Experts demand generic version of drug effective against Covid-19 #SootinClaimon.Com

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https://www.nationthailand.com/opinion/30404749

Experts demand generic version of drug effective against Covid-19

ColumnsApr 10. 2021

By Bobby Ramakant
Citizen News Service

Shouldn’t a medicine like Remdesivir, which has proved to be life-saving in certain cases of Covid-19, be made available to all those who need it without delay?

Even if Big Pharma has a patent, there are provisions in global trade treaties that allow governments to issue compulsory licences for such a life-saving drug, and keep public interest above profit. This is why medical experts are demanding that governments use compulsory licensing for generic production of such a drug to help save lives.

Compulsory licensing is one of the key public health and social justice safeguards that allows governments to use, produce, and import or export patented technologies in the public interest.

When confronted with intellectual property barriers that block access to affordable life-saving treatments, governments of countries like Thailand, Brazil, India, South Africa, Malaysia among others, have used this mechanism of compulsory licensing in the past, to ensure life-saving medicines reach the people who need it most (for HIV, hepatitis C, cancer, etc).

Compulsory licensing enables local production or importation of generic medicines, multiple supply options, reduces price and increases access to life-saving treatments for those most in need.

The Indian state of Maharashtra is registering high numbers of Covid-19 cases as of now, and the situation is equally bad in several states. Among the medicines that have shown to work in Covid-19 are steroids and Remdesivir. The patent owner of Remdesivir, Gilead, had given voluntary licence to six Indian pharmaceuticals. Even then, there is an acute shortage of Remdesivir injections, possibly due to hoarding and racketeering, especially in Maharashtra. This will have a cascading effect in the rest of India. Its maximum retail price ranges between 2,800-5,400 Indian rupees (Bt1,200-Bt2,500) as per the company that produces it, whereas procurement rates at hospitals range between 600-1000 rupees. “After we pointed out this discrepancy, the Maharashtra government has once again capped the price from 1,000 to 1,400 rupees per injection. Each eligible patient needs six doses and is required only for treating moderate or severe Covid cases” said Dr Ishwar Gilada, secretary-general of Organised Medicine Academic Guild (Omag), an umbrella network of several professional medical experts’ associations in India.

Omag has appealed to the Indian prime minister to put Remdesivir in Drug Price Control Order, as is done for other life-saving medicines. This will help reduce the maximum retail price to an affordable level and remove buffer margins and scope for black-marketing.

Another ask of Omag is to grant a compulsory licence under Section 84 of Indian Patents Act, 1970, to ramp-up production of Remdesivir. It can bring down procurement cost to below 500 rupees per vial, to save millions of Indian Covid patients as also several more globally, who will benefit from made-in-India generic Remdesivir.

Omag has also insisted on rationalising the use of Remedesivir with strict adherence to the guidelines, making multiple Remdesivir stores or Remdesivir banks with strict sales control, and making racketeering of Remdesivir punishable under the Epidemic Act of India.

Gilada, who is also the president of Aids Society of India and Governing Council member of International Aids Society, added that Remdesivir (GS-5734) was originally developed by Gilead Sciences in 2009, to treat Hepatitis C and respiratory syncytial virus, but failed. It was then repurposed and studied as a potential treatment for Ebola and Marburg virus infections. In collaborative study it was subsequently discovered that it had antiviral activity in-vitro against multiple filoviruses, pneumoviruses, paramyxoviruses, and coronaviruses. It is now repurposed for use in Covid-19. Remdesivir was granted a patent in India in 2010. A compulsory licence can be issued against any drug with a three-year-old patent and hence this demand from Omag.

One of the lessons from the global public health emergency, is that profiteering from illness has to end. It is an essential cog-in-the-wheel of sustainable development where no one is left behind and that all healthcare services reach every human being in a rights-based manner, not dependent on the capacity to pay.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF or Doctors Without Borders) had earlier stated that a compulsory licence is a licence for alternative production or importation of a generic version of a patented medicine which is granted by the government and does not require the consent of the patent-holder. The Doha Declaration on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health confirms that countries are free to determine the grounds of compulsory licences. TRIPS, or Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, is an international legal agreement between all the member nations of the World Trade Organization. Examples of different grounds for compulsory licence include, for instance to remedy anti-competitive practices, failure to work or insufficient working of the patent, when the patented medicine is unaffordable or unavailable making it inaccessible to patients and when public health is at stake including but not limited to emergency/extreme urgency, epidemics and public non-commercial use.

Bobby Ramakant is a 2008 WNTD Awardee of the World Health Organization director-general.

Open banking system still a distant dream for Thailand #SootinClaimon.Com

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https://www.nationthailand.com/opinion/30404397

Open banking system still a distant dream for Thailand

ColumnsApr 01. 2021Vilaiporn TaweelappontongVilaiporn Taweelappontong

By THE NATION

Thailand’s financial sector could take as long as 10 years to fully embrace open banking due to a lack of necessary infrastructure, customer confidence to share data and collaboration between banks, PwC Thailand said.

Hence, it added, government and regulatory bodies should put in place an open banking infrastructure as well as legislation governing data sharing and security to unlock the sector’s potential and strengthen Thailand’s data-driven financial ecosystem.

Vilaiporn Taweelappontong, consulting lead partner and financial services leader for PwC Thailand, said the global financial services industry is developing open banking technology that allows third-party providers (TPPs) such as tech firms, fintech players and other banks to access the financial information of banking customers through open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

This shift would make it easy for customers to access financial offerings with personalized services in real-time. Banks and financial institutions can add new revenue streams from innovative financial products and services by partnering up with non-banks such as technology firms and fintech players. All of this will help to accelerate digitalisation, save costs and add more flexibility to operations.

Even so, developing open banking in Thailand still faces many challenges.

“It could take at least 10 years for the financial sector in Thailand to fully embrace open banking simply because it still has a lot more to do both in terms of getting the infrastructure ready and building user confidence,” Vilaiporn said.

Currently, most Thai banks are investing in API development portals and other internal capabilities to share technology within affiliated companies, joint ventures or trading partners, Vilaiporn said. But the accessibility of data remains limited.

“If we want to take further steps to fully adopt open banking, the government and regulators must put in place a regulatory framework concerning interconnectivity, usage and data security while also building awareness among the population around the safety of sharing financial data,” she said.

Loopholes in development

Over the last couple of years, open banking has been revolutionising the global financial services sector. But many countries are still in different stages of adoption, Vilaiporn said.

Many Thai banks are reluctant to share customer data with entities they see as business competitors, and so far, there are no extensive regulations and incentives to convince them to start doing so, she said.

“The open banking revolution has greatly challenged the traditional financial ecosystem in every aspect because banks have to allow third-party providers to access the financial information of their customers.

“However, many banks today still worry about the security of letting other TPPs access their customer data. They are also concerned about competing in an already fierce market, losing business to new entrants such as fintech. And it’s more difficult to manage customer relationships when transactions at the counters of physical banks are diminishing fast,” Vilaiporn said.

A successful push to fully embrace open banking in Thailand would require efforts from all parties along with government incentives to foster collaboration. This would include tightening the regulatory framework and preparing data-security infrastructure in the event of an attack that could cause irreparable damage to the financial services system, she said.

Customers at the heart of open banking

Technological advances and changing consumer behaviour have prompted financial institutions and banks to focus on improving the customer experience to retain existing customers and attract new ones.

Asian banking customers who are frustrated with their traditional banks are shifting to virtual banking, according to “Beyond Digital: Data-Driven Strategies to Grow, Scale and Profit”, a report by PwC and Oracle.

These end-customers demand a single platform that integrates financial and non-financial services, allowing them to transition from one channel to another seamlessly. Such market trends underline the need for banks to adopt open banking solutions to accelerate data-based innovation and interoperability, it said.

“The development of open banking will provide a better customer experience from bringing together all the offerings that people want from different providers to a single platform, be it transferring money, checking balances or paying for goods and services.

“Customers can wire money at bank A, pay a bill via app B or apply for a loan via app C, all of which can be done through the same interface without switching in and out of so many apps or platforms. By giving them greater control of their data, it also means they get to have access to an array of services from third parties more easily,” the report said.

Day of the Landless sparks call for reform of global food system #SootinClaimon.Com

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https://www.nationthailand.com/opinion/30404269

Day of the Landless sparks call for reform of global food system

ColumnsMar 30. 2021

By Bobby Ramakant
Special to The Nation

Today (March 29) marks the Day of the Landless, inaugurated by the Asian Peasant Coalition to spotlight the struggle for land rights by rural people in countries around the world.

Landless farmer groups from around Asia joined a summit ahead of the Day of the Landless in a bid to strengthen their push for land rights and reforms.

The theme this year – “Land of the Landless: Land to the Tillers” – recalls the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “In reality, the toiler is the owner of what he produces. If the toilers intelligently combine, they will become an irresistible power.”

Indian independence leader Ram Manohar Lohia echoed that point: “The most exploited element in Indian society is the landless village labourers and farmers,” said Lohia, adding that the freedom struggle in India could not be completed until the prosperity of the humble kisan (farmer) became a reality.

In 1949, two years after India gained independence, Lohia said reconstruction of the country was primarily a question of the reconstruction of her 550,000 of villages. Like Gandhi, he wanted a village-based democracy in India. Each village should be a zone of peace where land should be given to the impoverished residents who actually tilled the soil, and even landless labourers would secure rehabilitation and social justice. Lohia exposed the bitter truth of so-called urban “development” when he said the government had sacrificed Indian villages for the benefit of cities. Village dwellers were exploited economically and culturally. In Lohia’s scheme of agrarian revolution, those who till the land must also own it.

Land still does not belong to the tillers

More than eight decades after India won independence, Gandhi and Lohia’s words speak louder than ever: most land still does not belong to the tiller. Far from securing the land for tillers, the “development” model India is chasing puts many at risk of losing it. Under the policies of globalisation, privatisation and liberalisation implemented since the early 1990s, even landholder farmers are becoming landless, said Harinder Singh Manshahia, a farmers’ leader and Punjab state president of the Socialist Party (India).

According to National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data, 60 per cent of India’s population has rights to only 5 per cent of the land. Meanwhile 10 per cent has control over 55 per cent of the land. The 2011 Socio Economic and Caste Census shows that 56 per cent of households in rural India do not own any agricultural land. The NSSO 2013 revealed that the top 7.18 per cent of households own more than 46.71 per cent of the land.

For the Day of the Landless 2021, the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) has joined with regional farmers to call for an end to corporate control of food and agriculture.

They called for strengthening of the battle for genuine land reform and rural development to truly transform the world’s food systems.

“On the Day of the Landless, we – farmers and peasants, poor farmhands, agricultural workers, contract farmers, Dalits, rural women and youth, and land reform advocates across Asia – vow to further our resolve in fighting against landlessness,” said Raja Mujeeb, a member of the Pakistan Kisan Mazdoor Tahreek farmers’ alliance.

“Landlessness breeds social injustice, hunger and impoverishment. Landlessness is a bane to farmers and all the people of the world,” he added.

Sandeep Pandey, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and vice president of the Socialist Party (India), said: “It is unacceptable that farmers and food producers who feed our nations do not have access to land and are food insecure because of land and resource grabs, and of corporate capture of agricultural production and trade.”

Why hunger when farmers grow more than we need?

The Covid-19 pandemic that ravaged the world in 2020 further exposed the profit-oriented nature of global food systems as it drove millions of people into chronic hunger. By the end of 2019, at least 690 million people went hungry. By the start of 2020, hundreds of millions of people continued to suffer acute food insecurity as they faced conflict, climate change, and economic crises of epic proportions.

A staggering 7 million people died of hunger last year as of October 2020. Pandemic-related hunger also led to the deaths of 10,000 more children each month over the first year of the health crisis. Forecasts even warned about multiple famines in the coming months as the lowest-income households are most likely to face increased hunger. Strict lockdown policies and quarantines have affected all stages of food supply, resulting in a steep rise in food prices and widespread food insecurity.

APC leaders said that hunger and poverty of Asian peasants and sectors in agriculture are among the direct results of centuries-old landlessness. Large-scale land deals and acquisitions (land grabs led by corporations) have dispossessed and displaced farmers from the plots they till. Millions of hectares of land planted with staples, grains and other food crops, as well as indigenous lands, and public lands were grabbed and converted into plantations, extractive mining projects, and farms devoted to export cash crops. Governments have become willing accomplices in these land grabs through public-private partnerships that take away land, water, and other natural resources from the people. Profits keep pouring into the pockets of the few as the majority of peasants and their families endure worsening landlessness and land grabs amid a pandemic. Farmers who assert land rights are faced with attacks from local landlords, big corporations and even government agencies. Peasant killings and other forms of brutalities against farmers happen on a daily basis.

In Asia, the largest protests we have seen in recent months are by Indian farmers, taking to the streets in hundreds of millions to oppose neoliberal agricultural laws that will make them more vulnerable to a few powerful corporations.

The APC warns that “ongoing efforts to address the rising global hunger and poverty through the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit will only end up in legitimising and further advancing tighter imperialist control over food and agriculture”.

At the summit, the APC called for just, equitable, healthy, and sustainable food systems that would bring to the fore the peasant’s aspirations and struggles for land and genuine agrarian reform.

Cathy Estavillo, chairperson of Amihan women peasant federation (Philippines) and vice chair of APC; Ravindra, landless person from Hardoi in UP, India; and Anil Mishra, a farmer from Uttar Pradesh, India and president of the Socialist Kisan Sabha also addressed the summit under the unifying call that “Land Must Belong to the Tillers”.

Bobby Ramakant is a member of CNS (Citizen News Service), Asha Parivar, APCAT Media, and the Socialist Party (India). Follow him on Twitter @bobbyramakant or read www.bit.ly/BobbyRamakant

ASEAN must stop Myanmar from becoming cold war theater #SootinClaimon.Com

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https://www.nationthailand.com/opinion/30403947

ASEAN must stop Myanmar from becoming cold war theater

ColumnsMar 21. 2021

By Endy Bayuni
The Jakarta Post

At the current rate, the crisis in Myanmar will have serious geopolitical and security implications, not only for the country itself but also for its Southeast Asian neighbors. An economically weak and politically unstable Myanmar makes it easy prey for China and the United States to wage their proxy battles.

This is bad news for ASEAN.

China’s nonchalant attitude towards the military coup in Myanmar raises speculations that it is ready to accept and recognize the junta as the legal representative government. At the most, Beijing has expressed concerns about the fate of its investment projects in Myanmar as some protesters opposing the military are venting anger at China’s business interests.

China’s attitude stands in sharp contrast to the reaction of most of the rest of the world, which has condemned the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s armed forces, for the Feb. 1 coup that prevented the National League for Democracy (NLD) from assuming power after the party’s landslide electoral victory in November.

Widespread global condemnation has not stopped the Tatmadaw from killing peaceful protesters who have demonstrated in the streets of Yangon since the power grab. At least 150 people have died in military crackdowns. Calls for allowing peaceful protests and for the release of hundreds of protesters and NLD leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, have fallen on deaf ears.

With ASEAN powerless to stop the escalation and the United Nations Security Council paralyzed by great power political games, the opposition forces in Myanmar are inevitably turning to the West for help. But the US and other Western countries could, at best, impose economic sanctions, which, judging by the history of such sanctions, will have a limited impact.

Myanmar will soon become polarized in the hegemonic contest emerging in Asia. The country is ripe to be the next cold war arena, especially with tensions growing between China and the US.

Read also: Government offers relief flights for diaspora in Myanmar

Both powers have upped the ante, moving outside the original economic and trade domain to the COVID-19 pandemic and, inevitably, to a contest for power and influence in the Asia.

US President Joe Biden has formalized the Indo-Pacific Quad, an informal alliance founded in 2007 to counterweigh the rise of China consisting of the US, India, Japan and Australia. The Quad’s first summit was held by video conference last week. The alliance is matching China’s COVID-19 diplomacy with promises to supply vaccines to Asian countries. Quietly, Quad countries are inviting other Asian countries to join the anti-China group, calling it Quad-Plus.

Southeast Asia could once again become a theater for great power competition to expand spheres of influence. From the perspective of the contestants, if lives are lost along the way, they are nothing more than collateral damage.

This would unravel more than five decades of ASEAN’s hard work turning Southeast Asia into what we know today, a region relatively free of conflict that has allowed member countries to forge ahead with economic development and build prosperity for their people.

Pre-ASEAN Southeast Asia was full of conflict and wars between neighboring countries as they were pulled apart by competing superpowers. The Vietnam War was the largest, longest and probably the most remembered, but there were other big conflicts and tensions in the region in the 1960s, including the bloody confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia. ASEAN diplomacy led to the signing of the Cambodian peace agreement in Paris in 1991.

It took the vision of the foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand in 1967 to launch ASEAN with the goal of transforming Southeast Asia from a region of conflict to one of peace. And it took ASEAN another 30 years before the five other countries in the region joined: Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

Read also: Anti-China outrage pulls Beijing into Myanmar coup crisis

Much of today’s wealth and prosperity in Southeast Asian countries would have been impossible without ASEAN, albeit to differing extents. To the frustration of many, ASEAN could have moved faster in establishing its charter and becoming a community, which is now postponed to 2025.

The ASEAN achievement, after 53 years of work, could quickly crumble if the situation in Myanmar spins out of control and competing big powers take their battles to the region.

History shows that ASEAN countries cannot afford to sit on their laurels and watch the tragedy in Myanmar unfold.

Indonesia’s initial diplomatic efforts, putting together an ASEAN foreign ministers meeting, may have failed to make a dent, but this is not a reason to give up the effort. The endgame of Indonesian and ASEAN diplomacy is to help restore democracy, peace and stability in Myanmar for the sake of the country’s people and for the sake of all people in Southeast Asia.

***

Senior editor at The Jakarta Post

Instead of reducing maximum speed limit, Thailand increases it to 120 kph #SootinClaimon.Com

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https://www.nationthailand.com/opinion/30403650

Instead of reducing maximum speed limit, Thailand increases it to 120 kph

ColumnsMar 13. 2021

By Bobby Ramakant – CNS

Thailand was among the countries globally that promised last year to reduce the maximum speed limit to 30 kilometre per hour (30 kph) to reduce road traffic crashes, and thus, save lives.

More importantly, the government of Thailand played a major role last year as part of the International Advisory Committee to 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety held in Stockholm during 19-20 February 2020.

But according to a news, the Thai government is set to increase the maximum speed limit on major highways (with four or more lanes) from 90 kph to 120 kph.

In addition, the rightmost lane or ‘fast lane’ will also have a minimum speed limit of 100 kph to reduce the risk of rear-ending collisions.

During 19-20 February 2020, the Stockholm Declaration was adapted at the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, by ministers and heads of government delegations, which has one of these commitments enshrined: “focus on speed management, including the strengthening of law enforcement to prevent speeding and mandate a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/hour in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner, except where strong evidence exists that higher speeds are safe, noting that efforts to reduce speed in general will have a beneficial impact on air quality and climate change as well as being vital to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries.”

Will roads become safe or unsafe if we increase speed limit?

This news also states that “The new speed limit will assist with traffic flow while boosting convenience and safety for road users”. But stronger evidence is piling on from cities that have reduced the maximum speed limit to 30 kph.

Cities that have implemented maximum road travel speed of 30 kph have shown lifesaving decline in road traffic crashes too. That is why, the commitment to reduce maximum travel speed limit to 30 kph was made by governments including that of Thailand.

Think about this: roads must become safer and convenient not just for motorised vehicle riders, but for everyone as each one of us has a human right to commute safely – such as those who walk, cycle, do vending on roadsides, or opt for non-motorised options.

Moreover, it is not only those who ride motorised vehicles but also those who cycle, walk or use other forms of transport or engage in roadside vending or other activities, who get injured or die untimely in these crashes.

According to the 2020 review of the World Health Organization (WHO), “each day, for almost 60 people in Thailand, travel from their homes – is a journey of no return. Most of these are young people, people of working age – in the prime of their lives.

Most use motorcycles, the most common vehicle on Thailand’s roads. Most die in crashes with larger vehicles.”

This review further added “Motorcycle riders, cyclists, pedestrians and those who have physical limitations, such as people with disabilities, children and older persons are relatively unprotected and, therefore, more vulnerable to serious injury and death.”

The WHO review noted that “Each year, more than 20,000 Thai people die from road crashes and many others are seriously injured and become permanently disabled.

During 2011-2013, the annual average economic loss resulted from the road traffic trauma of the country was 545,435 million Thai baht, representing 6% of the national GDP (TDRI 2017).”

Reduced traffic and speed helps make roads safer

If there are stronger public transport system, which are comfortable, affordable, and accessible to all – rich and poor alike – then private vehicle ownership will lose relevance.

On the contrary, if we do not have strong public transport systems then people will be forced to buy/ rent/ share and use private vehicles. Industry will want its sales to increase but this is neither sustainable nor going to make roads safer for anyone.

During Covid-19 lockdown last year, there was 50% reduction in road traffic deaths in Thailand (compared to the previous five-year period) thereby saving lives of almost 1000 road users in just one month of April 2020.

WHO added in its review that “We learned that reducing the volume of vehicles on the road, combined with reduced access to alcohol, can significantly reduce road traffic deaths and injuries.”

Road safety worldwide is a formidable challenge

Over 50 million people get injured and 1.35 million die every year due to road traffic crashes worldwide. More alarming is the fact that 90 per cent of these injuries and deaths occur in developing countries.

Road traffic crashes are also the leading cause of death around the world for children and young people between 15 and 29 years of age. Over-speeding is identified as a major cause of almost 70% of these road traffic crashes.

Another important milestone was in August 2020 when heads of governments at the United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution with road safety commitments in line with Stockholm Declaration for the next decade of 2021-2030. It is important to remember that one of the promises of past decade was to reduce the road traffic accident deaths and injuries by 50% by 2020.

Many countries including Thailand have failed to keep this promise. On a positive side, governments have again resolved to reduce road traffic accident deaths and injuries by at least 50% by 2030. Only 117 months are left to keep this promise now.

Fed’s digital dollar would look nothing like bitcoin #SootinClaimon.Com

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

https://www.nationthailand.com/opinion/30403157

Fed’s digital dollar would look nothing like bitcoin

ColumnsMar 01. 2021

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg Opinion · Noah Smith

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently mentioned the idea of creating a so-called digital dollar – a new form of electronic currency that would make the payment system easier for Americans and presumably compete with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. But there’s little rationale for a government-managed online dollar that looks anything like bitcoin.

There are probably better ways for the Federal Reserve to make it easier and cheaper for Americans to pay for things.

Yellen is not the first to suggest the idea of a digital dollar – or “Fedcoin,” as some call it. Fed Governor Lael Brainard contemplated the concept last year. And David Andolfatto, a senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, has been investigating the possibility for a number of years now. In 2015 he wrote about it on his personal blog, noting several potential benefits.

A Fedcoin, Andolfatto notes, would allow people to make transactions without opening a bank account – like physical cash, but using an app on your phone instead of your physical wallet. He argues it would also be harder to steal than a bank account that can be hacked. In addition, it would leave an electronic trail that would let the government track down criminals if necessary.

These are all advantages of an electronic currency run by the central bank. But it’s crucial to note that none of these features need to employ the kind of decentralized process that enables bitcoin. (Full disclosure: I own bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.)

Bitcoin is designed to operate without the need for a trusted intermediary, such as a bank. When two people make a transaction in dollars, a bank verifies and logs the transaction, and makes sure that the money is debited from one account and credited to another. With bitcoin, that verification is instead done by a distributed network of computers, called “miners.” The economics of the system by which the miners compete to verify the transaction – and are rewarded with bitcoins for doing so – keeps the whole system honest.

But it also requires enormous resources. The mining process – called a “proof-of-work” system – involves solving very hard math problems, which takes a lot of computing power, which in turn requires a huge amount of energy — about as much as the entire country of Argentina, by a recent estimate. Whether that energy use will ultimately hold back bitcoin as a monetary system is a question that remains to be answered.

What’s clear, however, is that there’s no need for the Fed to create its own proof-of-work system for Fedcoin. Proof of work is an expensive way to establish trust in a decentralized world; the Fed, which is a centralized and already trusted entity, doesn’t need to spend massive amounts of electricity reestablishing trust every time someone wants to spend a digital dollar. Instead, it could just clear the transaction like any bank does, cheaply and easily. As long as people trust the Fed not to steal their money (and why would it, when it can print as much as it likes?), a Fed payments system could be incredibly cheap without relying on any cryptocurrency technology at all.

So a Fedcoin shouldn’t look anything like bitcoin. But that doesn’t mean the central bank can’t get involved in processing payments. The Fed could absolutely create an app by which people could cheaply send digital dollars to each other in a peer-to-peer way, without a bank account. Instead of being stored on a distributed ledger like a cryptocurrency, these dollars would simply exist on the Fed’s own centralized database, which people could access through their phones – much as they currently use phones to access their Venmo accounts.

A Fed-run electronic payment system would compete with existing payment applications, such as PayPal, Venmo, Stripe, Visa and MasterCard. That would put those companies at an inherent disadvantage, since they all require banks to operate, and the Fed is its own bank. And because the Fed is part of the government, it doesn’t even need to turn a profit, so its payment service could be very cheap indeed. Fee-charging payment services might be put out of business.

In fact, since the digital dollars that people held at the Fed would be an alternative to keeping those dollars in a checking account, the Fed would also be competing with private banks and credit unions. Many checking accounts are already free, but as Andolfatto notes, simply downloading a Fed-made app would be easier than applying for a bank account, and you probably wouldn’t have to worry about any hidden or surprise fees.

So the Fed could create its own distributed, peer-to-peer payments and cash storage system, and do it much more cheaply than bitcoin. But by doing so, it would be directly competing with much of the world’s existing financial and payments infrastructure. Maybe that’s a good thing – maybe payment and cash storage is simply such a mature and commodified product now that there’s no reason to have profit-making companies doing it, and government can safely muscle them out. But that would in effect be nationalizing an industry, which is always a risky move. Yellen is correct to promise only to do more research into the idea.

Keep indie scene alive #SootinClaimon.Com

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https://www.nationthailand.com/opinion/30402886

Keep indie scene alive

ColumnsFeb 21. 2021

By Kim Hoo-ran
Korea Herald

Seollal, or Lunar New Year’s Day, typically means staying up until late at night the previous day and waking up at the crack of dawn to prepare the family breakfast. In our family, which does not hold ancestral rites, the big family breakfast has evolved into a brunch with more than 10 dishes topped by the requisite tteokmanduguk, eating of which marks getting a year older.

Because of all the cooking involved, the days leading up to Seollal are filled with growing anxiety and dread. I am sure I am not alone in feeling this way. So it was with a sense of weariness that I started making galbijjim, or braised short ribs, after the dinner table had been cleared on the eve of Lunar New Year’s Day.

This year, however, there was one consolation: The prospect of streaming hours of Korean indie music on YouTube while cooking. This year’s annual celebration marking the birthday of rocker Han Kyung-rock was held online under the title “2021 Kyungrockjeol in the House.” In any other year, Kyungrockjeol, one of the top three festivals in Hongdae, would have been a beer-filled affair where indie bands perform to rowdy audiences that grew more drunk with each performance.

For years now, I had secretly wanted to attend one of these festivals. But I had stayed away for a good reason — someone in her 50s who does not drink would stick out like a sore thumb among the screaming, headbanging crowd. And now, coronavirus be damned, I finally had a chance to take part, even if virtually.

And listening to music that was neither K-pop nor trot and chopping veggies to the beat of a punk band was loads of fun. Every once in a while, when a tune caught my attention, I would stop stirring the pot and look up to check who was on. Whether I was jumping around with a wooden spoon in my hand, I shall not say.

As soon I got up the following morning to resume cooking, I turned to YouTube to see if the show was still going on. It had ended only a few minutes earlier after showing 83 artists from home and abroad for some 18 hours non-stop.

Between acts, rocker Han walked the empty, forlorn streets of once bustling Hongdae. For years, the area had been a place where budding musicians, with guitars on their backs, walked from gig to gig. The venues that were once packed with enthusiastic crowds seeking new sounds now stood desolate.

During the pandemic that has left nothing unscathed, numerous indie music venues, including large, well-known ones with decades of history, vanished overnight, unable to continue as various stages of social distancing schemes forced them to shut down for extended periods.

Smaller ones, with less overhead costs, struggle to stay open, scheduling performances that often end up being canceled as the number of coronavirus cases rises. Bereft of venues to perform at, artists are without a way to make a living.

Virtual performances are often suggested as an alternative to live performances, with K-pop idol bands’ hugely successful livestream concerts that attract global fans cited as a path to follow. That is an example of how an adversity is turned into an opportunity, it is said.

However, the conditions are vastly different for indie musicians, who are without the resources to livestream high-quality productions. A glittering stage with hundreds of screens showing fans from around the world eagerly wielding glow sticks could not be farther from the realities of the indie music scene.

The artists performing at “Kyungrockjeol in the House” recorded their acts in cramped rooms and studios without sophisticated sound equipment or glitzy backdrop. Han acknowledged many sponsors who provided equipment and instruments free of charge, without whose help the online festival would not have been possible.

The government has pledged to support artists but that help has been slow in coming. For indie musicians, in particular, such support seems out of reach due to the requirements that must be met in applying for assistance. Without speedy action, the indie music scene in Korea will die a slow death.

Diversity enriches a nation’s cultural life and it is time that we pay greater attention to making sure that vibrant creative spirit thrives in in all cultural sectors.

Kim Hoo-ran is the culture desk editor at The Korea Herald. — Ed.

Afghanistan peace? #SootinClaimon.Com

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https://www.nationthailand.com/opinion/30402885

Afghanistan peace?

ColumnsFeb 21. 2021

By Dawn

THOUGH the situation on the ground in Afghanistan is far from ideal, should the parallel peace processes collapse — between the Afghan Taliban and the US/Nato alliance and between the Taliban and the government in Kabul — the situation will degenerate further. After the Biden administration’s arrival in Washington many questions hang in the air about the fate of the Trump-era US-Taliban peace deal. After all, the White House has said it will “review” the deal while Nato officials have recently said they have deferred a decision on troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Foreign troops are due to exit the country by May 1, as per the US-Taliban deal. It is in this atmosphere of uncertainty that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s plea for all Afghan actors to seize the opportunity for peace makes sense. He reiterated this point during a meeting with an Afghan delegation in Islamabad on Thursday.

The fact is that the air of confusion is having an impact on the peace process. For example, talks between Kabul and the Taliban in Doha are frozen, while the Taliban have issued a dire warning to Nato vis-à-vis troop pullout deferment. The fact is that all sides — foreign forces, the Taliban as well as the Afghan government —need to do more to revive the faltering peace process. The Taliban shoulder a fair share of the blame, as they have continued to stick to the battlefield while talking peace. This hardly creates a conducive atmosphere for dialogue. In fact, a recent US report has said the Taliban are not honouring their part of the deal. However, the dilemma here is that foreign forces cannot stay in Afghanistan indefinitely. In reality, it is the meddling of foreigners — the Soviets and later the Americans — that played a major factor in destabilising Afghanistan over the last few decades, along with the endless lust for power of Afghan strongmen and warlords.

As we have written in these columns before, the very brief window for a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan is closing fast. Should the Taliban abandon the peace process, it will be back to square one. The Taliban themselves need to show more commitment to the peace process by reducing violence. The US, on the other hand, needs to send a clear message that it intends to stick to dialogue. Ultimately, it is down to the two major Afghan players in this geopolitical game — the government in Kabul and the Taliban — to decide on the future of their country. If they are unable to reach a modus vivendi, then outsiders will continue to interfere in Afghanistan. Several generations in Afghanistan have seen nothing but war; it is time those that wield power in that country took bold decisions and put an end to this long nightmare of the Afghan people.

Digitalization builds long-term resilience #SootinClaimon.Com

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Digitalization builds long-term resilience

ColumnsFeb 19. 2021

By Paige Marie Morse
Aspen Technology, Inc

Resilience is a concept that is top of mind these days, both in our professional and personal lives. The global pandemic has forced all of us to think about how we respond to unexpected situations, and how we manage new and ongoing risk. And how do we think about the future knowing that such events can happen.

As communities and companies are challenged by the current economic and health crisis, our successful recovery requires a new view toward future development and growth with metrics that can show progress toward immediate and long-term goals. Digital technologies can address these challenges and provide the visibility needed to chart our progress.

And it is important to note that risk and resilience are important topics for investors and portfolio managers these days as they rethink their criteria for future investment – criteria that include commitments to environmental, social and governance (so called ESG) improvement.It is exactly this visibility of metrics that reflect progress, and the longer term programs to redesign portfolios that many chemical companies are focused on today.

Dr Paige Morse, AspenTech

Dr Paige Morse, AspenTech

During this period of market and economic recovery, a renewed focus on these goals will enable longer-term resilience for successful companies.

Addressing Market Volatility

With the uncertainty about the ongoing pandemic, external markets are particularly volatile and outlooks are increasingly uncertain. Businesses must be adaptable, flexible to respond to unexpected market environments and supply disruptions. Many companies have learned that digitalization is a key enabler to build this flexibility and agility needed for profitability, both now and in the future.

Companies also need insight to make better decisions today and about where their business is headed – I will talk about new technologies to get you there.

The World Economic Forum talks about current times as “The Great Reset in Manufacturing”and in a report this summer lists a few key changes that many of us experienced as business professionals and consumers. More than three-quarters of CEOs surveyed (77%) say this disruption is forcing them to speed up their digital transformation.

And in the context of the rapid technology shifts from the pandemic, digital technologies, including artificial intelligence are critical for competitiveness of companies.

The McKinsey and the World Economic Forum study have identified the key shifts that are stemming from current market challenges .The disruptions from the pandemic have led to so-called “durable shifts” – meaning they will be lasting, and differentiators for future success. The four key shifts are:

• Agility and customer centricity: as a response to the demand uncertainty and disruptions that are challenging planning systems;

• Supply Chain Resilience: as a means to manage the logistics disruptions and trade barriers that persist; especially important with the complex global supply chains that most companies are industries depend on;

• Speed and Productivity: collaboration required as a quick response to remote working and physical distancing required, variable operating environments, and now pockets of economic recession that require operational and capital cost reduction;

• Eco-efficiency: with the increased global concern about the environmental impact of human activities.

Digital technologies help companies make progress on every one of these challenges – a point clearly reinforced by the authors.

Agility and customer centricity: this means faster recognition of customer preferences and corresponding adjustments of production at next-generation small-scale modular plants. Chemical producers need the capability to run multiple scenarios to carefully consider many changing variables, respond to market disruption and rebalance to meet customer demands. Companies benefit from the accuracy of digital technology to represent actual operations, supply chain, etc.

Supply chain technologies work to combine historical data with market intelligence to generate and integrate accurate demand forecasts. This insight helps to manage inventories to optimum levels and takes the guess work out of forecasting so production assets are better utilized, and colleagues are better aligned in their activities.

Supply Chain Resilience: as a competitive advantage, requiring connected reconfigurable supply systems, regionalization and overall higher level of customization. A digital twin of the supply chain, that simulates current operations and enables exploration of alternatives to address vulnerabilities.Make sure your planner is focused on important activities and not distracted; holistically optimize regional and global supply chains.

A customer shared recently that surging demand periods have pushed them to use a scheduling optimization digital twin to align supply chain and operations teams. The digital twin allows them to rapidly adjust to changing conditions while improving critical business performance for cash flow, on-time shipping and flexible output.

Speed and Productivity: attained through increased levels of automation and workforce augmentation, increasing safety and competitiveness in a society when continuous reskilling and mobility are becoming the norm. It is important to synchronize operations to meet unexpected demand.

Also, particularly during these unprecedented times, companies want to ensure productivity and efficiency even when operating outside of normal ranges. Advanced process control (APC) helps to stabilize and optimize operations. And importantly provide in-context guidance to operators to keep processes on track.

Using Machine Learning and AI algorithms to build and deploy APC to enable faster deployment, provide easier use with guided workflow; reduce time to build models from weeks to a few hours. Easier and lower-cost implementation means that users can gain value of APC for more processes, including batch operations for specialty chemicals.

Eco-efficiency: many companies would refer to these activities as Sustainability targets and triple bottom line – seeking to balance People Planet and Profits.

Digital technologies help customers achieve Sustainability targets to increase safety, reduce environmental impact and redesign operations to more sustainable processes and products. Companies are looking at ways to optimize their energy networks and lower the overall carbon footprint of their operations, and are using digital tools that help them identify opportunities for energy recovery and integrate lower carbon energy options, and consider heat and power sharing across their enterprise and with local communities.

And as companies develop more innovative products and processes supporting the circular economy, digital simulations enable faster evaluation of multiple options, reflecting emissions impact and economics for each, so companies can choose the best option and get new products to market more quickly.

And these adaptations help ensure the kind of resilience that will be key to sustaining successful operations in the face of future challenges.

Covid-19 will transform the role of HR: PwC Thailand #SootinClaimon.Com

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Covid-19 will transform the role of HR: PwC Thailand

ColumnsFeb 18. 2021

By THE NATION

Human resources professionals must become strategic partners that help leadership manage workforce planning, design work-from-home practices and deploy new HR tools and technologies, the company advises

Human Resources (HR) must embrace a new role to support management as the Covid-19 crisis forces businesses to quickly develop and adapt remote-work policies, PwC Thailand said on Wednesday.

HR professionals must become strategic business partners that help leadership manage workforce planning, design work-from-home practices and deploy new HR tools and technologies.

Pirata Phakdeesattayaphong, a consulting partner for PwC Thailand, said Covid-19 has shaken the role of HR to its core.

“Before the pandemic, HR used to be about recruiting, hiring, payroll and benefits, as well as retaining and developing talent to increase business competitiveness. Now all that is changing,” she said.

“The role of HR today has increasingly shifted to focusing on employee safety, health and well-being, solving issues associated with remote work and keeping people engaged and productive on top of moving recruitment and onboarding online,” Pirata said.

While HR departments in many countries are more adept at embracing changes brought about by the new normal, the pace of HR functions at Thai companies has been slow because they have just grown accustomed to the concept of remote working and a contingent workforce, she said.

With organisations now on the cusp of recovery, Pirata said the role of HR will still face the challenges of performance management in a predominantly remote environment and help the employer serve as a social safety net, among others.

According to PwC’s “How the new normal is shaping the future of HR”, human resources will take centre stage in the midst of a pandemic by:

1. Redefining organisational culture by shifting towards a people-centric and hybrid workplace. There will likely be a major shift towards hybrid working models that capitalise on the benefits of both remote and office working, which makes it more flexible for working arrangements. This includes emphasising on creating participatory decision-making values and maximising occupational health and safety by focusing on physical and mental well-being.

2. Driving people transformation by personalised rewards schemes. Realigning rewards to market realities through adaptive and personalised compensation structures. HR may consider transitioning to an outcome-based performance management system where employees’ performance is measured solely on their outputs rather than the time spent working. This means rethinking and realigning key performance indicators to match new realities and accommodate the transition towards the new normal as employees gradually upskill and reskill themselves and reinforcing the learning and development agenda through digital upskilling.

3. Enabling change by leveraging workforce analytics to promote data-driven decision making. Over the last decade, we have witnessed a rise in data-driven decision making across all industries, business sectors and organisations, and HR is no different. Workforce analytics enables HR to gauge employee experience, engagement and satisfaction. Rethinking talent sourcing and recruitment by embracing emerging technologies and diverse skill sets and accelerating the digital transformation agenda through the integration of disruptive technologies. Digital now, not tomorrow.

“Without urgently putting in place a remote-working policy and making appropriate adjustments to performance-based compensation programmes that reflect the impact of Covid-19, HR departments will be at risk of not properly incentivising employees in line with their contributions,” Pirata said.

The future of HR after Covid

She said several leading companies both inside and outside Thailand have downsized their HR teams and adopted solutions such as the human resource information system or hiring HR outsourcing. This trend underlines the need for organisations to restructure their HR departments to be more flexible and agile.

Other technologies – robotic process automation for managing routine work, virtual reality for training or onboarding, and data analytics for identifying talent and recruiting risks – are also being deployed to help HR optimise costs and improve efficiency.

HR must be able to identify the types of work that will be replaced by technology, or specific jobs that will require an employee with certain skill sets to perform, Pirata said. This will help them to attract, retain and develop the right talent, as well as upskill and reskill the workforce, both of which are time consuming and will take longer term efforts.

“For the people in the HR industry, start by developing skills focused on strategy setting, workforce planning and data analytics. This is equally important to improving the skills to attract and retain talent.

“Today, HR needs to be a business partner that can support the organisation towards digital transformation. They also need to act as a change agent in building a people-centric corporate culture. Aside from this, they must be in the driver’s seat promoting and communicating core values to employees in order to create a new DNA for the organisation,” she added.