Science and society take center stage at Davos panel

The WEF 2019 is held at Davos in Switzerland. (File/AFP)
Updated 25 January 2019

Science and society take center stage at Davos panel

  • UAE Minister of State for Advanced Sciences Sarah bint Yousif Al-Amiri was one of the speakers
  • The panelists addressed the relationship of science and society

DUBAI: Panelists at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland took the stage Friday to talk about science and society, including issues such as vaccine skepticism and digital health among others.

Among the speakers was UAE Minister of State for Advanced Sciences Sarah bint Yousif Al-Amiri. She was joined by Martina Hirayama, Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Education and Research and Innovation; Andrew Thompson, co-founder and CEO of Proteus Digital Health Inc.; Shellice Sairras, a medical researcher at Academic Hospital Paramaribo; and Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, president at European Research Council.

The panelists addressed the relationship of science and society, including topics such as how the public consumes scientific information in their daily lives; digitalization of health; and the impact of technology in public health.

One of the issues the panelists discussed was vaccine skepticism, which the they agreed was a common debate in a lot of countries.

“We as scientists have the obligation to communicate science in layman’s language to our communities,” medical researcher Sairras said, highlighting the importance of public understanding in addressing health issues.

UAE Minister Al-Amiri said the research process should be “humanized,” instead of just focusing on presenting the results in numbers.

“We established a team in my office to create science content for the public, translating scientific information to become more understandable,” she said.

The panel also underscored the importance of including the youth in these public discussions about health, with some panelists mentioning the role of social media in the discourse.

“Communication on social media is much more impactful than anywhere else,” Al-Amiri added.


Oil-rich wealth funds seen shedding up to $225 billion in stocks

Updated 30 March 2020

Oil-rich wealth funds seen shedding up to $225 billion in stocks

  • Risking more losses is not an option for some funds from oil-producing nations

LONDON: Sovereign wealth funds from oil-producing countries mainly in the Middle East and Africa are on course to dump up to $225 billion in equities, a senior banker estimates, as plummeting oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic hit state finances.

The rapid spread of the virus has ravaged the global economy, sending markets into a tailspin and costing both oil and non-oil based sovereign wealth funds around $1 trillion in equity losses, according to JPMorgan strategist Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou.

His estimates are based on data from sovereign wealth funds and figures from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, a research group.

Sticking with equity investments and risking more losses is not an option for some funds from oil-producing nations. Their governments are facing a financial double-whammy — falling revenues due to the spiraling oil price and rocketing spending as administrations rush out emergency budgets.

Around $100-$150 billion in stocks have likely been offloaded by oil-producer sovereign wealth funds, excluding Norway’s fund, in recent weeks, Panigirtzoglou said, and a further $50-$75 billion will likely be sold in the coming months.

“It makes sense for sovereign funds to frontload their selling, as you don’t want to be selling your assets at a later stage when it is more likely to have distressed valuations,” he said.

Most oil-based funds are required to keep substantial cash-buffers in place in case a collapse in oil prices triggers a request from the government for funding.

A source at an oil-based sovereign fund said it had been gradually raising its liquidity position since oil prices began drifting lower from their most recent peak above $70 a barrel in October 2018.

In addition to the cash reserves, additional liquidity was typically drawn firstly from short-term money market instruments like treasury bills and then from passively invested equity as a last resort, the source said.

It’s generally a similar trend for other funds.

“Our investor flows broadly show more resilience than market pricing would suggest,” said Elliot Hentov, head of policy research at State Street Global Advisers. “There has been a shift toward cash since the crisis started, but it’s not a panic move but rather gradual.”

The sovereign fund source said the fund had made adjustments to its actively managed equity investments due to the market rout, both to stem losses and position for the recovery, when it comes.

Exactly how much sovereign wealth funds invest and with whom remain undisclosed. Many don’t even report the value of the assets they manage.

On Thursday, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund said it had lost $124 billion so far this year as equity markets sunk but its outgoing CEO Yngve Slyngstad said it would, at some point, start buying stocks to get its portfolio back to its target equity allocation of 70 percent from 65 percent currently.

Slyngstad also said that any fiscal spending by the government this year would be financed by selling bonds in its portfolio.