2015 Economy

English: EU-27 cartogram: Do you trust the Eur...

EU-27 cartogram: Do you trust the European Commission? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Aid to the Most Deprived

In the second half of December, the European Commission approved the operational programmes for eight EU countries to use the new Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), including a €560 million package for Spain. This includes Italy‘s €670 million programme, the largest of all FEAD allocations across the EU.

The Czech Republic, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy, Malta and Slovakia will receive a total of €850 million to provide food and basic material assistance to those most in need.

They join the ten EU countries that saw their national programmes approved in the last weeks and France, the first to have its national FEAD programme adopted in July.

This made an opening for 2015 having after Spain, Greece receiving the most funds (€280 million) of this batch followed by Portugal, Croatia, Ireland, Finland, Luxembourg and Denmark, which was allocated an amount of €3,9 million. They joined the seventeen EU countries that saw their national programmes approved since July, with France, being the first to have its national FEAD programme adopted.

According to research conducted by the Vlaams Minderhedenforum (Flemish Minority Forum) in the service cheques sector it showed that 67% of service cheques agencies will not send a foreign worker if they are asked not to.

Normally they had to exclude black market work and to provide jobs and give people the chance to earn some money, but now it turned out that it had the opposite effect.

“This means that the government is in effect subsidising discrimination.”

said Wouter Van Bellingen of the Minderhedenforum.

Minister Muyters said he condemned discrimination but rejected a request to introduce anonymous calls to monitor companies. The consumer program of the Flemish Television did the work and clearly showed how companies are willing to follow the discriminatory wishes of their clients, without giving them some advice and trying to show them how wrong they are to be prejudiced.

The most contestable measure for older workers who were unemployed or who took early retirement was that they had to be again available for work and were expected to follow training courses to prepare themselves for the job market

Kristof Calvo of Groen said companies should not be allowed to discriminate against older people.

“A lot of job applications from older workers are never answered,”

he said.

“The government has to tackle this problem of age discrimination.”

Brussels airport

A power outage in May forced the grounding of all flights for four hours. More than 23,000 passengers have been affected.

The incident took place during a routine test of emergency generators at 9.45 on the 27th of May in the morning. Both the normal system and the emergency system collapsed in the ATC centre CANAC2 in Steenokkerzeel. The airspace was partly opened again at about 14.00, with a new emergency generator providing 20% of capacity.

When the power outage occurred, a defence spokesperson explained, thousands of aircraft were in the airspace, and the military stepped in to “deconflict” the skies and prevent accidents. Later, incoming flights were re-routed and departing flights were grounded.

A few weeks later a gas leak was detected at about 7.30 in one of the airport’s technical buildings, located on a road that adjoins the A201. The road was closed, leading to traffic backed up on the A201 and the Brussels ring road. Further tailbacks followed when drivers tried to find alternative routes via Woluwelaan and the centre of Zaventem. Power company Eandis closed off the leak, caused by digging works, at about 8.30, and the road was re-opened, but effects were felt on traffic for hours.

The existence of only one approach road for road traffic to Brussels Airport is “unworkable,” according to the Flemish chamber of commerce (Voka).

“The second most important economic gateway to our country, the national airport, can only be reached by one route,”

complained Paul Hegge, director-general of Voka Halle-Vilvoorde, whilst everybody could see how an incident on that route immediately lead to major problems.

Several groups demanded that the government would look in to the matter to provide an other way to the National airport.

About a dozen flights were delayed as they chose to wait for passengers to arrive, according to airport spokesperson Florence Muls. Another 50 people who missed their flights were offered free transfers.

“After the A201 was closed, we got in touch with passengers immediately and asked them to leave on time and to take the train to the airport,”

she said.

“A number of airlines decided to wait for passengers and let the flight depart a little later than scheduled. The impact on flights all in all was limited.”

Some passengers abandoned their vehicles on approach roads in an attempt to get to the airport on foot, though they had to face fines when they returned from their travels.

The Brussels Airport-based charter airline Jetairfly, part of the German TUI group, in October announced it is seeking 23 additional aircraft to develop its activities over the coming years. The company, which employs 1,100 people, is recruiting an additional 120 air hosts for 2016.


More than 20,000 passengers have signed on to a class-action suit filed by consumer organisation Test-Aankoop against NMBS for the number of strikes that have taken place from October 2014 until May 2015.


Kaprijke, East Flanders, biscuit maker Lotus, famous for its speculoos, has taken over energy bar producer Natural Balance Foods, a British company that makes snacks under the Trek and Nākd brands.

Having several million internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the Middle East like those in northern Pakistan, forced out of their towns and villages first by militant groups and later by armed forces from the different sites, fighting with or against ISIS or against certain faith groups, many have a shortages of daily nutriciens.

In Pakistan, an estimated 900,000 people were displaced last year, nearly all of whom took refuge in Bannu, an ancient city of the KP province where ‘tent cities’ were erected to house some 90,000 families.

Each fresh wave of displacement has put more pressure on the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to feed, heal and shelter thousands of newly uprooted citizens, while simultaneously tending to some 2.1 million ‘permanent’ refugees who have fled the various agencies of FATA since the Taliban and other militant groups claimed the region as a base of operations in 2001.

Meeting the needs of such an enormous refugee population has put tremendous strain on the government.

Provincial Disaster Management Authority Spokesman Adil Khan says that each family receives a monthly allocation of 90 kg of wheat, one kg of tea leaves, five kg of sugar, two kg of rice and two litres of oil in order to alleviate extreme hunger. But most households in camps across the northern province, say this isn’t enough for families comprised, on average, of 10 or more people.

Army officers stand opposite displaced families as they collect their monthly allocation of food supplies in northern Pakistan. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

Army officers stand opposite displaced families as they collect their monthly allocation of food supplies in northern Pakistan. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

Rural women make major contributions to rural economies by producing and processing food, feeding and caring for families, generating income and contributing to the overall well-being of their households – but, in many countries, they face discrimination in access to agricultural assets, education, healthcare and employment, among others, preventing them from fully enjoying their basic rights.

Artificial meat. Indoor aquaculture. Vertical farms. Irrigation drones. Once the realm of science fiction, these things are now fact. Food production is going high tech – at least, in some places.

But the vast majority of the world’s farmers still face that old and fundamental fact: their crops, their very livelihoods, depend on how Mother Nature treats them. Over 80 percent of world agriculture today remains dependent on the rains, just as it did 10,000 years ago.

At the centre of Expo 2015 there was the central theme, and a huge challenge for cities, ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’ .

More than 50 percent of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas – a proportion that is projected to increase to 66 percent by 2050 – and ensuring the right to food for all citizens, especially the urban poor, is key to promoting sustainable and equitable development.

As the city hosting Expo 2015, Milan has great visibility and an extraordinary political opportunity for working to build more resilient urban food systems. This is a vision that the City of Milan has decided to fulfil by formulating its own Food Policy, and by bringing together as many cities as possible to subscribe to an Urban Food Policy Pact: a global engagement to “feed cities” in a more just and sustainable way.

The food policy, which will be implemented by Milan’s city government over the next five years, is being drafted through a wide participatory process, starting with an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the city’s food system.

This is a complex picture with some bright spots and some shadows highlighting several thematic areas that the food policy should take into consideration: from access to food to the environmental and social impact of food production and distribution, from food waste to education.

Milan has more than 1.3 million inhabitants, but almost two million people come to the city every day for work, study, leisure or, health care.

Through its public catering company Milano Ristorazione, the City of Milan prepares and delivers more than 80,000 meals each day for schools, retirement homes and reception centres. Thus, there is a lot the City can do to enhance and spread good practices – for example, by tackling food waste and improving the sustainability of the food supply chain.

Many projects are already in place. More than one-third of the fruit and vegetables served by Milano Ristorazione is organic, 57 percent is supplied from short distance, and children at school are encouraged to take home a doggie bag with leftovers of non-perishable food.

Every year, families in Milan still waste the equivalent of one month of food consumption, but several non-profit organisations are saving the food surplus from supermarkets and cafeterias and delivering it to more than one hundred of the city’s charities.

Meanwhile, with poverty on the rise as a result of the prolonged economic crisis, civil society and public institutions are working actively to help those in need. Soup kitchens offer around two million meals each year and the City of Milan itself delivers almost 250,000 meals to the elderly and the disabled.

The Office of the Mayor asked citizens, civil society organisations, scholars, innovative entrepreneurs and chefs, among others, to have their say on the issues that the city’s food policy should address, to draw up a strategic document that was discussed in a town meeting in May, when a number of planning panels (Food Malls) were launched.

Many cities have expressed their interest in subscribing to the Urban Food Policy Pact – to be signed in October this year on the occasion of World Food Day – and its proponents expect it to be one of the most significant legacies of Expo 2015.

Agriculture and food production are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and our ability to produce food will be highly affected by climate change – building a more resilient world, where the right to food is ensured for everyone, is a process that need to start from cities, and from their ability to develop sustainable policies.

In the world

During the 2011 famine in Somalia, British Somalis saved hundreds of thousands of lives by remitting money … reaching family members before aid agencies could mobilise. Government aid agencies then used the same informal banking system – the hawala – to send money to 1.5 million people, saving hundreds of thousands more. Today, roughly 3 million of Somalia’s 7 million people are short of food. Shut off the funds and the results are likely to be terrible. Hawala is one of Africa’s great success stories, wrote Monbiot.

“But it can’t work unless banks in donor nations are permitted to transfer funds to Somalia.”

In Latin America and the Caribbean income poverty reduction stagnated somewhat and the number of poor has risen bringing three million women and men in the region who fell into poverty between 2013 and 2014 desperate looking for some progress and better opportunities.

The gap between quality education and employment suggests that, alone, more economic growth is not enough to build “resilience”, or the ability to absorb external shocks, such as financial crisis or natural disasters, without major social and economic losses. We need to invest in the skills and assets of the poor and vulnerable — tasks that may take years, and in many cases, an entire generation.

Fundamentally, progress is a multidimensional concept and cannot simply reflect the idea of living with less or more than four or 10 dollars a day. Well-being means more than income, not a consumerist standard of what a “good life” entails.

The growing economic inequalities between rich and poor – and the lopsided concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the world’s one percent – are undermining international efforts to fight global poverty, environmental degradation and social injustice, according to a civil society alliance.

Comprising ActionAid, Greenpeace, Oxfam and Civicus, the group of widely-known non-governmental organisations (NGO) and global charities warn about the widening gap and imbalance of power between the world’s richest and the rest of the population, which they say, is “warping the rules and policies that affect society, creating a vicious circle of ever growing and harmful undue influence.”

The concentration of wealth and power is now a critical and binding factor that must be challenged

“if we are to create lasting solutions to poverty and climate change.”

People’s mobilisation and active citizenship are crucial to change the power inequalities that are leading to worsening rights violations and inequality, the group says.

However, in all regions of the world, the more people mobilise to defend their rights, the more the civic and political space is being curtailed by repressive action defending the privileged.

“Inequality is about more than economics and growth – it is now at such high levels that we risk a return to the oligarchy of the gilded age. We need to shift power away from the one percent and towards the rest of society, to prevent all decisions being made in the narrow interests of a privileged few,”

Ben Phillips, campaigns and policy director at ActionAid International said.

Predictions of a sharp slowdown in Latin America’s economic growth in 2015 made it even more necessary for the region’s leaders to make commitments to boost prosperity with equality during the Seventh Summit of the Americas, which took place in April in the Panamanian capital where heads of state and government, and parallel civil society, academic, youth and business forums, were meeting in Panama City to debate the central theme “Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas”.

There is a lack of coordination at the government level to reduce regional disparities but work has to be made of it and several countries, including Brazil, Cuba or Venezuela, have regional cooperation programmes in areas such as scientific research, productivity, post-disaster recovery, health and education, despite their internal limitations.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff with her counterparts from Mexico (left), Panama and the United States, during a panel at the Second CEO Summit of the Americas, Friday Apr. 10 in Panama City. Credit: Courtesy of the IDB

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff with her counterparts from Mexico (left), Panama and the United States, during a panel at the Second CEO Summit of the Americas, Friday Apr. 10 in Panama City. Credit: Courtesy of the IDB

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Nepal in April, and the numerous aftershocks that followed, left the country with losses amounting to a third of its economy.

As this South Asian nation of 27 million people struggled to get back on its feet.

Nepal Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat has called this the worst disaster in Nepal’s history. Over 8,000 lives were lost, 22,000 people were injured and over 1,000 health facilities were destroyed, according to government data.

“One in three Nepali people have been affected by the earthquakes. One in 10 has been rendered homeless,”

the foreign minister said.

“Half a million households have lost their livelihoods, mostly poor, subsistence farmers.”

An additional three percent of the population, which amounts to roughly a million people, has been pushed into poverty because of this disaster, according to the World Bank.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on its website that 8.1 million people are in need of humanitarian support and 1.9 million require food assistance.

Only 129 million dollars of the 422-million-dollar humanitarian appeal by United Nations have been raised.

Nepal, a developing country saddled with debts up to 30 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) and dependent on external aid, had nonetheless been making developmental and economic gains before the disaster struck.

A family stands beside a damaged house near Naglebhare, Nepal. The housing sector bore the brunt of the April earthquake, accounting for three-fifths of all damages. Credit: Asian Development Bank/CC-BY-2.0

A family stands beside a damaged house near Naglebhare, Nepal. The housing sector bore the brunt of the April earthquake, accounting for three-fifths of all damages. Credit: Asian Development Bank/CC-BY-2.0

In this world we still can see that women are economically differently treated than men. The total payout for the Women’s World Cup was 15 million dollars, compared with 576 million dollars for the last men’s World Cup—40 times less.

The winning women’s team received two million dollars in prize money, whereas the winning men’s team took away 35 million dollars. The losing U.S. men’s team was still awarded 8 million dollars—four times as much as the champion U.S. women’s team.

In September finance ministers and central bank governors of the world’s 20 major economies, accounting for 66 percent of world population, have pledged to

“promote an enabling global economic environment for developing countries as they pursue their sustainable development agendas”.

The Climate Finance Study Group (CFSG) will continue its work in 2016 by following the principles, provisions and objectives of the UNFCCC.

The UN General Assembly adopted the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a global summit of world leaders in September. They agreed on 17 new universal goals, and 169 targets that will provide the framework for economic and political policies of UN Member States over the next 15 years to make the world a better place for humanity.

The targets, assiduously refined by the negotiators, have given substance to the SDGs. A target under goal one, for example, includes reducing by at least half the number of people living in poverty by 2030, and eradicating extreme poverty (people living on less than $1.25 a day).

The enormous cost of meeting these goals has not begun to be fully absorbed yet. Even if the world will eventually pat itself on the back for achieving some of the goals, the cost of reaching them is simply mind boggling.

Rough calculations made by the intergovernmental committee of experts on sustainable development financing have put the cost of providing a social safety net to eradicate extreme poverty at 66 billion dollars a year, while annual investments to improve infrastructure (water, agriculture, transport, power) could be up to 7.0 trillion dollars globally.

As the spreading refugee crisis threatens to destabilize national budgets of donor nations in Western Europe, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in November appealed to the international community not to forsake its longstanding commitment for development assistance to the world’s poorer nations.

Ban’s appeal comes two days after a UN pledging conference reported a “dramatic decline” in donor commitments: from 560 million dollars in 2014 to 77 million dollars in the most recent pledges, largely covering 2015.

The secretary-general said that with the world facing the largest crisis of forced displacement since the Second World War, the international community should meet this immense challenge without lessening its commitment to vitally needed official development assistance. (ODA)

He underscored the importance of fully funding both efforts to care for refugees and asylum seekers in host countries as well as longer-term development efforts.

The Secretary-General said he recognized the financial demands faced by host communities and partner governments as they seek to support the international response.

He expressed his “sincere gratitude to governments and their citizens for their generosity.”

Nick Hartmann, Director of the Partnerships Group at UN Development Programme (UNDP) told delegates Monday the important agreements that Member States had come to in 2015 called for increased policy support.

To deliver that, adequate and predictable resources were required.

Markets and World news

In January Japanese stocks hit fresh 7-year highs when there was the talk of a snap election and a delay in planned tax hike continued to feed equity bulls.

‘Capital in the 21st century’ provoked a fierce debate over inequality and Amnesty accused state of inadequate response to alleged abuses ahead of world cup.

The European Union continued struggling to respond to a surge of desperate migrants that has resulted in more than 3,000 deaths, many perishing or missing in the Mediterranean, since the beginning of the year. The flood of migrants and refugees, the largest movement of people Europe has seen since 1945, has raised doubt about open-borders and provoked a dispute over sharing the burden. That refugee crisis made certain neo-fascist and right wing movements stronger and created the growing movement of people asking for their country to opt out of the European Union, having England and the Netherlands calling for such an exit whilst Scotland seeing in the Brexit an opportunity to get more independence and leave Great-Britain to stay in the European Union.
In the domestic setting many Germans came also calling for a more active foreign policy and the German chancellor’s rating took a sharp drop in the December opinion polls. Though the German iron lady Angela Merkel stands by refugees decision despite polls.

Relocation quota and the proposed scheme’s implications are far-reaching but for moths it seemed something which could only work on paper, many countries putting up borders and not keeping to the agreement. In this climate of proposed naval “pushbacks” and proposals for extraterritorial asylum processing, forced relocation of this nature and on this scale would be a major challenge to the existing global refugee regime. Rights of migrants and asylum seekers themselves were put at risk with the increased tendency to treat migration and asylum as security issues.

In spring 2010, the European sovereign debt crisis was still seen as a liquidity issue and a banking crisis. As Brussels launched its €770 billion “shock and awe” rescue package, it was expected to stabilise the Eurozone.

However, Brussels and the core economies failed to provide adequate fiscal adjustment, which made mass unemployment a lot worse and continues to penalise confidence, demand and investment.  Some governments, like the Belgian one, telling lies to the voters, once they got in parliament took every change to squeeze the population further and make them even more afraid to spend money, which paralysed the market further.

Getting to the end of 2015, unemployment had decreased to 10.3% in the Eurozone (and to 8.9% in the EU, respectively). Whilst the small crisis economies (Greece, Portugal) were seen as “exceptions” because they were each less than 3% of the Eurozone GDP everywhere in the union underemployment remained prohibitively high and youth unemployment amounted to 23% in the Eurozone and is far higher in those crisis countries, such as Greece (48%), Spain (45%) and Italy (39%). In the future, Europe must cope with a “lost generation.”

The Eurozone real GDP growth came at barely 0.3% and inflation close to zero. After half a decade of economic pain, the region will struggle for 1.5% growth. In the coming decade, that will slow close to 1%.

The German car-industry had other kittens to scourge with the exhaustion fraud and emission scandal worldwide.The carmaker warned fresh, independent figures were needed to restore credibility.

Entering 2016 economists said acceptance of negative deposit rate means 10bp cut to deposit rate has been priced in, whilst balance of power between borrowers and lenders is shifting and US private equity deals exceeded the 6-times ratio guideline set by the Fed.

Fourth-quarter crude oil prices remained low compared to end 2014 levels, which could continue to pressure profits, cash flow, and investment.


Preceding articles

2010-2015 words delivering a Sunshine Award

2015 In the Picture


Find more about the subjects:

  1. Eight additional operational programmes recently approved to help the most deprived, including a €560 million package for Spain
  2. Six new national programmes to help the most deprived approved, including Italy’s €670 million plan
  3. Flemish biscuit producer Lotus takes over UK makers of Trek
  4. First the Taliban, then the Army, now Hunger: The Woes of Pakistan’s Displaced
  5. World’s Richest One Percent Undermine Fight Against Economic Inequalities
  6. Donor Conference to Tackle Nepal Reconstruction
  7. G20 Finance Ministers Committed to Sustainable Development
  8. Opinion: Will We Find the Resources to Create a Better World?
  9. Refugee Crisis May Threaten Development Aid to World’s Poor


About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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