The rise of ISIS

first_imgThe Sunni extremist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has waged a violent campaign in recent months, capturing large areas of territory in both countries. In June, the group declared itself a new Islamist caliphate, or formal Islamic state, and proclaimed leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the caliph. Experts worry about what the rise of the Jihadist group will mean for the future of Iraq, for the stability of the region, and for United States security.Political scientist Harith Hasan al-Qarawee studies state-society relations, political transitions, and identity politics in Iraq and the Middle East. The 2014-2015 Robert G. James Scholar at Risk Fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, he is working on a book titled “Transnational Sectarianism: State’s Disintegration and Sunni-Shia Divide in the Middle East.”The Gazette recently spoke with al-Qarawee about the rise of ISIS.GAZETTE: Can you describe ISIS in relationship to al-Qaeda?AL-QARAWEE: ISIS is the latest incarnation of a group called Tanẓīm Qāʻidat al-Jihād fī Bilād al-Rāfidayn, or the organization of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which was formed in 2004. The group, although it declared allegiance to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, was a highly independent body that had organizational and ideological differences from al-Qaeda. The group adopted a very fundamentalist and exclusionary interpretation of Islam, saw itself as the only “victorious sect” in Islam, and considered Shias [Shiites, who constitute 55-60 percent of Iraqis] deviants and legitimate targets of its attacks. The group and its subsequent incarnations were shaped by the nature of conflict in Iraq that took an increasingly sectarian characteristic. Unlike al-Qaeda that prioritized the conflict with the West, ISIS deemed conflict with Shias central to its success because it sought to create a territorial state of its own. If al-Qaeda was an outcome of the conflict in Afghanistan, ISIS is an outcome of conflicts and states’ failures in Iraq and the Levant.GAZETTE: What does the rise of ISIS mean for Iraq? What does it mean for the West? Is ISIS a greater threat to United States security than al-Qaeda?AL-QARAWEE: The rise of ISIS in Iraq means that once again we are facing the failure of [the] post-colonial state in the region. Post-Saddam [Hussein] Iraq, which was supposed to become a model of democracy and inclusivity, ended up as a fragile state strongly weakened by ethnic and sectarian divides. That has something to do with both the pillars on which the current regime was established and the failed policies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. However, to understand the roots of problem, we need to examine the unsuccessful processes of nation-building in the region. These processes have failed partly because of the exclusionary politics that characterized the behavior of all regimes that ruled Iraq, including the current one.Now, ISIS’s focus is on building its own state and consolidating its power in the areas it managed to control. Therefore, most of the fighting it has engaged in was against others who are contesting this control, and I expect this will be the case in the near future. However, as a Jihadist organization claiming to represent the true Islamic Khilafat, its project will not stop at the current borders and it will continue seeking to expand its territory, which will lead to a more direct clash with the U.S. and Western interests. As the conflict continues, ISIS might have its own internal disagreements about the future, and I expect two kinds of disputes:First, a dispute with local populations and the more indigenous groups that have their distinct concerns and priorities other than the strict interpretation of Sharia law, and this dispute is already in place in Syria and some parts of Iraq.The second conflict will be within the organization between its Iraqi wing that might prioritize the “sectarian conflict” with Shias and issues related to communal identity, and the global wing that adopts the ideology of jihad and looks beyond Iraq.GAZETTE: Do you think Iraq will split along sectarian lines, Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish? What would that kind of division mean for the United States?AL-QARAWEE: Iraq is already splitting along these lines as the Shia-dominated government loses control over Sunni areas. Apparently, neither the U.S. nor most regional powers benefit from Iraq’s disintegration because it is a formula for the creation of three fragile semi-states. This division will mean long struggles within and between the emerging entities, while regional powers such as Iran and Turkey seek to subordinate some of them. This is already happening, as the Shia groups are increasingly seeking support and protection from Iran, while Kurdistan is increasingly dependent on Turkey. Sunni areas will keep witnessing long fighting between ISIS and other groups, not to mention the fact that they will be impoverished because, unlike the south and Kurdistan, they do not have their own resources. If the U.S. recognizes that an action [is] needed to prevent this scenario, then it needs to engage more proactively and support new arrangements that help sharing and decentralizing power and leading a collective action against ISIS. Iraq needs a new compact that the Iraqi elite alone cannot reach. There is also a need to involve other regional powers in a collective action based on facing ISIS and at the same time a commitment to bridge the sectarian gap in the whole region.GAZETTE: You have said that you think the political transformation that Iraq needs in the near term is unlikely. Why?AL-QARAWEE: For those following Iraq’s news, it is obvious that, one, the current system is broken, and, two, Iraqi politicians drive a slow machine that cannot anticipate developments on the ground. Iraq lacks state-builders, which is exactly what we need today. The current crisis requires competent and confident leaders who have a clear vision and the will to make genuine concessions. Unfortunately, the current debate in Iraq is more about personalities than about institutions, and it has not elaborated any serious solutions for problems the country is facing.GAZETTE: What will the future hold for Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq? Can he form a new government that will be successful? If not, can anyone on the current political scene succeed in doing so?AL-QARAWEE: Here, I have two things to say.First, if Maliki manages to stay in power, things will only get worse. Maliki is a divisive figure in a time that requires more unity … who lacks any strategic vision for the country and has already shown authoritarian tendencies. His policies are more about his own survival than about building a state and broadening the legitimacy of his government. He belongs to a political culture that views state-building through traditional exclusionary tools such as centralization, consolidating personal power, and patronage.Second, while Maliki is a problem, he is not the only problem. Iraq suffers two chronic problems that need to be addressed.One, sectarianism has become entrenched within the system, and therefore made it difficult for any political actor to gain influence and build constituency without resorting to identity politics. We need to change the paradigm of Iraq from a country of ethnicities and sects into one based on citizenship politics. This can happen by changing the electoral law and make major amendments to the constitution.Two, Iraq depends highly on oil resources that represent about 95 percent of its governmental budget. Rentier states (which rely strongly on natural resources to thrive) tend to empower the elite and weaken civil society, which is what had happened in Iraq under the Saddam regime and is being repeated today. While it is idealistic to talk about the diversification of Iraq’s economy in the foreseeable future, there is a need to make major changes in the way oil wealth is managed. Decentralization will help prevent the accumulation of revenues in the hands of those who control the central government. But then we need to develop that further to make sure it will not create authoritarian elites in the regions.GAZETTE: Can Maliki, or someone else, form a coalition government that includes the Sunnis, making them less likely to turn to ISIS?AL-QARAWEE: The problem here is multifaceted. It is not impossible for any prime minister to give executive positions in his cabinet for Sunni politicians; in fact, this was the case under Maliki’s two terms. The problem is the belief that only by gaining executive positions, a community can feel included. This formula of distributing governmental positions among conflicting parties actually led to creating ineffective governments that lack unity and turn state’s institutions into fiefdoms of conflicting parties. This is exactly what made Maliki popular among Iraqi Shias, because his program focused on forming a majority government rather than apportioning cabinet positions among political parties. Iraq needs decentralization rather than building a grand central government. In addition, Sunni political elites are facing today an existential crisis after ISIS has driven most of its members outside their constituencies. So, assuming that ISIS will be forced out of the cities it is controlling now, there will be a need to recognize who are the genuine representatives of Sunni communities. I think a change within the Sunni political spectrum is inevitable.GAZETTE: What does the rise of ISIS mean for women in Syria and Iraq?AL-QARAWEE: More strict measures and marginalization. These groups consider women objects and deny them any existence as social actors. It is important to recognize that Islamic fundamentalism is a powerful ideology in these societies and it has “indoctrinated” many women to accept their lower social status. As the groups consolidate their control in these areas, they follow a very strict version of Sharia law, while trying to strengthen their cultural hegemony through tools of socialization. Today, the situation of women in the Arab world, and areas of conflict in particular, is clear evidence of the failure in the traditional approaches of modernization and development. In sociological terms, ISIS is the outcome of this failure, and its ideology represents a regression from any previous achievements. This is important to highlight in order to clarify that military means only cannot secure victory against ISIS and its like.last_img read more

Harvard AIDS Institute: Founded 30 years ago

first_img Read Full Story The year was 1988. People were afraid. A total a 106,994 people had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and 62,101 were dead. Scientists were making progress, but there was no effective treatment. One night the evening news would feature protests by AIDS activists demanding faster drug approval. The next night the news featured parents demanding kids with HIV be barred from public schools.On May 6, 1988, Harvard President Derek Bok announced the establishment of the Harvard AIDS Institute (HAI) to expand and accelerate AIDS research at Harvard. “The conquest of AIDS will require the commitment of experts concentrated at the School of Public Health, the Medical School and its teaching hospitals as well as from many disciplines throughout the University,” said Bok. “The Institute’s mission is to focus our resources and redouble our efforts.”Bok named Myron “Max” Essex, a virologist at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), to lead the Institute. According to Essex, “HAI was the brainchild of Harvey Fineberg,” who was HSPH Dean at the time.“I wanted Harvard to declare a clear and compelling commitment to cope with the AIDS epidemic,” remembered Fineberg. “To deal with it not just as an intellectual problem, but as a practical and social problem. Max Essex was the obvious choice to lead the enterprise. He had been at the center of research on retroviruses and what later became HIV/AIDS research.”After arriving at Harvard in 1972, Essex quickly made his mark. He showed that feline leukemia was caused by a type of infectious disease — a retrovirus — which could also suppress the animal’s immune system. In the early 1980s, when the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta began investigating deaths in gay men with immunosuppression, Jim Curran, who led the investigation, called Essex for help and sent samples to his lab. Scientists were searching for the cause of what would later be named AIDS.Essex was one of the first researchers to hypothesize that a retrovirus was the cause of AIDS. Later, he and a graduate student, Tun-Hou Lee, identified gp120, the envelope protein of the virus which became the basis for HIV tests. Essex, graduate student Phyllis Kanki, and their colleagues discovered SIV, an AIDS-like virus in monkeys. They also identified HIV-2 in West Africa, a virus similar to but less lethal than the more common HIV-1.“It was a time when discoveries were happening almost monthly — major discoveries,” remember Richard Marlink, a young doctor who joined the Essex team. “Tun-Hou Lee and Phyllis Kanki and others were figuring out where the virus came from and how it worked.”As AIDS took hold in the 1980s, Essex and his team collaborated with other scientists and clinicians in the Boston area, including Martin Hirsch, head of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital; William Haseltine, a molecular biologist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute; and Jerome Groopman, an oncologist studying AIDS-associated cancers at the Deaconess Hospital.last_img read more

Open Networking Delivers Break-Through Economics

first_imgCommunications Service Providers (CSPs) must adapt to a rapidly changing digital world. And many seek an architectural change away from proprietary and towards open systems to do so. Dell EMC has been leading the Open Networking charge, enabling this strategic shift by providing a path to greater service agility combined with break-through economics.ACG Research published a report today validating a new breed of infrastructure rollouts and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) modernization projects.The study findingsThe findings overwhelmingly demonstrate the value of open, disaggregated and best-of-breed solutions compared to tightly integrated single-vendor systems. The study showcases the Dell EMC product portfolio as deployed in a production environment by a large Tier 1 CSP. Specifically, the ACG report highlights:Up to 3X faster for service agility, enabled at 65% less costUp to 43 percent and 53 percent lower OPEX and CAPEX respectivelyUp to 47 percent lower overall TCOWe view these figures as clear proof of the dramatic benefits of Open Networking, and should provide you with the confidence knowing that service innovation and agility plus profitability can be achieved as you invest to modernize your infrastructure.The Dell EMC portfolio in actionThis report is also an opportunity for us to highlight that the Dell EMC portfolio showcased; specifically the S6000-series and S4000-series Open Networking switches equipped with Big Switch Networks Big Cloud Fabric TM software; the PowerEdge R630, and the PowerVault MD3460; have met some of the most stringent Telco requirements for robustness, uncompromised performance; including, for example, NEBS Level 3 certification, combined with some of the most stringent security standards compliance for mission-critical verticals/applicationsSummary and next stepsThis study independently validates our strategy of delivering openness, service agility and break-through economics through infrastructure modernization.  At Dell EMC, we offer a continuum of deployment options with various degrees of integration, from “do-it-yourself” best-in class compute, storage and networking platforms, to fully-validated end-to-end solutions that can unlock new revenue streams.I am confident that we can greatly enhance your ability to drive revenue, innovate faster and transform the economics of your infrastructure; while better preparing you for a wave of new applications, revenue and connectivity models.Please visit our 2017 Mobile World Congress (MWC) site for more on related solutions and additional presentations on ACG Research’s findings.last_img read more

Jeremy Secomb, London’s Javert, on Playing a Baddie in Les Miserables

first_img View Comments Jeremy Secomb moved to London from his native Australia over 17 years ago, since then he has risen through the ranks to become a West End leading man. Last year, he won raves in the title role of Sweeney Todd in a pint-sized production just next door to the Queen’s Theatre, where he is currently starring as Javert in Les Miserables—a production he joined last June. The genial actor spoke to about taking on projects large and small and why, for the moment anyway, he isn’t burning to play Jean Valjean.Are you excited to have your first leading role in the West End be in a musical?Absolutely! I’ve been here for a good while and done quite a few jobs but this is my first principal role apart from Sweeney Todd, and that of course was in a tiny production whereas this is the original Les Miserables.Yes, and how many original productions of any show are still running?I was playing Javert the night of our 30th anniversary and Cameron Mackintosh said how the show was going to outlive us all and what an amazing achievement it was to be a producer of something that’s going to outlive everyone who’s ever done it.Did you know the show well before you came to be in it?Funnily enough, I did an amateur production when I was in my early 20s back in Australia, up on the Gold Coast in Queensland. I played Joly, one of the students—this must have been around 1993 or 1994.Is it hard to make the role your own with such a long-running show? It is a challenge because so many people move in and out of these shows and there are restraints but the fantastic thing with Les Miz is that we had a proper rehearsal schedule with the resident and associate directors and talked a lot about the characters. Some shows you go into, all you get is, “Stand there, sing the line and exit.” But on this one, we went quite in depth.Javert gets to make a strong impression with not that much stage time.The major difference between playing Valjean and Javert is that Valjean has this amazing arc that the audience sees since he is onstage 90 percent of the time whereas Javert comes on and has his moments and exits so you don’t actually see as much of an arc.In other words, you have to do more with less.Precisely, and the added challenge with Javert is that the audience on the whole thinks he’s the baddie whereas of course you can’t play a baddie. I don’t think he’s coming from that place. To me, he’s someone who has his mind on the job. The fact that it’s all about justice means that as far as Javert is concerned, Valjean has broken the law: it’s there in black and white.Do you ever think you’d like to cross over and play Valjean as several performers have done?It’s certainly a fantasy role to play Valjean but I’m extremely happy where I am at the moment. What’s particularly nice is because I’ve spent years and years singing high in parts like Piangi, the operatic tenor in The Phantom of the Opera, it’s quite nice for me for a change to do more than just sing high.You mention The Phantom: is that role on your wish list?I actually understudied the role while I was playing Piangi and got to go on quite a few times. It’s an incredible role to play, and one day I’d love to do it for a proper run; that would be a dream for me. But there are a lot of people that all want to play it, so I’m one person in a long line.Playing Sweeney in a chamber production seating fewer than 70 people must have been pretty staggering.It was amazing and at no time more surreal than when we had Angela Lansbury there in the audience—that was about as surreal as having Mr. Sondheim looking up at us. I had four weeks where I was playing Sweeney at night and rehearsing Javert during the day. That was knackering!Why do you think these mega-musicals, especially Les Miz, have endured so long?With Les Miz, I think it’s that the whole journey touches everyone, so every single person that comes to see it—whether a 10-year-old right through to people in their 80s and 90s—can relate to a particular point of anyone’s story in this show. I mean, everyone has lost a member of their family or a close friend.The musical possesses a mysterious alchemy, in a way.The fact that it was first done at the Royal Shakespeare Company and also has one of the best scores that has ever been written and has been directed and designed in such an iconic way so that it’s simple to watch and you can follow it easily—it’s the perfect storm: the stars aligned, and 30 years later it’s still going strong.last_img read more

Ag Forecast: Peanuts

first_imgUniversity of Georgia agricultural experts will give a forecast of agriculture in the coming year at a series of events set across the state in January. The new year looks bright for Georgia livestock producers, but not for many row crop farmers.Georgia Ag Forecast is an annual seminar series that informs Georgia producers and industry leaders about the market outlooks for different commodities.Economists from the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development (CAED) and UGA Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics will share their views about future markets for such commodities as cotton, peanuts, corn and livestock.The annual seminar series will be held Jan. 14-23 in Gainesville, Cartersville, Bainbridge, Lyons, Tifton and Macon. Extension livestock economists will present Georgia cattlemen with encouraging news.“I think, in 2015, cattlemen will be looking at pretty similar prices to what they had this past year, depending on when they sold. Last year we started off the year somewhere around $1.80 per pound for a 500-pound calf. That market today is almost $2.75. You’ve seen almost a $1 increase in a year,” said Curt Lacy, the Extension livestock economist based on the UGA campus in Tifton. Farmers who sold their stock in January or February of 2014 are going to receive a much better price this year, he said. Lacy expects prices to remain high, which is good news for cattlemen in Miller, Colquitt and Early counties. Those three south Georgia counties finished in the top 10 in farm gate values for beef cow production in 2013, according to the UGA CAED, joining Morgan, Madison, Carroll, Wilkes, Franklin, Jackson and Coffee counties.“I think, in general, this is about where we’re going to be for the next year or two,” Lacy said.While cattlemen can expect good news at this year’s Ag Forecast events, row crop farmers will get disappointing news. Cotton prices are hovering at 60 cents per pound, peanuts are $400 per ton and corn prices are around $4.10 per bushel. Those are discouraging figures for Georgia farmers who are planning next year’s crops. “It’s not as rosy a forecast for row crops as we’ve had in years past,” said UGA Extension agricultural economist Nathan Smith. For peanut growers, the news is especially grim as prices could fall even more as acreage is expected to increase in 2015, Smith said. “This year is more of a getting-by year, in terms of cash flow. The outlook isn’t as bright for row crops,” he said.Nearly 1,000 business people, producers and community leaders attended the seminars in 2014.“The main objective of the Ag Forecast seminar series is to provide Georgia producers and agribusiness leaders with information on where we think the industry is headed in the upcoming year,” said Kent Wolfe, director of the UGA CAED. “It helps farmers plan what they’re going to plant in the next year, but it’s also good for bankers and others who do business with farmers or who will be impacted by the farm economy.”The Georgia Ag Forecast seminar series is organized by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. This series is made possible through the Georgia Farm Bureau Land Grant University Lecture Series Endowment and is supported by the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Agribusiness Council.For more information or to register for the 2015 Ag Forecast series, see, follow @UGA_CollegeofAg on Twitter or search for #agforecast on social media.last_img read more

Laryn D. Runco named admission director at Champlain College

first_imgBURLINGTON, Vt.–Champlain College has appointed Laryn D. Runco, JD, as the Colleges new admission director. Runco comes to Champlain with 13 years of experience directing admission and enrollment at John Carroll University in Ohio. She also has a background in marketing, human resources and business development.At John Carroll University, Runco led admission efforts to increase quality and diversity in enrollment. While directing a successful enrollment management operation, she formulated strategic plans, managed a staff of 11 and oversaw a budget in excess of $1 million. She earned a bachelors degree in Spanish and minor in economics from John Carroll University, and she earned a law degree from the University of Akron.In July, Runco takes on her new role at Champlain College, a private, baccalaureate college that offers professionally focused programs balanced by a liberal arts foundation. The College is known for its innovative, rigorous programs and distinctive campus in the historic Hill Section of Burlington.# # #last_img read more

Avangrid Renewables proposes 2.5GW wind farm off the coast of North Carolina

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Avangrid Renewables LLC has submitted a construction and operations plan to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for the first phase of its proposed Kitty Hawk Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of North Carolina.Under the proposal, the wind farm will be built in multiple phases between 2021 and 2030. The first phase of the project is expected to have a capacity of 800 MW, with construction starting as early as 2024.The proposal also includes an economic impact study conducted by the Public Strategy Group, which shows that the project is estimated to generate $2 billion in economic impact from 2021 to 2030, and [is] expected to create almost 800 jobs in Virginia and North Carolina.Once all of the project phases are completed, the Kitty Hawk offshore wind farm is projected to have a total capacity of 2,500 MW, capable of generating power for 700,000 homes.Avangrid Renewables is a unit of Avangrid Inc., which is a subsidiary of Iberdrola SA.[Selene Balasta]More ($): Avangrid Renewables submits plan for 2.5-GW NC offshore wind farm Avangrid Renewables proposes 2.5GW wind farm off the coast of North Carolinalast_img read more

Gear On The Go: June 2019

first_imgMountain House: Fusilli Pasta with Italian Sausage Roofnest: Eagle Italian in the backcountry? Mountain House has you covered. Their new Fusilli Pasta with Italian Sausage is a hearty home-cooked meal when you need it the most. The entree consists of “spun fusilli pasta in a rustic tomato sauce made with fire-roasted veggies, garlic, basil, and Italian-style sausage”. This has become a go-to for late night dinners in the van after long days on the trail. The best part is that it has a clean ingredients list that would make your grandmother proud. Mountain House is committed to using only real ingredients. If you look at their ingredients list (which is listed clearly for each option on their website) you will never find artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Just delicious, ready-in-minutes food! One thing we’re stoked for this year is Mountain House’s partnership with TerraCycle, a company that offers free recycling for clean, empty Mountain House pouches. Sea To Summit’s new Aeros Down Pillow is the latest and greatest in Sea To Summit’s line of lightweight inflatable pillows. It combines the supportiveness of the traditional Aeros line with a new luxurious down pillow top that offers unparalleled comfort from an inflatable pillow. Weighing in at just 2.5 ounces, you won’t be sacrificing comfort for weight either. We use our’s whether we’re in the backcountry or just hanging out in a hammock by the van. The Aeros line of pillows really has revolutionized the way we sleep in the backcountry. Long gone are the days of sleeping with our heads on a pile of dirty laundry. Having the down pillow top is just icing on the cake. Perhaps our favorite feature of the Aeros Down Pillow is the Pillow-Lock system that ensures your pillow doesn’t slide around in the middle of the night. There is one way for this tour to be a reality– our sponsors! Sending a thank you shout out to all of our awesome sponsors that keep this tour running: Sea to Summit, Mountain House, Lowe Alpine, Leki, Big Agnes, Stio, Roofnest, and Franklin County, VA. Sea To Summit: Aeros Down Pillow The Eagle is Roofnest’s largest rooftop tent. As a family of three (two humans and a dog) we appreciate the extra space that it offers. With the interior dimensions of 6’ 10” X 55” the Roofnest has plenty of room for the three of us. What makes this our favorite rooftop tent is the ease of use. When we pull into a camp spot for the night the last thing we want to do is spend a bunch of time setting camp. With the Eagle, you can go from parking to sleeping in a matter of minutes. This becomes especially important if you need to set up camp in high winds or rain. Just undo four latches and the Roofnest pops up and you’re ready for bed. It can be mounted on most vehicles and you’ll be able to sleep comfortably on the three-inch-thick memory foam mattress. We’ve had our Roofnest open during quite a few gnarly thunderstorms and we’ve never had an issue with rain getting in. Every tent comes with a retractible latter, all necessary mounting hardware, and a condensation mat. Ah, June – it’s good to see you. We’ve entered our third month on road and we’ll be headed across the country to start the Colorado portion of our tour before we know it. With all of the spring snow out west, we’ve heard it’s been a long mud season. Fingers crossed we can take our snowboards out one last time when we get back. We’re looking forward to long backpacking trips, campfires with friends, and waking up at 4 am to climb mountains. Great adventures call for great gear. Take a look at the gear that keeps us going through each new adventure in this month’s Gear On The Go. last_img read more

CFPB issues first no-action letter under Project Catalyst

first_imgLast week, the CFPB announced the issuance of a no-action letter to Upstart Network, Inc., its first under the Bureau’s Project Catalystinitiative.  The initiative, which launched in 2012, is intended to encourage consumer-friendly innovation in the financial marketplace. To do this, Project Catalyst is tasked with engaging with the innovator community, participating in initiatives that inform its policy work, and monitoring emerging trends in order to remain forward-looking.CFPB’s Policy Statement on No-Action LettersUnder the Project Catalyst initiative, the CFPB in 2016 finalized a policy statement on no-action letters to reduce potential regulatory uncertainty and enhance compliance in specific circumstances where “a product holds the promise for significant consumer benefit and where there may be uncertainty around how the product fits within an existing regulatory scheme.”  For example, the CFPB said the formal no-action policy could be appropriate for new products being developed by innovators in financial technology (fintech) or other startups that involve ground-breaking technology that did not exist, and thus wasn’t contemplated, when existing regulations were first adopted.The Bureau issued the policy statement on no-action letters under its authority in §1021 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which empowers the CFPB to exercise its authorities for the purpose of ensuring that markets for consumer financial products and services operate transparently and efficiently to facilitate access and innovation.  See, 12 U.S.C. 5512(b)(1). continue reading » 6SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

‘Desperate times, desperate measures’: Calls grow for flexible state budget amid virus

first_imgFinance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has said the state budget deficit may widen to between 2.2 and 2.5 percent of GDP this year, taking into account the large government stimulus packages to fuel the virus-worn economy.Total state revenue collected by late February was Rp 216.6 trillion, a 0.5 percent year-on-year (yoy) contraction, while state spending reached Rp 279.4 trillion, up by 2.8 percent yoy, ministry data shows. The annual growth rate in state spending has slowed from 9.2 percent in February 2018.She added that the assumptions underpinning the 2020 budget had changed as a result of the pandemic, which would weigh heavily on the Indonesian and world economies. The transformed assumptions included economic growth, the inflation rate, the exchange rate and oil prices, among other factors.“There was hope that the economy would grow better this year, but COVID-19 has changed economic activities, and now we are alert to its impact on the state budget,” Sri Mulyani said.Read also: ‘File your tax returns’: Tax office intensifies efforts to collect taxes as budget burdens multiplySri Mulyani said the government would reallocate up to Rp 10 trillion from the portion of the state budget set for ministries and institutions as well as Rp 17.2 trillion in funds earmarked for regional administrations to fund the country’s healthcare system as it copes with the rising number of COVID-19 cases.Bank Permata economist Josua Pardede told the Post that the government may need “far more funds” to counter rising rates of infection and the virus’ economic impact on workers.“With the planned stimulus, combined with the 2.5 percent budget deficit projection, the government still has room for Rp 52 trillion to Rp 69 trillion if they need to take more drastic measures,” Josua said, calling on the government to prioritize the healthcare system and cash transfers to low-income households.Senior economist Faisal Basri wrote on his twitter account, @FaisalBasri, on Tuesday that the government should halt construction of its new capital and reallocate the energy and funding to “unite all the nation’s power”.”To save Indonesia, the President has to immediately declare an emergency war against the coronavirus. That is also the key to save the economy,” Faisal wrote.Topics : The current annual budget system will limit the government’s ability to maneuver nimbly at a time when a stimulus is most needed, Ari said. “But the stimulus must focus on healthcare and making the economy work, particularly through online platforms.”Read also: State budget deficit may pass 3 percent ceiling if situation gets worse, analyst warnsIndonesia recorded a state budget deficit of Rp 62.8 trillion (US$4.07 billion) in February of this year as government spending growth slowed compared to the same period the year before and revenue dropped, the Finance Ministry announced on Wednesday.At the same time, the country is allocating Rp 120 trillion from this year’s state budget for stimulus packages to contain the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Wednesday, Indonesia had confirmed 227 cases of the virus and 19 deaths. Globally, the pneumonia-like illness has infected over 219,000 people and taken at least 8,900 lives. The government should brace for the possibility of a state budget deficit surpassing the self-imposed limit of 3 percent of the gross domestic product as it allocates a billions of dollars to cushion the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, economists say.University of Indonesia rector Ari Kuncoro said the state budget would need to be flexible to solve health issues and counter the negative economic effects of the virus, adding that the government should opt to substitute the annual budget with an intertemporal budget.“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” the senior economist told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. “The government should look to implement an intertemporal budget. If we pass the 3 percent limit this year, then we should compensate for the deficit over the next three to five years.”last_img read more