G20 Summit to show leaders can unite to solve ‘chaotic’ problems: Argentine envoy to KSA

G20 Summit to show leaders can unite to solve ‘chaotic’ problems: Argentine envoy to KSA
Tourists visit Plaza de Mayo (May square) in Buenos Aires. Saudi Arabia and Argentina enjoy strong relationship as both countries are working together in several fields. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 10 November 2020

G20 Summit to show leaders can unite to solve ‘chaotic’ problems: Argentine envoy to KSA

G20 Summit to show leaders can unite to solve ‘chaotic’ problems: Argentine envoy to KSA
  • World leaders can unite to solve ‘chaotic’ problems, says Argentinian Ambassador Marcelo Gilardoni

RIYADH: This year’s G20 Summit will show that world leaders can work together to solve the “chaotic” problems brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Argentina’s ambassador to the Kingdom has told Arab News.

Riyadh is hosting a virtual summit this year from Nov. 21 to Nov. 22 as part of its G20 presidency.  

Marcelo Gilardoni, quoting parts of a speech given earlier this year by Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez, said it was important to demonstrate courage and solidarity in the face of the global health crisis.   

Fernandez made a statement in March during an extraordinary G20 leaders’ summit and talked about creating a humanitarian emergency fund in response to COVID-19. 

“We come together at a unique time in history that demands that we act with courage,” he had said. “The urgency imposed by the deaths requires that we create a global humanitarian emergency fund that will allow us to be better equipped with supplies to deal with the current context. Research on COVID-19 should also be a global public good. Medical and scientific knowledge should be made universally available at affordable prices. We need to rebuild global coexistence on the basis of solidarity.”

Gilardoni, reflecting on the president’s speech, said Saudi Arabia had done a great job with the G20 by being creative and flexible — and also emphasizing multilateralism and solidarity.

“This is the first time in the world that we are holding these kinds of meetings virtually not physically,” Gilardoni told Arab News. “(We are) working together to fight against whatever might come. We are part of the same world. It’s a year in which all member countries can show the world that we can work together in solving this chaotic and big problem we’re having.”

The ambassador added that, with physical meetings impossible due to the pandemic, Saudi Arabia had chosen a virtual format for the flagship forum for international economic cooperation. But he expressed regret that face-to-face contact was some way off, especially as Latin Americans and Saudis shared common ground when it came to making and strengthening connections. 

“Physical meetings are very important. We share those values of looking into each other’s eyes. Negotiating is much easier if you’re in front of the person you’re negotiating with. This is a very important challenge for Saudi Arabia and the whole world. So, I think it showed the world that we can do that virtually. I hope we will be able to go back to physical meetings. 




Argentinian Ambassador Marcelo Gilardoni

“We have these common values, family values, friendship values, and also hospitality. And I think this was an important occasion (the G20) to show the world the new Saudi Arabia, what they have, which is very nice. Somebody told me when you make a Saudi friend, it’s a friend forever. So, this is a value they have to share with the world.”

Gilardoni said that the focus of the G20 agenda had changed and that it was now trained on COVID-19 and health issues.

“Saudi Arabia has been trying to keep some of the issues on the agenda as well, but it’s been diverted into COVID-19 and health issues. The G20 Summit in Riyadh will be remembered for these efforts to fight together and unite against such (a) pandemic this year and against whatever may come in the future.”

He said that bilateral relations were very good and that the two countries were working together in several fields.

“We are working together with the Saudi authorities to boost our bilateral relations in the best way. We’re working together in sports, in agricultural issues in trade and investment, and also financing structural projects in Argentina and culture. We still have a way to go. The more we know each other, the more friends we can become and the more partners we can be.”

He praised the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan to diversify the economy and its performance during the global crisis. “I visited some of the tourist destinations. I’ve been to AlUla, which is marvelous. I’ve been to Neom and, of course, Diriyah in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is doing very well in tourism and opening to the world. I’ve attended last year’s tourist visa announcement for some 50 countries. I hope we will be included in that list very soon.”

He said he had been welcomed in the country and was feeling at home. “I have very good Saudi friends, and it’s a wonderful country. It’s a country we have to get to know as foreigners. Everybody in my family and my friends that came to Saudi Arabia were astonished because of the people, but also the beauty of the country. It’s very diverse, very different.”


BA owner calls for COVID health passes after record $9 billion loss

BA owner calls for COVID health passes after record $9 billion loss
In this Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, file photo, British Airways planes are parked at Heathrow Airport in London. (AP)
Updated 27 February 2021

BA owner calls for COVID health passes after record $9 billion loss

BA owner calls for COVID health passes after record $9 billion loss
  • Tighter travel restrictions have threatened to ruin Europe's critical summer season

LONDON: British Airways owner IAG is counting on digital health passes to help spur a travel recovery this summer, after the pandemic pushed it to a record €7.4 billion ($9 billion) loss last year, when it ran just a third of normal flights.

Tighter travel restrictions over the last two months have threatened to ruin Europe’s critical summer season and leave some airlines needing more funding, analysts have warned.
But after taking on new loans, IAG said it had €10.3 billion of liquidity and was well set to ride out the crisis.
“We’ve got very strong liquidity going into 2021 ... so no, we will not need additional funding,” finance chief Steve Gunning told reporters on a call.
European airlines hope travel restrictions will soon be eased to allow them to make money again. Britain on Monday laid out plans for travel markets to possibly reopen from mid-May, prompting a flood of bookings.
IAG chief executive Luis Gallego said if the UK plans went ahead, it would be a “positive summer,” but digital health passes were needed to unlock the market.
“Health passes are going to be the key to restart the aviation and the travel,” said Gallego, who is six months into the job, calling for a digital system that could include test results and proof of vaccination.
Several countries are considering health passports to help revive travel, but are worried about risks to civil liberties. However, Britain’s Heathrow Airport warned this week that dealing with a big rise in passengers would not be possible with current paper-based checks.
IAG shares were up 4 percent at 194 pence in morning trading. They have jumped 13 percent in the last five days, after Britain’s announcement on a travel restart, but over the last 12 months have lost half their value.

Cash burn
The pandemic has already crippled airlines like Norwegian Air, and left major players such as Air France-KLM and Lufthansa relying on state support.
While a recovery is now in sight, there is still much uncertainty.
IAG, which also owns Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, said it could not give profit guidance for 2021, and asked how many flights it might run this year, Gallego said: “To be honest nobody knows what’s going to happen.”
For January-March, IAG said it expected to fly about 20 percent of 2019’s capacity, compared to the whole of 2020 when it flew at 34 percent of capacity.
IAG’s focus for now is on cutting costs to reduce cash burn. Weekly cash burn fell to €185 million in the first quarter, down 30 million from the previous quarter.
Last October, IAG secured shareholder backing for a €2.74 billion capital hike and Goodbody analysts said it might have to call on investors again.
“With further losses expected this year ... another rights issue can’t be ruled out in the medium term,” they said.
IAG’s operating loss before exceptional items, its preferred measure, came in at €4.37 billion, slightly better than analysts’ consensus forecast for a 4.45 billion loss.


India’s economy expands 0.4% in Oct.-Dec.

India’s economy expands 0.4% in Oct.-Dec.
A vendor speaks on his mobile phone as he waits for customers displaying clothing in front of a store in a market in New Delhi on February 23, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 27 February 2021

India’s economy expands 0.4% in Oct.-Dec.

India’s economy expands 0.4% in Oct.-Dec.
  • India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, is projecting the gross domestic product growth of 10.5 percent in financial year 2021-22

NEW DELHI: India’s economy expanded by a weaker-than-expected 0.4 percent in the October-December quarter, which still allowed it to escape recession following large contractions in the two previous quarters during the coronavirus pandemic, the government said Friday.
The National Statistical Office projected an 8 percent contraction for the 2020-21 financial year, which ends in March. In January, it had projected a contraction of 7.7 percent for the fiscal year, following 4 percent growth in 2019-20.
It said fertilizer production rose by 2.7 percent in January, steel by 2.6 percent and electricity generation by 5.1 percent. Coal production declined by 1.8 percent, crude oil by 4.8 percent and natural gas by 2 percent, it said in a statement.
India’s economy contracted by 7.5 percent in the July-September quarter following a record plunge of 23.9 percent in the previous three months. The government had imposed a strict two-month lockdown across the country in March after the outbreak of the pandemic.

HIGHLIGHTS

● India’s economy contracted by 7.5 percent in the July-September quarter following a record plunge of 23.9 percent in the previous three months.

● The government had imposed a strict two-month lockdown across the country in March after the outbreak of the pandemic.

A country enters a technical recession if its economy contracts in two successive quarters. India’s recovery is expected to improve with a rise in consumer demand and investment.
India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, is projecting the gross domestic product growth of 10.5 percent in financial year 2021-22. The International Monetary Fund has projected 11.5 percent growth in calendar 2021.
The IMF estimated that the Indian economy contracted 8 percent in 2020.


Airbus reveals carbon footprint of its planes

Airbus reveals carbon footprint of its planes
Airbus calculated that the 863 planes that it delivered in 2019 will emit 740 million tons of CO2 during an estimated 22 years in service. (AFP/File)
Updated 27 February 2021

Airbus reveals carbon footprint of its planes

Airbus reveals carbon footprint of its planes
  • The current commercial aircraft fleet, including older aircraft, is estimated to emit on average 90 grams per passenger km, according to the NGO International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT)

PARIS: Airbus unveiled Friday the carbon footprint of its aircraft, a move that will help measure progress made by the aviation industry toward its goal of reducing emissions.

It is the first time an aircraft manufacturer has released lifetime carbon emissions of its aircraft, and Airbus Executive VP Corporate Affairs Julie Kitcher said it was an opportunity to increase transparency in the sector.
“We really want to demonstrate our commitment to driving decarbonization of the sector,” she said.
The industry currently represents 2 percent of global CO2 emissions, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization, but a forecast rise in passenger air traffic means it could add more pollution to the skies unless measures are taken rapidly.
And between the “flygskam” movement, a Swedish neologism meaning “flight shame,” to increasing social responsibility expectations among investors, the industry is under mounting pressure to meet its promise to cut its carbon emissions by half from 2005 levels by 2050.
Airbus calculated that the 863 planes that it delivered in 2019 will emit 740 million tons of CO2 during an estimated 22 years in service.
As a point of comparison, France is estimated to have emitted 441 million tons of CO2 in 2019.
Airbus used the accounting measure for emissions used by most leading firms, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, including measuring the use of its products by consumers.
Airbus pointed out, however, that the efficiency of its planes is improving.
It calculated that the planes delivered in 2019 will produce on average 66.6 grams of CO2 per passenger per km.

BACKGROUND

● It is the first time an aircraft manufacturer has released lifetime carbon emissions of its aircraft.

● Airbus Executive VP Corporate Affairs Julie Kitcher says it is an opportunity to increase transparency in the sector.

● The industry currently represents 2 percent of global CO2 emissions, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization.

● A forecast rise in passenger air traffic means it could add more pollution to the skies unless measures are taken rapidly.

In 2020, that figure dropped to 63.5 grams per passenger km.
The current commercial aircraft fleet, including older aircraft, is estimated to emit on average 90 grams per passenger km, according to the NGO International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).
It estimates that cars produce an average of 122 grams per km, but that figures needs to be divided by the number of passengers in the vehicle to offer a real comparison.
While the information is useful, Airbus’s Kitcher pointed out that it only offers a snapshot of the situation today.
That is because the industry is hoping for the development of sustainable aircraft fuels (SAF) made from renewable sources to reduce its emissions.
The predicted carbon dioxide emission levels would drop if the aircraft that Airbus delivered in 2019 are certified to accept up to 50 percent SAF, although the amount of the green fuel available today is extremely low.
“If we had 50 percent of SAF going into our aircraft today we could reduce the emissions of our aircraft flying already by 40 percent,” Kitcher said.
An increase to 100 percent SAF, the use of hydrogen produced in a renewable manner, or battery powered aircraft could push down emissions even further.
But to reach the 2050 goals, as well as head toward zero emissions, requires a fleet of planes that is 90 percent more efficient than those in 2005 given the expected increase in air travel.
Last year Airbus released three zero-emission concept planes powered by hydrogen that it said could enter service by 2035.
The aviation industry is also counting on better air traffic control and efficiency gains from engines to reduce CO2 emissions.


ECB’s Stournaras calls for increasing bond buying to calm markets

ECB’s Stournaras calls for increasing bond buying to calm markets
The headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) are pictured in Frankfurt, Germany, July 8, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 27 February 2021

ECB’s Stournaras calls for increasing bond buying to calm markets

ECB’s Stournaras calls for increasing bond buying to calm markets
  • There is an unwarranted tightening of bond yields, so it would perhaps be desirable for the ECB to accelerate the pace of PEPP purchases.

FRANKFURT: Greece’s Yannis Stournaras became the first European Central Bank policymaker on Friday to openly call for increasing the pace of ECB bond purchases to stem a rise in borrowing costs.
With eurozone bond yields set for their biggest monthly rise in three years, the ECB is under some pressure to make good on its promise to keep borrowing costs easy for the coronavirus-stricken bloc through its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP).
“In my view, there is an unwarranted tightening of bond yields, so it would perhaps be desirable for the ECB to accelerate the pace of PEPP purchases to ensure favorable financing conditions during the pandemic,” Stournaras told Reuters in an interview.
“In my view there’s fundamental justification for a tightening of nominal bond yields in the long end,” the Greek central bank governor said.
Stournaras said ECB policymakers should instruct the Executive Board, which runs day-to-day business including bond purchases, to intervene accordingly when they meet on March 11.
He added that they may also alter the ECB’s policy message “slightly,” although he said no material change was needed as the central bank still had almost €1 trillion left to spend in its PEPP arsenal.
Germany’s 10-year yield, the region’s benchmark, fell to its lowest for the day at -0.287 percent after Stournaras’ comments. It was still set for its biggest monthly gain since January 2018, however, with a 24 basis-point rise.
Earlier on Friday, ECB board members Philip Lane and Isabel Schnabel had said bond yields warranted monitoring but stopped short of calling for more purchases.
“At this stage, an excessive tightening in yields would be inconsistent with fighting the pandemic shock to the inflation path,” Lane said in an interview with Spanish newspaper Expansión.
“But at the same time, it is crystal clear that we are not engaged in yield curve control, in the sense that we want to keep a particular yield constant.”
Schnabel was even more cautious, saying that a gradual rise in bond yields would even be welcome if it reflected higher inflation expectations, showing that the ECB’s stimulus is working.
“Even gradual increases in real yields may not necessarily be a cause of concern if they reflect improving growth prospects,” Schnabel added.


US consumers rebound to boost spending 2.4% as income jumps

US consumers rebound to boost spending 2.4% as income jumps
A man carries a Foot Locker bag as he walks down 34th Street on February 26, 2021 in Midtown Manhattan in New York City. (AP)
Updated 27 February 2021

US consumers rebound to boost spending 2.4% as income jumps

US consumers rebound to boost spending 2.4% as income jumps
  • Concerns that a strengthening economy will accelerate inflation have sent bond yields surging

WASHINGTON: Bouncing back from months of retrenchment, America’s consumers stepped up their spending by a solid 2.4 percent in January, the sharpest increase in seven months and a sign that the economy may be poised to sustain a recovery from the pandemic recession.
Friday’s report from the Commerce Department also showed that personal incomes, which provide the fuel for spending, jumped 10 percent last month, the biggest gain in nine months, boosted by cash payments that most Americans received from the government.
The January spending increase followed two straight monthly spending drops that had raised concerns that consumers, who power most of the economy, were hunkered down, too anxious to travel, shop and spend. Last month’s sharp gain suggests that many people are growing more confident about spending, especially after receiving $600 checks that went to most adults last month in a federal economic aid package.
“The economy weakened late last year as the fiscal support faded and the pandemic intensified, but now it seems to be coming back to life,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.
The government also reported Friday that inflation by a measure preferred by the Federal Reserve rose a moderate 0.3 percent in January. That left prices up just 1.5 percent over the past 12 months, well below the Fed’s 2 percent target.
Besides receiving cash payments, many Americans who have managed to keep their jobs have also been saving money for several months rather than spending. That could bode well for the economy later this year, once consumers increasingly feel willing to spend, vaccinations are more widely administered and some version of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic aid proposal, which includes additional cash payments for individuals, is enacted.
Concerns that a strengthening economy will accelerate inflation have sent bond yields surging. On Thursday, the yield on the 10-year US Treasury note moved above 1.5 percent — a level not seen in more than a year and far above the 0.92 percent it was trading at only two months ago.
That move raised alarms on Wall Street and ignited a deep selloff in the stock market. Some investors fear that rising interest rates and the threat of inflation might lead the Fed to raise its benchmark short-term rate too quickly and potentially derail the economy. The tame inflation figure in Friday’s report from the government shows that, so far at least, price increases are mostly mild.
In testimony to Congress this week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell downplayed the inflation risk and instead underscored the economy’s struggles. Layoffs are still high. And 10 million jobs remain lost to the pandemic that erupted nearly a year ago. That’s a deeper job loss than was inflicted by the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
Still, despite the weakened job market, key sectors of the economy are showing signs of picking up as vaccinations increase and government rescue aid works its way through the economy. The Fed’s ultra-low-rate policy is providing important support as well.
Retail sales soared last month. Factory output also rose and has nearly regained its pre-pandemic levels. And sales of newly built homes jumped in January.
Friday’s report showed that consumers boosted their purchases of durable goods — from autos to appliances — by a strong 8.4 percent last month. Spending on nondurable goods, which include food and clothing, increased 4.3 percent.
By contrast, spending on services barely eked out a 0.7 percent gain. America’s service sector, which includes restaurants, entertainment venues and other face-to-face establishments, has been pummeled by the widespread reluctance or inability of consumers to travel, shop or dine out.
Consumers saved a significant chunk of their income last month: The personal savings rate jumped to 20.5 percent, from 13.4 percent in December.
With so many Americans forgoing out-of-town travel, shopping trips and indoor dining, the savings rate has been climbing, contributing to expectations for a surge in spending once more people feel comfortable resuming their previous spending habits.
“There is a lot of economic juice coming,” Zandi said. “I think the economy is going to be booming by later this year.”