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Meeting Cambodia delegation in #WEF #Davos

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wefThe World Economic Forum has started. I am very honoured to be invited by the Swiss-Asia Chamber of Commerce and the delegation of the Kingdom of Cambodia, to join a lunch with  Prime Minister Hun Sen, discussing on the cross country collaboration, writes Dr Ying Zhang, Associate Dean and Professor on Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam.

The prime minister took a team of senior ministers, including Dr. Aun Pornmoniroth, minister of economy and finance, Chanthol SUN, senior minister of public works and transports, and others including education.

Davos 1

Cambodian prime minister (left) with Ying Zhang

The impression of the Cambodia delegates is their professionalism and economic ambition to create wealth and value for their citizens. Almost all the ministers can speak fluent English, freely discuss with attendants, each one embracing highly esteemed education on politics and economics, and all of them are very open-minded and highly capable of understanding economic development models and issues of micro-level collaborations.

Something impressed me further is their endeavour to bring their country from 200 dollars per capita to 1,200 dollars per capita within 10 years, and promising high speed growth (7.7% GDP) with economic openness. Cambodia as a member of many geo-economic clubs such as ASEAN or ASEAN-4 or ASEAN-6 and many others, presented their smart road map on an economic strategy to attract FDI to invest, contribute to the ASEAN economic community and projects to form a single market by using a collective trade repository to deposit all trade and customs-related regulations and procedures and remove barriers to trade for economic openness.

Along with the uneasiness of many countries about the most recent changes in the world's economy and political imbalance, it seems that the sphere of the developed economies are struggling on economic and political growth, and are being pushed backwards to fight for the theme of protectionism or openness, while in another sphere of the world, the emerging economies are discussing how to be more open and more energetic to grow. This might be ironic but it does reveal a fundamental weakness in designing economic growth. What do we fear all the time from other economic powers? What defines the economic strength of a country? And what's there for our citizens' well-being? When an economy has quickly moved from a low income level to high or middle incomes and faced a transition to an advanced society, what should we pay more attention to? What lessons must we learn from the different stages of economic powers?

With the merit of equal wellbeing, what growth model (not only the economic growth model) shall we scholars propose to different markets? There are many to discuss but one lesson we must learn: extraordinary economic growth, if in terms of the current economic growth index/measure and capitalism-oriented democracy, would most probably create an unequal society. If without a proper equality based social-economic structure to implement economic growth strategies, a sense of insecurity from citizens would emerge, and in the end the instrument (for example globalization and openness) of the object (such as economic growth) would become an excuse to complain of sluggish economic growth and drag back the mentality of openness and globalization, thus bringing protectionism on board in some countries.

I believe Cambodia, under the leadership of a team of great people and as a country with Buddhism as itscentral religion and the population composition advantage (more than 50% of the population are young), will learn lessons from others and take seriously the consideration of an equality-based growth mentality and head towards the goal of achieving individual comprehensive wellbeing.

Brexit

Scottish government comment on efforts to stay in Erasmus

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Minsters have welcomed the support of around 150 MEPs who have asked the European Commission to explore how Scotland could continue to take part in the popular Erasmus exchange programme. The move comes a week after Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead held productive talks with Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel to explore the idea. Until last year, over 2,000 Scottish students, staff and learners took part in the scheme annually, with Scotland attracting proportionally more Erasmus participants from across Europe - and sending more in the other direction - than any other country in the UK.

Lochhead said: “Losing Erasmus is huge blow for the thousands of Scottish students, community groups and adult learners - from all demographic backgrounds - who can no longer live, study or work in Europe.“It also closes the door for people to come to Scotland on Erasmus to experience our country and culture and it is heartening to see that loss of opportunity recognised by the 145 MEPs from across Europe who want Scotland’s place in Erasmus to continue. I am grateful to Terry Reintke and other MEPs for their efforts and thank them for extending the hand of friendship and solidarity to Scotland’s young people. I sincerely hope we can succeed.

“I have already had a virtual meeting with Commissioner Gabriel. We agreed that withdrawing from Erasmus is highly regrettable and we will continue to explore with the EU how to maximize Scotland’s continued engagement with the programme. I have also spoken with my Welsh Government counterpart and agreed to keep in close contact.”

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EU

Leaders agree on new ‘dark red’ zones for high-risk COVID areas

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At a special meeting of European heads of government, to discuss the rise of infection rates across Europe and the emergence of new, more contagious variants, leaders agreed that the situation warranted the utmost caution and agreed on a new category of ‘dark red zone’ for high-risk areas.

The new category would indicate that the virus was circulating at a very high level. People traveling from dark red areas could be required to do a test before departure, as well as to undergo quarantine after arrival. Non-essential travel in or out of these areas would be strongly discouraged.

The EU has underlined that it is anxious to keep the single market functioning especially concerning the movement of essential workers and goods, von der Leyen described this as of the “utmost importance”. 

The approval of vaccinations and the start of roll-out is encouraging but it is understood that further vigilance is needed. Some states which are more dependent on tourism called for the use of vaccination certificates as a way to open up travel. The leaders debated the use a common approach and agreed that the vaccination document should be seen as a medical document, rather than a travel document - at this stage. Von der Leyen said: “We will discuss the suitability of a common approach to certification.”

Member states agreed to a Council recommendation setting a common framework for the use of rapid antigen tests and the mutual recognition of COVID-19 test results across the EU. The mutual recognition of test results for SARS-CoV2 infection carried by certified health bodies should help facilitate cross-border movement and cross-border contact tracing.

The common list of appropriate COVID-19 rapid antigen tests should be flexible enough for addition, or removal, of those tests whose efficacy is impacted by COVID-19 mutations.

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Economy

Lagarde calls for swift ratification of Next Generation EU

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Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, shared the conclusions of the monthly Euro Governing Council. The Council has decided to reconfirm its “very accommodative” monetary policy stance. Lagarde said that the renewed surge in COVID had disrupted economic activity, particularly for services. 

Lagarde underlined the importance of the Next Generation EU package and stressed that it should become operational without delay. She called on member states to ratify it as quickly as possible.  

The interest rate on the main refinancing operations and the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility will remain unchanged at 0.00%, 0.25% and -0.50% respectively. The Governing Council expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at their present or lower levels.

The Governing Council will continue the purchases under the pandemic emergency purchase programme (PEPP) with a total envelope of €1,850 billion. The Governing Council will conduct net asset purchases under the PEPP until at least the end of March 2022 and, in any case, until it judges that the coronavirus crisis phase is over. It will also continue to reinvest the principal payments from maturing securities purchased under the PEPP until at least the end of 2023. In any case, the future roll-off of the PEPP portfolio will be managed to avoid interference with the appropriate monetary policy stance.

Third, net purchases under the asset purchase programme (APP) will continue at a monthly pace of €20 billion. The Governing Council continues to expect monthly net asset purchases under the APP to run for as long as necessary to reinforce the accommodative impact of its policy rates, and to end shortly before it starts raising the key ECB interest rates.

The Governing Council also intends to continue reinvesting, in full, the principal payments from maturing securities purchased under the APP for an extended period of time past the date when it starts raising the key ECB interest rates, and in any case for as long as necessary to maintain favourable liquidity conditions and an ample degree of monetary accommodation.

Finally, the Governing Council will continue to provide ample liquidity through its refinancing operations. In particular, the third series of targeted longer-term refinancing operations (TLTRO III) remains an attractive source of funding for banks, supporting bank lending to firms and households.

The Governing Council continues to stand ready to adjust all of its instruments, as appropriate, to ensure that inflation moves towards its aim in a sustained manner, in line with its commitment to symmetry.

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