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The FINANCIAL -- The European Union says it will launch this week the process of activating a regulation to soften the impact of U.S. sanctions on European firms doing business in Iran.
The FINANCIAL -- Within the framework of his official visit to the Republic of Astana, the Georgian Vice Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze participated in the Astana economic forum - Global challenges summit 2018.
The FINANCIAL -- WASHINGTON, D.C.. Americans remain most likely to say the government is the greatest problem facing the U.S., with 20% naming some aspect of the federal government or its elected leaders as the nation's top problem.
The FINANCIAL -- The strong rate of trade expansion is likely to continue, while slowing slightly in the second quarter of 2018, according to the WTO’s latest World Trade Outlook Indicator (WTOI) released on 17 May.
The FINANCIAL -- On May 11, 2018, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation with El Salvador.
The FINANCIAL -- A CIGI-Ipsos global survey reports that majority (52%) says they’re more concerned about online privacy than they were a year ago. Around six in ten feel that social media (63%) and search engines (57%) have too much power.
The FINANCIAL -- One new case of Ebola virus disease (EVD) has been confirmed in Wangata, one of the three health zones of Mbandaka, a city of nearly 1.2 million people in Equateur Province in northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
For the first decade of the 21st century, the economic story of the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) region was, for the most part, a successful one. Growth was strong, inflation was down, and meaningful progress was being made toward reducing poverty.
But since 2014, that story has changed as the region’s economic model—which has traditionally been based on oil and gas production, remittances, mining, and public spending—proved unable to assure long-term prosperity in the face of lower commodity prices, weaker remittances, and a slowdown in trading partners’ growth. The result has been lower growth, rising financial sector vulnerabilities, and higher public debt.
The CCA region received some welcome news in 2017, with its 4.1 percent growth rate exceeding expectations, according to the IMF’s newly released Regional Economic Outlook.
However, as the outlook makes clear, this momentum will not be sustained for long, which is why the region must focus its attention on developing a dynamic private sector and diversifying its economy. If well managed, opportunities for greater economic integration—such as those presented by the Belt-and-Road Initiative which aims to connect China to Europe through Central Asia, and Uzbekistan’s opening up—would help kick-start that economic transformation.
Along with its economic outlook for the region, the IMF this month published a paper examining the importance of openness and trade—and what steps countries in the CCA region should take to transform their economies.
Some are making progress, but the overall trajectory is not encouraging. Since 2008, trade openness has gone down, and the region’s integration with the rest of the world remains far too low. Consider this: non-oil exports by countries in the region amount to around $500 on a per capita basis, roughly half the average of that in emerging markets, a clear indication that vast trade opportunities remain untapped.
Countries are also not pursing trade opportunities within the region nearly as much as they should. In recent decades, intra-regional trade has dipped significantly as a result of regional tensions and the global financial crisis. Currently, only five percent of trade for oil exporters and 15 percent for importers is conducted within the region—low figures by international standards.
So how can CCA countries forge a new future where robust private sectors are the engines of integrated economies?
For starters, countries must strengthen their macroeconomic frameworks.
Reducing public debt and rebuilding rainy day funds in growth-friendly ways will position CCA countries to withstand future adverse conditions that are sure to come and send positive signals to foreign investors. A close eye will also need to be kept on public debt, ensuring that it remains sustainable as more public investments begin and countries open their markets. This will require careful planning and oversight over public investment projects and broader budget policies.
Also important are policies that keep inflation low and stable, an effort that will require strong political commitment, institutional capacity, and efforts to strengthen financial stability and intermediation. That means improving the health of bank balance sheets that remain beset by high levels of non-performing loans, winding down the use of dollars in the domestic banking system, and modernizing capital markets.
Countries should also look for opportunities to improve the basic structures of their economies in ways that will boost productivity and facilitate economic integration. This should include reforms that improve infrastructure, enhance business environments, boost governance, and develop skills of workers that are in demand in the global labor market, such as information technology and critical thinking.
All of this should be done while working to open the region’s economies to trade, which would provide countless benefits to both oil-exporting and importing countries—from more choices at lower prices for consumers and businesses to increased productivity.
Boosting the region’s trade potential will require a range of policy actions. Greater participation in the World Trade Organization, which provides mechanisms to defend the interests of members when improper trade practices are waged as well as technical assistance in trade-related matters, could prove critical. Some countries have long been members in the WTO, but others have not yet joined.
Besides seeking to lower tariffs, countries should also look for opportunities to take part in regional initiatives that eliminate non-tariff barriers and exemptions and improve customs administration. The Eurasian Economic Union provides examples of the benefits that come with such efforts, offering members a new customs code and a common labor market.
These reforms will not happen overnight, and some will not be easy. But with a shared commitment to greater integration and openness, there is no doubt that the next chapter in the story of the CCA region can be one of greater growth and economic prosperity for all.
The FINANCIAL -- Changi Airport Group on May 16 welcomed LOT Polish Airlines’ (LOT) inaugural flight from Warsaw, Poland. LOT operates the service on a Boeing B787-8 aircraft, with a capacity of 252 seats in a three-class configuration.
The FINANCIAL -- TripAdvisor revealed its 2018 Summer Vacation Value Report, highlighting the top 10 domestic destinations for U.S. travelers this summer based on the greatest increase in seasonal hotel booking interest, including the average one-week vacation costs for hotels and airfare.
The FINANCIAL -- Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport increased by 5% in April to 2.6 million, which made it the busiest April in the airport’s history 78-year history.
The FINANCIAL -- The Latvian airline airBaltic in the first four months of 2018 has transported 1 065 664 or 22% more than in the same period last year to its network spanning Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, CIS and the Middle East.
The FINANCIAL -- Cathay Pacific Airways on May 17 announced the appointment of Chris Kempis, currently General Manager Flying, as Director Flight Operations with effect from mid-2018.
The FINANCIAL -- Hyundai CRADLE, Hyundai Motor Company’s corporate venturing and open innovation business, on May 16 announced it is investing in Metawave Corporation to build intelligent radars for autonomous vehicles.
The FINANCIAL -- Mazda Motor Corporation has begun accepting pre-orders for the updated Mazda CX-3 at dealerships throughout Japan. An ideal crossover SUV for singles or young couples, the CX-3 has received a major update and a special edition named Exclusive Mods that features deep red Nappa leather upholstery has been added to the lineup. Sales start on May 31.
The FINANCIAL -- YEREVAN. New Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, brought to power by mass demonstrations, has called on Armenians who have been holding strikes and civil-disobedience protests in recent days to interrupt their protests.
The FINANCIAL -- Within the framework of his official visit to the Republic of Astana, the Georgian Vice Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze held a meeting with the Kazakh Mazhilis (lower house of Parliament) Speaker Nurlan Nigmatulin and the Chairman of the Senate of Kazakhstan Kassym Tokayev.
The FINANCIAL -- Americans say their nation’s colleges and universities compare relatively well with those in other developed countries – but the public offers more negative assessments of the state of U.S. public schools.
The FINANCIAL -- In the first joint internationally financed project in renewable energy the EBRD is organising a loan together with the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to fund the construction of a 50 MW solar power plant in Baikonur in central Kazakhstan, a region known as the base for space exploration and a testing ground.
The FINANCIAL -- Amazon.com, Inc. on May 16 announced plans to open its first fulfillment center in Tucson, creating more than 1,500 full-time jobs with competitive hourly wages and a comprehensive benefits package including healthcare, 401(k) and company stock awards starting on day one.