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department.

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Todd Schneider is deputy division chief, Gee Hee Hong is an economist, and Anh Van Le is a research assistant, in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department.

By Todd Schneider, Gee Hee Hong and Anh Van Le
WASHNGTON DC, Jul 13 2018 (IPS)

While automation will eliminate very few occupations entirely in the coming decades, it is likely to have an impact on portions of almost all jobs to some degree—depending on the type of work and the tasks involved.

Set to move beyond routine and repetitive manufacturing activities, automation has the potential to appear in a much broader range of activities than seen until now, and to redefine human labor and work style in services and other sectors.

In Japan, the rapid decline in the labor force and the limited influx of immigrants create a powerful incentive for automation, which makes the country a particularly useful laboratory for the study of the future landscape of work.

Japan’s estimated population fell by a record-breaking 264,000 people in 2017. Currently, deaths outnumber births by an average of 1,000 people a day. The Tohoku region in northern Japan, for example, now has fewer inhabitants than it did in 1950.

Japan’s birth rate has long been significantly below the 2.1 births a woman needed to sustain growth—it currently stands at about 1.4 births a woman—and unlike for many other advanced economies, immigration is not sufficient to fill the gap.

Nearly a third of Japanese citizens were older than 65 in 2015—research from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research suggests that number will rise to nearly 40 percent by 2050.

The Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs released an estimate for Japan that showed the country’s population will dip below 100 million shortly after the middle of the 21st century. By the century’s end, Japan stands to lose 34 percent of its current population.

Japan’s domestic labor force (those ages 15–64) is projected to decline even faster than the overall population, dropping by some 24 million between now and 2050. With immigration unlikely to rise enough to compensate for this dramatic decline anytime soon, Japan faces dim prospects for productivity, potential output, and income growth (see Chart 1).

Japan is no stranger to coping with limited resources—including labor—and has historically been a leader in technological development. Automation and robotics, either to replace or enhance human labor, are familiar concepts in Japanese society. Japanese companies have traditionally been at the forefront in robotic technology.

Firms such as FANUC, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Sony, and the Yaskawa Electric Corporation led the way in robotic development during Japan’s economic rise. Automation and the integration of robotic technology into industrial production have also been an integral part of Japan’s postwar economic success.

Kawasaki Robotics started commercial production of industrial robots over 40 years ago. About 700,000 industrial robots were used worldwide in 1995, 500,000 of them in Japan.

Japan is still a leader in robot production and industrial use. The country exported some $1.6 billion worth of industrial robots in 2016—more than the next five biggest exporters (Germany, France, Italy, United States, South Korea) combined.

Japan is also one of the most robot-integrated economies in the world in terms of “robot density”—measured as the number of robots relative to humans in manufacturing and industry. Japan led the world in this measure until 2009, when Korea’s use of industrial robots surged and Japan’s industrial production increasingly moved abroad (see Chart 2).

The success of the first marriage of Japan’s labor force with robotics—the automation of key sectors such as the automotive and electronics industries in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s—augurs well for the next wave of technology and artificial intelligence and for an impact on employment and wages beyond manufacturing.

First, the gap in productivity growth between the manufacturing and services sectors in Japan is extremely wide. While there are many causes, the largest gains in industrial productivity have been closely correlated with increased use of information and communication technology and automation.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the most productive manufacturing sectors in Japan—automotive and electronics—are the ones whose production processes are heavily reliant on automation.

By contrast, the services sector, which accounts for 75 percent of GDP, has seen little annual productivity growth—only about half that of the United States. Labor productivity has roughly tripled since 1970 in manufacturing, but improved by only about 25 percent in the nonmanufacturing sector.

The coming wave of automation technology and artificial intelligence promises new possibilities for replacing or augmenting labor in the nonmanufacturing sector (for example, in transportation, communications, retail services, storage, and others).

According to several government reports (including the Bank of Japan’s Regional Economic Report and the annual survey on planned capital spending by the Development Bank of Japan), even small and medium-sized firms are embracing new technology to compensate for scarce labor and stay competitive.

For example, Family Mart, a Japanese retail convenience store chain, is accelerating implementation of self-checkout registers, while the restaurant group Colowide and many other restaurant operators have installed touch-screen order terminals to streamline operations and reduce the need for staff.

Other examples abound in health care, financial, transportation, and other services—including robot chefs and hotel staff.

Second, empirical evidence suggests that—contrary to fears for the worst—automation and increased use of robotics have had an overall positive impact on domestic employment and income growth.

IMF staff calculations—based on an approach pioneered by Acemoglu and Restrepo (2017) using prefectural level data from Japan—found increased robot density in manufacturing to be associated not only with greater productivity, but also with local gains in employment and wages.

Notably, these findings—which exclude crisis periods—are the opposite of results of a similar exercise based on US data. It appears that Japan’s experience may differ significantly from that of other advanced economies.

Japan’s progress in automation, use of robots, and integration of artificial intelligence with daily living is likely to move at a faster pace than in many other advanced economies for several reasons:

Shrinking population and the more rapidly shrinking workforce
: As noted above, the constraint on productivity implied by a secular decline in the labor force will effectively push many industries to invest in new technology—as appears evident in Japan now, including among small and medium-sized enterprises, which have a more difficult time attracting and retaining labor. Japan is not alone in this demographic trend, but is well ahead of other advanced economies.

Aging population: The aging of Japan’s population— the so-called baby boom generation will reach 75 in just a few years—is creating substantial labor needs in health and eldercare that cannot be met by “natural” workforce entrants (that is, natives). As a result, the proliferation of robots will extend well beyond Japanese factories to include schools, hospitals, nursing homes, airports, train stations, and even temples.

Declining quality
of services: Surveys support the view that both the volume and quality of services in Japan are in decline. Recent work by the research arm of Japan’s Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (Morikawa 2018) shows that the quality of services is eroding as a result of labor shortages.

Most critically affected are parcel delivery services, hospitals, restaurants, elementary and high schools, convenience stores, and government services.

These same factors may explain why—in model- based simulations—Japan could experience higher and more immediate gains from the continued advance of robotics and artificial intelligence in the economy.

Looking at data across the Group of 20 industrialized countries, a simulation prepared by the IMF staff points to the risk of declining labor shares, income polarization, and rising inequality. This assumes substantial transition costs (unemployment, lower wages) as increasing automation substitutes for and displaces existing human labor.

However, applying this same approach only to Japan yields some very different results. Specifically, with a shrinking labor force, even fully substitutable automation could boost wages and economic growth.

In other words, with labor literally disappearing and dim prospects for relief through higher immigration, automation and robotics can fill the labor gap and result in higher output and greater income rather than replacement of the human workforce.

These positive results notwithstanding, Japan is not immune from societal and welfare risks linked to increased automation. Polarization of the labor force, in which a relatively small proportion of workers have the training and education needed to fully leverage productivity from robotics, is always a social risk.

Research suggests that the female labor force, which has swelled in the past five years, is particularly vulnerable to displacement, given the heavy concentration of women in nonregular jobs (that is, temporary, part-time, or other positions outside the mainstream of Japan’s lifetime employment system), whose tasks are more susceptible to automation (Hamaguchi and Kondo 2017).

There is no crystal ball that can accurately predict how fast and how far robotics and artificial intelligence will advance in the next few decades. Nor is there perfect foresight with regard to how these technologies will be adapted to substitute for human labor— particularly in sectors outside of manufacturing.

Aside from the nontrivial technological challenges, there are a range of hurdles related to supporting infrastructure— including the legal framework for the use of such technologies alongside the general population— that will need to be worked out. Key issues could include consumer protection, data protection, intellectual property, and commercial contracting.

But the wave of change is clearly coming and will affect virtually all professions in one way or another. Japan is a relatively unique case. Given the population and labor force dynamics, the net benefits from increased automation have been high and could be even higher, and such technology may offer a partial solution to the challenge of supporting long-term productivity and economic growth.

Japan’s experience could hold valuable lessons for such countries as China and Korea, which will face similar demographic trends in the future, and for Europe’s advanced economies.

For policymakers, the first hurdle is to accept that change is coming. The steam engine was likely just as disconcerting, but it came nonetheless—putting an end to some jobs but generating many new ones as well.

Artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation have the potential to make just as big a change, and the second hurdle may be to find ways to help the public prepare for and leverage this transformation to make lives better and incomes higher.

Strong and effective social safety nets will be crucial, since disruption of some traditional labor and social contracts seems inevitable. But education and skills development will also be necessary to enable more people to take advantage of jobs in a high-tech world.

And in Japan’s case, this also means a stronger effort to bring greater equality into the labor force—between men and women, between regular and nonregular employees, and even across regions—so that the benefits and risks of automation can be more equally shared.

The link to the original article: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2018/06/japan-labor-force-artificial-intelligence-and-robots/schneider.htm

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Excerpt:

Todd Schneider is deputy division chief, Gee Hee Hong is an economist, and Anh Van Le is a research assistant, in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department.

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Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time/#respond Fri, 13 Jul 2018 10:54:03 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156690 IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

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Soil degradation, climate change, heavy tropical monsoonal rain and pests are some of the challenges the young farmers face. Soil degradation will impact two-thirds of humanity who will be food-insecure while societies are left with a heightened risk of instability. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 13 2018 (IPS)

Land degradation caused by human activities is occurring at an alarming rate across the world, and the cost will be steep if no action is taken.

In recent years, environmental groups have been sounding the alarm on land degradation while stories of the human impact on the environment have inundated twitter feeds and development news—and with good reason.

This year, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) produced the world’s first comprehensive, evidence-based assessment highlighting the dangers and far-reaching impacts of land degradation.

The United Nations-backed study found that land degradation has reached “critical” levels across the world as 75 percent of land is already degraded and projections show that such degradation will increase to over 90 percent by 2050.

Since then, more reports have poured in highlighting concerns over the issue.

Most recently, the Joint Research Centre at the European Commission created a “World Atlas of Desertification” and found that an area half the size of the European Union is degraded every year by farming, city expansion, and deforestation.

Before that, the U.N Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) reported that the global economy will lose a staggering USD23 trillion by 2050 because of land degradation.

Not only will it affect economies, but the phenomenon will impact two-thirds of humanity who will be food-insecure while societies are left with a heightened risk of instability.

IPS spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of IPBES’ assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

Q: How is land degradation caused, and what are the dangers? 

Land degradation is kind of at the overlap of many contemporary concerns. For instance, a very long proportion of the current drivers of climate change come out of things that are related to land degradation.

About one-third of current climate change relates to processes of land degradation—either deforestation or decrease in soil carbon for agriculture and other similar processes.

Climate change has a reverse effect on land degradation—as the climate changes, the ecosystems that were in a particular place can no longer exist there. In the transition period while ecosystems try to sort everything out, those ecosystems lose their ability to supply the things on which we come to rely.

The current major driver of biodiversity loss is the loss of habitat, and loss of habitat is directly related to land degradation.

From the human side, these direct impacts come through the supply of food.

The result of a lot of this is that for people who depend on ecosystems for their livelihoods, their livelihoods are undermined. So those people are either worse off or are forced to move off the land and into other people’s territories and that leads to problems of conflict.

Q: What were some of the more concerning or surprising findings in the IPBES assessment?

This is quite likely the single environmental issue within the world today that affects the largest number of people.

There are many environmental issues that are going to have a big effect as the century unfolds—things like climate change and biodiversity loss— and there are many environmental issues that affect limited populations, like air pollution.

But when you look over the entire world, about two people out of every five are directly materially impacted by land degradation.

Q: What are some of the challenges around acting on land degradation? And what action(s) should governments take to overcome such challenges? 

The biggest single constraining factor is the fragmentation of land issues across many authorities … This is costing us, in terms of lost production and risks, billions and billions of dollars. But it’s not obvious to anyone because no one sees the full picture.

I think you need to attack the problem of integration between authorities at multiple levels.

First, the kind of management we do on the land physically has to move to what we call landscape-scale management. In other words, you don’t look at all the little bits individually, you actually look across the landscape and then you fit the bits into it.

When you get a level up, which is national management, it’s probably better that we do this by arranging for more than communication but coordination between the various agencies which have partial responsibility.

We also need coordination at the international level because although land degradation has its primary impact on the local level, many of the drivers of the causes of it have international manifestations.

So you can’t solve it purely at the local level—you have to have a national level which sets in place the right policies, and you need an international level to ensure, for instance, that global trade does not take place in such a way that it drives land degradation.

Q: Is it a matter of achieving land degradation neutrality or do people need to make a shift in lifestyle?

Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

We do need to achieve land degradation neutrality, which is basically equivalent to saying that you are halting the decline. The only way to achieve that in the long term is to alter many of our lifestyle impacts because it is those that are ultimately driving the increasing degradation of the land.

Land degradation neutrality is the strategy we would take but it has to be underpinned by these bigger scale changes in the demands that we put on ecosystems.

Q: What is your message to the international community to act on this issue? 

I am concerned that not enough is being done.

There’s a distribution of responsibility—you can’t solve this all at the international level nor all at the local level. It requires really strong action at all of those levels.

If you think of the Rio Conventions—the three conventions including the Climate Change Convention, the Biodiversity Convention, and the one related to land degradation, which was specifically around dry land degradation—the climate convention has moved forward with some ground breaking international collaborative agreements. Biodiversity is sort of moving forward but perhaps not as fast, and the convention on desertification hasn’t gone anywhere at all. The question is why?

Partly, because up until now, this has not been seen as a critically important issue. [It is an] ‘it affects far away people; it doesn’t affect us’ kind of issue.

What we point out is that both the causes and the consequences ultimately end up being international so it does affect everyone.

It’s a key driver of both the biodiversity loss and climate change, and that’s one of the reasons we have to raise its profile and address it sooner rather than later.

Other ambitions like many of the Sustainable Development Goals will not be possible unless we sort this one out too.

The post Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Time appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

The post Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Time appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Agroecology Beats Land and Water Scarcity in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 01:26:19 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156656 “Now we live well,” say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques. Givaldo began his adult life in Rio de Janeiro, in the southeast, where he did […]

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Givaldo dos Santos stands next to a tree loaded with grapefruit in the orchard which he and his wife have planted thanks to the use of techniques that allow them to have plenty of water for irrigation, despite the fact that their small farm is in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Givaldo dos Santos stands next to a tree loaded with grapefruit in the orchard which he and his wife have planted thanks to the use of techniques that allow them to have plenty of water for irrigation, despite the fact that their small farm is in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ESPERANÇA/CUMARU, Brazil, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

“Now we live well,” say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques.

Givaldo began his adult life in Rio de Janeiro, in the southeast, where he did his military service, married and had three children. Then he returned to his homeland, where it was not easy for him to restart his life on a farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern state of Paraiba, with his new wife, Maria das Graças, whom everyone knows as Nina and with whom he has a 15-year-old daughter.

“I’d leave at four in the morning to fetch water. I would walk 40 minutes with two cans on my shoulders, going up and down hills,” recalled the 48-year-old farmer.

But in 2000, thanks to a rainwater collection tank, he finally managed to get potable water on Caldeirão, his farm, part of which he inherited.

And in 2011 he got water for production, through a “barreiro” or pond dug into the ground. Two years later, a “calçadão” tank was built on a terrace with a slope to channel rainwater, with the capacity to hold 52,000 litres.

“Now we have plenty of water, despite the drought in the last six years,” said 47-year-old Nina. The “barreiro” only dried up once, two years ago, and for a short time, she said.

The water allowed the couple to expand their fruit orchard with orange, grapefruit, mango, acerola (Malpighia emarginata) and hog plum (Spondias mombin L, typical of the northern and northeastern regions of Brazil) trees.

With funding from a government programme to support family farming and from the non-governmental organisation Assessment and Services for Alternative Agricultural Projects (ASPTA), focused on agroecology, the couple purchased a machine to produce fruit pulp and a freezer to store it.

“When the pulp sale takes off, our income will grow,” said Givaldo. “For now we earn more with orange and lemon seedlings, which sell better because they last longer than other fruits.”

Besides storing water in the “barreiro”, they also raise tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), a species of fish, for their own consumption. Meanwhile, in the garden, in addition to fruit trees, they grow vegetables, whose production will increase thanks to a small greenhouse that they have just built, where they will plant tomatoes, cilantro and other vegetables for sale, Nina said with enthusiasm.

Joelma Pereira tells visitors from Central America and Brazil about the many sustainable practices that have improved the production on her family farm, on a terrace with a slope, which now has a roof, that makes it easier to capture rainwater, which is collected in a 52,000-litre tank used for the animals and to irrigate crops in Cumaru, in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Joelma Pereira tells visitors from Central America and Brazil about the many sustainable practices that have improved the production on her family farm, on a terrace with a slope, which now has a roof, that makes it easier to capture rainwater, which is collected in a 52,000-litre tank used for the animals and to irrigate crops in Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The productive activities on their small farm are further diversified by an ecological oven, which they use to make cakes and which cuts down on the use of cooking gas while at the same time using very little wood; by the production of fertilizer using manure from calves they raise and sell when they reach the right weight; and by the storage of native seeds.

The boundaries of their farm are marked by fences made of gliricidias (Gliricidia sepium), a tree native to Mexico and Central America, which offers good animal feed. The Dos Santos family hopes that they will serve as a barrier to the agrochemicals used on the corn crops on neighbouring farms.

Some time ago, the couple stopped raising chickens, which were sold at a good price due to their natural diet. “We had 200, but we sold them all, because there are a lot of robberies here. You can lose your life for a chicken,” Givaldo said.

Organic production, diversified and integrated with the efficient utilisation of water, turned this small farm into a showcase for ASPTA, an example of how to coexist with the semi-arid climate in Brazil’s Northeast.

This is why they frequently receive visitors. “Once we were visited by 52 people,” said the husband.

In the last week of June, the couple received 20 visitors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, mostly farmers, in an exchange promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Brazil’s Articulation of the Semi-Arid (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, including ASPTA.

Another farm visited during the exchange, accompanied by IPS, was that of Joelma and Roberto Pereira, in the municipality of Cumaru, in the state of Pernambuco, also in the Northeast. They even built a roof over the sloping terrace that collects rainwater on their property, to hold meetings there.

Givaldo and Nina dos Santos stand next to the small machine used to extract pulp from the fruit they grow, and the freezer where they store the fruit pulp in units ready for sale at their farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Givaldo and Nina dos Santos stand next to the small machine used to extract pulp from the fruit they grow, and the freezer where they store the fruit pulp in units ready for sale at their farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Three tanks for drinking water and one for production, a biodigester that generates much more gas than the family consumes, a system for producing liquid biofertiliser, another for composting, a small seedbed, cactus (Nopalea cochinilifera) and other forage plants are squeezed onto just half a hectare.

“We bought this half hectare in 2002 from a guy who raised cattle and left the soil trampled and only two trees. Now everything looks green,” said Joelma, who has three children in their twenties and lives surrounded by relatives, including her father, 65, who was born and still lives in the community, Pedra Branca, part of Cumaru.

The couple later acquired two other farms, of two and four hectares in size, just a few hundred metres away, where they raise cows, sheep, goats and pigs. The production of cheese, butter and other dairy products are, along with honey, their main income-earners.

On the original farm they have an agro-ecological laboratory, where they also have chicken coops and a bathroom with a dry toilet, built on rocks, in order to use human faeces as fertiliser and to “save water”.

“We reuse 60 percent of the water we use in the kitchen and bathroom, which passes through the bio water (filtration system) before it is used for irrigation,” Joelma said, while reciting her almost endless list of sustainable farm practices.

Joelma (in the picture) next to a biodigester, one of 23 donated by Caritas Switzerland to Brazilian farmers. Joelma and Roberto Pereira are family farmers from Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. The biodigester uses manure from five cows to produce more than twice the amount of biogas consumed by the family. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Joelma (in the picture) next to a biodigester, one of 23 donated by Caritas Switzerland to Brazilian farmers. Joelma and Roberto Pereira are family farmers from Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. The biodigester uses manure from five cows to produce more than twice the amount of biogas consumed by the family. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

It all began many years ago, when her husband became a builder of rainwater collection tanks and she learned about the technologies promoted by the non-governmental Sabiá Agro-ecological Development Centre in the neighbouring municipality of Bom Jardim. Sabiá is the name of a bird and a tree that symbolise biodiversity.

Some tobacco seedlings stand out in a seedbed. “They serve as a natural insecticide, along with other plants with a strong odor,” she said.

“Joelma is an important model because she incorporated the agroforestry system and a set of values into her practices,” Alexandre Bezerra Pires, general coordinator of the Sabiá Centre, told the Central American farmers during the visit to her farm.

“The exchanges with Central America and Africa are a fantastic opportunity to boost cooperation, strengthen ties and help other countries. The idea of coexisting with the Semi-Arid (ASA’s motto) took the Central Americans by surprise,” he said.

The biodigester is the technology of “greatest interest for Guatemala, where they use a lot of firewood,” said Doris Chavarría, a FAO technician in that Central American country. She also noted the practices of making pulp from fruit that are not generally used because they are seasonal and diversifying techniques for preparing corn as interesting to adopt in her country.

“We don’t have enough resources, the government doesn’t help us, the only institution that supports us is FAO,” said Guatemalan farmer Gloria Diaz, after pointing out that Brazilian farmers have the support of various non-governmental organisations.

Mariana García from El Salvador was impressed by the “great diversity of vegetables” that the Brazilians grow and “the fairs 130 km away, an opportunity to sell at better prices, with the cost of transportation cut when several farmers go together.”

She was referring to family farmers in Bom Jardim who sell their produce in Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco, with a population of 1.6 million.

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Age Appropriate Sexuality Education for Youth Key to National Progresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 05:52:36 +0000 Josephine Kibaru and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156636 Fifty years ago at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. It is therefore apt that the theme for this year’s World Population Day is a loud reminder of this fundamental right. It is a right that communities especially in Africa have for long held from its […]

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A community health volunteer informs community members about various methods of family planning. Photo Credit: UNFPA Kenya

By Dr. Josephine Kibaru-Mbae and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

Fifty years ago at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. It is therefore apt that the theme for this year’s World Population Day is a loud reminder of this fundamental right.

It is a right that communities especially in Africa have for long held from its youth, with parents shying off from the subject and policymakers largely equivocal. The result is that the continent has the highest numbers of teenagers joining the ranks of parenthood through unintended pregnancies.

The statistics are disquieting: as per the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS 2014), one in every five adolescent girls has either had a live birth, or is pregnant with her first child. Among the 19-year olds, this doubles to two out of ten. In a recent study, six out of ten girls surveyed in two Nairobi slums reported having had an unintended pregnancy.

Among sexually active unmarried adolescents, only about half use any form of contraceptives, yet only one in three women and one in four men, per the same study, knew the correct timing regarding when a woman is likely to get pregnant.

The World Population Day should awaken us all to the critical role of those in authority in ensuring children grow up not only in an atmosphere of love and understanding, but also that they live to their full potential.

Young mothers are four times more likely than those over 20, to die in pregnancy or childbirth, according to the World Health Organization. If they live, they are more likely to drop out of school and to be poor than if they didn’t get pregnant. And their children are more prone to have behavioral problems as adolescents, which means they are also more likely to stay poor. This cycle of poverty has to be stopped.

Unfortunately, ideological and cultural fault lines appear every time discussions about teaching the youth about taking responsibility for their sexual and reproductive health.

As debates continue, the toll is unrelenting, with complications in pregnancy and childbirth being the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries. The rate of new HIV infections among adolescents is rising, from 29% in 2013 to 51% in 2015.

The traditional role of families and communities as primary sources of reproductive health information and support has dissipated, replaced by peers and social media. Though the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy of 2015 aims to address young people’s health and well-being, help realise gender equality and reduce inequalities, much remains to be done to implement the good intentions of the policy.

Yet evidence from many countries has shown that structured, age appropriate sexuality education provides a platform for providing information about sexuality and relationships, based on evidence and facts, in a manner that is positive, that builds their skills.

Scientific evidence shows that when young people are empowered with correct information they are less likely to engage in early or in unprotected sex. This is attributable to the fact that they can undertake risk analysis and make informed decisions.

The ultimate goal for Kenya’s population programmes should be anchored on the demographic dividend paradigm. In short, in which areas should we invest our resources so that we can achieve the rapid fertility decline that can change the age structure to one dominated by working-age adults?

Countries such as the Asian Tigers, that have achieved rapid economic growth have strong family planning programmes that help women to avoid unplanned pregnancies and have the smaller families. Family planning is a key tool for reducing poverty since it frees up women to work and leads to smaller families, allowing parents to devote more resources to each child’s health and education.

First, we must make the obvious investments in reproductive health information and services for all who need them. The other key enablers for the demographic dividend window of opportunity include quality education to match economic opportunities, investing in the creation of new jobs in growing economic sectors and good governance

Second, education, especially for girls, increases the average age at marriage and lowers family size preferences. However, it must also be education that aims to promote the supply of a large and highly educated labour force, which can be easily integrated into economic sectors.

Third, Kenya must therefore identify the skills that are specific to the country’s strongest growing economic sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing.

Finally, combining sound health and education policies with an economic and governance environment that favours capital accumulation and investment will move Kenya closer towards experiencing the economic spur of the demographic dividend.

As the country takes strides towards the achievement of Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals targets, all stakeholders including the United Nations, the government of Kenya, faith based communities, parents and others should all work together to empower adolescents and young people for positive health outcomes.

Young people are the backbone of this country and we owe them the best investment for the future through a multi-sectoral approach. Failure to do that means any national transformative agenda, including the SDGs and the Big Four, will be difficult to achieve.

Josephine Kibaru-Mbae
(@NCPDKenya) is the Director-General, National Council for Population and Development, Govt of Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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Ocean Conservation Is an Untapped Strategy for Fighting Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/ocean-conservation-untapped-strategy-fighting-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ocean-conservation-untapped-strategy-fighting-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/ocean-conservation-untapped-strategy-fighting-climate-change/#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 12:02:37 +0000 Eliza Northrop http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156578 Eliza Northrop is an Associate in the International Climate Action Initiative at World Resources Institute.

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Eliza Northrop is an Associate in the International Climate Action Initiative at World Resources Institute.

By Eliza Northrop
WASHINGTON DC, Jul 6 2018 (IPS)

The ocean contributes $1.5 trillion annually to the global economy and assures the livelihood of 10-12 percent of the world’s population. But there’s another reason to protect marine ecosystems—they’re crucial for curbing climate change.

2018: A Year for the Ocean and Climate Action

This year is shaping up to be a critical one for ocean action. The 53 member countries of the Commonwealth adopted the Commonwealth Blue Charter on Ocean Action earlier this year, a plan to protect coral reefs, restore mangroves and remove plastic pollution, among other actions.

A new United Nations assessment has found the world’s oceans to be in dire shape. Credit: Shek Graham/CC-BY-2.0

Ocean conservation was a centerpiece of the G7 meeting resulting in the ‘Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Communities’ which commits the G7 to supporting better adaptation planning, emergency preparedness and recovery; support innovative financing for coastal resilience; and launch a joint G7 initiative to deploy Earth observation technologies and related applications to scale up capacities for integrated coastal zone management.

In addition, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the European Union agreed to tackle ocean plastic in the ‘Ocean Plastics Charter.’ Such action lays important groundwork for substantial negotiations for the first ever international treaty for conservation of the high seas to begin in September. The negotiations will last 2 years, culminating in 2020. The high seas cover nearly half the planet and are filled with marine life, from fish to plankton that are crucial to generating oxygen and regulating the global climate.

Approximately 40 percent of all CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels is absorbed by the ocean. The new treaty will be negotiated under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, joining other agreements that govern sea bed mining and highly migratory fish stocks. It has been dubbed the “Paris Agreement for the Ocean”, potentially enabling the creation of large marine protected areas in the high seas that have long been called for as crucial to curbing the decline of global fish stocks and other marine life.

Speaking of the Paris Agreement, this year is also a turning point for international climate action. The first stocktake of progress under the Paris Agreement on climate change, known as the Talanoa Dialogue, is currently underway, and is expected to highlight tangible opportunities for countries to further advance climate action. Countries are also expected to agree later this year on a rulebook for implementing the Paris Agreement.

The ocean and coastal ecosystems provide an untapped, nature-based climate solution that needs to be part of both conversations.

The Ocean as a Climate Solution

“Blue carbon” ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass meadows and kelp forests are 10 times more effective at sequestering carbon dioxide on a per area basis per year than boreal, temperate, or tropical forests and about twice as effective at storing carbon in their soil and biomass. They also play a crucial role in protecting coastal infrastructure and communities from climate impacts, including extreme weather events.

• Mangroves are found in 123 countries and territories and are estimated to cover more than 150,000 square kilometres globally. Mangroves buffer coastal communities from wind and waves, acting as a frontline defense against storms and sea level rise.
• If the world halted just half of annual coastal wetlands loss, it would reduce emissions by 0.23 gigatonnes, Spain’s total annual emissions in 2013.
• Restoring coastal wetlands to their 1990 extent would increase annual carbon sequestration by 160 megatonnes a year, equivalent to offsetting the burning of 77.4 million tonnes of coal.

National Climate Commitments: An Opportunity to Advance Action on Climate and the Ocean

Commitments made by countries to advance climate action in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement are a vehicle to advance action on both agendas. Known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the ocean and coastal ecosystems are currently underrepresented in these commitments.

There are a number of policy options for incorporating blue carbon ecosystems into NDCs. These include:

• Creating or protecting blue carbon ecosystems (including through Marine Protected Areas). This includes establishing buffer zones to reduce impacts from adjacent land-use and allowing mangroves to migrate inland in response to sea level rise.
• Reforesting or rehabilitating degraded blue carbon ecosystems.
• Introducing incentives to create new or protect existing blue carbon ecosystems on privately owned land, including through access to carbon markets.
• Ensuring the mitigation potential of blue carbon ecosystems is included in national greenhouse gas inventories.

Recognizing the Blue Carbon Economy

Of course, curbing climate change isn’t the only reason to invest in ocean and coastal ecosystem protection. Coastal ecosystems can also but the resilience of coastal communities to natural hazards—including storms (mangroves absorb the energy of storm-driven waves and wind), flooding, erosion and fire. Wetlands provide nurseries for the many species of fish that support economies and improve food security. And marine protected areas can also protect biodiversity.

Fighting climate change is just yet another benefit the ocean provides us. It’s time to start recognizing its protection as a climate change solution.

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Excerpt:

Eliza Northrop is an Associate in the International Climate Action Initiative at World Resources Institute.

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Experts Decry Exclusion of Africa’s Local Farmers in Food Security Effortshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts/#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 10:36:49 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156574 Joshua Kiragu reminisces of years gone by when just one of his two hectares of land produced at least 40 bags of maize. But that was 10 years ago. Today, Kiragu can barely scrape up 20 bags from the little piece of land that he has left – it measures just under a hectare. Kiragu, […]

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Ibrahim Ndegwa at his farm in Ngangarithi, Wetlands in Nyeri County, Central Kenya. Experts are are concerned that local farmers remain at the periphery of efforts to address the impact of desertification. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jul 6 2018 (IPS)

Joshua Kiragu reminisces of years gone by when just one of his two hectares of land produced at least 40 bags of maize. But that was 10 years ago. Today, Kiragu can barely scrape up 20 bags from the little piece of land that he has left – it measures just under a hectare.

Kiragu, who is from Kenya’s Rift Valley region, tells IPS that years of extreme and drastic weather patterns continue to take their toll on his once-thriving maize business. His business, he says, has all but collapsed.

But Kiragu’s situation is not unique. Effects of land degradation and desertification are some of the major challenges facing smallholder farmers today.

“Population pressures have led to extreme subdivision of land, farms are shrinking and this affects proper land management – smaller pieces of land mean that farmers are overusing their farms by planting every year,” says Allan Moshi, a land policy expert on sub-Saharan Africa.

Statistics from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) show that a majority of Africa’s farmers now farm on less than one hectare of land. “This is the case for Zambia where nearly half of the farms comprise less than one hectare of land, with at least 75 percent of smallholder farmers farming on less than two hectares,” Moshi tells IPS.

Although smallholder farmers contribute to land degradation through poor land management, experts like Moshi are concerned that local farmers remain at the periphery of efforts to address the impact of desertification.

“Their exclusion will continue to limit how much success we can achieve with ongoing interventions,” he adds.

Moshi says that the situation is dire as small-scale farmers across Africa account for at least 75 percent of agricultural outputs, according to FAO. In Zambia, for instance, over 600,000 farms with an average land size of less than a hectare produce about 300,000 metric tonnes of maize. While this production meets the food needs of the country’s 17 million people, they lack modernised irrigation systems, making their crops vulnerable to drastic weather changes when they occur.

He adds that in order to address the challenges of declining soil fertility and to heal the land, farmers have to “adopt a more resilient seed system, better farming practices and technologies.”

Reckson Matengarufu, an agro-forestry and food security expert in Zimbabwe, says that in the last decade Zambia has joined a growing list of countries characterised by a rainfall deficit, a shortage of water, unusually high temperatures and shrinking farmlands.

Other countries include Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Zimbabwe

“These are also countries that have signed and ratified the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) that aims to fight desertification and address the effects of drought and particularly threats to food security from unusually high temperatures,” Moshi explains.

But Matengarufu emphasises the need for countries to build the capacity and understanding of small-scale farmers about transformative efforts.

“There is a need to introduce agro-forestry, whereby farmers integrate trees, crops and livestock on the same plot of land, into discussions on food and nutrition security,” he says.

According to a UNCCD report ‘Investing in Land Degradation Neutrality: Making the Case’, in Zimbabwe alone more than half of all agricultural land is affected by soil degradation. And in Burkina Faso, approximately 470,000 of a total 12 million hectares of agricultural land are under the looming cloud of severe land degradation.

Experts like Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, a professor of horticulture at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya, are raising the alarm that desertification is rapidly reducing the amount of land available for agriculture.

Agro-forestry experts are increasingly encouraging farmers to incorporate integration efforts “so that they can benefit from the harvest of many crops and not just from planting maize on the same plot each year,” says Matengarufu.

Abukutsa-Onyango adds that the poor seed system in Africa has made it difficult for farmers to cushion their land from further degradation.

Research shows that for sub-Saharan Africa to improve production there is a need to overhaul the seed system and for the average age of commonly-grown seeds to drop from the current 15 to 20 years to below 10 years.

“Farms are rapidly losing their capacity to produce because they save seeds from previous harvests, borrow from their neighbours or buy uncertified seeds from their local markets. These seeds cannot withstand the serious challenges facing the agricultural sector,” Abukutsa-Onyango says.

In countries like Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe farmers receive at least 90 percent of their seeds from the informal sector. Research from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) shows that on average only 20 percent of farmers in Africa use improved variety seeds.

“For African countries to achieve food and nutrition security, farmers must have access to high-yielding varieties that are designed to adapt and flourish despite the high temperatures and erratic weather we are experiencing,” Abukutsa-Onyango says.

Within this context, AGRA decries the fact that there are still very few local private seed-producing companies across Africa.

AGRA continues to push for more of these companies. The alliance has contributed to the rise in local seed companies across sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, from a paltry 10 in 2007 to at least 10 times that by 2018.

Experts emphasise that on average the use of improved seeds and proper farming practices will enable farmers to produce more than double what they are currently producing.

Moshi nonetheless says that the battle to combat the effects of drought and desertification is far from won.

He decries the exclusion of local communities and the general lack of awareness, particularly among farmers, on the connection between poor land management and land degradation.

“We also have divided opinions among stakeholders and experts on effective strategies to combat desertification, financial constraints and in many countries, a lack of political goodwill,” he concludes.

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War, High Tariffs and Nationalisation – their Cost to Africa’s Climatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/war-high-tariffs-nationalisation-cost-africas-climate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=war-high-tariffs-nationalisation-cost-africas-climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/war-high-tariffs-nationalisation-cost-africas-climate/#comments Thu, 05 Jul 2018 15:04:15 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156557 Africa’s political instability, its armed conflicts and regulatory issues are placing at risk investment needed to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the continent.  “A renewable energy developer or investor faces increased risk that their returns and earnings could decline as a result of political change, such as terrorism, expropriation (dispossession […]

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In this dated picture, a child collects bullets from the ground in Rounyn, a village in North Darfur, Sudan. Armed conflict on the African continent poses huge risk on any potential investments to address climate change. Credit: Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
KINSHASA, Jul 5 2018 (IPS)

Africa’s political instability, its armed conflicts and regulatory issues are placing at risk investment needed to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the continent. 

“A renewable energy developer or investor faces increased risk that their returns and earnings could decline as a result of political change, such as terrorism, expropriation (dispossession of property for public use), and sovereign breach of contract,” Dereje Senshaw, the principal specialist at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), told IPS. He added that credit, market and technological risks were also obstacles towards reducing GHG emissions.

According to International Monetary Fund and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development papers, green investment refers to the investment necessary to reduce GHG and air pollutant emissions without significantly reducing the production and consumption of non-energy goods. It covers both public and private investment.

Senshaw’s explanations come against the backdrop of several armed conflicts that are tearing the resource-rich continent apart. Millions of people have been uprooted from their homes and the instability has dealt a blow to development projects and poverty-eradication programmes.

This month, the Norwegian Refugee Council listed the world’s 10-most neglected crises. Six were from Africa. In the Central African Republic, conflict began in 2013 after a coup. The country held elections three years later but peace has been elusive. The Democratic Republic of Congo is listed as having the world’s second-most neglected crisis as the central African nation has experienced almost two decades of conflict. Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia are also on the list.

Tariffs too high

Apart from political risks, green investments could also be compromised by regulatory issues or tariffs, Senshaw said.

“Some African countries set tariffs at very high rates, making it very unattractive to investors as they may not have the chance to recover their incurred costs in the future,” he explained.

Another major risk is the delay of utility contracts. Circumstances could change during the lifetime of a project in many sub-Saharan Africa countries and even essential services, like the provision of electricity, may stop. In addition, risk arises when regulatory agencies start to interfere with the operations of private companies.

“Similarly, there is the risk of the nationalisation of utilities and policy changes. In addition there are various regulatory risks related to biddings, procurements and hiring, and contracts,” Senshaw said, explaining that bids are frequently cancelled, postponed or disputed. “This discourages interested private actors from spending time and money on these bids. Also, some African countries put in place bureaucratic procurements and hiring procedures that hamper operations of private energy companies,” he said.

He added that corruption was another risk.

“However, I think corruption has not been overlooked by investors, rather it is still considered as one of the potential investment risks,” he said.

Senshaw said African governments needed to establish an enabling environment for private investors in renewable projects, which he described as the main driver for accelerating the deployment of renewable energy in Africa.

USD225 billion by 2030

The search for money to fund these green projects continues unabated.

Toshiaki Nagata, an expert from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), said recently that Africa would need USD225 billion by 2030 to implement energy targets set out in national determined contributions (NDCs), of which 44 percent are for unconditional targets. In the Paris Agreement, a global agreement to tackle climate change, countries declared their NDCs, which are outlines of the actions they propose to undertake in order to limit the rise in average global temperatures to below 2°C.

Unconditional targets, Nagata explained, are the targets that countries are committed to meet without international support, while conditional targets are the ones that countries would only be able to meet with international support in areas of finance and technology, among others.

Nagata, who made the announcement in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, at a GGGI capacity building summit, told IPS that the amount applied to African countries that have quantified renewable energy targets.

Virtually all African countries mention renewables in their NDCs and 85 percent of them include quantified renewable energy targets, Nagata said. He said 23 countries in Africa have renewable energy action under adaptation, while 15 have targets with off-grid renewables.

USD470 billion to fund NDCs

Currently, USD470 billion is available to fund the implementation of NDCs globally, according to IRENA. However, the agency warned that barriers to investment could come in the form of insufficient or contradictory incentives, limited experience and institutional capacity and immature financial systems.

NDCs, Nagata pointed out, provided an opportunity to capture the benefits renewables offer for climate resilient infrastructure. 

“Some renewables, especially solar, can bring electricity in a cost-effective manner to those areas where electricity cannot be brought otherwise. This will enhance their resilience. In many cases, remote areas use diesel for power,” he said, adding that it was costly and therefore not environmentally sustainable.

While the commitment of African governments plays a role in countries reaching their NDCs, the major investment driver for establishing renewable energy projects remains the attractiveness of financial returns, says Senshaw.

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New & Resurgent Infectious Diseases Can Have Far-reaching Economic Repercussionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/new-resurgent-infectious-diseases-can-far-reaching-economic-repercussions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-resurgent-infectious-diseases-can-far-reaching-economic-repercussions http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/new-resurgent-infectious-diseases-can-far-reaching-economic-repercussions/#respond Tue, 03 Jul 2018 10:55:13 +0000 David E. Bloom and JP Sevilla http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156522 DAVID E. BLOOM is the Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography, DANIEL CADARETTE is a research assistant, and JP SEVILLA is a research associate, all at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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DAVID E. BLOOM is the Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography, DANIEL CADARETTE is a research assistant, and JP SEVILLA is a research associate, all at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

By David E. Bloom, Daniel Cadarette and JP Sevilla
WASHINGTON DC, Jul 3 2018 (IPS)

Infectious diseases and associated mortality have abated, but they remain a significant threat throughout the world.

We continue to fight both old pathogens, such as the plague, that have troubled humanity for millennia and new pathogens, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), that have mutated or spilled over from animal reservoirs.

Some infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria, are endemic to many areas, imposing substantial but steady burdens. Others, such as influenza, fluctuate in pervasiveness and intensity, wreaking havoc in developing and developed economies alike when an outbreak (a sharp increase in prevalence in a relatively limited area or population), an epidemic (a sharp increase covering a larger area or population), or a pandemic (an epidemic covering multiple countries or continents) occurs.

The health risks of outbreaks and epidemics—and the fear and panic that accompany them—map to various economic risks.

First, and perhaps most obviously, there are the costs to the health system, both public and private, of medical treatment of the infected and of outbreak control. A sizable outbreak can overwhelm the health system, limiting the capacity to deal with routine health issues and compounding the problem.

Beyond shocks to the health sector, epidemics force both the ill and their caretakers to miss work or be less effective at their jobs, driving down and disrupting productivity.

Fear of infection can result in social distancing or closed schools, enterprises, commercial establishments, transportation, and public services—all of which disrupt economic and other socially valuable activity.

Concern over the spread of even a relatively contained outbreak can lead to decreased trade. For example, a ban imposed by the European Union on exports of British beef lasted 10 years following identification of a mad cow disease outbreak in the United Kingdom, despite relatively low transmission to humans.

Travel and tourism to regions affected by outbreaks are also likely to decline. Some long-running epidemics, such as HIV and malaria, deter foreign direct investment as well.

The economic risks of epidemics are not trivial. Victoria Fan, Dean Jamison, and Lawrence Summers recently estimated the expected yearly cost of pandemic influenza at roughly $500 billion (0.6 percent of global income), including both lost income and the intrinsic cost of elevated mortality.

Even when the health impact of an outbreak is relatively limited, its economic consequences can quickly become magnified. Liberia, for example, saw GDP growth decline 8 percentage points from 2013 to 2014 during the recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa, even as the country’s overall death rate fell over the same period.

The consequences of outbreaks and epidemics are not distributed equally throughout the economy. Some sectors may even benefit financially, while others will suffer disproportionately.

Pharmaceutical companies that produce vaccines, antibiotics, or other products needed for outbreak response are potential beneficiaries. Health and life insurance companies are likely to bear heavy costs, at least in the short term, as are livestock producers in the event of an outbreak linked to animals.

Vulnerable populations, particularly the poor, are likely to suffer disproportionately, as they may have less access to health care and lower savings to protect against financial catastrophe.

Economic policymakers are accustomed to managing various forms of risk, such as trade imbalances, exchange rate movements, and changes in market interest rates. There are also risks that are not strictly economic in origin.

Armed conflict represents one such example; natural disasters are another. We can think about the economic disruption caused by outbreaks and epidemics along these same lines. As with other forms of risk, the economic risk of health shocks can be managed with policies that reduce their likelihood and that position countries to respond swiftly when they do occur.

Several factors complicate the management of epidemic risk. Diseases can be transmitted rapidly, both within and across countries, which means that timely responses to initial outbreaks are essential. In addition to being exacerbated by globalization, epidemic potential is elevated by the twin phenomena of climate change and urbanization.

Climate change is expanding the habitats of various common disease vectors, such as the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can spread dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and yellow fever. Urbanization means more humans live in close quarters, amplifying the transmissibility of contagious disease.

In rapidly urbanizing areas, the growth of slums forces more people to live in conditions with substandard sanitation and poor access to clean water, compounding the problem.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is the formidable array of possible causes of epidemics, including pathogens that are currently unknown. In December 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) published a list of epidemic-potential disease priorities requiring urgent research and development (R&D) attention.

That list has since been updated twice, most recently in February 2018 (see table).

Beyond this list, diseases that are currently endemic in some areas but could spread without proper control represent another category of threat. Tuberculosis, malaria, and dengue are examples, as is HIV.

Pathogens resistant to antimicrobials are increasing in prevalence throughout the world, and widespread pan-drug-resistant superbugs could pose yet another hazard. Rapid transmission of resistant pathogens is unlikely to occur in the same way it may with pandemic threats, but the proliferation of superbugs is making the world an increasingly risky place.

Epidemic risk is complex, but policymakers have tools they can deploy in response. Some tools minimize the likelihood of outbreaks or limit their proliferation. Others attempt to minimize the health impact of outbreaks that cannot be prevented or immediately contained. Still others aim to minimize the economic impact.

Investing in improved sanitation, provisioning of clean water, and better urban infrastructure can reduce the frequency of human contact with pathogenic agents.

Building strong health systems and supporting proper nutrition will help ensure good baseline levels of health, making people less susceptible to infection. Of course, strengthening basic systems, services, and infrastructure becomes easier with economic growth and development; however, policies to protect spending in these areas even when budgets are constrained can help safeguard developing economies from major health shocks that could significantly impinge upon human capital and impede economic growth.

Investment in reliable disease surveillance in both human and animal populations is also critical. Within formal global surveillance systems, it may be beneficial to develop incentives for reporting suspected outbreaks, as countries may reasonably fear the effects of such reporting on trade, tourism, and other economic outcomes.

The SARS epidemic, for instance, might have been better contained if China had reported the initial outbreak to the WHO earlier.

Informal surveillance systems
, such as ProMED and HealthMap, which aggregate information from official surveillance reports, media reports, online discussions and summaries, and eyewitness observations, can also help national health systems and international responders get ahead of the epidemiological curve during the early stages of an outbreak.

Social media offers additional opportunities for early detection of shifts in infectious disease incidence.

Collaborations for monitoring epidemic readiness at the national level, such as the Global Health Security Agenda and the Joint External Evaluation Alliance, provide information national governments can use to bolster their planned outbreak responses.

Additional research into which pathogens are likely to spread and have a big impact would be worthwhile.

Countries should be ready to take initial measures to limit the spread of disease when an outbreak does occur. Historically, ships were quarantined in port during plague epidemics to prevent the spread of the disease to coastal cities. In the case of highly virulent and highly transmissible diseases, quarantines may still be necessary, although they can inspire concerns about human rights.

Likewise, it may be necessary to ration biomedical countermeasures if supplies are limited. Countries should decide in advance if they will prioritize first responders and other key personnel or favor vulnerable groups, such as children and the elderly; different strategies may be appropriate for different diseases.

Technological solutions can help minimize the burden of sizable outbreaks and epidemics. Better and less-costly treatments—including novel antibiotics and antivirals to counter resistant diseases—are sorely needed. New and improved vaccines are perhaps even more important.

There is a significant market failure when it comes to vaccines against individual low-probability pathogens that collectively are likely to cause epidemics. Given the low probability that any single vaccine of this type will be needed, high R&D costs, and delayed returns, pharmaceutical companies hesitate to invest in their development. The profit-seeking interest does not align well with the social interest of minimizing the risk posed by these diseases in the aggregate.

Farsighted international collaboration can overcome this market failure—for example, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which is supported by the governments of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ethiopia, India, Japan, Germany, and Norway, as well as the European Commission and various nongovernmental funders.

Its goals include advancing candidate vaccines against specific low-probability, high-severity pathogens through proof of concept to enable rapid clinical testing and scale-up in the event of outbreaks of those pathogens.

It also aims to fund development of institutional and technical platforms to speed R&D in response to outbreaks for which there are no vaccines. Similar funding models could support the development of a universal influenza vaccine.

Of course, new vaccines will be less useful if governments do not ensure that at-risk populations have access to them. Assured access could also motivate developing economies to participate actively in the vaccine R&D process.

In 2007 Indonesia withheld samples of the H5N1 influenza virus from the WHO to protest the fact that companies in wealthy countries often use samples freely provided by developing economies to produce vaccines and other countermeasures without returning any profit or other special benefits to the donors.

Beyond funding R&D, international collaboration could boost epidemic preparedness by supporting centralized stockpiling of vaccines and drugs that can be deployed where they are most needed. Such collaboration has obvious advantages over a system in which each country stockpiles its own biomedical countermeasures.

While some countries are more likely to need these countermeasures than others, the global public good of living without fear of pandemics should motivate cooperation and cost sharing.

In addition, wealthy countries at relatively low risk of suffering massive health impacts from most epidemics could suffer disproportionately large economic losses—even from faraway epidemics—given the size of their economies and reliance on foreign trade.

If outbreaks do occur and impose a substantial health burden, there are tools to limit the risk of economic catastrophe. As with natural disasters, insurance can help distribute the economic burden across sectors of the economy and regions.

Prioritizing personnel such as health care workers, members of the military, and public safety employees for distribution of biomedical countermeasures during an outbreak can help protect critical economic resources.

We cannot predict which pathogen will spur the next major epidemic, where that epidemic will originate, or how dire the consequences will be. But as long as humans and infectious pathogens coexist, outbreaks and epidemics are certain to occur and to impose significant costs.

The upside is that we can take proactive steps to manage the risk of epidemics and mitigate their impact. Concerted action now at the local, national, and multinational levels can go a long way toward protecting our collective well-being in the future.

http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2018/06/economic-risks-and-impacts-of-epidemics/bloom.htm?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Opinions expressed in articles and other materials are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect IMF policy.

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Excerpt:

DAVID E. BLOOM is the Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography, DANIEL CADARETTE is a research assistant, and JP SEVILLA is a research associate, all at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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Economic crisis managementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/economic-crisis-management/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-crisis-management http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/economic-crisis-management/#respond Sat, 30 Jun 2018 12:03:00 +0000 Rashid Amjad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156497 Do forgive the people of this country if they cannot make sense of our present economic predicament. On one hand, they are told repeatedly (and correctly) that the economy has started reaping the benefits of CPEC — the ‘game changer’ — in the form of significantly reduced load-shedding, an upturn in investment and a not […]

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By Rashid Amjad
Jun 30 2018 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Do forgive the people of this country if they cannot make sense of our present economic predicament. On one hand, they are told repeatedly (and correctly) that the economy has started reaping the benefits of CPEC — the ‘game changer’ — in the form of significantly reduced load-shedding, an upturn in investment and a not unimpressive recovery in economic growth. At the same time, they are told that the economy is in dire straits!

A severe foreign exchange crisis threatens to reverse significantly the recent economic upturn. Our import bill exceeds our export earnings, including remittances, and if we add to it the repayments due on foreign loans, the gap is immense: $25 billion or over eight per cent of GDP. The country’s foreign exchange reserves are fast running out. We have already reached the critical level of just two months of imports. The alarm bells are ringing as foreign exchange reserves continue to lose almost $1bn a month. We must now wake up to the reality that, unless we can raise $8bn to $10bn in new loans and obtain a roll-over of existing debts, we could well face default on our debt payments — which is a polite way of saying ‘bankruptcy’.

The current state of economic affairs requires that some important decisions be taken.

The economic problem we now face cannot be traced solely to the previous government’s stubborn refusal to adjust the overvalued exchange rate. Our economic managers appear to have lost the plot over the last two years. For one, they were unable to keep track of CPEC-funded investment flows, whose exact form of financing has never been made transparent. The second and perhaps more important reason for our plight is that the federal and some provincial governments decided to go on a spending spree — launching projects, oblivious to their cost and foreign exchange implications. This is not new: the last two governments were equally guilty.

The current state of economic affairs cannot be allowed to continue. Some important decisions may need to be taken in the crunch, even by the interim government in the national interest. The simple reason for this is that, unless some immediate measures are taken to restore business confidence and, most importantly, to calm the foreign exchange market, the exchange rate will continue to fall. In the extreme scenario, we could enter a freefall situation. Given this uncertainty, anybody with some staying power will not be willing to part with their US dollars, betting that the rupee will fall even more. Those wanting foreign exchange will be chasing less and less available in the market.

Yet, nobody will bail us out, whether it is the IMF or anyone else, without imposing ‘conditionalities’ — primarily to ensure that they get their money back. Here, our team of negotiators (from the finance ministry and State Bank) must learn some lessons from the past. The last two governments entered into agreements with the IMF almost immediately upon coming into power. The 2008 agreement with the IMF was an unmitigated disaster in terms of its impact on growth, which fell from near 6pc to less than 1pc. The economy never quite recovered after that. The 2013 agreement, partly due to the groundwork done by the interim finance team, was able to avoid this shock through a more gradual decline in the fiscal deficit. However, agreeing almost immediately to a reforms agenda was unwise. To the extent possible, the new government should seek some time to finalise the content and sequencing of economic reforms, for which it can take full ownership and deliver.

The immediate challenge will be to agree to a stabilisation package, at an appropriate speed and sequencing of adjustment, that protects the country’s economic interests. Despite its weak bargaining position, the government should work towards a stabilisation package in which the burden of adjustment primarily falls in a sequenced way on the fiscal deficit rather than on the exchange rate. This is not to deny that we need to adjust the exchange rate, but we must keep this limited to its current overvaluation. We must remain fully aware that the cost of a very steep devaluation is especially high for our heavily indebted economy. Doing so would also raise the value of imports, especially oil products, fuelling inflation and eroding competitiveness. To that extent, it would neutralise the gains from devaluation. Most importantly, it would increase the cost of our defence preparedness, which in the current volatile situation cannot be compromised at any cost.

Of course, cutting the fiscal deficit is not without cost, even if the decline is made gradual. A 2pc drop in the fiscal deficit would reduce our current GDP growth of around 6pc to near half this amount. Most importantly, to counteract this, we must put in place measures that allow the recent growth momentum to build on the revival of manufacturing and upturn in exports and create the climate to encourage the much-awaited revival in private investment. All this will ensure that the decline in GDP growth is minimised. The emphasis here should be on reversing the anti-export trade and tariff regime and making a serious attempt at cutting down on losses from public-sector enterprises. This should entail including workers and their elected representatives in any restructuring negotiations.

Over the medium to long term, the policy focus must shift to expediting coal mining in Thar (which could finally remove our dependency on imported oil and gas), preserving and supplementing our water resources, and switching the emphasis in education from merely increasing numbers to improving the quality of education imparted and the social skills of our graduates.

If seriously and successfully monitored and implemented, this agenda will likely keep the newly elected government busy through its term in office. Come 2023, it will be judged on these achievements. Inshallah.

The writer is professor at the Lahore School of Economics and former vice chancellor of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Community Work Among Women Improves Lives in Peru’s Andes Highlandshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands/#respond Sat, 30 Jun 2018 02:20:14 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156475 At more than 3,300 m above sea level, in the department of Cuzco, women are beating infertile soil and frost to grow organic food and revive community work practices that date back to the days of the Inca empire in Peru such as the “ayni” and “minka”. “We grow maize, beans and potatoes, that’s what […]

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In the community of Paropucjio, several women stand next to the solar greenhouse they have just built together on the plot of land belonging to one of them, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the Cuzco highlands region in Peru. They get excited when they talk about how the greenhouses will improve their families' lives. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

In the community of Paropucjio, several women stand next to the solar greenhouse they have just built together on the plot of land belonging to one of them, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the Cuzco highlands region in Peru. They get excited when they talk about how the greenhouses will improve their families' lives. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

By Mariela Jara
CUSIPATA, Peru, Jun 30 2018 (IPS)

At more than 3,300 m above sea level, in the department of Cuzco, women are beating infertile soil and frost to grow organic food and revive community work practices that date back to the days of the Inca empire in Peru such as the “ayni” and “minka”.

“We grow maize, beans and potatoes, that’s what we eat, and we forget about other vegetables, but now we’re going to be able to naturally grow tomatoes, lettuce, and peas,” María Magdalena Condori told IPS, visibly pleased with the results, while showing her solar greenhouse, built recently in several days of community work.

She lives in the Andes highlands village of Paropucjio, located at more than 3,300 m above sea level, in Cusipata, a small district of less than 5,000 inhabitants."We want to help improve the quality of life of rural women by strengthening their capacities in agriculture. They work the land, they sow and harvest, they take care of their families, they are the mainstay of food security in their homes and their rights are not recognized." -- Elena Villanueva

The local population subsists on small-scale farming and animal husbandry, which is mainly done by women, while most of the men find paid work in districts in the area or even in the faraway city of Cuzco, to complete the family income.

The geographical location of Paropucjio is a factor in the low fertility of the soils, in addition to the cold, with temperatures that drop below freezing. “Here, frost can destroy all our crops overnight and we end up with no food to eat,” says Celia Mamani, one of Condori’s neighbors.

A similar or even worse situation can be found in the other 11 villages that make up Cusipata, most of which are at a higher altitude and are more isolated than Paropucjio, which is near the main population centre in Cusipata and has the largest number of families, about 120.

Climate change has exacerbated the harsh conditions facing women and their families in these rural areas, especially those who are furthest away from the towns, because they have fewer skills training opportunities to face the new challenges and have traditionally been neglected by public policy-makers.

“In Paropucjio there are 14 of us women who are going to have our own greenhouse and drip irrigation module; so far we have built five. This makes us very happy, we are proud of our work because we will be able to make better use of our land,” said Rosa Ysabel Mamani the day that IPS spent visiting the community.

The solar greenhouses will enable each of the beneficiaries to grow organic vegetables for their families and to sell the surplus production in the markets of Cusipata and nearby districts.

Women farmers from Paropucjio, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level, smile as they talk about the wooden structure for a solar greenhouse, which they jokingly refer to as a “skeleton”. The roof will be made of a special microfilm resistant to bad weather, intense ultraviolet radiation and extreme temperatures, and the greenhouses are built collectively, in the Andean region of Cuzco, Peru. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

Women farmers from Paropucjio, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level, smile as they talk about the wooden structure for a solar greenhouse, which they jokingly refer to as a “skeleton”. The roof will be made of a special microfilm resistant to bad weather, intense ultraviolet radiation and extreme temperatures, and the greenhouses are built collectively, in the Andean region of Cuzco, Peru. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

With a broad smile, Mamani points to a 50-sq-m wooden structure that within the next few days will be covered with mesh on the sides and microfilm – a plastic resistant to extreme temperatures and hail – on the roof.

“We will all come with our husbands and children and we will finish building the greenhouse in ‘ayni’ (a Quechua word that means cooperation and solidarity), as our ancestors used to work,” she explains.

The ayni is one of the social forms of work of the Incas still preserved in Peru’s Andes highlands, where the community comes together to build homes, plant, harvest or perform other tasks. At the end of the task, in return, a hearty meal is shared.

The minga, another legacy of the Inca period, is similar but between communities, whose inhabitants go to help those of another community. In this case women from different villages and hamlets get together to build the greenhouses, especially the roofs, the hardest part of the job.

Training in production and rights

A total of 80 women from six rural highlands districts in Cuzco will benefit from the solar greenhouses and drip irrigation modules for their family organic gardens, as part of a project run by the non-governmental Peruvian Flora Tristán Women’s Centre with the support of the Spanish Basque Agency for Development Cooperation.

Women farmers from the community of Huasao, in the Andean highlands region of Cuzco, Peru, stand in front of one of the 50-sq-m solar tents, which has a 750-litre water tank for the drip irrigation module for their vegetables. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

Women farmers from the community of Huasao, in the Andean highlands region of Cuzco, Peru, stand in front of one of the 50-sq-m solar tents, which has a 750-litre water tank for the drip irrigation module for their vegetables. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

“We want to help improve the quality of life of rural women by strengthening their capacities in agriculture. They work the land, they sow and harvest, they take care of their families, they are the mainstay of food security in their homes and their rights are not recognised,” Elena Villanueva, a sociologist with the centre’s rural development programme, told IPS.

She said the aim was comprehensive training for women farmers, so that they can use agro-ecological techniques for the sustainable use of soil, water and seeds. They will also learn to defend their rights as women, farmers and citizens, in their homes, community spaces and before local authorities.

The expert said the solar greenhouses open up new opportunities for women because they protect crops from adverse weather and from the high levels of ultraviolet radiation in the area, allowing the women to grow crops that could not survive out in the open.

“Now they will have year-round food that is not currently part of their diet, such as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and lettuce, that will enrich the nutrition and diets in their families – crops they will be able to plant and harvest with greater security,” she said.

The women have also been trained in the preparation of natural fertilisers and pesticides. “Our soils don’t yield much, they squeeze the roots of the plants, so we have to prepare them very well so that they can receive the seeds and then provide good harvests,” Condori explains.

In the 50 square metres covered by her new greenhouse, the local residents have worked steadily digging the soil to remove the stones, turn the soil and form the seed beds for planting.

Women and men from the community of Paropucjio, in Peru’s Andes highlands region of Cuzco, share lunch after completing the community work of building one of 80 small greenhouses, where women farmers will be able to grow organic vegetables despite the extreme temperatures in the area. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS


Women and men from the community of Paropucjio, in Peru’s Andes highlands region of Cuzco, share lunch after completing the community work of building one of 80 small greenhouses, where women farmers will be able to grow organic vegetables despite the extreme temperatures in the area. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

“To do that we have had to fertilise a lot using bocashi (fermented organic fertiliser) that we prepare in groups with the other women, working together in ayni. We brought guinea pig and chicken droppings and cattle manure, leaves, and ground eggshells,” she explains.

This active role in making decisions about the use of their productive resources has helped change the way their husbands see them and has brought a new appreciation for everything they do to support the household and their families.

Honorato Ninantay, from the community of Huasao, located more than 3,100 metres above sea level in the neighbouring district of Oropesa, confesses his surprise and admiration for the way his wife juggles all her responsibilities.

“It seems unbelievable that before, in all this time, I hadn’t noticed. Only when she has gone to the workshops and has been away from home for two days have I understood,” he says.

“I as a man have only one job, I work in construction. But my wife has aahh! (long exclamation). When she left I had to fetch the water, cook the meals, feed the animals, go to the farm and take care of my mother who is sick and lives with us. I couldn’t handle it all,” he adds.

His wife, Josefina Corihuamán, listens to her husband with a smile on her face, and confirms that he is now involved in household chores because he has understood that washing, cleaning and cooking are not just a “woman’s job.”

She also has a solar greenhouse and irrigation module and is confident that she will produce enough to feed her family and sell the surplus in the local market.

“What we will harvest will be healthy, organic, chemical-free food, and that is good for our families, for our children. I feel that I will finally make good use of my land,” she says.

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Bamboo, A Sustainability Powerhousehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse/#respond Fri, 29 Jun 2018 11:30:32 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156466 A landmark conference bringing more than 1,200 people from across the world together to promote and explain the importance of bamboo and rattan to global sustainable development and tackling climate change has ended with a raft of agreements and project launches. The three-day Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress in Beijing this week, organised by multilateral […]

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Bamboo is stronger than concrete or steel but is a renewable resource, providing refuge and food for wildlife as well as biomass. Credit: CC by 2.0

Bamboo is stronger than concrete or steel but is a renewable resource, providing refuge and food for wildlife as well as biomass. Credit: CC by 2.0

By Ed Holt
VIENNA, Jun 29 2018 (IPS)

A landmark conference bringing more than 1,200 people from across the world together to promote and explain the importance of bamboo and rattan to global sustainable development and tackling climate change has ended with a raft of agreements and project launches.

The three-day Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress in Beijing this week, organised by multilateral development group the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) and China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA), was the first international, policy-focused conference on the use of bamboo and rattan to help sustainable development.“Bamboo is not a climate change silver bullet, but we want people to realise that it is a ‘forgotten opportunity’ in helping mitigate the effects of climate change." --INBAR Director General Dr Hans Friedrich

Organisers had pledged to ensure that the event would not be “simply a talking shop”, instead making real progress on raising awareness of the potential role of bamboo and rattan in helping solve major global problems.

As it closed, it appeared that goal had been met with the announcement of a number of agreements, including a major project to develop bamboo sectors across Africa and an agreement between INBAR members to further develop bamboo and rattan sectors in other parts of the world.

Speaking at the end of the conference, INBAR Director General Dr Hans Friedrich said: “We have made some real steps forward for the development of bamboo and rattan.”

Bamboo and rattan have long been championed by environmental organisations and groups promoting sustainable development, especially in the world’s poorest countries.

A grass, bamboo is a native plant on all continents except Antarctica and Europe, although the majority of its natural habitat is in the tropical belts.

It is stronger than concrete or steel but is a renewable resource, providing refuge and food for wildlife as well as biomass. It captures higher amounts of CO2 than most other plants and can be harvested significantly faster than wood – over a period of 20 years it can produce almost 12 times as much material as wood.

It can be used for shelter as well as, in some cases, transport, and provides sustainable, ecologically-friendly economic and commercial opportunities to people, especially in poorer communities.

Groups like INBAR point out that bamboo use can play a significant part in helping countries meet many of the UN’s sustainable development goals.

But awareness of the potential of bamboo and rattan is generally low in many countries, especially in the more developed world and particularly at senior levels of government and industry.

Dr Friedrich told IPS: “A large part of the reason for this conference is about awareness. We want to tell people who don’t yet realise it that bamboo and rattan can help them reach their sustainable development goals.

“The potential is immense. It is understood by people in, for example, the forestry industry, and others, but not really by politicians. At this conference we want to help them realise this by giving them examples.”

Bringing together ministers, industry leaders, scientists and entrepreneurs, the conference used examples of innovative bamboo use – from a thirty-foot bamboo wind turbine blade to bamboo diapers – and real-life stories from individuals of bamboo and rattan helping create sustainable livelihoods to underline to decision-makers and senior industry figures the potential.

One of the key aims of the meeting, said organisers, was to try and push those decision-makers into setting up the institutional, regulatory, policy, and business frameworks necessary to kick-start a new sustainable development paradigm.

“In the last few years I have met a number of ministers and they always start off being sceptical about bamboo but after they see everything they realise its potential.

“We want governments to think about bamboo when they think about their plans for climate change, sustainable development and green policies,” Dr Friedrich told IPS.

INBAR also used the conference to talk to representatives from large private sector firms about how to build global value chains, as well as how to set up international standards which support international bamboo and rattan trade.

Its proponents have pointed out the economic potential, particularly in poorer countries, of the bamboo industry. In China, which Dr Friedrich says has until now been the “only country taking bamboo really seriously [as an industry]”, the bamboo industry employs 10 million people and is valued at USD 30 billion per year.

“People are beginning to realise the economic potential and opportunities for bamboo,” Friedrich told IPS.

The conference also highlighted the impact bamboo and rattan could have on climate change.

Speakers from various countries, including politicians, spoke about how bamboo and rattan was being used to help combat the effects of climate change and help the environment.

Experts outlined its potential and current use in areas like forest protection, restoration of degraded land, and carbon capture as well as a replacement for more carbon-intensive materials such as cement and steel in construction and industry.

An INBAR report released ahead of the conference gave an analysis of the carbon which is saved by substituting more emissions-intensive products for bamboo. It found the carbon emissions reduction potential of a managed giant bamboo species forest is potentially significantly higher than for certain types of trees under the same conditions.

Combining bamboo’s potential displacement factor with bamboo’s carbon storage rate, bamboo can sequester enormous sums of CO2 – from 200 to almost 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare. In China alone, the plant is projected to store more than one million tons of carbon by 2050.

Bamboo can also be used in durable products, including furniture, flooring, housing and pipes, replacing emissions-intensive materials including timber, plastics, cement and metals.
It can also be used as a substitute for fossil fuel-based energy sources – research by INBAR has shown that substituting electricity from the Chinese grid with electricity from bamboo gasification would reduce CO2 emissions by almost 7 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Bamboo can also help communities adapt to the effects of climate change, serving as a strong but flexible building material for shelter, as well as helping restore degraded land and combat desertification.

Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said at the conference: “In short, bamboo and rattan represent an important part of reducing net emissions. And this is exactly what the world needs right now.”

Speaking to IPS on the eve of the conference, Dr Friedrich said he hoped that policymakers would realise the potential for bamboo as part of solutions for dealing with climate change.

“Bamboo is not a climate change silver bullet, but we want people to realise that it is a ‘forgotten opportunity’ in helping mitigate the effects of climate change,” he said.

INBAR officials readily admit that it is likely to take time to raise awareness of the potential of bamboo and rattan, but they are encouraged by the fact that more countries are starting to look at it seriously as an industry, including in Africa and South America.

But Dr Friedrich was keen to stress that the conference was just a beginning and that, with international agreements on important projects being signed, he was hopeful of real change in the future use and awareness of the potential of bamboo and rattan.

“I hope this conference is going to be a landmark moment. I want it to be the catalyst and inspiration for real change,” he told IPS.

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