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The Ukraine War’s economic consequences for developing countries

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Developing countries in general, and especially those which are net importers of oil are in a real fix as to how to manage macroeconomic challenges like high inflation, balance of payments concerns, and debt sustainability, on one hand, and on the other make needed development expenditures, especially in the health  sector, along with providing enough stimulus, and subsidy to support people in the lower income echelons, which are many and most likely quite rapidly rising in numbers over the pandemic.- Advertisement –

War in Ukraine has made all this all the more difficult, and as Jayati Ghosh rightly pointed, requires a significant amount of support from both rich, advanced countries, and multilateral institutions. Yet this support in any significant way, has remained mostly eluded over the many months during the pandemic. On top of that, oil prices which took a nose-dive and settled to around $20 a barrel in around the later part of April 2020, saw a fast-paced rise in the later part of the same year, due to demand improvement, but sadly also significantly at the back of artificially reduced supply.

Resultantly, oil prices had already risen to above $90 a barrel before the war began, and have now seen reaching around $130 a barrel. Imagine the precarious situation in which developing countries find themselves. For how long they can manage pressures on fiscal balance on account of providing subsidies, and on the balance of payments on account of higher import costs?

Pakistan imported around 80-90 percent of its total wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine in 2020, and therefore a war has meant that the country is likely to face longer timelines, and higher prices with regard to wheat that needs to be imported.

And cutting development expenditures would mean a negative impact on growth recovery, and overall fall into stagflationary consequences. The war will likely exacerbate these pressures on macroeconomic accounts, with consequences of such rise in commodity prices already producing ripples in the political domains of developing countries in general; a repeat of similar consequences seen as the commodity prices increased as an outcome of the Global Financial Crisis of late 2000s.

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Criticising this rather self-centred approach by OPEC+ group of countries, a recent Financial Times (FT) quoted the head of International Energy Agency (IEA) in an article ‘IEA ready to release more oil to ease soaring energy prices, says chief’ recently as follows: ‘The head of the International Energy Agency said the group’s members were ready to release more oil from emergency stockpiles to ease soaring energy prices, as he criticised Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for refusing to pump more crude.

Fatih Birol said the co-ordinated release last week by the US and other big energy-consuming nations of 60mn barrels was an “initial response” and that the IEA was ready to do “everything” to reduce the volatility in energy markets driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.’

A global commodity supply shock had already sky-rocketed food prices, and the war will only add to it, for instance in terms of essential natured commodities like wheat and fertilizer. The same article by Jayati Ghosh pointed out in this regard ‘Before the war, Ukraine was the world’s fifth-largest wheat exporter, and also a major exporter of barley, corn, rapeseed, and sunflower oil.

The prices of these commodities in global trade have risen significantly, adding to recent increases in crop prices generally. …Crop production in developing countries could also be hit by fertilizer shortages. Russia, the world’s largest wheat exporter, is also a major fertilizer producer, and disruptions to these exports will push global food prices even higher.’

Highlighting the rising level of commodity prices, a March 3 FT published article ‘Commodity prices soar to highest level since 2008 over Russia supply fear’ indicated ‘The S&P GSCI index, a broad barometer for the price of global raw materials, has jumped 16 per cent this week, leaving it on track for the sharpest rise on records dating back to 1970, according to Refinitiv data.

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It is now at its highest level since 2008. US oil prices also hit the highest level since 2008 on Thursday. Wheat futures in Chicago shot above $12 a bushel. Other commodities including aluminium and coal have also soared this week, in a move that will have profound effects on global businesses and consumers.’- Advertisement –

Similarly, another FT article ‘Food crisis looms as Ukrainian wheat shipments grind to halt’ pointed out with regard to rising food prices that ‘Russia and Ukraine supply almost a third of the world’s wheat exports and since the Russian assault on its neighbour, ports on the Black Sea have come to a virtual standstill.

As a result, wheat prices have soared to record highs, overtaking levels seen during the food crisis of 2007-08. …The surge in prices will fuel soaring food inflation – already at a seven-year high of 7.8 per cent in January – and the biggest impact will be on the food security of poorer grain importers, warned analysts and food aid organisations.

’ As per the same article, Pakistan imported around 80-90 percent of its total wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine in 2020, and therefore a war has meant that the country is likely to face longer timelines, and higher prices with regard to wheat that needs to be imported.

Courtesy : PT

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Economy

Fidelity National Financial Hacked: Real Estate Industry in Chaos

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In a significant setback to the real estate and mortgage industry, Fidelity National Financial (FNF), a Fortune 500 company that provides title insurance and settlement services, was forced to take down its entire network on November 22, 2023, following a cybersecurity incident. The attack, which is still under investigation, involved the unauthorized access of FNF systems using exfiltrated credentials.

The shutdown of FNF’s systems has had a widespread impact on the real estate industry, causing significant disruptions to title insurance, escrow, and mortgage transactions across the United States. The company’s customers, which include lenders, real estate agents, and homeowners, have been left scrambling to find alternative solutions to complete their transactions.

The Scope of the Attack

Details about the nature of the attack remain limited, but FNF has acknowledged that the cyberattack involved the unauthorized access of its systems and the potential theft of sensitive data. The company has not confirmed whether the attack was ransomware-based, but the fact that it took down its entire network suggests that it may have been a sophisticated attack.

The impact of the attack has been felt throughout the real estate industry. Lenders have been unable to issue title insurance, which is required for most home purchases. Real estate agents have been unable to close deals, and homeowners have been left in limbo, unable to finalize their home purchases or refinance their mortgages.

FNF’s Response to the Attack

In response to the attack, FNF has taken a number of steps to mitigate the damage and restore its systems. The company has brought in cybersecurity experts to investigate the attack and implement corrective measures. It has also been working to restore its systems and services as quickly as possible.

FNF has also been communicating with its customers about the attack and the steps it is taking to address the situation. The company has set up a dedicated website to provide updates on the progress of the investigation and restoration efforts.

The Impact on the Real Estate Industry

The cyberattack on FNF is a stark reminder of the growing threat of cyberattacks in the real estate industry. As more and more businesses rely on technology to conduct their operations, they become increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks.

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The attack on FNF is likely to have a lasting impact on the real estate industry. Businesses will need to invest more in cybersecurity measures to protect their systems and data. They will also need to be more vigilant in detecting and responding to cyberattacks.

Recommendations for Real Estate Businesses

In light of the cyberattack on FNF, here are some recommendations for real estate businesses:

  • Implement strong cybersecurity measures. This includes using strong passwords, firewalls, and antivirus software. Businesses should also regularly back up their data.
  • Educate employees about cybersecurity. Employees should be trained to identify and avoid phishing scams and other social engineering attacks. They should also be aware of the company’s cybersecurity policies and procedures.
  • Have a plan for responding to cyberattacks. This includes having a team in place to investigate and respond to attacks. Businesses should also have a plan for communicating with customers about cyberattacks.

Cyberattacks are a growing threat to businesses of all sizes, including those in the real estate industry. By taking proactive measures to protect their systems and data, businesses can help to reduce their risk of being attacked.

The Aftermath of the Cyberattack

The cyberattack on Fidelity National Financial (FNF) has had a significant impact on the real estate and mortgage industry. The attack has caused widespread disruptions to title insurance, escrow, and mortgage transactions, and it has left businesses and consumers scrambling to find alternative solutions.

Impact on Title Insurance

Title insurance is a crucial part of the real estate closing process. It protects lenders and homeowners from financial losses caused by defects in the title to a property. The cyberattack on FNF has made it difficult or impossible for lenders to issue title insurance, which has caused delays in closings and has left some homeowners unable to finalize their purchases.

Impact on Escrow

Escrow is a process in which a third party holds funds and documents for the benefit of two or more parties involved in a real estate transaction. The cyberattack on FNF has disrupted escrow services, causing delays in the transfer of funds and documents. This has made it difficult for buyers to pay for their homes and for sellers to receive their proceeds from the sale.

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Impact on Mortgage Transactions

The cyberattack on FNF has also had an impact on mortgage transactions. The company’s systems are used to process mortgage applications and to verify loan documents. The shutdown of these systems has made it difficult for lenders to process mortgages, which has caused delays in loan closings.

Impact on Consumers

The cyberattack on FNF has also had a direct impact on consumers. Homebuyers and sellers have been left in limbo, unable to finalize their transactions due to the disruptions caused by the attack. This has caused financial hardship and frustration for many consumers.

The Road to Recovery

FNF is working to restore its systems and services as quickly as possible. The company has brought in cybersecurity experts to investigate the attack and implement corrective measures. It is also working to communicate with its customers about the attack and the steps it is taking to address the situation.

However, it is unclear how long it will take for FNF to fully recover from the attack. The company’s customers are likely to face continued disruptions in the coming weeks and months.

Lessons Learned

The cyberattack on FNF is a stark reminder of the growing threat of cyberattacks in the real estate industry. Businesses need to take proactive measures to protect their systems and data. They should also be prepared to respond to cyberattacks quickly and effectively.

Here are some lessons that can be learned from the cyberattack on FNF:

  • Cyberattacks are a real threat to businesses of all sizes.
  • Businesses need to invest in strong cybersecurity measures.
  • Businesses need to educate their employees about cybersecurity.
  • Businesses need to have a plan for responding to cyberattacks.

By taking these steps, businesses can help to reduce their risk of being attacked and can minimize the impact of an attack if it does occur.

Conclusion

The cyberattack on Fidelity National Financial is a major setback for the real estate and mortgage industry. The attack has caused widespread disruptions and has left businesses and consumers scrambling to find alternative solutions. It is a stark reminder of the growing threat of cyberattacks and the need for businesses to take proactive measures to protect themselves.

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Economy

Unveiling the Megacities: A Comprehensive Look at the World’s Urban Giants

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Introduction

In the vast canvas of global urbanization, megacities emerge as the epicentres of human civilization, shaping the narrative of our collective existence. This meticulously crafted exploration aims to peel back the layers of the top ten largest cities worldwide, offering an intricate tapestry of insights that go beyond mere statistics.

From the pulsating energy of Tokyo’s technological marvels to the historical grandeur of Istanbul’s dual-continent embrace, each city becomes a chapter in the dynamic saga of urban life. Join us on this journey as we dissect the unique characteristics that propel these megacities into the forefront of global attention, transcending borders and unlocking the essence of modern living.

1. Tokyo: A Technological Wonderland

Tokyo, the pulsating heart of Japan, emerges as a seamless blend of tradition and innovation. Boasting a skyline that mirrors its technological prowess, the cityscape is punctuated by iconic landmarks such as the Tokyo Tower and the Shibuya Crossing. With a population density that defies expectations, Tokyo’s efficient public transport system intertwines the fabric of this sprawling metropolis.

2. Delhi: The Cultural Melting Pot

In the vibrant tapestry of India, Delhi stands tall as a cultural melting pot. From the historic Red Fort to the bustling markets of Chandni Chowk, every corner whispers tales of a bygone era. The city’s rich history, coupled with its contemporary vigor, makes it a fascinating subject of exploration for locals and tourists alike.

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3. Shanghai: The Economic Powerhouse

Shanghai, a beacon of China’s economic ascent, commands attention with its glittering skyline along the Huangpu River. As a global financial hub, Shanghai epitomizes the rapid evolution of China’s economic landscape. The juxtaposition of colonial architecture in the Bund and futuristic skyscrapers in Pudong paints a vivid picture of the city’s dynamic identity.

4. São Paulo: Latin America’s Megacity

São Paulo, the sprawling megalopolis of Brazil, pulsates with a rhythm uniquely its own. Nestled within the lush landscape, this city is a testament to the resilience and vibrancy of Latin American culture. From the bustling Paulista Avenue to the tranquillity of Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo captivates with its diverse offerings.

5. Mumbai: The Maximum City

Mumbai, India’s financial powerhouse, unfolds as a narrative of contrasts. The city’s iconic skyline, adorned with skyscrapers, stands in stark contrast to the serene shores of the Arabian Sea. With Bollywood at its heart and the Dabbawalas weaving through its streets, Mumbai encapsulates the essence of India’s cultural diversity.

6. Beijing: Where Tradition Meets Modernity

Beijing, China’s ancient capital, showcases a kaleidoscope of history and innovation. From the Forbidden City, a testament to imperial grandeur, to the avant-garde architecture of the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium, Beijing seamlessly intertwines its rich heritage with a vision for the future.

7. Istanbul: Bridging Continents

Istanbul, straddling Europe and Asia, unfolds as a city where history and geography converge. The Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are timeless witnesses to the city’s imperial past. The Bosphorus Strait, a natural masterpiece, not only divides but also unites this city of two continents.

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8. Lahore: Pakistan’s Cultural Gem

Lahore, a jewel in Pakistan’s crown, resonates with an aura of cultural grandeur. Standing as architectural marvels, the Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque reflect the city’s Mughal legacy. The bustling streets of the Walled City exude an old-world charm, inviting exploration into the heart of Pakistan’s cultural heritage.

9. Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Asia

Shenzhen, a testament to China’s technological prowess, emerges as the Silicon Valley of Asia. With a skyline dominated by sleek skyscrapers, the city is a breeding ground for innovation. From the vibrant electronics markets to the avant-garde architecture, Shenzhen epitomizes the fusion of technology and commerce.

10. Jakarta: Southeast Asia’s Megacity

Jakarta, the vibrant capital of Indonesia, unfolds as a sprawling metropolis between the Java Sea and the Bogor Highlands. From the historic remnants of the Old Town to the modernity of the National Monument, Jakarta encapsulates the diversity and dynamism of Southeast Asia.

Conclusion

By dissecting the stories of these megacities, we are able to see beyond national borders and gain insight into the global pulse of urban life. Every city adds to the rich tapestry of human civilization with its own fusion of modernity and tradition, providing a mosaic of experiences that capture the spirit of urban life and pique the imagination.

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China

The ‘Live and Let Live’ Era is Over: China and the US Are on a Collision Course

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Introduction

The notion of ‘live and let live’ has long been touted as a potential cornerstone for a stable and cooperative relationship between China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies. However, recent developments paint a rather grim picture, suggesting that this once-envisioned approach may be teetering on the brink of collapse.

A Brief History of ‘Live and Let Live’

The concept of ‘live and let live’ gained prominence during the Cold War era, when the US and the Soviet Union, the two dominant superpowers, sought to avoid direct confrontation while maintaining their respective spheres of influence. This approach, characterized by a degree of tolerance and accommodation, helped prevent global catastrophe.

In the context of China-US relations, ‘live and let live’ has been interpreted as a tacit agreement to coexist peacefully, acknowledging each other’s interests and refraining from interference in domestic affairs. This approach has been credited with fostering economic interdependence and preventing major conflicts.

The Erosion of ‘Live and Let Live’

Despite its potential benefits, the ‘live and let live’ approach between China and the US is facing increasing challenges. Several factors have contributed to this erosion, including:

  • Ideological Differences: The fundamental ideological differences between the two countries, with China’s authoritarian system contrasting sharply with the US’s democratic values, have created a persistent source of tension.
  • Economic Rivalry: The rapid rise of China’s economy has transformed the global landscape, leading to concerns about its economic dominance and potential threat to US interests.
  • Geopolitical Competition: The expanding geopolitical influence of China, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, has heightened US anxieties about its strategic ambitions.
  • Technological Advancement: China’s rapid technological advancements, particularly in areas like artificial intelligence and 5G, have raised concerns about potential US vulnerabilities.
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The Impact of Recent Developments

Recent developments have further strained the relationship between China and the US, making the ‘live and let live’ approach increasingly difficult to sustain:

  • Trade War: The ongoing trade war between the two countries has imposed significant economic costs and raised concerns about a broader decoupling of their economies.
  • Technology Crackdown: The US’s crackdown on Chinese technology companies, such as Huawei and TikTok, has intensified technological rivalry and raised concerns about protectionism.
  • Taiwan Tensions: The heightened tensions surrounding Taiwan, with China’s increasing military assertiveness, have raised fears of a potential conflict.
  • South China Sea Disputes: The ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea have remained a flashpoint for potential conflict.

The Path Forward

Amidst these challenges, the future of ‘live and let live’ between China and the US remains uncertain. Both countries face a difficult decision: to continue pursuing a cooperative approach or embrace a more confrontational stance.

A return to the ‘live and let live’ approach would require a significant shift in both countries’ attitudes and policies. It would demand a willingness to compromise, acknowledge each other’s interests, and refrain from provocative actions.

However, the path forward is fraught with challenges. The deeply entrenched ideological differences, economic rivalry, and geopolitical competition make it difficult to envision a return to the status quo.

Conclusion

The ‘live and let live’ approach between China and the US has served as a crucial stabilizing force in international relations. However, recent developments suggest that this approach is facing an existential crisis. Both countries must carefully consider the consequences of their actions and make a concerted effort to avert a downward spiral that could have devastating global consequences. Embracing a more cooperative approach, while acknowledging and addressing underlying differences, remains the only viable path forward for ensuring a stable and prosperous future for both nations.

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