World Economic Forum annual meeting kicks off in Davos against a backdrop of geopolitical fractures

Special World Economic Forum annual meeting kicks off in Davos against a backdrop of geopolitical fractures
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Employees of a mosaic workshop work on panels, main, in a town in the war-ravaged Syrian province of Idlib. Low-income nations are likely to face further isolation from technologies and the associated job market. (AFP/File)
Special World Economic Forum annual meeting kicks off in Davos against a backdrop of geopolitical fractures
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​ Millions more people lost their livelihoods and became dependent on humanitarian aid in 2023 owing to eruption of war in Sudan. (AFP/File) ​
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Updated 15 January 2024
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World Economic Forum annual meeting kicks off in Davos against a backdrop of geopolitical fractures

World Economic Forum annual meeting kicks off in Davos against a backdrop of geopolitical fractures
  • Reports produced by Switzerland-based group identify key support strategies as MENA region faces a testing time
  • Even the most promising economies seen facing challenges that prevent a stronger balanced growth performance

DAVOS/LONDON:  Uncertainty surrounding the Israel-Hamas war in Palestine’s Gaza Strip has contributed to a slight weakening of economic growth expectations for 2024 in the wider Middle East and North Africa region, according to a new survey of chief economists by the World Economic Forum.

The January 2024 Chief Economists Outlook, published on Monday, noted that although the outlook has weakened since September last year, 61 percent of survey respondents continued to foresee moderate or stronger economic growth in the MENA region over the next year.




Palestinians storm a UN-run aid supply center ion in Deir al-Balah on October 28, 2023, following Israel's call for more than one million residents in northern Gaza to move south for their safety, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP/File)

However, growth forecasts for the region remain susceptible to the increased risk of shocks, partly stemming from expanding geopolitical rifts due to the persistence of old conflicts and the eruption of new ones.

The growth outlook is also clouded by reduced oil demand and a substantial decline in tourism.

These factors, particularly the current geopolitical climate, are expected to contribute to the deepening global economic uncertainty in 2024, as 56 percent of experts anticipate further decline in most regions.




A aid worker from the humanitarian agency Premiere Urgence assists Sudanese refugees who crossed into Chad in Koufroun, near Echbara, on May 1, 2023. (AFP)/File)

There seems to be strong consensus among the chief economists this year that recent geopolitical developments will increase localization and strengthen geo-economic blocs, which, in turn, may deepen inequalities and widen the North-South divide in the next three years.

WEF 2024 MEETING THEMES

• Achieving security and cooperation in a fractured world.

• Creating growth and jobs for a new era.

• Artificial intelligence as a driving force for the economy and society.

• A long-term strategy for climate, nature and energy.

Against this backdrop, the WEF’s separate Future of Growth Report 2024 says the economic repercussions of the Middle East conflict are aggravating a range of interconnected global challenges, such as the climate crisis and a weakening social contract. Collectively, these issues are undoing the progress made in global development.

The Future of Growth Report evaluates the quality of growth across four pillars: Innovativeness, Inclusiveness, Sustainability and Resilience.

“Reigniting global growth will be essential to addressing key challenges, yet growth alone is not enough,” Saadia Zahidi, WEF managing director, said in a statement on Monday.




An Iraqi-Kurdish electrical engineer gives a briefing on solar energy in Sulaimaniyah in northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region on September 20, 2023. Despite its vast oil wealth, Iraq struggles to provide enough electricity to its 43 million people after decades of conflict and sanctions, as well as rampant corruption and crumbling infrastructure. (AFP/File)

“The report proposes a new way for assessing economic growth that balances efficiency with long-term sustainability, resilience and equity, as well as innovation for the future, aligning with both global and national priorities.”

In the Chief Economists Outlook, experts are optimistic that the potential of generative artificial intelligence could be part of the remedy.

The chief economists zeroed in on two key phenomena impacting the global economy — geopolitical developments and advancements in generative AI. The outlook found that the rapid advances in AI positioned it at the forefront of both business and policy agendas in 2024.

The survey respondents, however, were more optimistic about AI-enabled benefits in high-income economies than in developing nations. In high-income economies, AI is expected to significantly increase productivity gains and innovation over the next five years.




The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority aims to raise awareness of the importance of generative artificial intelligence as it contributes to enhancing the building of a bright future for the Kingdom. (SDAIA illustration) 

Conversely, low-income nations, especially those susceptible to conflict and the effects of climate change, are expected to face further isolation from technologies, investment and the associated job market due to barriers to economic mobility.

But another WEF report released on Jan. 10, ahead of the organization’s annual meeting in Davos, suggested that the growing role of AI in the generation and dissemination of fake news was likely to fuel social unrest, especially during elections, in several major economies over the next two years.

The WEF’s Global Risks Report ranked both AI-driven false information and societal polarization among the greatest global risks in 2024.

Despite that, the perspectives of the chief economists were somewhat split regarding the likelihood of generative AI leading to a decline in trust within both high-income and low-income economies this year.

ANNUAL GDP PER CAPITA GROWTH (2018-2023)

• 1.01% High-income economies.

• 1.32% Upper-middle-income economies.

• 1.95% Lower-middle-income economies.

• 0.22% Low-income economies.

Source: World Economic Forum

The Chief Economists Outlook stated that although technological advances may revitalize global productivity, it is essential to implement policies that promote high-quality growth, rekindling global momentum and ensuring a balanced impact across income groups.

The survey respondents identified five key strategies to support developing economies in the current context.

These are “laying a sound institutional framework for long-term growth, improving integration into global value chains, tapping into green transition opportunities, strengthening innovation capacity, digital infrastructure and a sound investment climate, and investing in human capital and basic services.”

Escalating conflicts globally and a weakened commitment to peace and security cooperation have led to a 2 percent dip in global cooperation from 2020 to 2023, according to the WEF’s Global Cooperation Barometer 2024, released earlier this month.




A Houthi military helicopter flies over the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea in this photo released November 20, 2023. Prolonged disruption of shipping across the Red Sea is expected to result in higher inflation globally. (Houthi handout via REUTERS/File Photo) 

This increase in conflicts, including prolonged disruption in the Red Sea as well as rising climate volatility, are also expected to have an impact on inflation rates.

The Cooperation Barometer also recognized areas of strong cooperation, including climate and natural capital, trade and capital flows, and innovation and technology.

Climate-related threats were found to be the greatest long-term concern, according to the Global Risks Report, which highlighted that environmental risks were among the top 10 threats facing the world over the next decade.

 

 

 


Typhoon Gaemi forces Philippines to halt work, market trading

Typhoon Gaemi forces Philippines to halt work, market trading
Updated 12 sec ago
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Typhoon Gaemi forces Philippines to halt work, market trading

Typhoon Gaemi forces Philippines to halt work, market trading

MANILA: Typhoon Gaemi and a southwest monsoon brought heavy rain on Wednesday to the Philippine capital region and northern provinces, prompting authorities to halt work and classes, while stock and foreign exchange trading were suspended.

The presidential office suspended classes at all academic levels and work in most government offices in the capital region, which is composed of 16 cities and home to at least 13 million people, because of the tropical storm.

Gaemi, with maximum sustained winds of 155 kilometers per hour (96.3 mph) and gustiness of up to 190 kph, was heading toward Taiwan, the Philippines’ state weather agency said in a 5 a.m. bulletin.

It did not make landfall but it is enhancing a southwest monsoon, resulting in heavy to intense rain in northern Philippines, the agency said. “Flooding and rain-induced landslides are likely.”

Gaemi and another tropical storm, Prapiroon, hit southern Philippines and caused floods last week, resulting in seven deaths.

The Philippine coast guard said 354 passengers and 31 vessels were stranded in ports while airlines canceled 13 flights on Wednesday, Manila’s airport authority said.

The Philippines sees an average of 20 tropical storms annually, causing floods and deadly landslides. 


Pentagon reaffirms support for Ukraine in first defense heads call since Biden’s campaign exit

Pentagon reaffirms support for Ukraine in first defense heads call since Biden’s campaign exit
Updated 6 min 27 sec ago
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Pentagon reaffirms support for Ukraine in first defense heads call since Biden’s campaign exit

Pentagon reaffirms support for Ukraine in first defense heads call since Biden’s campaign exit

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reaffirmed Washington’s unwavering support for Ukraine in a call with Ukraine’s defense minister, Rustem Umerov, the Pentagon said late on Tuesday

It was the first call between the defense heads since US President Joe Biden’s announcement that he was ending his reelection bid and endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican former President Donald Trump.

“During the call, the secretary reaffirmed the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” the Pentagon’s press secretary, Major General Pat Ryder, told journalists at a briefing, according to a transcript on the US Department of Defense website.

Umerov said he and Austin also discussed the recent developments on the frontline and Ukraine’s urgent battlefield needs.

“I once again highlighted the importance and urgency of lifting the bans on long-range fires,” Umerov said in a statement on X.

Washington, under the helm of Biden, has been Ukraine’s biggest supporter in the war that Russia has been waging against its smaller neighbor. The US has provided more than $50 billion in military aid since 2022.

After a call between Harris’ national security adviser and his chief of staff on Tuesday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was important that “the dynamics of our joint work for a just peace do not diminish.” 


US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’

US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’
Updated 15 min 21 sec ago
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US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’

US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’

PANAMA CITY: Deportation flights from Panama for undocumented US-bound migrants who have crossed the lawless Darien jungle from South America are expected to start imminently, a US official said Tuesday.

Washington this month pledged $6 million in funding for migrant repatriations from the Central American nation in the hope of reducing irregular crossings at its own southern border.

The program was expected to use “large numbers” of charter and commercial flights to send back migrants who cross the Darien Gap, said Marlen Pineiro, an official at the US Department of Homeland Security.

“We’re still negotiating (with Panama), but the focus of this program is deportations and expulsions,” she said at a news conference in Panama City.

“I don’t want to give a date yet, but I think we’re going to start imminently,” Pineiro added.

The Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama has become a key corridor for migrants traveling overland from South America through Central America and Mexico to the United States.

Despite the dangers posed by treacherous terrain and violent criminal gangs, more than half a million undocumented migrants — mostly Venezuelans — crossed the Darien last year.

Transit countries such as Panama and Mexico have come under increased pressure from Washington to tackle the highly contentious migration issue in a US election year.

Jose Raul Mulino, Panama’s new president, vowed during his election campaign to deport migrants and close the key route.

After he was sworn in on July 1, the conservative lawyer said his country would no longer be a “transit” point for undocumented migrants.

However, he appeared to soften his tone last week, saying, “We cannot forcibly repatriate” migrants.


Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American

Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American
Updated 17 min 46 sec ago
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Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American

Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American
  • CAIR says complaints of anti-Muslim US incidents totaled 8,061 in 2023, the highest since it began records nearly 30 years ago

WASHINGTON: A Kentucky man was arrested and charged with a federal hate crime for threatening a Palestinian American man with a loaded gun, the US Justice Department said on Monday, in a step welcomed by advocates documenting rising Islamophobia.
The Justice Department said the incident occurred at the end of March, without giving further details. It identified the suspect as Melvin P. Litteral III and the victim only by his initials, O.S.
The indictment also included a weapons charge. Litteral could not immediately be contacted.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
Human rights advocates have noted a rise in Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian bias and antisemitism in the US since the start of Israel’s war in Gaza that has killed tens of thousands and caused a humanitarian crisis.
The Council on American Islamic Relations advocacy group welcomed the indictment. CAIR says complaints of anti-Muslim US incidents totaled 8,061 in 2023, the highest since it began records nearly 30 years ago.

KEY QUOTE
“Melvin P. Litteral III used force or the threat of force to intimidate and interfere with the victim – a Palestinian American man and practicing Muslim identified in the indictment by the initials O.S. – because of O.S.’s race, color, religion and/or national origin, and because O.S. was enjoying the goods, services and facilities of a local restaurant,” the Justice Department said.

CONTEXT
Other recent alarming US incidents include the fatal October stabbing of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American child in Illinois, the February stabbing of a Palestinian-American man in Texas, the November shooting of three students of Palestinian descent in Vermont and the attempted drowning of a 3-year-old Palestinian-American girl in May.
A former Cornell University student pleaded guilty in April to posting online threats, including of death and violence, against Jewish students on campus. There have been allegations of alarming antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric in some protests and counterprotests over the war and the dire situation of Palestinians in Gaza and the fate of Israeli hostages held there.

 

 

 


Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary convicted of directing a terrorist group

Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary convicted of directing a terrorist group
Updated 1 min 22 sec ago
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Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary convicted of directing a terrorist group

Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary convicted of directing a terrorist group
  • Prosecutor Tom Little, who described Choudary as having a “warped and twisted mindset,” said that he had stepped in to lead ALM after Omar Bakri Muhammad, the group’s founder, was imprisoned in Lebanon between 2014 and March 2023

LONDON: Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary was found guilty Tuesday by a London jury of directing a terrorist group.
Choudary, 57, was convicted in Woolwich Crown Court of membership in a banned organization, the radical Muslim group Al-MuHajjiroun, or ALM, and for drumming up support for the group.
ALM was outlawed by the British government in 2010 as a group involved in committing, preparing for or promoting terrorism.
“ALM’s tentacles have spread across the world and have had a massive impact on public safety and security,” Metropolitan Police Cmdr. Dominic Murphy said. “There are individuals that have conducted terrorist attacks or traveled for terrorist purposes as a result of Anjem Choudary’s radicalizing impact upon them.”
Prosecutor Tom Little, who described Choudary as having a “warped and twisted mindset,” said that he had stepped in to lead ALM after Omar Bakri Muhammad, the group’s founder, was imprisoned in Lebanon between 2014 and March 2023.
Choudary, who was previously convicted of supporting the Daesh group, denied at trial that he promoted ALM through his lectures, saying ALM no longer exists.
Prosecutors said the group has operated under many names, including the New York-based Islamic Thinkers Society, which Choudary has spoken to.
The Islamic Thinkers Society was ALM’s US branch, said New York Police Deputy Commissioner Rebecca Weiner, who called the case historic.
“It is usually the foot soldiers, the individuals who are brought into the network who go on to commit the attacks who are brought to justice,” Weiner said. “And it’s rarely the leader, which is what makes this a particularly important moment.”
Choudary was convicted with one of his followers, Khaled Hussein, who prosecutors said was a dedicated supporter of the group.
Hussein, 29, of Edmonton, Canada, was convicted of membership in a proscribed organization.
The two were arrested a year ago after Hussein landed at Heathrow Airport.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 30.