Enhanced Social Protection an Opportunity Asia Pacific Must Grasp

By Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana and Chihoko Asada Miyakawa
BANGKOK, Thailand, Oct 20 2020 – In the fight against COVID-19, success has so far been defined by responses in Asia and the Pacific. Many countries in our region have been hailed as reference points in containing the virus. Yet if the region is to build back better, the success of immediate responses should not distract from the weaknesses COVID-19 has laid bare. Too many people in our region are left to fend for themselves in times of need. This pandemic was no exception. Comprehensive social protection systems could right this wrong. Building these systems must be central to our long-term recovery strategy.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

Illness or unemployment, pregnancy or old age, disability or injury should never be allowed to push people into poverty. During a pandemic, social protection schemes facilitate access to health care and provide lifelines when jobs are lost, rescuing households and stabilizing economies. This has been recognized by governments in the face of COVID-19. Over three hundred new social protection measures have been taken across forty countries in the region. Existing schemes have been strengthened, ad hoc packages rolled out and investment increased.

This recent appreciation for social protection is welcome. It must be maintained, because the most effective responses to COVID-19 have been from countries which had robust social protection systems in the first place. The logistics of taking measures during an unfolding crisis are complicated; setbacks and delays inevitable. Well-resourced social protection systems built over time are just better placed to deal with the unexpected. However, these systems still do not exist in many of parts of our region.

A recent report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), The Protection We Want, finds that more than half the region’s population has no coverage whatsoever. Only a handful of countries have comprehensive social protection systems and public spending in this area remains well below global average. In many countries in South Asia and the Pacific, public expenditure on social protection is as low as 2 per cent of GDP.

Where social protection systems do exist, their coverage is riddled with gaps. The youngest, least educated and poorest are frequently left uncovered by health care in the region. Many poverty targeted schemes never reach families most in need. Maternity, unemployment, sickness and disability benefits are the preserve of a minority of workers in the formal economy, leaving 70 per cent of workers locked out of contributory schemes. Lower labour force participation among women accentuates gaps in coverage. Population ageing, migration, urbanization and increasing natural disasters make social protection ever more urgent.

Chihoko Asada Miyakawa

Investing in a basic level of social protection for everyone – a social protection floor – would immediately improve livelihoods. United Nations’ simulations across thirteen developing countries in the region show that universal coverage of basic child benefits, disability benefits and old-age pensions would slash the proportion of recipient households living in poverty by up to eighteen percentage points. The decrease in poverty would be greatest in Indonesia, followed by Sri Lanka and Georgia. Purchasing power would surge in recipient households supporting increases in per capita consumption in the lowest income groups. In 9 out of 13 countries analysed, more than a third of the population currently living in poverty would no longer be impoverished.

These phenomenal development gains are within reach for most countries in Asia and the Pacific. Establishing basic schemes for children, older persons and persons with disabilities would cost between 2 and 6 per cent of GDP. It is a significant investment, but affordable if we make universal social protection systems a fundamental part of broader national development strategies.

Yet it is not only the level of funding that matters, but the way the funds are spent. To achieve universal coverage, we need a pragmatic mix of contributory and non-contributory schemes. This would deliver a vital minimum level of protection regardless of previous income and support a gradual move to higher levels of protection through individual contributions.

New approaches to funding participation can extend social protection to workers in the informal economy. Schemes that reward unpaid care work and are complemented by subsidized childcare services can form a decisive step towards more inclusive and gender equal societies. And new technologies, including phone-based platforms, can accelerate delivery across populations.

As we focus on building back better in the aftermath of the pandemic, our region has an opportunity to make universal social protection a reality. In so doing, we could bring an end to the great injustice that leaves the vulnerable in our societies most exposed. Governments from across Asia-Pacific will convene later this month at ESCAP’s Sixth Committee on Social Development to strengthen regional cooperation in this area. Let us seize the opportunity to accelerate progress towards universal social protection, and reduce poverty and inequality in Asia and the Pacific.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Chihoko Asada Miyakawa is the ILO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.


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Questions Remain over Botswana’s Mass Elephant Deaths

The world was shocked by the unexplained deaths of hundreds of elephants across Botswana. While Botswanan officials have said they have identified what killed the animals as cyanobacteria, some wildlife experts and conservationists have questioned the government’s claim, saying many questions remain. Courtesy: Elephants Without Borders (EWB)

The world was shocked by the unexplained deaths of hundreds of elephants across Botswana. While Botswanan officials have said they have identified what killed the animals as cyanobacteria, some wildlife experts and conservationists have questioned the government’s claim, saying many questions remain. Courtesy: Elephants Without Borders (EWB)

By Ed Holt
BRATISLAVA , Oct 20 2020 – When hundreds of elephants died in the space of a few months in Botswana earlier this year, conservationists were shocked. Wildlife experts said it was one of the largest elephant mortality events in history.

But that shock quickly turned to exasperation over what they said was the government’s slow, botched and untransparent investigation into the incident.

Now, Botswanan officials have said they have identified what killed the animals – cyanobacteria, a naturally occurring bacteria which can produce lethal doses of toxins – in water the elephants had drunk and bathed in.

But some wildlife experts and conservationists have questioned the government’s claim, saying many questions remain and have criticised the lack of transparency from authorities amid fears of a deliberate rolling back of years of pioneering conservation work in the south African state.

“Questions remain. The whole way this has been handled is indicative of the approach of the Botswana government to transparency and openness,” Mary Rice of the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), told IPS.

Between March and June, hundreds of elephants – the Botswanan government’s official figure is 350, but some conservation groups claim it is as much as 700 – died in the country’s Okavango Delta.

Many of the dead elephants were found near natural watering holes, others on trails. Some had collapsed on their chests, suggesting their death had been fast and sudden. Horrific scenes were also reported of dying elephants running around in circles, or with paralysed limbs.

Despite being alerted by conservation groups to the problem, it was June before the authorities said they were investigating.

International and local conservation groups criticised the government for its slowness to respond to the incident as carcasses – and vital evidence – rotted or were scavenged.

They also attacked its failure at the time to obtain proper samples or send them off quickly enough to expert laboratories to determine the cause of death and the sometimes confusing information given out by officials over what had been ruled out as the cause of the deaths and where samples had been sent for testing. 

It was only late last month when the government announced that it had determined the cause of the death that it was finally confirmed samples had been sent to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Canada, and Europe. It is still unclear exactly where and how it was established that the neurotoxins were behind the deaths.

The authorities’ slow response and lack of transparency in its handling of the investigation has sparked speculation the government may be hiding something related to the deaths.

One conservationist working with elephants who spoke to IPS on condition of anonymity, said: “Because of the government’s actions, we are unlikely to ever discover the real reason so many elephants died in Botswana. We have to assume that the government has therefore achieved its objective.”

Others say that it has at the very least given rise to some doubts the right conclusion has been drawn.

Dr Niall McCann, biologist and co-founder of the conservation group National Park Rescue, told IPS: “The lack of transparency in this process has left room for doubt. The Botswana government’s explanation is a plausible one, but it doesn’t make it right. The likelihood that it is something else is still there. It could be another disease or some other poisoning.

“The cause can only be definitively confirmed by examining the brains of the elephants in detail, but there is no chance of this now. The government’s initial slow response means that we will probably never find out for sure what killed the elephants.”

McCann is far from alone in raising questions over the government’s claim.

Many experts have pointed to the fact that only elephants appear to have been affected while it would be expected other animals drinking the water would have been killed.

Rice said: “The big question is, why weren’t other species affected?”

Others have asked why it would only occur in one small area.

One expert on elephant disease, who asked not to be named, told IPS: “This theory is severely compromised by the extreme localisation – if correct [animal deaths] would have appeared across the region.”

Dr Pieter Kat of conservation group LionAid, who has extensive experience of wildlife diseases in Africa, wrote in a Facebook post that the government had failed to provide essential scientific information to support their claim that cyanotoxins were responsible for the animals’ demise.

“The Botswana government has a long way to go to convince that the highly specific mortalities among elephants were directly related to neurotoxic cyanotoxins,” he wrote.

When contacted by IPS about the elephant deaths, Botswanan government officials did not respond.

However, announcing their findings at the end of last month, government representatives suggested that individual species can be affected by neurotoxins in different ways – something experts say may be possible – or that because the quantity of water, and depths they drink from, is so much greater than other animals they may have been affected differently.

Mmadi Reuben, the government’s principal veterinary officer, admitted though: “There are a lot of questions that still need to be answered.”

This comes amid growing worries among conservationists over the government’s attitude to the fate of what is the world’s largest elephant population.

There are more elephants in Botswana than in any other country. Measures to protect large wildlife, including hunting bans and “shoot-to-kill” policies to deter poachers, have seen the population grow from 80,000 in the late 1990s to an estimated 135,000 today.

But conservationists have raised the alarm over a rise in poaching since Mokgweetsi Masisi became president two years ago.

Having promised to reduce the number of elephants in the country amid rising human-wildlife conflicts as the human population grows, Masisi last year lifted a ban on hunting elephants.

The ban had been introduced five years previously by his predecessor, Ian Khama, whose conservation efforts won international praise.

According to research published by conservation group Elephants Without Borders (EWB), there was a nearly six-fold rise in elephant poaching in the country between 2014 and 2018.

Not long after taking office Masisi gave stools made from elephant feet to the leaders of Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, all of whom had been pushing for a ban on the sale of ivory to be lifted.

McCann said: “Re-instating elephant hunting, giving parts of elephants as gifts to foreign officials – these were statements.”

There have even been suggestions that the government’s concerns over human-elephant conflict could have been behind the botched investigation.

One conservationist who spoke to IPS on condition of anonymity said: “Human-wildlife conflict is a major problem in Botswana. The authorities were slow to act on this at the start because they did not want to be seen to be devoting lots of resources to elephants at a time when they were dealing with a human pandemic.”

Others see the government’s handling of the incident as part of a wider, more sinister, and tragic approach to the country’s wildlife by a corrupt regime in league with poachers and wildlife traffickers.

They told IPS: “Africa’s least-corrupt wildlife haven and luxury tourism destination, known for its friendly, international cooperation and positive conservation models, appears to be entering an era of secrecy, exploitation and xenophobia.

“A culture of secrecy …. is a tragedy for conservation, which requires a culture of openness and international cooperation to function.

“Individuals in the Botswana government are absolutely in the pockets of the poachers, as are some of the police.”

On September 22, 27 Botswana Defence Force soldiers were arrested for wildlife trafficking, having just returned from the Okavango Delta region.

However, not everyone sees nefarious motives at the highest levels as being behind the way the investigation has turned out.

Philip Muruthi, a conservation expert at the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), told IPS that while he felt officials in Botswana could have moved sooner on the investigation and been more transparent about its progress, “the Botswana government is serious about conservation. There are serious people there [in state administration] working on conservation”.

He said that the explanation the government gave for the elephant deaths was plausible. “This has happened before, and while it is not a very common thing in Africa it does occur,” he said.

But if the government’s claim is true, its implications for African wildlife in the near and mid-term future could be significant.

Threats to wildlife from natural biological phenomena are being exacerbated by climate change and rising temperatures, scientists say.

Unusually warm weather was linked to the deaths of 200,000 critically endangered Saiga antelopes in Kazakhstan in 2015. They were killed when a naturally occurring bacteria in their nasal passages became lethal amid high daily temperatures and humidity.

Scientists say that harmful algal blooms are also increasing in size and frequency around the world as climate change pushes up global temperatures. This is especially important in southern Africa where they are rising at twice the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

McCann agreed. He said: “Higher temperatures exacerbate existing problems, in the case of algal blooms by promoting the proliferation of bacteria. Climate change is a threat multiplier, and we will see more of these events occur. As time goes on, there are likely to be more and more problems with watering holes in Africa.”


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Venezuela, Twitter, and Crimes Against Humanity

The United Nations Human Rights Council approved the renewal of the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission to determine and document the existence of crimes against humanity in Venezuela

El Helicoide, a building in Caracas, Venezuela, currently headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN). Credit: Flakiz/Flickr

By Andrés Cañizález
CARACAS, Oct 20 2020 – In mid-September, the United Nations Human Rights Council approved the renewal, for another two years, of the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission to determine and document the existence of crimes against humanity in Venezuela, under the government of Nicolás Maduro.

In this way, the Council endorsed the work that this independent mission had already been conducting for one year. Weeks before, the team of experts had released a devastating report, prepared after reviewing slightly over 3,000 cases of which it rigorously documented 233.

In order to fully understand what is happening in Venezuela in terms of Human Rights, it may be convenient to pay close attention to one story, one of the many that make up this report. Due to our professional bias, we have stopped at a case clearly linked to freedom of expression and information.

Andrés Cañizález

For this piece, I have picked the events involving Pedro Jaimes Criollo, described in the UN report as from paragraph 727. This case clearly exposes the repressive policy on expression and information. Tweeting just turns out to be a crime, as the government of Nicolás Maduro understands it.

An aviation aficionado, this Venezuelan tweeter’s handles were @AereoMeteo and @AereoMeteo2. Disseminating meteorological and aeronautical information was his hobby, until May 2018.

On May 3, 2018, strikingly a date on which free speech is celebrated (World Press Freedom Day), Pedro Jaimes tweeted the flight path of the presidential plane on which Nicolás Maduro was headed for a ceremony in Aragua State, at the center of the country.

As underscored in the UN report, the tweeter obtained information in the public domain about the models of planes used by the Office of the President of Venezuela, data available on Wikipedia, and tracked the flight using the (equally open and public) FlightRadar24 app.

As of May 2018, there was no law or executive order in force classifying flight information as confidential.

A week after his tweets, Pedro Jaimes was arrested without any warrant by the National Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional, SEBIN). He was arriving at his home. At the time of his arrest, he was beaten, and so was his sister as she tried to step in. When his family showed up at the SEBIN headquarters in El Helicoide (a 1950s spiral-shaped building), Caracas, officials denied that Pedro was being held there.

Several days after his arrest, this time carrying a search warrant, the SEBIN took some communications and computer equipment from his home. He was charged with using such equipment to interfere with radio communications from planes and airports; he was also indicted of revealing state secrets on Twitter.

In the report, the UN experts indicate that they have reviewed the handbooks of the equipment seized from the tweeter and that, with those devices, it was not possible either to transmit radio signals or to interfere with communications.

Pedro Jaimes Criollo, who did nothing but write tweets based on public information, was subjected to interrogations in which he was beaten with sticks or wooden bats wrapped in plastic or cloth, which leaves no marks. A bag was placed over his head and insecticide was sprayed inside, suffocating him. He was also administered electroshocks.

He was kicked in the head while on the floor, causing him to partly lose his hearing. SEBIN officials threatened to rape him with a wooden stick they had at hand.

That same month of May 2018, Provisional Prosecutor Marlon Mora filed charges against Pedro Jaimes at the Third Miranda State Control Court ([Tercer Tribunal de Control del Estado Miranda] a trial-level category), with Judge Rumely Rojas Muro presiding. He was charged with interference in operational security, revealing state secrets, and digital espionage. Although he was arrested a week after his tweets about Maduro’s flight, the prosecution claimed that he had been apprehended in flagrante delicto.

After over a month, during which time the government did not reveal the holding place of the tweeter despite the fact that his family filed for injunctive relief on several occasions, Pedro was able to call his sister, on a telephone provided by a guard at El Helicoide, to tell her where he was being held.

During the court proceedings on his matter, he was not allowed to appoint his defense lawyers, was denied access to his own docket, and the basis of the indictment was the interviews with the very SEBIN agents who had detained and tortured him.

Long held in abject conditions, for some time, even without access to a bathroom to relief himself, Pedro Jaimes was released while standing trial in October 2019. His matter has since been deferred a dozen times.

“As of the time of writing, Mr. Jaimes continued to await trial, with precautionary measures including monthly presentation at court and a prohibition on leaving the country. He continued to suffer from psychological symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and physical trauma,” reads the UN report, released in mid-September.

His crime? Tweeting. His case, not being a unique or standalone story, epitomizes the lack of freedom and the repressive system that prevail today in Venezuela.

Education: Act Now, Don’t Wait for the Bill

By Stefania Giannini
PARIS, Oct 20 2020 – School reopening doesn’t mean that education is back on course. For a start, schools remain closed in over 50 countries, affecting more than 800 million students. The poorest ones may never make it back to school, driven by poverty into child labour or early marriage. Distance learning has been out of reach for one third of the 1.6 billion students affected worldwide by school closures. They may disengage altogether if school closures continue.

Stefania Giannini

The health crisis is at risk of eroding decades of progress. For the first time since its conception, the Human Development Index is slated to decline, with education accounting for one third of its measure. At least 24 million students from early childhood through secondary school and university are at risk of dropping out because of COVID’s economic impact alone. Young children have missed out on vital health, nutrition and early learning in critical pre-school years. Youth have seen skills’ training centres shut down without any alternative. Learners with disabilities were left without support. Girls have faced heightened exposure to violence and early marriage. Adults’ literacy programmes were interrupted. University students couldn’t afford to continue their studies. The world was already facing a learning crisis before the pandemic. Now it could turn into a generational catastrophe if governments and the international community fail to prioritize education as a springboard of the recovery.

But as it stands now, education is not being prioritized. Education and training is receiving a nearly invisible share of stimulus packages set up by countries to support recovery from the COVID-19 crisis – 0.78 percent or USD 91.2 billion according to UNESCO’s preliminary research. Europe and North America allocated the largest amount to education (USD 56.9 billion) followed by Asia and the Pacific (USD 30.5 billion), while other regions may have spent around USD 3.8 billion altogether. The IMF policy tracker finds that only 37 out of 196 countries and territories cover education or training in their fiscal measures, especially stimulus packages. Leaders hardly referred to education when they met virtually at the UN last month to set priorities on financing for development post-COVID-19.

This does not stand up to economic logic. The recovery cannot be a competition for funds but one that builds on the connections between education, health, jobs and fighting poverty and inequalities. Access to education has lifetime repercussions on well-being, earnings and gender equality. Fiscal space is shrinking everywhere, but at minima, education budgets must be protected, if not increased to maintain the same level of spending. It is morally unacceptable to make governments choose between funding essential public goods and servicing debt.

There is a cost to every lost school day. Education will take time to recover from a universal disruption. The pandemic will notch up the funding gap for education by one third to as much as USD 200 billion annually in low and middle-income countries. The recovery requires investing now in campaigns to re-enrol the most marginalized students, in catch-up and second chance programmes and in health and hygiene facilities to ensure children and teachers are safe in school. As the pandemic curve is far from flattening, investments will be needed in remote and online learning options as they become an inevitable part of the “new normal”.

But by making the right investment choices now, rather than waiting, the additional funding gap incurred by the pandemic could be reduced by three-quarters. Aid to education, that was already losing steam as a priority among many donors, accounting for less than 11% of total official development assistance, could decline by 12% as a result of COVID-19. It must be stepped up. Children and youth are paying a high price for the health crisis. The pandemic cannot sound the death knell of their education – and their future. We can’t let our education systems break down in the name of a recession or a pandemic.

As an international community, we are calling on world leaders to make pledges to protect their education budgets and act in solidarity to support those farthest behind. We are convening a global meeting hosted by the Ghana, Norway and the United Kingdom this 22 October where we need to rally around the call to #PowerEducation and protect learning. Governments and the international community have it their power to prevent an educational fallout that will deepen inequalities and set back human development everywhere, threatening the already fragile social fabric of our societies. The COVID-19 generation deserves a better deal for the future, and this starts with the promise of a decent quality education.

Stefania Giannini is Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO


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Limited Liability: Profit Without Responsibility

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Oct 20 2020 – Limited liability protection for shareholders in joint stock companies was introduced to encourage investments in them. However, it has encouraged irresponsibility, causing much harm while generating profits without responsibility.

Limited liability limits responsibility
Columbia Law School’s Professor Katarina Pistor has extended her critique of the legal system to emphasize the implications of such limited liability. Limited liability encourages shareholders not to pay attention to the harm corporations they invest in may do.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Instead, as emphasized by Milton Friedman, shareholders should focus on returns to investment, and not be distracted by other considerations, especially the notions of corporate social responsibility and stakeholderism.

Chicago University’s Professor Luigi Zingales has emphasized that companies are not just value-neutral institutional or contractual arrangements. Instead, they have obligations to serve the public good or otherwise benefit society, to reciprocate for privileges provided by the state.

“Historically we know that corporations were born as public institutions with a special privilege granted by the state… Even today, … the privilege of limited liability, especially with respect to tort claims, is an extraordinary privilege granted by the state.”

The limited liability of these companies has allowed them to pursue profits with impunity, and to blatantly violate ethics and moral restraint, with little accountability to other ‘stakeholders’, i.e., with interests in the company’s activities and operations, including their consequences.

Limited liability effectively provides a legal guarantee to prospective shareholders intended to encourage investments in joint stock companies. Legal protection thus exempts shareowners from responsibility for the harm their corporations cause.

Limited liability companies
This amounts to a privileged legal exception granted by the state, effectively tantamount to an economic subsidy. Indeed, limited liability has long lay at the heart of the joint stock company. The corporation itself may face liability, but not shareholders who get to keep the profits they get.

Shareholders can, of course, lose money on their shareholdings, but they also profit without liability even if their companies harm others, cause ecological damage — e.g., water or air pollution, or greenhouse gas emission — and deliberately conceal and deny the dangers and costs of corporate practices which may involve corruption or other abuses, whether legal or otherwise.

In effect, shareholders bear virtually ‘no liability’ legally, and have no legal responsibility to other ‘stakeholders’. Unintended beneficial ‘side effects’ or ‘externalities’ for others were acceptable, but corporate governance should not be distracted and undermined by such considerations.

Shareholders are shielded from the consequences of the harm — or ‘negative externalities’ — that corporations inflict on others and on nature with the protection of ‘limited liability’. Under this legal dispensation, company shareholders are absolved of liability, regardless of the human and environmental costs caused by their activities, products or services sold.

Hence, limited liability has long been at the very core of their business models. Those running such limited liability companies have been quite aware of at least some of their ‘negative externalities’, or harm they cause, as such externalities are actually at the core of their profit maximizing strategies.

Thus, cost-saving or efficiency considerations typically involve skirting legal regulations, ‘passing on’ or ‘socializing’ costs, minimizing tax exposure, extracting non-renewable valuable resources, otherwise harming the environment, and other ‘socially irresponsible’ conduct.

Off the hook
In case after case of corporate crime, shareholders have been let off the hook: from the 1984 gas leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, which killed hundreds of thousands, to the health consequences of the use of tobacco, asbestos and other toxic and carcinogenic substances.

More recently, shareholders of Boeing, responsible for two airplane crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people, made US$43 billion from share repurchases during 2013-2019 when the firm ignored safety standards in order to cut costs. Meanwhile, the families of those who died will be compensated from a US$50 million disaster fund, i.e., about under US$150,000 per victim, much less than 0.2 per cent of the share repurchase gains.

A lawsuit against the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, the company believed to have profited most from the US opioid epidemic, is trying to hold beneficiaries of corporate misconduct accountable. Apparently, Purdue hired McKinsey as consultants to “turbocharge” opioid sales, willfully encouraging addiction, knowing it would lead to many deaths.

Nevertheless, fearing liability, some family members have reportedly moved much of their money to Switzerland. However, they need not fear as US courts have long protected influential shareholders from the victims of such corporate abuses, a norm unlikely to be reversed by senior judicial appointments in recent years.

Internalising externalities
Limited liability has often been criticised for preventing markets from properly pricing risks posed by corporate activities known to or suspected of causing substantial harm. But this, of course, presumes that assessing and pricing risk and harm by markets is straightforward, unproblematic and uncontroversial.

Property rights, it is claimed, increase efficiency by ensuring that owners bear the costs of the profit-seeking activities their assets are engaged in. Yet, limited liability protects investors from having to bear the full costs of their consequences while retaining profits so generated. Unsurprisingly, shareholders will defend such privileges and resist efforts requiring them to bear such costs.

‘Command and control’ or top-down regulation is dismissed as ineffective, costly and inefficient by the ideology of shareholder market capitalism. Meanwhile, market deterrents, e.g., via taxation, are opposed as governments are dismissed as incapable of setting optimal tax rates.

Shareholders also try to avoid liability by locating assets in safe havens, and by persuading governments to protect them, even threatening sanctions against those seeking to undermine such protection. But laws that allow investors to do harm with impunity also undermine the very legitimacy of the economic and legal system besides the very conditions for humanity’s survival.


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FXCM Group Reports Monthly Execution Data

LONDON and SYDNEY, Australia and JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Oct. 20, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — FXCM Group, LLC (“FXCM Group” or "FXCM"), a leading international provider of online foreign exchange trading, CFD trading, cryptocurrencies and related services, today released execution data for September 2020. To view execution data including historical spreads, execution speeds and historical price improvement data click here: https://www.fxcm.com/uk/about–fxcm/execution–transparency/.

September 2020 All Instruments Highlights:*

  • 56.8% of orders executed at price1
  • 28.1% of orders executed with positive slippage2
  • 15.1% of orders executed with negative slippage3
  • Average execution speed 24 milliseconds4

Highlighted Instruments September 2020:

Instrument Active
Active Trader
At Price
BTC/USD 29.2 28.9 25.8 80.9% 8.4% 10.6%
ETH/USD 1.1 1.1 1.1 70.7% 13.8% 15.5%
LTC/USD 0.3 0.3 0.3 87.9% 4.6% 7.5%
XAU/USD 0.4 0.5 0.5 50.7% 34.3% 15.0%
SPX500 0.4 0.4 0.4 43.8% 33.0% 23.2%
NAS100 1.2 1.2 1.2 37.3% 40.2% 22.5%
EUR/USD 0.1 0.4 0.2 68.0% 21.3% 10.7%
GBP/USD 0.3 1.1 0.5 63.4% 23.2% 13.3%
AUD/USD 0.2 0.5 0.3 71.4% 20.1% 8.5%

For more information and to open a live account, traders can contact an FXCM specialist 24 hours a day, 5 days a week.

*These highlights come from orders that executed through FXCM Group from 1 September 2020, to 30 September 2020. Data excludes certain types of non–direct clients.

1Percentage of executed client trades# in September 2020, which were executed at the price clients requested.
2Percentage of executed client trades# in September 2020, which were executed at a more favorable price than the price clients requested.
3Percentage of executed client trades# in September 2020, which were executed at a less favorable price than the price clients requested.
4This defines the amount of time between when we receive the order until execution. This excludes internet latency and post trade booking.
5This data is compiled forex and CFD trading data from FXCM's Active Traders for 1 September 2020, to 30 September 2020. The data reflects average spreads made available to FXCM clients during all trading hours.
6This data is compiled forex and CFD trading data from FXCM's Active Traders for 1 September 2020, to 30 September 2020. The data reflects the spread at which trades were executed by FXCM clients during all trading hours.
#Client trades here cover stop, limit, "at market", and entry orders. Certain non–direct clients are excluded from the data. Limit and limit entry orders would only execute at the requested price or better and cannot receive negative slippage. Price improvements are subject to available liquidity.

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A Long, Uneven and Uncertain Ascent

Thailand’s COVID-19 response cited as an example of resilience and solidarity. Credit: UNDP

By Gita Gopinath
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 20 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread with over 1 million lives tragically lost so far. Living with the novel coronavirus has been a challenge like no other, but the world is adapting.

As a result of eased lockdowns and the rapid deployment of policy support at an unprecedented scale by central banks and governments around the world, the global economy is coming back from the depths of its collapse in the first half of this year. Employment has partially rebounded after having plummeted during the peak of the crisis.

This crisis is however far from over. Employment remains well below pre-pandemic levels and the labor market has become more polarized with low-income workers, youth, and women being harder hit.

The poor are getting poorer with close to 90 million people expected to fall into extreme deprivation this year. The ascent out of this calamity is likely to be long, uneven, and highly uncertain. It is essential that fiscal and monetary policy support are not prematurely withdrawn, as best possible.

In our latest World Economic Outlook, we continue to project a deep recession in 2020. Global growth is projected to be -4.4 percent, an upward revision of 0.8 percentage points compared to our June update.

This upgrade owes to somewhat less dire outcomes in the second quarter, as well as signs of a stronger recovery in the third quarter, offset partly by downgrades in some emerging and developing economies. In 2021 growth is projected to rebound to 5.2 percent, -0.2 percentage points below our June projection.

Except for China, where output is expected to exceed 2019 levels this year, output in both advanced economies and emerging market and developing economies is projected to remain below 2019 levels even next year. Countries that rely more on contact-intensive services and oil exporters face weaker recoveries compared to manufacturing-led economies.

The divergence in income prospects between advanced economies and emerging and developing economies (excluding China) triggered by this pandemic is projected to worsen.

We are upgrading our forecast for advanced economies for 2020 to -5.8 percent, followed by a rebound in growth to 3.9 percent in 2021. For emerging market and developing countries (excluding China) we have a downgrade with growth projected to be – 5.7 percent in 2020 and then a recovery to 5 percent in 2021.

With this, the cumulative growth in per capita income for emerging-market and developing economies (excluding China) over 2020-21 is projected to be lower than that for advanced economies.

This crisis will likely leave scars well into the medium term as labor markets take time to heal, investment is held back by uncertainty and balance sheet problems, and lost schooling impairs human capital.

After the rebound in 2021, global growth is expected to gradually slow to about 3.5 percent into the medium term. The cumulative loss in output relative to the pre-pandemic projected path is projected to grow from 11 trillion over 2020-21 to 28 trillion over 2020-25.

This represents a severe setback to the improvement in average living standards across all country groups.

There remains tremendous uncertainty around the outlook with both downside and upside risks. The virus is resurging with localized lockdowns being re-instituted. If this worsens and prospects for treatments and vaccines deteriorate, the toll on economic activity would be severe, and likely amplified by severe financial market turmoil.

Growing restrictions on trade and investment and rising geopolitical uncertainty could harm the recovery. On the upside, faster and more widespread availability of tests, treatments, vaccines, and additional policy stimulus can significantly improve outcomes.

More Action is Needed

The considerable global fiscal support of close to $12 trillion and the extensive rate cuts, liquidity injections, and asset purchases by central banks helped saved lives and livelihoods and prevented a financial catastrophe.

There is still much that needs to be done to ensure a sustained recovery. First, greater international collaboration is needed to end this health crisis. Tremendous progress is being made in developing tests, treatments and vaccines, but only if countries work closely together will there be enough production and widespread distribution to all parts of the world.

We estimate that if medical solutions can be made available faster and more widely relative to our baseline, it could lead to a cumulative increase in global income of almost $9 trillion by end 2025, raising incomes in all countries and reducing income divergence.

Second, to the extent possible, policies must aggressively focus on limiting persistent economic damage from this crisis. Governments should continue to provide income support through well targeted cash transfers, wage subsidies, and unemployment insurance.

To prevent large scale bankruptcies and ensure workers can return to productive jobs, vulnerable but viable firms should continue to receive support—wherever possible—through tax deferrals, moratoria on debt service, and equity-like injections.

Over time, as the recovery strengthens, policies should shift to facilitating reallocation of workers from sectors likely to shrink on a long-term basis (travel) to growing sectors (e-commerce). Workers should be supported through this adjustment with income transfers, retraining, and reskilling.

Supporting reallocation will also require steps to speed up bankruptcy procedures and resolution mechanisms to efficiently tackle firm insolvencies. A public green infrastructure investment push in times of low interest rates and high uncertainty can significantly increase jobs and accelerate the recovery, while also serving as an initial big step towards reducing carbon emissions.

Emerging market and developing economies are having to manage this crisis with fewer resources, as many are constrained by elevated debt and higher borrowing costs. These economies will need to prioritize critical spending for health and transfers to the poor and ensure maximum efficiency.

They will also need continued support in the form of international grants and concessional financing, and debt relief in some cases. Where debt is unsustainable it should be restructured sooner than later to free up finances to deal with this crisis.

Lastly, policies should be designed with an eye toward placing economies on paths of stronger, equitable, and sustainable growth. The global easing of monetary policy while essential for the recovery should be complemented with measures to prevent build-up of financial risks over the medium term, and central bank independence should be safeguarded at all costs.

Needed fiscal spending and the output collapse have driven global sovereign debt levels to a record 100 percent of global GDP. While low interest rates alongside the projected rebound in growth in 2021 will stabilize debt levels in many countries, all will benefit from a medium-term fiscal framework to give confidence that debt remains sustainable.

In the future, governments will likely need to raise the progressivity of their taxes while ensuring that corporations pay their fair share of taxes, alongside eliminating wasteful spending.

Investments in health, digital infrastructure, green infrastructure and education can help achieve productive, inclusive, and sustainable growth. And expanding the safety net where gaps exist can ensure the most vulnerable are protected while supporting near-term activity.

This is the worst crisis since the Great Depression, and it will take significant innovation on the policy front, at both the national and international levels to recover from this calamity. The challenges are daunting. But there are reasons to be hopeful.

The exceptional policy response, including the establishment of the European Union pandemic recovery package fund and the use of digital technologies to deliver social assistance is a powerful reminder that well-designed policies protect people and collective economic wellbeing.

At the IMF we have provided funding at record speed to 81 members since the start of the pandemic, granted debt relief, and called for extended debt service suspension for low-income countries and for reform of the international debt architecture. Building on these actions, policies for the next stage of the crisis must seek lasting improvements in the global economy that create prosperous futures for all.

Source: IMF Blog


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