CoreCard® Expands Into Middle East and APAC Regions – Opening of New Office in Dubai, UAE – Staffed with Former Wirecard employees

NORCROSS, Ga., Oct. 29, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — CoreCard Software, Inc. (a subsidiary of Intelligent Systems), the leading provider of innovative credit technology solutions and processing services to the financial technology and services market announces the opening of a new office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The new office will operate as a subsidiary of CoreCard Software, Inc. and will support CoreCard's expansion of processing services into new markets in the Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa and European regions.

In addition to opening the new Dubai office, CoreCard will be adding approximately 50 resources previously with Wirecard AG in its offices in Dubai, UAE and Chennai, India. The resources include engineering, support, and business professionals with significant payments industry experience and experience operating CoreCard's Processing platforms in the related regions.

“The decision to expand CoreCard's presence into Dubai was a logical next step for our growth strategy. We already have great relationships with the employees we're hiring, and they have been working with our software for years through a previous license arrangement. We are extremely excited to get everyone on–boarded and contributing to our international growth plan," said Leland Strange, CEO of CoreCard. "With this expansion, CoreCard plans to continue to use the same systems which already provide services for many multi–currency prepaid card customers in multiple regions. In addition, we plan to expand our service offerings on the platform in the region to include all products including our industry–leading credit card processing products. It will take some time to build our business in the area and we want to get a strong initial base to begin that process.”

About CoreCard

CoreCard Software, a leading provider of card management systems and processing services, offers an array of account management solutions to support the complex requirements of the evolving global financial services industry. CoreCard software solutions provide the market's most feature–rich and flexible platform for processing and managing a full range of card products including prepaid/stored–value, multi–currency wallets, virtual card issuing, instant financing, small loans, point of sale loans, fleet, credit, debit, commercial, government, healthcare and private–label cards as well as accounts receivable and loans. Approximately 70 percent of the debit, credit and gift card transactions in the U.S. each year are processed by companies in Georgia. CoreCard is headquartered in Norcross, GA with additional offices in Bhopal and Navi Mumbai in India and Romania. CoreCard is a subsidiary of Intelligent Systems Corporation [NYSE AMERICAN: INS]. For more information, call 770–564–8000, email solutions@corecard.com, or visit www.corecard.com.

CoreCard® Expands Into Middle East and APAC Regions – Opening of New Office in Dubai, UAE – Staffed with Former Wirecard employees

NORCROSS, Ga., Oct. 29, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — CoreCard Software, Inc. (a subsidiary of Intelligent Systems), the leading provider of innovative credit technology solutions and processing services to the financial technology and services market announces the opening of a new office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The new office will operate as a subsidiary of CoreCard Software, Inc. and will support CoreCard's expansion of processing services into new markets in the Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa and European regions.

In addition to opening the new Dubai office, CoreCard will be adding approximately 50 resources previously with Wirecard AG in its offices in Dubai, UAE and Chennai, India. The resources include engineering, support, and business professionals with significant payments industry experience and experience operating CoreCard's Processing platforms in the related regions.

“The decision to expand CoreCard's presence into Dubai was a logical next step for our growth strategy. We already have great relationships with the employees we're hiring, and they have been working with our software for years through a previous license arrangement. We are extremely excited to get everyone on–boarded and contributing to our international growth plan," said Leland Strange, CEO of CoreCard. "With this expansion, CoreCard plans to continue to use the same systems which already provide services for many multi–currency prepaid card customers in multiple regions. In addition, we plan to expand our service offerings on the platform in the region to include all products including our industry–leading credit card processing products. It will take some time to build our business in the area and we want to get a strong initial base to begin that process.”

About CoreCard

CoreCard Software, a leading provider of card management systems and processing services, offers an array of account management solutions to support the complex requirements of the evolving global financial services industry. CoreCard software solutions provide the market's most feature–rich and flexible platform for processing and managing a full range of card products including prepaid/stored–value, multi–currency wallets, virtual card issuing, instant financing, small loans, point of sale loans, fleet, credit, debit, commercial, government, healthcare and private–label cards as well as accounts receivable and loans. Approximately 70 percent of the debit, credit and gift card transactions in the U.S. each year are processed by companies in Georgia. CoreCard is headquartered in Norcross, GA with additional offices in Bhopal and Navi Mumbai in India and Romania. CoreCard is a subsidiary of Intelligent Systems Corporation [NYSE AMERICAN: INS]. For more information, call 770–564–8000, email solutions@corecard.com, or visit www.corecard.com.

CoreCard® Expands Into Middle East and APAC Regions – Opening of New Office in Dubai, UAE – Staffed with Former Wirecard employees

NORCROSS, Ga., Oct. 29, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — CoreCard Software, Inc. (a subsidiary of Intelligent Systems), the leading provider of innovative credit technology solutions and processing services to the financial technology and services market announces the opening of a new office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The new office will operate as a subsidiary of CoreCard Software, Inc. and will support CoreCard's expansion of processing services into new markets in the Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa and European regions.

In addition to opening the new Dubai office, CoreCard will be adding approximately 50 resources previously with Wirecard AG in its offices in Dubai, UAE and Chennai, India. The resources include engineering, support, and business professionals with significant payments industry experience and experience operating CoreCard's Processing platforms in the related regions.

“The decision to expand CoreCard's presence into Dubai was a logical next step for our growth strategy. We already have great relationships with the employees we're hiring, and they have been working with our software for years through a previous license arrangement. We are extremely excited to get everyone on–boarded and contributing to our international growth plan," said Leland Strange, CEO of CoreCard. "With this expansion, CoreCard plans to continue to use the same systems which already provide services for many multi–currency prepaid card customers in multiple regions. In addition, we plan to expand our service offerings on the platform in the region to include all products including our industry–leading credit card processing products. It will take some time to build our business in the area and we want to get a strong initial base to begin that process.”

About CoreCard

CoreCard Software, a leading provider of card management systems and processing services, offers an array of account management solutions to support the complex requirements of the evolving global financial services industry. CoreCard software solutions provide the market's most feature–rich and flexible platform for processing and managing a full range of card products including prepaid/stored–value, multi–currency wallets, virtual card issuing, instant financing, small loans, point of sale loans, fleet, credit, debit, commercial, government, healthcare and private–label cards as well as accounts receivable and loans. Approximately 70 percent of the debit, credit and gift card transactions in the U.S. each year are processed by companies in Georgia. CoreCard is headquartered in Norcross, GA with additional offices in Bhopal and Navi Mumbai in India and Romania. CoreCard is a subsidiary of Intelligent Systems Corporation [NYSE AMERICAN: INS]. For more information, call 770–564–8000, email solutions@corecard.com, or visit www.corecard.com.

CoreCard® Expands Into Middle East and APAC Regions – Opening of New Office in Dubai, UAE – Staffed with Former Wirecard employees

NORCROSS, Ga., Oct. 29, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — CoreCard Software, Inc. (a subsidiary of Intelligent Systems), the leading provider of innovative credit technology solutions and processing services to the financial technology and services market announces the opening of a new office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The new office will operate as a subsidiary of CoreCard Software, Inc. and will support CoreCard's expansion of processing services into new markets in the Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa and European regions.

In addition to opening the new Dubai office, CoreCard will be adding approximately 50 resources previously with Wirecard AG in its offices in Dubai, UAE and Chennai, India. The resources include engineering, support, and business professionals with significant payments industry experience and experience operating CoreCard's Processing platforms in the related regions.

“The decision to expand CoreCard's presence into Dubai was a logical next step for our growth strategy. We already have great relationships with the employees we're hiring, and they have been working with our software for years through a previous license arrangement. We are extremely excited to get everyone on–boarded and contributing to our international growth plan," said Leland Strange, CEO of CoreCard. "With this expansion, CoreCard plans to continue to use the same systems which already provide services for many multi–currency prepaid card customers in multiple regions. In addition, we plan to expand our service offerings on the platform in the region to include all products including our industry–leading credit card processing products. It will take some time to build our business in the area and we want to get a strong initial base to begin that process.”

About CoreCard

CoreCard Software, a leading provider of card management systems and processing services, offers an array of account management solutions to support the complex requirements of the evolving global financial services industry. CoreCard software solutions provide the market's most feature–rich and flexible platform for processing and managing a full range of card products including prepaid/stored–value, multi–currency wallets, virtual card issuing, instant financing, small loans, point of sale loans, fleet, credit, debit, commercial, government, healthcare and private–label cards as well as accounts receivable and loans. Approximately 70 percent of the debit, credit and gift card transactions in the U.S. each year are processed by companies in Georgia. CoreCard is headquartered in Norcross, GA with additional offices in Bhopal and Navi Mumbai in India and Romania. CoreCard is a subsidiary of Intelligent Systems Corporation [NYSE AMERICAN: INS]. For more information, call 770–564–8000, email solutions@corecard.com, or visit www.corecard.com.

Crisis alla Turca II – From Currency Crisis to Debt Crisis?

Credi: Omid Armin, Unsplash

By Yilmaz Akyüz
GENEVA, Oct 29 2020 – The meltdown of the Turkish currency that began in 2018 has continued unabated with the decline reaching unprecedented proportions in recent days.  The causes of that turmoil including underlying financial fragilities and political shocks were discussed in a previous piece by this author.  Since then the economy has become even more vulnerable in these respects. 

Efforts to stabilize the currency resulted in large reserve losses and the lira has lost half of its value against the dollar in the past two years.  A matter of concern now is if this currency turmoil would eventually culminate in an external debt crisis and default.  

In previous crises in emerging economies currency and debt crises often came back to back.  Typically, an economy facing sudden stops in capital inflows and steep declines in its currency raised interest rates and deployed reserves in order to stabilize the currency, stay current on its external debt obligations and maintain an open capital account. 

Efforts to stabilize the currency resulted in large reserve losses and the lira has lost half of its value against the dollar in the past two years.  A matter of concern now is if this currency turmoil would eventually culminate in an external debt crisis and default

When reserves were exhausted, it ended up on the doorsteps of the IMF which provided some funding to enable the country to pay its debt to private creditors and avoid restrictions on capital outflows, and imposed austerity measures deemed to reduce external imbalances and generate confidence in international financial markets.  In most cases private external debt was socialised and the country’s external debt was rolled over at some penalty rates with the help of the IMF. 

So far, the Turkish case appears to depart significantly from this pattern.  Despite a steep and sustained drop in its currency and significant loss of reserves which are now well below the level of short-term debt, the country has avoided arrears on its debt payments and has in fact been able to continue borrowing in international markets, albeit at a relatively high cost.   What is going on?

There appear to be four factors that account for the sustained decline of the lira and loss of reserves. 

First, like most emerging economies that opened up its local markets to international investors in order to shift from debt to equity and from forex debt to local-currency debt in external financing, Turkey experienced a significant increase in foreign presence in its equity, debt and deposit markets, particularly during the rapid expansion of global liquidity and sharp drops in international interest rates brought about by quantitative easing and zero-bound policy rates in advanced economies in response to the global financial crisis in 2008. 

However, since 2018 there has been a rapid exit of foreign capital from local markets, notably from the debt market and this explains an important part of the decline in reserves and downward pressure on the currency.  Malaysia had experienced a similar exodus in 2015 which pushed the ringgit below the levels seen during the 1997 crisis. 

Second, the economy is highly dollarized both in credits and deposits.  A constant flight of the residents from the lira has been a major factor in its decline.  This seems to have taken place not so much as capital flight from the country as currency substitution within the Turkish banking system.   Forex deposits of residents as a proportion of total deposits have been on an upward trend since summer 2018, exceeding 50 per cent in recent months. 

A third factor is offshore speculation against the lira, notably in London, through derivative contracts very much like that against the Malaysian Ringgit in Singapore during the Asian crisis.  In Malaysia, the Mahathir government effectively shut down the offshore trading in Singapore.  

In Turkey in 2018 the authorities limited Turkish banks’ swap, spot and forward transactions with foreign investors to 50 percent of a bank’s equity, reducing it in several steps to 1 per cent in April 2020 before raising it to 10 per cent in September 2020. 

A fourth factor is payment of external debt by private corporations.  Alarmed by the sharp decline of the lira in 2018, many debtors in forex, notably financial institutions, started to deleverage, reducing their debt in an effort to avert losses due to sizeable exchange rate risks they were exposed to.  Between March 2018 and March 2020, private external debt fell by some $73 billion while the public sector continued to borrow, seeing its total external debt rise by $36 billion

Thus, the international financial markets have so far been willing to lend to Turkey in dollars but not in the lira even though the yields on lira bonds exceed those on sovereign (forex) bonds by a large margin.   There are two possible explanations for this. 

First, there is too much uncertainty about the future path of the lira, and the interest rate differentials between dollar and lira debt assets fail to cover the mounting exchange rate risk. 

Second, given the volatility of the present regime in Turkey, sovereign risk is much higher for lira bonds issued in domestic markets because they come under local jurisdiction.

The lira can fall much further in the period ahead if flight from it continues unabated, its decline fails to bring a sizeable improvement in the current account deficit, the private sector continues to deleverage and pay forex debt, the debt of insolvent companies hit by economic slowdown and the rise of the dollar is pushed onto the government and, finally, if the public sector cannot borrow abroad sufficiently to meet the foreign exchange needs created by all these factors.  

There is little scope for interest rate hikes to stabilize the lira not only because the government believes that high interest rates are the main cause of inflation and needs growth to restore credibility among its constituency, but also because under conditions of currency turmoil interest rate hikes may simply point to declining creditworthiness and greater default as shown by events in East Asia during the 1997 crisis

One counteracting factor could be a rush back of international capital, fire-sale FDI, to capture cheap Turkish assets resulting from hikes in the dollar and deflation in asset prices, as seen in several emerging market crises in the past.

If this currency turmoil will culminate in a debt crisis is difficult to tell.  Countries often default not because they are in debt but because they cannot borrow any more.  Whether or not Turkey will face a sovereign debt crisis will depend on the willingness of international financial markets to keep lending and this depends on their assessment of default risk. 

A high stock of debt and a continuous increase in foreign exchange needs make external borrowing more difficult and expensive, and this is also the case in Turkey.   However, it is quite difficult to predict at what point the country will be cut off from international financial markets.  These markets are often seen to pump in money for extended periods to countries widely seen to be on the verge of default.

There are a number of factors in Turkey’s favour in sustaining access to international finance.   First, it has a clean record in debt repayments ‒ the Republic never defaulted on its external obligations and even paid up the debt inherited from the Ottoman Empire.  Second, its debt is not seen as unsustainable, in need of reduction and relief, as in the case of Argentina.   Third, as noted by the World Bank in its Turkey Economic Monitor Report, its external debt profile remains favourable ‒ the average cost of the current debt stock is relatively low and the average maturity is long ‒ and its debt rollover rate is quite high.  Finally, although the risk margin and cost of new debt is very high, there is no obvious upward trend – today Turkey’s 5-year CDS rate is broadly the same as in September 2018. 

However, if the need for external financing does not diminish, this Ponzi-like process may well end up in a debt crisis.  On recent trends the external debt to GDP ratio can come to reach the 70-75 per cent range by 2023, well above that of Argentina on the eve of its recent restructuring initiative. 

Since the IMF option has been ruled out and the current government does not have many friends left among the major OECD countries that could come to help as in the past, in the event of a sudden stop in lending, debt moratorium and default cannot be avoided. 

This could come sooner as a result of political and geopolitical shocks triggering a reassessment of risks, especially since the economy is quite prone to such shocks under the current administration.  Of course, it is possible for the government to seek bilateral bailouts in return for economic and political concessions.  There is also the possibility of a change of government which would in all likelihood open the doors to the IMF and the West. 

There is no easy way out for Turkey after so many years of economic mismanagement and waste.  Until recently the economy enjoyed a debt-driven boom sucking in large amounts of imports financed by capital inflows. 

Investment has concentrated in areas with little foreign exchange earning prospects such as real estate and physical infrastructure ‒ roads, bridges, airports and hospitals.  Much of the latter capacity remains underutilised, entailing significant contingent liabilities for the government as a result of guarantees given to private constructers in dollars. 

The economy has been showing signs of premature de-industrialization that has pervaded many semi-industrialized economies in the past two decades.  Regrettably, while a genuine reform agenda should focus on how to reduce dependence on imports and foreign capital, the current debate in the country is largely concentrated on how to attract more capital.  

Yilmaz Akyüz is former Director, UNCTAD, and former Chief Economist, South Centre, Geneva

Nepal Needs to Bridge the Gap Between Legal Provisions Against Child Marriage and Social Norms

Nepal has the third highest rate of child marriage in the region, after Bangladesh and India. The Nepal Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) 2016 showed that on average women marry four years earlier than men (17.9 years versus 21.7 years). And the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2019 revealed that nearly 14% of women 20-24 years had given birth before age 18.

Credit: MONIKA DEUPALA.

By Karuna Onta
KATHMANDU, Oct 29 2020 – Mohan and Sarita (name changed) studied together in the same school from Grade 6 onwards. They were friends initially, but fell in love and wished to be together, though underage.

Sarita’s parents did not approve of this relationship. They restricted her from going to school, and having any interaction with Mohan. Both then decided to quit school and elope, even though they knew marriage before age 20 was illegal.

Nepal’s policies assure that girls have opportunity for education, employment and exercise their rights. But increasing instances of elopement prove that most parents have failed.  But we need to bridge the gap between the law and the social norms

They crossed the border into India, to get married. But the parents of Sarita filed a police complaint against Mohan charging him with human trafficking, and rape of a minor.

After a year, Sarita and Mohan returned to the village with a baby. Mohan was detained and taken to court. By this time, Sarita’s own parents had forgiven her and accepted her child. They were also sympathetic towards Mohan.

Sarita’s father approached the police to withdraw his case, but it was not legally possible. Today, Mohan is serving out his sentence. His father-in-law regrets having filed a police case against him. He takes lunch for Mohan every day in jail.

This is not an isolated case. As per the Nepali law the age of consent is 18 years. Girls, in such instances, have been mostly sent back to their parent’s home and the boy, if under 18, is sent to a correction home.

As per the National Civil Code Act 2017, the legal age of marriage has been raised to 20 for both boys and girls so that young people can finish school, become independent and mature before they can make informed marriage choices.

However, there is a wide gap between the purpose of the law and practice, and social norms. This gap needs to be addressed for the law to be effectively implemented. In 2014, at the Global Girl Summit held in London the Minister of Women, Children and Senior Citizens made a pledge to end child marriage by 2030, a commitment reflected in the National Ending Child Marriage Strategy.

Marriage is viewed as a traditional and religious institution and is considered a ‘must’ for girls in Nepali society. Parents and members of the family are expected to be responsible for the marriages of their daughters and sisters.

The reasoning is ‘protection of girls’, ensuring a ‘secured future’ and a ‘better life’.  Girls are also seen as an economic burden on families, and the pressure of dowry has made this worse. Girls from a very young age are also socialised in such a manner that they see marriage as the only possible future.

 

Child Marriage and female literacy in South Asia

Many girls feel a sense of security when married, and also perceive marriage as the beginning of their lives. Even among school girls one rarely finds a girl brave enough to declare that she may consider marriage only after school, or may not wish to marry at all.

The thinking of parents, family members and even the young girls are shaped by strong patriarchal mind-sets that view girls as objects to be married off to a ‘permanent home’. The result of all this. Our girls are not safe, and parents play a part in keeping it that way.

In reality, the expectations that the girls and their families have of marriage are not always met. With weak agency, low self-esteem, and less confidence, girls are unable to negotiate equal status in marriage.

The unequal power relationship between men and women always place young married girls as subordinates – they are expected to solve their married life challenges by themselves.

Parents mostly shrug their shoulders if married daughters land in trouble from in-laws. Girls are often left alone to fight their fight. Despite being aware of their rights, lack of economic independence, confidence to speak up for themselves and poor knowledge of sexual and reproductive health among the girls result in unwanted pregnancies, gender-based violence and, sometimes even rape.

Nepal has the third highest rate of child marriage in the region, after Bangladesh and India. The Nepal Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) 2016 showed that on average women marry four years earlier than men (17.9 years versus 21.7 years). And the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2019 revealed that nearly 14% of women 20-24 years had given birth before age 18.

But change is happening. As per the Demographic Health Survey of 2016, the proportion of young women age 15-19 who have never been married has increased from 56% percent to 73%, indicating a positive trend toward later marriage. However, the challenges for educated, economically independent girls and young women are equally tough and slightly different from those of the uneducated.

They have to deal with multitasking at home and work equally well, manage the expectations of joint family members, and if not met, deal with separation and divorce. Expectation of marriage, disapproval of living a self-governing, economically independent life without marriage is also not accepted with respect and appreciation by the society.

Local political leaders have been trying to reduce the legal age of marriage down to 16. Their argument is that marriage at the age of 20 years is too late, and to ‘keep’ the girl at home unmarried until then is not advisable.

The extreme social control of girl’s sexuality encourages early marriage and unsafe relationships. On one hand, the control of female sexuality is somehow supported by legal restriction of age for sexual relationship between girls and boys.

On the other hand, rapidly changing external context offers both boys and girls more opportunities for interaction through education platforms, or social media. In urban areas, it is increasingly common to see young girls and boys in friendship and sometimes also in relationships. Sooner or later, this trend will gradually expand to the rural areas also, posing serious challenge in implementing the law.

We urgently need a debate about the challenges of implementing the law and existing social norms around marriage and sexual activity between young people. We need to shift our thinking, mind-sets and beliefs to provide space and opportunity for girls to grow and make their own life choices.

Children should be exposed to untraditional gender norms, so they do not automatically adopt those of their parents’ generation. Girls and boys should learn about sexuality and reproductive rights in a way that empowers them to make safe and consensual choices.

Girls should be allowed dreams that go beyond marriage, and it should not be promoted as an ultimate destination for girls. The institutional features of marriage are accountable for 23% of married women experiencing domestic violence. We cannot make such high rates of failure the end destination for our girls.

Awareness alone will not be enough to break entrenched feudal and patriarchal mind-sets of both of men and women. Better education alone will not change these harmful practices. Sexuality of adolescent girls and boys needs to be better understood and accepted. Parents should support, not hinder, that journey.

Nepal’s policies assure that girls have opportunity for education, employment and exercise their rights. But increasing instances of elopement prove that most parents have failed.  But we need to bridge the gap between the law and the social norms.

Karuna Onta, PhD, is the Social Development Advisor at the British Embassy in  Kathmandu.

 

This story was originally published by The Nepali Times

Reclaiming Africa’s Early Post-independence History

Mausoleum of Kwame Nkrumah, First President of Ghana (Accra). Credit: Greg Neate, Flickr

By Adebayo Olukoshi, Tetteh Hormeku-Ajei, Aishu Balaji and Anita Nayar
ACCRA, Ghana, Oct 29 2020 – In 1965, Kwame Nkrumah described the paradox of neocolonialism in Africa, in which “the soil continue[s] to enrich, not Africans predominantly, but groups and individuals who operate to Africa’s impoverishment.” He captured what continues to be an essential feature of Africa’s political economy.

Enforced through neoliberalism in the contemporary period, many African states remain dependent on exporting primary commodities to enrich the global North, with their domestic policy constrained by unequal aid, trade, and investment regimes, and what is now, after almost four decades of structural adjustment, an almost permanent state of austerity.

Despite its manifest failures, neoliberalism continues to dominate policy making on the continent, bolstered by an ideological onslaught and a conditionality regime that has stifled any space to imagine and pursue alternatives. African governments in the immediate post-independence period challenged the neocolonial exploitation of the continent.

Whatever their ideological inclinations, governments saw the key task of their time as securing their political and economic agency by breaking out of their subordinate place in the global economic order and imagining a new one. In contrast with the contemporary externalization of policymaking, they responded creatively to the material interests of the majority of ordinary peoples.

The state sponsored and/or established industries; provided universal education to foster skills necessary for transforming the economy; built social infrastructure to ease reproductive labor; delinked from colonial currencies; made resources available for domestic producers and women through developmentalist central bank policies; worked to diversify revenue sources; and built regional solidarity.

The post-independence project was undermined and derailed by the active efforts of North governments including their former colonizers. They disrupted African governments through assassination attempts and coups, and opportunistically seized on the 1980s commodity crash that devastated African economies, compelling them to accept World Bank/International Monetary Fund (WB/IMF) loans conditional on liberalization, austerity, and privatization.

Four decades later, the ideological dominance of neoliberalism is profound. Spaces of progressive thought and learning have been fragmented, knowledge production has been monopolized by the free market logic, and tendentious mis-readings of the post-independence period as ideological, statist, and inefficient abound, facilitating a sense best summed up by the Thatcherite pronouncement that “there is no alternative.”

Recasting post-independence policies

Three widespread mis-readings of the post-independence period were wielded to push structural adjustment programs in the 1980s and continue to underpin the neoliberal hegemony in Africa.

Firstly, the WB/IMF and North governments cast post-independence leaders as excessively ideological in order to discredit the entire experience. In reality, however, while there was an ideological ferment, the range of policies adopted by African governments to assert economic sovereignty were similar across the ideological spectrum.

Capitalist oriented Kenya, socialist humanist Zambia, scientific socialist Ghana, Negritudist Senegal, and Houphouet-Boigny’s Côte d’Ivoire (then the Ivory Coast) constructed a central role for the state in post-colonial social and economic transformation, often driven by the collective ethos of meeting society’s needs in the absence of any significant local private capitalist class and the levels of investment necessary for transformation.

This often translated to the creation of state-owned enterprises and heavy investment in human capital; interventionist fiscal and monetary policies; and a uniform (if ultimately inconsistent) commitment to import substitution industrialization.

The false homogenization of the post-independence development project as a failure of ideology has allowed neoliberalism to be positioned as an ‘objective’ and ‘rational’ remedy to this period rather than an ideology itself, liable to contestation.

Secondly, the strong role of the state in post-independence development policy has been blamed for Africa’s development problems and used to justify the installation of the market as the solution, laying the basis for large-scale privatization and deregulation. In reality, however, all post-independence economies were largely market-oriented with key sectors dominated by foreign capital, serving as a continuation of colonial patterns.

Post-independence governments did, however, set out to regulate foreign capital through, for example, nationalizing strategic industries and capital controls. Ultimately, the failure to curtail the dominance of foreign capital, continued dependence on primary commodity export, and the vagaries of the global economic system worked to undermine the post-independence development project.

This reality has been obscured to scapegoat state intervention, justifying the further encroachment of foreign capital and continued integration into an unequal global economic order. Thandika Mkandawire and Charles Soludo outlined the hypocrisy of this narrative, noting that the post-independence project was not outside the dominant policy orientation globally.

Post-depression, Europe was being reconstructed through massive state-driven intervention, and the Marshall Plan led by the United States was far from a market driven exercise. As Ha-Joon Chang has noted, the delegitimization of the state as a development actor in Africa denied the continent the very policy instruments used by the North to develop.

Finally, the myth of weak and inefficient institutions in the post-independence period underpinned efforts to dismantle the state and its role in the economy and social provisioning.

This misrepresents what was a uniquely consistent policy period on the continent, in which there was stable tariff policy and taxation, and public development plans and budgets. Mkandawire and Soludo suggest neoliberal actors like the WB/IMF simply failed to understand the multiple roles of institutions in the post-independence period: rural post offices were also savings banks and meeting places for the community, the Cocoa Marketing Board in Ghana also raised money to fund education.

As such, when they were dismantled and replaced with standardized, monotasked institutions during structural adjustment, it ripped the social fabric that was integral to the post-independence agenda. For example, after the state-run Cocoa Marketing Board was dismantled, universities were forced to raise funds privately, and those donors over time reshaped and de-politicized the curriculum.

The resulting sense of dislocation, alienation, and commodification has undermined the deep efforts of post-independence governments to foster socio-economic inclusion.

The post-independence period had a range of limitations, critically related to the failure to adequately address gender imbalances, enable independent workers and peasants movements, or build strong decentralized systems of local governance.

However, when compared to the neoliberal era, there was inspiring clarity around the goal of structural transformation and a wealth of policy efforts aimed at transforming the neocolonial patterns that still grip the continent.

The questions post-independence governments asked, to which the policies were formulated as answers, were all but ignored by neoliberalism. It is, therefore, of value for Africans to go beyond the persistent narratives that serve to bolster neoliberalism, and reassert Africa’s experiences in this period as an anchor for development alternatives.

Republished from Africa is a Country under a creative commons license. This article comes out of Post-Colonialisms Today, a research and advocacy project of activist-intellectuals on the continent recapturing progressive thought and policies from early post-independence Africa to address contemporary development challenges. Sign up for PCT updates here.

 


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In the Face of a Pandemic, the World Turns to Trade

Toronto Global Forum: Greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, international trade can play a key role in the economic recovery, but must overcome obstacles, such as protectionism and commercial disputes, especially between United States and China.

“International cooperation is the only tool to face the situation, threatened by nationalism, import substitution, protectionism and populist policies of several countries”. Credit: UNCTAD

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO, Oct 29 2020 – Greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, international trade can play a key role in the economic recovery, but it must overcome obstacles, such as protectionism and commercial disputes, especially between the United States and China.

This became clear during the virtual debates at the Toronto Global Forum “Forging a Resilient Economy,” organized by the non-governmental International Economic Forum of the Americas, based in Paris, from Monday, 26th to Wednesday, 28th.

During the last plenary session of the Forum, dedicated to analyzing the condition of international trade in times of global uncertainty, on Wednesday 28th, the Argentinean José Luis Manzano, Integra Capital private investment fund’s founder and president, stressed that the negative global context persists in the last quarter of a year marked by the pandemic.

He pointed out that there has been an incipient economic recovery, which comes from the reactivation that occurred in the middle of the year in the United States and Europe, now threatened by the increase in covid-19 infections, which in the case of Europe has already produced a withdrawal of activities.

“At this moment we are halfway through the pandemic, which means we still have another year of retreat. This will impact trade, economic growth, investment. The pandemic found regions and companies in different situations,” said Manzano.

Focusing on Canada’s position in the world, the Forum, which brought together Canadian officials and business and civil society organization representatives from several countries, also addressed issues such as financial services, future of work, the role of women in the economy, the digital ecosystem, innovation and investment.

Participants also discussed resilient infrastructure, education, health, cyber security, sustainability, agriculture and food.

The appearance of the coronavirus in December in China and its rapid global expansion in the weeks that followed led to domestic confinement and the curbing of non-essential economic activities, especially in sectors such as transportation, retail and tourism, which in turn led to a decrease in energy consumption.

Governments have responded to this with different packages of measures to deal with the aftermath of the crisis, such as reduced income due to the fall in international oil prices, in the case of exporting countries, which is contrasted with a reduction in the energy bill for oil importers.

 

The covid-19 pandemic has unleashed a wave of social and economic effects around the world, and to face them, governments have responded with different policies. Among the hardest hit in the developing South are informal workers, like the shoe polisher in the picture, in Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy

 

Rachel Bendayan, Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, and Mairead Lavery, President and CEO of Canada’s export promotion agency (EDC), agreed that trade is key the to economic recovery.

“The pandemic should not be an excuse for protectionism, for placing barriers to free trade, or for leading countries to become more protectionist. We need a stable and predictable system,” Bendayan said during his participation in the Forum.

For his part, Lavery said that international trade has positive effects on investment, employment and prosperity.

“We need to ensure that all Canadians have access to the benefits of trade. We need to rebuild trust. The response in different countries is different and we have to analyze how they affect consumption, customers, the supply chain,” she said.

In his opinion, “the recovery will depend on the health situation in the world, it’s the predominant factor, and depending on the economic sector and the country concerned” and that opens an opportunity to adapt to electronic commerce and digitization of international processes.

Canada, the United States and Mexico make up one of the largest trading blocks in the world, the Mexico, the United States and Canada Agreement (T-MEC), which came into force last July and replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been in force since 1994.

But the trade disputes led by the right-wing government of Donald Trump, which is seeking re-election in the November 3rd presidential poll, cast a shadow over the initial steps of the agreement.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) projects that the largest contractions in the region’s exports would be to the United States (32 percent) and within the region itself (28 percent).

In contrast, China, the region’s second largest trading partner and a country that keeps the coronavirus under control, increased its gross domestic product (GDP) by 4.9 percent year-on-year during the third quarter of 2020, although it is still too early to predict whether the Asian giant can be the global powerhouse, as it was after the financial crisis of 2008.

Manzano stated that international cooperation is the only tool to face the situation, threatened by nationalism, import substitution, protectionism and populist policies of several countries.

“There are two things that intersect with international trade and investment: the pandemic and frictions between the United States and China,” he said.

For this reason, he said, “we need to be prepared to continue injecting money into monetary and fiscal policies, educating SMEs to work in the digital world, without forgetting the environmental impact. The recovery packages will offer opportunities for sustainability”.

The Argentine investor insisted that there must be government support for salaries, digital training, bringing value chains closer to producing countries, and government backing for the transformation of small and medium enterprises.

During the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN), Costa Rica’s president, Carlos Alvarado, presented in September the proposal to create the “Fund to Relieve the Economy covid-19”, an international solidarity effort in the face of the economic recession caused by the pandemic and an instrument to promote a sustainable recovery.

In addition, Mexico is promoting an UN Extraordinary General Assembly in 2021 to agree on the necessary actions for economic recovery and to reduce the social impact of the current crisis, in the post-pandemic phase.

In a session on global manufacturing and the future of globalization, Christiana Riley, executive director for the Americas at the German Deutsche Bank and member of its Board of Directors, indicated that the differences in income between countries are “structural” and need government intervention at the domestic and international levels.

“The private sector can finance much of what is needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Governments and financial institutions can be intermediaries between sources of capital and sustainable projects,” she said.

 

The Day After

For Europe, the region closest by culture and political tradition to the United States, the mood of the day after the presidential election may be very different from that assumed a priori depending on the verdict.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris. Credit: Biden Campaign.

By Joaquín Roy
Oct 29 2020 – For Europe, the region closest by culture and political tradition to the United States, the mood of the day after the presidential election may be very different from that assumed a priori depending on the verdict.

It is believed that, according to polls and sporadic opinions expressed in analytical articles and direct statements by leaders, support for the Democratic victory is majority. This sentiment is also shared by most of the opinions of the extra-European world, called “liberal-democratic”.

Although it cannot be said that the sentiment is universal, it is also believed that the support of authoritarian regimes for Trump’s candidacy is scarce, with the few exceptions of some leaders who from some quarters have dared to pour out scandalous judgments.

It is not clear, therefore, that, with the exception of Russia and Brazil, the authoritarianism of the rest of the planet is an endorsement of the current occupant of the White House.

Therefore, if that desire is fulfilled, which is frequently alluded as fair, that the citizens of the rest of the world would deserve to participate in the election of the president of the United States, it can be said, especially with respect to Europe, that a triumph of Biden and Harris would be greeted with fireworks.

It is not clear if these strange “voters” are aware of what the new US government would look like and if it would respond to their interests.

Nor is it easy to know before the plebiscite what kind of government in the United States will suit the wishes of Europe.

The reason for this indecision is predominantly due to the persistence of the stereotype that this complex reality is projected onto Europe on the other side of the Atlantic. If this diagnosis is generalized over time, it is even more so today taking into account the seismic changes that the North American society itself has suffered.

Joaquín Roy

These have been buried for a long time and have suddenly surfaced dramatically to the surprise of many citizens, with the exception of the group of voters that raised Trump to the presidency in 2006 and who stubbornly persists in keeping him on the pedestal.

America is no longer the imagined nation of the past (all nations are “imagined,” as Benedict Anderson proposed). The mystique of Normandy and free speech that triumphed when the New York Times and the liberal press that brought down Richard Nixon (1969-1974) and tamed George W. Bush (2001-2009) no longer works the same.

But at the same time the media felt powerless to stop the madness in Iraq, just as years before it was speechless in the face of the tragedy in Vietnam. Nobody believes in the “end of history” anymore, an effective image of the then respected “scholar”, Francis Fukuyama, when he labeled the end of the Cold War as the burial of the ideologies that had competed the market with liberal democracy. Many scholars laughed silently, being left without intellectual work.

But buried history not only survived thanks to the survival of abuse, poverty, and inequality. Trump sold very well the existence of the ills of the United States, attributed to immigrants, the so-called “socialism”, and evil liberalism. We had to “make America great again.”

Now he has finished his special task with a “hat trick” (scoring three goals in a game) by appointing three conservative judges in the Supreme Court. Earlier he had accomplished the feat of systematically and quietly placing dozens of magistrates for life at the judicial levels immediately below.

The neutrality of the third power has been questioned for a whole generation, at least until the death of all the Republican judges who, taking into account the age of the last magistrate, will go a long way.

If Biden’s victory occurs, the majority Democratic sector that will have supported him will have achieved a feat in the face of fear, unrest, and that rise of demons that were supposed to have disappeared. But this victory can also be attributed not only to Trump’s authoritarian behavior during those four years in power, but also to a great extent to his mistakes in administering an effective policy to combat the pandemic.

Ironically, therefore, Trump would had been defeated not by a Democratic political opposition but also by “divine” action. The Cobid19 would had acted like those evil medieval viruses sent by the devil, which decimate the population, and has punished the tyrant. It is not going to be a comfortable conclusion.

That “help” from the pandemic is going to take a toll in the new Biden-Harris era. The surviving marriage made up of the virus and Trump will begin plotting his revenge.

Meanwhile, the new government will have to face new horsemen of the apocalypse: a shattered economy, a huge debt, the revenge of the ultra-right, police resentment, the persistent frustration of blacks and minorities, and a return to the resistance to a determined economic opening, which was a past mark of Democratic politics.

Biden’s America, pressured by urgent reconstruction, may opt for ambivalent behavior regarding foreign involvement. “America first” will remain latent with Biden.

At the very least, Democrats can be satisfied with the reestablishment of internationalism, the recovery of the good name (the essence of the United States still has a value on political Wall Street), moderate regional integration, arms control agreements , the agreements in favor of the fight against climate change, and the fight against drug trafficking and international crime. The international community can still trust the United States.

In contrast, in the case of a Trump reelection, it can worsen, not only in the national territory, but also in the spillover that occurs, racism, violence, corruption, poverty and inequality. The “end of history” may mean the beginning of another history, with the disappearance of the United States from the map built since 1945, which paradoxically will have been replaced by an unusual planet.

It would be like that terrifying scene from the best Hollywood movies with the streets littered with wrecked cars, the surviving inhabitants competing for the rest of the food available, and the apes watching the scene from the top of the cracked skyscrapers.

 

Joaquín Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Center of the University of Miami

Escaping the ‘Era of Pandemics’: experts warn worse crises to come; offer options to reduce risk

By External Source
Oct 29 2020 (IPS-Partners)

Future pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, do more damage to the world economy and kill more people than COVID-19 unless there is a transformative change in the global approach to dealing with infectious diseases, warns a major new report on biodiversity and pandemics by 22 leading experts from around the world.

Convened by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) for an urgent virtual workshop about the links between degradation of nature and increasing pandemic risks, the experts agree that escaping the era of pandemics is possible, but that this will require a seismic shift in approach from reaction to prevention. Credit: IPBES

Convened by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) for an urgent virtual workshop about the links between degradation of nature and increasing pandemic risks, the experts agree that escaping the era of pandemics is possible, but that this will require a seismic shift in approach from reaction to prevention.

COVID-19 is at least the sixth global health pandemic since the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, and although it has its origins in microbes carried by animals, like all pandemics its emergence has been entirely driven by human activities, says the report released on Thursday. It is estimated that another 1.7 million currently ‘undiscovered’ viruses exist in mammals and birds – of which up to 850,000 could have the ability to infect people.

“There is no great mystery about the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic – or of any modern pandemic”, said Dr. Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance and Chair of the IPBES workshop. “The same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risk through their impacts on our environment. Changes in the way we use land; the expansion and intensification of agriculture; and unsustainable trade, production and consumption disrupt nature and increase contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens and people. This is the path to pandemics.”

Pandemic risk can be significantly lowered by reducing the human activities that drive the loss of biodiversity, by greater conservation of protected areas, and through measures that reduce unsustainable exploitation of high biodiversity regions. This will reduce wildlife-livestock-human contact and help prevent the spillover of new diseases, says the report.

“The overwhelming scientific evidence points to a very positive conclusion,” said Dr. Daszak. “We have the increasing ability to prevent pandemics – but the way we are tackling them right now largely ignores that ability. Our approach has effectively stagnated – we still rely on attempts to contain and control diseases after they emerge, through vaccines and therapeutics. We can escape the era of pandemics, but this requires a much greater focus on prevention in addition to reaction.”

“The fact that human activity has been able to so fundamentally change our natural environment need not always be a negative outcome. It also provides convincing proof of our power to drive the change needed to reduce the risk of future pandemics – while simultaneously benefiting conservation and reducing climate change.”

The report says that relying on responses to diseases after their emergence, such as public health measures and technological solutions, in particular the rapid design and distribution of new vaccines and therapeutics, is a “slow and uncertain path”, underscoring both the widespread human suffering and the tens of billions of dollars in annual economic damage to the global economy of reacting to pandemics.

Pointing to the likely cost of COVID-19 of $8-16 trillion globally by July 2020, it is further estimated that costs in the United States alone may reach as high as $16 trillion by the 4th quarter of 2021. The experts estimate the cost of reducing risks to prevent pandemics to be 100 times less than the cost of responding to such pandemics, “providing strong economic incentives for transformative change.”

The report also offers a number of policy options that would help to reduce and address pandemic risk. Among these are:

    • Launching a high-level intergovernmental council on pandemic prevention to provide decision-makers with the best science and evidence on emerging diseases; predict high-risk areas; evaluate the economic impact of potential pandemics and to highlight research gaps. Such a council could also coordinate the design of a global monitoring framework.
    • Countries setting mutually-agreed goals or targets within the framework of an international accord or agreement – with clear benefits for people, animals and the environment.
    • Institutionalizing the ‘One Health’ approach in national governments to build pandemic preparedness, enhance pandemic prevention programs, and to investigate and control outbreaks across sectors.
    • Developing and incorporating pandemic and emerging disease risk health impact assessments in major development and land-use projects, while reforming financial aid for land-use so that benefits and risks to biodiversity and health are recognized and explicitly targeted.
    • Ensuring that the economic cost of pandemics is factored into consumption, production, and government policies and budgets.
    • Enabling changes to reduce the types of consumption, globalized agricultural expansion and trade that have led to pandemics – this could include taxes or levies on meat consumption, livestock production and other forms of high pandemic-risk activities.
    • Reducing zoonotic disease risks in the international wildlife trade through a new intergovernmental ‘health and trade’ partnership; reducing or removing high disease-risk species in the wildlife trade; enhancing law enforcement in all aspects of the illegal wildlife trade and improving community education in disease hotspots about the health risks of wildlife trade.
    • Valuing Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ engagement and knowledge in pandemic prevention programs, achieving greater food security, and reducing consumption of wildlife.
    • Closing critical knowledge gaps such as those about key risk behaviors, the relative importance of illegal, unregulated, and the legal and regulated wildlife trade in disease risk, and improving understanding of the relationship between ecosystem degradation and restoration, landscape structure and the risk of disease emergence.

Speaking about the workshop report, Dr. Anne Larigauderie, Executive Secretary of IPBES said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of science and expertise to inform policy and decision-making. Although it is not one of the typical IPBES intergovernmental assessments reports, this is an extraordinary peer-reviewed expert publication, representing the perspectives of some of the world’s leading scientists, with the most up-to-date evidence and produced under significant time constraints. We congratulate Dr. Daszak and the other authors of this workshop report and thank them for this vital contribution to our understanding of the emergence of pandemics and options for controlling and preventing future outbreaks. This will inform a number of IPBES assessments already underway, in addition to offering decision-makers new insights into pandemic risk reduction and options for prevention.”

Source: IPBES

 


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