Tag: COVID-19 pandemic

S Korea’s Moon Jae-in grapples with falling approval ratings
Asia Pacific Focus

S Korea’s Moon Jae-in grapples with falling approval ratings

Moon Jae-in grapples: At a time when Moon Jae-in’s approval ratings are falling, Blue House announced a cabinet reshuffle

Amid a range of policy failures and mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, Moon Jae-in’s approval rating fell to an all-time low this week. A weekly poll on Thursday showed South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating falling by 1.5 percentage points to 35.1 percent in the first week of January 2021. At the same time, his disapproval rating hit a record high of 61.7 percent, with about 34.2 percent of respondents in South Korea backing the main opposition People Power Party (PPP).

This approval rating has come as a warning to Moon Jae-in’s presidency in South Korea as it reached its lowest point since his inauguration in May 2017. This development has come as a result of the Moon administration’s inability to bring stability to South Korea’s housing market.

His government’s policies also failed to improve the livelihood of people amid the pandemic circumstances. While South Korea was lauded for its proactive response to COVID-19, it’s expedient measures couldn’t control the virus spread as cases continued to rise in major cities. Amid the pandemic, economy deteriorated, unemployment rose and workers faced mass layoffs which led to a reduction in support rate for the Moon administration. 

An increasing conflict and political bickering between Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl over prosecutorial reforms has also impacted people’s support on Moon and the ruling DPK.

At a time when Moon Jae-in’s approval rating reduced, the Blue House announced new appointments for presidential chief of staff and senior secretary for civil affairs backed by the President. Former Chief of Staff Noh Young-min presented the new cabinet members – Yoo Young-min as the new presidential chief of staff and Shin Hyun-soo as the new senior secretary for civil affairs. With Yoo’s expertise in science and ICT, Moon is aiming to work on various state affairs in a bid to lead the fourth industrial revolution. Newly-appointed senior secretary for civil affairs reportedly has a robust expertise in reformation of the judicial system as he previously worked as a planning director at the National Intelligence Service.

In addition, Moon decided to restate Kim Sang-jo as the presidential chief of staff for policy, particularly at a time when the country is fighting with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Significantly, according to experts, this untimely cabinet reshuffle has come at a time when Moon is struggling with decreasing approval rating. With these new appointments, the President is aiming to better manage the state affairs in order improve his approval rating among the public. 

Is the multilateralism the future of Europe?

Is the multilateralism the future of Europe?

The future of Europe: Three women at the helm of international organizations like IMF, EU, and ECB, and one in the capacity of Treasury minister of the most powerful Nation in the world, soon led by a president who has not skimped on integrating her staff with prominent female characters in their professional field.

Could the fortunate anomaly, concerning the past, of such a large coexistence of female figures at political and institutional leaders be the harbinger of a significant change of pace in the geopolitical field? There is an urgent need for initiatives marked by the courage and wisdom necessary to face ambitious challenges that the present context of global economic-pandemic crisis will make inevitable shortly. And first of all in the desirable spirit of a renewed multilateralism, to the advantage of rules for a community of states that is made up of men, or rather of social animals naturally reaching out towards a sense of cooperation, incompatible with extreme nationalistic individualism.

But these are challenges for which we are already beginning to equip ourselves. The expectations placed on the recent EU-US dialogue proposals are high, as emerges from the text of their new collaborative agenda for global change. Which includes significant commitments on the main geopolitical issues currently under discussion, starting with the establishment of a Euro-American council dedicated to trade and technologies, a Transatlantic AI Agreement and a joint leadership on reforming the WTO.

While not encouraging indications on long-term economic development are reported by the IMF, which believes that new technologies, specifically connected to robotics and applications of artificial intelligence and automation, risk widening the gap between rich and poor countries, shifting greater investments in advanced economies where automation is already present.

With the negative consequence of threatening to replace, rather than integrate, their growing low-cost workforce, which has traditionally been the advantage on which the development of globalization has rested.

Furthermore, another behavioural paradigm that should be definitively debunked, to facilitate economic recovery on a global basis, is that of so-called shortism. Revealed by how the stock market, particularly the US, has so far encouraged publicly traded companies to prioritize short-term, preferable over long-term, and society-wide profits. With the consequence of a growing rift between stock markets and the real economy, massive growth of intangible assets and above all the growing irrelevance of the labor factor for capital. From this point of view, however, the Next Generation Recovery Fund (NGRF) marks a change of historical step in the measure in which it configures a long-term planning starting from the opening words of its title. And then because it is focused on issues such as: climate, education, transport, etc. All themes, to quote Jeffrey Sachs, foreshadowing a future different combination of prosperity, lower levels of inequality, and environmental sustainability.

In evaluating the implementation methods of the NGRF, the domain of digitization must also be considered. Thanks to this, technology and finance, the current drivers of political capitalism, are consolidating the pre-eminence of immateriality over materiality on the economic level, of platforms over industrial plants. While Covid has put a lot of its own in accelerating the advent of the premier, on a geopolitical level, the strategic value of information and the related algorithmic profiling. And in accelerating at the same time also the confluence of capitalist development under the aegis and the wing of politics, guided by intentions of neo-protectionism, of debt conditioning, but above all of state interventionism imposed / required for the needs of entrepreneurial rescue.

But positive expectations should also be associated with the work of the G20 for 2021, and with its presidency in particular, which now belongs to our country. Broad is the agenda of the issues to be submitted but, given the peculiarity of the Debt / GDP ratio that will characterize our country a few years from now, the focus of the geopolitical debate pinned on financial stability and sustainability in supporting resilience to emergencies will be very appropriate. global. A debate that is inseparable from that on the sources of taxation with which to repay the state debt. Largely hindered by Trump’s positions on the possibilities / methods of applying the Webtax, by the apathy of EU member countries towards the application of a minimum corporate tax rate, or limits on the deduction of interest expense for tax purposes. But also hampered by the matter of countervailing duties (Boeing-Airbus) now made potentially more harmful for EU countries by the possible application of these duties to the import of aircraft produced in the US by Great Britain in Brexit. A phenomenon, the latter, which however gives Italy the opportunity for a more incisive and proactive role of internal diplomacy, on proposals that can see us as a strategic balance between the two drivers: France and Germany.

The ECB already declared that it wants to expand its QE at least until March 2021. That suggests a lower use could only occur if the markets buy the debt at convenient conditions. From this point of view, the approval of the NGRF may itself constitute one of the conditions suitable to push the markets to buy with further lowering of country spreads, even if significant risks are still visible on the horizon. Brexit without a deal represents, in fact, a financial unknown still unfathomable a few days from the end. And, again, the risk of delays in the much-desired departure of the NGRF program, following a response not in line with the expectations, by the EU Court, on the legislative text which, definitely turning a blind eye to the rule of law in Poland and Hungary, however, made it possible to unlock the negotiations.

Regarding the ESM future, it is reasonable to expect that the reform demanded to examine will produce a text of a mechanism that does not lend itself to the tangle of interpretations that have affected the current system. Among those, some argue that it would not be adequate to the needs of a country like Italy. Those who still consider the positivity of its optionality. Who thinks the latter is detrimental on a reputational level due to the stigma associated with its potential use. And who believes that the mere fact that the ESM exists would discourage possible pressures in the financial markets. And a similar difference in assessment can be applied to the health MES, between those who consider it conditionally limited to the use of resources for health expenditure, and those with a completely different opinion.

If in the years to come, interest rates were to rise significantly, in compliance with a principle of solidarity it should also be possible to grant use to countries that request it, finding themselves in conditions of debt sustainability and full access to markets, but at a high cost. Also, providing that these countries pay additional interest to the ESM. The measure should be equal to half the difference between the EU rate and that which the requesting nation would obtain by sourcing on the market at the spread commensurate with its country risk level.

Restrictions eased for migrant workers in Singapore dorms
Asia Pacific Focus

Restrictions eased for migrant workers in Singapore dorms

Migrant workers in Singapore: Singapore’s government has approved migrant workers in dormitories to use communal facilities

The Singaporean government has gradually eased the restrictions on migrant workers in dormitories as COVID-19 infections have plunged in the country. On Thursday, Tung Yui Fai, chief of the Ministry of Manpower’s Assurance, Care and Engagement (Ace) Group, had stated that the threat of COVID-19 cases reappearing in the migrant workers’ dormitories has gradually reduced, following which the authorities took the decision to ease precautionary restrictions. 

As per new protocols, migrant workers from selected dorms will be provided regular catered meals on their work days in addition to the provision of using communal cooking facilities on rest days to make their own food. 

Furthermore, they have been allowed to use recreational facilities such as gymnasiums and sports grounds on their rest days, in accordance with the regulations of the dormitory operators. 

As per media reports, Singaporean authorities have been easing the COVID-19 preventive restrictions in a calibrated manner since November.

However, the authorities are yet to decide a time frame for allowing these migrant workers to return to the community. According to Tung Yui Fai, migrant workers’ return will depend on various factors, including the effective operation of contact tracing. To carry out contact tracing, migrant workers living or working in dorms and other sectors will have to be equipped with a contact tracing device known as BluePass tokens. Singaporean authorities are providing migrant workers with these devices that allow them to exchange information with each other.  

The Singaporean government had imposed restrictions on more than 300,000 migrant workers living in dormitories in April in line with the nationwide efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the region. These migrant workers, who have travelled from countries like Bangladesh, India and China, are living in crowded dormitories that house a dozen or more men in a single room. Evidently, these migrant workers’ dormitories became the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore, noting that more than 90 percent of all cases lived in the dorms. 

By March, authorities implemented movement restrictions and staggered timings for entry and exit and using the common facilities across various dormitories. 

In April 2020, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo has announced a three-pronged strategy to contain the spread of the virus transmission in all dormitories, under which they were put under lockdown. At the same time, workers who tested positive for COVID-19 and people who came in their contact would be put in isolation and healthy and essential workers would be shifted to alternative facilities including empty housing blocks and military camps.

Last month, the government announced that the closure of the last COVID-19 cluster in a migrant worker dormitory, indicating that there are no active clusters in the country now. Meanwhile, the authorities will continue to ensure measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the island nation.

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