Inter Press Service » Trade & Investment http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 28 Jul 2016 10:49:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 African Leaders Driving Push for Industrialisation: UN Officialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:48:56 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146270 The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2016 (IPS/G77)

Industrialisation in Africa is being driven by African leaders who realise that industries as diverse as horticulture and leather production can help add value to the primary resources they currently export.

This is an “inside driven” process, Li Yong, Director General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) told IPS in a recent interview. “I’ve heard that message from the African leaders.”

The African Union ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want’ sets out a plan to transform the economy of the 54 countries in Africa based on manufacturing, said Li.

The process received support from the UN General Assembly on Monday with a new resolution titled the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (2016-2025).

The resolution was sponsored by the Group of 77 (G77) developing countries and China in collaboration with the African Union, said Li.

“These steps create a momentum that all “industrialization stakeholders” in Africa must take advantage of,” said Li.

The resolution called on UNIDO to work together with the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the Economic Commission for Africa to work towards sustainable industrialisation in Africa over the next 10 years.

The types of industrialisation African countries are embracing often involves adding value to the primary commodities, from mining or agriculture, that they are already producing.

It includes horticultural industry, notably in Kenya, Ethiopia and Senegal, beneficiation, adding value to minerals mined in Botswana, and shoe and garment manufacturing in Ethiopia, said Li.

However Li noted that in order to attract foreign investment in industrialisation, developing countries need to “do their homework.”

This can include building the necessary business infrastructure required for new industries in industrial parks.
“We have already seen some countries move ahead with attracting investments into industrial parks (including) Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa,” said Li.

Li pointed to recent examples from Ethiopia and Senegal, where the respective governments have invested millions of dollars in building industrial parks to attract foreign investors that create jobs and exports for these two Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Currently, there are 48 LDCs around the world, of which 34 are in Africa.

Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

The decent work and value addition that come with industrialisation are considered a key way that these LDCs can grow, transform and diversify their economies and become middle income countries. Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

LDCs in Africa have had “very low and declining shares of manufacturing value added in GDP since the 1970s”, noted Li.
By investing in industry, these countries can add value to their primary exports, including through agro-industry, as is the case in Ethiopia, whose main exports include coffee, gold, leather products and live animals. “Manufacturing connects agriculture to light industry” noted Li, such as through food processing, garments and textiles, wood and leather processing.

Moreover, industrialisation does not necessarily have to be incompatible with the shift to a low carbon economy, said Li, since use of resource and energy efficient production methods and renewable energy in productive activities such as agro-industry, beneficiation, and in manufacturing, in general, will lead the economy onto a low carbon path.

The world’s least developed countries are following in the footsteps of other countries which have already achieved development, in part due to the industrialisation of their economies.

LDCs are “really eager to learn from those countries (that have) already gone through this process so that is why we have established South-South cooperation,” said Li.

However industrialisation does not only benefit the developing countries which want to attract it.

“Firms in today’s manufacturing powerhouses such as China, India and Brazil that are faced with rising wages at home are searching for locations that offer competitive wages, and appropriate infrastructure,” said Li.

With populations in many countries around the world beginning to age, Africa also has a comparative advantage to offer with growing young populations in many African countries.

“With its young and growing population, some indications show that Africa has the potential to become the next region to benefit from industrialization, particularly in labor-intensive manufacturing sectors,” said Li.

By providing employment and opportunities for these young people at home, industrialisation can also address other issues, including migration, inequalities and climate change, noted Li.

“Industry means creating jobs and incomes and industrial jobs partially reduce the pressure on migration and also resolve the root causes,” he said.

The Role of the G77

Li noted that UNIDO works closely with all developing countries, often through the Group of 77 and China, which represents 134 developing countries at the UN.

“The G77 and China has diverse membership, including Least Developed Countries, Land Locked Developing Countries, Small Islands Developing States, and Middle Income Countries, located in almost all regions of the world and with diverse range of priorities with respect to industrial development,” he said.

“In LDCs, labor-intensive manufacturing is promoted to create jobs.”

“In middle-income countries moving up the technology ladder into higher value added manufacturing is targeted.”
This can include collaborations with “science, technology and research and development institutions, targeted foreign investment promotion, and other relevant services,” said Li.

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Fertilizer Access Grows Farmers, Food and Financehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 11:07:24 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146220 Smallholder farmers prosper if they have access to knowledge and use of inputs such as fertilizers and credit. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Smallholder farmers prosper if they have access to knowledge and use of inputs such as fertilizers and credit. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
LOUIS TRICHARDT, South Africa, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

Brightly coloured cans, bags of fertilizer and packets containing all types of seeds catch the eye upon entering Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop tucked at the corner of a roadside service station.

But her seeds and fertilizers have not exactly been flying off the shelves since Khorommbi opened the fledging shop six years ago. Her customers: smallholder farmers in the laid back town of Sibasa, 72 kilometers northeast of Louis Trichardt in Limpopo, one of South Africa’s provinces hard hit by drought this year. The reason for the slow business is that smallholder farmers cannot access, let alone effectively use plant-nourishing fertilizers to improve their low productivity.

“Some of the farmers who walk into my shop have never heard about fertilizers and those who have, do not know how to use them effectively,” Khorommbi told IPS said on the sidelines of a training workshop organised by the International Fertilizer Association (IFA)-supported African Fertilizer Volunteers Program (AFVP) to teach smallholders farmers and agro dealers like her about fertilizers in Limpopo.

Khorommbi, describing information as power, says fledging agro-dealer businesses are a critical link in the food production chain. Agro-dealers, who work at the village level, better understand and are more accessible to smallholder farmers, who in many cases rely on the often poorly resourced government extension service for information on improving productivity.

“Smallholder farmers can make the change in food security through better production, one of whose key elements is fertilizer,” said Khrorommbi, one of more than 100 agro-dealers in the Vhembe District of Limpopo.

An assistant checks stock in Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop in Vhembe District, Limpopo, South Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

An assistant checks stock in Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop in Vhembe District, Limpopo, South Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Growing knowledge, growing farmers

Noting the knowledge gap on fertilizers, the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), supported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and private sector partners, launched Agribusiness Support to the Limpopo Province (ASLP) in 2015 which has trained over 100 agro-dealers in the Province.

The project promotes the development of the agro dealer hub model, where established commercial agro dealers service smaller agro dealers and agents in the rural areas, who in turn better serve smallholder farmers by putting agricultural inputs within easy reach and at reasonable cost. The AFVP aims to attract the private sector in South Africa – a net fertilizer importer – to developing the SMEs sector in the fertilizer value chain focusing on smallholder farmers and agro dealers.

Smallholder farmers hold the key to feeding Africa, including South Africa, but their productivity is stymied by poor access to inputs and even effective markets for their produce, an issue the FAO believes private and public sector partnerships can solve.

AFAP and a private company, Kynoch Fertilizer, have embarked on an entrepreneurship development program for smallholder farmers and agro dealers in the Limpopo province, one of the country’s bread baskets, in an effort to help close the ‘yield gap’ among smallholder farmers.  Smallholder farmers and agro dealers have been trained on fertilisers, soils, plant nutrients, safe storage of fertilizers, environmental safety and business management skills.

“By using more fertilisers correctly, South Africa’s smallholder farmers can grow more and nutritious food, achieve household food security, create jobs, increase incomes and boost rural development,” AFAP’s Vice-President, Prof. Richard Mkandawire, told IPS. “To grow and support SMEs in Africa is the pathway if we are to reduce hunger and poverty. The future of South Africa is about growing those rural enterprises that will support smallholder farmers and employment creation.’

In 2006, African Heads of State and Government signed the Abuja Declaration at a Fertilizer Summit in Nigeria committing to increase the use of fertilizer in Africa from the then-average 8kg per hectare to 50kg per hectare by 2015 to boost productivity. Ten years later, only a few countries have attained this goal.

Mkandawire said research has established that for every kilogram of nutrients smallholder farmers apply to their soils, they can realize up to 30kg in additional products.

Research has shown that smallholder farmers in South Africa in general do not apply optimum levels of fertilizers owing to high cost, poor access and low awareness about the benefits of providing nutrition for the soil.

Fertilizer Registrar and Director in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests (DAFF) in Limpopo Province Jonathan Mudzunga says smallholder farmers have structural difficulties in getting much needed fertilizers, a critical input in raising crop yields and providing business and employment creation opportunities for agro dealers.

“Commercial farmers are successful because they have access to inputs such as fertilizers and knowledge and it does not mean smallholder farmers are having challenges because they do not know how to farm but the biggest issue is knowledge and access to affordable inputs,” Mudzunga said.

Agriculturalist at Kynoch, Schalk Grobbelaar, says smallholder agricultural production in Limpopo is hampered by, amongst other things, low use of productivity-enhancing inputs such as fertilizers, seeds and crop protection products; animal feeds and veterinary medicines for livestock.

“Fertilizer increase yields. We fertilize what crops will take away and we put back into the soil but farmers lack knowledge on the balancing fertilizers according to what crops need,” said Grobbelaar.

Agriculture support is food business

The South African government is promoting SME development and growth of smallholder farmers who are key to tackling food insecurity at household level.

Despite their high contribution to economic growth and job creation, SME’s are challenged by among other factors, funding and access to finance, according to the 2015/16 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report. Lack of finance is a major reason for SMEs – which contribute 45 percent to South Africa’s GDP- leaving a business in addition to the poor management skills which are a result of lack of adequate training and education.

While the country produces more than enough food for all, many South Africans do not access the right amount and type of food, says a 2014 report by the Southern Africa Food Lab, an organisation promoting food security in the region.

“Poor South Africans are not able to spend money on a diverse diet. Instead the only option to facilitate satiety and alleviate hunger is to feed family members large portions of maize meal porridge that do not address nutritional needs,” according to Laura Pereira, author of the Food Lab report.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, bemoaning underinvestment in Africa’s agriculture, said innovation from farm to market was one solution to turning the sector – employing half of the continent’s population – into a thriving business.

“African farmers need better tools to avoid disasters and grow a surplus – things like seeds that can tolerate droughts, floods, pests, and disease, affordable fertilizer that includes the right mix of nutrients to replenish the soil,” Gates said when he presented the 14th Nelson Mandela Lecture in Pretoria, South Africa last week.

Gates said farmers need to be connected to markets where they can buy inputs, sell their surplus and earn a profit and for them to reinvest in into the farm. That in turn provides on and off the farm employment opportunities and supports a range of local agribusinesses.

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Enemy Imageshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/enemy-images/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=enemy-images http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/enemy-images/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:55:15 +0000 Michael Krepon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146206 By Michael Krepon
Jul 25 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Members of Congress have embarrassed themselves, this time by a joint subcommittee hearing on whether Pakistan is a friend or foe. Framing a congressional hearing in this binary way reflects the sad state of political discourse on Capitol Hill, where complex issues are boiled down to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Members of Congress dress themselves in righteous indignation and confuse leadership with generating headlines.

579527735___The United States, like Pakistan, is prisoner to a repetitive news cycle loop filled with hot air, loose talk and the constant drip of poisonous insinuation. The demise of civic culture continues apace. Echo chambers are not conducive to learning. Capitol Hill has devolved into competing echo chambers.

Without learning, we repeat mistakes. This is true on a personal level and on a national level. Some in the US repeat the mistake of insisting that other countries are implacable enemies, disregarding common interests. Taking refuge in this default position has cost America dearly. To repeat it again with Pakistan would be an act of pure folly. India reliably repeats its painful mistakes in Indian Kashmir. Pakistan has its own costly repetitive behaviours.

The US has been insensitive in its dealings with Pakistan.

Pakistan’s national security interests are defined mostly by men in uniform who jealously defend this prerogative from civilian prime ministers and the foreign ministry. Pakistan’s prime minister — a man not known for his attention to detail and zealous work habits — has made these circumstances worse by not having a foreign minister.

Some within Pakistan argue for a greater sense of urgency and energy on the civilian side to reverse the drift in Pakistan’s relations with the US and its neighbours. More energy would be welcome, but it will come to naught unless Pakistan sheds talking points that have long ago lost their persuasiveness. The ‘trust deficit’ argument has no weight when the reasons for the deficit are papered over. The promise that violent extremist groups that have ruined Pakistan’s reputation will be tackled in due course has worn thin because it has been repeated for so long.

The US has been heavy-handed and insensitive in its dealings with Pakistan. It’s easy for the US embassy to lose touch when it operates behind walls and razor wire. Members of Congress have short memories. They forget that Pakistan played a central role in the US diplomatic opening to China and in expelling Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

Bilateral ties will always be complicated. The US and Pakistan are on the same side of some issues but not others. Pakistan would like a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan, but it wants to retain influence there. Pakistan is concerned about violent extremist groups that carry out explosions in India, but not enough to clamp down on them. These straddles have left Pakistan on a tightrope without the means to engineer outcomes in Afghanistan or to ramp up economic growth, which depends on normal ties with neighbours.

Washington’s mix of carrots and sticks hasn’t helped Pakistan down from its tightrope, and now US incentives are diminishing. If Pakistan changes course, more help will come, but the relationship is no longer transactional. Pakistan will do what it thinks it must.

Perceptions of Pakistan are now deeply grooved. They won’t change unless Islamabad is able to take steps that clarify new thinking towards India and Afghanistan. Mikhail Gorbachev called this strategy one of destroying the ‘enemy image’. Gorbachev destroyed the Soviet Union’s enemy image in the US, but the Soviet economy was also destroyed because it was incapable of reform. Pakistan can change its enemy image and grow its economy by improving ties with neighbours. In doing so, Pakistan can maintain decent relations with the United States as it improves ties with China. Islama¬bad achieved this significant feat in the past; it can do so again.

On Capitol Hill, it would be helpful if serious legislators convened serious hearings on how best to stabilise and improve US-Pakistan relations. The easy way for legislators to weigh in is to get on soapboxes — an old American colloquialism recalling a time when men with megaphones gained elevation on street corners. Television is the new soapbox. Denunciations make cheap headlines while making hard problems worse. Congressional hearings where learning takes place have become rare on Capitol Hill. Pakistan deserves better treatment, but the same policies will produce the same results.

US-Pakistan relations are worth salvaging. Both countries have been through hard times together, and have accomplished much together. Pakistan has a long list of grievances towards the US. The US has a long list of grievances towards Pakistan. Grievances don’t solve problems; they make problems worse.

This relationship can no longer rest on the resupply of US troops in Afghanistan, or on Pakistan’s role as a selective bulwark against violent extremist groups. A new relationship has to be forged; otherwise, enemy images will only harden.

The writer is the co-founder of the Stimson Centre.
Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Biswal’s Dreams Just Pretentious Prattlehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:14:15 +0000 Editor Sunday Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146199 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
Jul 25 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

So Nisha Biswal, the US State Department’s point person on Sri Lanka, says that Sri Lanka could be another Singapore.

That will be the day. If after six visits to the country in 20 months she has still not grasped the basics of Sri Lanka’s socio-political culture and mores, the lack of respect for law and order and the rule of law infused by political interference and intimidation, she could hardly be a messenger of hope and good sense.

Nisha Biswal told a group of Sri Lankan business leaders that Lee Kuan Yew wanted to model his country on Ceylon and now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore

Nisha Biswal told a group of Sri Lankan business leaders that Lee Kuan Yew wanted to model his country on Ceylon and now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore

Perhaps she has become accustomed to the obsequiousness of foreign minister Samaraweera for things western and his habit of clinging on to the hands of every foreign visitor seemingly as a token of eternal friendship but actually in case they make a break for a quick getaway as some suspect.

The other day media carried a picture of our over-zealous foreign minister holding on to the hand of the visiting Chinese foreign minister leaving the latter looking rather perplexed. The Chinese reaction was not surprising given that the pro-western UNP leadership turned its back on Beijing shortly after the “good governance” coalition came to office possibly because China provided financial help to the Rajapaksa government when our so-called western friends would not do so and even refused to provide weaponry to fight an insurgency.

But now that the pro-western UNP finds itself in a financial mess it has no qualms about kowtowing and publicly displaying a willingness to accept its financial help with open arms and empty money bags.

An occasional peck on both cheeks might be considered by some in our diplomatic fraternity as a sign of undying friendship and gratitude. But in the world of diplomacy such over-familiarity especially in public might not always win friends and influence nations.

Speaking to a group of Sri Lankan business leaders during her recent visit, Nisha Biswal said that Singapore’s one time prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had wanted to model his country on Ceylon at the time. But now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore.

Does Biswal believe that Sri Lankans are gullible or is this an insidious move to make this strategically-located nation an integral cog in Washington’s pivot to Asia policy intended to stymie China’s economic and military advance westward in the Indian Ocean?

If Biswal was even faintly aware of the bedrock on which the nascent Southeast Asian city-state was built she would not be proposing that we turn ourselves into a soulless nation however economically advanced and rich it has turned out to be.

I do not know whether Biswal has met Lee Kuan Yew when he was leading his newly independent state and talked to him. I have when I was working in Hong Kong and Mr. Lee visited the then British colony for a major conference.

So meticulous was the Singaporean he was able to tell me what I had called him in some of my writings – a dictator, an autocrat and a politician who did not tolerate dissent.

He did not entirely disagree but he carefully adduced reasons why he had to act the way he did, to craft a policy framework for a majority Chinese population sandwiched between two huge Malay-dominated nations. He said even Singapore’s language policy was determined by this geopolitical consideration.

Mr. Lee said that when Singapore was heading for independence Ceylon was the model on which he hoped to build the emergent state. Ceylon had a high rate of literacy, an educated people with a good educational system, an efficient civil service, a well-functioning judiciary and a performing economy.

But all these important qualities that made the Ceylonese nation were dissipated and destroyed by over-bearing and obtrusive politics. In later years when his people asked him for democratic rights and political freedoms he asked them whether they wanted to be another Sri Lanka involved in ethnic conflict.

Those who know the real Singapore story – I nearly went to work there when the editor of a new newspaper scheduled for launch invited me to join – how Ceylon born J.B. Jeyaretnam, the only opposition MP was treated (or mistreated) after he entered parliament after several attempts, how several journalists suffered including a friend of mine on the Business Times, Kenneth James, for ‘offences’ that most journalists would have considered normal professional duties.

Space does not permit an elaboration of the restrictions Singapore places on its citizens including the use of laws that a public gathering of five persons or more requires a police permit and charges of contempt of court, criminal and civil defamation and sedition are used to rein in government critics.

Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2015 states that the “Singapore’s government limits political and civil rights—especially freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association—using overly broad legal provisions on security, public order, morality, and racial and religious harmony.”

Admittedly some advances have been made – however meager – in the way of democratic freedoms. But the Singapore that Biswal and others speak of glowingly was not build on democratic foundations and the rights and freedoms associated with a free society.

So is Biswal then asking Sri Lanka to dismantle the constitutional and other rights guaranteed to its people, the democratic political system that took root even before independence in 1948 and the free press that politicians unfailingly promise the country?

I dare say Sri Lanka can well do without the corrosive and corrupt politics practiced today by many equally corrupt and abrasive politicians. If a nuclear destruction of the existing political system was possible that would certainly be for the betterment of the country.

Is Biswal able to provide such purifying political cleansing that is surely needed if Sri Lanka is to become another Singapore? Despite the democratic deficit that marks Singapore’s years of independence, it was able to achieve an enviable economic record because there were certain prerequisites that its leaders laid down.

Singapore was founded on meritocracy where only the best entered public service and other institutions and followed professional careers. Equally corruption was stamped on wherever it appeared and the guilty were shown no mercy.

Respect for law and order was inculcated in the populace and those who violated the law paid for it. That was the social order that produce Singapore’s economic miracle and a people who called themselves Singaporeans rather than by their ethnicity.

Moreover the city-state has had a political leadership that placed the country before self and was truly committed to building a prosperous society where the majority of its people were able to lead a comfortable life.

The reverse is surely true of Sri Lanka. Why talk of meritocracy when some of those who occupy official positions probably do not know what it means, where relatives, friends and acolytes are handpicked and planted in jobs for which the public pays. The qualified are deposited in the closest dust bin because they do not belong to the correct party, have not paid pooja to the presiding almighty and have sought to expose corruption and abuse or to indulge in it.

How could we build a meritocracy which is what Singapore has done, if a fundamental principle on which Sri Lankan politics is founded is nepotism and clannishness which this government promised to eliminate but practices with the same vigour as its predecessor?

The promises that the current government made to introduce “good governance” have been shattered long before the first year of this National Unity Government has ended. A classic recent example is the admission in parliament by the Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella that he recruited 45 persons as consultants to the Southern Transport Development Project of the Road Development Authority at Rs.65,000 a month. If the highest qualification most of them have is the “O” level or some even lower how are they qualified to be consultants and consulted on what?

Lakshman Kiriella, who is increasing becoming an embarrassment to the UNP, admitted they were given these jobs because they helped in bringing his party into power. Whoever consults these unqualified consultants should seek psychiatric assistance.

It was not long ago that he wrote letters to two university authorities seeking to influence the appointment of persons known to him.

Just a few days ago I saw an article in which the writer says that the High Post Committee had advertised in newspaper calling for public comments on three persons whose names were listed for particular appointments.

It seemed that these three persons, one of whom is the President’s brother, was already functioning in those posts and have been doing so for some time. If the story is true then somebody should remind this committee of the bolting horses and the stable door.

So this is the country that Biswal wants to turn into another prosperous Singapore. Either she knows little of what she is talking about or is deliberately trying to sell these ideas to drag Sri Lanka into a tighter embrace with Washington so we will loosen our ties with China.

If this is the kind of rubbish that visiting diplomats oozing with spurious bon homie, lecture us about we could well do without it.

Before she comes here next and the Foreign Minister rushes to offer another handshake she should rid herself of the mental sloth that characterizes her advice.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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Beyond Rhetoric: UN Member States Start Work on Global Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:05:23 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146182 Ministerial Segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

Ministerial Segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 22 2016 (IPS)

UN member states “are going beyond rhetoric and earnestly working to achieve real progress” towards the Sustainable Goals, the members of the Group of 77 and China said in a ministerial statement delivered here on 18 July.

The statement was delivered by Ambassador Virachai Plasai, Chair of the Group Of 77 (G77) and China during the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) which took place at UN Headquarters in New York from 18 to 20 July.

During the forum, the 134 members of the G77 and China reaffirmed the importance of not only achieving the Sustainable Development Goals but also the driving principle of leaving no one behind.

“We must identify the “how” in reaching out to those furthest behind,” said Plasai who is also Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the UN.

“To make this real, we cannot simply reaffirm all the principles recognised in the (2030) Agenda, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, but must earnestly implement them in all our endeavours,” Plasai added.

The UN’s 193 member states unanimously adopted the 2030 Development Agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, in September 2015. The goals reflect the importance of the three aspects of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental, and countries will work towards achieving them by the year 2030.

However more still needs to be done to ensure that developing countries have access to the resources they need to meet the goals, said Plasai.

“We reiterate that enhancing support to developing countries is fundamental, including through provision of development financial resources, transfer of technology, enhanced international support and targeted capacity-building, and promoting a rules-based and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system,” he said.

“To make this real, we cannot simply reaffirm all the principles recognised in the (2030) Agenda... but must earnestly implement them in all our endeavours." -- Ambassador Virachai Plasai

“We urge the international community and relevant stakeholders to make real progress in these issues, including through the G20 Summit in China which will focus on developing action plans to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”

At a separate meeting during the High Level Political Forum the G77 and China noted some of the specific gaps that remain in financing for development.

During that meeting the G77 and China expressed concern that rich countries are failing to meet their commitments to deliver Official Development Assistance (ODA) – the official term for aid – to developing countries.

“We note with concern that efforts and genuine will to address these issues are still lagging behind as reflected in this year’s outcome document of the Financing for Development forum which failed to address (gaps in ODA),” said Chulamanee Chartsuwan, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative Of The Kingdom of Thailand to the UN, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

Speaking during the forum on July 19, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the importance of the High Level Political Forum, “as the global central platform for follow-up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Ban presented the results of the first Sustainable Development Goals report released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs on July 20. The report used “data currently available to highlight the most significant gaps and challenges” in achieving the 2030 Agenda, said Ban.

“The latest data show that about one person in eight still lives in extreme poverty,” he said.

“Nearly 800 million people suffer from hunger.”

“The births of nearly a quarter of children under 5 have not been recorded.”

“1.1 billion people are living without electricity, and water scarcity affects more than 2 billion.”

Leaving No One Behind

Ban also noted that the importance of collecting data about the groups within countries that are more likely to be “left behind”, such as peoples with disabilities or indigenous peoples.

Collecting separate data about how these groups fare is considered one way for governments to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 10 which aims to decrease inequality within countries.

However SDG 10 also aims to address inequalities between countries, an important objective for the G77, as the main organisation bringing together developing countries at the UN the G77 wants to make sure that countries in special circumstances are not left behind.

Countries in special circumstances include “in particular African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and Small Island Developing States, as well as countries in conflict and post-conflict situations,” said Chartsuwan.

However while the world’s poorest and most fragile countries have specific challenges, many middle income countries also have challenges too, the G77 statement noted.

Climate Change Agreement Needs Implementation

Developing countries, and particularly countries with special circumstances, are among those that are most adversely affected by climate change, and therefore wish to see speedy adoption and implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement alongside the 2030 Agenda.

Ban told the forum that he will host a special event during the UN General Assembly at 8am on September 21 for countries to deposit their instruments of ratification.

“We have 178 countries who have signed this Paris Agreement, and 19 countries have deposited their instrument of ratification.”

“As you are well aware, we need the 55 countries to ratify, and 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions accounted.”

“These 19 countries all accounted is less than 1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.”

“So we need to do much more,” he said.

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

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San Juan City: The Smart City of the Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/san-juan-city-the-smart-city-of-the-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=san-juan-city-the-smart-city-of-the-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/san-juan-city-the-smart-city-of-the-future/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 17:47:11 +0000 Felino Palafox http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146173 By Felino A. Palafox, JR.
Jul 21 2016 (Manila Times)

The Philippines has so much to offer to the world, not only ecological treasures by way of tourism, but brilliant minds, visionaries, and craftsmen. Other nations find the uniqueness and diversity of our ecology unimaginable—such as having the third-longest coastline in the world as well as endemic species of plants and animals. Another unimaginable phenomenon, our economy remains strong despite the fact we are crossed by an average of 21 typhoons a year and is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire—prone to eruption of active volcanoes, and earthquakes.

FELINO A. PALAFOX, JR.

FELINO A. PALAFOX, JR.

Despite all this, and insurmountable corruption through the years, the world is proudly calling us as one of the emerging tiger economies in the world. Not many people know, today, we are the 39th largest economy in the world. And I believe if we address corruption, criminality, climate change, and other national issues, we can become part of the top 20 economies in the world by March 16, 2021, when the Philippines celebrates its 500 years.

Smart cities
Two concepts are used interchangeably: Green Cities and Smart Cities. There are only slight differences between the concepts. Green Cities refer more to the passive integration of architecture and urban plan to the overall ecosystem. This concept is concerned in keeping carbon emissions sustainable, and manageable enough for the livability of the city. Smart Cities, on the other hand, are more focused in pro-active actions in becoming a green city—integrating technology, innovation, and citizenship in making the entire ecosystem and city livable. Though slightly different, both concepts are actions toward a more livable and sustainable quality of life.

In 2013, a project titled “Reshaping San Juan City: Planning Toward a Future of Green Consciousness” was awarded in Berlin, Germany. The event called “Smart City: The Next Generation” was organized by Aedes East-International Architecture Forum.

The formulation of the “Comprehensive Land Use and Zoning Plan for San Juan City,” done by our firm Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture, was applauded by the international community as a model city plan. San Juan City was called the “Smart City of the Future.” I was invited to present in a forum in Berlin, New York, and Shanghai the plans for San Juan and “Postcards From the Future.”

San Juan: Smart City
At the peak or at the highest point of Barangay Addition Hills, one can enjoy the scenery of a beautiful sunset. A kilometer down the hill lays access to one of Manila’s main river systems: San Juan River. Going to Ortigas Ave., one will pass by a barangay fondly named “Little Baguio,” used to be known for its towering pine trees and cool temperature. Apart from the special ecological terrain of San Juan City, Pinaglabanan Shrine heritage site known as the site for the start of the Filipino-American war.

There are five emphases in the plan for San Juan: land use, zoning, mobility, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster responsiveness. San Juan has a hilly terrain that is situated along one of the major river systems of Manila, citizens who work and live in San Juan always experience floods. During the wrath of Typhoon Ondoy, in 2009, many portions of the city were submerged.

The mobility plan focuses on being mass-transit-engaged and pedestrian-oriented. It gives priority to walking, biking, and commuting over private cars and vehicles. One of the major causes of systemic traffic congestion is prioritizing cars over public transit, walking and biking. The plan dedicates bike lanes and elevated walkways that connect the buildings and streets to the LRT stations. An elevated monorail was also proposed to connect various areas of San Juan with the LRT stations in Aurora and EDSA-MRT.

By creating elevated walkways for pedestrians, it prepared the entire city during flooding. Instead of people bracing the floods going to work, school, or home, the elevated walkways allow people to move in safety. It also puts people out of harm’s way because they do need to walk beside speeding cars or very narrow streets.

On the other hand, the plan also integrated a flood detection and awareness system. The citizens were asked to be involved in identifying areas that always get flooded, and electric posts were painted with flood-height measurements. Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture created flood overlay zones and Hazard overlay zones for the city of San Juan when it was still not a national requirement for the Comprehensive Land Use Plans and Zoning Ordinance. (Thankfully, it is now a requirement.)

Another recommendation is to bring down of high walls. The concept is known as “Eyes on the street” and “Security by Design.” Lessons I’ve learned elsewhere say that criminals are not afraid of walls and high gates because people wouldn’t know a crime is happening inside the house. Compared to a street where everyone has a view, criminals are more afraid with more eyes on the street. They should also be coupled with the installation of CCTV cameras and integrated police patrol.

One of the recommendations for the zoning ordinance is the transfer of air rights. Lot owners can sell the air right of the property if they do not plan to construct a much taller structure.

Future city plan for implementation
The plan is feasible and viable. It helps that the international community is keeping an eye on San Juan City’s transformation based on our plan. Often, plans for the future are not implemented due to bureaucratic red tape.

In my observation of thousands of cities and 67countries I’ve been to, what we need are: visionary leadership, strong political will, good design, good planning, and good governance. With the vision, mission, values, and goals of San Juan translated in a plan, the city has a bright future.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Economic Recovery Needed To Enhance Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/economic-recovery-needed-to-enhance-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-recovery-needed-to-enhance-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/economic-recovery-needed-to-enhance-food-security/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 12:40:15 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146164 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jul 21 2016 (IPS)

After a half century of decline, agricultural commodity prices rose with oil prices in the 1970s, and again for a decade until 2014. Food prices rose sharply from the middle of the last decade, but have been declining since 2012, and especially since last year, triggering concerns of declining investments by farmers.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Earlier predictions of permanently high food prices have thus become less credible. Higher prices were said to reflect slowing supply growth as demand continues to grow with rising food needs for humans and livestock, and bio-fuel mandates introduced a decade ago on both sides of the North Atlantic.

Prices had become increasingly volatile, with successively higher peaks in 2007-08, 2010-11 and mid-2012. Some food price volatility had its origins in climate change-related extreme weather events in key exporting countries.

‘Financialization’, including linking commodity derivatives with other financial asset markets, also worsened price volatility in the second half of the last decade.

With three food price spikes over five years, food insecurity was widely seen as a major challenge. Higher and more volatile food prices seemed to threaten the lives of billions. But the FAO food price index peaked in 2012, years after the 2007-2008 food price spike triggered many mass protests.

Official development assistance for agriculture has fallen for decades despite the expressed desire by many developing countries to raise such investments. Meanwhile, rich countries have continued to subsidize and protect their farmers, undermining food production in developing countries, and transforming Africa from a net food exporter in the 1980s into a net food importer in the new century.

Food investments for economic recovery

Meanwhile, economic recovery efforts are needed more than ever in the face of protracted economic stagnation. A global counter-cyclical recovery strategy in response to the crisis should contain three main elements.

First, stimulus packages in both developed and developing countries to catalyze and ‘green’ national economies. Second, international policy coordination to ensure that developed countries’ stimulus packages not only ensure recovery in the Northbut also have strong developmental impacts on developing countries, through collaborative initiatives between governments of rich and poor countries. Third, greater financial support to developing countries for their sustainable development efforts, not only aid but also to more effectively mobilize domestic economic resources.

We need more investments that will help put the world on a more sustainable path such as in renewable energy and ecologically sensitive agriculture. After well over half a decade of economic stagnation, with developing countries slowing down dramatically since late 2014, it is still urgent to prioritize economic recovery measures, but also other needed initiatives. Preferably, recovery strategies should help lay the foundations for sustainable development.

Given the large unmet needs for infrastructure, more appropriate investments can contribute to sustainable growth. Such investments should improve the lot of poor and vulnerable groups and regions. In other words, investments should lead to the revival of growth that is both ecologically sustainable and socially inclusive.

Enhancing food security and agricultural productivity should be an important feature of stimulus packages in developing countries dependent on agriculture. Re-invigorating agricultural research, development and extension is typically key to this effort.

The Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s – with considerable government and international philanthropic support – increased crop yields and food production. However, the efforts for wheat, maize, and rice were not extended to other crops, such as other major indigenous food crops and those associated with arid land agriculture.

We need a renewed effort to promote sustainable food agricultural productivity. Public investments, including social protection, can and must provide the support needed to accelerate needed farmer investments. There are many socially useful public works, but priorities must be appropriate, considering national and local conditions.

For Sustainable Development

Projects could improve water storage and drainage, and contribute to agricultural productivity or climate adaptation. For example, in many developing countries, simple storage dams, wells, and basic flood barriers/levees could be constructed, and existing drainage and canal networks rehabilitated. Public works programs could prioritize basic sanitation or regeneration of wetland ecosystems that serve as “filters” for watercourses – as appropriate.

To be sure, many complementary interventions will be needed. Food security cannot be achieved without better social protection. This will be critical for the protection of billions of people in developing countries directly affected by high underemployment and unemployment, to reduce their vulnerability to poverty and undernutrition.

But sustainable social protection requires major improvements in public finances. While more revenue generation requires greater national incomes, tax collection can also be greatly enhanced through improved international cooperation on tax and other related financial matters.

Clearly, such an agenda requires not only bold new national developmental initiatives but also far better and more equitable international cooperation offered by a strong revival of the inclusive multilateral United Nations system.

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International Trade Favours Multinational Corporationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/international-trade-favours-multinational-corporations-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-trade-favours-multinational-corporations-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/international-trade-favours-multinational-corporations-2/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 09:25:28 +0000 Roberto Azevedo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146151 Roberto Azevêdo is the Director-General of the World Trade Organization ]]>

Roberto Azevêdo is the Director-General of the World Trade Organization

By Roberto Azevêdo
GENEVA, Jul 20 2016 (IPS)

Trade is sometimes thought of as an economic activity that only favours the large corporations. While we may disagree, the reality of international trading is often harder and more expensive for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). The smaller the business, the bigger the barriers can seem.

Roberto Azevêdo

Roberto Azevêdo

MSMEs are responsible for the largest share of employment opportunities in most economies, up to 90% in some countries, this is especially true when looking at equal opportunities for young workers and women.

The economic importance and centrality of MSMEs is at odds with their ability to participate in international trade. This is true in both developing and developed countries. There is a significant opportunity to provide a truly inclusive trading system- offering MSMEs a chance to develop their potential and help transform many lives around the world.

This means tackling the barriers they face when participating in trade, these include tariffs, costly border procedures, and trade financing, in addition to the fixed costs involved with meeting particular national standards or other non-tariff barriers, all of which can become particularly difficult demands for MSMEs. All these are larger obstacles to MSMEs than bigger firms.

Slow and costly border procedures place a greater burden on MSMEs than larger firms. Additionally, MSMEs often struggle to access trade finance. Globally, banks reject over 50% of all requests for trade financing placed by smaller firms compared to just 7% of multinational companies.

Now the World Trade Organisation members want to explore more options to remove the above mentioned barriers, which is a promising start.

Since the Nairobi Ministerial Conference in December last year, WTO members have been discussing a number of issues, with MSMEs as a constant feature. But so far the discussion has been quite broad.

I think it would be useful to establish a detailed sense of what the major barriers and priorities are for MSMEs and what we can potentially do to help. This could be through Aid for Trade support, through the regular work of the WTO, through negotiating new trade agreements, or a whole range of other avenues.

Due to the success of Bali and Nairobi, the interest in our work here is extending to other constituencies. In response to requests, we have facilitated meetings with the private sector and the academic community in recent weeks.

About sixty business leaders attended the private sector discussions. I ensured that the organisers of the event invited representatives from a variety of small and large businesses, developed and developing countries, and a wide range of sectors. They debated the challenges they face in conducting trade operations and how the WTO can help in dealing with them.

Their suggestions included:
● improving the regulatory environment for MSMEs through the digitalization of government processes, improvement of access to public procurement markets, and reduction of compliance costs,
● developing coordinated capacity-building and certification programmes to facilitate the inclusion of MSMEs in global production networks,
● and conducting research on how MSMEs can fit into these global value chains.

These points are in line with those raised in the conversations between representatives and while a great beginning, will still need to be further developed. There are however, three elements where the debate is perhaps slightly more advanced.

Firstly, the quickest, simplest step we can take to support MSMEs, would be implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

MSMEs often cite burdensome customs procedures and regulations as major obstacles to their participation in trade. This is because large firms, especially multinational firms, are better equipped to navigate complex regulatory environments. The more time it takes to export, the more exporting is dominated by larger firms. Indeed, the evidence suggests that when the time spent to clear exports is reduced, MSMEs are more likely to increase their export shares than large firms.

So the Trade Facilitation Agreement has the capacity to boost MSMEs’ trading capacity. The latest ratification was received from Madagascar, taking the number to 83, and we expect to receive more in the coming days. We need to keep up the momentum on this front.

Furthermore, it’s clear that being technology-enabled helps small firms to export. A survey conducted by eBay in over 22 countries found that, on average, 97 per cent of tech-enabled firms export. In contrast, among more traditional MSMEs, the proportion of exporters ranged between 2 and 28 per cent. This highlights the importance of encouraging the further use and implementation of e-commerce technologies in MSMEs.

However, we can’t just assume that MSMEs will continue to benefit from greater opportunities once they are connected. Connectivity is fundamental, but not sufficient. The reality is that, if we just cross our arms and do nothing, we may see the opposite effect. E-commerce may actually promote the concentration of opportunities for big companies and services suppliers.

It is therefore useful to look at how new technologies can facilitate the participation of small players in digital trade, and in global value chains. We should look at how we can ensure that, through multilateral rules, MSMEs benefit from harmonized procedures, improved connectivity, and reduced operational costs.

In short, we should look to ensure that small suppliers can market their products, goods and services in a timely fashion, with competitive prices and reliable customer support. Only then will consumers have full confidence in buying from MSMEs in the digital environment.

Lastly, there are huge gaps in trade finance provisions for MSMEs, and this is a major trade barrier. Members will be aware that the WTO recently published a report setting out some of these issues in detail.

And we proposed some possible actions which included:
● working with partners to enhance existing trade finance facilitation programmes to reduce the gaps in trade finance,
● addressing the knowledge gaps in local institutions to help improve the capacity of local financial sectors,
● increasing dialogue with regulators to help ensure that trade and development considerations are fully reflected in the implementation of regulations,
● and improving the monitoring of trade finance provision, as better market intelligence would enable us to be more responsive to problems as they emerge.

These are just some reflections, based on the recent debates in and around the trading viability of MSMEs and the role WTO can play in encouraging and implementing new trade practices and regulations to boost support for MSMEs.

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Germany’s Energy Transition: The Good, the Bad and the Uglyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 12:19:42 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146128 In Germany, wind and solar energy coexist with energy generated by burning fossil fuels. A wind farm next to one of the electric power plants fired by lignite in the Western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In Germany, wind and solar energy coexist with energy generated by burning fossil fuels. A wind farm next to one of the electric power plants fired by lignite in the Western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
COLOGNE, Germany, Jul 19 2016 (IPS)

Immerath, 90 km away from the German city of Cologne, has become a ghost town. The local church bells no longer ring and no children are seen in the streets riding their bicycles. Its former residents have even carried off their dead from its cemetery.

Expansion of Garzweiler, an open-pit lignite mine, has led to the town’s remaining residents being relocated to New Immerath, several kilometres away from the original town site, in North Rhine-Westphalia, whose biggest city is Cologne.

The fate of this small village, which in 2015 was home to 70 people, reflects the advances, retreats and contradictions of the world-renowned transition to renewable energy in Germany.

Since 2011, Germany has implemented a comprehensive energy transition policy, backed by a broad political consensus, seeking to make steps towards a low-carbon economy. This has encouraged the generation and consumption of alternative energy sources.

But so far these policies have not facilitated the release from the country’s industry based on coal and lignite, a highly polluting fossil fuel.

“The initial phases of the energy transition have been successful so far, with strong growth in renewables, broad public support for the idea of the transition and major medium and long term goals for government,” told IPS analyst Sascha Samadi of the non-governmental Wuppertal Institute, devoted to studies on energy transformation.

Renewable electricity generation accounted for 30 percent of the total of Germany’s electrical power in 2015, while lignite fuelled 24 percent, coal 18 percent, nuclear energy 14 percent, gas 8.8 percent and other sources the rest.

This European country is the third world power in renewable energies – excluding hydropower – and holds third place in wind power and biodiesel and fifth place in geothermal power.

Germany is also renowned for having the highest solar power capacity per capita in photovoltaic technology, even though its climate is not the most suitable for that purpose.

But the persistence of fossil fuels casts a shadow on this green energy matrix.

“The successful phasing out of fossil fuels entails a great deal of planning and organisation. If we do not promote renewables, we will have to import energy at some point,” Johannes Remmel, the minister for climate protection and the environment for North Rhine-Westphalia, told IPS.

Germany has nine lignite mines operating in three regions. Combined, the mines employ 16,000 people, produce 170 million tonnes of lignite a year and have combined reserves of three billion tonnes. China, Greece and Poland are other large world producers of lignite.

A part of the Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine, in North Rhine-Westphalia. One of the greatest challenges facing the energy transition in Germany is the future of this polluting fuel. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A part of the Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine, in North Rhine-Westphalia. One of the greatest challenges facing the energy transition in Germany is the future of this polluting fuel. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Garzweiler, which is owned by the private company RWE, produces 35 million tonnes of lignite a year. From a distance it is possible to see its cut-out terraces and blackened soil, waiting for giant steel jaws to devour it and start to separate the lignite.

Lignite from this mine fuels nearby electricity generators at Frimmersdorf, Neurath, Niederaussen and Weisweiller, some of the most polluting power plants in Germany.

RWE is one of the four main power generation companies in Germany, together with E.ON, EnBW and Swedish-based Vattenfall.

Coal has an expiry date

The fate of coal is different. The government has already decided that its demise will be in 2018, when the two mines that are still currently active will cease to operate.

The Rhine watershed, comprising North Rhine-Westphalia together with other states, has traditionally been the hub of Germany’s industry. Mining and its consumers are an aftermath of that world, whose rattling is interspersed with the emergence of a decarbonized economy.

A tour of the mine and the adjoining power plant of  Ibberbüren in North Rhine-Westphalia shows the struggle between two models that still coexist.

In the mine compound, underground mouths splutter the coal that feeds the hungry plant at a pace of 157 kilowatt-hour per tonne.

In 2015 the mine produced 6.2 million tonnes of extracted coal, an amount projected to be reduced to 3.6 million tonnes this year and next, and to further drop to 2.9 million in 2018.

The mine employs 1,600 people and has a 300,000 tonne inventory which needs to be sold by 2018.

“I am a miner, and I am very much attached to my job. I speak on behalf of my co-workers. It is hard to close it down. There is a feeling of sadness, we are attending our own funeral”, told IPS the manager of the mine operator, Hubert Hüls.

Before the energy transition policy was in place, laws that promoted renewable energies had been passed in 1991 and 2000, with measures such as a special royalty fee included in electricity tariffs paid to generators that are fuelled by renewable energy sources.

The renewable energy sector invests some 20 billion dollars yearly and employs around 370.000 people.

Another measure, adopted in 2015 by the government in Berlin, sets out an auction plan for the purchase of photovoltaic solar power, but opponents have argued that large generation companies are being favoured over small ones as the successful bidder will be the one offering the lowest price.

Energy transition and climate change

Energy transition also seeks to meet Germany’s global warming mitigation commitments.

Germany has undertaken to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent in 2020 and by 95 per cent in 2015. Moreover, it has set itself the goal of increasing the share of renewable energies in the end-use power market from the current figure of 12 per cent to 60 per cent in 2050.

In the second half of the year, the German government will analyse the drafting of the 2050 Climate Action Plan, which envisages actions towards reducing by half the amount of emissions from the power sector and a fossil fuel phase-out programme.

In 2014, Germany reduced its emissions by 346 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 27.7 per cent of the 1990 total. However, the German Federal Agency for Environment warned that in 2015 emissions went up by six million tonnes, amounting to 0.7 per cent, reaching a total of 908 million tonnes.

Polluting gases are derived mainly from the generation and use of energy, transport and agriculture.

In 2019, the government will review the current incentives for the development of renewable energies and will seek to make adjustments aimed at fostering the sector.

Meanwhile, Germany’s last three nuclear power plants will cease operation in 2022. However, Garzweiler mine will continue to operate until 2045.

“There are technological, infrastructure, investment, political, social and innovation challenges to overcome. Recent decisions taken by the government are indicative of a lack of political will to undertake the tough decisions that are required for deep decarbonisation”, pointed out Samadi.

Companies “now try to mitigate the damage and leave the search for solutions in the hands of the (central) government. There will be fierce debate over how to expand renewable energies. The process may be slowed but not halted”, pointed out academic Heinz-J Bontrup, of the state University of Applied Sciences Gelsenkirchen.

Meanwhile, the regional government has opted to reduce the Garzweiler mine extension plan, leaving 400 million tonnes of lignite underground.

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Fast-track Development Threatens to Leave Indigenous Peoples Behindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 20:26:39 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146115 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind/feed/ 0 Ramifications of Terror Attacks in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/ramifications-of-terror-attacks-in-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ramifications-of-terror-attacks-in-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/ramifications-of-terror-attacks-in-bangladesh/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 13:37:34 +0000 Fahmida Khatun http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146108 By Dr Fahmida Khatun
Jul 18 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

At a time when Bangladesh has broken the 6 percent growth trap and has begun its journey towards achieving a faster growth of about 7 percent, and at a time when Bangladesh has achieved the status of a lower middle income country with a per capita income of USD1314 in 2015, it experiences the greatest shock in recent times. This has suddenly changed the perspective on Bangladesh. The ruthless killing of 20 lives, including 17 foreigners at the Holey Artisan Bakery of Gulshan in Dhaka on July 1, 2016, by terrorists has brought new realities for Bangladesh. A country which boasts to be a moderately Islamic country, holding the values of Islam yet being tolerant to other religions and a country that is reputed for its warmth and hospitality towards foreign nationals, has come under the global radar due to the brutality of recent terror attacks. While the grief for the lost lives is going to make a permanent place in our hearts, the implications of this painful episode on other spheres of lives cannot be ignored either.

Photo: Prabir Das

Photo: Prabir Das

Economic development of Bangladesh is apprehended to bear the brunt of this incident. Countries which lost their citizens on that horrifying night – Japan, Italy and India – are all important partners of Bangladesh’s development. Japan is the largest bilateral donor for Bangladesh. In 2015, the country disbursed USD366 million as foreign aid. Recently, Japan signed its 37th Official Development Assistance Loan Package for Bangladesh, which amounts to USD 1.65 billion, the largest ever in the history of Japan’s ODA to Bangladesh, at an interest rate of 0.01 percent and repayment period of 40 years, including a 10-year grace period. About 230 Japanese companies have invested in Bangladesh, mostly in export processing zones; the investment amount is equivalent to USD 250 million. Japanese support and investment are in sectors such as disaster management, infrastructural development including power plants, deep sea port and metro rail. Tragically, the seven Japanese who were killed during the Dhaka terror attack were working for Bangladesh’s metro-rail development project. Bangladesh’s exports to Japan were worth USD 615 million in 2015, of which the share of RMG was USD 448 million.

As for Italy, it is one of the important export destinations for Bangladeshi products, particularly readymade garments. In 2015, Bangladesh exported goods worth USD 1,170 million, of which USD 1,070 million constituted of apparels. Italy is also a source of remittance for Bangladesh. On the other hand, India’s aid disbursement amounted to about USD 93 million, while exports from Bangladesh to India were worth USD 542 million in 2015. Bangladesh expects these countries to continue supporting its efforts in achieving sustainable economic growth and poverty alleviation in the coming days. The assurance of the prime ministers of the respective countries to work together towards counter-terrorism is the recognition of the fact that terrorism is now a global phenomenon which kills people across the globe – Dhaka, Istanbul, Paris, Nice, Iraq.

On its part, Bangladesh has to work hard in bringing back the confidence of investors, development partners and the foreign community. The damage has already been done through worldwide media coverage. Now Bangladesh needs to reassure foreigners working here about their safety. The government has beefed up the security of the diplomatic zone in Gulshan and Baridhara, and other important places, including the Dhaka airport. But there are also foreign consultants and officials involved with projects, who are working at the field level. Their safety should also be ensured. We should also be careful in sending out our messages to the global community. While the Prime Minister fears more terror attacks in the country, some ministers are probably trying to show a brave face, dispelling possible negative impacts of the recent terror attacks in Bangladesh.

But the terror attack at Holey Artisan Bakery has been taken very seriously by the diplomatic community and development partners working in Dhaka. Some of them have given their officials the option to send their families to their respective countries, and many officials have already started to move their families out of Dhaka. Some are considering continuing their operation through regional offices, such as Delhi or Bangkok. We hope that this will not have any negative impact on the size of their operation in Bangladesh. But this obviously is an indication of the insecurity felt by foreigners in Bangladesh. This will have an impact on prospective investors and visitors to Bangladesh. As an important sourcing destination of apparels, the country may face new challenges if buyers do not feel secure to come to Bangladesh, and if they place their orders in other countries.

The shocking revelation of the terrorists’ social background has prompted us to reflect on our education system, particularly that of the private universities where some of these terrorists studied. Run like private banks, some of these universities have made education a commodity, through which they can mint money. Many of these universities do not have a registrar or a proctor, and the Vice Chancellor has no say at the board room. Several of these universities have mushroomed through high profile connections without any plans for human resources and curriculum. Borrowed teachers from public universities often find no reason to be an integral part of the university. The curriculum of these universities does not include holistic education that helps students to become enlightened human beings. Instead, they try to cater to the need of the corporate world, sprinkling a bit of everything in the syllabus. It is time to bring an overall change in the education system.

Globally, the impact of terrorism has been manifested through reduced growth, mainly due to higher government expenditure for actions against counter-terrorism and loss of investment. The new reality dictates that Bangladesh has to strategise its security measures with the help of its friends so that its growth momentum can continue.

The writer is Research Director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Rewriting Africa’s Agricultural Narrativehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 11:08:02 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146098 Albert Kanga's plantain farm on the outskirts of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Albert Kanga's plantain farm on the outskirts of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
ABIDJAN, Cote d'Ivoire, Jul 18 2016 (IPS)

Albert Kanga Azaguie no longer considers himself a smallholder farmer. By learning and monitoring the supply and demand value chains of one of the country’s staple crops, plantain (similar to bananas), Kanga ventured into off-season production to sell his produce at relatively higher prices.

“I am now a big farmer. The logic is simple: I deal in off-season plantain. When there is almost nothing on the market, mine is ready and therefore sells at a higher price,” says Kanga, who owns a 15 Ha plantain farm 30 kilometres from Abidjan, the Ivorian capital.

Harvesting 12 tonnes on average per hectare, Kanga is one of a few farmers re-writing the African story on agriculture, defying the common tale of a poor, hungry and food-insecure region with more than 232 million undernourished people – approximately one in four.

Albert Kanga on his plantain farm. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Albert Kanga on his plantain farm. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

With an estimated food import bill valued at 35.4 billion dollars in 2015, experts consider this scenario ironic because of Africa’s potential, boasting 60 percent of the world’s unused arable land, and where 60 percent of the workforce is employed in agriculture, accounting for roughly a third of the continent’s GDP.

The question is why? Several reasons emerge which include structural challenges rooted in poor infrastructure, governance and weak market value chains and institutions, resulting in low productivity. Additionally, women, who form the backbone of agricultural labour, are systematically discriminated against in terms of land ownership and other incentives such as credit and inputs, limiting their opportunities to benefit from agricultural value chains.

“Women own only one percent of land in Africa, receive one percent of agricultural credit and yet, constitute the majority of the agricultural labour force,” says Buba Khan, Africa Advocacy Officer at ActionAid.

Khan believes Africa may not be able to achieve food security, let alone sovereignty, if women remain marginalised in terms of land rights, and the World Bank Agenda for Global Food System sourcebook supports the ‘closing the gender gap’ argument.

According to the sourcebook, ensuring that women have the same access to assets, inputs, and services in agriculture as men could increase women’s yields on farms by 20-30 percent and potentially reduce the number of hungry people by 12-17 percent.

But empowering women is just one of the key pieces to the puzzle. According to the African Development Bank’s Feeding Africa agenda, number two on its agenda is dealing with deep-seated structural challenges, requiring ambition and investments.

According to the Bank’s analysis, transforming agricultural value chains would require approximately 280-340 billion dollars over the next decade, and this would likely create new markets worth 55-65 billion dollars per year by 2025. And the AfDB envisages quadrupling its investments from a current annual average of US 612 million to about 2.4 billion dollars to achieve this ambition.

“Our goal is clear: achieve food self-sufficiency for Africa in 10 years, eliminate malnutrition and hunger and move Africa to the top of agricultural value chains, and accelerate access to water and sanitation,” said Akinwumi Adesina, the AfDB Group President at the 2016 Annual Meetings, highlighting that the major focus of the bank’s “Feed Africa” agenda, is transforming agriculture into a business for farmers.

But even with this ambitious goal, and the colossal financial resources on the table, the how question remains critical. Through its strategy, the Bank sets to use agriculture as a starting point for industrialisation through multi-sectoral interventions in infrastructure, intensive use of agro inputs, mechanisation, enhanced access to credit and improved land tenure systems.

Notwithstanding these well tabulated interventions, there are trade-offs required to create a balance in either system considering the climate change challenge already causing havoc in the agriculture sector. The two schools of thought for agriculture development—Intensification (more yields per unit through intensive agronomical practices) and Extensification (bringing more land under cultivation), require a right balance.

“Agriculture matters for Africa’s development, it is the single largest source of income, food and market security, and it is also the single largest source of jobs. Yet, agriculture faces some enormous challenges, the most urgent being climate change and the sector is called to act. But there are trade-offs to either approaches of up-scaling. For example, extensification entails cutting more forests and in some cases, displacing people—both of which have a negative impact on Agriculture’s role to climate change mitigation,” says Sarwatt Hussein, Head of Communications at World Bank’s Agriculture Global Practice.

And this is a point that Ivorian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mamadou Coulibaly Sangafowa, stresses regarding Agricultural investments in Africa. “The emphasis is that agricultural investments should be climate-sensitive to unlock the opportunities especially for young Africans, and stop them from crossing the Mediterranean seeking economic opportunities elsewhere,” he said.

Coulibaly, who is also president of the African conference of Agricultural Ministers, identifies the need to improve specialised agricultural communication, without which farmers would continue working in the dark. “Farmers need information about latest technologies but it is not getting to them when they need it the most,” he said, highlighting the existing information gap, which the World Bank and the African Media Initiative (AMI) have also noted regarding media coverage of Agriculture in Africa.

While agriculture accounts for well over 60 percent of national economic activity and revenue in Africa, the sector gets a disproportionately small amount of media coverage, contributing less than 10 percent to the national economic and political discourse. And this underreporting has resulted not only in limited public knowledge of what actually goes on in the sector, but also in general, misconceptions about its place in the national and regional economy, notes the AMI-World bank analysis.

Whichever route Africa uses to achieve the overall target of feeding itself and be a net food exporter by 2025, Ivorian farmer, Albert Kanga has already started the journey—thanks to the World Bank supported West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme-WAAPP, which introduced him to off-season production techniques.

According to Abdoulaye Toure, lead agro-economist at the World Bank, the WAAPP initiative which started in 2007 has changed the face of agriculture in the region. “When we started in 2007, there was a huge food deficit gap in West Africa, with productivity at around 20 percent, but it is now at 30 percent, and two similar programmes in Eastern and Southern Africa, have been launched as a result,” said Toure.

Some of the key elements of the programme include research, training of young scientists to replace the older generation, and dissemination of improved technologies to farmers. With in-country cluster research stations set up based on a particular country’s potential, there is improved information sharing on best practices.

“With new varieties introduced and off-season irrigation techniques through WAAPP, I am now an example,” says Farmer Kanga, who does not only supply to big supermarkets, but also exports to international markets such as Italy.

He recalls how he started the farm named after his late brother, Dougba, and wishes “he was alive to see how successful it has become.”

The feed Africa agenda targets to feed 150 million, and lift 100 million people out of poverty by 2025. But is it an achievable dream? Farmer Kanga is already showing that it is doable.

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What can Development Banks do to Protect Human Rights?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/what-can-development-banks-do-to-protect-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-can-development-banks-do-to-protect-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/what-can-development-banks-do-to-protect-human-rights/#comments Sun, 17 Jul 2016 01:39:09 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146090 Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

By Phillip Kaeding
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2016 (IPS)

In a petition signed by 150 NGOs, the Coalition for Human Rights in Development have called for development banks to make sure that human rights are respected by their beneficiaries.

Multilateral development banks like the World Bank or the European Investment Bank (EIB) often work with governments and corporations planning mega projects in developing countries. For example, Dutch, Finnish and Central American banks had all funded the Agua Zarca dam in Honduras, the same dam environmental activist Berta Cáceres, was murdered for protesting against.

Organizations like Human Rights Watch and Oxfam say that the financiers also bear responsibilities when local peoples’ rights are abused to help facilitate projects. The petitioners want the development banks to stand up for human rights in the regions where they fund projects.

The new petition states that “Global Witness identified 2015 as the worst year on record for killings of land and environmental defenders, with 185 killings across 16 countries.”

The prominent case of Berta Cáceres is no exception. Soleyana Gebremichael, Ethiopian blogger talked about the situation in her home country at a press conference on Thursday:

“For the last 10 years, the civil society space had been shrinking. Ethiopia enacted two laws in 2009: The first one is the civil society proclamation and the second one was the anti-terrorism proclamation. The civil society proclamation… basically limits the activities of civil society organisations by limiting their resources.”

Gebremichael, who received the International Press Freedom Award with her co-bloggers from Zone 9 in 2015, said that the development banks should work together with civil society organizations on the issues, as a way to work with governments without pressuring them directly.

Often, the banks argue that they do what they can,said Jessica Evans, senior international financial institutions advocate at Human Rights Watch.

“In the case of Uzbekistan, we have been told by World Bank officials that they have behind those doors raised concerns with the government of Uzbekistan about the attacks against the independent human rights defenders that are monitoring forced labor and other human rights abuses linked to the agriculture sector. This had no impact whatsoever,” she said.

How does such a constellation emerge? Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at Civicus, blames entanglements between politics and the economy:

“States are increasingly outsourcing their responsibilities… This leads to an increased avenue to corruption due to collusion among elites. Civil society organizations, when they try to expose these corrupt links between elites, are attacked.”

“What we are seeing is that the multilateral development banks are continuing on business as usual rather than working with the human rights defenders themselves to put pressure on governments and others that are attacking them.” -- Jessica Evans, HRW.

The development banks, Tiwana argues, support growth-oriented development programs as in Ethiopia and therefore ignore other issues. He sees a neoliberal paradigm at the bottom of the problem.

More than the historical and political causes, the practical solution is what international NGOs are now interested in. The petition addressing all major multilateral development banks suggests seven steps:

First, the banks “should systematically analyze the environment for freedoms of expression, assembly, and association, and the realization of other human rights critical for development. Once they have undertaken this analysis they should build it into their country development strategies,” said Evans.

Then, the Coalition emphasizes, policies to increase accountability and secure human rights considerations in every project must be implemented.

The agenda is quite ambitious. But according to Tiwana, it is essential to target the links between financial institutions and governments together with local civil society organizations.

“Development banks often work with large state-entities and state-entities often enable the participation of several private actors, some of them could be linked to very influential people.”

“So the public has a very important role to play in ensuring that the deals that are made… have gone through the constitutional and lawful discourse. And that’s why civil society is extremely important to shine a spotlight on these contracts and on these activities,” he says.

In many ways, the issued statement appeals to the conscience of Western bank managers and policy-makers. New conflict is likely to occur with multilateral banks from the East like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) entering the big stage of development financing. The AIIB is also addressed in the petition.

Months ago, Amnesty International and others pointed out that human rights standards are not the AIIB’s priority. A race to the bottom regarding human rights in development projects is a huge danger in the eyes of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development.

There is a “broader pattern which is emerging as the result of multilateral development banks failing to prioritize public participation in the work that they do and refusing to meaningfully work to prevent reprisals,” says Evans.

“What we are seeing is that the multilateral development banks are continuing on business as usual rather than working with the human rights defenders themselves to put pressure on governments and others that are attacking them.”

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Increased Adb Aid Will Help Cushion Economic Blowshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/increased-adb-aid-will-help-cushion-economic-blows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=increased-adb-aid-will-help-cushion-economic-blows http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/increased-adb-aid-will-help-cushion-economic-blows/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:28:33 +0000 Editor Manila Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146085 By Editor, The Manila Times, Philippines
Jul 15 2016 (Manila Times)

The Philippines faces prospects of slower growth this year because of external factors.

One such factor is the effect of Brexit on the world economy. With Brexit causing the European Union’s already sluggish economy to shrink further, Philippine exports to EU countries in 2016 may end up being less than half of last year’s.

A European freeze, notwithstanding the European countries not being as hot as the US or China or Japan, would also cool down their trade with other countries, including us.

At this point, it is already certain that Philippine exports growth this year will end up less than 2015’s.

The government has cut down its original export growth target of from 6.6 – 8.8 percent to 3 percent. This is a drop of more than 50 percent.

The export growth reductions were seen to be the result of Brexit.

Perhaps the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision in our favor in the complaint we filed against China over its takeover of our islets and reefs in the West Philippine Sea will also make China deal angrily with us in trade, commercial matters and tourism. So loss of exports to China will probably add to the export growth decline in 2016—and the coming few years.

The website of the Philippine Exporters Confederation includes on its lists of news items on July 14 the Philippine Star story headlined “Philippines likely to miss exports growth target this year.” The Times has a July 13 story, “Exports decline prompts focus on domestic market,” which contains the data in the Star story and a lot more.

That Star story by Richmond Mercurio has the lead: “The Philippines is unlikely to meet its exports growth target this year on account of the ‘Brexit’ event and the country’s continuing political tension with China, an export industry official said.”

The export industry official is Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. President Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Jr., who is quoted as saying:

“Lately we have been saying we can’t meet it so we’re looking at the lower end of the target as a six percent growth is very ambitious.”

“So we expect a three percent growth for exports this year. We’re already at half of the year and we’re still negative so for us to be able to beat the target, we have to grow 20 to 25 percent and there’s no way we can get that,” he added.

Ortiz-Luis, who is also the private-sector vice chairman of the Export Development Council, surmises that his lower growth figures are likely also to be the NEDA’s updated numbers if it decides to revise the earlier target.

As if it has come to the rescue in the old cowboys vs Indians movies, ADB announced that it was increasing its aid to the Philippines.

The story on Wednesday, July 13, by The Times’ Mayvelin U. Caraballo said, “The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has expanded the areas where it is ready to support the Duterte administration and affirmed its commitment to boost assistance to the Philippines going forward.”

ADB President Takehiko Nakao had met with President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss how the bank could support the new government in its efforts to achieve sustainable growth, reduce poverty, and increase transparency in government affairs.

Mr. Nakao commended Duterte for his early efforts to consult the private sector, civil society, and other partners to ensure a level playing field for all businesses, and uplift the lives of poor Filipinos that make up one-fourth of our country’s population.

ADB’s increased aid will surely help us ward off economic blows delivered by China.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Is Sustainable Development Hindering Economic Recovery?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-sustainable-development-hindering-economic-recovery/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-sustainable-development-hindering-economic-recovery http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-sustainable-development-hindering-economic-recovery/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2016 13:04:02 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146053 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015 and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social 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, Jul 14 2016 (IPS)

The global economic and employment situation is alarmingly protracted, with recovery not expected any time soon. In October 2012, then IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard indicated he did not see a global economic recovery before 2016.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Now, in mid-2016, it is clear that the global crisis has dragged on for several reasons; many governments, especially in advanced economies, still prioritize fiscal austerity and tough labour market reforms, even though such measures undermine livelihoods, incomes, the social fabric and economic recovery prospects.

Meanwhile, despite ‘quantitative easing’, investments remain depressed, blocking employment creation. Easy credit before the crisis led to over-investment in sectors expected to be profitable. Hence, despite low-interest rates, with the overhang of excess capacity, there has been less private investment in recent years.

Since 2007, employment rates have only risen in six of the 36 developed economies, while youth unemployment rates have increased in four-fifths of advanced countries and two-thirds of developing countries.

With higher inequality and unemployment, as well as shrinking incomes and domestic markets, it is obviously unrealistic for everyone to recover by exporting. Even developing countries, long pressed to produce for export, are switching course – producing increasingly for the domestic market once again.

Having suffered more current and capital account difficulties with greater openness, many emerging market economies still feel compelled to accumulate large reserves for ‘self-protection’. Meanwhile, financial globalization has not enhanced growth but has instead exacerbated volatility and instability.

Recovery for All
There have been few efforts since 2008 to enhance national ‘policy space’ for economic recovery, especially for sustainable development. Increased public investment and other spending, including for social protection, can help turn this situation around, creating tens of millions of jobs.

For decades after the end of World War Two, most advanced economies have used counter-cyclical fiscal policy to great effect. Such deficits have not only financed strong, sustained and inclusive recovery, and growth in their own economies but also abroad — as with the US Marshall Plan at the beginning of the Cold War, so crucial to European post-war reconstruction, recovery and take-off.

A cruel logic has been invoked to justify recent inaction. First, huge financial resources were deployed to selectively rescue ‘too big to fail’ private financial interests. Then, the resulting greatly increased sovereign debt was invoked to impose fiscal austerity, ostensibly in deference to bond markets.

To make matters worse, Eurozone countries are not only constrained by this fiscal fetish, but also by their lack of exchange rate policy space, resulting in insurmountable obstacles to recovery in a monetary union not among equals.

And despite strong evidence to the contrary, the presumption that public spending crowds out private investment continues to deter government-led economic recovery efforts.

Perhaps most frustrating in the recent period have been the limited efforts at multilateral cooperation for global recovery since 2009 — the year of the G20’s London and Pittsburgh summits, including the Global Jobs Pact, on which there has been little meaningful progress since.

As a consequence, subsequent years have seen little progress towards a strong, sustained and inclusive recovery. Instead, after decades of promoting globalization, often recklessly, the recent period has seen a gradual turn to creeping protectionism and currency warfare.

Thankfully, after decades of promoting economic, including financial liberalization and pro-cyclical macroeconomic policies, even the IMF, under its recent French leadership, has become more careful, if not skeptical of its own earlier analysis, policy prescriptions, and priorities. But the earlier conventional wisdom still prevails in most of its operations, policy conditions and advice.

Why Sustainable Development?
How can the world get out of this cul-de-sac, worsened by the short-termism of markets, especially financial markets, electoral politics and powerful corporate interests?

Although inclusive multilateralism has been battered by various challenges, including its slow progress, it remains the best option available. Hence, the UN system has to be bolder, but also has to be allowed to play a greater leading role.

In early 2009, the UN Secretary-General proposed a Global Green New Deal. The GGND proposed cross-border public-private partnerships, especially to generate renewable energy and increase food production, recognizing that market forces alone would not generate the investments needed to address climate change as well as to ensure adequate and affordable food production.

If pragmatically implemented, UN initiatives – such as the GGND, the Global Jobs Pact and the Social Protection Floor – can help overcome the current stasis. Likewise, if sufficiently supported, the recently approved UN Decade of Action against Malnutrition can help improve nutrition for all.

As the quadrennial High-Level Political Forum, mandated by the Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development in 2012, meets for the first time in mid-July, it is crucial that global leaders recognize that sustainable development is not a luxury which the world cannot afford in these dire times. Instead, it must be recognized as providing the essential sense of common purpose for collective action by the multilateral system, not only for it to stay relevant, but also to lead us all out of the darkness of our times.

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What Does it Really Mean to “Leave No One Behind”? http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/what-does-it-really-mean-to-leave-no-one-behind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-does-it-really-mean-to-leave-no-one-behind http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/what-does-it-really-mean-to-leave-no-one-behind/#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 03:33:30 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146017 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/what-does-it-really-mean-to-leave-no-one-behind/feed/ 0 Large-Scale Rainwater Harvesting Eases Scarcity in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2016 21:02:07 +0000 Justus Wanzala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146014 African Water Bank technicians put the final touches on a water storage tank at a homestead in the Duka Moja area of Narok County, Kenya. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

African Water Bank technicians put the final touches on a water storage tank at a homestead in the Duka Moja area of Narok County, Kenya. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

By Justus Wanzala
NAROK, Kenya, Jul 12 2016 (IPS)

Rainwater harvesting in Kenya and other places is hardly new. But in this water-stressed country, where two-thirds of the land is arid or semiarid, the quest for a lasting solution to water scarcity has driven useful innovations in this age-old practice.

The African Water Bank (AWB), an international nonprofit, has committed to providing and managing clean water using a much cheaper and efficient method.

The technology’s main focus is to harvest and store rainwater on a large scale. It has features such as an enhanced collection area, a guttering system and a storage system. Additional features include filters, water gauges and first flush devices.

A typical AWB rainwater harvesting system collects 400,000 to 450,000 litres of rainwater within two to three hours of steady rain. It has an artificial roof of 900 to 1,600 square metres and storage tanks. The largest tank ever constructed in Narok County has a capacity of 600,000 litres. All the units can be expanded per the owners’ needs.

This amount of water can serve a community of 400 people for approximately 24 months without extra rain. The capacity can be added at a rate of 220,000 litres per year. The system is low cost and can be 100 percent maintained locally. It also uses local skills, labour, materials and technology.A typical AWB harvesting system collects 400,000 to 450,000 litres of rainwater within two to three hours of steady rain.

Chip Morgan, AWB’s Chief Executive Officer, says their system collects huge volumes of rainwater and conserves it in large storage tanks. “This is akin to one earning money and saving it in a bank, the reasons we are called AWB,” he says.
He adds that the size of the system installed by households is dependent on their needs.

Currently, AWB focuses on the semiarid Narok County, in Kenya’s Rift Valley region, mainly occupied by the pastoral Maasai community. The technology has also been introduced in the semiarid Pokot, Machakos, Samburu and Kajiado counties in Kenya as well as in Zambia’s Chavuma district. Most of the clients are homes and institutions such as hospitals and schools.

Construction of tanks is funded by communities, donors and individuals who pay 50 percent up front before construction begins. Morgan says that despite growing demand, they are still in a phase where people are learning of the immense potential of the initiative. “This year we are fully booked. Our target is to build 50 units in a year,” he says.

The AWB CEO, who has worked for decades in the development sector starting in his native Australia, where water scarcity is a challenge to communities residing in remote areas, argues that one of the reasons why people are poor in many parts of the developing world is lack of water.

According to the 2012 Joint Monitoring Programme’s report, access to safe water supplies throughout Kenya was only 59 percent, while access to improved sanitation was 32 percent. The situation might have improved of late, but the challenge of access to water in both rural areas and urban areas still abounds.

Due to poor access to water and sanitation, says Morgan, water, sanitation and hygiene-related illnesses and conditions are the main cause of disease among children under five.

Meanwhile, just a small tank can irrigate a greenhouse on a one-third acre piece of land, thus promoting food security. As a result, AWB is keen to work with companies involved in the provision of greenhouse irrigation services to assist communities engaged in commercial farming.

Access to water and sanitation is also vital in reducing women and girls’ workload since culturally, fetching water is their job. This enables them to attend to other activities, such as school and homework.

Morgan notes that they use both skilled and unskilled local labour and continuously train their technicians. This is essential because the emergence of plastic tanks had killed demand for concrete ones, resulting in a decline of the number of concrete tank technicians. He says concrete/masonry tanks can last a lifetime.

AWB has two engineers. They offer training to technicians from outside Kenya. Four Ugandan community-based organisations have benefited from AWB’s skills transfer programme by sending their members to be trained on AWB rainwater harvesting technology.

Wataka Stephen, a trainee from Mbale, Uganda, says he was keen to acquire skills and transfer them to Uganda. “I intend to utilize the skills that I have acquired to employ myself,” says Wataka.

Swaga Jaberi, another Ugandan undergoing training at AWB, says his home region in eastern Uganda relies heavily on boreholes, but they are drying up as the water table decreases. Borehole digging is also expensive.

AWB’s rainwater harvesting technology is unique compared to the systems common in Uganda, he says. Jaberi intends to target hospitals, schools, and community centres as his potential clients.

The AWB rainwaters harvesting is indeed beneficial to communities in the semi arid Narok County. Apart from saving livestock during perennial droughts, it is also boosting education. Tonkei Ole Tempa, headmaster of the Ilkeek Aare mixed Day and Boarding Primary School, cannot hide his satisfaction. He says  that since the school completed construction of its 600,000-litre water tank in March, it has enough water to meet all its needs.

The system has a rainwater collecting roof of 400 square metres and was put up at a cost Kenya shillings 4.3 million (USD 43,000). Ole Tempa says the school, which has a total of 410 pupils with 180 pupils being boarders, now has enough water to last from one rainy season to the next.

Ole Tempa reveals that enrolment has gone up. “In 2013 the school had only 106 pupils but this year it has grown to 410,” says the headmaster. He adds that the availability of water has enhanced the school’s feeding programme. This has improved student health and performance. Hygiene standards in the school, adds Ole Tempa, have equally improved.

Indeed, various studies commissioned by Kenya’s ministry of education and other independent bodies in the past have indicated that in schools without clean water and toilets, pubescent female pupil’s absenteeism is rampant during days when they are menstruating. This affects their performance in school, with some dropping out altogether.

According to Ole Tempa, it is because of the vulnerability of girls that they offer boarding facilities to girls as matter of priority courtesy of availability of enough water. He adds that previously they used to spend 48,000 Kenya shillings (480 USD) every three months to buy water, but since they stared harvesting rainwater, the cost is zero.

The head teacher says that they intend to establish a vegetable garden through irrigation to supply fresh vegetables to the school and also rear two dairy cows to lower spending on milk for pupils. Funds for the construction of the roof and tank were provided by the Rotary Club in Kenya and the African Water Bank partners. Parents also chipped in by contributing Kenya shillings 5,000 each (USD 50). “The input by the parents was meant to ensure ownership of the project for sustainability purposes,” he says.

The government has equally recognized the impact of rainwater harvesting technologies in arid and semiarid areas on education. Speaking in Baringo County in June 2016, Fred Segor, Principal Secretary, Kenya’s ministry of water, urged schools to practice rainwater harvesting. He said the move will reduce incidences of water related diseases among pupils.

Apart from boosting access to water in arid and semi regions, rainwater harvesting contributes to water conservation thus reducing overexploitation of water resources. Moreover, rainwater harvesting reduces surface runoff during heavy precipitation which causes floods and erosion as water is harvested.

Morgan says AWB is keen to surmount challenges such as scarcity financial constraints by partnering with financial institutions. This will eliminate dependence on donors and lessen the burden on communities which lack funds to put up large scale rainwater harvesting units.

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Is Federalism Pro-poor?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-federalism-pro-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-federalism-pro-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-federalism-pro-poor/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 15:25:27 +0000 Jeresa May http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145966 By Jeresa May C. Ochave
Jul 7 2016 (Manila Times)

Poverty, according to the United Nations, is “a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.”

JERESA MAY C. OCHAVE

JERESA MAY C. OCHAVE

Constitutional experts contend that our unitary system’s centralized form is the culprit for poverty in the country. The top-to-bottom approach (pinatulo governance, as we call it) limits the powers, authority and resources of its own local governments, impairing gravely the decision-making process. Planning and programs for the communities are divorced from the realties on the ground.

In effect, local governance are inefficient in providing even the public services that majority of Filipinos need and expect—health care, education, employment and housing; a state of affairs contrary to the promise of the 1987 Freedom Constitution, where framers have been mandated to create one that is “truly reflective of the aspirations and ideals of the Filipino people.”

A research by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), in 2015, affirms that the Philippines remains one of the poorest in Southeast Asia despite robust economic growth in the past few years.

The current and slow increase of the minimum wage cannot partner with the rising prices of commodities; we have the highest income tax rate (32 percent) compared to our neighboring countries in the Asean: Singapore, 2 percent; Vietnam, 20 percent; Malaysia, 11 percent; Cambodia, 20 percent; Laos, 12 percent. We also are a highly corrupt country, ranked 85th out of 175 countries). “Leakages” in our country are far beyond normal—and we don’t prosecute. (The Napoles corruption cases involving senators and congressmen have barely gone up through our justice system and those nominal “name brands” incarcerated may be freed soon with the advent of a new administration).

Rogier van den Brink, of the World Bank (WB), says the perennial challenge is to channel economic growth toward the poor to make the economy inclusive, thus, ending poverty. Rogier adds this can be achieved if investments in infrastructure, health, and education are increased; including an enhanced competition to level the playing field; simpler regulations to promote job creation, especially for micro and small enterprises; and the protection of property rights.

Karl Kendrick Chua, senior country economist of the WB, says both tax administration and tax policy reforms are needed to generate the revenues required to finance the decades-old investment deficit in infrastructure, health and education.

While tax policy reforms can be implemented, however, under a unitary system, national taxes remitted to the center will still take away much of the wealth and revenues generated by agriculture and other industries in various local communities around the country. Major corporations, including banks, pay their taxes in Metro Manila whose cities benefit more from their activities than the provinces and other cities in which the branches of the corporations operate.

Local officials will continue to spend much of their energy and limited funds seeking the assistance and approval of national government officials in Metro Manila. Local dependence will continue to stifle local initiative and resourcefulness, and hamper local business and development.

Although new taxes and fiscal reforms have been initiated, the government lacks funds and is heavily in debt from too much borrowing.

Federalism, in contrast to our current unitary system (that only concentrates political powers and authority in the national government), emphasizes regional and local self-rule and self-reliance in governance based on the principle of subsidiarity. In short, the decisions are made at the lowest possible level where local problems can be solved. In addition, while regions or state governments are designed to be autonomous, the federal government will provide assistance to various regions and states, especially the less developed ones. In most federal governments this is called the “Equalization Fund,” designed to lift the less endowed states to a decent level, meeting the basic needs of its constituencies. This fund is raised by contributions from all the states in the federal republic and expensed by federal government.

As Atty. Josephus Jimenez emphasized in a Philippine Star column, “Once we are under a federal system, all component states collect their own taxes and contribute only a small fraction of their revenues to the federal or central government for only three centralized functions, namely: National Defense, including the National Police, Justice and Foreign Affairs. All the rest shall be left to each state, including health, education, labor and employment, trade, transportation, communication, agriculture, agrarian reform, justice, environment, natural resources. The states will manage mining and forest matters and shall control all natural resources.”

A federal republic will provide better policies and implementation that will enable the people to raise their standard of living. At the same time,

• Citizens will be more willing to pay taxes that will finance government programs and services for their direct benefits, as they see where their money goes;

• Equitable regional development will be promoted;

• Faster political, economic, social, and cultural development and modernization will take place; and

• There will be inter-regional competition in attracting domestic and foreign investments and industries, professionals, and skilled workers.

It is true that there will be inevitably some “leakages,” but corruption on a local level is much more transparent through a vigilant local community now empowered to run its own affairs.

Let us take note at how America has empowered its people and become the most powerful country in the world through federalism:

“So long as local affairs are reserved to the greatest possible extent for the localities themselves and so long as the people are both interested in and capable of understanding and handling their own problems, then the philosopher’s stone has indeed been discovered and a large measure of both freedom and order are possible.” – Dr. George Charles Roche III.

Ms. Jeresa May C. Ochave is communications director of the Centrist Democracy Political Institute (CDPI). A graduate of the Mass Communications program in Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU), she currently serves as secretary of Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) – Davao Chapter and was elected as regional chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) – Region XI. Ms. Ochave is also a part-time professor at the University of the Immaculate Conception, in Davao City, and is taking her masters in Public Administration, major in Public Policy, at the AdDU.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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China-led Development Bank Pledges $500 Million to Asian Projectshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/china-led-development-bank-pledges-500-million-to-asian-projects/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=china-led-development-bank-pledges-500-million-to-asian-projects http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/china-led-development-bank-pledges-500-million-to-asian-projects/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 15:11:20 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145963 Credit: Alexandra Di Stefano Pironti/IPS.

Credit: Alexandra Di Stefano Pironti/IPS.

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7 2016 (IPS)

The Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which was launched last year with the aim of funding projects on a continent with some of the world’s most populous nations, has pledged over $500 million in four concessional loans to Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

All projects, to be funded by the AIIB, will be “lean, green and clean”, according to the bank’s President Jin Liqun.

“The bank was born with the birthmark of China, but its upbringing is international,” he said, as the 57-member bank also includes Britain, France and Germany.

Martin Khor, Executive Director of the Geneva-based South Centre, told IPS: “The AIIB is a very important initiative whose time has come.”

For so many decades, he pointed out, the international development bank arena was led by the developed countries and there has been so much criticism about the governance system in which the developing countries have a minority of voting rights.

“The AIIB is an institution with a different governance structure with developing countries in the majority but with also participation from many developed countries that decided to join,” he added.

Moreover, said Khor, the AIIB is filling in a deficiency because it is funding the infrastructure needs of developing countries.

The first board meeting last month — and the first projects approval– show that the bank is finally operating, and smoothly too.

“The management has also proclaimed that global standards on environmental and social safeguards will be adopted for the projects.  I hope they keep to this promise.”

The whole operation of the new bank, he noted, will be a great challenge for the developing countries, especially China, which had conceptualized the bank and has the highest equity share, to demonstrate they can lead a successful development bank.

“I am confident the bank will be successful,” predicted Khor.

Last month, the Board of Directors approved the Bank’s first four project-loans financing investments in power distribution and expansion in Bangladesh; road improvements in Tajikistan; highway construction in Pakistan; and slum upgrading in Indonesia.

The Bangladesh project was the Bank’s first stand-alone operation, and the other three projects are co- financing operations with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and World Bank, respectively.

Both the United States and Japan have so far declined to join the bank.

Asked about the role of the US, State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters last year: “We’ve noted that China has expressed an interest in leading this effort”.

Obviously, other countries are deciding for themselves the degree to which that they want to participate in this.

“What’s, I think, is important for us – and this was part of the discussion that we had with the Chinese when they were here – is that we welcome the rise of a peaceful, prosperous China; a China that contributes to stability and security, which does include economic dimensions in the region.”

“But the participation of other countries in this are obviously sovereign decisions they have to make. And we’ll just – we’ll see where it goes,” Kirby added.

“The AIIB was also going to play a part in China's efforts to project soft power. Importantly, many developing countries of the Asia-Pacific region had always wanted to see established a lending institution that did not lend with cumbersome and unacceptable strings attached." -- Palitha Kohona.

Palitha Kohona, the former Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN, told IPS the AIIB  was China’s response to some immediate practical challenges that were emerging in the Asia-Pacific region.

Despite acquiring the status of the world’s second biggest economy, China’s influence in the Bretton Woods institutions (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) was limited as the voting power and the senior staff positions in them were dominated by the US and its allies, said Kohona, who has a track record of successfully negotiating with the Chinese.

He said China naturally wished to secure a bigger role in global development and finance, commensurate with its newly acquired stature.

Furthermore, China had accumulated vast financial reserves which it was now seeking to deploy in a secure and mutually advantageous manner, he argued.

“The AIIB was also going to play a part in China’s efforts to project soft power. Importantly, many developing countries of the Asia-Pacific region had always wanted to see established a lending institution that did not lend with cumbersome and unacceptable strings attached. The AIIB was a response to these needs”.

“Although the US and some of its allies talked about the possibility of lending standards being diluted and political considerations influencing decisions, one needs to remember that the West always used the Bretton Woods institutions to advance their political objectives.”

The conditionality that accompanied IMF lending invariably resulted in street riots and deaths. Wikileaks famously revealed how Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State attempted to prevent the IMF from extending a standby loan facility to Sri Lanka which was at the time on the verge of militarily defeating the Tamil Tigers after 27 years of deadly conflict and who were designated as a foreign terrorist group by the US itself, said Kohona.

“The US lobbied hard to prevent its allies from joining the AIIB. But with the prospect of their own companies participating in infrastructure development projects, many Western countries with ailing economies, broke ranks and joined the Bank. Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the UK, and France being among them. China clearly established itself as a lead player in global finance and development through the AIIB, Kohona declared.

In June, AIIB President Jin Liqun and Chinese Vice Minister of Finance Shi Yaobin signed a Contribution Agreement on China’s $50 million contribution to the newly established AIIB Project Preparation Special Fund (the Fund).

The Fund is aimed at supporting Bank members in preparing “sound project proposals”. China’s contribution, the first to the Fund, will allow it to be operational in the fall of 2016.

According to AIIB, the Fund is expected to provide grants to the Bank’s low and middle income member countries for preparation activities, including environmental, social, legal, procurement and technical assessments and analyses, and advisory services. The Bank will seek additional contributions to ensure the Fund’s sustainability.

Although Asia faces a huge infrastructure financing gap, Jin said, there is a shortage of ‘shovel-ready’ bankable projects owing to the capacity limitations.

“Our members have highlighted these constraints during the Bank’s establishment process. I am delighted that our Board has responded to our members’ needs very quickly through the establishment of this Fund. We are very appreciative of China’s timely and generous contribution which will allow us to kick- start the Fund, and have it operational in the autumn.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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The UN and Global Economic Stagnationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-un-and-global-economic-stagnation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-un-and-global-economic-stagnation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-un-and-global-economic-stagnation/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 12:06:56 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145957 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social 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, Jul 7 2016 (IPS)

When the financial crisis preceding the Great Recession broke out in late 2008, attention to the previously ignored UN Secretariat’s analytical work was greatly enhanced. This happened as the UN and the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) had been almost alone in warning, for some years, of the macroeconomic dangers posed by poorly regulated financial sector developments.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

In contrast, most other international organizations – the IMF, World Bank and OECD – which monitor developments in the world economy have failed to see the crisis coming. Until the third quarter of 2008, they were still predicting continued robust growth of the world economy, and, ‘soft landings’ in the unlikely event of financial turmoil, including in the US.

Thus, the UN was in a strong position to lead the global response to the crisis. However, although ‘second opinions’ were offered to Member- States upon request, in practice, it largely remained business as usual. Each part of the international system carried on with their own work programs with obligatory references to the crisis and its impacts. There was no coherent response or sustained attempt to seriously address fundamental issues.

Meanwhile, although there have been some occasional signs of recovery, economic stagnation in most developed economies continues, with high joblessness and underemployment. Occasional signs of recovery have been uneven, and easily reversible. Early withdrawal of stimulus measures in 2009 pushed the global economy into stagnation, especially as private consumption and investment spending remained weak.

Most developing countries have remained vulnerable, with little fiscal space to be able to respond to shocks. Their policy space remains restricted, especially following the collapse of mineral and other primary commodity prices, and continued denial of the need for counter-cyclical macroeconomic policies by most influential policymakers.

The poorest countries and communities also face the prospect of a resurgence of poverty and hunger. In recent years, the push to cut social security institutions and spending threatens to eliminate the main remaining forms of social protection.

Meanwhile, efforts to strengthen prudential regulations in developed countries have been indefinitely postponed since 2009, with the first signs of recovery in response to financial market pressures, once it had been rescued. Since then, there has been little serious discussion of reforms in the international financial system.

In 2009, the UN Secretary-General called for a Global Green New Deal, seeking internationally coordinated fiscal stimuli, involving major investments in renewable energy and other long-neglected global public goods. At its April meeting, the G20 successfully mobilized over a trillion dollars, but these mainly enhanced IMF resources and thus further empowered the Washington-based international financial system.

The UN emphasized the promotion of sustainable energy to address the looming climate change challenge. In the face of limited private investments, it argued that public investments had to take the lead, to help quickly bring down the unit costs of renewable sources.

But the proposal was then rejected as inappropriate owing to the higher costs of renewable energy. In fact, subsequent developments have shown that the UN was too cautious as the costs of renewable energy have fallen much faster than it anticipated although the recent oil price collapse has limited its competitiveness once again.

Another element in the UN proposed New Deal involved strengthening world food security by encouraging investment in food agriculture by small farmers, again with public investment leading, supplemented by ODA.

In addition, there was growing recognition of the need to completely eradicate poverty and hunger with extraordinary measures under the rubric of ‘social protection’. In so far as such measures would also enable beneficiaries to enhance their productive assets and capacities, they would also ensure higher incomes and more investments, thus accelerating economic recovery, greater resilience, and self-reliance in the medium term.

Recognizing the critical role of the 1944 Bretton Woods conference and the institutions it created for post-war recovery and post-colonial development, the UN also called for reforms to the international financial system to better address new circumstances and challenges.

The 2008 second Financing for Development conference in Doha reiterated the Monterrey Conference’s call to mobilize the international community for accelerated debt relief, improve international tax co-operation, better developing countries’ access to developed country markets, and enhance developing country access to technology, especially for life-saving drugs and renewable energy.

If UN initiatives had not been blocked by some OECD countries, it is likely that the world would have developed a debt management framework to address the Icelandic, Greek and other debt crises as well as greater international tax cooperation to better address massive and still growing tax evasion and fiscal constraints faced by so many governments today.

The June 2009 High- Level Conference on the Global Financial and Economic Crisis made specific proposals for urgent actions, many of which were later elaborated by the Stiglitz Commission Report’s recommendations. But some hints of recovery provided the pretext for the U-turn to ‘fiscal austerity’ in Europe once the commanding heights of most powerful financial interests had been rescued.

In early 2009, the UN system committed to supporting Member States to re-orient their macroeconomic policy frameworks to include full employment as an explicit target for both developed and developing countries. But without resources and facilities to support the provision of appropriate policy advice, few countries have sought UN assistance for counter-cyclical macroeconomic management since.

Thus, despite its longstanding mandate and better track record than most other international financial institutions, a greater pro-active role of the rest of the UN system has been denied by a coalition of powerful countries. Sadly for the world, this marginalization threatens the very future of economic multilateralism, as has long been evident from the continued hegemony of the Washington Consensus, and at the Addis Ababa third UN Financing for Development conference last July and the World Trade Organization ministerial in Nairobi in December.

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