Weekend Reading / Global

Covid-19: I’d still rather be in Africa, but maybe not next year

  • New modelling and data vindicate my prior view that Africa will be less badly impacted by Covid-19 than other regions
  • Fewer people will die in the WHO Africa region than in the US this year, but Algeria and South Africa are hotspots
  • The virus will drag on for longer in Africa — bad for Ethiopia, South Africa and East Africa, which rely on tourism

At the end of January, I stood beside Murchison Falls with my family, drenched in the spray of the world’s most power waterfall, and I reflected on how much can change in a generation. Central Africa is under tremendous pressure to generate more power, and Uganda, with its many lakes and rivers, is working to meet this demand with hydropower. The combination of plans to dam the Victoria Nile, which would hobble the mighty Murchison Falls, and the certainty of oil exploration in nearby Lake Albert, which will industrialise the most remote of Africa’s Great Lakes, will transform the area fundamentally over the next generation. My children’s children might never have the opportunity to experience the falls as I did that day.

The world can change in a generation, but it can also change in a month. When I passed through Kigali airport two days later, on my way to Cape Town, my biggest concern was whether I would be able to find a bottle of my favourite Rwandan beer, Virunga Mist, named for the great gorilla parks of Central Africa, for my father-in-law. When I passed through Kigali two weeks later, on my way home to London, I was stopped and screened by Rwandan health officials in head-to-toe PPE before being allowed into the terminal. I still managed to pick up a bottle of Virunga, but my biggest concern was Covid-19. It was 7 February.

The world had changed completely in Kigali, but not in London, where Gatwick airport showed little evidence of preparation for virus; indeed, the most interesting change in the signage was spotting whether the British flag had or had not been removed from the lists of EU member states. Reflecting on this, I wrote for Tellimer that, with the threat of Covid-19, I would rather be back in Africa. It’s fair to say that this view encouraged some significant scepticism. Now, with the virus well-underway and much better understood, I want to reflect on why those initial thoughts were correct and what might come next.

Africans are relatively well positioned to survive Covid-19

Modelling released by the WHO regional office for Africa predicts that 150,000 of the c1bn people in the 43 countries of the WHO Africa region could die of Covid-19 over the first year of the virus if containment and Covid-19 spreads out of control.[1] While this sounds like a large number, consider that the US, with only one-third of the population of the WHO Africa region and the virus not yet having spread evenly across that population, has already had 120,000 Covid-19 deaths. Similarly, modelling in the UK predicted half a million deaths without containment, and that in a country of only 67mn people. Comparing the modelled outcome for Africa in 2021 with the current situation in the US is striking, especially bearing in mind that the virus is moving south and west from the initial epicentre in the northeast.

Figure 1: Modelled deaths per 1,000 population (green = more deaths; purple = fewer deaths)

Figure 2: Many US states already have a higher rate of deaths than is expected in many African countries across the entire first year of the epidemic (thresholds for the colour bands are identical in Figures 1 and 2)

This isn’t because fewer people will get the virus. The US’s 120,000 deaths have come from 2.3mn confirmed cases, whereas the WHO’s model predicts 37mn symptomatic cases in the Africa region, 4.6mn of which would be severe enough require hospitalisation were that available. The US’s 120,000 deaths have come from 2.3mn confirmed cases, whereas the WHO’s model predicts 37mn symptomatic cases in the Africa region, 4.6mn of which would be severe enough to require hospitalisation were that available. A comparable estimate of confirmed cases would sit somewhere between these two bounds, at least twice the level as in the US. The modelled data shows a much lower case fatality rate—the number of confirmed cases that result in deaths—in Africa.

Data on the progress of the epidemic so far support this view. As of 24 June, Africa had a case fatality rate of 2.2% compared with 7.5% in Europe and 5.2% globally. Given that limited testing means that Africa is likely only detecting the most serious cases, even at 2.2%, Africa’s case fatality rate is likely to be overstated. The simple fact is that Africa does better because Africans are better positioned to survive Covid-19.

Figure 3: Africa has the lowest Covid-19 case fatality rate of any of the WHO regions (%)

Many of the positive factors that I originally identified seem to have played out as expected:

  • Africa’s young population has proven to be much less susceptible to Covid-19 than older populations in other regions of the world;

  • Africans travel very little, limiting the spread of the virus; and

  • Density is low, with few indoor public spaces, also limiting to the spread of the virus.

Africa has also benefitted from some factors that I did not fully appreciate. Most notably, Covid-19’s comorbidities all appear to be diseases of wealth, but not diseases of poverty. When I modelled global Covid-19 vulnerability, I used a standard set of comorbidities including diseases, like tuberculosis and HIV, that are more prevalent in Africa, and those like cardiovascular disease, that are more prevalent in wealthier countries. A more focused comorbidity model that includes obesity produces a result that looks much more favourable for sub-Saharan Africa, but with higher levels of vulnerability in South Africa and across North Africa.

Risks play out as expected: Autocrats take advantage and health systems struggle

Meanwhile, some of the risks that I expected have also played out. Authoritarian leaders have used Covid-19 as an opportunity to assert greater control of society. Less than a week after the Ugandan constitutional court struck down a law making it illegal for more than three people to gather without informing the police, President Museveni banned public gatherings as part of Uganda’s Covid-19 lockdown. Moreover, low capacity health systems, even relatively advanced ones like South Africa’s, have struggled to cope with even a low-level of serious Covid-19 cases. Indeed, the other conditions that fail to be treated while health systems focus on Covid-19 may be one of the greatest impacts of Covid-19 on the health of Africans.

Figure 4: A comorbidity model focusing on the established comorbidities for Covid-19, like obesity, shows a more positive picture for Africa (green = better score; purple = worse score)

Slow burn of Covid-19 could be a disaster for African countries that depend on tourists

Meanwhile, the jury is still out with respect to some aspects of Africa’s Covid-19 experience. Despite my positive experience with the border check in Rwanda in February, which were clearly a reflection of Rwanda’s experience fighting Ebola, there is no aggregate evidence to say whether this has helped to slow the virus. I would argue that the experience of Ebola caused many African countries, including Rwanda, to choose to lock down more strictly and sooner than they might have otherwise done. However, the significant period during which a carrier of the virus is infectious, but asymptomatic, may undermine the value of screening capabilities built to counter Ebola in the fight against Covid-19.

Another of Africa’s health legacies, South Africa’s sophisticated system for tracing tuberculosis and HIV, has similarly proven to be less useful than anticipated. While South Africa has plenty of trained contact tracers, a workforce that developed countries are now trying to build, weaknesses in testing have undermined their usefulness. When tests take 14 days to turn around, contact tracing has little value, as infected people will have spread the disease extensively—much more so than even the greatest philanderer could spread HIV in a fortnight. To get full value from their legacy public health capabilities, African countries will need to adapt them to the specific nature of Covid-19.

Even if a vaccine is developed early next year, Covid-19 will remain an issue for Africa for several years, if not longer. The reality is that vaccine doses will go to wealthier countries first, and the combination of limited availability of the vaccine internationally and patchy health systems to deliver it domestically, means that most Africans will have to wait a long time to get vaccinated, if they are able to at all. Meanwhile, lower transmission rates than in other regions mean that the virus will slowly move around the continent, flaring up and then dying down in rural areas, and persisting in cities. As Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, has put it:

“While Covid-19 likely won’t spread as exponentially in Africa as it has elsewhere in the world, it likely will smoulder in transmission hotspots. Covid-19 could become a fixture in our lives for the next several years unless a proactive approach is taken by many governments in the region.”

This will be bad for countries that rely on international tourism, like Egypt, Ethiopia, Tanzania and the rest of East Africa, South Africa and Namibia. Many western tourists are delaying international travel until next year. If the Covid-19 epidemic is still simmering in Africa without a clear end in sight in early 2021 when people plan for travel that summer, then they will go elsewhere. International tourists already need a vaccination card as long as their arm to visit most of sub-Saharan Africa, but many tourists will feel that taking a new vaccine for a virus that they are highly likely to encounter is a higher, and unacceptable, level of risk. The supply of tourism may also be limited. Indeed, South Africa’s Department of Tourism has already stated that international tourism won’t resume before February 2021.

Figure 5: A prolonged course for Covid-19 will be particularly damaging for economies in East Africa that rely relatively more on tourism (purple = more vulnerable; green = less vulnerable)

[1] Cabore JW, Karamagi HC, Kipruto H, et al. The potential effects of widespread community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the World Health Organization African Region: a predictive model. BMJ Global Health 2020;5:e002647. 

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Weekend Reading / Malawi

Malawi has done it: What its remarkable election tells us about geopolitics

  • Malawi may not matter to investors, but that doesn’t make its recent election rerun any less remarkable
  • This is the 2nd time since Kenya 2017 local courts have overturned a suspect result that international monitors accepted
  • The West risks abandoning high standards in favour of realpolitik – China benefits when the West plays by the same rules
Paul Domjan @
Tellimer Research
4 July 2020

“Malawi Has Done It”: four words that I’ve been looking forward to writing since last year. Last Sunday, Lazarus Chakwera, leader of Malawi’s nine-party opposition alliance, was sworn in as President of Malawi following an unlikely rerun of the May 2019 Presidential election, in which incumbent Peter Mutharika won by an improbably small margin despite allegations of tampering. I’ve been looking forward to writing this, but doubting that I would get to do so, since last autumn, when I spent two months with my family in Malawi and saw first-hand both how improbable it was that Peter Mutharika had won with anything like a majority and how difficult it would be to unseat him.

My Tellimer colleague Hasnain Malik has argued persuasively, and in my view correctly, that foreign support, whether Chinese or American, doesn’t make or break the trajectory of (and investment case for) an emerging market. Rather, it simply accelerates the policy trajectory that the country has already chosen for itself. Events in Malawi demonstrate that the converse is also true: a country can achieve a new path on its own, without any meaningful foreign intervention.

Malawi, the so-called “Warm Heart of Africa,” is not the most godforsaken place in Africa, but it certainly has a good case for being one of them. It has the fourth-lowest GDP per capita in the world, based on purchasing power parity, and the 12th highest level of aid as a share of gross national income. My children, who were enrolled in a local school, were bemused that they had to learn to grow ground nut trees, but that bemusement ended with dead seriousness when they realised that subsistence agriculture kept much of the community alive.

The great powers bypass Malawi

While commentators across much of Africa debate the balance of influence among former colonial powers, the US and China, nobody seems to want to spend the time to influence Malawi. China’s Belt and Road Initiative, in the form of the Tazara Railway and Tanzam Highway, bypasses the country, and western powers certainly did not rush to try to secure fair elections. Even Malawi’s main cash crop, which accounts for two-thirds of its exports, is a public health menace: tobacco.

The EU’s monitoring mission described the 2019 elections as “well-managed, inclusive, transparent and competitive”, although the final report noted that “the elections fell short of fully meeting Malawi’s commitments to international and regional standards for elections [given] limited capacity of the Electoral Commission, the editorial policy of state owned broadcasters that excluded opposition parties, use of state resources for campaign purposes and a lack of a level playing field for campaigning.”[1] In other words, it was a typical emerging market election, and the EU monitors were happy to accept the results and move on.

Remarkable victory for democracy

The public in Malawi didn’t move on, though, and allegations that votes had been changed with correction fluid led to largely peaceful protests that shut down large areas of the capital, Lilongwe, initially calling for the resignation of the Chair of the Electoral Commission. Heavy military vehicles on the streets of Lilongwe became a common sight, and businesses planned their opening hours around where protests were likely to take place each day. In February, the constitutional court overturned the elections and called for a rerun. President Mutharika’s appeal to the Supreme Court was then rejected last month.

That a successful rerun took place is particularly remarkable given Covid-19. The virus has presented the opportunity to postpone potentially complex elections, as happened in Ethiopia where elections were postponed in March despite only being scheduled to take place in August, and to steal elections without interference from international observers, as happened in Burundi last month.

Indeed, the new elections in Malawi took place without international observers. The EU stated that observing the Malawi election rerun was not “part of the EU observation mission priority for 2020.” Although the Electoral Commission stated that it did invite the EU to observe the election, those observers might not have been welcomed by the public after the EU’s acceptance of the 2019 elections.

This is not the first time that international observers have accepted an African election, only to have the domestic court argue that its country deserves better. The 2017 Kenyan Presidential election was similarly fraught. A high-profile monitoring mission led by former US Secretary of State John Kerry and featuring former South African President Thabo Mbeki and former Sengalese Prime Minister Aminata Toure accepted the poll, which was subsequently overturned by the Kenyan Supreme Court for following appropriate electoral process. A popular meme on social media at the time said that Kerry would be welcome to come back to Kenya to safari in the Masai Mara and spend his tourist dollars, but not to observe the election rerun. Sadly, the rerun also did not deliver a fair contest – the opposition pulled out of the race, alleging that the electoral commission had not implemented adequate changes to ensure a fair election the second time.

Diminishing soft power: A problem for the West

The willingness of international observers to accept flawed elections risks damaging the West’s influence in two ways. On the one hand, authoritarian regimes have learned that elections only need to be “sufficiently free”, to borrow a phrase from my colleague Christopher Dielmann, for them to be accepted by Western monitors—they can have their cake (steal the election) and eat it to (gain Western acceptance). Crucially, in neither Malawi nor Kenya did the courts find expressly that the election had been stolen. In both cases, they overturned the election on the basis of inadequate procedures that compromised the integrity of the result.

On the other hand, by accepting elections that fail to meet minimum standard, Western monitors sacrifice their countries’ soft power to take a more “pragmatic” stance. Without soft power and moral suasion, western democracies will find themselves competing for influence in Africa on the same realpolitik basis as authoritarian regimes, like China and Russia, implicitly enhancing the credibility of those regimes.

Coming back to Malawi itself, it would be a mistake to assume that fair elections are sufficient for economic growth, especially in a country as poor as Malawi. The country remains heavily divided between southerners, who genuinely support Mutharika; northerners, who support Lazarus Chakwera; and urbanites who support Chakwera’s ally and vice-President, Saulos Chilima. A free election will not heal these divides on its own, but hopefully it will prove a first step.

[1] European Union Election Observation Mission to Malawi. (2009). Final Report on the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, 2009. Accessed on 29 June 2020 at https://aceproject.org/ero-en/regions/africa/MW/malawi-final-report-presidential-and-parliamentary/at_download/file

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Macro Analysis / Global

Less gratitude, please. How COVID-19 reveals the need for migration reform

22 May 2020

One thing is clear: With COVID-19, we will all move much less, at least for a while. The virus has pretty much halted human mobility across the globe, and it looks increasingly likely that traveling across and between countries will remain restricted for the foreseeable future.  From tourism to business travel and labor migration, the world will be a lot more sedentary.

This is bad news for international migration. It will only get harder to advocate more open and flexible approaches to global migration management. With trust in multilateralism at an all-time low, COVID-19 will give new ammunition to the “nationalistas”: Control borders, keep the virus—and especially the people who carry it—away from “us.” We can expect even more of an “us first” approach in politics: “our” vaccines, “our” PPE, “our” health, “‘our” borders, “our” people first.

But what about “our” jobs?

This is where the COVID-19 experience can help us look at migration through a different lens. Over the past few months, we have all learned that a range of skills, professions, and workers are especially needed in a pandemic. From doctors, nurses, and care workers to delivery drivers and shelf stackers, many of these “essential workers” come from abroad. In the U.S. for example, 30 percent of doctors and 27 percent of farm workers are foreign born. In Australia, 54 percent of doctors and 35 percent of nurses are immigrants. These key, essential workers have been celebrated as heroes during the pandemic, with weekly clappings and accolades from the highest levels of power: Upon leaving hospital after his personal encounter with the virus, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the two migrant nurses who cared for him—Jenny from New Zealand and Luis from Portugal.

So what would it take to turn gratitude into policy and practice change?

First of all, it is important to recognize that migrant essential workers were key to our economies and societies before the pandemic and are likely to become even more essential in the recovery to sustain our weakened economies and exhausted societies. For example, 13 percent of essential workers in the EU are immigrants (i.e., non-EU nationals). In some key occupations, however, the share is substantially higher: More than 1 in 3 domestic workers, more than 1 in 4 construction/mining workers, and 1 in 5 workers in food processing are migrants.

Figure 1. Share of immigrants among key workers, by occupation

Figure 1. Share of immigrants among key workers, by occupation

Source: EULFS (2018) data in Fasani, F and J Mazza (2020) “Immigrant Key Workers: Their Contribution to Europe’s COVID-19 Response,” IZA Policy Paper No. 155

Note: For each occupation, the bars report the percentage of immigrants over total key workers for each occupation.

So it is not only in an emergency or crisis that doctors and nurses are “flying to the rescue.” These workers are not heroes: They are the backbone of our societies and economies. They are also the workers that help contribute between 10 and 30 percent of GDP in their countries of origin through remittances. With these remittances likely to plummet by $445 billion as a result of COVID-19, it could not be more urgent to find ways to support these essential workers. Yet these are often the very low-skilled and “disposable” migrant workers that many countries aim to keep out through increasingly stringent immigration policies.

For the sake of our collective future, this needs to change. And things are changing. Reforms are happening around the world  to recognize migrant workers’ contribution to the COVID-19 response and, most importantly, to put in place measures to remove barriers and facilitate migrants’ access to labor markets, social protection, and basic services. Some of these reforms are more comprehensive than others: Portugal has temporarily granted all migrants and asylum-seekers citizenship rights; in Italy, the regularization only applies to some sectors; in the U.S., most measures are of an emergency nature and aimed at granting foreign-born health care workers temporary work permits or skills recognition. Still, these are all steps in the right direction.

The question is: How do we sustain these reforms beyond the pandemic? How do we go beyond the usual emergency/crisis narrative that so often taints migration debates and leaves us with little space for a balanced, rational, and politically viable approach to reform?

Answering this question requires a shift in thinking and practice among all of us advocating for migration reform. First, the “problem” to fix is not migration. Rather, the problem is skills, jobs, and lack of legal pathways (aka visas). Specifically, the problem is the obstacles that immigration rules pose to filling skills and labor gaps and to people being able to fulfill their aspirations, using the full range of skills and experiences they have.

These obstacles are not insignificant: Researchers at Oxford University estimate that under the new proposed U.K. Immigration Bill, 53 percent of EU-born and 42 percent of non-EU-born workers in key occupations will not meet the requirements for a post-Brexit visa.

So what would it take to make migration rules that work for people, economies, and societies?

The answer does not lie in migration policy alone. It requires context- and sector-specific reforms that are “locally led and politically smart.” It requires new coalitions between reformers with incentives to make change happen. In Italy, for example, the recent regularization reform is part of a broader COVID-19 recovery package; it was sponsored by the minister for agriculture and the minister of local development/cohesion, not the minister of internal affairs. It covers all workers in the informal economy, Italian and foreign born; it applies in specific sectors only and it is temporary in nature. In other words, like most reforms, it is partial, politically negotiated, and will require investment and incentives to be implemented.

So, it will not be easy, but we do have a unique window of opportunity to get the politics of reform right, backed by increasingly favorable public opinions and attitudes. To make the most of this, we need nothing less than an altogether different conversation—not about whether migration is good or bad, or whether borders should be open or closed. We need a conversation about the future of work, of our societies and economies adapted to COVID-19, where much-needed care workers, fruit pickers, and nurses are paid fairly and recognized for the contribution they make. No matter where they are from.

A message to the well-meaning but not always effective “migration community,” including me: This is a conversation about all us, our collective future. Not about “them.”

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Macro Analysis / Global

Brazil’s economic crossroads: Which path will it choose?

8 July 2020

As the pandemic unfolds, Brazil is paying a huge human cost, with the number of victims rising quickly. The scar of COVID-19 will take a long time to heal. And the country will also have to battle on the economic side, where the impact will be deep and long-lasting.

Starting from a jump in the already high level of debt in relation to its GDP, coming from both sides of the equation: Spending has skyrocketed while a steep decline in its gross domestic product is expected for this year. The trajectory for the country’s economy over the next decade, it is clear, will be lower than what was expected prior to COVID-19.

Current projections illustrate Brazil’s coming fiscal crossroads: The country can choose either stagnation and insolvency or a gradual fiscal adjustment with better growth prospects. And whether any growth will even be sustainable will depend on Brazil’s ability to move forward with structural reforms that can lift private investments. Regaining the country’s attractiveness for foreign investments will play a key role in its recovery.

For that to happen, though, the agenda of structural reforms—tax, business environment, sector regulatory framework—must return to the forefront, once the current focus on recession-flattening policies can be left behind. Structural reforms that aim at boosting private investments will improve the debt-to-GDP ratio. The multiyear horizon typical of infrastructure investment decisions, i.e., going beyond the current short-term dire economic prospects, means the participation of the private sector in them is necessary to circumvent the lack of fiscal space that will be the reality for Brazil in the decade ahead.

Higher investment in infrastructure and other long-term projects would bring improvements on both demand and productivity sides. The sooner the regulatory framework for private sector investments in sanitation—where changes were recently approved in Brazil’s congress—roads, etc. is fine-tuned, the faster investment decisions will be made.

No time to waste

The latest forecasts by the Senate’s Independent Fiscal Institute (IFI in its Portuguese acronym) project Brazil’s GDP will fall by 6.5 percent this year, and only partially recover ground next year with a 2.5 percent growth rate. Depending on the length of the still-unfolding pandemic and its impact on the economy, as well as on the effectiveness of the policies so far implemented to flatten the recession curve, we could also anticipate both an optimistic and a pessimistic path: In the best-case scenario, a contraction of 5.3 percent in 2020 would be followed by 4.3 percent growth in 2021. In the worst-case scenario, GDP would shrink by 10.2 percent this year and by 0.3 percent the next.

The IFI report projects the potential annual GDP growth rate at 2.3 percent in the period from 2022 to 2030, with basic real interest rates assumed to converge to 3.3 percent per year. Such figures are lifted or downgraded in the two other scenarios, the more optimistic and the pessimistic one depending on how favorably—or unfavorably—the country-risk premium will affect exchange rates, inflation, and real interest rates.

The coevolution of the country-risk premium and the public debt-to-GDP ratio will be key to defining whether Brazil’s GDP takes the more optimistic or more pessimistic trajectory. Like in most countries, anti-catastrophe public policies taken to flatten the recession curve, together with a fall in tax revenues, will—temporarily but steeply—raise the public sector nominal deficit and significantly lift the level of public debt as a proportion of GDP. As a result, even assuming a return to the pre-COVID-19 fiscal framework—including the constitutionally-mandated federal government spending cap that was suspended to allow for the emergency measures—the country will face a fiscal adjustment challenge steeper than the one already prevailing before the pandemic.

Turning the tide on outflow

It is worth paying attention to the link between structural reforms and private investments, as well as to the changes—in magnitude and profile—of foreign capital flows to Brazil in the recent past. Although a positive current-account balance is expected in 2020, the tendency is one of deficits. Capital inflows have more than covered those deficits in the recent past and, in fact, as recently highlighted in reports by A.C. Pastore & Associates, they are to be held responsible for the dramatic accumulation of foreign reserves by the country, since the mid-2000s, which has underlined its solid position in external accounts. Besides their implications for exchange rates and domestic financial conditions, such capital inflows were a positive factor for investments in the Brazilian economy.

After Brazil lost its investment grade, the country’s capital account changed directions, and outflows were accentuated during the pandemic. Since the 2015-16 recession, the flow of foreign money to equities and fixed-income instruments has turned negative while the transition to lower domestic interest rates has also diminished the country’s attractiveness as a yield provider. The partial return of capital into financial instruments in the last few weeks must not be confounded with a return to previous conditions, as they have reflected a partial unwinding of the portfolio adjustments that happened with the global financial shock in March. Foreign direct investments, in turn, are not likely to fill the void soon in the absence of new opportunities.

Therefore, a combination of a credible return to the fiscal adjustment path and investment-friendly structural reforms would also have the additional positive effect of making possible new rounds of foreign capital inflows. That would reinforce the likelihood that the Brazilian economy will go down the optimistic path of growth and debt, rather than the pessimistic one.

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Macro Analysis / Global

A purposeful approach to tree planting

Refinitiv Perspectives
5 June 2020

Today is the 46th year of World Environment Day, and we’ve marked the occasion by announcing Refinitiv’s 2025 and 2030 sustainability targets.

One target I’m particularly proud of, that aligns perfectly with this year’s World Environment Day theme of biodiversity, is our commitment to plant and conserve one million trees by 2030.

Refinitiv Global Forest Project

To launch this goal, we are unveiling an ambitious Refinitiv Global Forest, with the first reforestation project in Creagan, Scotland.

Purposeful tree planting

Covering 20 hectares, the equivalent of 20 football pitches, with over 45,000 native broadleaf and Scots pine trees, every colleague at Refinitiv will be assigned a tree, as well as providing colleagues, customers and partners with the opportunity to continue to help us grow our Refinitiv Global Forest sites in a collective effort to reach our global 1 million trees target.

With an estimated 15 billion trees cut down every year globally, the impact of deforestation is not only recognized as one of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, but also contributes to the damage and degradation of the ecosystems that thrive in and around forests.

The journal, Science, confirmed tree restoration as the number one solution for carbon sequestration, with an estimated area the size of the US available for new forests, which once mature, could store 205 billion tonnes of carbon. Or to put it more impactfully – two thirds of all carbon released into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.

Land sinks are one of the most effective solutions to stopping climate change close to 1.5˚C of global warming by 2050 – so planting and conserving trees must without doubt remain on everyone’s agenda if we want to focus on an effective solution.

We recognize that efficiency, effectiveness and scale is key, if we are to make a meaningful impact, requiring a purposeful approach to planting and conserving, ensuring we’re planting the right tree in the right place. Without this knowledge and guidance, we risk losing perfectly healthy trees due to lack of care and unsuitable conditions, or worse – damaging the very ecosystems we intend to protect and preserve.

This is one of the reasons why we’re proud to be partnering with Natural Capital Partners, experts in carbon neutrality and climate finance, for the launch of this first site.

“By supporting a natural climate solution in the highlands of Scotland, Refinitiv is creating a new, thriving forest in a previously deforested area. This diverse, publicly-accessible native woodland will enable Refinitiv to take climate action while providing a habitat for local wildlife, including the rare pine marten and red squirrel. What a wonderful project to kick off an impressive global goal to plant and conserve 1 million trees – we are delighted to be working with Refinitiv on this impactful programme.” – Rebecca Fay, Chief Marketing Officer for Natural Capital Partners.

We’re excited to launch the Refinitiv Global Forest initiative, but note that it’s not just about the planting and conversation of trees to achieve organic carbon neutrality and protecting critical biodiversity, it’s about what we can achieve together by encouraging the inclusion of our clients, partners and employees on this journey.

The social innovators out there will be familiar with 3 Ps – People. Profit. Planet. I hope our example will shift the focus from siloed action to collaborative action for the benefit of both people and planet.

Here’s to the revised 3 Ps – People, Partnership, Planet.

Build sustainability into your investment strategy with our environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data and services, covering thousands of companies.

The post A purposeful approach to tree planting appeared first on Refinitiv Perspectives.

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Macro Analysis / Global

A Turning Point for Political Economy

International Monetary Fund
1 June 2020

Five months ago we set out to write in this issue of Finance & Development about political economy—how politics affects the economy and the economy affects politics. Few suspected then that, instead of exploring an academic question, we would be witnessing real-world political economy dynamics unfolding, tragically, in real time. The pandemic, with its appalling loss of life, has brought the Great Lockdown and frozen the wheels of commerce. People’s lives have been turned upside down, punctuated by furloughs, facemasks, and fear.

While this health crisis reoriented our focus, the issue of political economy is more relevant than ever. It underscores the notion that policies are made not just on the basis of economic analysis but under the influences of non-economic social and political forces. And it compels us to think about how people and the economy will adjust in a post-pandemic world.

This issue features diverse articles related to political economy through the lens of COVID-19. Jeff Frieden, Andrés Velasco, and others examine the importance of institutions, identity, and trust. Antoinette Sayeh and Ralph Chami weigh policy solutions as this crisis robs millions of migrants of work opportunities, slashing remittances, the single most important flow of income for many poor countries. Ann Florini and Sunil Sharma argue that dealing with systemic fragilities requires that resilience—society’s ability to absorb and adapt to change—receive equal billing with efficiency. Other articles discuss the need for social cohesion and solidarity, with policies that protect and lift the most vulnerable as jobs disappear and inequities deepen.

Managing the effects of the pandemic prompts a real discussion of how best to implement the policy response to reach all segments of the population. To a large extent, economic policy will shape society’s resilience to the emergency and its aftermath.

But a crisis of this scale is a global turning point, forcing economists and others to expand their imagination and experiment with radical new ideas about how the world works. Such a reimagining, as Kristalina Georgieva notes in her essay, could lead us to a greener, digitally smarter, fairer, and more compassionate world. Perhaps this is a chance to reset the fundamentals of our social and economic life.

The interdisciplinary field of political economy owes its emergence to Alberto Alesina, a great scholar who passed away on May 23. IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath reflects on Alesina’s far-reaching influence.

GITA BHATT, editor-in-chief, Finance & Development

Read full issue here.



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