EU says ‘transparency’ a must to lure investments

EU says ‘transparency’ a must to lure investments
Androulla Kaminara, the European Union’s envoy to Pakistan.
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Updated 10 March 2021

EU says ‘transparency’ a must to lure investments

EU says ‘transparency’ a must to lure investments
  • Any investment to a country that can lead to jobs is a good thing. What we want to ensure is that there isn’t a backtracking of the rights of workers

ISLAMABAD: The EU ambassador in Pakistan has said that Islamabad should ensure the implementation of labor laws in special economic zones being set up under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) so that European businesses would also come forward to invest in the $60-billion agreement with Beijing to build energy and infrastructure projects.

Western officials have repeatedly criticized CPEC, saying the project is not sufficiently transparent and will saddle Pakistan with the burden of expensive Chinese loans.

“Any investment to a country that can lead to jobs is a good thing,” Androulla Kaminara, ambassador of the EU to Pakistan, told Arab News in a wide-ranging interview last week. “What we want to ensure is that there isn’t a backtracking of the rights of workers or environmental protection in specific economic zones.”

The ambassador said the EU would want transparency, predictability and information about the laws, as well as to see how long tax breaks would be applicable in the strategic economic zone so that European companies could also invest in Pakistan.

“More transparency and more predictability on these types of things will attract investments here,” she said.

Kaminara said the EU had urged the Pakistan government to limit the number of crimes that carried the death penalty as part of its obligations under the Genera­lized System of Preferences-Plus (GSP-Plus) status that has helped the country boost its exports from 4.5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) in 2014 to 7.5 billion euros last year.

The European Parliament Committee on Inter­national Trade last year extended the GSP-Plus status granted to Pakistan in 2014, which enables the country to enjoy preferential duties on exports for the next two years.

The EU’s GSP removes import duties from products coming into the EU market from vulnerable developing countries to alleviate poverty and create jobs.

“Under the GSP-plus obligation, Pakistan should limit the number of crimes that lead to the death penalty,” Kaminara said, adding that the EU would convince countries to eliminate the death penalty, but under the GSP-Plus regime, UN conventions mandate in the very least that the number of crimes leading to the death sentence be limited.

Pakistan has 33 crimes that carry the death penalty and over 4,000 people on death row. “So obviously, we would like to see some addressing of this issue,” Kaminara said, adding the EU would not prescribe where the death penalty should be applied.

Pakistan’s GSP-Plus status has been extended until 2022, but the country has to ensure tangible improvement in its human rights and labor laws record to keep enjoying the preferential incentives.

The EU accounts for at least 33 percent of Pakistan’s total global exports, composed mainly of textile and leather products. The EU published its last report on Pakistan’s progress on the 27 UN conventions in February 2020, citing “mixed progress.”

Under the obligations, Pakistan is required to enact legislation on enforced disappearances, ensure the wellbeing of journalists, appoint human rights commissioners and provide a conducive working environment to aid workers and civil society.

“One of our concerns is the bill for the protection of journalists, which has not been actually tabled, though we understand that this bill has been drafted,” Kaminara said.

The ambassador lauded a recent Supreme Court judgment barring the death penalty for at least three inmates with mental disorders.

“I have to note that most of these people on death row are not there on the basis of terrorist charges, which is of course of particular concern to Pakistan. For other types of crimes, however, we won’t expect them to lead to the death sentence,” she said.

The EU has also been working with the Pakistani judiciary to improve access to justice, manage caseloads and ensure swift delivery of justice to litigants. Under the program, the Pakistani chief justice would undertake study visits to European countries for training, exchange of knowledge and experience.

“It’s a peer-to-peer knowledge transfer program,” she said.

The EU is spending around 100 million euros annually in Pakistan under its development cooperation program to train and enhance the capacity of the police to collect evidence and curb sexual violence against women. It is also financing a forensic laboratory in Lahore to upgrade its equipment to ensure that evidence is not lost, the ambassador said.

“Properly handled evidence can help the judiciary prosecute in certain cases, while evidence that is not properly handled, such as lost fingerprints, can mean that perpetrators of crimes are not convicted,” Kaminara said.

The ambassador said the EU was launching a 90-million-euro program for business development at the local level in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh to help women entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises.

“We are working actively with the business community in Pakistan to see what opportunities exist and what potential impediments exist for them to export in the EU,” she said. “This country has quite a lot of talent, not just in men, but also in women, and if the country is to develop, you need the totality of the talent to be able to participate in business.”

The ambassador also acknowledged Pakistan’s performance to meet an action play by the Financial Action Task Force so that it could be removed from the global watchdog’s grey list of countries with inadequate terror funding controls.

“Huge progress was made,” she said.


Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits grow by 37%, plans ESG framework

Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits grow by 37%, plans ESG framework
Updated 9 sec ago

Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits grow by 37%, plans ESG framework

Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits grow by 37%, plans ESG framework

RIYADH: Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits rose by 37 percent during the first nine months of 2021 while operating profits recorded a growth of 18 percent to reach 140 million dinars ($145.8 million).

Abdullah Al-Tuwaijri, CEO of personal and digital banking services at the bank, said that fees and commissions were the biggest support for the bank’s performance in the last quarter, as the growth rate exceeded 25 percent, in addition to the financing portfolio, which rose by 18 percent.

In an interview to CNBC Arabia, he said the bank’s current assets have exceeded 7 billion dinars and its market share in individual services sector stands at about 15 percent.

He said the bank plans to expand its digital services with a focus on fintech and also aims to work on developing a framework for environmental, social and governance standards.

He said: “We are still conservative and believe that the economic and operational matters in Kuwait are better, as we noticed during the third quarter business growth, but we still have a conservative view and we are waiting until the end of the year to see the general indicators.”


Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues

Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues
Updated 4 min 5 sec ago

Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues

Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues

NEW YORK: Oil edged higher on Tuesday and was near multiyear highs as an energy supply crunch continued across the globe, while falling temperatures in China revived concerns over whether the world’s biggest energy consumer can meet domestic heating needs.

The Brent crude benchmark rose 34 cents to $84.67 a barrel by 11:11 a.m. EDT (1511 GMT). US West Texas Intermediate futures rose 46 cents to $82.90 a barrel.

Prices have been climbing the last two months. Since the start of September, Brent has risen by about 18 percent, while WTI has

gained by around 21 percent. “Supply-demand balances show that the market is experiencing a supply deficit, which is spurring deep inventory draws and driving prices upward,” said Louise Dickson, senior oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy.

“This market tightness is expected to extend into most of 2022, and crude oil demand will only catch up with crude supply by the fourth quarter of next year.”

With temperatures falling as the northern hemisphere winter approaches and heating demand increasing, prices of oil, coal and natural gas are likely to remain elevated, traders and analysts said.


Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind
Updated 19 October 2021

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind
  • The deal concerns the "interconnection" of the neighbours and transfer of electricity to their respective networks, Greek prime minister said
  • The announcement comes as countries around the world face an energy crisis, with the prices of natural gas, oil and coal rising

ATHENS: Greece, Cyprus and Egypt on Tuesday signed an electricity agreement that could include Egyptian solar power and potentially supply power to other European countries.
The protocol was signed during a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the presidents of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, in Athens.
The deal concerns the “interconnection” of the neighbors and transfer of electricity to their respective networks, Mitsotakis said.
“As energy sources diversify, Egypt can become a supplier of electric power, which will be mainly produced by the sun, and Greece will become a distribution station for Europe,” Mitsotakis added.
The announcement comes as countries around the world face an energy crisis, with the prices of natural gas, oil and coal rising.
El-Sisi said the agreement aims to “reinforce energy cooperation.”
In a joint statement, the Mediterranean neighbors said: “This interconnection reinforces cooperation and energy security, not only between these three countries but also with Europe.”
“It will be a way to transfer important quantities of electricity from and to the eastern Mediterranean,” the statement said.
The three countries also expressed their intention of exploring and transferring natural gas in the region.
Energy cooperation between eastern Mediterranean countries regularly irritate Turkey, which has its eyes set on oil and natural gas deposits in the region.
“Unfortunately, Ankara does not understand the message of the times and its aspirations to the detriment of its neighbors are obviously a threat to peace in the region,” Mitsotakis said.
Tensions soared last year when Turkey sent an exploration ship and small navy flotilla to conduct research in waters that Greece considers its own under treaties.
The Turkish foreign ministry later Tuesday lambasted the joint statement as another example of the “hostile policy” toward Turkey and Turkish-held northern Cyprus.
While Ankara supported energy projects which “increased cooperation between regional countries,” the ministry stressed that Turkish and northern Cyprus’ rights and interests “should not be ignored by these projects.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey seized the north in response to a coup orchestrated by an Athens-backed junta seeking to annex the island to Greece.
Despite attempts this year to normalize relations with Egypt after falling out in 2013, the Turkish ministry also criticized Cairo’s cooperation with Greece and Cyprus.
“The inclusion of Egypt indicates that the Egyptian administration has not yet grasped the real address where it can cooperate in the eastern Mediterranean,” it added in a written statement.


Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

RIYADH: Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday approved raising the penalty for violating the Finance Companies Law to not more than SR2 million ($0.53 million), the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Following the amendment, the penalty shall be SR2 million or 10 percent of the value of finance to which the violation was carried out, or imprisonment for a period of not more than two years, or one of those two penalties.


Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report
Updated 19 October 2021

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

A report from Bank of America has warned reaching net zero will cost the global economy $5 trillion annually for the next 30 years.

On the eve of the UN’s COP26 environmental conference in Scotland this month, where countries who signed the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions will review their progress and outline policies to achieve net zero by 2050, the report offers a stark reminder of the cost of transitioning to greener energy.

However, the report also warned that failing to address climate change could lead to the loss of 3 percent of global gross domestic product annually this decade, amounting to around $69 trillion by the end of this century.

A key priority at COP26 is for governments to agree on specific cash-backed policies that will accelerate the transition toward net zero, including a commitment to phase out the use of coal, sharply reduce deforestation, speed up the transition to electric vehicles and green heating systems, and implement fiscal measures to encourage increased investment in renewable energy.

In addition, the summit, which is taking place in Scotland’s former industrial heartland of Glasgow, will also attempt to get western governments to make good the $20 billion a year shortfall in helping emerging nations transition to greener energy.

Developed nations had agreed to provide $100 billion per year to emerging nations. Not only have they fallen short on that commitment, but the UN wants agreement in Glasgow to increase that funding further.

The UN Environment Programme estimates the cost of transition in emerging countries will reach $140-300 billion by 2030, and $280-500 billion by 2050. San Francisco based think tank, the Climate Policy Initiative, estimates Africa on its own may require up to $3 trillion by the end of this decade.

Against this backdrop, Bank of America estimates the total cost of transitioning will be $150 trillion, at least four times the amount that global COVID-19 stimulus packages are forecast to cost governments this decade.

The report states financing the trillions of dollars of investment needed for net zero will require “significant changes in capital allocation.”

As Arab News reported last week, the World Resources Institute said G20 countries still account for 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, a report by Moody’s Investors Service revealed financial institutions in the G20 were carrying almost $22 trillion of exposure to carbon-intensive sectors.

However, Bank of America said the use of labelled bonds and loans to address environmental issues is expanding rapidly.

It is forecasting more than $1 trillion in labeled bond issuance this year, with $900 billion in green, social and sustainability bonds and a further $100 billion in sustainability-linked bonds.

The report adds that labeled bonds already account for more than 20 percent of European high grade and European high yield issuance for corporates this year, driven by environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns and EU regulations, more than twice the rate in 2020.

However, while the report is bullish about the ability of Western governments to pay for greening the planet, the report notes that while around 50 countries, along with the EU — which between them account for almost 75 percent of CO2 emissions — have committed to reaching net zero, only 10 countries have so far enshrined that commitment in legislation.

The report adds while a number of the countries have pledged to long-term targets, centered on 2050 or the end of the century, they have failed to make 2030 commitments in line with the Paris Agreement.

The good news? Well, Bank of America’s cost estimate is considerably lower than an earlier forecast, published in the summer, by BloombergNEF’s closely watched New Energy Outlook, which put the figure at $173 trillion, of $5.8 trillion annually.

Progress of sorts as the world heads to Glasgow.