martes, 5 de enero de 2016
jueves, 31 de diciembre de 2015
You might think of slavery as a barbaric system from a bygone era. The deep and damaging scars are still visible, but thanks to the work of abolitionists such as William Wilberforce, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Frederick Douglass, the practice itself has been wiped out.
But you’d be wrong. Today, nearly 21 million people are victims of forced labour. And there’s a good chance you’re benefitting from it.
Two recent investigations have uncovered the true extent of slavery in Thailand’s fishing and poultry industry, and many of the suppliers export to North America and Europe.
Reporters from the Associated Press found adults and children working in slave-like conditions, for little or no pay, peeling shrimp that ended up in well-known American supermarkets and restaurants: “AP reporters went to supermarkets in all 50 states and found shrimp products from supply chains tainted with forced labour.”
Just a few weeks ago, a Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation revealed migrants working in Thai poultry factories faced “widespread abuse” at the hands of their employers. Victims reported having their passports withheld and being forced to pay excessive recruitment fees. “Lots of these testimonies are indicators of trafficking for labour exploitation,” the investigators reported.
There’s big money being made in the industry of exploitation: $150 billion a year,according to ILO estimates, making it a more lucrative business than Apple. A large part of that – $51.8 billion – is generated in the Asia-Pacific region, home to 56% of victims of modern slavery.
The size of the profits and the scale of the problem – three out of every 1,000 people around the world are victims of forced labour – leave many producers unsure how to tackle it. Increasingly complex supply chains make it even more challenging, says Wolfgang Lehmacher, Head of Supply Chain and Transport Industries at the World Economic Forum: “Production chains are more complex than ever before, so it’s difficult for businesses to have complete oversight. But unless companies can understand what is going on at each step, they run the risk of damaging their reputation and losing customer trust and brand value.”
Those businesses that manage to eradicate slavery from their supply chains stand to gain a huge competitive advantage. As much as customers like a bargain, according to research from Walk Free, the majority of people would be willing to pay more for an ethically-sourced product and would ditch a brand if they found slavery was part of their supply chain.
Perhaps companies affected by these latest scandals should take a leaf out of Nike’s book. After being targeted by activists in the 1990s, the apparel company set about rectifying many of the problems in its supply chains and now operates with “an openness and transparency that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago”, according to the Guardian. The move has paid off: once again this year, the company topped the Forbes list of most valuable sports brands in the world.
Publicado por Lucabe en 21:49
The chasm between Silicon Valley and Europe’s tech sector seems, at first glance, to be as wide as the Grand Canyon.
Ask anyone outside of the industry to name some major tech firms and most will rattle off a list made up entirely of US companies. Ask the same person to name a European start-up and you are likely to get a blank stare.
How do they compare?
To get an idea of how the tech sectors in Europe and the US measure up, take a look at the number of ‘unicorns’ – start-ups with $1 billion valuations – popping up on either side of the Atlantic.
According to tech investment bank GP.Bullhound, Europe produced 13 unicorns in the year to May 2015.
In the same period, the US produced 22 unicorns.
So far, so encouraging. But then look at the valuations of all the existing unicorns in Europe combined: $120 billion. Compare that to a single US company, Facebook, with a market capitalisation of $227 billion, and you get a sense of how tiny the European sector is.
Why is it like this?
Silicon Valley is the undisputed centre of world technology. Part of the reason is historical, with the area close to good universities and military research facilities, but more recently much of the reason is also financial. The amount of venture capital funding available in the US has traditionally dwarfed that in Europe.
Analysis by White Star Capital, a tech fund based in New York and London, shows that Silicon Valley has over three times as many early stage tech investors as Europe.
Early investment means more companies getting off the ground and more companies able to grow rapidly.
Professor Mariana Mazzucato, a member of the World Economic Forum’s Council on the Economics of Innovation, believes it is not just venture capital that tech sectors need to thrive.
The economist says government investment is also key and that is where the US has done well in the past: “Why are all the innovative companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook coming out of the US and not Europe? The answer you will often hear is: Europe has lots of culture but there is too much state and not enough market. As a result, it is not entrepreneurial enough.”
She continues: “This view ignores the fact that all the revolutionary technologies that make the iPhone so smart were actually funded by government. Not through narrow market-fixing policies, but through mission-oriented policies that catalysed the creation of entirely new technologies and sectors.”
Does it matter?
We are experiencing only the beginnings of the digital industrial revolution. Those that hold power as the new industrial revolution unfolds can drive it and shape it.
Giants like Google and Facebook have enormous influence over the way we are using the internet and mobile technology. As businesses know to their cost, small changes to Google’s search algorithm or Facebook’s newsfeed policy can have a huge impact.
As David Galbraith, partner at venture investment firm Anthemis, told the Guardian, “If you look at Europe now, we’re in the equivalent stage of being in, let’s say, 1920, with no car companies. No Citröen, no BMW, no Rolls Royce, no Fiat, nothing.”
Take a look at Google’s reach. Crossing linguistic and cultural barriers, it is the dominant search engine around the world. With nearly 90% of searches in the UK, 93% in Germany and a stunning 96% in India, it is clear that the company is in a powerful position.
Can it change?
There has been a trend in the past for European start-ups to be bought up by US tech giants soon after reaching ‘unicorn’ status. Perhaps the most famous example is Skype.
The video calling service, founded by Dane Janus Friis and Swede Niklas Zennström in 2003, was sold to eBay for $2.6bn in 2005. This kind of sale seemed to seal US dominance by simply buying out any success Europe did manage.
The temptation to sell has often been put down to the relative lack of venture capital in Europe prepared to back tech entrepreneurs. If start-up entrepreneurs wanted money, they were often forced to look to the States.
In recent years, though, this has started to change with more money flowing into European tech companies than ever before. Figures from Dow Jones VentureSource, an investment database, funding for the continents’ digital sector almost doubled from $4bn a year to $7.7bn between 2010 and 2014.
Mark Tluszcz, chief executive of Mangrove, the Luxembourg-based venture capital firm that was an early investor in Skype, told the FT: “I really believe it’s a matter of time before Europe produces its great tech company… because it’s no longer a matter of capital.”
So, it is possible to find people willing to say that the scales might soon be tipped more in Europe’s favour. But it would be very hard indeed to find anyone willing to predict the end of Silicon Valley’s dominance.
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Author: Keith Breene is a Senior Writer at Formative Content.
Image: People are silhouetted in front of a bank of QR codes. REUTERS.
Publicado por Lucabe en 21:29
domingo, 20 de diciembre de 2015
La fortaleza del dólar revaloriza las remesas a América Latina
México, tras la apreciación del 22% frente al peso en un año, es el principal beneficiario
La apreciación del dólar está creando verdaderos quebraderos de cabeza a las multinacionales de Estados Unidos, que ven desde hace un año cómo la divisa es un factor que hace de lastre en sus negocios. Y su influencia en la caída de las materias primas llena de nubarrones el horizonte de países emergentes. Pero la fortaleza del billete verde, sin embargo, otro efecto, esta vez positivo, para las economías de América Latina, que se nutren del dinero que le llega de sus emigrantes en el gran vecino del norte a través de las remesas.
Los envíos en rublos se hunden
El estancamiento económico en Europa y, sobre todo, las sanciones a Rusia están teniendo un efecto muy negativo en las remesas enviadas a los países de Europa del Este y del Asia Central, en su caso por el acusado desplome del rublo. Además, juegan en contra los controles a la inmigración.
Se vio con claridad este doble efecto el año pasado. De subir un 11% en 2013 a caer un 6,3% en 2014, a 48.000 millones de dólares (43.700 millones de euros). Para el ejercicio en curso se espera una nueva contracción de casi el 13% en la región. El motivo es simple. La crisis económica en Rusia está provocando que muchos emigrantes pierdan sus empleos y la depreciación del rublo está reduciendo los ingresos reales para los que lo conservan.
La revalorización de las remeses que se reciben en América Latina arroja lecturas divergentes, en función del origen de los flujos de capitales que llegan a cada país. El alza del dólar eleva el valor de las remesas en los países cuyos inmigrantes están concentrados en Estados Unidos. Las grandes beneficiadas por el brusco movimiento registrado en el mercado de divisas son, por tanto, México (el dólar se ha apreciado un 22% en el último año, si antes equivalía a 13 pesos, ahora compra 16) y países de América Central como El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras, donde el Banco Mundial ya vio el año pasado un robusto incremento del 6% en el montante de dinero que le llega de sus nacionales en el exterior.
México es el cuarto mayor receptor del mundo en términos absolutos de remesas, con 25.000 millones de dólares (al cambio actual, 22.760 millones de euros) en 2014. Le superan la India, China y Filipinas. En su caso se beneficia por la mejora de la economía en Estados Unidos, el principal país de destino de inmigrantes por delante de Arabia Saudí, Alemania, Rusia y Emiratos Árabes. Los dos países crean el mayor corredor de inmigrantes del planeta.
Crecimiento del 3,4%
Pero el valor de estas transacciones varía incluso cuando se comparan los países de la misma región. Es el caso de economías como las de Brasil, Perú, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia y Paraguay, que se ven afectadas por la debilidad de la actividad económica en España y el efecto de depreciación paralela del euro por la crisis griega. Uno de cada diez inmigrantes latinoamericanos vive en España.
Esta discrepancia va a tener como consecuencia que las remesas en América Latina crezcan este año un 3,4%, a 66.000 millones de dólares (60.000 millones de euros). Es un incremento inferior al 5,8% de 2014, como señala el Banco Mundial, pero significativamente mejor que el anémico ritmo visto durante el periodo posterior a la Gran Recesión. Y además, el valor es mayor en cada una de las monedas locales. Se espera que suban a los 69.000 millones en 2016 y a los 71.000 millones de dólares en 2017.
En la actualidad hay 250 millones de trabajadores migrantes que mandan de vuelta parte de su dinero a casa. Las remesas globales hacia los países en desarrollo ascendieron a 436.000 millones en 2014 y se espera alcancen un valor de 479.000 millones de dólares en 2017. Es una cantidad que dobla en estos países la ayuda que les llega del exterior y supera incluso la inversión directa, salvo en China.
El efecto del euro
El euro está tratando ahora de mantener los 1,10 dólares. Está lejos de los 1,40 dólares que se vieron el pasado verano y llegó a caer hasta rozar la paridad. Europa es la principal fuente de remesas para los países del Norte de África y la adversidad en el tipo de cambio se hizo notar especialmente en Marruecos. Mientras que las remesas en euros subieron un 9,6% entre noviembre y enero, cayeron un 2,6% cuando se pasan a dólares. Argelia y Túnez sufren una situación similar.
Los conflictos y las dificultades económicas, como señalan los técnicos del organismo que apoya el desarrollo, harán que la gente siga buscando trabajo fuera. Pero con el incremento de las remesas moderándose, los técnicos del organismo piden a los países receptores de esta liquidez que sean más “creativos” para aprovechar esta fuente de dinero que les llega del exterior. El Fondo Monetario Internacional quiere que este ingente flujo de capital puede contribuir al desarrollo de proyectos en infraestructuras o se utilice como colateral para reducir el coste de la deuda externa.
Publicado por Lucabe en 20:34
martes, 10 de noviembre de 2015
GENEVA – Over the last few months, a great deal of attention has been devoted to financial-market volatility. But as frightening as the ups and downs of stock prices can be, they are mere froth on the waves compared to the real threat to the global economy: the enormous tsunami of debt bearing down on households, businesses, banks, and governments. If the US Federal Reserve follows through on raising interest rates at the end of this year, as has been suggested, the global economy – and especially emerging markets – could be in serious trouble.
Global debt has grown some $57 trillion since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, reaching a back-breaking $199 trillion in 2014, more than 2.5 times global GDP, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. Servicing these debts will most likely become increasingly difficult over the coming years, especially if growth continues to stagnate, interest rates begin to rise, export opportunities remain subdued, and the collapse in commodity prices persists.
Much of the concern about debt has been focused on the potential for defaults in the eurozone. But heavily indebted companies in emerging markets may be an even greater danger. Corporate debt in the developing world is estimated to have reached more than $18 trillion dollars, with as much as $2 trillion of it in foreign currencies. The risk is that – as in Latin America in the 1980s and Asia in the 1990s – private-sector defaults will infect public-sector balance sheets.
That possibility is, if anything, greater today than it has been in the past. Increasingly open financial markets allow foreign banks and asset managers to dump debts rapidly, often for reasons that have little to do with economic fundamentals. When accompanied by currency depreciation, the results can be brutal – as Ukraine is learning the hard way. In such cases, private losses inevitably become a costly public concern, with market jitters rapidly spreading across borders as governments bail out creditors in order to prevent economic collapse.
It is important to note that indebted governments are both more and less vulnerable than private debtors. Sovereign borrowers cannot seek the protection of bankruptcy laws to delay and restructure payments; at the same time, their creditors cannot seize non-commercial public assets in compensation for unpaid debts. When a government is unable to pay, the only solution is direct negotiations. But the existing system of debt restructuring is inefficient, fragmented, and unfair.
Sovereign borrowers’ inability to service their debt tends to be addressed too late and ineffectively. Governments are reluctant to acknowledge solvency problems for fear of triggering capital outflows, financial panics, and economic crises. Meanwhile, private creditors, anxious to avoid a haircut, will often postpone resolution in the hope that the situation will turn around. When the problem is finally acknowledged, it is usually already an emergency, and rescue efforts all too often focus on propping up irresponsible lenders rather than on facilitating economic recovery.
To make matters worse, when a compromise is reached, the burden falls disproportionately on the debtor, in the form of enforced austerity and structural reforms that make the residual debt even less sustainable. Furthermore, the recent strengthening of creditor rights and the growth of bond financing has made sovereign-debt restructuring enormously complex and open to abuse by highly speculative holdout investors, including so-called vulture funds.
As consensus grows regarding the need for better ways to restructure debt, three options have emerged. The first would strengthen bond markets’ legal underpinnings, by introducing strong collective-action clauses in contracts and clarifying the pari passu (equal treatment) provision, as well as promoting the use of GDP-indexed or contingent-convertible bonds. This approach would be voluntary and consensual, but it would miss large parts of the debt market and do little to support economic recovery or a return to sustainable growth.
A second approach would focus on building a consensus around soft-law principles to guide restructuring efforts. The core principles – those under discussion include sovereignty, legitimacy, impartiality, transparency, good faith, and sustainability principles – currently would apply to all debt instruments and could provide greater coordination than market-based approaches. But, although this effort has the advantage of familiarity, it would be non-binding, with no guarantee that a critical mass of parties would adhere to it.
The third option would attempt to resolve this coordination problem through a set of rules and norms agreed in advance as part of an international debt-workout mechanism that would be similar to bankruptcy laws at the national level. Its purpose would be to prevent financial meltdowns in countries facing difficulties servicing their external debt and to guide their economies back toward sustainable growth.
The mechanism would include provisions allowing for a temporary standstill on all payments due, whether private or public; an automatic stay on creditor litigation; temporary exchange-rate and capital controls; the provision of debtor-in-possession and interim financing for vital current-account transactions; and, eventually, debt restructuring and relief.
Evidence from Ghana, Greece, Puerto Rico, Ukraine, and many other countries shows the economic and social damage that unsustainable debts can cause when they are improperly managed. In September, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a set of principles to guide sovereign-debt restructuring. This is an important step forward, but much remains to be done to prevent much from coming undone as the global economy confronts the looming wall of debt.
Read more at https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/debt-threatens-global-economy-by-richard-kozul-wright-2015-11#QkSk7Ux1DAXCXIHZ.99
Publicado por Lucabe en 7:49