Global Business Daily: Ex-New Zealand PM interview, Irish pubs hope, Arctic apology
Patrick Atack in London
"What differentiates them firstly is empathy."
That's Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand, who spoke to CGTN Europe earlier today about the successes of women leaders during the coronavirus pandemic. She commented on the fiscal and political leadership shown (or not shown) in this current crisis – and the differences from reactions to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, which took place when she was in office.
You can read the full interview below.
There is continuing movement on the vaccine front, after the Global Vaccine Forum took place this week (digitally, of course). AstraZeneca today revealed it had signed several deals to make the distribution of a successful vaccine as equal as possible.
But businesses are still suffering from a lack of confidence in the reopening of the global economy and several firms have announced layoffs today: from Bombardier in Canada to Jaguar Land Rover in the UK.
A further warning of little or no confidence in the future of markets came from the UK province of Northern Ireland – as leaders from all sectors came together to complain about a lack of communication from central government on post-Brexit rules and regulations.
And while we're on the topic of trust and government – my colleague Tim has made today's graph,whichshows how public confidence in G7 governments has changed over the pandemic period.
Global pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca has signed global distribution deals with the Serum Institute of India and a $750 million deal with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to provide low- and middle-income countries with a COVID-19 vaccine if its trials are fruitful.
Irish leader Leo Varadkar has revised the country's schedule for reopening its businesses, with large firms now able to trade again from Monday. The final stage – opening pubs not serving food – will be brought forward from August to July.
Australian finance minister Josh Frydenberg has set out plans to add a national security element to foreign investment rules for "sensitive business," which would allow the government to impose conditions or even force a divestment. It has not been detailed what "sensitive business" means.
Bombardier Aviation says it will reduce its global workforce by approximately 2,500 employees. The majority of these reductions will impact manufacturing operations in Canada.
Luxury car brand Bentley is to cut around a quarter of its workforce, slashing at least 1,000 jobs due to the pandemic downturn. The UK-based firm has been struggling to regain profitability in recent years, and said the move was made to "safeguard" remaining roles.
The U.S. jobless rate has fallen after a partial "reopening" of the economy after two months of lockdown. About 2.5 million jobs were added in May, as the overall unemployment rate dropped just over 13 percent – after peaking near 15 percent. The recovery has not been equal, though, with African-American jobless numbers still rising.
An opposition member of parliament, Margaret Hodge, has called the UK government's pandemic bailout funds "a flagrant abuse of public money." She made the argument after it was revealed the Corporate Covid Financing Facility had paid $1.2 billion to German chemical firm BASF, which employs only 850 staff in the country.
Northern Irish business groups have called on the UK government to extend the current Brexit transition period by at least six months, as they complained of "little or no engagement" from the London government, leaving businesses in Ulster unsure of future trading rules. "Quite simply, firms will not be ready even if the UK and EU agree something this year," said Stephen Kelly of Manufacturing NI.
India is the latest nation to be hit by the worst swarms of locusts in a generation, with atmospheric conditions launching a second wave of the invasive insects much earlier than expected. It is thought rural communities are most at risk of losing food security and they are already suffering from the rising cases of COVID-19 in the nation.
British car firm Jaguar Land Rover has signed a credit deal worth $712 million with Chinese banks Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of Communications, China Construction Bank and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank. It comes only days after the firm was turned down by the UK pandemic recovery fund, as its finances did not merit assistance.
Russian mining firm Norilsk Nickel will pay for the entire clean-up after it caused a major oil and fuel spill inside the Arctic circle. Company president Vladimir Potanin said it was likely to cost $146 million to clean the rivers and subsoils damaged.
Workers in Iraq's southern oil fields are struggling to find work, after the drop in market prices forced companyies to cut budgets. According to the local government in Basra, around 12 percent of the 80,000 formerly employed in the sector are now jobless.
Helen Clark, a former prime minister of New Zealand and administrator of the UN Development Program, spoke to CGTN Europe about the call from a group of former world leaders to the G20 to pledge more than $2 trillion to help the global economy recover from COVD-19. As a female former leader, and mentor to New Zealand's current leader, Clark also talked us through what she thinks makes women leaders better in a crisis.
You're among more than 200 former presidents and prime ministers calling for the G20 to pledge a mountain of money – $2.5 trillion for emerging markets and developing countries. Why is this needed?
The IMF itself has said that that amount of money, $2.5 trillion, is needed to see developing and emerging economies through this crisis. We have seen the economic damage that has been done to the highly developed economies like the United States, like the United Kingdom and others.
We're not hearing so much about some of the world's poorest countries and even many middle-income countries like the tourism-dependent ones, for example, and the small island developing states where the economies just came to a standstill. For the small island developing states, the tourists weren't coming and won't come for some time. And in others of the poorest countries where economies just stopped, you had people with subsistence livelihoods that were gone. You had no social safety nets.
And, of course, then you have all the secondary effects on health systems which don't operate for women to get their sexual reproductive health services, their care in pregnancy, attended childbirth, children not getting vaccinations. There have been huge spillover consequences because of economies came to a standstill and governments had no revenue.
But why the G20 of all the world's organizations? Why should the G20 forum be taking the lead here?
Back in 2009, the G20 stepped up in an unprecedented way with the Global Financial Crisis and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom at that time rallied the G20 leaders to dig deep to come up with the trillion-dollar package at that time for the IMF and the World Bank. Now, this is actually a more profound crisis with economies literally coming to a standstill. And, of course, we are 11 years on. And so if the IMF is saying it's a 2.5 trillion-dollar problem. I believe them. They're on the conservative side, when it comes to what needs to be spent.
So, let's accept that figure and say the IMF has now been approached by more than 100 developing and emerging economies, asking it for emergency support. And it does not at the moment have the capital to draw on to give that support to that range of countries.
The world has recently, in living memory, been through a huge global crisis, the financial crisis. As an experienced politician, how would you compare and contrast the political leadership that we saw in the financial crisis with what we're seeing now?
This is the tragedy. At the time of the Global Financial Crisis, you had leaders who were prepared to step up. And we should never overlook the role of the United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown at that time, in that he rallied that extraordinary package. We also had at the UN itself, I think, a Security Council that was not so ground down in geopolitics.
But now we face a global leadership vacuum. The G20 currently is chaired by Saudi Arabia, which has not taken the initiative to rally countries the way that was done in 2009. We should be asking the G20 because it represents 85 percent of the world's GDP. If major financial institutions like the IMF and the World Bank are to be capitalized to deal with this issue, then it's the countries making up 85 percent of the world's GDP that are going to have to come up with the bulk of that support.
But compared with 2009, compared with the Ebola outbreak, a health emergency of 2014, when there was good leadership from the United Nations Security Council, we are in completely different territory now where leaders aren't stepping up to lead. Everyone's trying to row their own boat, address their own issues. But this needs a globally coordinated response.
And how significant is the U.S.'s absence in global leadership?
It is significant. It's obviously of great concern that in the middle of a pandemic, the U.S. announced that it will cut all ties and spending support for the WHO. It's also significant because it's proved impossible for the Security Council to reach an agreement on a resolution. In 2014 on Ebola, the Security Council readily agreed that it constituted a threat to global peace and security and called on all member states to step up. This makes a huge difference. You can't get a resolution like that through now.
I think what I will suspend judgment on is whether the U.S. can come to the party for the Washington DC-based international financial institutions, the IMF and the World Bank. It would be a tremendous thing if the G20 leaders could convene again reasonably soon and see the great powers really dig deep in their pockets to ensure that the global economy doesn't go over a cliff.
What are your thoughts on the magnitude of this crisis? Its impact and what the world looks like when we come out the other side of it.
What the world looks like when we come out will very much depend on the size of the response. What if there's no money to bail out small-island developing states? What are their economies to do? Who are they going to borrow from? Our letter calls for states to be financed to take their fiscal deficits beyond what is usually comfortable.
But this needs strong support from the multilateral institutions. What's it going to look like for an [under]developed country in Africa where everything collapsed, where children couldn't get back to school, where mortality from diseases other than COVID-19 also became significant because the health system wasn't there to work?
We are looking at the moment if there's not a coordinated response at adding another 130 million people to the 135 million already on the brink of starvation, according to the World Food Program. And we're looking at poverty, extreme poverty increasing again by tens of millions. And the estimates range from 60 million to upwards of 450 million people in extreme poverty. So that's what we're looking at with no international response. And that's why the letter that has been sent is so important.
Women leaders have been praised for handling this COVID-19 crisis well – why do you think they have succeeded where it seems men have failed?
In my opinion, if you look at the world's women leaders as a group, on average, they have done better than male leaders. Not every woman has done well and got good results. But there are clearly absolute stars among the women leaders. So what differentiates them from the men who've done badly? Not all men have done badly, but a number have.
I think what differentiates them firstly is empathy, or putting health and human security at the very heart of the response. They have been driven by values. It hasn't been, 'we've got to save the economy.' They've been wise enough to know you can't save an economy if your people are ground down by a pandemic. They've stuck to a plan. They've listened to experts. They've acted on advice, using good judgment. They've communicated extremely well. They've engaged the population of the countries in a journey with them.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway even held a children's consultation, acknowledging that children get worried and concerned in events like these. So these have been the kinds of characteristics of woman's leadership which have come to the fore at this time.
You spent nine years as prime minister of New Zealand. You worked for the United Nations based on your experience. What ways are women in power held accountable that men are not?
I could write books on how women are held accountable in ways that men aren't. Firstly, it's much harder for women to get to the top. The fact is, there are so few, barely one in six of the world's prime ministers is female, which shows that it's quite exceptional for women to get there.
And so in general, the women who do get there, they're pretty good. They're pretty smart. They've overcome a lot of obstacles that are extremely resilient. And once they are, they tend to be rather task-focused, much less ego, I think, than on average for male leaders. I'm here to get a job done. I'm not here for personal glorification or status. I'm a woman who means business. I've got things to do. And I think that that very task-focused approach has definitely come through. When you watch the seriousness of Angela Merkel, the determination of Jacinda Ardern to beat it. These women have been extraordinary in this crisis.
Which begs the question then, how do we get more women into politics? How do we get more women into global leadership positions?
You have to broaden the base of participation of women in the political systems. We still have a world where among the world's parliamentarians under a quarter are female. And in many of our political systems, like in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the democracies of Europe, the prime ministers are coming up out of party groups and parliament.
So the challenge is to get more women into electable positions on their party's lists or in their safe seat constituencies. And then to support them, to move up the ranks to the point where they are in a shooting position for leadership, if you like. So that first rung on the ladder, being able to get into the political system and be competitive is very important.
You've been described as a mentor or an adviser to New Zealand's current prime minister. What advice have you offered her and what advice do you have for other women in leadership roles?
Well, I think any advice for me to Jacinda would be almost gratuitous because she is a natural leader. She did work as a graduate student in my office. So I guess she watched me for a lot of years. And she has very much put her own style on leadership. She's combined being a young mother with being an effective leader. And that has probably helped her to convey that quality of empathy, which she genuinely has.
My advice to women leaders always is just be yourself. Don't try to pretend to be something or not be yourself, because authenticity matters an enormous amount, particularly in small, intimate democracies like the Scandinavian ones, the Netherlands, New Zealand and so on.
In a small country like New Zealand, airs and graces are not accepted. You have to be pretty down to Earth. You have to connect across a wide range of issues. And I think Jacinda Ardern has done extremely well at that.