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Globalisation 4.0 needs a new narrative

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By WINNIE BYANYIMA
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Imagine a world in which women and girls have their rights respected, climate change receives the attention it so urgently requires, and poverty has been eliminated. Never before have we had the means that we now have to make this vision a reality.

In Africa, for example, I am excited to see how off-grid solar energy is expanding rapidly. In Kenya, mobile banking has significantly improved financial inclusion, particularly for poor women.

These and other technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) have the potential to boost productivity, incomes, and leisure time for workers, while also decarbonising our economies and freeing women from the grip of unremunerated care work.

But, to realise this potential, we will have to adopt an entirely new approach to globalisation.

The World Economic Forum’s theme for its annual meeting in Davos next month is Globalisation 4.0, which comprises many of the competing narratives now shaping our world.

In the dominant narrative of the past 40 years, GDP was king, and countries pursued deregulation, loosened capital controls, cut corporate taxes, and “liberalised” their labour markets.

The eruption of popular anger that has hit so many countries’ politics in recent years is rooted in the failure of that neoliberal model. But there is no economic law requiring globalisation to be a race to the bottom. On the contrary, for humanity to have any hope at all, Globalisation 4.0 must break with neoliberalism for good.

I fear that business and government elites gathering in Davos do not seem to have grasped this fully. Until they do, globalisation will continue to fuel inequality and sow discontent around the world.

Rising inequality threatens much of the progress that we have made over the past half-century. While the world’s richest one per cent took home 82 per cent of all new wealth last year, the World Bank reports that the “decline in poverty rates has slowed, raising concerns about achieving the goal of ending poverty by 2030.”

Even more shocking, extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is actually increasing; and almost half of all people worldwide are one medical bill or crop failure away from destitution.

These realities will persist as long as billionaires in Silicon Valley, Africa and elsewhere are writing the future narrative of globalisation.

We need new stories to challenge the status quo. Consider that of Budi, a prawn-processing worker in Southeast Asia, who must peel 950 prawns per hour to earn a minimum wage. It would take Budi more than 5,000 years to earn what a US supermarket CEO makes in one year.

Or, consider the women farmers in my village of Ruti in Uganda, who wonder if economic growth will ever result in free, quality education for their children.

Rich countries owe much of their prosperity to universal education. But in developing countries around the world, fees charged by for-profit schools are driving families deeper into poverty.

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One person whose story must be heard is Berta Cáceres, an indigenous-rights leader in Honduras, who was assassinated in March 2016 for resisting a destructive hydroelectric dam project. In November, a court ruled that Cáceres’s murder was carried out with the knowledge and consent of executives from Desa, the corporation behind the dam.

When globalisation has no rules or referees, the bullies will always win. Even research by the International Monetary Fund now shows that financial globalisation has led to “significant increases in inequality,” as has increased trade in some developing countries. Likewise, climate change is symptomatic of a grossly unequal economy in which the rich exploit the environment for private gain.

Globalisation 4.0 must offer a new narrative to replace the abusive, extractive and sexist neoliberalism of the past few decades. We will need far more co-operation among governments to rewrite the rules of finance, trade, wages, and taxation. Only then can we ensure that the 4IR benefits ordinary people.

To that end, we should welcome pioneering new technologies, but we should also ask tough questions about their ownership and the interests they serve, especially as new monopolies emerge. We will need a smart mix of incentives, public ownership, and regulation to manage the changes that are upon us.

We will also need a new approach to taxation and public spending. The richest households and corporations have avoided paying their fair share for far too long, while also blocking meaningful reform.

It was particularly disappointing to see business leaders at the last Davos meeting celebrating US President Donald Trump’s trillion-dollar tax cuts. If well-meaning elites are serious about ushering in a more inclusive form of globalisation, they will need to back their words with deeds.

Multilateralism remains the only way to manage these policy challenges. But the framework for international co-operation must become much more democratic, feminist, and people-centred. When discussing the future trajectory of globalisation, a woman smallholder farmer in Nakuru, Kenya, should be valued just as much as a corporate executive in Manhattan, US.

We need multilateral institutions that can rein in corporate abuse and rising authoritarianism.

Responsive, bold leadership from national governments will also be needed to manage Globalisation 4.0. Rather than simply trying to manipulate citizens’ anger, politicians need to understand and address the root causes of their discontent.

Fortunately, such leaders are not mythical creatures. South Korean President Moon Jae-in is tackling inequality with a combination of taxes on the wealthy and corporations, a higher minimum wage, and increased social spending. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also has an ambitious agenda to reduce inequality, and she has made citizens’ wellbeing a central metric of her government’s success. And Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has openly embraced a feminist global development policy.

These leaders are living proof that globalisation can be managed in a way that benefits everyone. They put those beholden to toxic neoliberalism to shame, and they offer hope that a more human global economy is within reach.

Winnie Byanyima is executive director of Oxfam International.

©Project Syndicate, 2018. www.project-syndicate.org

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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