BROOKINGS’ FUTURE DEVELOPMENT published ‘The brave new world of 2021’ per Homi Kharas reproduced here for reasons of trying and spread as wide as practicable these wise words. These, by the way, might as well apply to the MENA region. In any case here is:
Editor’s Note: To kick off the Future Development blog in 2021, we present the second piece in a four-part series on how 2021 will be different from 2020. See the first installment.
In the novel “Brave New World,” Aldous Huxley writes: “Their world didn’t allow them … to be sane, virtuous, happy. … They were not conditioned to obey … what with all the diseases … uncertainties and poverty … they were forced to feel strongly … [so] how could they be stable?” He goes on to describe a world where peace and stability are achieved only through building a system in which human beings all behave the same, organized by an all-powerful nanny state.
Enter 2021. We will have our fill of diseases, uncertainties, and poverty in every country. We almost certainly need collaborative action to avoid traps on the path to sustainable development, but thankfully, we do not have to make all humans behave in the same way to achieve them.
Emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs) are entering 2021 with a high level and steep rise in new COVID-19 cases per week. In summer 2020, EMDEs had appeared to reach a plateau of around 200,000 new cases per week, a level that was stable for about 4 months until November. Since then, the number of new cases per week has started to accelerate, has already roughly doubled, and shows no signs of stabilizing at a new plateau yet. COVAX, the international consortium making donor-funded vaccines available to developing countries, hopes to start its first shipments in the first quarter of 2021, and has set itself a target of delivering 2 billion doses during 2021, but it is still far short of being financially and technically able to meet this goal. On the disease front, 2021 may be more hopeful for many people in EMDEs who can start to see the endgame but will almost certainly be far worse in terms of outcomes—deaths, hospitalizations, and number of total cases—compared to 2020.
Looking into the future is particularly difficult for 2021. For EMDEs, there is a range of commodity price uncertainties that are of first-order import for some countries and regions. The slowest rebounds in economic growth in 2021 are projected right now to be in commodity-exporting regions like Latin America, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa, but these countries could surprise if commodity prices were to strengthen.
A second major uncertainty is over debt and flows of capital. The worst fears of widespread debt defaults in 2020 did not come to pass. A combination of a moratorium for some countries, a drawdown of reserves for others, and the ability of still others to access capital markets, albeit paying higher risk premia, helped stave off the worst effects. But matters could deteriorate in 2021. There is over $100 billion in external debt service due from 61 countries who are likely to face serious financing difficulties. As we have shown in an earlier paper, at least half of this is owed by countries that need significant debt relief. Yet despite the lessons of history (negotiate haircuts, act with speed, treat all creditors fairly), there is nothing on the table to implement serious programs. Everyone seems to be against the current process of waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop, and then entering into protracted negotiations on a case-by-case basis where power and connections dictate what each creditor can extract. But bad as it is, this outcome seems preferable to the idea of a collective international effort to minimize the development damage.
Global poverty numbers have become a headline, rather than a driver of change. The extraordinary turnaround from a world that was seeing annual reductions in poverty of 100 million people per year in 2013 to an increase in poverty of 100 million in 2020 has been almost totally disregarded. No new global programs have been put on the table, aid is at best holding steady, and conflict, climate change, political repression, and economic depressions are taking their toll.
Entering 2021, more autocratic states in East Asia are doing far better in protecting economic livelihoods than more individualistic and democratic states elsewhere. The shadow of 1984 is long.
Yet there are grounds for optimism.
The first is that agreement on the correct way forward has never been stronger. Deniers of the merits of sustainable development—in its full meaning of economic, social, and governance sustainability—are in retreat. Everyone, from governments at G-20, IMF, and U.N. meetings, to corporations at the World Economic Forum summit, to civil society advocates, agrees that sustainable development is the only path. It’s no coincidence that the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020 was awarded to the World Food Program, and that the Nobel Prize for economics went to Robert Wilson and Paul Milgrom for their work on auction theory that is the bedrock for the design of programs to allocate rights to emit greenhouse gases.
2021 could well go down as the year when the business community finally commits to sustainable development.
A second reason for optimism is technology. Bringing a vaccine to the market in under a year was an extraordinary feat only made possible by advances in science, artificial intelligence, and digitization. Government social assistance programs in response to COVID-19 may have benefited 1.8 billion people in 2020, with 1.1 billion new recipients being registered. Along with colleagues at Brookings and the Japan International Cooperation Agency Ogata Research Institute, I am co-editing a collection of wonderful expert contributions on new breakthroughs to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, a topic which has gone from anecdotal to extensive in just a few years. The range and ambition of these breakthroughs, the science as well as the applications, is immense.
2021 could be the year when we see major technological breakthroughs either happening or likely to happen in the not-too-far-distant future.
My friend Paul O’Brien has a new book in which he quotes Thomas Friedman as saying “pessimists are usually right and optimists are usually wrong, but all the great changes have been accomplished by optimists.” Let’s all be optimists in 2021.
Researchers have advanced understanding of how wireless charging roads might influence driver behaviour.
By applying statistical geometry to analysing urban road networks, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) researchers have developed city planning in a future where electric vehicles (EVs) dominate the car market.
“Our work is motivated by the global trend of moving towards green transportation and EVs,” says postdoc Mustafa Kishk.
“Efficient dynamic charging systems, such as wireless power transfer systems installed under roads, are being developed by researchers and technology companies around the world as a way to charge EVs while driving without the need to stop. In this context, there is a need to mathematically analyse the large-scale deployment of charging roads in metropolitan cities.”
Many factors come into play when charging roads are added to the urban road network. Drivers may seek out charging roads on their commute, which has implications for urban planning and traffic control. Meanwhile, the density of charging road installations in a city, and the likely time spent on and between the charging roads by commuters, could influence the size of batteries installed in EVs by car manufacturers.
Calculating the metrics that could be used to analyze a charging road network is very significant, as Kishk’s lab colleague, Duc Minh Nguyen, explains.
“Our main challenge is that the metrics used to evaluate the performance of dynamic charging deployment, such as the distance to the nearest charging road on a random trip, depend on the starting and ending points of each trip,” says Nguyen.
“To correctly capture those metrics, we had to explicitly list all possible situations, compute the metrics in each case and evaluate how likely it is for each situation to happen in reality. For this, we used an approach called stochastic geometry to model and analyze how these metrics are affected by factors such as the density of roads and the frequency of dynamic charging deployment.”
Applying this analysis to the Manhattan area of New York, which has a road density of one road every 63 meters, Kishk and Nguyen with research leader Mohamed-Slim Alouini determined that a driver would have an 80 percent chance of encountering a charging road after driving for 500 meters when wireless charging is installed on 20 percent of roads.
“This is the first study to incorporate stochastic geometry into the performance analysis of charging road deployment in metropolitan cities,” Kishk says. “It is an important step towards a better understanding of charging road deployment in metropolitan cities.”
Kevin Schembri Orland in his eNGOs’ 2021 wish list: Stronger legal, environmental protection, fossil-fuel-free vision might as well be addressing not only the specifics of Malta but the whole of the MENA region. Let us see if apart from the no so distant proximity, there are other similarities.
3 January 2021
Legislative and policy changes, including on building heights, certain changes to the constitution and the move towards a fossil fuel-free Malta are among the things environmental NGOs wish to see in Malta in the new year. Kevin Schembri Orland spoke to some of the main environmental lobby groups.
‘Many policies were designed around the needs of developers… this needs to change’ – Moviment Graffitti
Andre Callus from Moviment Graffitti mentioned three points.
The first regards planning policies. “In 2020 we issued a document titled Reforming Planning and Construction in Malta, where among other things, we listed a number of policies which need to change. As an example, we mentioned the rural policy on which a consultation was launched yet until now has not been changed, also on the policy which allows hotels in certain cases to rise as much as the developer wants, or in other circumstances where policies allow big development in areas that cannot handle it.”
He said that there were many policies that were designed and centred around the needs of developers rather than the people. These need to change, he said, “to respect the environment and the people. Right now, they do not and communities around the country face applications that threaten their quality of life all the time. Some of the applications literally speak of hundreds of apartments that will be built on one spot. These applications radically change the lives of the residents in the area and have a negative impact.”
The second point revolves around the way authorities related to environment and planning operate, which include the Planning Authority, the Environment and Resources Authority and even the Lands Authority, in the way government land is given to third parties.
“There are a number of different authorities that, right now, are not transparent and, clearly, certain people and lobby groups with a lot of money have certain control over them. Decisions are seen to be taken to aid particular interests which is undemocratic and allows space for corruption. We believe that the way these authorities take decisions needs to change. We had made suggestions in terms of how they should change, and the people who are appointed to such boards should be done through a Parliamentary process and not simply be appointed by a minister, as is the case today.”
The third point is about farmers. “We have fought many battles over farmland, the most recent one in Qormi.” He said that Infrastructure Malta does what it wants and bullies residents and farmers, “moving into their land killing their products in order to pass a road or widen them which in some cases do not even make sense.”
“Aside from damaging our environment they are also taking farmers’ land.”
“They are showing great disrespect towards such an important sector.”
All major projects should be suspended pending independent social impact and carrying capacity studies – Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar
Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) Coordinator Astrid Vella spoke about the need to revise planning regulations as well as the need for pedestrian spaces to no longer be eaten up by tables and chairs.
In 2021, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) would like to see residents’ health and quality of life given their rightful importance in planning laws and decisions. “As such we urge the authorities to immediately revise planning regulations that undermine residents’ quality of life and the integrity of Maltese towns and villages, such as Annex 1 of the Design Guidelines 2015, which allows extra heights all over Malta and Gozo and the all-important Sanitary Law which was watered down to favour developers at the cost of residents’ health. Enforcement of building regulations, air and noise pollution laws is a must.”
“All major projects, tall buildings and applications for extra storeys for hotels and care homes for the elderly (which violates the National Health Strategy) should be suspended pending independent social impact and carrying capacity studies to assess localities’ ability to cope with more building in terms of population density, transport and utilities.”
She said that to make towns and villages healthier and more liveable, “we maintain that it is necessary to enact laws to forbid the destruction of old urban gardens and green spaces, enact an effective tree protection law that prevents further destruction of mature trees, and regulations preventing the demolition of unscheduled houses of heritage value. Bars, cafes and restaurants should no longer be allowed to take over public spaces/pavements with tables and chairs so as to improve the ability to walk in towns and villages.”
“Similarly, more cycling lanes and pedestrian priority areas need to be established rather than having cars and motorways taking over public spaces and even public gardens as is happening at Gżira, where the MIDI project will gobble up much of the Gżira promenade and public garden, while the Msida Creek flyover will totally destroy Msida as we know it.”
“Most importantly, the authorities should start purchasing unbuilt green spaces in urban areas, such as the site of the Razzett l-Antik in Fgura (now-destroyed) and Manoel Island, in order to convert them into public parks which are essential to residents’ physical and mental health.”
BirdLife Malta hopes that the natural environment footprint in the country does not decrease any further
BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana spoke about looking ahead towards the action being taken over Malta’s spring hunting derogation by the European Commission and also spoke about Malta’s natural environment footprint.
Sultana hopes that the government realises “that the public deserves a healthy natural environment and that the natural environment footprint in the country does not decrease any further.”
“I hope that there will not be any further use of natural habitats for the benefit of the economy. It needs to be the other way around and health must come first. I hope that Covid-19 has opened our eyes more on this issue.”
BirdLife Malta is also looking forward to understanding how the European Commission will react to the government’s replies regarding the two derogations that are now being challenged at EU level – the Spring hunting derogation and the Finch trapping for scientific research derogation, and as to how the EU Commission will proceed.
“It is unfortunate that in 2021 we will not see the government be courageous enough to take decisions in favour of birds and natural habitats and therefore we will need to rely on the European Commission to ensure that it abides by the Birds and Habitats Directive.”
Din L-Art Ħelwa will push for stronger protection of natural and urban heritage to be included in the Constitution.
Din L-Art Ħelwa’s (DLĦ) Executive President Professor Alex Torpiano spoke about the environment minister and the need for changes in the way public consultation is handled, among other things.
Torpiano said that the new environment minister (Aaron Farrugia) has been saying the right things and added that DLĦ will continue to support him to achieve environmental improvement goals as well as for possible changes to the Planning Authority that need to be done in order to save urban areas “which, at the moment are under threat.” He said however, that while DLĦ supports what Farrugia is saying he wants to change, they have not seen the changes being made yet.
He said that DLĦ will continue to push for more community participation in decisions, for better understanding of the value of our urban spaces and the importance of having green areas inside urban areas.
“We hope to convince the government and developers that granting permission to build everywhere to a maximum of five floors and higher in other places is damaging. Some areas can take it but in many, it is ruinous for the urban space, particularly if in a row of two or three storey houses one owner decides that they want to build up because policies allow it. I believe that the policies are wrong as they allow this type of activity everywhere in Malta. Safi, for example, is not the same as Qormi and Għarb is not the same as Sliema. Having the same policies apply does not make sense. We think that the minister is beginning to understand this point and is trying to find the ways with which to resolve this issue.
The DLĦ Executive President expects that, in 2021, there will be advances in the discussions revolving around Malta’s Constitution. “As DLĦ we will push for stronger protection for natural and urban heritage to be included in the Constitution. By stronger protection, I mean not just a statement – because there is such a statement already – but it is not currently enforceable. Unfortunately, it is one of those clauses which is a statement of principle but is not enforceable. In other words, civil society cannot sue the government for passing a law which is clearly damaging the environment or urban heritage. We believe that it is time for civil society to have stronger powers to prevent the damage that the government is meant to protect from. In reality, we wouldn’t need this if the institutions were doing their jobs properly. Institutions have been, over the past years, biased towards development.”
This, he said, is because development is an easy way to help the economy. He said that the GDP is a crude measurement of the economy, but it does not take into consideration other economic aspects. “For example, if the character of Gozo is lost it will impact the tourism industry and development can impact people’s quality of health. There are hidden economic aspects which people need to become more aware about.”
He hit out at the consultation processes in Malta. “The PA regularly publishes calls for comments… People submit their comments, say they do not agree, they are formally noted and then ignored. Unfortunately, it has been inculcated in us that this is the way things have to be done, but this is not true as other countries have found systems whereby the community truly decides what is of benefit for the community and ultimately it is the constitution that must protect this right.”
‘A vision for a fossil fuel-free Malta must be drawn up’ – Friends of the Earth Malta
Friends of the Earth Malta Director Martin Galea De Giovanni spoke of the vision of a fossil fuel-free Malta, the wish to renationalise the energy sector, and the implementation of waste reduction measures.
He said that 2020 will be remembered as the year the world hit pause on our daily lives and economies in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Friends of the Earth Malta would like to see a green and just post-Covid-19 recovery, both on a national and European scale. We must ensure that the economy we build back is more resilient, fairer, and less destructive to our planet. This is the right moment for the government to support citizens at a time when many are already struggling to pay their bills. Instead of supporting big businesses, future economic stimulus packages could help finance renewable energy support schemes and make homes more energy efficient.”
A vision for a fossil fuel-free Malta must be drawn up, researched, and plans for a fossil fuel-free Malta put in place, he said. “Ensure implementation of the current Climate Action Act (2015). Start the process to review the Act in order to make it more ambitious in a way to reflect the current reality of a climate emergency. A climate change adaptation strategy should be put in place, given inevitable climate effects in the coming decades even if all emissions were to stop tomorrow.”
In terms of waste management, FoE is hoping to see the implementation of waste reduction measures, such as the single use plastic ban which has been rolled out as of 1st of January 2021 and the introduction of the deposit-refund scheme for beverage containers. “We encourage similar initiatives which reduce the scale of the waste problem rather than promote unsustainable consumption.”
The government must shift towards agro-ecology and food sovereignty, he said. “We’ll be continuing our work together with other NGOs coming together from across the whole European Union to call for bee-friendly farming. With our European Citizens’ Initiative, we are calling on the European Commission to support an agricultural model that allows farmers and biodiversity to thrive in harmony.”
“We need to protect nature and green spaces and ensure people have access to them, especially within our densely populated urban environment. We need protection of mature trees – not just on paper. Although planting more trees is a positive initiative, let us not delude ourselves into believing that planting saplings have the same positive benefits for our environment and wellbeing as mature trees. The same applies for replacing trees from urban environments and replanting them away from communities.”
FoE Malta also believes that there can be no environmental justice without proper and fair democratic institutions and structures. “This is the right time for people to say no in response to the many decades of having politicians from both PN and PL parties in government roll out the red carpet to dubious tycoons, autocratic leaders and tax evaders. The value systems brought about by politicians and their ‘as long as the economy is fine anything goes’ mantra have now led to some of the biggest environmental and social injustices suffered by the country.”
Friends of the Earth Malta demands that all national institutions “be freed from political manipulation and thus serve the public interest rather than politicians and big business. All large tenders and planning applications that were dished out over the past years must be investigated by an independent authority. We also demand that national services such as the power station be renationalized in the interest of the general public.”
That is the story of the Dakar 2021 where a certain Al-Attiyah, a backpacker in search of glory near his land. The Dakar Rally 2021 route, features about 5,000 kilometres made up of 12 stages. Despite months of uncertainty mainly due to the pandemic, this 43rd edition is the second to be held in Saudi Arabia. It will start on 3 January from Jeddah and finish on 15 January in the same place. Nasser Al-Attiyah, a native of Qatar, is the favourite candidate to take the top prize. Here is his story as told by the France 24 television edition of today.
2 January 2021
Dakar 2021: Al-Attiyah, backpacker in search of glory near his land
Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP)
He knew the Dakar when he still arrived in the capital of Senegal and signed his three victories in the famous rally-raid in South America, but Nasser Al-Attiyah still has a dream: to win in Saudi Arabia, in the environment of the Gulf countries that he knows so well.
At 50, the Qatari driver is taking part at the wheel of his Toyota Hilux from Sunday in his 17th edition of the Dakar.
And it is an understatement to say that Al-Attiyah loves the Dakar: since his first participation in 2004, he has posted a worse result, when he did not give up, a 10th place, precisely for his debut in the rally-raid. who was still arguing in Africa.
Since then, he has entered his name on the charts three times (2011, 2015, 2019) with three different cars, and has won at least one stage per edition without stopping since … 2007 for a total of 35 successes!
But Al-Attiyah remains by his own admission on “a big disappointment”: he nevertheless finished 2nd in the 2020 edition, behind the Spaniard Carlos Sainz (Mini), but for the start of the Dakar in the Saudi desert, he was another goal was set.
“It was great to be in a new region with incredible landscapes and above all, we were very confident, but from the start of the rally, we started to have punctures. In all, I suffered eleven punctures”, he recalled on the official Dakar 2021 website.
– 150 km of cycling –
The tire problems, used until then for South America, resolved, “NAA” has also adapted its physical preparation.
While he focused on endurance, adapted to low oxygen levels at high altitude in South America, he worked his muscle building to tame the dunes of the Saudi desert on the program of the twelve stages of this Dakar 2021. until January 15.
“I adopted a different physical program which focuses on building muscle,” he told AFP.
With his co-driver since 2015, Frenchman Matthieu Baumel, “we train according to the countries where the Dakar takes place”, underlined the driver born in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
“The program varies between cycling 100 to 150 kilometers per day, running or other exercises,” said the man who is nicknamed “Superman” in his country.
With the confinement imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the champion had to adapt.
– “Dance on the dunes” –
“I have a simulator at home and a gym that kept me in the rally spirit,” he explained.
Al-Attiyah is a symbol of the rise on the international scene of Qatar, a small emirate of the Arabian Peninsula that has become in a few decades an essential name in the field of sport in particular.
Before training in the gigantic and luxurious Aspire sports complex in Doha, Al-Attiyah experienced difficulties in his youth in financing his ambitions to become a great racing driver.
The one who is said to “dance on the sand dunes” has forged an impressive track record in rally as well as in rally-raid: he has been 16 times Middle Eastern champion, WRC2 world champion or four times winner. of the World Cup off-road rallies.
He also shone at the Olympic Games, shotgun in hand, to finish 4th in the skeet event at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and 3rd at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
While waiting for a new Olympic challenge in Tokyo this summer, Al-Attiyah is aiming for a fourth coronation on the Dakar. Everything is looking good: in October he won the Andalusia rally and his car will be struck with the number 301, just like in his successes in 2015 and 2019.
The Earth’s climate has naturally varied from time to time, between getting hotter or colder for periods of differing historical spans. Nowadays, things have gone so apparent in the sense that the above natural process as it were has mutated to a faster pace. Why? All agree that it undeniably is an inevitable change in the Earth’s climate and that it is no more a natural process, but a human-made one. So, battling Climate Change and how every individual can help would be a good question.
After abusing and depleting the Earth’s resources for hundreds of years, we are now faced with the harsh reality of climate change. The planet’s temperature is slowly rising and causing more erratic weather conditions with this last decade being the hottest on record.
The time to act is now. Two artists have tried to communicate the urgency of this message by installing a ‘climate clock’ in Manhattan’s Union Square. This countdown warns that if our current greenhouse gas emissions do not slow down before the deadline, the damage we will have done will be irreversible. Given the looming window of opportunity to battle climate change, here are various ways that you can help.
1. Get Informed
Many contend that we are currently living in the age of technology and information. This is indeed a blessing, as we have countless resources available with the click of a button. Nevertheless, it is also a curse as we are subjected to a lot of disinformation and fake news regarding important subjects like climate change. Even President Donald Trump propagated the myth that climate change is a hoax. It is essential that you read up on the facts surrounding climate change. Look for reliable news sources and environmental blogs to keep up to date.
2. Take Action
Once you are informed, it is time to take action in whichever way you can. There are many different ways to help battle climate change. You can ask your energy provider if they offer any services with renewable and clean power sources. In your everyday life, you should avoid driving when possible and opt for carpooling or public transport instead. Make informed food choices, such as eating less meat or purchasing ingredients from a sustainable soy production supplier.
You can also avoid purchasing fast fashion and try to buy second-hand pieces instead. Re-cycling old possessions is also a great way to help the environment as many discarded items end up in a landfill for hundreds of years.
3. Rally Others
Rallying others is one of the best ways to help tackle the climate crisis. Every small change can help make a large-scale impact on the environment, therefore the more changes the better. Open up a climate conversation with friends or family and try to shine some light on their carbon footprint. What can they do to reduce this? Don’t refrain from rallying some of the bigger players on the field too!
Companies have a corporate social responsibility and you, as a customer, have the right to demand change. Contact a senate or member of congress and ask them for support too.
We only have one planet so we must do everything we can in order to save it. Although attitudes towards climate change have been shifting in a positive manner, there is still much more that we can do. If everyone does their part, including large corporations and governments, we can all strive towards a more sustainable and greener lifestyle.
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