Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Eurozone unlocks €10.3bn bailout loan for Greece; Pisa tests to include global skills; Singapore non-oil exports slide 9%

1 Eurozone unlocks €10.3bn bailout loan for Greece (Jennifer Rankin in The Guardian) European officials have agreed to unlock €10.3bn in bailout money for Greece as the International Monetary Fund made a significant climbdown in its demand for upfront debt relief for the recession-hit country.

Greece’s international creditors emerged from an 11-hour meeting in Brussels having agreed on steps to ease the burden of Greece’s €321bn debt mountain, worth 180% of annual economic output.

But the debt relief plan was a far cry from the “upfront” and “unconditional” debt relief the IMF had demanded, when it warned that Greece would face an ever-growing bill to service its loans. Poul Thomsen, director of the IMF’s European programme, said the IMF had made “a major concession”.

The fund had been locked in a stand-off with Germany, which was adamant that debt relief could not be considered before the end of Greece’s current €86bn bailout programme in mid-2018. Germany’s reluctance to make concessions is also thought to stem from fear of antagonising voters ahead of federal elections, due in October 2017 at the latest.

The €10.3bn is the long-delayed second instalment of Greece’s third bailout agreed last August, worth €86bn.

The Syriza-led government of Alexis Tsipras voted through €1.8bn of revenue-raising measures, including tax increases on coffee, tobacco, internet use and a higher VAT. These followed an unpopular pensions reform voted in by a narrow majority earlier this month. The government has also created a privatisation fund to sell off state assets, in effect security for the loans.

2 Pisa tests to include global skills (Andreas Schleicher on BBC) Pisa tests, an international standard for comparing education systems around the world, could include a new measurement of global skills in the next round of tests in 2018.

The OECD, which runs the tests in maths, reading and science, is considering adding another test which would look at how well pupils can navigate an increasingly diverse world, with an awareness of different cultures and beliefs.

Education leaders around the world are increasingly talking about the need to teach "global competences" as a way of addressing the challenges of globalisation. Globalisation can mean different things to different people. It can mean innovation and higher living standards for some - but it can also contribute to social division and economic inequality.

In the past, education was about teaching people something. Now, it is also about making sure that children develop a reliable compass, the navigation skills and the character qualities that will help them find their own way through an uncertain, volatile and ambiguous world.

Schools need to prepare students for a world where many will need to collaborate with people of diverse cultural origins. They will need to appreciate different ideas, perspectives and values. It's a world in which people need to decide how to trust and collaborate across differences.

The OECD sees global competence as being shaped by three principles - "equity", "cohesion" and "sustainability". Today, all three principles are at risk. But the OECD sees global competence as the centrepiece of a broader vision for 21st-Century education.

3 Singapore non-oil exports slide 9% (Chia Yan Min in Straits Times) Singapore's non-oil domestic exports slid 9 per cent in the first three months of the year from a year ago, trade agency IE Singapore said.

The agency also revised its forecast for the full-year downwards, amid a lacklustre global environment. It now expects non-oil domestic exports to decline between 3 and 5 per cent this year, from an earlier forecast of 0 to 2 per cent growth.

Shipments to eight out of 10 of Singapore's top export markets slid in the first quarter, IE data showed. The biggest contributors to the contraction were China, Taiwan and the European Union. Both electronic and non-electronic non-oil domestic exports were hit.

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