BRICS bank loans favour technological innovation projects: VP

Displayed with permission from China Daily

The BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) is interested in lending to technological innovation projects, the bank’s vice president Zhu Xian said Saturday at a financing forum held in east Chinese city of Xiamen.

Established to meet emerging economies’ funding needs, the multilateral lender approved loans worth $1.5 billion last year, mainly to finance clean energy and infrastructure developments in BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

The BRICS share of the world economy shot up from 8.2 percent in 2002 to 22.2 percent in 2015. The BRICS now represents two thirds of the developing world’s economy.

Zhu said the bank aims to foster technological innovation in developing nations through its financing, capability building, and knowledge sharing.

He said such lending priority will set the bank on a new path different from the one taken by traditional multilateral financial institutions.

The developing nations account for more than 35 percent of the world economy, but lacks an equal share of deciding power in traditional multilateral lenders, Zhu said. Trillions of fund is needed every year as the developing world strives to upgrade industries and develop new energy sector.

“That will be the priority of BRICS NDB and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB),” Zhu said.

He said China has accumulated rich experience in technological innovation on infrastructure projects and is open to share such experience with other developing nations.

“We will frame the BRICS NDB as a knowledge bank, through its project financing and knowledge sharing,” Zhu said.

The BRICS NDB was established in 2014 with an initial fund of $100 billion pooled from five BRICS countries. The bank was launched in Shanghai in July 2015 and issued its first loan in April 2016.

-Repubhub

Morocco hopeful for a boost in tourism from Chinese and Russian visitors

Security issues posed a majority threat to Morocco’s key tourism sector last year, resulting in very little growth in the sector. AFP reports that authorities haven’t given up, and are hopeful that visitors from China and Russia will up the numbers in the coming years.

According to the Moroccan Tourism Observatory, the country registered 10 million visitors in 2016 – a ‘barely perceptible rise of 1.5% from 2015’, it said.

A manager of a local guesthouse said: “Last year was better than 2015. And the first two months of 2017 augured an even better year.”

Currently, the Russians and Chinese account for 1% of total visitors to Morocco, but authorities are positive that this will soon change.

Reports show that the French make up almost a third of tourists to Morocco. “Europeans still top the list, but the number of Chinese visitors is growing,” Hanane said. “Since visas for the Chinese were abolished in June, a door has been opened.”

-AFP

China, India hold strategic dialogue in Beijing

February 23, 2017
Displayed with permission from China Daily

China and India held a strategic dialogue in Beijing on Wednesday, during which they pledged to enhance cooperation.

According to a press release issued by Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui and Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar co-chaired the dialogue.

The two sides agreed to cement coordination on international and regional affairs and properly deal with differences and sensitive issues.

They upheld that China and India have similar national conditions and share common interests, so there is huge potential for bilateral cooperation.

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also met with Jaishankar. Wang said the two sides should advance strategic contact and reinforce mutual trust to contribute to regional and global prosperity and stability.

-Repubhub

It’s Maslenitsa (Pancake) week in Russia!

Russians never miss an opportunity to celebrate! Known for its myriad of festivities, Russia celebrates the Maslenitsa Festival throughout this week. Maslenitsa Week  – also popularly known as Pancake Week – is typically celebrated during the week leading up to Great Lent and thus every day of the festival is celebrated with a specific ritual (see more below). This year it runs from 20 to 26 February and mostly consists of festivities marking the end of the Russian winter and eating blini (crepes).

First things first, where does Maslenitsa originate from? According to Advantour.com, the holiday is said to have found its origin in the Pagan tradition. Maslenitsa (derived from maslo, which means butter or oil in Russian) comes from the tradition of baking pancakes (or blini , in Russian).

Although back in the day it started as a sad day of remembrance of those who are no longer, the Russians turned it into a celebration with blini.

So, what actually transpires during the festival?

On the opening day of Maslenitsa (Monday), a straw-figure of Winter is made and dressed in old women’s clothing and accompanied by joyful singing whiled being carried on sleigh around the village.

Tuesday is known as “zaigrysh” (game day), this is also when the actual festivities kick off: sleigh riding, folk festivals, skomorokh (traveling actors) and puppet shows. It’s a day of singing and laughter, mini on-the-spot concerts and loads of fun!

Wednesday – gourmand – is feast day with blini and other dishes, like hot sbiten (drinks from water, honey and spices), nuts, honey ginger breads and poured tea from boiling samovars, while Thursday is the highlight of the games – revelry. That’s also when the hottest fistfights took place.

If sons-in-law are treated to pancakes at their in-laws on Wednesday, it would be their turn on Friday to do the same.

Saturday is also family day when relatives paid visits to young wives, while Sunday is named “forgiveness”. Wherever forgiveness is needed and amends needed to be made, it is reserved for Sunday. At night, everyone would go to the cemeteries and “bid farewell” to the dead. On the last day of Maslenitsa, remnants of pancakes and food to the huge bonfire explaining their children that all the nourishing food disappeared in fire to prepare them for the Lent.

For additional information about the Maslenitsa Festival, click here.

– Advantour.com; Russia Beyond

– Images: Embassy of Russia 

[EXTRACT] China and India to Lead World Economy by 2050

The long-term investment case for gold looks compelling following bullish reports this week from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Morgan Stanley. China and India are the world’s top two consumers of gold, and both countries are expected to make huge economic gains in the next few decades. This is likely to boost gold demand even more, which has a high correlation with discretionary income growth.

China alone consumed approximately 2,000 metric tons in 2016, or roughly 60 percent of all the new gold that was mined during the year, according to veteran mining commentator Lawrie Williams, who based his estimates on calculations made by BullionStar’s Koos Jansen. The 2,000 metric tons is a much higher figure than what analysts and the media have been telling us, but I’ve always suspected China’s annual consumption to run higher than “official” numbers.

According to PwC’s models, China and India should become the world’s number one and number two largest economies by 2050 based on purchasing power parity (PPP). China, of course, is already the largest economy by that measure, but PwC sees the Asian giant surpassing the U.S. economy on an absolute basis by as early as 2030.

As for India, it “currently comprises 7 percent of world GDP at PPP, which we project to rise steadily to over 15 percent by 2050,” PwC writes. “This is a remarkable increase of 8 percentage points, gaining the most ground of any of the countries we modeled.”

I think it’s also worth highlighting Indonesia, which is expected to replace Japan as the fourth-largest economy by midcentury. E7 economies, in fact, could end up dominating the top 10, with Mexico moving up to number seven and France dropping off. You can see the full list on PwC’s site.

China Set to Become High Income by 2027

Then there’s Morgan Stanley’s 118-page report, “Why we are bullish on China.” The investment bank sees a number of dramatic changes over the coming years, the most significant being China’s transition from a middle-income nation to a prosperous, high-income nation sometime between 2024 and 2027. (The high-income threshold is a gross national income (GNI) of around $12,500 per capita.) This would make China one of only three countries with populations over 20 million that have managed to accomplish this feat in the past 30 years, the other two being South Korea and Poland.

This trajectory is supported by a number of expectations, including, most importantly, Morgan Stanley’s confidence that China will manage to avoid a debt-related financial crisis, as some investors might now believe is forthcoming. The bank’s view is that the Chinese government will successfully provide “adequate policy buffers and deft management of the policy cycle” to ensure the growth of per capita incomes.

Other key transitions will additionally need to take place for the country to reach high-income status by 2027, including transitioning from a high investment economic model to high consumption and implementing meaningful state-owned enterprise reform. Although China is currently transitioning from a manufacturing economy to one that’s focused on consumption and services, the country will also need to emphasize high value-added manufacturing.

In addition, since President Donald Trump has officially withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), China.

The post Gold Gets a Shot in the Arm from Inflation and China; China and India to Lead World Economy by 2050 appeared first on ValueWalk.

-Repubhub

Ministry intensifies efforts to boost exports

Dawn (Pakistan)
Content provided by Asianet-Pakistan

The Ministry of Commerce has stepped up efforts to explore new markets and increase the export of value-added goods.

Under the new market initiative, the seventh round on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Thailand is scheduled to be held on 7 March in Bangkok. Both sides have already completed the text of the agreement and shared their initial request lists and tariff reduction modalities. The first round of FTA negotiations was held in September 2015 in Bangkok.

On the FTA with Turkey, both sides have held five rounds of negotiations to remove trade barriers. This FTA covers trade in goods and services and a chapter on investment.

The fifth round of the Pakistan-Turkey FTA negotiations was held in December 2016. However, no date was given to finalise this agreement.

To initiate an FTA with South Korea, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy of South Korea and the Ministry of Commerce in April 2014. It was agreed that both sides would conduct a joint feasibility study to explore the possibility of an FTA.

Both sides have completed their respective studies and are now in the process of formulating joint recommendations. Under the same MoU, a Joint Trade Commission was also established and its first meeting was held in Seoul on June 8, 2015.

Efforts are being made to conclude a preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Afghanistan. The draft of the Pak-Afghan PTA was shared with Afghanistan in January 2015. The response from Afghanistan is still awaited, the official said.

Pakistan and Mercosur, a South American sub-regional bloc, signed a framework agreement on July 20, 2006. Its full members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Its associate countries are Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Suriname.

As per the agreement, both sides agreed to negotiate a PTA leading to an FTA.

In December 2013, 2014 and 2016, the Ministry of Commerce requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to approach the Mercosur secretariat for the resumption of talks. Its response is still awaited.

The Pakistan-Argentina Joint Trade Committee was set up in 2004. So far, two meetings of the committee have been held. On the proposal of the Argentinean government, the Ministry of Commerce has obtained approval from the federal cabinet to start negotiations to sign the subject MoU.

All relevant stakeholders have concurred with the text of the MoU, which has been forwarded to the Argentinean side through MoFA.

The PTA was signed during a D-8 summit in Bali in May 2006. It came into force on August 25, 2011. All actions required to be taken on part of Pakistan, like notifying and sharing of the concession list with other D-8 member-countries, stand completed.

Being a multilateral agreement, it has not become effective so far for incomplete formalities, like the ratification and submission of offer lists by some of the member-states.

-Repubhub

North Korea’s trade with China has grown tenfold in 15 years

15 February, 2017
PRI’s The World
Displayed with permission from GlobalPost

In the wake of Sunday’s ballistic missile launch by North Korea, President Donald Trump has called North Korea “a big, big problem” but offered no further comment or insight into his new administration’s policy toward North Korea.

But if the administration is looking for leverage, it should look no further than China, the destination of more than 90 percent of North Korean trade. China’s trade with North Korea has grown more than tenfold over the past 15 years, while trade with other countries has dwindled to virtually nil.

In fact, China accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s trade, including virtually all of North Korea’s exports.

And, in recent years, China has been supportive of measures to rein in North Korea. China joined Russia, Japan and the United Nations in condemning the most recent missile launch, which traveled about 300 miles before dropping into the sea.

China has also increasingly agreed with the international community in punishing North Korea for its nuclear ambitions. (Beijing summoned the North Korean ambassador after the 2013 nuclear test to voice disapproval.) But at the same time, China opened a container shipping route, a high-speed rail line and created a trade zone at the border in 2015, boosting bilateral trade.

And that’s all led to increases in trade.

In 15 years, trade volume has climbed more than tenfold, rising from $488 million in 2000 to $5.4 billion in 2015. The dip in 2015 is due to the drop in prices of key trade items such as coal, coupled with an economic slowdown in China, according to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), a South Korean state agency.

At the same time, North Korea became more dependent on Chinese trade. In 2015, 91 percent of its trade was with its big neighbor, a huge jump from 57 percent in 2006.

According to KOTRA data, Japan and China were North Korea’s major trade partners in 2000, each making up one-fourth of the total trade. Trade with Japan dwindled after the abduction issue in 2002 and trade with the West was further reduced after sanctions were imposed against North Korea following the nuclear crisis in October 2002, allowing China to fill the void.

Chad O’Carroll, the founder of NK News, an US-based news site covering North Korea, said trade grew because UN sanctions target weapons and not overall trade. UN officials don’t want to deepen the humanitarian crisis in North Korea, where an estimated 60 percent of the population, or 15 million people, don’t have reliable access to food.

“All the sanctions have to be targeted towards the leadership and those involved in special weapon programs only,” O’Carroll says.

O’Carroll said Beijing’s No. 1 priority is stability when it comes to North Korea.

“[Beijing] doesn’t want to increase pressure on the leadership of Pyongyang that could lead to unforeseen consequences that may impact neighboring regions of China,” O’Carroll said.

For example, a collapse of the North Korean regime could lead to an influx of refugees into China.

While the Trump administration has said China can and should do more to solve the North Korean crisis, it is still very unclear what Trump’s strategy is, O’Carroll said.

“If (Trump’s) goal is to destabilize North Korea and impact the political situations, causing real instability for Kim Jong-un, I don’t think China would really want to pursue that type of policy.”

Even if Trump were to impose more sanctions, he would face another challenge.

“The problem is, and this is really important, Trump administration is making a big deal out of the South China Sea issue, Taiwan, trade and tariff,” O’Carroll said. “So how can they really expect China to want to pay forward too much when it comes to North Korea?”

Trump’s relationship with China has thawed in recent days after what he called a “very warm” conversation with Xi Jinping on Friday and he reaffirmed the US’s commitment to the “One China” policy.

– Repubhub

India breaks a record by launching 104 satellites all at once

India is in the business of setting out-of-this-world records. Literally.

The state-owned Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Wednesday set a new world record by simultaneously launching 104 satellites into space.

Reuters reports that 101 of the 104 are foreign satellites aimed at serving an international audience, as India pursues a bigger share of the $300 billion global space industry.

Project Director B. Jayakumar said: “This is a great moment for each and everyone of us. Today we have created history.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also shared in the excitement on Twitter, saying how delighted he was for the smooth run of events while Indians caught the launch live on national TV news channels.

“This remarkable feat by ISRO is yet another proud moment for our space scientific community and the nation,” Modi tweeted. “India salutes our scientists.”

Reports reveal that the ISRO attempted to ‘low-cost mission to send a probe to orbit Mars’ three years ago and was successful at its first attempt.

-Reuters

India air show kicks off in Bangalore

14 February, 2017
Displayed with permission from dpa German Press Agency

New Delhi (dpa) – One of the world’s biggest air shows began in Bangalore on Tuesday with nearly 550 defence and aerospace companies displaying their frontline aircraft and hardware to compete for lucrative contracts.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar inaugurated the Aero India 2017 at the Yelahanka air base in the southern city which featured aerobatic displays by combat jets, helicopters and jet trainers.

As many as 270 companies from India and 279 from abroad will participate in the five-day event that is expected to see over 200,000 business visitors.

India is expected to spend billions of dollars towards the modernisation of its aircraft and acquiring of fighter jets and helicopters in the coming years.

India’s shopping list includes 126 fighter jets, of which Delhi agreed to procure 36 Rafale jets from France’s Dassault Aviation at 8.7 billion dollars in a deal last year.

Major players at the show include Boeing and Lockheed Martin from the United States, Russia’s MiG Corp, Europe’s Airbus Industrie, Sweden’s Saab Gripen as well as Dassault.

The event opened a day before the Indian space agency makes a high-profile launch of 104 satellites, 101 foreign, from its space-port, also in southern India.

The Bangalore air show, a biennial event, is the world’s largest after the Paris and the Singapore air shows.

-Repubhub
– Image: India.com

Foreign Nationals a priority as Marabastad Refugee Centre relaunches

President Jacob Zuma will undertake a return visit to Marabastad in Pretoria, to launch the revamped Marabastad Refugee Reception Office Renovation Project, on Friday 17 February 2017.

In the 2016 State of the Nation Address, President Zuma reported that he had visited the Home Affairs offices at Marabastad and had received complaints from foreign nationals about long queues and other difficulties at the centre. He made an undertaking that the matter would be followed up by the Department of Home Affairs, and indeed the Centre has been upgraded.

The challenges experienced at Marabastad included limited human resource capacity, slow information technology infrastructure, inadequate filing systems, poor management practices and a working environment not conducive for clients and staff. The centre was also marred by allegations of corruption, long queues, overcrowding and the presence of criminal syndicates.

The centre has been refurbished with new signage, counters and lighting, the installation of a new security system and electrical fencing. Other key interventions include the introduction of new systems and processes such as an automated booking system and paperless processes, off-site interpretation services, an improved registry and filing system and continuous engagement with stakeholders.

The President will first tour and attend the re-naming ceremony of the Marabastad Refugee Reception Centre and later give a keynote address at the Tshwane Events Centre in Pretoria.

The details of the launch are as follows:

PART A
Date: Friday, 17 February 2017
Time: 10h00
Venue: Marabastad Refugee Reception Centre, Pretoria (Relaunch and Tour of the Centre)

PART B
Time: 11h00
Venue: Tshwane Events Centre, Pretoria (Formal programme)

Enquiries: Dr Bongani Ngqulunga 082 308 9373 or bongani@presidency.gov.za