Inter Press Service » Economy & Trade http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 05 Feb 2016 23:42:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Argentina and United Arab Emirates Open New Stage in Bilateral Relationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 23:42:58 +0000 Stephanie Wildes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143816 The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, outside the San Martín Palace in Buenos Aires at the start of their meeting on Friday, Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, outside the San Martín Palace in Buenos Aires at the start of their meeting on Friday, Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

By Stephanie Wildes
Feb 5 2016 (IPS)

With United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s visit to Argentina, the two countries launched a new stage in bilateral relations, kicked off by high-level meetings and a package of accords.

On Friday, Feb. 5 Al Nahyan and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, signed five agreements on taxation, trade and cooperation in the energy industry, after a meeting with other officials, including this country’s finance minister, Alfonso Prat-Gay.

The meeting in the San Martín Palace, the foreign ministry building, addressed “important” aspects of ties with the Gulf nation made up of seven emirates, an Argentine communiqué stated.

Al Nahyan’s visit took the UAE’s contacts to the highest diplomatic level with the new Argentine government of Mauricio Macri, who received the minister Friday in Olivos, his official residence, less than two months after being sworn in as president on Dec. 10.

After the meeting in the foreign ministry, the Emirati minister also met with Argentine Vice President Gabriela Michetti, and visited the Senate.

The day before, Al Nahyan was named guest of honour in Buenos Aires by the city’s mayor, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, with whom he met after the ceremony.

In the meeting between Al Nahyan and Malcorra, a tax information exchange agreement was signed, along with an accord between the Argentine Industrial Union and the UAE Federation of Chambers of Commerce aimed at “establishing a joint business council.”

The foreign ministers of Argentina, Susana Malcorra, and the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, exchange tax agreements signed during their meeting in Buenos Aires on Friday Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The foreign ministers of Argentina, Susana Malcorra, and the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, exchange tax agreements signed during their meeting in Buenos Aires on Friday Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The governor of the southern Argentine province of Neuquén, Omar Gutiérrez, was also present at the meeting, where an agreement was reached to grant a loan to that region to finance the Nahueve hydroelectric project through the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), in the town of Villa del Nahueve.

A four-MW hydroelectric plant will be built in that town of 25,000 people in southern Argentina with an investment of 18 million dollars, through a soft loan, the secretary-general of the Argentine-Arab Chamber of Commerce, Walid al Kaddour, told IPS.

According to the Chamber, trade between the two countries stood at 228 million dollars in 2014, with Argentina exporting nearly 198 million dollars in mainly foodstuffs and steel pipe and tube products.

As Al Kaddour underlined, “there is a great deal of room to grow (in bilateral ties), especially taking into account that the United Arab Emirates is located at a strategic point linking the West with the East.”

He explained that products can be re-exported to all of Asia from the Emirati city of Dubai, because “it is a very important distribution hub.”

The population of the UAE is just barely over nine million, “but it can reach a market of 1.6 billion inhabitants, and it has major logistics infrastructure enabling it to re-export products,” he said.

Al Kaddour said the UAE’s chief interest is importing food, “which is what Argentina mainly produces,” although he said the Gulf nation could also buy raw materials as well as manufactured goods.

The UAE at one point imported up to 1,000 vehicles a year from Argentina, he pointed out.

According to Al Kaddour, another aim of the Emirati minister’s visit was “to meet Argentina’s new administration.”

Macri, of the centre-right “Cambiemos” alliance, succeeded Cristina Fernández of the centre-left Front for Victory, who had strengthened ties with the UAE during an official visit to Abu Dhabi in 2013, where an agreement on cooperation in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes was signed.

“The UAE has pinned strong hopes on the new administration in Argentina,” said Al Kaddour. “The last few years have also been positive in terms of building a friendlier relationship.

“The idea now is to move towards concrete things, such as investment projects in different areas, like renewable energy and agriculture,” he added.

In an article sent to the Argentine daily Clarín, Al Nhayan stressed that “the ties of friendship between Argentina and the United Arab Emirates are strong” and the two countries “are united by shared economic interests.”

He added that “we hope to be able to work with the president, and we believe that together we can bring many benefits to our two countries and our people.”

He also emphasised that his country is seen as “the future gateway for access to Argentine products to the Middle East.”

Emirati sources told IPS that the UAE minister and the Buenos Aires mayor discussed questions such as sustainable urban development and solar energy – an area in which the Gulf nation is interested in cooperating with Argentina.

Although it is a leading oil producer, the UAE is considered a pioneer in the development of unconventional renewable energies, which it is fomenting as the foundation of clean development that will curb climate change.

In Argentina, Al Nahyan kicked off his Latin America tour that will take him to Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica through Feb. 12.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Women of Haitian Descent Bear the Brunt of Dominican Migration Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/women-of-haitian-descent-bear-the-brunt-of-dominican-migration-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-of-haitian-descent-bear-the-brunt-of-dominican-migration-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/women-of-haitian-descent-bear-the-brunt-of-dominican-migration-policy/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 02:49:07 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143793 Two women selling fruit, grains and vegetables in the Little Haiti street market in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. They allowed their picture to be taken but preferred not to talk about their situation. Fear is part of daily life for Haitian immigrants in this country. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

Two women selling fruit, grains and vegetables in the Little Haiti street market in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. They allowed their picture to be taken but preferred not to talk about their situation. Fear is part of daily life for Haitian immigrants in this country. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

By Ivet González
SANTO DOMINGO, Feb 5 2016 (IPS)

A middle-aged woman arranges bouquets of yellow roses in a street market in Little Haiti, a slum neighbourhood in the capital of the Dominican Republic. “I don’t want to talk, don’t take photos,” she tells IPS, standing next to a little girl who appears to be her daughter.

Other vendors at the stalls in the street market, all of them black women, also refuse to talk. “They’re afraid because they think they’ll be deported,” one woman whispers, as she stirs a pot of soup on a wood fire on the sidewalk.

That fear was heightened by the last wave of deportations, which formed part of the complicated migration relations between this country and Haiti – the poorest country in the Americas, with a black population – which share the island of Hispaniola.

According to official figures, the Dominican Republic’s migration authorities deported 15,754 undocumented Haitian immigrants from August 2015 to January 2016, while 113,320, including 23,286 minors, voluntarily returned home.

“This process has a greater impact on women because when a son or a daughter is denied their Dominican identity, the mothers are directly responsible for failing to legalise their status,” said Lilian Dolis, head of the Dominican-Haitian Women’s Movement (MUDHA), a local NGO.

“If the mother is undocumented then the validity of her children’s documents is questioned,” she told IPS.

“And in the case of Haitian immigrant women, it’s not enough to marry a Dominican man even though the constitution grants them their husband’s nationality,” said Dolis, whose movement emerged in 1983. “That right is often violated.”

The latest migration crisis broke out in 2013 when a Constitutional Court ruling set new requirements for acquiring Dominican citizenship.

The aspect that caused an international outcry was the fact that the verdict retroactively denied Dominican nationality to anyone born after 1929 who did not have at least one parent of Dominican blood, even if their births were recorded in the civil registry.

This affected not only the children of immigrants, but their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

Tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent were left in legal limbo or without any nationality, international human rights groups like Human Rights Watch complained.

In response to the international outrage, the Dominican government passed a special law on naturalisation that set a limited period – May 2014 to February 2015 – for people born to undocumented foreign parents between 1929 and 2007 to apply for citizenship.

Antonia Abreu, one of the few street vendors who agreed to talk to IPS about the harsh reality faced by Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic, at her street stall where she sells flowers in the Little Haiti neighbourhood in Santo Domingo. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

Antonia Abreu, one of the few street vendors who agreed to talk to IPS about the harsh reality faced by Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic, at her street stall where she sells flowers in the Little Haiti neighbourhood in Santo Domingo. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

But only 8,755 people managed to register under this law.

At the same time, the authorities implemented a national plan for foreigners to regularise their status, from June 2014 to June 2015.

Under this plan, 288,466 undocumented immigrants, mainly of Haitian descent, applied for residency and work permits. But only about 10,000 met all the requirements, and only a few hundred were granted permits.

Since August, the police have been carrying out continuous raids, and undocumented immigrants are taken to camps along the border, to be deported to Haiti.

“Most Haitian women work outside the home; very few can afford to be homemakers,” said Antonia Abreu, a Haitian-Dominican woman who has sold floral arrangements for parties, gifts and funerals in the Little Haiti market for 40 years.

Abreu, known by her nickname “the Spider”, said “women sell clothes or food, they apply hair extensions, they’re domestic employees and some are sex workers. Many are ‘paleteras’ (street vendors selling candy and cigarettes) who suffer from police abuse – the police take their carts and merchandise when they don’t have documents.”

“Those who work as decent people have integrated in society and contribute to the country,” she told IPS.

Among the unique mix of smells – of spices, open sewers, traditional foods and garbage – many women barely eke out a living in this Haitian neighbourhood market, selling flowers, prepared foods, fruit and vegetables, clothing, household goods and second-hand appliances.

The small neighbourhood, which is close to a busy commercial street and in the middle of the Colonial City, Santo Domingo’s main tourist attraction, has been neglected by the municipal authorities, unlike its thriving neighbours.

No one knows exactly how many people live in Little Haiti, which is a slum but is virtually free of crime, according to both local residents and outsiders.

Most of the people buying at the market stalls in the neighbourhood are Haitian immigrants, who work in what are described by international rights groups as semi-slavery conditions.

The street market is also frequented by non-Haitian Dominicans with low incomes, in this country of 10.6 million people, where 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to World Bank figures from 2014.

A Haitian immigrant in the rural settlement of Mata Mamón in the Dominican Republic, where she works as a ‘bracera’ or migrant worker in agriculture. Haitian women who work on plantations in this country are invisible in the statistics as well as in programmes that provide support to rural migrants, activists complain. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

A Haitian immigrant in the rural settlement of Mata Mamón in the Dominican Republic, where she works as a ‘bracera’ or migrant worker in agriculture. Haitian women who work on plantations in this country are invisible in the statistics as well as in programmes that provide support to rural migrants, activists complain. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

“Undocumented immigrants can’t work, study or have a public life,” Dolis said. “They go directly into domestic service or work in the informal sector. And even if they have documents, Haitian-Dominican women are always excluded from social programmes.”

In this country with a deeply sexist culture, women of Haitian descent are victims of exclusion due to a cocktail of xenophobia, racism and gender discrimination, different experts and studies say.

“They are made invisible,” said Dolis. “We don’t even know how many Haitian-Dominican women there are. The census data is not reliable in terms of the Dominican population of Haitian descent, and the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) survey is out-of-date.”

The activist was referring to the last available population figures gathered by the National Survey on Immigrants carried out in 2012 by the National Statistics Office with UNFPA support.

At the time, the survey estimated the number of immigrants in the Dominican Republic at 560,000, including 458,000 born in Haiti.

The lack of up-to-date statistics hinders the work of Mudha, which defends the rights of Haitian-Dominican women in four provinces and five municipalities, with an emphasis on sexual and reproductive rights.

The movement is led by a group of 19 women and has 62 local organisers carrying out activities in urban and rural communities, which have reached more than 6,000 women.

Mudha says the Dominican authorities have never recognised the rights of women of Haitian descent. “They’ve always talked about immigration of ‘braceros’ (migrant workers), but never ‘braceras’ – that is, the women who come with their husbands, or come as migrant workers themselves,” Dolis said.

Since the mid-19th century Haitians have worked as braceros in the sugarcane industry, the main engine of the Dominican economy for centuries. But today, they are also employed in large numbers in the construction industry, commerce, manufacturing and hotels.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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“A Fair Day’s Wage for a Fair Day’s Work?”http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/a-fair-days-wage-for-a-fair-days-work/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-fair-days-wage-for-a-fair-days-work http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/a-fair-days-wage-for-a-fair-days-work/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 14:45:42 +0000 Francesco Farne http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143790 According to the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy estimates, three out of four Bangladeshi workers in Italy work in the tertiary sector. 23,3% of them are employed in the hotel, restaurant and catering sector.  Credit: Simba Shani Kamaria Russeau/IPS

According to the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy estimates, three out of four Bangladeshi workers in Italy work in the tertiary sector. 23,3% of them are employed in the hotel, restaurant and catering sector. Credit: Simba Shani Kamaria Russeau/IPS

By Francesco Farnè
Rome, Feb 4 2016 (IPS)

“During the first months in Italy, I always prayed for rain. I spent hours checking the weather forecast” said Roni, a 26 year old graduate from a middle-income family in Bangladesh. His father, a public servant and his mother a home maker, Roni had to sell umbrellas on the streets of Rome for more than a year before finding a summer job by the sea at a coffee shop, popularly known as a ‘bar’ in Italy.

In a recent interview with IPS, Roni explained that in 2012, he left his country, like many other Bangladeshis, in search of better opportunities in Europe. “I decided to leave for economic reasons; it was impossible to get a job in Bangladesh, even though I am a University graduate. I had heard that many friends and relatives made a fortune in Italy and wanted to be like them”, said Roni.

According to ISTAT 2015 (Italian National Institute of Statistics) estimates, there are more than 138.000 Bangladeshi nationals legally residing in Italy – a 9 % increase compared to 2014. Like Roni, many in the Bangladeshi community play a significant role in the Italian economy as part of the labour force. In particular, 75.6% of Bangladeshi workers in Italy are employed in the service sector.

Additionally, more than 20.000 Bangladeshi entrepreneurs were registered as business owners in 2013, according to the “Annual report on the presence of immigrants – The Bengali Community” issued by the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.

Roni describes the process of getting a visa as very complex. “There are two kinds of visas, one for agricultural workers and one for all the others. The former is quite easy to obtain and costs less, about € 8.000, while for the latter, the one I obtained, a sponsor residing in Italy is required and the cost is over € 12.000.”

“I paid my sponsor directly, and he completed all the required documentation”, he continued, “and once he obtained the nullaosta (clearance), I could apply for my visa at the Embassy of Italy in Bangladesh. I was lucky as it took only three months for the documents to be ready. Many other people have to wait much longer and deal with and pay two or three in between agents to connect them with the sponsor.”

Although it is widely known that the Bangladeshi migrants look out for each other, Roni says that getting support from the established Bangladeshi community has been a challenge. “Since the day I arrived, I sensed a lack of solidarity, fraternity and belonging within my national community. [Those] now in a position to help others seem to forget that once they were the ones in need. It looks like they forget their immediate past and think they are not like this anymore and therefore don’t want to do anything with them”, said Roni.

“No one helped me with my job search nor gave me any indication on where to buy umbrellas to sell, nor helped me with the language, as I did not speak Italian. My sponsor just helped me find a place to sleep – a room shared with nine other strangers I had to pay for myself – and that’s it”, he continued.

After 18 months of search, Roni has now found a job in a restaurant and is much happier. In addition, he has a contract which will enable him to renew his residency permit.

He earns more than €1000 per month, enough to send some money home. Roni explained that remittances are an integral part of his “mission” here in order to help his family back home, since his father retired. As he needs over €400 per month for his own survival in Italy, he is able to send home between €400 and €600 per month. His family uses the money for subsistence and for rent.

Indeed, after China, Bangladesh is the second country of destination of remittances from Italy, amounting to €346.1 million in 2013 (7.9% of all remittances), according to the Annual report by the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.

When asked for details of his contract, Roni revealed that even though he is contracted for six hours of work each day, he works for 10 hours or more for the same wage, and, days of leave or sickness do not count as working days.

Roni claims he is paid less than other workers with different nationalities. Although Roni’s terms of employment appeared to be better than those of other migrant workers, it nevertheless disregards many of the employment rights regarding remuneration, sick-leave, and weekly working hours outlined in the many directives set out by the EU Commission.

“This is not only about bad bosses exploiting migrants”, said Roni, “we, as migrant workers have to stand up for our rights and stop accepting these humiliating conditions. As long as there is another migrant willing to accept unfair conditions, my attempts to fight for a better contract and for workers’ rights will be in vain.”

“I think government policies to protect workers are good”, he continued. “It is not a matter of policies, it is how they are implemented to make sure that laws are respected. In fact, after government officials carried out an inspection at my workplace, we were immediately hired, gaining formal access to basic welfare and social protection measures.”

Roni concluded by making an appeal to his own people: “let’s help each other and put our strengths together. Do not forget to help the newcomers, as it will pay off! I myself had helped two Bangladeshi nationals hosting them at my place and paying the rent for them. They will repay me as soon as they get jobs. Solidarity will lead to a win-win situation and it is the only way to improve our condition.”

Roni is just one of the many faces representing the migration crisis Italy is facing today. With the weakest suffering the worst consequences of the crisis, from a policy perspective, there is no doubt that an integrated EU approach will be the only effective way to face the issue. This is especially true when attempting to ensure implementation and enforcement of the social welfare laws, human rights and labour rights laws.

At both the national and local level, Italian institutions, as well as non-governmental organizations, have a key role to play. They must raise awareness and enhance understanding of these issues. Workers must be aware of their “labour and employment rights, social and welfare rights, and where to seek assistance”, as stated by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its publication “Protecting the rights of migrant workers: a shared responsibility”.

All of this can significantly help create long-lasting legislative changes that are needed in the employment sector to ensure that migrants rights are protected. Finally, Italian institutions and civil society organisations should demand stricter controls by the authorities to ensure that existing laws are actually enforced and implemented, as suggested by Roni.

(End)

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Europe is disintegrating while its citizens watch indifferenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/europe-is-disintegrating-while-its-citizens-watch-indifferent/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-is-disintegrating-while-its-citizens-watch-indifferent http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/europe-is-disintegrating-while-its-citizens-watch-indifferent/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 12:53:07 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143786

Roberto Savio, IPS news agency founder and president emeritus and publisher of Other News

By Roberto Savio
Rome, Feb 4 2016 (IPS)

We are witnessing the slow agony of the dream of European integration, disintegrating without a single demonstration occuring anywhere, among its 500 millions of citizens. It is clear that European institutions are in an existential crisis but the debate is only at intergovernmental level.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

This proves clearly that European citizens do not feel close to Brussels. Gone are the 1950s, when young people mobilized in the Youth Federalist Movement, with activists from the Federal Movement led by Altiero Spinelli, and the massive campaign for a Europe that would transcend national boundaries, a rallying theme of the intellectuals of the time.

It has been a crescendo of crisis. First came the North-South divide, with a North that did not want to rescue the South, and made austerity a monolithic taboo, with Germany as its inflexible leader. Greece was the chosen place to clash and win, even if its budget was just 4 percent of the whole European Union. The front for fiscal discipline and austerity easily overran those pleading for development and growth as a priority and it alienated many of citizens caught in the fight.

Then come the East-West divide. It become clear that the countries which were under the Soviet Union, joined the EU purely for economic reasons, and did not identify with the so called European values, the basis for the founding treaties. Solidarity was not only ignored, but actively rejected, first with Greece, and now with the refugees. There are now two countries, first Hungary and now Poland, which explicitly reject the “European model and values”, one to defend an autocratic model of governance, and the other Christian values, ignoring any declarations emanating from Brussels.

At the same time, another ominous development emerged. British Prime Minister David Cameron used threats to get special conditions, or in order to leave the EU altogether. At Davos, he explicitly said that Britain was in the EU for the market, but rejects everything else, and especially any possible further integration. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been sending soothing signs, and all European countries are in the process of trying to recover as much sovereignty as possible. Therefore, whatever Britain may get in the end will serve as a benchmark for everyone else. It is revealing that in Britain, the pro-Europe lobby is run by the financial and economic sector, and there is no citizen’s movement.

All this is happening within a framework of economic stagnation that even unprecedented financial injections from the European Central Bank have not been able to lift.

The list of countries in trouble does not cover only countries from the South. Leaders of fiscal rectitude, like the Netherlands and Finland, are in serious difficulty. The only country which is doing relatively well, Germany, enjoys a positive trade balance with the rest of Europe, has a much lower rate of interest mainly due to its generally better performance; it has been calculated that over half of its positive budget comes from its asymmetric relations with the rest of Europe. Yet, Germany has stubbornly refused to use some of these revenues to create any pact to socialize its assets, like a European Fund to bail out countries, or anything similar. Hardly a shining example of solidarity….as its minister of finance, Wolfgang Schauble, famously said, “we are not going to give the gains that we have sweated for to those who have not worked hard the way we have…”

Finally, the refugee crisis has been the last blow to an institution which was already breathing with great effort. Last year, more than 1,3 million people escaping conflicts in Iraq, Libya and Syria, arrived in Europe. This year, according the High Commissioner for Refugees, at least another million are expected to find their way to Europe.

What has been happening, shows the European reality. The Commission determined that 40.000 people, a mere drop in the ocean, should be relocated from Syria and Ethiopia. This led to a furious process of bargaining, with the Eastern European countries flatly refusing to take part and in spite of threats by the Commission. As of today, the total number of people who have relocated is a mere 201.

Meanwhile Angela Merkel decided to open Germany up to one million refugees, mainly Syrians. But a smart interpretation of the Treaty on Refugees made clear that economic refugees (as well as climate) were excluded, and it was then declared that the Balkans were safe and secure, thereby excluding any Europeans coming to Germany by way of Albania, Kosovo and other countries not yet part of the EU.

It is interesting that, at the same time, Montenegro was invited to join Nato, which, by coincidence also serves to increase the containment of Russia, thanks to a standing army of 3.000. But of course, the flood of people made it difficult to process the paperwork required, and so each country was forced to resort to its own way of doing things, without any relation with Brussels.

Austria declared that it would admit only 37.500 asylum applications.

Denmark, besides creating a campaign to announce to refugees that they were not welcome, passed a law that delays family reunification for three years, and authorises the authorities to seize asylum seekers’ cash and jewels exceeding US$1.400.

Sweden announced that it would give shorter residence permits, and that strict controls will be imposed on trains coming from Denmark.

Finland and Holland have indicated that they will immediately expel all those who do not fit under strict norms as refugees. Great Britain, which was responsible together with the United States for the Iraq invasion (from which ISIS was born) has announced that it will take 27.000 refugees.

There has been a veritable flourishing of wall construction, constructed in Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia and Austria. Meanwhile Europe tried to buy the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with three billion euros, as a way to stop the flow of refugees but it didn’t work. Now Greece is the culprit, because it was not able to adequately process the nearly 800.000 people who transitted the country.

Austria has asked to exclude Greece from the Schengen agreement, and move European borders “further north” . This chapter is now being concluded by the German initiative to introduce, once again national border controls, for a period of two years. Last year, there were 56 million trucks crossing between countries, and every day 1,7 million people crossed between borders.

To eliminate the Schengen agreement for free movement of Europeans, would be a very powerful signal. But more critically are the imminent political changes which see anti-European and xenophobic parties all riding the wave of fear and insecurity crossing Europe.

In Germany, where Angela Merkel is increasingly losing support, the Party for an Alternative, which has been relatively marginal, could achieve representation in at least three provinces. Across Europe, from France to Italy, from Great Britain to the Netherlands, right wing parties are on the rise.

These parties all use some form of left wing rhetoric: Let us renationalize industries and banks, increase social safety nets, fight against neoliberal globalization…

Hungary has heavily taxed foreign banks to get them to leave, and Poland is using similar language. Their target is very simple: the unemployed, the under employed, retirees, all those with precarious livelihoods, those who feel that they have been left out of the political system and dream of a glorious yesterday. If it is working in the United States with the likes of DonaldTrump, it will work here.

Therefore, there is no doubt that at this moment a referendum for Europe would never pass. Citizens do not feel that this is ‘their’ Europe. This is a serious problem for a democratic Europe.

Will the European Union survive? Probably, but it will be more a kind of common market for finance and business rather than a citizen’s project. It will also hasten the reduction of European power in the world, and the loss of European identity, once the most revolutionary project in modern history.

(End)

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Small-scale Fishing Is About Much More than Just Subsistence in Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/small-scale-fishing-is-about-much-more-than-just-subsistence-in-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=small-scale-fishing-is-about-much-more-than-just-subsistence-in-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/small-scale-fishing-is-about-much-more-than-just-subsistence-in-chile/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:31:46 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143772 Pedro Pascual, who has been a fisherman for 50 of his 70 years of life, prepares bait in the installations used by some 70 small-scale fisherpersons in a bay in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, Chile. This son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen is worried because very few young people are fishing today. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Pedro Pascual, who has been a fisherman for 50 of his 70 years of life, prepares bait in the installations used by some 70 small-scale fisherpersons in a bay in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, Chile. This son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen is worried because very few young people are fishing today. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
ALGARROBO, Chile, Feb 3 2016 (IPS)

“Fishing isn’t just for making a living, it’s also enjoyable,” said Pedro Pascual, a 70-year-old fisherman who has been taking his small boat out to sea off Chile’s Pacific coast in the early hours of the morning almost every day for the past 50 years, to support his family.

Impish and ebullient, he told IPS that he doesn’t like to eat much fish anymore, although he is aware of its excellent nutritional properties, which make it a key product in terms of boosting global food security. “The thing is, eating what you fish yourself is kind of boring,” he said.

“Sometimes my wife has to go out and buy fish, because I come home without a single fish – I sell all of them, so I don’t have to eat them,” he confessed, in a mischievous tone.

Pascual was born and raised in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, 100 km west of Santiago.“Artisanal fishers who used to have a quota, a share of extractive fishing activity, were left without rights, and many lost their work.” -- Juan Carlos Quezada

The son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen, he stressed that fishing is everything for him and his family, as he prepared bait on counters built on the beach, which are used by some 70 local fishers.

He and the others will sell their catch in the same place the following day, at market installations built there by the municipal government.

“We used to catch a lot of meagre (Argyrosomus regius) in this area. Now we catch hake (Merluccius) in the winter and in the summer we catch crab and some red cusk-eel (Genypterus chilensis),” he said.

As he prepared the bait, tying fish heads with twine, Pascual explained that he and his fellow fishermen go out in the afternoon, lay their lines, return to land, and head out again at 6:00 AM to pull in the catch.

“I like crabs, because there are different ways to eat them. I love ‘chupe de jaiba’ (crab quiche). You can make it with different ingredients,” he said.

He repeated several times in the conversation with IPS how much he loved his work, and said he was very worried that there are fewer and fewer people working as small-scale fishers.

“At least around here, we’re all old men…young people aren’t interested in fishing anymore,” he said. “They should keep studying, this work is very difficult,” he said, adding that he is lucky if he makes 300 dollars a month.

In response to the question “what will happen when there are no more small-scale fishers?” he said sadly: “people will have to buy from the industrial-scale fisheries.”

This is not a minor question, especially since large-scale fishing has hurt artisanal fisheries in countries along the Pacific coast of South America, which have become leaders in the global seafood industry over the last decade.

Small-scale fisheries account for over 90 percent of the world’s capture fishers and fish workers, around half of whom are women, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean, based in Santiago.

Boats anchored in a small bay in the Chilean town of Algarrobo, waiting for the local fishermen to head out to sea in the evening to put out their lines. They go out the next day at dawn to haul in their catch, in a centuries-old activity that is now threatened by overfishing and laws in favour of industrial-scale fishing.  Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Boats anchored in a small bay in the Chilean town of Algarrobo, waiting for the local fishermen to head out to sea in the evening to put out their lines. They go out the next day at dawn to haul in their catch, in a centuries-old activity that is now threatened by overfishing and laws in favour of industrial-scale fishing. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

In addition, they supply around 50 percent of all global fish catches, and fishing and aquaculture provide a livelihood for between 10 and 12 percent of the world’s population.

“Small-scale fishing makes key contributions to nutrition, food security, sustainable means of subsistence and poverty reduction, especially in developing countries,” FAO stated in response to questions from IPS.

Studies show that fish is highly nutritious, offering high-quality protein and a broad range of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A and D, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium, while saltwater fish have a high content of iodine.

Its protein, like that of meat, is easily digestible and complements protein provided by cereals and legumes that are the foundation of the diet in many countries of the developing South.

Experts say that even in small quantities, fish improves the quality of dietary protein by complementing the essential amino acids that are often present in low quantities in vegetable-based diets.

Moreover, fish oils are the richest source of a kind of fat that is vital to normal brain development in unborn babies and infants.

Chile, a long, narrow country between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes mountains to the east, has 6,435 km of coast line and a broad diversity of marine resources.

Official figures indicate that 92 percent of fishing and fish farming activity involves fish capture, five percent seaweed harvesting, and the rest seafood harvesting.

The three main fish captured in Chile are the Chilean jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi), sardines and the anchoveta, which bring in more than 1.2 billion dollars a year in revenues on average, but are facing an overfishing crisis.

Extractive fishing provides work for more than 150,000 people in this country of 17.6 million and represents 0.4 percent of GDP. Of the industry’s workers, just over 94,000 are small-scale fishers and some 22,700 are women, according to the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service.

About three million tons of fish are caught every year in this South American country. But fish consumption is just 6.9 kilos per person per year – less than eight percent of the 84.7 kilos of meat consumed annually per capita.

The low level of fish consumption in Chile is attributed to two main reasons: availability and prices.

With regard to the former, a large proportion of the industrial-scale fish catch is exported.

A controversial law on fisheries and aquaculture in effect since 2013, promoted by the right-wing government of former president Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014), has played a major role in this scenario.

The law grants fishing concessions for 20 years, renewable for another 20, and establishes that large companies can receive fishing rights in perpetuity, which can be passed from one generation to the next.

“Artisanal fishers who used to have a quota, a share of extractive fishing activity, were left without rights, and many lost their work,” Juan Carlos Quezada, spokesman for the National Council for the Defence of Artisanal Fishing (CONDEPP), told IPS.

The representative of the union of small farmers added that “ninety percent of artisanal fishers have been left without fish catch quotas, because concessions and quotas were only assigned to industrial fisheries and shipowners.”

While small-scale fishers are fighting for the law to be repealed, the government continues to support the Development Fund for Artisanal Fishing which, contradictorily, is aimed at the sustainable development of Chile’s small-scale fishing industry, and backs the efforts of organisations of small fishers.

Pascual sees things clearly: “Fishing is my life and it will always be. The sea will always give us something, even if it offers us less and less.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Women’s Empowerment Will Accelerate Kenya’s Economic Prosperityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/womens-empowerment-will-accelerate-kenyas-economic-prosperity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-empowerment-will-accelerate-kenyas-economic-prosperity http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/womens-empowerment-will-accelerate-kenyas-economic-prosperity/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:09:58 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143770 Ambassador Amina Mohamed, CBS, EAV, EHG is the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative to Kenya.]]> Amb Amina Mohamed, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade flanked by Siddharth Chatterjee, the UNFPA Representative to Kenya and Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas, the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya in Moyale, Northern Kenya on 07 December 2015. Credit: @UNFPAKen

Amb Amina Mohamed, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade flanked by Siddharth Chatterjee, the UNFPA Representative to Kenya and Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas, the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya in Moyale, Northern Kenya on 07 December 2015. Credit: @UNFPAKen

By Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee
Nairobi, Kenya, Feb 3 2016 (IPS)

When President Barack Obama made his first visit to Kenya as US President in July 2015, one of the poignant messages he left was an exhortation for communities to shun cultures that degrade women and girls.

“Imagine if you have a team and don’t let half of the team play. That makes no sense,” he said, referring to the denial of opportunities for women to fully participate in development.

The president’s message could not have been more pertinent, coming as it did when the country, like most of Africa, is thinking how to reap a ‘demographic dividend’ – or boost in economic productivity – from its declining fertility rate and growing youthful population.

This occurs if the number of people in the workforce increases relative to the number of dependents.

Countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong also called the “Asian Tigers” lifted millions out of poverty by lowering the dependency ratio. Individuals and families were able to make savings which translated into investment and boosted economic growth. Combined with robust policies in education, health, employment and empowerment of women, they were able to capitalize on their demographic window during the period 1965 and 1990.

With over 70 percent of Kenyans aged below 30, we are at the cusp of a demographic dividend. For this dividend to become a reality, Kenya will have to surmount some formidable challenges, none more exigent than the empowerment of its women.

This youth bulge is “a window of opportunity”, which shuts in an average period of 29 years. We have to take advantage of it and understand that there’s nothing pre-ordained about a youth bulge producing a growth dividend.

The magnitude of the challenges Kenya faces was brought home through some sombre statistics in the just-released 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS). One emerging trend is the increasing role of women as stewards in Kenyan families, with one out of every three households in Kenya being headed by a woman.

This might not be of much concern were it not for another statistic from the KDHS: half of Kenyan women only have primary school education, meaning that their potential for participating in socio-economic processes is hampered, and their families are on the whole fated to the lower rungs of demographics.

In a new drive to change this narrative around the world, the UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon has established the first high-level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, which will take the lead in developing strategies and plans for closing economic gender gaps around the world.

Any strategies for enjoying the demographic dividend that do not prioritise the education and health of women will be futile. In Kenya, the train may not even leave the station if half the country’s women have only a rudimentary education and many do not have access to sexual and reproductive health services nor are empowered by understanding fully how family planning works.

The KDHS also confirmed that awareness of birth spacing and family planning rises with levels of education: fertility rates decrease from 6.5 among women with no education to 4.8 among women with some education and further to 3.0 among women with a secondary or higher education.

The survey showed that some counties in Kenya that had the lowest proportion of literate women also had the highest fertility rates, some as much as double the national rate which of 3.9.The pay-off from smaller families is in the all-round physical and cognitive development of children and, by extension, the workforce. In Kenya, this is a workforce that is mainly agrarian, and about 60 percent female.

Globally, it is estimated that if women in every country were to play an identical role to men in markets, as much as US$28 trillion (equal to 26 percent) would be added to the global economy by 2025.

Where women are healthy and educated, not only their families, but entire nations flourish as we have seen with the “Asian Tigers”. Conversely, where women are not empowered the demographic dividend will not be realised.

Kenya must focus on eliminating gender inequalities, not only in the health sector, but in traditional social norms and attitudes that effectively under value women’s roles.

These are norms that keep girls out of classrooms and women away from the workplace, and are often expressed through violence. The 2014 survey indicated the extent of violence with about four in ten women aged between 15 and 49 stating that their husband or partner had been physically violent towards them.

We all need to listen to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s message at last September’s global meeting on gender equality in New York, where he stressed that “development cannot be rapid and resilient, unless it is also inclusive and equitable…given that half of humanity are women, their empowerment is a must, not an option”.

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TPP: Lessons from New Zealandhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/tpp-lessons-from-new-zealand/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tpp-lessons-from-new-zealand http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/tpp-lessons-from-new-zealand/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 12:42:44 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143753

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was an Assistant Secretary-General responsible for analysis of economic development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Feb 2 2016 (IPS)

A new paper* on the implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement for New Zealand examines key economic issues likely to be impacted by this trade agreement. It is remarkable how little TPP brings to the table. NZ’s gross domestic product will grow by 47 per cent by 2030 without the TPP, or by 47.9 per cent with the TPP. Even that small benefit is an exaggeration, as the modelling makes dubious assumptions, and the real benefits will be even smaller. If the full costs are included, net economic benefits to the NZ economy are doubtful. The gains from tariff reductions are less than a quarter of the projected benefits according to official NZ government modelling. Although most of the projected benefits result from reducing non-tariff barriers (NTBs), the projections rely on inadequate and dubious information that does not even identify the NTBs that would be reduced by the TPP!

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Agriculture
The main beneficiaries in NZ will be agricultural exporters, but modest tariff reductions of 1.3 per cent on average by 2030 are small compared to ongoing commodity price and exchange rate volatility. Extensive trade barriers to agricultural exports in the Japanese, Canadian and US food markets remain, and will be locked in under TPP. TPP has also failed to tackle agricultural subsidies that are a major trade distortion. Significant tariff barriers remain in some sectors in Japan, Canada and the US likely to be ‘locked in’ under the TPP that are almost impossible to remove in the future. TPP’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures limits on labelling may also restrict opportunities for food exporters to build high quality, differentiated niche market positions.TPP has also been used to undermine negotiations in the World Trade Organization, the only forum for removing such trade distorting subsidies.

ISDS
TPP’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions and restrictions on state-owned enterprises will deter future NZ governments from regulations and policies in the public interest, for fear of litigation by corporate interests. The threat, if not actual repercussions, are good enough to ‘discipline’ governments by causing ‘regulatory chill’. TPP is very much a charter for incumbent businesses, especially US transnational corporations. Thus, it inadvertently holds back the economic transformation the world needs. The agreement’s TPP’s benefits are likely to be asymmetric as it is more favourable to big US business practices and will deepen the disadvantages of small size and remoteness. Potential ISDS compensation payments or settlements could far outweigh the limited economic benefits of TPP. Even when cases are successfully defended, the legal costs will be very high.

Value-addition
TPP can both help and hinder ambitions to add value to raw materials and commodities, and to progress up value chains. However, it is likely to reinforce NZ’s position as a commodity producer and thus hinder progress up the value chain where greater economic prosperity lies. More analysis based on the actual agreement is required to ascertain the conditions for and likelihood of such progress. TPP will limit government’s ability to innovate and address national challenges and is likely to worsen rapidly escalating problems such as environmental degradation and climate change.

Furthermore, TPP is projected to reduce employment and increase income inequality in NZ. In its analysis, the government has not considered the likely costs, which are probably going to be very significant, and may well outweigh economic benefits.

TPP thus falls well short of being “a trade agreement for the 21st century”, as its cheerleaders claim. A more comprehensive, balanced and objective cost-benefit analysis on the basis of the October 2015 deal should be completed before ratifying the TPP.

*The report is available at: https://tpplegal.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/ep5-economics.pdf

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United Arab Emirates Strengthens Ties with Argentina’s New Governmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/united-arab-emirates-strengthens-ties-with-argentinas-new-government/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-arab-emirates-strengthens-ties-with-argentinas-new-government http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/united-arab-emirates-strengthens-ties-with-argentinas-new-government/#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2016 17:20:02 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143740 The Four Seasons hotel in the upscale Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Recoleta was remodeled this decade with a multi-million dollar investment by the Dubai-based Albwardy Investment Group. This is just one example of investment in Argentina by the United Arab Emirates, which is expected to increase in different sectors as a result of the visit here by the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

The Four Seasons hotel in the upscale Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Recoleta was remodeled this decade with a multi-million dollar investment by the Dubai-based Albwardy Investment Group. This is just one example of investment in Argentina by the United Arab Emirates, which is expected to increase in different sectors as a result of the visit here by the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES , Feb 1 2016 (IPS)

The new government of Argentina and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are strengthening the relationship established by the previous administration, at a time when this South American country is seeking to bring in foreign exchange, build up its international reserves and draw investment, in what the authorities describe as a new era of openness to the world.

Bilateral ties will be boosted during a visit to the Argentine capital by the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on Feb. 4, the start of his Latin America tour which will also take him to Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica before he flies out of the region on Feb. 12.

After several high-level meetings on Feb. 5, the minister’s visit will end with the signing of five agreements on taxation, sports, cooperation between the state news agencies Telam (Argentina) and WAM (UAE), and an Emirati loan to the southern province of Neuquén.

Mauricio Macri, who was sworn in as president of Argentina on Dec. 10, already indicated his interest in stronger ties when he met on Jan. 20, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, withHamad Shahwan al Dhaheri, executive director of the private equities department of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA).

ADIA, considered the second-largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, manages the excess oil revenues of the UAE, a federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain.

The centre-right Macri, of the Cambiemos coalition, and Al Dhaheri“discussed the prospects opening up for Argentina and were enthusiastic about this new era for the country,” Telam reported from Davos.

The news agency was referring to the end of 12 years of government by the late Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and his widow and successor, Cristina Fernández (2007-2015), of the Front for Victory, the Justicialista (Peronist) Party’s centre-left faction, which defines itself as anti-neoliberal.

“Argentina has to position itself as a serious, predictable interlocutor,” this country’s foreign minister, Susana Malcorra, said in Davos.

“The question of economic opening, the search for investment and business opportunities is essential in our agenda,” she stressed.

According to a report from its embassy in Buenos Aires, the UAE has a significant presence in international capital markets through different investment institutions, such as ADIA, Dubai Ports World, Dubai Holding and Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Co.

The then president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández, with her host, United Arab Emirates President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at a January 2013 meeting in Abu Dhabi during her official visit to the Gulf nation when bilateral relations were given a major boost. Credit: Government of Argentina

The then president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández, with her host, United Arab Emirates President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at a January 2013 meeting in Abu Dhabi during her official visit to the Gulf nation when bilateral relations were given a major boost. Credit: Government of Argentina

The UAE is a timely interlocutor for Argentina, Luis Mendiola, an expert on the Middle East, the Arab world and Africa with the Argentine Council for Foreign Relations (CARI), underlined in an interview with IPS.

“Their biggest problem is the extraordinary abundance of capital…the question is where to put it to get the best returns on the extraordinary surplus capital they produced during nearly a decade and a half of high oil prices,” added Mendiola, who served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1996 to 2005.

New opportunities

As part of its strategy of strengthening ties with Latin America, the foreign ministry of the United Arab Emirates held a workshop in Abu Dhabi in December with diplomats from Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama, with the participation of some 70 UAE governmental, semi-governmental and private organisations.

At the workshop, the director of the foreign ministry’s department of economic affairs and international cooperation, Fahad al Tafaq, stressed the UAE’s interest in taking ties with Latin America “to a higher level” in order to serve common interests, WAM, the Emirates news agency, reported from Abu Dhabi.

The participants in the workshop discussed opportunities for investment and strategic alliances in sectors like energy, environment, technology, tourism, agriculture, mining, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, infrastructure and natural resources.

These funds, he said, could go into major infrastructure projects in areas like housing, energy, transport and communications.

In January 2015, the authorities in the southern Argentine province of Neuquén reported that they had secured an 18 million dollar loan from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, to finance the Nahueve Hydroelectric Project for the promotion of irrigation in new productive areas, among other aims.

The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1975 and opened embassies in 2008. But relations moved to a new plane when President Fernández visited Abu Dhabi in January 2013, where she met with UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan.

During that visit, cooperation agreements were signed in the area of food, with the opening of the Emirati market to non-traditional Argentine products, and this country opened its first business office in the UAE.

In 2014, as the Argentine-Arab Chamber of Commerce informed IPS, trade between Argentina and the UAE amounted to 228 million dollars, with this South American country enjoying a surplus, exporting 198.9 million dollars in mainly foodstuffs and steel pipe and tube products.

But Mendiola believes there is greater potential to tap because besides boasting one of the highest per capita incomes in the Gulf, the UAE is a business hub which re-exports products to third countries and large markets, such as Saudi Arabia, India, Iran and Pakistan.

Bilateral ties were reinforced in April 2014, with a visit to Argentina by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and emir of Dubai.

A memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy was signed during that visit.

On that occasion, Fernández emphasised the Argentina forms part of the “exclusive club” of nations “that can produce nuclear energy, but that do so on a non-proliferation basis.”

The then president also referred to the UAE’s “enormous interest” in investing in Argentina and financing projects aimed at bolstering food security.

In November 2015, with support from the local government, five family farming cooperatives from Argentina took part in an international specialty food festival in Dubai.

During the meeting in Buenos Aires, agreements were also reached to promote tourism initiatives and projects in renewable energy – an area in which the UAE, despite its status as one of the world’s largest oil producers, is considered a pioneer among the Gulf countries and even at the international level, Mendiola noted.

“The Emiratis are very good at forging ahead and moving into new areas, and in that sense they are a model, at least in the Gulf region,” he added.

During his visit to Argentina, Al Maktoum remarked that his country did not invest “according to preferences or political motives, but based on economic questions.”

For that reason Mendiola said he was not “surprised” by the UAE’s interest in Latin America “because the Gulf countries in general have always had extremely pragmatic foreign policies which are at the same time modest, in terms of maintaining a low profile.”

“I think the difference now is they are taking advantage of the fact that there is a new government in Argentina, which presents itself to the world as very different from the last one, and that is raising a lot of interest because they have an extraordinary level of reserves as well as investment abroad,” he said.

Mendiola pointed out that the UAE did not have a “clear” presence in Latin America until recently, unlike in Africa and Asia.

“Up to now, South America was a caboose for the Gulf countries, from the point of view of their economic interests. And the change in government without a doubt awakened curiosity and interest in seeing how to best take advantage of these opportunities,” he added.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Core Principals of Climate Finance to Realize the Paris Agreementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/core-principals-of-climate-finance-to-realize-the-paris-agreement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=core-principals-of-climate-finance-to-realize-the-paris-agreement http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/core-principals-of-climate-finance-to-realize-the-paris-agreement/#comments Fri, 29 Jan 2016 21:42:36 +0000 Stephen Gold http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143734

Stephen Gold is Global Head - Climate Change, at UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

By Stephen Gold
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 29 2016 (IPS)

The Paris climate change conference brought together 197 countries and over 150 Heads of State – the largest convening of world leaders in history – to agree on measures and work together to limit the global average temperature rise.

While world leaders and the Agreement they adopted recognize climate change as one of the greatest development challenges of this generation and of generations to come, we are now faced with the next, more difficult step: to raise and wisely spend the money that is needed for us to act.

During my discussions with countries in Paris last month, I listened to concerns expressed by dozens of developing country government representatives about the challenges they face in securing the necessary financing. This is a significant challenge; while countries outlined their Paris Agreement climate targets on mitigation and adaptation via the ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” or “INDCs”, turning these targets into actionable plans requires financing.

To help frame this challenge, three key principles for catalyzing and supporting access to climate finance for sustainable development must be considered.

First, climate finance should be equitable. We must ensure that resources are available to all developing countries who need it. Likewise all segments of the populations, women and men, including from indigenous groups within those countries, should be able to participate and benefit.

Second, it should be efficient, in that public finance must be used to maximize its potential and to bring about far larger sums of finance, particularly in private investment. UNDP helps countries to access, combine and sequence environmental finance to deliver benefits that address the Sustainable Development Goals, including poverty reduction, energy access, food and water security, and increased employment opportunities.

This includes support for diversifying livelihoods through agricultural practices that are more resilient to droughts and floods, improving market access for climate resilient products, disseminating weather and climate information through mobile platforms, and improving access to affordable energy efficient and renewable energy sources.

Third, it should be effective by being transformational and strengthening capacities so that climate and development goals can be achieved in an integrated manner. To make a sufficiently profound impact that moves toward a zero carbon economy, countries know they will need to effectively use the limited public climate finance available in a catalytic manner, so as to secure wider-scale finance from capital markets in a meaningful and sustainable manner. This can include taking significant actions to address existing policy barriers and regulatory constraints to investment that will help create investment opportunities.

UNDP has for example, supported such measures in Uruguay and Cambodia, encouraging affordable wind energy and climate-resilient agricultural practices respectively. This is not to say that institutional investors alone will or should provide a magic bullet for climate-friendly investment. However, there may be opportunities for institutional investors to make climate-smart investment a part of their portfolios while meeting government development objectives somewhere in the middle.

Following these three principles are by no means a guarantee of success, however adhering to them will strengthen our efforts substantially. The evolving climate finance landscape provides new opportunities for countries to strengthen their national systems and incentive mechanisms to attract the needed finance at the international, regional, national and sub-national levels.

Through our collective adherence to the key principles of equity, efficiency and effectiveness, more countries will be more likely to access the finance they need to achieve their development goals, including those outlined in the Paris Agreement.

There is no more critical time than now to act. 2016 is a pivotal year that will set the stage for inter-governmental action on climate change in response to the Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals and other global agreements for years to come. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the sustainable development agenda and to support countries with the resources and tools they need to achieve their goals.

These processes can create the right frameworks to unlock and access scaled-up resources. They also provide a unique opportunity to set new goals and objectives for the global development community, incentivizing innovative approaches, helping to foster gender equality and supporting long-term sustainable development.

Let us ensure we have sufficient resources to undertake the actions needed, and let us make sure we use those resources wisely so that we achieve success.

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The UAE’s Journey Towards Clean Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-uaes-journey-towards-clean-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-uaes-journey-towards-clean-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-uaes-journey-towards-clean-energy/#comments Fri, 29 Jan 2016 12:04:44 +0000 Rajeev Batra http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143724 Rajeev Batra is partner and head of risk consulting at KPMG.]]>

Rajeev Batra is partner and head of risk consulting at KPMG.

By Rajeev Batra, Special to Gulf News
ABU DHABI, Jan 29 2016 (IPS)

(WAM) - The discovery of hydrocarbon reserves brought tremendous prosperity for the UAE and made it a central player in the global energy market. With one of the highest gross domestic product per capita levels in the world, the UAE has generally used its wealth wisely to stimulate sustainable economic growth. However, volatility in oil markets, growing unrest across the region and the growing threat of climate change has concentrated minds on the need for immediate and decisive action.

Credit: Gulf News archive

Credit: Gulf News archive

The UAE has long recognised that environmental responsibility and economic diversification are essential for a better, more sustainable future. As the first country in the region to set renewable energy targets and as home to the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), Masdar City and the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the shift towards cleaner energy sources and reduced carbon emissions is evident.

Ahead of last month’s COP21 summit in Paris, the UAE government pledged to increase clean energy’s share of the national energy mix to 24 per cent by 2021. This is a pivotal step towards making the UAE a global centre of renewable energy innovation. With more than 300 days of abundant sunshine every year, increasing solar’s share of the UAE energy mix should be attainable. Hydrocarbons that are not burnt to generate electricity can be used for other, higher value-adding purposes, or sold to increase the gross national income. Clean energy could also reduce the long-term social costs the government will face as adverse environmental and health effects could be minimised — or even eradicated.

The UAE should be proud of its clean energy leadership role. Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy agency Masdar was a key sponsor of Solar Impulse, the flying laboratory full of clean technologies that represents 12 years of research and development. Solar Impulse generated tremendous global excitement when it attempted the first round-the-world solar flight to demonstrate how a pioneering spirit and clean technologies can change the world.

The Zayed Future Energy Prize — which represents the environmental stewardship vision of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan — celebrates impactful, innovative and long-term achievements in renewable energy and sustainability. It reflects the UAE’s commitment to finding solutions that meet the challenges of climate change, energy security and the environment. The 2016 winners were announced on January 19 and ranged from SOS HG Shaikh Secondary School, a school for 300 students three hours from Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, to BYD, the largest rechargeable battery supplier and new energy vehicle manufacturer, based in Shenzhen. A lifetime achievement award to Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland recognised her many achievements and accomplishments, included being a guiding force behind the “Brundtland Report” on sustainability over 25 years ago.

The UAE, like many other developed and developing countries, faces a number of clean energy and carbon emission issues. In a reflection of its growing economy, there is an increasing number of vehicles on our roads, leading to increasing fuel usage and higher carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide levels. Electricity demand from individuals, industries and commercial buildings — which are major consumers of electricity — is high and the UAE has a significant carbon footprint. Competitively priced oil, gas and energy prices, while driving economic growth in some traditional industries, is undermining renewable energy and stifling growth in what could be a key sector of the country’s future economy.

The recent adoption of the Paris agreement was a historic moment. COP21 was an unprecedented international climate deal and presents both risks and opportunities for businesses who have an important role in terms of emissions reductions and investments to help governments achieve the goals.

As countries start reforming their economies based on their COP21 commitments, we should see the global economy evolving to a lower carbon model. Companies will be required to be more open and transparent about the financial, environmental and social risks and opportunities that they face from climate change.

Investment in clean technology should grow dramatically — governments are expected to double their clean-tech research and development budgets and the private sector is likely to increase its involvement and investment. The role of the private sector, in fact, is key to the sustainability agenda — because of its central role in the development of the global economy. The increase in the private sector’s rate of triple bottom-line reporting — which focuses on social and environmental as well as economic costs and benefits — will be a key marker of the likely success, or failure, of the COP21 programme.

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Global Renewable Energy Investments a Win-Win Scenariohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/global-renewable-energy-investments-a-win-win-scenario/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-renewable-energy-investments-a-win-win-scenario http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/global-renewable-energy-investments-a-win-win-scenario/#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2016 06:35:27 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143716 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/global-renewable-energy-investments-a-win-win-scenario/feed/ 0 Energy from All Sources, a Game of Chance in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/energy-from-all-sources-a-game-of-chance-in-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=energy-from-all-sources-a-game-of-chance-in-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/energy-from-all-sources-a-game-of-chance-in-brazil/#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2016 00:33:40 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143718 An industrial sugar and ethanol plant in Sertãozinho, in the southern Brazilian state of São Paulo. The sugar cane industry in Brazil has shrunk under the government of Dilma Rousseff, due to the gasoline subsidy, which dealt a blow to its competitor, ethanol. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

An industrial sugar and ethanol plant in Sertãozinho, in the southern Brazilian state of São Paulo. The sugar cane industry in Brazil has shrunk under the government of Dilma Rousseff, due to the gasoline subsidy, which dealt a blow to its competitor, ethanol. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 28 2016 (IPS)

Brazil, which boasts that it has one of the cleanest energy mixes in the world, is now plagued by corruption, poor market conditions, and bad decisions – a near fatal combination.

Brazil’s energy mix is made up of 42 percent renewable sources, three times the global average.

But the country also hopes to become a major oil exporter, thanks to the 2006 discovery of the “pre-salt” wells – huge reserves of crude under a thick layer of salt far below the surface, 300 km from the coast.

Megaprojects involving the construction of refineries and petrochemical plants, dozens of shipyards that mushroomed up and down the coast, and the dream of turning the new oil wealth into a better future lost their charm in the face of the corruption scandal that broke out in 2014, revealing the embezzlement of billions of dollars from the state oil giant Petrobras.

Nearly 200 people are facing charges in the scandal for paying or receiving kickbacks for inflated contracts. Around 50 of them are politicians, most of them still active members of Congress.

The heads of the country’s biggest construction companies were arrested, which dealt a blow to the real estate market and major infrastructure works nationwide.

The investigations took on momentum when over 30 of those facing prosecution struck plea bargain deals, agreeing to cooperate in exchange for shorter sentences.

The scandal is one of the main elements in the economic and political crisis shaking the country, which saw an estimated drop in GDP of more than three percent in 2015, rising inflation, a dangerously high fiscal deficit, a threat of impeachment hanging over President Dilma Rousseff and chaos in parliament.

Besides the corruption scandal, Petrobras has been hit hard by the collapse of oil prices, which has threatened its investment in the pre-salt reserves, and by the losses it accumulated during years of government fuel-price controls.

The government took advantage of Petrobras’ monopoly on refining to curb inflation by means of price controls, mainly for gasoline.

But the oil company scandal, which broke out after the October 2014 elections in which Rousseff was reelected, fuelled the growth of inflation, to over 10 percent today.

With Petrobras in financial crisis and selling off assets to pay down its debt, none of the four planned refineries has been completed according to plan. The only one that was finished is operating at only half of the planned capacity.

Most of the shipyards, which were to supply the oil drilling rigs, offshore platforms and tankers involved in the production of pre-salt oil, have gone under, and the government’s plans to build a strong naval industry have floundered.

The priority put on oil production, to the detriment of the fight against climate change, along with subsidised gasoline prices dealt a major blow to ethanol, which was enjoying a new boom since the emergence in 2003 of the flexible fuel vehicle, specially designed to run on gasoline or ethanol or a blend of the two.

The innovative new technology revived consumer confidence in ethanol, which had been undermined in the previous decade due to supply shortages. With the flex-fuel cars, consumers no longer had to depend on one kind of fuel and could choose whichever was cheaper at any given time.

The use of ethanol, which is consumed in nearly the same quantities as gasoline in Brazil, broke the monopoly of fossil fuels, making a decisive contribution to the rise in the use of renewable energies.

But gasoline price subsidies drove many ethanol plants into bankruptcy and led to the sale of one-third of the sugarcane industry to foreign investors. Many local companies, facing financial disaster, sold their sugar mills and distilleries to transnational corporations like Bunge, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus and Tereos.

Brazil has practically given up on the idea of creating an international market for ethanol, after initially encouraging consumption and production of the biofuel made from sugarcane. Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) was very active in this campaign, unlike his successor Rousseff.

Part of what will be the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant’s turbine room in the northern Brazilian state of Pará – a mega-project which is 80 percent complete and is set to be finished in 2019. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Part of what will be the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant’s turbine room in the northern Brazilian state of Pará – a mega-project which is 80 percent complete and is set to be finished in 2019. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Hydroelectricity

Another decisive factor in achieving a more renewables-heavy energy mix is the predominance of hydroelectricity in the generation of electric power. In recent years, wind power has grown fast, and the use of biomass from sugarcane bagasse has also expanded, although to a lesser extent.

But the construction of giant hydropower dams in the Amazon jungle, such as Belo Monte on the Xingú River, has drawn strong opposition from indigenous communities and environmentalists, which, along with legal action by the public prosecutor’s office, has brought work on Belo Monte to a halt dozens of times.

As a result, work on the dam has been delayed by over a year. One of the latest legal rulings suspended the plant’s operating permit, and could block the filling of the reservoirs, which was to start in March this year.

When the plant comes fully onstream in 2019, Belo Monte will have an installed capacity of 11,233 MW. But during the dry season, when water levels in the river are low, it will generate almost no electric power. The flow of water in the Xingú River varies drastically, and the reservoir will not store up enough water to fuel the turbines during the dry months.

The dam has come under harsh criticism, even from advocates of hydropower, such as physicist José Goldemberg, a world-renowned expert on energy.

The controversy surrounding Belo Monte threatens the government’s plans for the Tapajós River, to the west of the Xingú River – the new hydroelectric frontier in the Amazon. For the last two years, the Rousseff administration has been trying to find investors to build and operate the São Luiz del Tapajós dam, which would generate 8,040 MW of electricity.

The presence of the Munduruku indigenous community along that stretch of the river and in the area of the São Luiz dam has stood in the way of the environmental licensing process.

The diversity of sources in Brazil’s energy mix, lessons learned from earlier negative experiences, and the complexity of the integrated national grid make decisions on energy almost a game of chance in this country.

Hydroelectric dams built in the Amazon rainforest in the 1980s, like Tucuruí and Balbina, caused environmental and social disasters that tarnished the reputation of hydropower. Belo Monte later threw up new hurdles to the development of this source of energy.

Another alternative source, nuclear energy, also brought negative experiences. Completion of the country’s second nuclear plant, still under construction in Angra dos Reis, 170 km from Rio de Janeiro, has long been delayed.

It formed part of a series of eight nuclear power plants that the military decided to build, during the 1964-1985 dictatorship, signing an agreement in 1975 with Germany, which was to provide technology and equipment.

Economic crisis brought the programme to a halt in the 1980s. One of the plants was completed in 2000 and the other is still being built, because the equipment had already been imported over 30 years ago. The final cost overruns will be enormous.

For the government and the different sectors involved in policy-making in the energy industry, giving up hydropower is unthinkable.

But the advances made in wind power, new energy storage technologies, and especially the reduction of costs in the production of solar power increase the risk of making large hydropower dams, which are built to operate for over a hundred years, obsolete.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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The Lesson from Davos: No Connection to Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-lesson-from-davos-no-connection-to-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-lesson-from-davos-no-connection-to-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-lesson-from-davos-no-connection-to-reality/#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 18:04:26 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143712

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jan 27 2016 (IPS)

The rich and the powerful, who meet every year at the World Economic Forum (WEF), were in a gloomy mood this time. Not only because the day they met close to eight trillion dollars has been wiped off global equity markets by a “correction”. But because no leader could be in a buoyant mood.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is losing ground because of the way she handled the refugee crisis. French President Francois Hollande is facing decline in the polls that are favoring Marine Le Pen. Spanish president Mariano Rajoy practically lost the elections. Italian President Matteo Renzi is facing a very serious crisis in the Italian banking system, which could shatter the third economy of Europe. And the leaders from China, Brazil, India, Nigeria and other economies from the emerging countries (as they are called in economic jargon), are all going through a serious economic slowdown, which is affecting also the economies of the North. The absence of the presidents of Brazil and China was a telling sign.

However the last Davos (20-23 January) will remain in the history of the WEF, as the best example of the growing disconnection between the elites and the citizens. The theme of the Forum was “how to master the fourth revolution,” a thesis that Klaus Schwab the founder and CEO of Davos exposed in a book published few weeks before. The theory is that we are now facing a fusion of all technologies, that will completely change the system of production and work.

The First Industrial Revolution was to replace, at beginning of the 19th century, human power with machines. Then at the end of that century came the Second Industrial Revolution, which was to combine science with industry, with a total change of the system of production. Then came the era of computers, at the middle of last century, making the Third Industrial Revolution, the digital one. And now, according Schwab, we are entering the fourth revolution, where workers will be substituted by robots and mechanization.

The Swiss Bank UBS released in the conference a study in which it reports that the Fourth Revolution will “benefit those holding more.” In other words, the rich will become richer…it is important for the uninitiated to know that the money that goes to the superrich, is not printed for them. In other words, it is money that is sucked from the pockets of people.

Davos created two notable reactions: the first came with the creation of the World Social Forum (WSF), in 1991, where 40,000 social activists convened to denounce as illegitimate the gathering of the rich and powerful in Davos. They said it gave the elite a platform for decision making, without anything being mandated by citizens, and directed mainly to interests of the rich.

The WSF declared that “another world is possible,” in opposition to the Washington Consensus, formulated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Treasury of the United States. The consensus declared that since capitalism triumphed over Communism, the path to follow was to dismantle the state as much as possible, privatize, slash social costs which are by definition unproductive, and eliminate any barrier to the free markets. The problem was that, to avoid political contagion, the WSF established rules which reduced the Forums to internal debating and sharing among the participants, without the ability to act on the political institutions. In 2001, Davos did consider Porto Alegre a dangerous alternative; soon it went out of its radar.

At the last Davos, the WSF was not any point of reference. But it was the other actor, the international aid organization Oxfam, which has been presenting at every WEF a report on Global Wealth.

Those reports have been documenting how fast the concentration of wealth at an obscene level is creating a world of inequality not known since the First Industrial Revolution. In 2010, 388 individuals owned the same wealth as 3.6 billion people, half of humankind. In 2014, just 80 people owned as much as 3.8 billion people. And in 2015, the number came down to 62 individuals. And the concentration of wealth is accelerating. In its report of 2015, Oxfam predicted that the wealth of the top 1 per cent would overtake the rest of the population by 2016: in fact, that was reached within ten months. Twenty years ago, the superrich 1 per cent had the equivalent of 62 per cent of the world population.

It would have been logical to expect that those who run the world, looking at the unprecedented phenomena of a fast growing inequality, would have connected Oxfam report with that of UBS, and consider the new and immense challenge that the present economic and political system is facing. Also because the Fourth Revolution foresees the phasing out of workers from whatever function can be taken by machines. According to Schwab, the use of robots in production will go from the present 12 per cent to 55 per cent in 2050. This will cause obviously a dramatic unemployment, in a society where the social safety net is already in a steep decline.

Instead, the WEF largely ignored the issue of inequality, echoing the present level of lack of interest in the political institutions. We are well ahead in the American presidential campaign, and if it were not for one candidate, Bernie Sanders, the issue would have been ignored or sidestepped by the other 14 candidates. There is no reference to inequality in the European political debate either, apart from ritual declarations: refugees are now a much more pressing issue. It is a sign of the times that the financial institutions, like IMF and the World Bank, are way ahead of political institutions, releasing a number of studies on how inequality is a drag on economic development, and how its social impact has a very negative impact on the central issue of democracy and participation. The United Nations has done of inequality a central issue. Alicia Barcena, the Executive secretary of CEPAL, the Regional Center for Latin America, has also published in time for Davos a very worrying report on the stagnation in which the region is entering, and indicating the issue of inequality as an urgent problem.

But beside inequality, also the very central issue of climate change was largely ignored. All this despite the participants in the Paris Conference on Climate, recognized that the engagements taken by all countries will bring down the temperature of no more than 3.7 degrees, when a safe target would be 1.5 degrees. In spite of this very dangerous failure, the leaders in Paris gave lot of hopeful declarations, stating that the solution will come from the technological development, driven by the markets. It would have been logical to think, that in a large gathering of technological titans, with political leaders, the issue of climate change would have been a clear priority.

So, let us agree on the lesson from Davos. The rich and powerful had all the necessary data for focusing on existential issues for the planet and its inhabitants. Yet they failed to do so. This is a powerful example of the disconnection between the concern of citizens and their elite. The political and financial system is more and more self reverent: but is also fast losing legitimacy in the eyes of many people. Alternative candidates like Donald Trump or Matteo Salvini in Italy, or governments like those of Hungary and Poland, would have never been possible without a massive discontent. What is increasingly at stage is democracy itself? Are we entering in a Weimar stage of the world?

(End)

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Bali holds Family Planning Conference Amidst Many Unmet Needshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/icfp-2016-begins-in-bali-amidst-unmet-needs-of-many/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=icfp-2016-begins-in-bali-amidst-unmet-needs-of-many http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/icfp-2016-begins-in-bali-amidst-unmet-needs-of-many/#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 07:10:53 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143706 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/icfp-2016-begins-in-bali-amidst-unmet-needs-of-many/feed/ 0 Hydropower at Front and Centre of Energy Debate in Chile, Once Againhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/hydropower-at-front-and-centre-of-energy-debate-in-chile-once-again/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hydropower-at-front-and-centre-of-energy-debate-in-chile-once-again http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/hydropower-at-front-and-centre-of-energy-debate-in-chile-once-again/#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 00:09:26 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143702 General Carrera Lake, the second-largest in South America, in the Aysén region in Chile’s southern Patagonia wilderness, a place of abundant water resources.  Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

General Carrera Lake, the second-largest in South America, in the Aysén region in Chile’s southern Patagonia wilderness, a place of abundant water resources. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Jan 27 2016 (IPS)

The Chilean government’s approval of a hydroelectric dam in the Patagonia wilderness has rekindled the debate on the sustainability and efficiency of large-scale hydropower plants and whether they contribute to building a cleaner energy mix.

“Hydroelectricity can be clean and viable, but we believe every kind of energy should be developed on a human scale, and must be in accordance with the size and potential of local communities,” Claudia Torres, spokeswoman for the Patagonia Without Dams movement, told IPS.

She added that “there are different reasons that socioenvironmental movements like ours are opposed to mega-dams: because of the mega-impacts, and because of the way this energy is used – to meet the needs of the big mining corporations that are causing an environmental catastrophe in the north of the country.”

The movements fighting the construction of large dams in the southern Patagonian region of Aysén suffered a major defeat on Jan. 18, when the plan for the 640 MW Cuervo dam was approved.

This South American nation of 17.6 million people has a total installed capacity of 20,203 MW of electricity. The interconnected Central and Norte Grande power grids account for 78.38 percent and 20.98 percent of the country’s electric power, respectively.

Of Chile’s total energy supply, 58.4 percent is generated by diesel fuel, coal and natural gas. The country is seeking to drastically reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels, to cut costs and to meet its climate change commitments.

Large-scale hydropower provides 20 percent of the country’s electricity, while 13.5 percent comes from unconventional renewable sources like wind and solar power, mini-dams and biomass.

Chile has enormous potential in unconventional renewable sources. In 2014, the government of Michelle Bachelet adopted a new energy agenda that set a target for 70 percent of Chile’s electric power to come from renewables by 2050.

In terms of water resources, Chile has 6,500 km of coastline, 11,452 square km of lakes, and innumerable rivers.

Aysén, in the extreme south of the country, has abundant water resources – fast-flowing rivers, numerous lakes, and distinctive lagoons. General Carrera Lake, the second-largest in South America after Bolivia’s Titicaca, is found in that region.

To generate hydroelectricity, the authorities and investors have their eyes on the wild rivers of Patagonia, a remote, untamed, unspoiled and sparsely populated wilderness area at the far southern tip of Chile.

But vast segments of civil society reject large hydropower dams, which they consider obsolete and a threat to the environment and to local communities.

However, Professor Matías Peredo, an expert on hydropower at the University of Santiago de Chile, says that thanks to the country’s abundant water resources, hydroelectricity is “one of the energy sources with the greatest potential for development.”

“It’s always good to diversify the energy mix, and well-managed hydroelectricity is quite sustainable,” he told IPS.

The expert argued that a properly managed hydropower dam “is better from an environmental and social point of view than a string of small dams that together provide the same number of MW of electric power.”

Ensuring that a hydroelectricity plant is well-managed means avoiding major fluctuations, Peredo said.

“Hydropower generation in Chile depends on demand and the plant’s load capacity….In other words, the plant can only operate with prior authorisation from the Superintendencia de Electricidad y Combustibles (the country’s power regulator), and depending on the availability of water,” he said.

“This combination means the hydroelectric plant operates on and off, thus generating large fluctuations in flow, which is a major stress for the ecosystem,” he said.

The law to reform the energy industry and foment unconventional renewable sources includes in this category hydropower dams of up to 20 MW – in other words, mini-dams.

Environmental organisations like Ecosistemas maintain that large hydroelectric dams have extremely negative social and environmental impacts.

These include the flooding of large areas of land, which destroys flora and fauna, and the modification of rivers, which causes bioecological damage.

And the negative social impacts of large dams are proportional to the multiple environmental impacts, displacing millions of people: between 40 and 80 million people were forcibly evicted for the construction of large dams worldwide between 1945 and 2000, according to the World Commission on Dams (WCD).

“It is important to diversify the energy mix, for local use, with good support, clean energy sources, and considerably fewer impacts, while strengthening consumption and development in the territories,” said Torres, the Patagonia Without Dams activist, from Coyhaique, the capital of the Aysén region.

“Decentralised power generation is key” to moving forward in terms of clean, sustainable energy, she said, adding that the people of Aysén are seeking to expand the use if wind, solar and tidal power in the region.

Peredo agreed that the decentralisation of power generation is of strategic importance.

“Distributed generation (power generation at the point of consumption) must without a doubt be discussed in this country. It makes a lot of sense for electricity to be produced locally,” he said.

In 2014 the Patagonia Without Dams movement won a major victory when the government cancelled the HidroAysén project, which would have built five large hydropower dams on wilderness rivers in Aysén to generate a combined total of 2,700 MW of energy.

But now the movement was dealt a blow, with the approval by a special Committee of Ministers of the construction of the Cuervo dam – a decision that can only be blocked by a court decision.

The project, developed by Energía Austral, a joint venture between the Swiss firm Glencore and Australia’s Origin Energy, would be built at the headwaters of the Cuervo River, some 45 km from the city of Puerto Aysén, the second-largest city in the region after Coyhaique, for a total investment of 733 million dollars.

Energía Austral is studying the possibility of a submarine power cable and an aerial submarine power line, to connect to the central grids.

The controversy over the plant has heated up because it would be built in the Liquiñe-Ofqui geological fault zone, an area of active volcanoes.

“It poses an imminent risk to the local population,” Torres warned.

Peredo said “the project was poorly designed from the start, and will not be managed well.”

“They failed to take into consideration important aspects, such as the connection of the Yulton and Meullín rivers at some point, which could have disastrous consequences for the ecosystem,” he said.

Opponents of the dam say they will go to the courts and apply social and political pressure, in a year of municipal elections.

“We have one single aim: to keep any dams from being built in Patagonia, and that’s what’s going to happen,” Torres said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership Fraudhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-trans-pacific-partnership-fraud/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-trans-pacific-partnership-fraud http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-trans-pacific-partnership-fraud/#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2016 14:51:53 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143700 Jomo Sundaram was an Assistant Secretary-General responsible for analysis of economic development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.]]>

Jomo Sundaram was an Assistant Secretary-General responsible for analysis of economic development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jan 26 2016 (IPS)

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), negotiated in Atlanta in October 2015 and to be signed in Auckland in February 2016, privileges foreign investors while imposing substantial costs on partner countries. Touted as a ‘gold standard’ 21st century trade deal, it is critical to ascertain what gains can really be expected and whether these exceed costs.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Modest trade gains
Mainly using methodologically-moot computable general equilibrium (CGE) models, all studies so far project modest direct economic growth gains from TPP trade liberalization. Actual net gains may be even more modest, if not negative, as many assumptions in projection exercises are not in the final trade deal.

To make the case for the TPP, some studies looked for benefits elsewhere, mainly from supposedly projected investment boosts, while ignoring costs or presenting them as benefits. The most widely cited study was issued in 2014 by the well known US globalization cheerleader, the Peterson Institute of International Economics.

Wide-ranging expected TPP provisions were fed into the economic models as simple cost reductions, with no consideration given to downside risks and costs, e.g. due to reductions in national regulatory autonomy resulting from the TPP. As such, costs are not included, they do not provide a real cost-benefit assessment.

By excluding crucial costs, TPP advocates exaggerate projected trade benefits by claiming dubious gains. For example, they view provisions to extend intellectual property rights (IPRs) as cost reductions that will increase the trade in services.

Provisions allowing foreign investors to sue governments in private tribunals or undermining national bank regulation, are seen as trade-promoting cost reductions, ignoring the costs and risks of side-lining national regulation.

The study claimed huge benefits by assuming that the TPP will catalyse large exports by lowering the fixed costs of entering foreign markets. Although the huge gains claimed have no analytical bases, it assumed that half the impact of the TPP would be from cutting fixed trading costs.

If the modelling used conventional methods for estimating gains from trade, the results would have been much more modest, as per the only US government study of TPP impacts.

Fantastic foreign investment effects
The remaining benefits projected by the Peterson Institute study are mainly from a foreign direct investment (FDI) boom. It arbitrarily assumed that every dollar of FDI within the TPP bloc would generate additional annual income of 33 cents, divided equally between source and host countries without any economic theory, modelling procedure or empirical evidence for this supposition.

Paltry gains
Thus, the study greatly overstates the benefits to be derived from the TPP. While most of its claims lack justification, the only quantified benefits consistent with mainstream economic theory and evidence, are tariff-related benefits that make up an unknown but very small share of the projected gains.

The gains are much smaller than claimed by the TTP governments citing them. Less than a quarter of overall gains claimed can be considered seriously. Even these need to be compared against costs conveniently ignored by the study as well as actual details of the final deal. Needless to say, ostensible country gains calculated similarly need to be discounted for the same reason.

Even unadjusted, the gains are small relative to the GDPs of TPP partner economies. Also, while projected trade benefits will take a decade to realize, the major risks and costs will be more immediate. They represent one-time gains, and have no recurring annual benefit, i.e. they do not raise the economies’ growth rates.

The distribution of benefits has not been sufficiently analysed in these exercises; if they mainly go to a few big businesses, with losses borne by others, the TPP would exacerbate inequality.

Net gain or loss?
The TPP goes much further into how governments operate than needed to facilitate trade. Such ‘disciplines’ significantly constrain the policy space needed for countries to accelerate economic development and to protect the public interest.

The modest benefits projected make it crucial to consider the nature and scale of costs currently ignored by all available modelling exercises. The TPP will impose direct costs, e.g. by extending IPRs and by blocking or delaying generic production and imports.

The TPPA’s investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions will enable foreign investors to sue a government in an offshore tribunal if they claim that new regulations reduce their expected future profits, even when such regulations are in the public interest. As private insurance is already available for this purpose, ISDS provisions are completely unnecessary.

Jagdish Bhagwati, a leading advocate of free trade and trade liberalization, along with others, have sharply criticized the inclusion of such non-trade provisions in ostensible free trade agreements. Instead of being the regional free trade agreement it is often portrayed as, the TPP seems to be “a managed trade regime that puts corporate interests first”.

The TPP, offering modest quantifiable benefits from trade liberalization, is really the thin edge of a wedge package which will fundamentally undermine the public interest. Net gains for TPP partners seem doubtful at this stage.

Only a complete and proper accounting based on the full text can settle this key question. The TPP has, in fact already been used to try to kill the Doha ‘Development’ Round of multilateral trade talks, but may well also undermine multilateralism more broadly in the near future.

– The Peterson Institute report is available at http://www.sustainabilitynz.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/EconomicGainsandCostsfromtheTPP_2014.pdf

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Zero Hunger? UN Leads With Landfill Salad and Recycled Foodhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/zero-hunger-un-leads-with-landfill-salad-and-recycled-food/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zero-hunger-un-leads-with-landfill-salad-and-recycled-food http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/zero-hunger-un-leads-with-landfill-salad-and-recycled-food/#comments Mon, 25 Jan 2016 23:58:24 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143695 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 25 2016 (IPS)

When the United Nations hosted a high-level lunch for visiting world leaders at the UN dining room during the General Assembly sessions last September, they were in for an unexpected surprise.

The lunch, hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a strong advocate of “zero hunger”, consisted largely of recycled food salvaged from the kitchen before it was dumped into garbage bins.

“Every dish was made from scraps that would normally be wasted,” Ban told another group of world leaders at a dinner on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos last week.

One of the appetizers was called “landfill salad,” he said, singling it out as “a small example of sustainable solution” to eliminating world hunger.

Ban, who will be completing his 10-year tenure at the United Nations end December, is vociferously campaigning for the total eradication of extreme hunger by 2030 under the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders last September.

Ban said more than a third of the world’s food goes to waste. And “eliminating wasted food in homes and in fields is a key element in achieving Zero Hunger.”

”The United Nations,” he declared,” is ready to lead new, large-scale initiatives to end hunger,” and practice in its own backyard – and in its own kitchen– what it is preaching to the rest of the world.

Danielle Nierenberg, President and co-founder of Washington-based Food Tank, told IPS the issue of food waste is very hot right now among foodies and environmentalists alike.

“Unfortunately, food waste continues to be an issue that not enough scientists, researchers, farmers, businesses, policymakers, and funders and investors, as well as eaters like you and me, don’t know or care about enough.”

“And it is part of our job is to help change that by highlighting some of the innovations and solutions that are happening on the ground, in fields, boardrooms, kitchens, grocery stores, restaurants classrooms, and laboratories around the country, as well as town halls and the halls of Congress”, she noted.

Currently up to 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted. That’s enough food to fill a 90,000-person stadium every day. And globally, roughly 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted per year.

At the same time, said Nierenberg, at least 1 in 6 Americans are unsure of where the next meal will come from, and more than 800 million people worldwide are hungry.

In the developing world, pests, disease, and a lack of infrastructure to store and transport crops prevent food from reaching markets or the tables of the needy; in the industrialized world, retailers and consumers waste an equal amount by throwing food away.

But food waste isn’t just a moral conundrum. It’s also an environmental problem. Food waste represents about 5 percent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States and 25 percent of all water use, she noted.

Ban told the gathering in Davos: “We recently heard from aid workers who arrived in Madaya in Syria who told us people there are gaunt and fragile from such severe hunger. One family traded their car for three kilos of rice. “

Tragically, he said, this desperation is mirrored in other crises around the world. “We have a responsibility to answer the cries of people’s right to food.”

Nierenberg told IPS the good news is that the solutions for reducing food loss and waste can be surprisingly simple, inexpensive, and business-friendly.

Moreover, they can simultaneously decrease hunger, poverty, and agriculture’s carbon footprint. And youth leadership, creative solutions to food waste, and entrepreneurial development are emerging as effective ways to fight food loss and waste.

“I think some of the most exciting innovations are coming from groups like Feedback, who helped organize the lunch at the United Nations last year, are making sure that policymakers, farmers, eaters, and the funding and donor communities all realize that they have a role to play in preventing food loss and waste”.

And there are so many exciting business opportunities for small scale cooling and storage, redistribution of food that would have otherwise been wasted, and other businesses that can help both farmers and eaters prevent loss and waste.

“I think this is also an issue that will need a lot of North to South and South to North information sharing and is an opportunity for farmers and businesses all over the world to learn from one another,” she added.

Although farmers in the developing world experience different challenges regarding storage and cooling than farmers in the industrialized world, they both have to deal with unrealistic cosmetic standards that often farmers to throw away imperfect looking, but perfectly nutritious and edible produce.

Ugly produce is one of the biggest opportunities for both small and big farmers alike because they can use these ugly vegetable and fruits to make value added products and increase incomes and nutrition, she declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Nevis Has A Date With Geothermal Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/nevis-has-a-date-with-geothermal-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nevis-has-a-date-with-geothermal-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/nevis-has-a-date-with-geothermal-energy/#comments Mon, 25 Jan 2016 12:19:29 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143687 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/nevis-has-a-date-with-geothermal-energy/feed/ 0 Precarious Nature of Public Employment Facilitated Mass Lay-offs in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/precarious-nature-of-public-employment-facilitated-mass-lay-offs-in-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=precarious-nature-of-public-employment-facilitated-mass-lay-offs-in-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/precarious-nature-of-public-employment-facilitated-mass-lay-offs-in-argentina/#comments Sat, 23 Jan 2016 00:34:57 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143678 A group of demonstrators protest in the Argentine city of Rosario against the wave of lay-offs of public employees since President Mauricio Macri took office. Credit: Courtesy of Indymedia.org

A group of demonstrators protest in the Argentine city of Rosario against the wave of lay-offs of public employees since President Mauricio Macri took office. Credit: Courtesy of Indymedia.org

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, Jan 23 2016 (IPS)

Argentina’s new conservative government has already laid off 20,000 public employees since early December. Analysts have described the phenomenon as a “purge” of “militants” who supported the last administration, facilitated by the precarious employment conditions in the public sector, despite the steps taken to provide greater job stability over the last decade.

“What we have encountered is a state at the service of political activism,” said centre-right President Mauricio Macri, who took office on Dec. 10 after eight years of government by centre-left President Cristina Fernández and the four-year administration of her late husband Néstor Kirchner, both of whom belonged to the Front for Victory, now in the opposition.

The new minister of finance, Alfonso Prat Gay, said the state needed to shed some “militant fat” – an allusion to the supposed hiring of “Kirchnerist militants”.

A majority of employees of government ministries, state enterprises, and municipal and provincial administrations whose short-term contracts came up for renewal on Dec. 31 were laid off, according to the Social Law Observatory of the Argentine Workers’ Central Union (CTA).

In many cases, the dismissed workers had been in their positions for five to 10 years, although they worked under temporary contracts.

In La Plata, capital of the eastern province of Buenos Aires, which is now governed by Macri’s Cambiemos coalition, 4,500 public employees were dismissed, and their protests were targeted by a police crackdown.

“The way we found out about the dismissals was traumatic,”one of the laid-off workers, Marcela López, told IPS. She worked for eight years for a municipal programme that helps the homeless, under a contract that was renewed every three months.

“When I got to my workplace one day, I discovered they had taken me off the payroll. They sent us to human resources, who told us we had been fired, although they didn’t say we were laid off – they said our contracts expired,” said López, who supports her family, including a disabled son.

The government argues that the laid-off workers were“ñoquis” – slang for employees who only show up for work on the 29th of every month, the day ñoquis (or gnocchis), classic Italian dumplings, are traditionally eaten in Argentina.

But Lópezand many other laid-off public employees say they can prove that they had good work attendance records.

“I think the ñoquis business is a longstanding phenomenon that has to do with the way politics work here,” she said. “I don’t think that trying to fix this problem is a bad idea. But they can’t just throw everyone into the same category. Especially not those of us who do work, and who turned a (social) programme into a public policy.”

Julio Fuentes, a leader of the ATE public employees union, said that if the government really wanted to root out those who “collect paychecks without working, no one would come out to defend these people.”

“But that would have to be done on the basis of a serious analysis, with the participation of the trade unions and guarantees that arbitrary measures will not be taken,” Fuentes, who is also the president of the Latin American and Caribbean Federation of Public Employees, told IPS.

In different government offices, employees have complained that they have been asked who recommended them for the job, and that they have been questioned about their professional and educational background. Some protested that their social network profiles were searched for signs of political activism.

Despite a 15 percentage point drop over the last decade, 35 percent of the population of Argentina still works in the informal economy, like Daniel Reynoso, who supports his family selling dusters on a busy street in central Buenos Aires. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Despite a 15 percentage point drop over the last decade, 35 percent of the population of Argentina still works in the informal economy, like Daniel Reynoso, who supports his family selling dusters on a busy street in central Buenos Aires. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

“Is the state in a position today to carry out an exhaustive, systematic assessment of the situation of public employees,when official statistics do not even exist, and there is no office dedicated exclusively to the systematic compilation of information?” Gonzalo Diéguez, director of the Centre for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth’s (CIPPEC) public administration programme, remarked to IPS.

According to the ATE, the government’s argument is an excuse to justify indiscriminate dismissals and shrink the state, as part of its adjustment plan.

These arbitrary measures, Fuentes says, were made possible by the precarious nature of public employment, the result of neoliberal labour flexibility measures adopted in Argentina in the 1990s.

“For a long time we have been complaining in Latin America, and in Argentina in particular, about informal employment or so-called ‘junk contracts’, which are basically ways used by governments to get around the constitution, which guarantees job stability for public employees,” he said.

Argentina, Latin America’s third-largest economy, has a total population of 43.4 million, an economically active population of 19 million,and an unemployment rate that according to official figures stood at six percent in the last quarter of 2015 – a figure considered unrealistically low by independent experts.

According to Fuentes, of the 3.9 million state employees, some 600,000 work under different kinds of temporary contracts, and many of these enjoy no social protection whatsoever.

Of these 600,000, 90,000 work in the national administration and 510,000 work for provincial or municipal governments, without counting outsourced services, “another way to get around guarantees for public employees,” he said.

To justify the lay-offs, the government also points to how much the state has grown.

An as-yet unpublished CIPPEC study reports that between 2003 and 2015, the number of public employees rose 55 percent, in the central administration, decentralised state bodies and public enterprises.

In that period, six ministries, 14 decentralised bodies, 10 new state-owned companies and 15 new universities were created.

“Public employment grew because the state also grew, along with its organisational structure. Today the state provides a number of goods and services that it did not previously offer,” Diéguez argued.

Fuentes said that despite this growth, the recovery in the number of public sector jobs was “absolutely insufficient” after the “dismantling” of the state that began with the broad privatisation process launched by former president Carlos Menem (1989-1999).

“The number of public employees is not excessive. There are shortages of public employees, such as nurses, or professionals in all areas,” the trade unionist said.

In his view, the new government thinks there are too many public workers because “it believes in a discourse that no one believes in anymore: that the market is going to regulate economic activities and run a country.”

Fuentes said that what were recovered in the last decade were “good quality jobs with poor quality contracts.”

The problem, he said, is that the public administration has increasingly depended on workers with flexible labour contracts, “who are easily fired, which turns them into political hostages.”

Over the last decade, some six million jobs have been created in Argentina, 19 percent of them in the public sector and the rest in the private sector, where roughly 10,000 people have been laid off as well, according to trade union sources.

Informal employment has also shrunk, from 50 to 35 percent, according to the latest figures. But four million people, especially the young, still work in the informal economy.

“Above and beyond the government’s political decision on whether or not to renew contracts, the underlying issue here is the informal nature of public employment,” said Diéguez.

This, he said, is aggravated by the state’s hiring practices, which are not based on public competitions but on contracts that depend on “changes of political stripe.”

He said the previous administration made strides in formalising public employment.

But the big pending challenge, he argued, is to avoid a repeat of cases such as the mass lay-offs that occur when there is a change in the party in power. And when a new administration takes office in 2019, “there shouldn’t be a review of contracts, or if there is, it shouldn’t look like a witch hunt,” he added.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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After a Historic Success, Urgent Challenges Face the WTOhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/after-a-historic-success-urgent-challenges-face-the-wto/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=after-a-historic-success-urgent-challenges-face-the-wto http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/after-a-historic-success-urgent-challenges-face-the-wto/#comments Fri, 22 Jan 2016 07:05:26 +0000 Roberto Azevedo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143665

Roberto Azevêdo is the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO)

By Roberto Azevêdo
GENEVA, Jan 22 2016 (IPS)

In 2015 the international community took some huge strides forward on a number of vital issues.

There was the agreement on the United Nations new Sustainable Development Goals.

There was the remarkable breakthrough in Paris in the fight against climate change.

Roberto Azevêdo

Roberto Azevêdo

And, late in December, at the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference in Nairobi, members agreed a set of very significant results. In fact, they delivered some of the biggest reforms in global trade policy for 20 years.

We must seek to capitalise on this progress in 2016.

Let me explain in a bit more detail what was delivered in Nairobi.

The Nairobi Package contained a number of important decisions ­ including a decision on export competition. This is truly historic. It is the most important reform in international trade rules on agriculture since the creation of the WTO.

The elimination of agricultural export subsidies is particularly significant in improving the global trading environment.

WTO members ­ especially developing countries ­ have consistently demanded action on this issue due to the enormous trade-distorting potential of these subsidies. In fact, this task has been outstanding since export subsidies were banned for industrial goods more than 50 years ago. So this decision corrected an historic imbalance.

Countries have often resorted to export subsidies during economic crises ­ and recent history shows that once one country did so, others quickly followed suit. Because of the Nairobi Package, no-one will be tempted to resort to such action in the future.

This decision will help to level the playing field in agriculture markets, to the benefit of farmers and exporters in developing and least-developed countries.

This decision will also help to limit similar distorting effects associated with export credits and state trading enterprises.

And it will provide a better framework for international food aid ­ maintaining this essential lifeline, while ensuring that it doesn’t displace domestic producers.

Members also took action on other developing-country issues, committing to find a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes, and to develop a Special Safeguard Mechanism.

And members agreed a package of specific decisions for least developed countries, to support their integration into the global economy. This contained measures to enhance preferential rules of origin for these countries and preferential treatment for their services providers.

And it contained a number of steps on cotton ­ helping low-income cotton producers to access new markets.

Finally, a large group of members agreed on the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement. Again, this was an historic breakthrough. It will eliminate tariffs on 10 per cent of global trade ­ that’s 1.3 trillion dollars worth of trade, making it the WTO’s first major tariff cutting deal since 1996.

Altogether, these decisions will provide a real boost to growth and development around the world.

This success is all the more significant because it comes so soon after our successful conference in Bali that delivered a number of important outcomes, including the Trade Facilitation Agreement. (TFA)

The TFA will bring a higher level of predictability and transparency to customs processes around the world, making it easier for businesses ­ especially smaller enterprises ­ to join global value chains.

It could reduce trade costs by an average of 14.5 per cent – with the greatest savings being felt in developing countries.

The Agreement has the potential to increase global merchandise exports by up to 1 trillion dollars per annum, and to create 20 million jobs around the world.

That’s potentially a bigger impact than the elimination of all remaining tariffs.

So the challenge before us is very significant.

For instance, during or the last two years, we have been trying to reinvigorate the Doha agenda on development, exploring various ways of overcoming the existing difficulties. We tested different alternatives over several months of good engagement, but the conversations revealed significant differences, which are unlikely to be solved in the short term.

But the challenge is not limited only to the question of what happens to the Doha issues, it is about the negotiating function of the WTO. It is about what members want for the future of the WTO as a standard and rule-setting body. And the challenge is urgent.

The world won’t wait for the WTO. Other trade deals will keep advancing.

The wider the gap between regional and multilateral disciplines, the worse the trade environment becomes for everyone, particularly businesses, small countries and all those not involved in major regional negotiations.

But the outlook is not bleak. I said at the outset that 2016 was full of promise. I truly believe that ­ because, while we face real challenges, there are also real opportunities before us.

(End)

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