Warning that Afghanistan is facing “a make-or-break moment,” the United Nations chief on Monday urged the world to prevent the country’s economy from collapsing.
Secretary General Antonio Guterres also appealed to the Taliban to stop breaking its promises to allow women to work and girls to have access to all levels of education.
Eighty per cent of Afghanistan’s economy is informal, with women playing an overwhelming role, and “without them there is no way the Afghan economy and society will recover,” he said.
Guterres said the UN is urgently appealing to countries to inject cash into the Afghan economy, which before the Taliban takeover in August was dependent on international aid that accounted for 75 per cent of state spending. The country is grappling with a liquidity crisis as assets remain frozen in the United States and other countries, and disbursements from international organizations have been put on hold.
“Right now, with assets frozen and development aid paused, the economy is breaking down,” Guterres told reporters at UN headquarters in New York. “Banks are closing and essential services, such as health care, have been suspended in many places.”
The UN chief said that injecting liquidity to prevent Afghanistan’s economic collapse is a separate issue from recognition of the Taliban, lifting sanctions, unfreezing frozen assets or restoring international aid.
Guterres said cash can be injected into the Afghan economy “without violating international laws or compromising principles.” He said this can be done through UN agencies and a trust fund operated by the UN Development Program, as well as non-governmental organizations operating in the country. He added that the World Bank can also create a trust fund.
G20 leaders to discuss Afghanistan on Tuesday
Leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies — the G20 — are holding an extraordinary meeting to discuss the complex issues related to Afghanistan on Tuesday. On the issue of “the injection of liquidity in the Afghan economy,” Guterres said, “I think the international community is moving too slow.”
The Taliban overran most of Afghanistan as U.S. and NATO forces were in the final stages of their chaotic withdrawal from the country after 20 years. They entered the capital, Kabul, on Aug. 15 without any resistance from the Afghan army or the country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, who fled.
Guterres pointed to promises by the Taliban since the takeover to protect the rights of women, children, minority communities and former government employees — especially the possibility of women working and girls being able to get the same education as boys.
“I am particularly alarmed to see promises made to Afghan women and girls by the Taliban being broken,” he said, stressing that “their ability to learn, work, own assets and to live with rights and dignity will define progress.”
However, Guterres said, “the Afghan people cannot suffer a collective punishment because the Taliban misbehave.”
He said the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is growing, affecting at least 18 million people, or half the country’s population.
Guterres said the UN has been engaging the Taliban every day on the safety and security of its staff, unhindered humanitarian access to all Afghans in need and human rights — especially for women and girls. “Gender equality has always been an absolute priority for me,” he said.
While humanitarian assistance saves lives, it won’t solve the country’s crisis unless an economic collapse is avoided, Guterres said.
“Clearly, the main responsibility for finding a way back from the abyss lies with those that are now in charge in Afghanistan,” he said.
Nonetheless, he warned, “If we do not act to help Afghans weather this storm, and do it soon, not only they but all the world will pay a heavy price.”
Shekel surplus weighs down Palestinian economy – FRANCE 24
Issued on: 17/10/2021 – 05:06Modified: 17/10/2021 – 05:04
Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)
Palestinian businesses flush with too much Israeli cash: it may not be the most talked about aspect of the occupation, but experts warn it is a growing concern for the Palestinian economy.
Palestinians in the West Bank use the Israeli shekel but, beyond that commonality, the two financial systems are dramatically different.
In Israel, as in many advanced economies, digital payments are rapidly growing, taking the place of transactions once done with bills and coins.
But in the West Bank, a territory under Israeli military occupation since 1967, cash is still king.
Tasir Freij, who owns a hardware store in Ramallah, told AFP he now has to pay a two percent commission to deposit paper money because his bank is reluctant to receive it.
“This is a crisis… and we are feeling its effects,” Freij told AFP.
Much of the paper money is brought in by the tens of thousands of Palestinians who work inside Israel or Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and who get their wages in cash.
Experts and business people say the buildup of hard currency risks stifling the Palestinian financial system.
Freij fretted that buying goods from abroad typically requires converting shekels into foreign currencies, especially dollars or euros, but the abundance of shekels in the market has forced him to accept painfully unfavourable rates.
– ‘Dumping ground’ –
The Palestinian Monetary Authority, which functions as the central bank in the West Bank, has warned that paper shekels are building up because it has no way to return the hard currency to Israel.
PMA governor Firas Melhem told AFP that the cash buildup was “a very worrying problem,” causing headaches for banks and businesses.
“If the problem is not resolved quickly, the Palestinian market will turn into a dumping ground for the shekel,” he added.
The shekel was established as the official currency in the Palestinian territories as a result of economic protocols known as the Paris agreements that followed the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Much has changed since those 1994 agreements.
As they lean more on digital transactions, Israel’s banks no longer want to reabsorb paper cash that accumulates in the West Bank but does not circulate rapidly through the Israeli economy.
The Bank of Israel cited security as another reason.
“We stress that uncontrolled cash transfers could be misused, especially for money laundering and terror funding, and would not be in compliance with international standards on the prohibition of money laundering and terror funding,” the bank told AFP in a statement.
– Solutions? –
Palestinian banks have tried to encourage customers to moderate their cash deposits, but that risks limiting the capital available to banks, which would lower their ability to offer loans.
The cash surplus predicament has fuelled renewed calls from some Palestinian experts in favour of ditching the shekel, either in favour of a unique Palestinian currency or that of another nation, including the Jordanian dinar, which also circulates in the West Bank.
The Palestinian Monetary Authority is also pushing the Bank of Israel to take back more hard currency.
But Melhem stressed that Palestinians also needed to “keep up with developments in financial technologies,” and move towards more cashless payments.
© 2021 AFP
Saudi Arabia’s PIF launches offshore platform tourism project
Saudi Arabia‘s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, announced on Saturday the launch of “THE RIG”, which it said would be the world’s first tourism destination on offshore platforms.
The fund, the engine of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman‘s economic transformation plans for Saudi Arabia, manages a portfolio worth $400 billion.
It added in a statement that the project was located in the gulf and spanned an area of more than 150,000 square metres.
It said the project would feature a number of attractions, including three hotels, restaurants, helipads, and a range of adventurous activities including extreme sports.
The funds did not disclose the value of the project.
(Reported by Saeed Azhar; Writing by Moataz Abdelrahiem; Editing by Alex Richardson)
The World Needs 16 Billion Covid Shots: New Economy Saturday – Bloomberg
Wanted: 16.5 billion vaccine doses.
That’s the number urgently needed to inoculate the world against Covid-19—on top of the roughly 6.5 billion doses already administered. This according to Chad P. Bown, a trade specialist at the Peterson Institute of International Economics, and Thomas J. Bollyky, the Director of the Global Health Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Vaccinating the planet’s entire population is a moral imperative. The fact that only 3% of adults in low-income countries have been immunized is catastrophic. Putting more needles into arms is also a broader public health priority: the longer it takes to immunize everyone, the greater the risk deadlier variants will emerge.
As a result, full vaccination is clearly an economic necessity, too. But 19 months into a horrific pandemic that’s killed millions, impediments remain.
This Week in the New Economy
The International Chamber of Commerce estimates the global economy stands to lose as much as $9.2 trillion as a result of unequal vaccine access.
But vaccines are also a trade issue. Like cars, laptops and smartphones, their production relies on intricate networks of cross-border supply chains. This system of dispersed manufacturing has worked remarkably well for places where global vaccine production is concentrated: India, the U.S., the European Union, the U.K. and China.
But these countries have prioritized their own people over the global good.
So-called “vaccine nationalism” was perhaps understandable when the first shots arrived. Producer countries naturally scrambled to protect their own hospital workers and the elderly.
The practice became less defensible when these countries started vaccinating low-risk populations. And that inequity is arguably intolerable now that those same rich nations are offering boosters while millions of healthcare workers in poorer countries haven’t received their first shot.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, denounces this state of affairs as “vaccine apartheid.”
If producer countries won’t share their existing output, then they must ramp up production, argue Bollyky and Bown (a member of the Bloomberg New Economy Trade Council).
“The mathematics are simple but stunning,” they write. Apart from Johnson & Johnson, available vaccines require a two-dose regimen. That adds up to 14 billion doses for a global population of seven billion. Taking into consideration third doses, stockpiling and inevitable waste, and the world needs a total of 23 billion doses for full vaccination. Given that 6.5 billion have already been delivered, that means an extra 16.5 billion are required.
To achieve the additional output, Bown and Bollyky are calling for a “Covid-19 Vaccine Investment and Trade Agreement” among countries in the vaccine supply chain.
Members would set a framework to subsidize the full supply chain and work with COVAX, the nonprofit that distributes vaccines to mostly poor countries. Countries that restricted exports would be penalized through limits on their vaccine inputs. Transparency would keep the system honest.
“Trade ministers should do their part to ensure that everyone everywhere has access to Covid-19 vaccines,” Bown and Bollyky warned. “The threat that new and more devastating virus variants could emerge—against which existing Covid-19 vaccines would be ineffective—means that no one is safe until the pandemic is under control.”
The fourth annual Bloomberg New Economy Forum will convene the world’s most influential leaders in Singapore on Nov. 16-19 to mobilize behind the effort to build a sustainable and inclusive global economy. Learn more here.
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