The leading world futurists and scientists are interested in the development of Africa

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, May 03, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Transdisciplinary Agora For Future Discussions (TAFFD's) will gather the leading futurists all over the world during the Gen4IR Global Summit in South Africa. The event will take place at the beautiful Sun City resort in Johannesburg in the middle of August.

The event which is now slated August 16–17 2022 because of the aims to converge scientist, and industrial experts from diverse disciplines.

"We are working with relevant authorities through our crucial government partners to ensure ease of travel to SA. The move of the summit to August will therefore offer the best chance for all participants to attend in person and maximize face–to–face interaction, networking opportunities, and planning productive endeavors for the future." – commented Brenda Kgomotsego Ramokopelwa, CEO at TAFFD's.

"The growing interest from the private and public sectors worldwide in our event will require full engagement by speakers and delegates. We will therefore use this time to offer regular context, podcasts, commentaries, Zoom events that will educate, enlighten, and inspire about the prosperous future of Africa that the August summit will help unleash. We apologize for any inconvenience this move might have caused and hope to see you this August in South Africa. We thank you for your interest in the Gen4IR summit and hope you will engage with us as we lead up to our exciting event!" – "snkch km Kl, founder at TAFFD's.

Africa, with its status as having the youngest population on Earth, is strategically positioned at the forefront of the global race to be the 4IR powerhouse thanks to boundlessly creativity of African youth experienced in using tools, ideas and skills in overcoming of the myriad real–life challenges, and vast resources of the world digital technologies and startups, who are interested in this raising market. Over a million years ago, the making of stone chopping tools and the stone hand axe at Olduvai Gorge of the East African Rift Valley represented the first step in the great human journey of shaping our world and for many millions of years. The stone hand axe from Africa remained the innovative technology, which was needed by and accompanied our ancestors as they spread out of Africa and across the world. Indeed, as our tools evolve so do our ideas, and then as our tools and ideas evolve, so also do we. Our current 21st century world and humankind through a new set of modern tools characterized as exponential technologies, stands again at the verge of another radical evolution – a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) – and just as with the story of our origins, the future of this technological revolution lies again in the promise of Africa.

Currently, among the speakers of the Gen4IR conference are Ai Karaki, 4iAfrica; David Wood, futurists; Aubrey De Grey, PhD, Biomedical Gerontologist; Natasha Vita More, PhD; Jose Louis Codeiro, MIT Engineer, Immortalist; Edward Hudgins, Futurist, Human Achievement Alliance; Dr. Catherine Demetriades, Inventor of Cxai technologies and Actual Intelligence; Dr. Sarita Sharma, Author of Myriad Voices, Days V.; Ugo Chukwu, Futurist; and many more. We deliver you 4 Key mindsets and an understanding of the exponential technologies required for you. Let's make Africa great again!

For more information, kindly visit gen4ir.org or email 2022summit@gen4ir.org.

Contact:
Victoria Ustimenko
Global Head of Markets
Telegram: @air_clouds
Signal: +7 967 181 8317
TAFFD's
pr@taffds.org

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/ddb55972–a38a–4e64–987f–dbc4aa09226f


Pacific Community-Led Health Missions Arrive with Critical Support to Tonga and Kiribati Grappling with COVID-19 Surges

Pacific Community health experts conduct laboratory training for COVID-19 testing with their healthcare colleagues in Nuku'alofa, Tonga. Credit: Pacific Community (SPC)

Pacific Community health experts conduct laboratory training for COVID-19 testing with their healthcare colleagues in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. Credit: Pacific Community (SPC)

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia , May 3 2022 – Before the pandemic emerged in 2020, health services in many Pacific Island countries were under-resourced, under-funded and under-staffed. Now following recent outbreaks of COVID-19, advancing the capacity and development of health and medical services in vulnerable nations, such as Tonga and Kiribati, is increasingly urgent.

In the central Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati, virus cases have skyrocketed from zero to more than 3,000 since the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, the Polynesian kingdom of Tonga was hit early this year by a devastating submarine volcanic eruption and then a spike in COVID-19 cases.

“Ashfall and a tsunami from the volcanic eruption affected an estimated 84 percent of the population covering the whole of Tonga,” Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni’s office announced in late January.

In Kiribati, Margaret Leong, SPC's Infection Prevention and Control Adviser, conducted training in the use of PPE with local healthcare staff. Credit: Pacific Community (SPC)

In Kiribati, Margaret Leong, SPC’s Infection Prevention and Control Adviser, conducted training in the use of PPE with local healthcare staff. Credit: Pacific Community (SPC)

The deployment of health and medical experts to Tonga and Kiribati in February by the regional development organization, Pacific Community, have proven to be crucial support missions.

“Tonga is in a unique and unprecedented scenario. It is contending with a triple event: the volcanic eruption, the tsunami and COVID-19 outbreak. They are all related to one another. We are in Tonga in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, helping to ensure the quality of COVID-19 testing is maintained, aspiring to zero contamination, to support infection prevention and control,” Dr Sunia Soakai, Deputy Director of the Pacific Community’s Public Health Division told IPS from Tonga.

Tonga, an archipelago nation of 104,494 people in the southern Pacific Ocean, managed, for a long time, to stave off the pandemic, recording its first COVID-19 case only in October last year. Then on the 15 January, the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano, located 65 kilometres northeast of the country’s main island of Tongatapu, erupted violently, propelling massive amounts of volcanic ash into the atmosphere and triggering far-reaching tsunami waves. Many islanders were affected, either by health problems, such as breathing and cardiovascular difficulties, the loss of food sources or forced displacement.

But, as the world reached out to help, disaster recovery efforts were complicated by a spike in the pandemic. As of 20 April, Tonga recorded 9,220 cases of COVID-19 and 11 related deaths.

While Tongans receive free public healthcare, the island nation has limited health infrastructure and human resources. “We are providing support to three hospitals located on Tonga’s outer islands to boost their capacities for COVID-19 testing. That involves assisting them to collect samples and, if needed, transporting them to locations where equipment for testing is available…We’ve also been asked to conduct a thorough review of the country’s health protocols and procedures, such as handling of the deceased, quarantine requirements and procedures related to health care workers returning to work after positive diagnosis of COVID-19,” Dr Soakai described. “And we are working to ensure that other health services continue to be available to non-COVID patients.”

Local nurses dedicated to working in COVID-19 patient hospital wards in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati. Credit: Pacific Community (SPC)

Local nurses dedicated to working in COVID-19 patient hospital wards in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati. Credit: Pacific Community (SPC)

SPC is a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO)-led multi-agency Joint Incident Management Team and provides a wide spectrum of support services, including building the capacities of health systems, improving training and qualifications of healthcare workers across the region and commissioning new medical research.

“The team that was recently deployed to Tonga was very timely. They came when there was a lot of demand in our laboratory to do tests. This was before Rapid Antigen Tests were widely used for testing. We were sending up to 500 swabs per day and this was a challenge to our laboratory,” Dr Ana Akau’ola, Medical Superintendent of the main Vaiola Hospital in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, told IPS.

Earlier in the year, Elisiva Na’ati, a dietitian from the Pacific Community arrived in the country to aid recovery efforts following the volcanic disaster. “She came when there was a need to develop nutritional proposals for the islanders who had been displaced after the tsunami,” Dr Akau’ola added.

Across the vast Pacific Ocean, containing 22 island nations and territories with a total population of about 11.9 million, the role of the Pacific Community during the pandemic is, for many islanders, the difference between life and death. Many national governments work with constrained budgets and, therefore, funding and resources for health, with specialist and full hospital services often only available in main urban centres.

Only 12 of 21 Pacific Island countries have met the global goal of 4.5 healthcare workers per 1,000 people and national health expenditure per capita in 10 Pacific nations is US$500 or less, compared to the world average of US$1,000, WHO reports. It is not just islanders suffering from the virus, but also those afflicted with other serious illnesses, such as Tuberculosis, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, who are experiencing over-burdened health clinics and hospitals.

Since the pandemic emerged, the Pacific Community has provided countries with laboratories, medical technology and skills for the testing of COVID-19, assisted vaccination initiatives, upskilled the capabilities of nurses for greater responsibility and strengthened national capabilities to monitor emerging public health threats.

In the atolls of Kiribati, home to about 119,940 people, SPC’s medical and health professionals worked alongside local health staff, patients and international partners, such as UNICEF, WHO and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which provided funding.

The country managed to keep COVID-19 from crossing its borders until January when its first case was identified in an incoming traveller. By April 20, 2022, Kiribati had diagnosed 3,076 virus cases in the country with 13 fatalities.

“We went into the country at the peak. We came to assist with preparing the wards, to support the training of PPE use. We set up isolation centres for patients in the community because the hospital beds were all full. We also worked with airport and border control staff, helping them to use practical and effective PPE, such as disposable gowns,” Margaret Leong, the Pacific Community’s Infection Prevention and Control Adviser, who was deployed to Kiribati in February, told IPS.

“Some of the issues and challenges they had were healthcare worker fatigue and psychological stress. Staff were getting sick, so there were insufficient numbers of healthcare workers at the peak. This put stress on the remaining healthcare workers,” Leong continued.

Laboratory training conducted by the Pacific Community-led health and medical mission in February and March boosted the capacity of Kiribati health services to cope with the pressures of a surge in COVID-19 cases. Credit: Pacific Community (SPC)

Laboratory training conducted by the Pacific Community-led health and medical mission in February and March boosted the capacity of Kiribati health services to cope with the pressures of a surge in COVID-19 cases. Credit: Pacific Community (SPC)

At the same time, Dr Lamour Hansell led the SPC’s Clinical Care Services part of the mission, helping to manage COVID patients in intensive care. “We started up a new hospital for COVID patients, supplying new infrastructure. An old hotel was found [in Nuku’alofa] and turned into a critical care facility. The Intensive Care Unit was located in the main hotel lobby and it was one of the best I have worked in,” Dr Hansell told IPS.

The work was relentless, round the clock and demanding, but Dr Hansell had only praise for his local colleagues, who, he said, were flexible and adaptable in the face of enormous professional and personal pressures. He witnessed many moments of courage and strength in his co-workers, remembering “one of the clinicians who had to treat and manage her own grandmother who had COVID-19. It was a very humbling thing to see, very humbling and inspiring,” he emphasised.

The number of new virus cases has slowed in both countries since the beginning of April, but internal lockdown restrictions remain in place. While the Pacific Community’s in-country missions responded to the peak of the crisis, the organization is accessible throughout the year to provide virtual, logistical support and mentoring to Pacific Island nations whenever it’s needed.

IPS UN Bureau Report

 


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McKinsey & Company Acquires S4G Consulting to Accelerate Clients’ End-to-End Growth Transformations

NEW YORK and MADRID, Spain, May 03, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — McKinsey & Company announced today it has acquired Madrid–based S4G Consulting. As a top Salesforce Platinum Partner, S4G specializes in helping companies of all sizes extend the power of Salesforce's customer relationship management (CRM) platform to improve customer outcomes.

B2B digital commerce is undergoing a major transformation as buyers have flexed to remote and digital ways of engaging. Today's buyers surf ten–plus channels before making a single purchase, and they want convenient, seamless, omnichannel interactions. Now companies can anticipate and meet those needs at every stage of the customer life cycle, achieving analytics–led sales acceleration, omnichannel and e–commerce transformation, and sales productivity enhancements.

With the acquisition of S4G, McKinsey adds rapid Salesforce CRM implementation capabilities to the very best of strategy, design, and analytical horsepower. S4G's Salesforce CRM technology expertise, combined with McKinsey's growth offerings, will enable companies to accelerate end–to–end growth transformations.

Next era of growth will be tech–forward
Companies can use predictive and prescriptive analytics and AI–powered capabilities to make data–led decisions that help them consistently delight their customers, improve performance, and unlock growth.

"We are relentlessly focused on helping our clients achieve their growth aspirations," said Greg Kelly, senior partner and global leader of McKinsey & Company's Growth, Marketing & Sales Practice. "Our clients have told us they need greater support that extends through making their technology seamlessly support their growth efforts. With this acquisition, we are doing just that by bringing together world–class Salesforce experts, industry–leading technology, accelerators, and analytics to enable our clients to capture customer value and growth using real–time information."

Kelly continued: "We are thrilled to welcome our S4G colleagues to the firm, and we look forward to the great work we will do together to better serve our clients."

Accelerate growth at speed and scale
"McKinsey is the world's leading impact partner for businesses looking to consistently delight customers and accelerate growth," said Javier Heitz, CEO and founder of S4G. "They are distinctive in developing multiyear transformation strategies fused with design, analytics, and implementation capabilities as well as accelerating commercial performance. We are proud to be joining McKinsey to help clients shape the future of sales and marketing through rapid growth transformation strategies."

Alongside McKinsey's strength in capability building, S4G brings a people–driven and client–centric culture that closely aligns with McKinsey's.

"The acquisition of S4G is the latest example of McKinsey's renewed focus on deepening our capabilities through active M&A to accelerate and scale impact for our clients," said Peter Dahlstrom, senior partner and global leader of McKinsey's Alliances and Acquisitions. "S4G will enable us to expand our tech–enabled offerings to help organizations deploy and scale end–to–end growth transformations and further deepen our collaboration with Salesforce as part of McKinsey's open ecosystem of trusted collaborators."

About McKinsey & Company
McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm committed to helping organizations realize sustainable, inclusive growth. We work with clients across the private, public, and social sectors to solve complex problems and create positive change for all of our stakeholders. We combine bold strategies and transformative technologies to help organizations innovate more sustainably, achieve lasting gains in performance, and build workforces that will thrive for in this generation and the next.

About McKinsey Growth, Marketing & Sales
The mission of the McKinsey Growth, Marketing & Sales Practice is to help leaders of both consumer and business–to–business clients create Growth That Matters through meaningful transformations and marketing–driven profit. The practice helps our clients set their strategic direction, develop their marketing and sales capabilities, and connect their organization to realize the full potential of today's omnichannel opportunities. Clients benefit from McKinsey's experience in core areas of marketing, B2B and B2C pricing, customer experience, and sales and channel management.

About S4G Consulting
S4G Consulting, a Salesforce Platinum Partner with offices in Spain, offers best–in–class Salesforce consulting services for companies across all industries. Founded in 2008, it was one of the first Salesforce Partners in EMEA and has worked with hundreds of companies over the years. In 2018, it was ranked as one of the Top 10 Global Salesforce Platinum Partners by customer rating, reflecting its focus on excellence, which is one of the company's core values. Today the company has more than 150 employees spread across three offices and over 400 Salesforce certifications.

For more information, please contact
US: MaryLiz Ghanem, DiGennaro Communications "" McKinsey–DiGennaro@digennaro–usa.com / +1 917 518 8422
UK: Ruth Jones, 3THINKRS "" mckinsey@3thinkrs.com / +44 0208 0872843
Iberia: Gosia G Pajkowska, Gosia_G_Pajkowska@McKinsey.com / +34680489878


Omicron-led Surge Tests China’s Zero Covid Policy

Credit: United Nations

By Riya Shah and Arjun Kumar
NEW DELHI, May 3 2022 – When the Covid- 19 pandemic first broke out in Wuhan in 2020, no one imagined that it would wreak havoc on such a large scale. With over 6.2 million lives lost, countless infected and new variants emerging, the pandemic is still raging all around the world.

Governments all over the world have moved away from the lockdown method to one living with Covid. However, even after two years of the Wuhan outbreak, China has continued with its stringent Zero Covid policy.

Initially, the strategy was successful in reducing transmission to near zero but as highly transmissible variants like Omicron are surfacing, this policy seems to be faltering beneath its own weight. The resurgence of cases in 2022 and the month-long Shanghai lockdown has again put to test the effectiveness of the ‘zero tolerance’ Covid policy.

The nightmare returns

In early April, as the highly transmissible Omicron virus rummaged around China, it forced the 25 million-strong-city of Shanghai into complete lockdown. China’s most populous city and economic hub turned into a ghost town almost overnight.

With a massive resurgence in the number of active cases, a four-day lockdown was implemented on March 28, but due to increasing cases and its Zero Covid policy, the lockdown has continued indefinitely.

Shanghai reported over 29,300 cases on April 1, this spurred mandatory mass screening, community control, rapid contact tracing and other prevention measures to tackle the outbreak and prevent it from spilling over to other provinces.

With around half of the above 80-year age group unvaccinated, and less than one-fifth being given booster doses, the Chinese government has adopted strict measures to curb the spread of Omicron, which has triggered the worst outbreak since 2020.

During a State Council meeting, the co-ordinator of China’s Covid-19 response, Sun Chunluan declared that China will continue with the zero- Covid policy ‘without hesitation’. Many party officials from Changchun, Jilin and Shandong have also been sacked due to ‘ineffective performance’ in controlling the outbreak in Shanghai.

With cases surging, the local government in Beijing is also bracing for another Shanghai-style lockdown. The resurgence of cases can be attributed to the highly contagious nature of the Omicron variant, shortage of mRNA vaccines and the lack of hybrid immunity due to non-exposure to earlier strains.

Moreover, there has been a massive public outroar against the inhumane implementation of the policy in Shanghai. When people protested on their balconies against the lack of essential supplies, government drones blared, “Please comply with COVID restrictions. Control your soul’s desire for freedom. Do not open the window or sing.”

Apart from taking a toll on the life of regular Chinese citizens, the mass lockdowns have also had serious economic impacts. As provinces accounting for up to 25% of China’s national GDP are under complete or partial lockdown, the faultlines of China’s one-size-fits-all Covid policy are becoming apparent.

With businesses shut down and people confined to their homes, unemployment rose to an all-time high since May 2020, at 5.8% and retail sales fell 3.5%, the first decline since July 2020.

Way Forward

Two years ago, China was lauded by the WHO for the most ‘ambitious, agile and aggressive’ disease containment strategy. While many countries were waiting for vaccines and developing herd immunity, 1.4 billion-strong China proved that elimination was possible solely through strict isolation measures and quarantine.

Moreover, drawing lessons from the previous SARS outbreak, China’s robust public health response proved effective in saving millions of lives.

Initially, there was a unanimous global outcry to blame China for leashing out the Wuhan virus. While China brought down transmission rates to almost zero by May 2020 and began hosting water park parties by August 2020, the situation elsewhere was quite bleak.

Today after almost two years as other countries are returning to normalcy, we see China returning back to lockdowns. Ironically, the chain of events seems to come to a full circle as China braces to curb its worst-ever Covid- outbreak since 2020.

Though adherence to the zero Covid policy comes with its own human and economic costs, the present leadership will likely continue with its tried and tested policy till the spread is contained. A hasty reversal of the policy would not only put into question the merit of the Chinese leadership but would also negatively impact public health and safety.

There is an urgent need to address the shortcomings of the zero Covid policy and craft a balanced exit strategy to pivot away from zero-tolerance and move towards cohabitating with the virus.

Riya Shah is a researcher with IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi and a Bachelor’s candidate in Chinese Language at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Dr Arjun Kumar is Director, IMPRI and China India Visiting Scholar (CIVS) Fellow 2020-21 at Ashoka University and Asian Century Foundation.

IPS UN Bureau

 


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Out of Africa: Rich Continent, Poor People

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, May 3 2022 – Capital flight from the global South is immense, with widespread adverse effects. A new book proposes measures to curb, even reverse capital flight from Africa. It also offers pragmatic lessons for many developing countries.

Out of Africa
On the trail of capital flight from Africa extends pioneering work begun much earlier. The editors – Leonce Ndikumana and James Boyce – estimate Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has lost more than US$2 trillion to capital flight in the last half century!

Leonce Ndikumana

SSA currently loses US$65 billion annually – more than yearly official development assistance (ODA) inflows. The book’s studies carefully investigate natural resource exploitation – of South African minerals, Ivorian cocoa, and Angolan oil and diamonds.

Such forensic country analyses are crucial to more effectively check capital flight. Outflows since the 1980s from the three countries have been massive: US$103 billion from Angola, US$55 billion from Cote d’Ivoire, and US$329 billion from South Africa in 2018 dollars.

Capital flight has been much more than cumulative external debt. Annual outflows were between 3.3% and 5.3% of national income. Nigeria, South Africa and Angola account for the most capital outflows from SSA, with Cote d’Ivoire seventh.

Resource booms
As governments get more revenue from natural resources, the fiscal ‘social contract’ is eroded. When people pay taxes, they expect state spending to benefit the public. But with more revenue from resources – via state monopolies, royalties and taxes – governments become less accountable to their own citizens.

Gaining and maintaining access to foreign credit has similar effects. Developing country governments then focus on ingratiating themselves with friendly foreign donor governments to get ODA, and on enhancing their credit ratings.

Hence, such regimes have less political need to provide ‘public goods’, including services, let alone accelerate social progress. Thus, erosion of the fiscal ‘social contract’ undermines not only public wellbeing, but also state legitimacy.

James K. Boyce

To secure power, ruling cliques often rely on ‘clientelism’ – patronage or patron-client relations – typically on regional, ethnic, tribal, religious or sectarian lines. Their regimes inevitably provoke dissent – including oppositional ethno-populism and civil unrest, even armed insurgencies.

Unsurprisingly, such regimes believe their choices are limited. Another option is repression – which typically rises as the status quo is threatened. The resulting sense of insecurity spreads from the public to the elite, worsening capital flight.

Exploiting valuable natural resources not only generates export earnings, but also attracts foreign investments. One result is ‘Dutch disease’ as the national currency rises in value – reducing other exports and jobs, inevitably hurting development prospects.

Thus, vast private fortunes have been made and illicitly transferred abroad. Ruling elites and their allies rarely only rely on either state or market to become richer. The book shows how both state and market strengthen private and personal power and influence.

Plundering Africa
The book’s case studies show how resource extraction has been central to capital flight. In all three countries, the efficacy of fiscal policy tools – especially to foster investments for development – has been undermined.

Outflows have increased with economic liberalization, as unrecorded financial outflows – via the current account – grow with freer trade. Thus, trade-related financial transactions enable corruption and capital flight.

In Côte d’Ivoire – the world’s top cocoa producer – rents initially came from supply chains connecting farmers to consumers. Corrupt partnerships – connecting domestic elites to foreign businesses – have been crucial to such arrangements.

Thus, natural resource primary commodity exports have enabled illicit capital flows. Ivorian cocoa exports have been consistently under-reported – with trade statistics of major importers showing massive under-invoicing by exporters.

Post-colonial political settlements have given a few privileged access to resource rents. With capital flight thus enabled, successive Ivorian regimes have been less obliged to spend more on development or public wellbeing.

Due to the cocoa boom, the post-colonial ‘Ivorian miracle’ ended when prices fell. The bust triggered a political crisis, culminating in civil war. But the crunch also meant the country could no longer service its foreign debt.

In Angola too, natural resources worsened its protracted civil wars. After these ruinous conflicts, oil rents enriched the triumphant nepotistic regime. This enabled the control to gain control of more, even as most Angolans continued to live in destitution.

Angola’s massive oil exports mainly benefited the small elite of cronies around the president. They failed to develop the economy or improve most lives. All this has been enabled by ‘helpful’ professionals who have enriched themselves doing so.

While benefiting its elite and foreign transnationals, Angola’s ‘oil curse’ has blocked balanced and sustainable development of its economy. Despite rapidly depleting its oil reserves, Angola and most Angolans have benefited little.

South Africa – SSA’s second largest economy after Nigeria – seems less reliant on natural resources. Post-apartheid economic liberalization has enabled capital flight as private corporate interests – especially the influential minerals-energy complex – quickly took advantage of the new dispensation.

By under-invoicing their exports, mineral interests have been engaged in massive capital flight and tax evasion. Meanwhile, business cronies have enriched themselves in new ways, e.g., in the state’s electric power sector. Such abuses were exposed by the Gupta family scandal, leading to then President Jacob Zuma’s downfall.

Stemming capital flight
‘State capture’ by politically influential nationals have undermined government regulatory capacities with help from transnational enablers. Ostensible ‘good governance’ reforms have enabled capital flight and tax evasion – by undermining ‘developmental governance’, including prudential regulation.

Institutional environments, mechanisms and enablers facilitate capital flight, tax evasion and wealth accumulation offshore. With often complex, varied and changing facilitation, capital flight has shifted massive wealth abroad for elites.

Transnational financial networks have eased capital outflows – at the expense of productive investments, good jobs and social wellbeing. Capital flight has worsened financing, including budgetary gaps – aggravating related social deprivations.

Wealth creation enhances the economic pie, but distribution depends on who appropriates it. Improved understanding of such varied and ever-changing relations of appropriation is crucial to effectively curb this haemorrhage.

Greater awareness should inspire and inform better measures to check capital flight from the global South. Instead of the Washington Consensus ‘good governance’ mantra, a developmental governance agenda is needed.

Hence, curbing capital flight is crucial for financing sustainable development. Checking capital flight and related abuses – such as trade mis-invoicing, money laundering, tax evasion and public asset acquisition by elites – requires well-coordinated efforts at both national and international levels.

All researchers, policymakers and regulators will gain from the book’s forensic analyses of financial, fiscal and other such abuses. International financial institutions now have little excuse for continuing to enable the capital flight and tax evasion still bleeding the global South.

IPS UN Bureau

 


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Sri Lanka: Economic Meltdown Sparks Mass Protests

By Andrew Firmin
May 3 2022 (IPS-Partners)

Economic crisis has provoked a great wave of protests in Sri Lanka. People are demanding the resignation of the president, blamed for high-handed and unaccountable decision making, exemplified by his introduction of an agricultural fertiliser ban in 2021 that has resulted in a food crisis. People don’t just want the president’s removal: they want a change in the political balance of power so that future presidents are subjected to proper checks and balances. Hope comes from the wide-reaching and diverse protest movement that has put aside past differences to demand change.

Recent weeks in Sri Lanka have seen anger and protests alongside struggles to secure the basics of life – but also hope that change is coming. An economic meltdown has brought normal life to a halt. People are living with lengthy power cuts, almost no access to fuel and soaring prices that have made essential foods unaffordable, forcing many to cut down on their daily meals.

There’s no doubt that Sri Lanka’s economy has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which largely put a halt to tourism and slashed remittances from Sri Lankans abroad, and most recently by Russia’s war on Ukraine, which has pushed up global fuel prices. But people are also pointing the finger at strong-arm president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his centralised and unaccountable brand of decision making.

A disastrous decision on farming

High global prices are affecting every economy, but Sri Lanka is doing notably worse than most, indicating that problems have been building up for some time. Sri Lanka has the region’s highest inflation, the value of its currency has collapsed and it has almost completely depleted its foreign currency reserves. This is all making it even harder and more costly to import the food and fuel it needs. The country has defaulted on billions of dollars of foreign debt repayments and is now in what could be lengthy negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. It’s a long way from the ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ Rajapaksa promised in his 2019 election manifesto.

On coming to power, Rajapaksa cut taxes, including corporate tax, and reversed the policy of the outgoing government that would have made the central bank independent and stop the government printing more money as a short-term economic fix. The government, including the administration headed by Rajapaksa’s brother Mahinda from 2005 to 2015, was accused of running up debt on grandiose infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s home-grown food supplies have been depleted as a direct result of a presidential decision. In April 2021, President Rajapaksa introduced a ban on chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The move, which came into effect straight away rather than being phased in over time, gave farmers no time to change the practices they had used for decades. The result was a swift decline in yields of rice, the key crop that feeds the nation, and export crops that earn essential foreign currency, notably tea.

Following protests in response to falling harvests, the government reversed its policy for some key crops and agreed to pay compensation, but it was already too late: Sri Lanka’s economic woes have been compounded by the need to import rice, on which it was long self-sufficient. Earlier this month, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana, speaker of parliament, voiced his fear that many face the threat of starvation. A medical workers’ union has similarly warned of a national health emergency as the country struggles to import essential medicines.

For many farmers, who make up 27 per cent of Sri Lanka’s workforce, the fertiliser ban and its fallout epitomised an unaccountable president able to make unchecked decisions. Farmers, many of whom had previously backed the ruling party, felt taken for granted; some wondered if the scheme was a ploy to force small farmers off their land to enable large-scale commercialisation of farms.

An out-of-control ruling family

At the heart of the crisis is one powerful political family. When former army leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa became president in 2019, he was just the tip of the iceberg. He appointed his brother Mahinda, former president and one of five members of the family to win seats in the 2020 parliamentary election, as prime minister. He also placed two other Rajapaksa brothers and a nephew in the cabinet, making governing a private family business.

Presidential power was extended by constitutional changes in October 2020: the president gained additional powers to dissolve parliament, appoint and dismiss ministers and choose judges and the heads of key commissions, including the election commission. Unaccountable presidential taskforces were created, removing key issues from parliamentary scrutiny, and a slew of current and former army officers were given government roles previously held by civilians.

Unsurprisingly this consolidation of Rajapaksa family power was accompanied by a crackdown on civic space, with protest bans, the detention of activists and the harassment and criminalisation of government critics and independent media.

It was no shock that the government’s response to protests was to fall back on its machinery of repression. When protesters camped outside the president’s residence on 31 March to demand his resignation, teargas and water cannon were used and at least 50 protesters and several journalists were injured. Dozens of protesters were arrested, with some ill-treated in detention.

The following day the government introduced a state of emergency, imposing a curfew and giving itself the power to arrest and detain people without warrants. The military was deployed onto the streets. Internet and social media access were restricted.

Despite the curfew, there were thousands who came to the streets to protest peacefully. This was a large-scale civil disobedience from citizens, unprecedented in Sri Lanka.

BHAVANI FONSEKA

However, the pressure did not let up as people kept protesting despite the curfew. In response the government had to give some ground. On 2 April the cabinet resigned and President Rajapaksa offered to form a unity government, an invitation opposition parties rejected, since both the president and his brother showed no indication of stepping down. The next day 41 members of parliament quit the ruling coalition, leaving the Rajapaksas heading a minority government and potentially facing a future vote of confidence. The state of emergency, clearly untenable, was quickly withdrawn.

The protest movement continues, demanding that both President and Prime Minister Rajapaksa quit. More than that, protesters are insisting they don’t want another all-powerful president: they want a form of government where presidential power is subject to checks and balances and policies like the disastrous agricultural reforms can’t simply be pushed through. Protesters have also started to call for accountability over recent human rights violations, including those committed during Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war.

Voices from the frontline

Bhavani Fonseka is from the Centre for Policy Alternatives, an organisation that advocates for non-violent conflict resolution and democratic governance to facilitate post-war recovery in Sri Lanka:

The protests are spontaneous and come as a direct result of the current economic crisis, which is imposing a heavy burden on the people. They have been suffering from severe hardships due to a lack of essential items, including medicines, long power cuts and skyrocketing prices. In response, people have taken to the streets in peaceful protests across the country for more than a month.

It is important to state that the widespread protests are not linked to any political party. The opposition held their own protests weeks ago and continue to protest currently. But the ongoing protests are largely driven by angry citizens who oppose the involvement of politicians and members of parliament in their peaceful protests. There is frustration with existing political parties, including the opposition; people denounce them for not doing enough as representatives of the people.

In line with that, the thousands of people who have continued to protest in recent weeks demand a radical change. They call for the president and government to step down, a peaceful transition of power, and for structural reforms including the abolishing of the executive presidency. There is also a loud call to address immediate needs such as shortages of essential items, livelihoods and rising cost of living, among the many other calls from the protesters.

Sri Lanka has not seen this scale of protests in recent years – none that I can remember. Even the older generations are saying they have not seen a similar movement. As most of these protests are peaceful, they are making a difference by raising the profile of our domestic issues across the region and internationally. As a result, there is a recognition that the situation is quite bad in Sir Lanka.

Despite the curfew on the first weekend of April, there were thousands who came to the streets that Sunday to protest peacefully. This was a large-scale civil disobedience from citizens, unprecedented in Sri Lanka because it is the first time we have seen such large numbers of people coming to peacefully protest during a curfew.

Overall, the mobilisation of lawyers and of civil society to offer solidarity and support are quite high. Over 500 lawyers turned up to support those who were arrested on 31 March, and many other instances have seen lawyers appearing to protect the rights of citizens.

I believe that it is amazing how people are stepping out, creating ways of protesting despite the challenges and hardships.

 
Ruki Fernando is a human rights activist, writer and consultant to the Centre for Society and Religion:

This protest movement is the biggest and most diverse I have ever experienced in Sri Lanka. The protests are largely driven by angry, frustrated, disappointed citizens. Mainly the protests have been triggered by the ramification of the economic crisis that reached its peak with shortages of fuel, electricity, gas and medicines among many essential items that either disappeared from the market or had their prices hiked.

Protesters are also now demanding the truth about people who disappeared during Sri Lanka’s civil war and even before. Their demands have expanded beyond the severe financial crisis to call for those in power to be held accountable for war crimes, crimes against humanity, disappearances and killings, disappearances and assaults on journalists.

The protesters are demanding long-term legal and institutional changes to the current governance system that must start with the resignation of the President Rajapaksa and the Rajapaksa family. Others call for the abolition of the 20th amendment to the constitution, which expanded the president’s executive powers.

Protest slogans calling on the president to ‘Go Home’ are now evolving into ‘Go to Jail’ and ‘Return Stolen Money’.

Repressive measures did not last in the face of the ongoing protests. The authorities had to release arrested protesters and revoke the declaration of emergency, the curfew was not extended and the social media shutdown was withdrawn.

I believe that when President Rajapaksa revoked the declaration of a state of emergency on 5 April, it was because he realised he was not able to sustain the necessary parliamentary majority that was needed for its continuation.

Most importantly, these protests, which are largely being led by young and students, represent a political awakening of various groups of our nation. Many women, older people, LGBTQI+ people, lawyers, religious clergy, artists and well-known people such as former cricketers have been part of the protests. They have enriched the spirit of defiance, resistance, courage and creativity unleashed by youth, on an unprecedented scale.

Aside from that, there is fear and uncertainty about what the future may hold for our country. There are many concerns about a potential military–police crackdown, especially after the shooting at protesters in Rambukkana that led to at least one death and several others injured.

There are also worries about sustaining the protests and a lack of clear political alternatives. But it has been an inspiring, heartening moment to see so many people, especially young people, standing up, creatively and courageously.

These are edited extracts of our conversations with Bhavani and Ruki. Read the full interviews here.

 
Diverse movement points the way forward

Pressure continues to mount. Some senior ruling-party politicians have said they back the protesters and called on the prime minister to quit. Influential Buddhist leaders have done likewise. It seems increasingly clear that if the president and prime minister had national unity and the best interests of the country at heart, they would stop clinging onto power.

Concern comes over the president’s close military links, which could help keep the Rajapaksas in power. Sri Lanka could be at a significant fork in the road: it could potentially become more democratic and pluralist, but alternatively it could transition into de facto military rule. Worryingly, the protests experienced their first fatality on 19 April when police opened fire on protesters blocking railway lines and roads in the town of Rambukkana, killing bystander Chaminda Lakshan and injuring several others. Violence towards protesters may increase if the Rajapaksas try to stay in power.

But hope comes in the unity across diversity of the protest movement. The political power of the Rajapaksas has rested on a stridently religious-nationalist appeal to a key segment of the country’s majority Sinhala Buddhist population, based on the exclusion of Tamil people and other minorities. But protesters are coming from all groups and mobilising outside party structures. Young people are denying their reputation for apathy by protesting in numbers. LGBTQI+ people, previously made invisible, are being embraced as part of the protest community.

People are no longer either intimidated or impressed by President Rajapaksa’s strongman posturing, and they no longer want such a leader. The protest movement is showing instead what Sri Lanka could look like, and making clear that the best way for the country to respond to its economic crisis is to listen to the voices of its people.

OUR CALLS FOR ACTION

    – President and Prime Minister Rajapaksa should step aside in favour of a government of national unity to develop a consensus-based response to the economic crisis.
    – The government should amend the constitution to restore checks and balances on presidential power.
    – Sri Lanka’s protest movement must stay unified, respect the diversity of its members and resist factionalism
    .

The author is CIVICUS’s Editor in Chief

This story was originally published by CIVICUS Lens.

Excerpt:

Protest movement demands an end to unaccountable presidential power

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