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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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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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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


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.

65% of Thai firms to maintain or increase employment in 2021: survey #SootinClaimon.Com

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65% of Thai firms to maintain or increase employment in 2021: survey

ColumnsFeb 17. 2021Kristoffer Paludan, Regional Director of Michael Page ThailandKristoffer Paludan, Regional Director of Michael Page Thailand


Hiring by companies dipped 37 per cent in 2020 during the first Covid-19 wave but optimism is starting to show, with 33 per cent of firms looking to increase their headcount and 32 per cent saying they would maintain the status quo in 2021, the Talent Trends 2021 Report by professional recruitment services Michael Page Thailand showed on Tuesday.

“Like other markets in the region, Thailand’s technology sector stayed afloat and resilient, particularly for e-commerce and other Internet-based businesses,” regional director Kristoffer Paludan said.

“Food production, too, proved to be a bright spot, which in turn carried other associated industries, such as chemical, agriculture, and agritech.”

In view of the economic demands, the sectors earmarked for highest hiring are industrial/manufacturing, fast moving consumer goods, technology & telecommunications, healthcare/pharmaceutical and retail.

According to the report, Covid-19 has also served to hasten adoption of digitisation. Over the course of the year, companies in Thailand have adapted to digitisation demands “within impressively short time frames”. Technologies such as virtualisation and cloud access have allowed many businesses to get as close to business as usual as possible.

The report also said 67 per cent of employed technology professionals in Thailand anticipated looking for new opportunities in 2021, while another 31 per cent are passively open to new ones, suggesting increased employment activity.

Considering the competition for high-potential tech professionals, Paludan advises: “Candidates move jobs primarily due to the dynamic nature of the business, which is constantly adapting to changing market demands and practices. These are agile organisations that provide a steep learning curve and the opportunity for regional mandates in the medium-to-long term.”

As a viable option to bridge skill gaps arising from their move to recover in 2021, 42 per cent of companies in Thailand cited their continued investment in employees by providing training to upskill the workforce, while 46 per cent turned to the use of automation for basic processes.

Thai professionals have also been empowered with the wealth of information available to them when considering a new job offer. Some 40 per cent of the study’s respondents claimed they did extensive research on the company before applying for a job.

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Stop erosion of human rights in Europe

ColumnsFeb 16. 2021Ms. Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human RightsMs. Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

By Chloé Bernadaux
Special to The Nation

“2020 has been a disastrous year for human rights in Europe,” commented Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, at a speech in front of the Council of Europe at the end of last year.

In an unprecedented fashion, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought a tremendous increase in human rights violations in 2020 throughout the world. According to Reporters Without Borders’ tracker 19 mapping human rights cases of abuse worldwide, Europe is no exception to the rule. While it contains one of the most advanced human rights protection systems globally, the old continent has seen itself prey to governmental and media attempts to erode democracy and human rights.

Infringement to human rights peaked last March in Hungary when President Viktor Orbán used the pandemic to seize unlimited power through an emergency law granting him absolute power to suspend rules, bypass the parliament and adopt decrees, without any judicial oversight. This law also offered the Hungarian prime minister the ability to jail journalists and activists criticising his policies under the pretext of spreading disinformation.

While Hungary arguably remains a specific case within Europe for its long-standing record of human rights violations, the region indicates some worrying trends in its ability to protect the rights encompassed in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Degradation of rights protection in Covid era

The response to the Covid-19 pandemic by member states of the Council of Europe has not remained undisputed as far as the protection of fundamental freedoms is concerned. Many European states declared a state of emergency. They introduced a wide range of legal measures that derogate from their internal constitutional laws and the European Convention on Human Rights.

While these measures have undeniably affected society’s normal functioning and people’s way of life, the Convention itself does not preclude derogations from the obligations outlined in emergency times. Article 15 indicates that derogations from obligations under the Convention are allowed “in time of war and other public emergencies threatening the life of the nation”. Nevertheless, this clause remains valid “to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law”. Until today, the application of Article 15 had remained confined to situations of political violence and terrorism.

As Europe faced the second wave of the virus, many member states reintroduced states of emergency. These typically allow temporary limitations to individual rights, such as freedom of movement under Article 45 of the Convention, freedom of assembly and association under Article 12, as well as private life under Article 7.

Nevertheless, in its “Covid-19: Toolkit for member States” published last April, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, posed limits to the ability of states to derogate from the Convention’s obligations. Any derogation must have “a clear basis in domestic law” to prevent arbitrariness and cannot justify any action that goes against the “essential requirements of lawfulness and proportionality” set out in the Convention. The common understanding is that the pandemic’s exceptional circumstances can uphold some rights, yet governments shall deploy substantial efforts to preserve them.

However, such efforts towards human rights protection from national authorities have failed to materialise across Europe.

A worrying trend took shape in the increasing deficit of transparency from governmental authorities, including mandatory detentions and technological surveillance, as observed in Ireland. To add, civil society organisations in several member states expressed concerns over police misconduct during protests. Alarming instances of racism have also been observable, as exemplified by the violent beating of a black man in front of his house by two French police officers in Paris.

Covid-19 exposes structural vulnerabilities of Europe’s social democracies

The coronavirus-related health challenges have provided certain actors and authorities with a pretext to infringe on human rights and fundamental freedoms. Such a context dominated by the discourse on an “emergency” situation with an exceptional character requires increased attentiveness to human rights violations.

Vulnerable populations, such as migrants, refugees, racial minorities, the homeless, elders, women, disabled people, and children, have found themselves on the frontline of these violations. Arguably, the Covid-19 pandemic did not create, yet only laid bare structural challenges, and fragilities of Europe’s democracies, highlighted by the glaring social inequalities which deepened across the continent.

For instance, women have been significantly impacted by governmental responses to the pandemic, which further exacerbated gender violence and inequality. According to a study requested by the European parliament, across Europe, calls to domestic violence outlines have increased by 20-60 per cent.

Furthermore, the coronavirus response also disproportionately impacted disadvantaged children across member states by infringing on the fundamental right to education. A report by Save the Children shows that in Romania, 23 per cent of vulnerable families could not purchase medicines for their children. In Spain, emergency food measures could only reach half of the children normally provided with school meals during the crisis.

Older people have also been particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus lockdown measures because of their social settings which isolated them further from their families and communities. Shortages in the healthcare sector and isolation of elders have increased the risk of abuse, with data from the UK suggesting a 37 per cent rise in the country.

Several asylum-seekers have also been unlawfully rejected at EU borders and sent back to their home countries, violating the 1951 Refugee Convention. To add, the inadequacy of living conditions and overcrowding in detention centres raised alarming concerns. Asylum seekers in Italy launched a hunger strike to protest against the spread of the virus in the centre, inadequately equipped to respond to the health crisis. In Belgium, some centres released detainees without any assistance.

Suppose the issues listed above receive the attention they deserve. In that case, the Covid-19 pandemic could provide an opportunity to formulate a wake-up call for increased social inclusion across European countries, with solidarity at the heart of its response. Recalling Mahatma Gandhi’s words, it is today more compelling than ever to bear in mind that “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”.

Empowering citizen base and improving social ‘bonding’ for rights protection

As highlighted in the November Bulletin by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, local authorities and grassroots organisations have played a prominent role in supporting society’s most vulnerable groups.

Local and regional authorities appeared to have taken up an unprecedented responsibility in providing access to services and information directed towards certain societal groups on a daily basis. The bulletin also noted that member states with greater decentralisation of responsibilities had proven better-equipped authorities to tackle the pandemic’s health challenges.

The voluntary sector also took a primary seat in proactively advocating for the rights and interests of the diverse marginalised groups within society and increased its role as an essential social service provider. Altogether, these structures have proven uniquely capable of strengthening the citizen base at its core and instilling a sense of solidarity within communities.

Robert Putnam, in his sociological study “Bowling alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community”, suggests that increased social capital and trust within society generates adequate civil engagement, necessary for the healthy functioning of democracies.

Further, according to Putnam, increased trust and civic engagement in society go hand in hand with the efficient protection of freedom and human rights. “Far from being incompatible, liberty and fraternity are mutually supportive,” notes Putnam, in his study demonstrating the strong positive correlation between equality and bonding social capital.

In contrast, the beginning of 2021 witnessed widespread anti-lockdown protests, primarily dominated by extreme rights across the continent. Trust in government institutions across Europe has reached its lowest. In such a societal context captured by distrust, a weakened citizen base could prevent the European societies’ ability to deliver sustainable solutions supported and trusted by the population.

Arguably, the media, when providing factual and objective information on all matters of public interest, plays an essential role in consolidating social bonding. In contrast, when resorting to “sensationalism, improper language, or reporting in ways that may raise the alarm unnecessarily or provide a platform for divisive views to spread”, as Dunja Mijatović warns, the media could instead decrease trust among society, endangering the health of healthy democratic societies.

More salient than ever is the mobilisation of all citizens around a collective response to the virus. In democracies, social trust or “bonding capital” plays a central role in empowering the citizen base. And this trust cannot be achieved without an irrevocable and unconditional commitment to human rights.

The Covid-19 crisis taught us that only governance in compliance with the rule of law and human rights is capable of adequately managing the challenges associated with this unprecedented crisis. More clearly than ever before, preserving human rights proves an essential pillar to managing the health crisis and must be actively incorporated within public policies.

Paying heed to the many challenges to individual rights posed by the health crisis must be part of a genuine effort to restore trust in today’s European societies.

Chloé Bernadaux is an international security specialist (Sciences Po Paris) writing on the neighbourhood policy, Euro-MED relations, and disarmament affairs. She is the IFIMES newly appointed representative in Paris (Unesco).

The Next Normal After COVID-19: The Big Divergence #SootinClaimon.Com

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The Next Normal After COVID-19: The Big Divergence

ColumnsFeb 09. 2021

By Christian von Reventlow

What I call “The Big Divergence” is the diverging paths among business, finance, technology, government, and our way of living and working. This blog series explores 25 key aspects of The Big Divergence, starting with what customers—both individuals and businesses—are longing for.

Now is the time—the opportunity—for those who can step up to give guidance to people, businesses, society and government. It is the time for those who can explain what a good next normal should look like, and how we get there. This is the time for all of us to engage as leaders, to identify, test, learn, and implement paths. Now is also your time to engage with the questions asked in this article, to set early leadership in building your action plan, and to join and co-lead conversations on these ideas.

Divergence in Business

  • There will be a rebirth of safe leaders, trust capital and market presence. 100-year-old businesses may be reborn.
  • Slow-fast innovation will grow. Businesses will need some deep and slow understanding of needs, and be able to build solutions quickly.
  • SEE: Service for Everything Else will evolve. Some service providers will pick up what is non-core for others.
  • Digital Glocalization will spread. Hardware and human services will be sourced globally and locally, at the same time.
  • Businesses will exploit the novel tension of Balkanization versus Counter-Balkanization.

Divergence in Finance

  • Companies with strong balance sheets will use their position to aggressively grow.
  • Some businesses will suffocate from “Monte”—what ancient Florentines called debts due to a crisis.
  • Some market leaders will be fueled by excessive cash, and will be looking for outsized returns.
  • Government finances will thrive as never before by selling their cheaply acquired assets at real value.
  • The golden age of M&A will emerge, triggered by Monte fire-sales and government selling the assets mentioned above.

Divergence in Our Way of Living & Working

  • Humans will long for truth and clarity after the cacophony of conflicting messages during crisis.
  • There will be a shift from generosity to individualism. People may move toward “my tribe” vs. the open-ended community.
  • Work/life will shift toward life, caused by reduced control of people working from home.
  • A new boom of luxury will emerge. People will spend more as the fragility of life gets realized by many.
  • Psychosocial stress will increase as escaping from command and control becomes more difficult.

Divergence in Technology

  • Alpha leaders will become digital. Management command/control will be reinvented in a home-working world.
  • A 2nd reality—a parallel digital life—will extend the physical world while promising a safe escape.
  • Personal intelligence will become mainstream, combining AI with user experience as personalized service.
  • Robotics will become prevalent outside of manufacturing as AI extends its physical representation into the real world.
  • Infrastructure will be re-invented beyond connectivity to a supra-repository of strategic technologies.

Divergence in Government

  • There will be a public desire for authority, along with reduced relevance of spontaneous cooperative free agency.
  • Subsidy will take the place of taxation for critical technologies such as digital bio/pharma or surveillance.
  • There will be a cut back on regulation, such as privacy laws, medical approvals, or charging operators for licenses.
  • Interconnectedness will challenge sovereignty, with transnational entities moving to active roles.
  • We will revisit the roles of government – making laws, war, police, education, and control of asset use.

My Call to Action

Please respond to this article with your views. Reach out by email to be interviewed in an article, podcast or video. Take exemplary leadership by building your action plan and sharing it with others, and co-lead the planning, discussion and actions by joining our group.

Christian von Reventlow


WhatsApp +49 170 45 999 77

Cell +1 201 259 5973 christian.vonreventlow@vonreventlow.com

Christian von Reventlow is a guest speaker on innovation for Singularity University. He is focused on transforming organizations’ cultures, core processes, and governance to create value through innovation. He wins Board support for the mission, operates outside-in starting with customer value and drives enterprise-wide deployment of the latest digital technologies such as AI, AR, IoT, digital twins, and edge computing. Christian believes positive global impact can get created by applying technology with humans and the planet in mind. His career spans two and a half decades of management- and officer-level assignments at global technology companies including TELSTRA, Deutsche Telekom, Intel and HERE.com (Nokia/Microsoft), creating multiple startups. His leadership profile is marked by a collaborative approach at the executive level and a dedication to managed personal accountability at the operating level. Christian has a Doctor of Electrical Engineering degree from the Technical University Berlin, and a Master of Physics degree from Ruhruniversitaet Bochum.

Myanmar: Rough Road Ahead #SootinClaimon.Com

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Myanmar: Rough Road Ahead

ColumnsFeb 03. 2021

By Pana Janviroj
Special to Nation Thailand

From leadership to China, economy, Covid-19 and battles over press freedom, Myanmar is in a tight spot on many fronts.

NLD’s relations with the military

Most of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s ministerial appointees were political prisoners during the decades of military rule. However, though they remained “activist” by nature, they proved to be “ineffective” as administrators – fuelling rumours over the past few years of an eventual coup.

The National League of Democracy (NLD) team’s performance was always compared to that of its predecessor – General Thien Sien – who began the country’s democratisation and liberalisation process leading to the 2015 national elections. NLD won this election by a landslide.

After the November 2, 2020 election, the military-backed USDP (Union Solidarity and Union Party) and the military began slamming the election process, putting NLD’s landslide win down to massive fraud. The call for an investigation was rejected by both the Union Election Commission and the NLD-led government.

On January 31, the military press team issued a statement citing more than 10 million instances of voter fraud and urged the Union Election Commission to release a comprehensive electoral roll call. This request was again rejected by the government and the commission.

There has been no love lost between the military and NLD politicians, most of whom are now under house arrest.

Peace Talks

Uniting different ethnic factions – especially armed groups – was Suu Kyi’s flagship policy. But progress was being made at a snail’s pace and had even stalled over the past few years.

All was not going well and increased activities by insurgency groups like the Arakan Army further fuelled conflicts from the eastern to the western border. But Suu Kyi proved to be her father’s daughter and threw all her energy into making it work. Her father General Aung San was an iconic political and military leader.

However, many critics warned the effort was a strategic mistake, suggesting the economy should have been the priority as a prelude to bringing about peace among the different factions.

At this juncture, it’s difficult to say which direction the peace talks will take. The different ethnic groups probably prefer to negotiate with a civilian government instead of with military hardliners, even though the latter is always going to have the final say.

As of now, the coup is being condemned by most large ethnic groups with armed factions, such as the Karen National Union.

The Rohingya

This was one of the few issues that Suu Kyi saw eye-to-eye with the military. However, her defence of Myanmar’s back-to-the-wall policy for the Rohingya people isolated her from the world completely. She may have gone to the World Criminal Court in the Hague, but she never once visited the Rakhine State.

The repatriation of millions of displaced persons, not just those in Bangladesh, but also those within Rakhine State, will continue pressuring Myanmar politically, economically and socially.

The military is unlikely to give way as this has always been a populist tool for local support.


Myanmar’s poor public health system meant that infections were going to get out of hand. The number of confirmed cases now stands at 140,354 with 3,318 deaths. So far, 125,324 have recovered.

Dr Thet Khine Win, a secretary of the Health Ministry, has been named the health and sports minister, indicating the Covid-containment strategy will continue under the new military government.

Vaccines began arriving in the country last week from India through its Covidshield programme, though a concerted effort to inoculate the population has yet to take off. Overall, Myanmar is dealing with fewer cases in the second wave of Covid infections.

The pandemic, however, has hit the economy very badly. GDP growth has been stagnant over the past year and more people are living in poverty.


The NLD-led government’s Achilles heel, the economy has played second fiddle to peace efforts over the past four years.

Economic sentiment was further dampened by the Rohingya exodus crisis and a sharp drop in tourism in 2019. By 2020, businesses were staggering under the burden of the outbreak.

Also, since NLD took over, little change has been made to the lives of people at the grassroots level and the pandemic has pushed many into poverty. Some political pundits suggest that NLD would have lost more seats in the November 2020 elections if it did not play the “return to military rule” tactic. The economy grew about 6 per cent in 2019, far lower than is expected by an investment hungry nation.

China, however, continues to be Myanmar’s biggest foreign investor.

Some progress was seen under the NLD-led economic team in investment in the power supply and transportation sectors.

Nonetheless, the business sector has over the past few years complained about cabinet members’ indecisiveness and incompetence.

Press Freedom

Suu Kyi proved to be more intolerant and draconian than her predecessor General Thein Sein. Proving to have a “thin skin”, she often used the “rule of law” – among the harshest in the world – to muzzle freedom of speech and subsequent building of democracy.

Several journalists were thrown in jail and many media organisations were intimidated. The most high-profile case was that of two local Reuters journalists, who were jailed for looking into army atrocity against a Rohingya community.

Suu Kyi’s government was also an active user of the infamous telecom law, in which a suspect can be jailed without trial.

Press freedom, despite all hope, all but disappeared since NLD took over in 2015, and self-censorship prevailed throughout.

No improvement is expected under the military junta.


Suu Kyi’s leadership was almost always compared with that of her predecessor, former president Thein Sein. The general was credited with opening up Myanmar on both political and economic fronts.

She was not seen as a competent leader, but more as a popular icon.

The collapse of Myanmar’s education sector from decades of military rule resulted in inexperienced civilians holding ministerial posts and an inefficient bureaucracy that could not push forward Thein Sein’s achievements.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing now controls the executive, military and judiciary sectors. His ambition to become the president has been noted and he could run in the next election, which the military appears to be aiming to hold in a year.

Though Min Aung Hlaing’s style of governance is not clear yet, his initial statements indicate that he aims to boost the economy and get the Covid-19 outbreak under control.

His quickly announced cabinet includes 11 new members, mostly former ministers of the USDP government or former military officers.


Myanmar’s ties with China became closer over the past four years after it was isolated over the Rohingya crisis. Suu Kyi was pulled into China’s orbit along with the military. Though Beijing is sticking to its policy of non-interference, China along with Russia continues to defend Myanmar at the UN Security Council.

China does not want to see Myanmar plunge into political instability and chaos, especially at its borders, and also because many projects under the Belt and Road initiative are under negotiation.

Myanmar is key to China’s strategic interests in the Indian Ocean and the further development of Yunnan province as well as energy supply from the Bay of Bengal.

The World

The arrests of Suu Kyi and senior NLD members is a watershed in Myanmar’s relations with the world. She has lost her popularity because her stance against the Rohingya showed her as an ineffective, stubborn and self-serving leader.

But many will also be disappointed as Myanmar steps back from democracy after having come so far, into another possibly very long military rule.

The new military government will propel economic management to the forefront as they have far more capable people in this area than Suu Kyi ever did.

The military may also reach out to the US to try and avoid sanctions. But things won’t be easy even if they show progress. The Rohingya crisis will be pivotal.

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Shaping a new labour market for the post-pandemic economy

ColumnsJan 29. 2021Angel Gurría (left) and Klaus SchwabAngel Gurría (left) and Klaus Schwab

By Angel Gurría and Klaus Schwab

What took a decade to achieve unravelled within a matter of months.

It seems like another age, but the start of 2020 had marked a decade of decline in the unemployment rate of the world’s advanced economies. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the unemployment rate in OECD countries increased by an unprecedented 3.6 percentage points between February and April, to 8.8% – the highest rate in a decade. The OECD unemployment rate has since fallen but is expected to remain above pre-crisis levels throughout 2022.

In the meantime, the devastation to lives and livelihoods around the world caused by the pandemic continues, with the rollout and distribution of vaccines expected to take some time.

As the health crisis continues, its effects on employment risk becoming long-lasting. In addition, accelerated technological adoption risks creating a “double disruption” in labour markets, with many jobs unlikely to return[1]. At the same time the overall projections for job creation in the next five years are still higher than those of job losses. New jobs are expected to emerge due to shifting demand patterns and the use of new technologies in sectors such as the green economy, care economy and the education sector, as well as new roles in Data and AI across all industries and sectors.

How, then, should government and business leaders begin to shape a new labour market in 2021 and beyond – and support workers to thrive in the jobs of tomorrow?

Building a bridge to the recovery phase: public sector support for income, skills and jobs

The immediate responseto the economic challenges posed by the pandemic was unprecedented[2]. Governments around the world pumped trillions of dollars into the global economy, providing the necessary short-term support for businesses and workers in sectors that could not operate at full capacity. The use of short-time work schemes peaked at almost one in five employees across countries in the OECD for which data is available.

As the pandemic continues to unfold, governments must continue some of the urgent measures. They can make income-protection schemes more responsive to the changing situations of people, promote adequate occupational safety and health in all workplaces to ensure a safe return to work, and enhance social protection for those workers who are least covered such as ‘gig work’ and those in informal employment.

At the same time, they must lay the foundations for a more resilient and inclusive recovery, and governments must also turn their attention to preparing workers and re-allocating talent to new, growth jobs and professions in the medium-term.

Government policies can support this agenda with retraining and job creation through subsidies, targeted tax cuts, and investment programs, while social protection provisions can be reshaped to ensure better coverage of workers in non-standard forms of employment. Public and private employment services will also need to be expanded to support unprecedented numbers of jobseekers in their reskilling and job transition from declining occupations to emerging or growing occupations.

Reskilling and upskilling: an urgent task for stakeholder capitalism

It is estimated that 50% of currently employed workers will need reskilling by 2025 to meet the needs of a changing labor market. This will demand a significant expansion of mid-career reskilling and upskilling. For businesses there is a clear return on investment in doing so; two out of three employers expected to see a return within a year.

Employers’ commitments to quality work, fair wage practices and merit-based management practices can further incentivise and complement the learning agenda. Workers in OECD countries whose jobs are at high risk of automation remain 30 percentage points less likely to participate in adult learning than their counterparts in low-risk jobs[3].

The crisis led to a fivefold increase in employer provision of online learning opportunities to their workers and a fourfold increase in the number of individuals seeking online learning on their own initiative[4]. However, these efforts must be further accelerated and coordinated, both to support workers and to ensure adequate talent is available as businesses and economies bounce back. The Reskilling Revolution platform brings together leaders from governments, business and society together to collaborate on providing better education skills and jobs to 1 billion people by 2030.

Ensuring that no one is left behind in the labour markets of tomorrow

The crisis has not affected everyone equally. Women, youth, ethnic minorities and low-income workers are among those hit hardest. Young people have faced disruption to planned assessment and university closures. In addition, as hiring has slowed, young people entering the labor market are facing a reduction in entry-level opportunities, internships and apprenticeships. Top-earning workers have been able to work from home, while low-earning workers have less opportunity to do so.

There is no time to waste to put in place comprehensive policies to avoid creating a lost generation and greater disadvantages for those who were already impeded from full access to learning and earning. Both public and private sector efforts must ensure that as we rebuild, the post-pandemic labour market embeds justice and fairness for all segments of society.

Resilience, inclusion and sustainability must be at the heart of international collaboration in 2021. To that extent, better aligning public and private policies and actions is crucial. By joining forces to address these issues, the OECD and the World Economic Forum will help build a future of work that works for all.

[1] Future of Jobs Report 2020, World Economic Forum

[2] OECD Employment Outlook 2020: Worker Security and the Covid-19 Crisis, OECD

[3] OECD Employment Outlook 2019: The Future of Work, OECD

[4] Future of Jobs Report 2020, World Economic Forum

Angel Gurría is Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Klaus Schwab is Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, and the Author of “Stakeholder Capitalism: A Global Economy that Works for Progress, People and Planet” (Wiley)

This article is part of the Davos Agenda, a virtual event occurring 25-29 January 2021.