Saturday, November 21, 2015

UK 'steel crisis' sparks rally; UAE's mega plan for post-oil world; Challenges remain for South-East Asia

1 UK ‘steel crisis’ sparks rally (BBC) Steelworkers from all over UK have demonstrated in Sheffield over cuts to Britain's ailing steel industry. Thousands of job cuts have recently been announced in Teesside, Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire, with unions fearing more to come. The TUC-organised rally urged the government to stem the influx of cheap steel from China.

Business Minister Anna Soubry said her department was doing all it could. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The crisis in British steel isn't over. One in six steelworkers face losing their jobs.” Angry steelworkers feel the government is standing aside as their once mighty industry rapidly heads towards meltdown.

They blame Chinese dumping of steel on European markets for plummeting prices and high energy costs for making the UK industry uncompetitive. The result has been the heartbreak hitting thousands of families as the consequent economic squeeze has led to the forced loss of plants and jobs in recent weeks.

Rob Middlemiss, chairman of the Multi Union Tata Steel at Skinningrove in North Yorkshire, said the scale of job losses would be devastating for communities. "For every steelworker that loses their job, two or three more people lose it in the supply chain. If there's 30,000 people left in steel, we're talking 100,000 affected, so the economy in those areas is going to be decimated."

2 UAE’s mega plan for post-oil world (Khaleej Times) UAE President, Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has announced the adoption of the Emirates Science, Technology and Innovation Higher Policy which includes 100 national initiatives in the educational sector, health, energy, transportation, space and water.

The plan foresees an investment of over Dh300 billion and includes new national policies in legislation, investment, technology, education and finance. Its goal is to build a vibrant knowledge economy in the UAE. "The UAE has set its course for a post-oil world through investing in the development of our people in the fields of science and advanced technology," he said.

The Science, Technology and Innovation Higher Policy includes the establishment of funds for science, research and innovation in the UAE in addition to refocusing invesetment legislation to encourage technology transfer, support innovation and establish global contractual industrial partnerships. It also includes targets to increase investment on research and development in the UAE by threefold and increase the percentage of knowledge workers in the country to 40 per cent by 2021.

In addition, the Science, Technology and Innovation Higher Policy includes a set of educational and scientific initiatives that aim to prepare leaders to align with the developmental changes anticipated for the UAE. The policy aims to redouble the focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in all UAE educational institutions.

2 Challenges remain for South-East Asia (San Francisco Chronicle) Thirteen years after the idea was mooted, Southeast Asian leaders on Sunday formally created a unified economic community in a region more populous and diverse than the European Union or North America, and with hopes of competing with China and India.

The 10 leaders in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed a declaration during their summit establishing the ASEAN Economic Community, as part of a larger ASEAN Community that aims for political, security, cultural and social integration.

The community, known by its acronym AEC, is already a reality and many of its fundamentals have been applied in the region such as removal of tariff barriers and visa restrictions among others. It has also led to greater political and cultural cooperation.

But there is a long way to go before the AEC becomes fully functional after becoming a legal entity on Dec. 31. The region's diversity can be a hindrance sometimes. ASEAN has 630 million people, speaking different languages, following various faiths and governed by various systems, including rambunctious democracies, a military dictatorship, quasi-civilian, authoritarian, monarchy and communism.

It falls short in more politically sensitive areas such as opening up agriculture, steel, auto production and other protected sectors. ASEAN citizens will be allowed to work in other countries in the region, but will be limited to jobs in eight sectors, including engineering, accountancy and tourism. This accounts for only 1.5 percent of the total jobs in the region, and host countries still can put up constitutional regulatory hurdles restricting the inflow of talent.

ASEAN members also struggle to resolve diplomatic flare-ups among each other such as border disputes between Cambodia and Vietnam, or Indonesia's inability to fight annual forest fires that spew noxious haze for months over Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

There are also other hurdles, such as corruption, uneven infrastructure and unequal costs of transportation and shipping. A wide economic gulf divides Southeast Asia's rich and middle income economies — Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and the Philippines — and its four less developed members, Communist Vietnam and Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

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