CorporateDispatch Pro - Edition 24

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Corporate DispatchPro

Issue No.24| October 2021

Corporate DispatchPro The Journal of CI Group


Issue No. 24 | October 2021

Corporate DispatchPro The Journal of CI Group

EDITORIAL TEAM Managing Editor - Jesmond Saliba Editor – Nathanael Muscat CONTRIBUTORS Denise Grech Ed Cropley Gina Chon Neil Unmack

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Laura Grima Shirley Zammit DESIGN TEAM Matthew Borg Nicholas Azzopardi

CONTENTS The age of Merkel


Month in Pictures


The Merkel effect


A Kleine coalition


All eyes on Schulz


The world of a different Germany


Malta Insights


Malta Headlines


Freedom of expression ‘crucial in the EU’


Polluters must bear the cost of their environmental footprint


UK trucker shortage tows inflation in its wake


Credit markets will withstand Evergrande shocks


Biden has lost a key battle against the super-rich



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The age of Merkel In her last 12 months as Chancellor, Angela Merkel registered record approval ratings in five countries outside of Germany. A major study by Pew Research Center in October 2020 found that a median of three-fourths of the populations in 14 countries across the world trusted the four-term leader on world affairs. A powerful advocate for international cooperation, Merkel emerged as the de facto EU leader and a formidable force in the G7. As President of the European Council in 2007, she was a driving force behind the Treaty of Lisbon which strengthened the European Parliament and introduced new checks and balances to the mechanisms of the EU. A committed internationalist, Merkel was a voice of reason in a wave of global crises, from the Recession of the 2008 and the euro currency emergency that followed to the refugee situation from the Syrian civil war and the European response to Covid-19. Wearing her hair in an iconic short crop and her suits in muted tones, the German Leader often cut a figure as a media-shy politician; quite ironic since she started out as a spokesperson for the East German Government after the 1989 Revolutions. Nevertheless, her voice resounds far and wide and she has defended her most controversial decisions with conviction. Facing strong disapproval for accepting a million refugees from Syria in the wake of the catastrophic civil war, Merkel stood firm on her policy, saying it was the right thing to do. Her resoluteness earned her fierce critics, but respect across the board. In one of her first interviews after winning the 2005 elections, the then Chancellor-in-waiting declared her goal to rebuild Germany’s 3


Corporate DispatchPro economy in the world and prepare the country for the 21st century. At the end of her term, Germany has established itself as the engine of the European economy, nearing full employment and a hotbed of innovation. The politically cautious Chancellor gave rise to German uncomplimentary neologism ‘merkeln’ - to sit on the fence. But as domestic and global affairs became increasingly enmeshed, Merkel showed greater decisiveness on issues such as Eurobonds in the time of the pandemic or the climate change agenda. Detractors argue that, under Merkel’s stewardship, the country’s economy grew too dependent on China and that her accelerated shift away from nuclear power was short-sighted. Her pursuance of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has caused jitters among friends from the US to the Baltic states to Ukraine. But Merkel downplays the geopolitical implications of relying on Russian energy to a significant extent. In 2005, Merkel became the first Chancellor from the former Eastern States but, as she famously remarked, that momentous event was eclipsed by the fact that she was the first woman to lead the Bundesregierung. In her 16 years at the helm, she inspired millions of girls and women to seek public office and ruffle the feathers. Although the Merkel frequently said that her gender is irrelevant to the work she does, she also acknowledged the historical step of her election. Girls in Germany will now know that they can become a hairdresser or a Chancellor, she once affirmed. Widely regarded as the most powerful woman in the world, Merkel struck a sympathetic chord with citizens in many countries. She lives in a modest apartment in Berlin with her husband and she claims to cook the same potato soup as she did when they first married. An uncharismatic leader in a world of flamboyant politicians, the former scientist has jealously guarded her image as an ordinary person. Mutti, as Merkel is affectionately referred to, has time and again sought the stage just as everyone else seemed to go into hiding. Her extraordinary ability to identify the big challenges early on and meet them with a firm position cultivated her leadership and, against a populist backdrop, Merkel emerged as the personification of the moral imperative. 5

BIDEN SAYS AFGHANISTAN EXIT MARKS THE END OF US NATIONBUILDING Facing sharp criticism over the tumultuous US withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden said it was the best available option to end both the United States’ longest war and decades of fruitless efforts to remake other countries through military force.

SPACEX CAPSULE WITH WORLD’S FIRST ALL-CIVILIAN ORBITAL CREW SPLASHES DOWN OFF FLORIDA The quartet of newly minted citizen astronauts comprising the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission safely splashed down in the Atlantic off Florida’s coast, completing a three-day flight of the first all-civilian crew ever launched into Earth orbit.


Corporate DispatchPro ALMOST 50 SHOPS A DAY DISAPPEARED FROM BRITISH HIGH STREETS More than 8,700 chain stores closed in British High Streets, shopping centre and retail parks in the first six months of this year, research suggests.

POPE STARTS PILGRIMAGE TO HUNGARY AND SLOVAKIA Pope Francis’ 34th journey abroad, which also marks 54 countries visited around the world, aims to be “a pilgrimage to the heart of Europe”.


LIBYA’S ES SIDER AND RAS LANUF PORTS BLOCKED BY PROTEST Protesters blocked oil exports at the Libyan ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, although some engineers said production at fields that supply the terminals was unaffected.

MELBOURNE DROPS COVID-ZERO PLANS Australian authorities extended the lockdown in Melbourne by three weeks, as they shift their focus to rapid vaccination drives and move away from a suppression strategy to bring cases down to zero.


Corporate DispatchPro AFRICAN UNION URGES WEALTHY COUNTRIES TO DONATE VACCINES The top health official of the African Union said Rich nations would do better to send vaccines to Africa to help fight the global Covid-19 pandemic rather than hoarding them for third-dose booster shots.

LAVA SHOOTS UP FROM VOLCANO ON LA PALMA IN SPANISH CANARY ISLANDS A volcano erupted on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma sending fountains of lava and a plume of smoke and ash into the air from the Cumbre Vieja national park in the south of the island.


BIDEN CALLS FOR UNITY ON 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11 US President Joe Biden called for national unity as the country prepared to mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks that killed 2,977 people, calling it America’s greatest strength in the face of adversity.

VATICAN TO REQUIRE COVID-19 HEALTH PASS A health certificate showing proof of immunity from Covid-19 immunity will be required to enter the Vatican as of October 1.


Corporate DispatchPro WHO EXPECTS 236,000 MORE COVID DEATHS IN EUROPE BY DECEMBER The head of WHO in Europe expressed concern over an increase in Covid-19 transmission rates across Europe combined with low levels of vaccination in some countries, warning that tens of thousands may be at risk in the coming months.

DEATH ANNIVERSARY MOTHER TERESA IN KOLKATA A visitor offers a kiss to a picture poster of Mother Teresa at Mother House on Mother Teresa’s 24th death anniversary in Kolkata, India.



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The Merkel effect A week is a long time in politics, and Angela Merkel has had over 1,600 of them mostly sitting in arguably the hottest seat in Europe. The four-term Chancellor enjoyed a quick and steady rise in the 1990s, but her star only continued to soar in the decades following. The unassuming leader largely stayed out of the public eye but went all-in whenever a crisis loomed, a lesson for the fair-weather, Instagram-ready decisionmakers that crowd the political arena. Many were fearing that the Merkel mystique had started to deflate as she headed into the final leg of her career, but her first response to the extraordinary Covid-19 pandemic reminded Germans – and the world – why the straight-talking Chancellor was going to be missed. Her exit from the political stage, however, is also an opportunity for a different brand of leadership to emerge both in the Federal Republic and the European Union. Often a pragmatist, Merkel has rarely inspired with visionary ideas, even when she recently made impassioned speeches in favour of environmental sustainability. Many observers – and critics – credited the steely leader with saving the Eurozone in the wake of the Greek government-debt tragedy, but there was little else for future generations to build upon. Measured, poised, balanced, Merkel was hardly one to make bold or radical statements. Her party, the Christian Democratic Union, voted against disruption and went for “Mini-Merkel” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer over the controversial Friedrich Merz or the unorthodox Jens Spahn in the 2018 party leadership race. When Kramp-Karrenbauer stepped down last year, the CDU installed the Chancellor-approved Armin Laschet and veered away from the Merkel-defying Norbert Röttgen and Friedrich Merz once again. 13

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Corporate DispatchPro The September elections brought in the worst figures on record for the CDU and while the post-election brokering has only just begun, the results will surely trigger profound soul-searching by the party elite. Merkel’s imprint on German politics is so deep that her departure will likely leave a leadership vacuum for a political generation. Especially so because both Armin Laschet and Olaf Scholz, leader of the new-biggest party SPD, positioned themselves as continuity candidates. The situation leaves a gap for contenders from different leadership moulds to enter the fray and, come the 2025 Federal Elections, we can expect the real beginning of the post-Merkel season. JESMOND SALIBA



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A Kleine coalition Since the 1960s, German politics has been dominated by the centre-left and centre-right parties, turning the Grand Coalition into an institution of the federal political landscape.

Three of the four governments led by Angela Merkel in the last 16 years were Große Koalition arrangements, and the SPD and CDU/ CSU still managed to pull just shy of 50 per cent of the total votes between them in the September 26 Federal Elections. Nevertheless, it is the third-placed Greens and fourth-placed Free Democrats that may form the coalition that drives the Bundesregierung this time round. A GroKo government is still a clear option, but one that both Olaf Scholz and Armin Laschet appear least likely to pursue. Aware of the historic opportunity for their parties, the leaders of the FDP and the Greens announced on the day after the election that they were holding talks to set out the terms of alliance, giving them a strong hand in negotiations with the bigger SPD and CDU. In 2017, Angela Merkel tried to form a ‘Jamaica Flag’ government, but FDP Leader Christian Lindner declared that the agenda of the Greens was irreconcilable with the pro-free market values of his party. During this year’s campaign, while the Greens were enjoying a surge, Lindner warned that the radical policies they were proposing would harm the national economy. The results, however, mean that both parties have a realistic path to the federal government and are now scrambling to iron out differences, which are many and stark. The Greens pushed for a tax increase for wealthier Germans, an unthinkable strategy as far as the FDP is concerned. The Free Democrats seek fiscal discipline to maintain economic growth, diametrically opposed to the promise for reform and investment in climate policies made by the Greens. 17



Corporate DispatchPro But there is room for compromise, especially because both sides drew their mainly from the same constituency of the young vote. Already, sources are hinting at the creation of a special parallel budget covering the climate change programme without baking drastic environmental measures into the regular budget. The move is a first for the German political system and turns the tables on the older parties that have traditionally enjoyed the greatest influence. The incoming Chancellor will have a pair of mismatching stilts strapped to their feet. Whoever inherits Merkel’s seat, will be judged domestically by how far she or he can go before risking a government collapse.



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All eyes on Scholz On a desolate night for the CDU after the German elections, a comforting Armin Laschet told party supporters that he had won a national mandate to resist a leftleaning government. For all the ebullience of the centre-right Leader, it was his political rival Olaf Scholz who triumphantly claimed the greatest prize.

As the SPD candidate for Chancellor, Scholz led the Social Democratic Party to a tight victory, netting just under 26 per cent of the vote and besting the CDU/CSU by less than 800,000 votes nationwide. The result was a dramatic 180-degree from the 2017 election, when the SPD registered its worst numbers in the postwar era. A moderate on the social democratic spectrum, the employment law specialist, served as Vice Chancellor in the Merkel government that just ended. Politically cautious, discreet, and soft-spoken Scholz suggests a leadership in the style of Angela Merkel coupled with a conservative approach to public finances. He has been, after all, finance minister since 2018, navigating the country through economic storms of the pandemic with a €130 billion stimulus package and accelerating negotiations on the EU’s €750 billion recovery fund. He was catapulted to the top of the SPD after publicly criticising Martin Schulz in 2017 and leading calls for the party to explore a possible compromise with Merkel. As leader of the social democrats at the time, Martin Schulz refused to enter into a coalition with the CDU, before eventually stepping down and paving the way the CDU-SPD-FDP administration. If he is to succeed Merkel, Olaf Scholz will have big shoes to fill not only on the Federal stage but the global one two. But the former mayor of Hamburg, represented the port city and country abroad 21


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multiple times. And unlike Merkel, the SPD leader showed on victory night that he is happy to engage with international media in English. Scholz has been in the political circuit long enough to be aware of the challenges that lie ahead. But it is, perhaps, that same experience that convinced the biggest number of German voters to place their trust in him. As much as an SPD win could be seen as a closure of the Merkel era, the appointment of Olaf Scholz as Chancellor may be interpreted as an encore to her career. 23


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The world of a different Germany It is often said that Germany is too big for Europe but not big enough for the world. In her 16 years at the top, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel has amassed sufficient political capital to punch above her weight on the international stage with minimal exertion. She held power tête-à-têtes with leaders from George W. Bush to Vladimir Putin to Xi Jinping. She was honoured at summits and global forums and the narrower the circle of leaders became, the more she stood out, often looking like the grown-up in the room. With her exit, Germany lost a great deal of its weight and prestige on the international circuit and her successor will face the tough task of showing leadership beyond the federal frontiers. During the Merkel years, Germany maintained its strong relationship with the US, even during testing periods under both Barack Obama and Donald Trump. The sudden withdrawal from Afghanistan by Joe Biden and the latest AUKUS deal may raise further questions about the dependability of the world biggest economy, leading a new Chancellor to take a more reserved approach. Meanwhile, as economic ties with China continued to deepen over the last decade, Germany will find itself in a tricky balancing act of actively engaging the People’s Republic while leading European strategic autonomy. A post-Merkel Germany will likely see a more assertive France in the EU, particularly with Emmanuel Macron’s Euro-centric ambitions and the Presidential Elections in April 2022. The new Chancellor might have to get used to a rather Franco-German framing of European politics.



Corporate DispatchPro Russia remains Germany’s most complex geopolitical question. The Russian-speaking Merkel enjoyed a responsive relationship with Putin, even while she was advocating for sanctions against individuals associated with his government. Besides historic relations and the neighbouring regions, the incoming Bundesregierung will also have to consider the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Merkel’s importance at the global table is not automatically handed down to the new Chancellor, but the country’s next leader will face no shortage of global crises that will present Germany the opportunity to retain its place in the world.



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EARLY SCHOOL LEAVING RATE HIGHER AMONG MEN The total rate of early leavers from education and training stood at 12.8 per cent in 2020, down from 13.9 per cent the year before. Figures by the National Statistics Office show a steady drop from 2010, when the rate was at 21.4 per cent. The EU targets to bring early leavers to a maximum of 10 per cent in all member states. The rate among females in Malta decreased from 14 per cent in 2010 to 10.2 per cent in 2020. Men registered a early leaver rate of 14.7 per cent in 2020, significantly higher than that among women, but it stood at 28.3 per cent 10 years before. Educational attainment among the 20-24 age group was 85.1 per cent in 2020, up from 75.7 per cent in 2010. Youth educational attainment, considered as a minimum upper secondary educational level, was stood at 88 per cent among women and 82.6 per cent among men.

ALMOST HALF OF POPULATION REGISTERS A LOW LEVEL OF EDUCATION The rate of person with a low level of education stood at 46.4 per cent in 2020, according to figures published by the National Statistics Office. A low educational attainment is defined as an educational level of less than two O level qualifications. The rate has been on a ten-year decline, falling gradually from 64.2 per cent in 2010.



Corporate DispatchPro The number of men in the low-education bracket is 104,091 while 99,060 women form part of this category. The rate among women, however, stands at 47 per cent, higher than the 45.8 per cent incidence among men. Just under 130,000 persons aged 15 and over are considered persons with a medium level of education, equivalent to 29.5 per cent of the population. This category comprises of persons with more than one O level qualification up to at least one A level qualification. 30.8 per cent of men had a medium level of education in 2020, up from 24.7 per cent in 2010. Among women, the rate rose from 20.6 in 2010 to 28.1 per cent ten years later. Almost 106,000 people had a high education level, equivalent to tertiary qualifications, in 2020. The total rate was 24.1 per cent: 24.9 per cent among women and 23.4 per cent among men. In 2010, the rates stood at 13 per cent among women and 13.4 per cent among men. The rate emerged higher among women for the first time in 2013, but men registered higher rates in 2014 and 2017.

SELF-EMPLOYED MAKE 15% OF WORKING POPULATION Nearly 40,500 persons in Malta are self-employed, equivalent to 15.1 per cent of all persons with a main job. Figures by the National Statistics Office show that just over 28,800 people registered as self-employed without employee between April and June this year, while close to 11,600 self-employed had other employees. The rate of self-employed among men stood slightly above a fifth, with 9,200 self-employed men employing others and 22,600 having no other workers. The rate among women was eight per cent, 6,300 of whom had no employees while 2,300 employed at least one other person. Compared with the second quarter of 2020, the share of total selfemployed dipped from 15.8 per cent of the workforce. The population of self-employed persons decreased by nearly 400 year-on-year.


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Corporate DispatchPro TOTAL EMPLOYMENT RISES IN Q2 The total number of persons in employment stood at 266,553 in the second quarter this year, an increase of 3.2 per cent from the same period in 2020. According to figures by the National Statistics Office, the total workforce grew by less than one per cent 438,000 to 441,800. Three-fourths of persons in the 15-64 age group were employed, while the total share of individuals n employment reached slightly over 60 per cent, up by 1.4 per cent from the same period last year. Meanwhile, the rate of unemployed and inactive persons decreased by 0.4 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively. Employment rates increased among both women and men aged 15 to 64 year-on-year. It rose by 1.2 per cent among women to reach 67.9 per cent in 2021, and by 0.7 per cent to reach 5.4 among men.



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Malta News ROUNDUP PUPILS MUST WEAR MASKS IN CLASS BUT OTHER SCHOOL MEASURES EASED Schools will re-open in September but student must still wear masks in class. P.E., lab work, fieldwork and classroom birthday parties will still go on. Education Minister Justyne Caruana said students in Year 8 and under will have to sit 1.5 metres apart whereas those in Year 9 and over have to keep their desks one metre apart. AIR MALTA ADOPTS GENDER-NEUTRAL PHRASES Air Malta announced they will be using gender neutral terms like “guests” and “passengers” instead of phrases like “ladies and gentlemen”. The airline said diversity and equality were core values at Air Malta. MALTESE STILL RELUCTANT TO GO ON HOLIDAY A survey commissioned by Times of Malta found that many people are still unlikely to take a holiday in the coming months despite fear of travelling lifting. The survey found that 54 per cent of respondents were generally concerned about travelling. This is split between 44 per cent who say they are “not at all comfortable”, and a further 10 per cent who say they are “rather uncomfortable”. 24 COMPANIES RENOUNCED MALTA LICENCE AFTER GREYLISTING- PN Some 24 companies have moved from Malta since the country was greylisted by the Financial Action Task Force. This has compounded uncertainty in the financial services industry, the Nationalist Party said. JOHN DALLI TO FACE CHARGES OVER €60 MILLION BRIBERY SCANDAL John Dalli is set to face criminal charges over an attempt by his aide to solicit a €60 million bribe to help overturn an EU-wide ban on snus, a form of smokeless tobacco. At the time the alleged bribe was solicited, Dalli was the European commissioner for health leading reforms to the EU’s tobacco directive. 35

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Corporate DispatchPro YORGEN FENECH INDICTED FOR MONEY LAUNDERING A court case against Yorgen Fenech saw the accused’s messages exposed. In one alleged WhatsApp message, Fenech asked “how much did we launder?” Fenech is accused of fraud and attempting to launder a total of €45,000 in a case involving four other alleged associates. Four others are also accused of similar charges. LABOUR-LINKED FIRM IN DRAFT ‘CONSULTANCY’ DEAL WITH YORGEN FENECH A company linked to the Labour party fronted a draft “consultancy” deal that would have seen it receive up to €200,000 from 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech. This allegedly could have been an attempt to disguise funding from the Tumas magnate. Fenech received a 33-month “consultancy” agreement in May 2016 by then Labour Party CEO Gino Cauchi. MALTESE RANK HIGH FOR STREAMING AND GAMING DURING COVID-19 The Maltese were among the most likely in the EU to use online streaming services and play online games to entertain themselves in 2020, the year of the lockdown. Over 90 per cent of internet users in Malta reported streaming television and video content last year. GIOVANNA DEBONO’S HUSBAND AGAIN CLEARED OF FRAUD, MISAPPROPRIATION Anthony Debono, husband of former Gozo minister Giovanna Debono, has again been cleared of all charges linking him with a ‘works-for-votes’ scandal by a court of appeal. In a judgement, the court said the whistleblower who made the allegations was not credible. HEALTH MINISTRY UPDATES WILL NOW FOCUS ON HOSPITALISATIONS Health Minister Chris Fearne has signalled a shift in the focus from COVID-19 daily case numbers to hospitalisation rates. He said the “main emphasis” of the daily Covid-19 update will be placed on the number of people being treated in hospital and in intensive care.



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Freedom of expression ‘crucial in the EU’, Casa says Member of the European Parliament David Casa has promised to work to ensure freedom of expression in Malta and the European Parliament. In view of the recent fake websites as part of the disinformation campaign, MEP Casa will continue working on measures which address disinformation as well as SLAPP lawsuits against journalists,” a spokesman for the MEP said. Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) are a form of retaliatory lawsuit intended to deter freedom of expression on matters of public interest. The European Convention on Human Rights establishes a positive obligation to safeguard the freedom of pluralist media and to ‘create a favourable environment for participation in public debate’ A study commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs found that SLAPPs constitute a significant threat to the fulfilment of this obligation. “By restricting scrutiny of matters of public interest, whether of economic or political concern, SLAPPs also have a deleterious effect on the functioning of the internal market, as well as the rule of law in the European Union,” the study said. “However, while several jurisdictions outside the European Union have adopted antiSLAPP legislation, no Member State of the Union has yet done so. Nor has the Union itself yet adopted any legislation which would dissuade the institution of SLAPPs. There is therefore a significant gap in the integrity of the legal order of the Union,” it noted. 39

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Corporate DispatchPro Casa’s spokesman also said that MEP Casa will continue to liaise with the European Commission’s directorate for Communication to organise the award ceremony for the Daphne Caruana Galizia prize for journalism. “MEP Casa has always been active calling for safeguards which will prohibit politicians from hiding the money they steal from the people. He will continue to work in the drafting of this legislation within Parliament’s structures,” he added. This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multinewsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about msatters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.



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Polluters must bear the cost of their environmental footprint, Cyrus Engerer says Polluters must bear the cost of their environmental footprint, Member of the European Parliament Cyrus Engerer said. He added that this was a European Union principle. The European Court of Auditors questioned the degree to which polluters were being held accountable in different Member States. This would lead to tax-paying citizens footing the bill for irresponsible organisations. “On behalf of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, I was tasked with leading the discussions between the Committee on the Environment and the Committee on Budgetary Control and come up with proposals for a way forward to enhance and strengthen the polluters pay principle across the Union,” Engerer said. He noted that a green and just transition must leave no one behind. “We need to move away from a situation where public funds are used to make good for the failures in the implementation of this principle,” the MEP said. “As a Union we must take inspiration from those Member States that have introduced a number of measures in this regard, among which the requirement for mandatory security systems for business,” he added. This includes insurance policies covering environmental liability in cases of insolvency and other means ensure polluters are held responsible, Engerer said. 43


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The EP declared on 28 November 2019 climate emergency in Europe and urged all EU countries to commit to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. The articles form part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. These articles reflect only the authors’ views.The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information these articles contain. This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.




UK trucker shortage tows inflation in its wake One way to stop a run on a bank is to drive a lorry-load of cash up to the front door and unload it in full public view. When the panic is caused by a shortage of drivers, as is the case at Britain’s petrol stations, that solution is not available. Handing out temporary visas to foreign hauliers or drafting in the army minimises the short-term disruption. The only long-term solution – sharply higher wages for truckers – puts further fire under inflation. The supply problems that prompted British drivers to rush to fill up their cars over the weekend are the most dramatic manifestation of a trucking labour crunch dating back to the UK’s departure from the European Union. The Road Haulage Association, a lobby group, has said for months that the UK is 100,000 truckers short of a full load. That’s a particular worry for a country like Britain, whose rail networks are primarily designed for passengers, not freight. The RHA reckons 98% of all goods sold are carried, at some point, on a truck. That’s why Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is pulling out the stops to try to keep distribution chains moving. Most of the emergency measures will take time to have an impact. Soldiers cannot jump straight behind the wheel of a commercial petrol tanker, for instance. Meanwhile, letting energy giants like BP (BP.L) and Royal Dutch Shell coordinate delivery timetables makes scant difference if they do not have enough drivers. At least consumers cannot hoard fuel in the way that they stockpiled toilet paper at the start of the pandemic. Normal service, however, cannot resume until the labour market fills the empty seats in tanker cabs. That has already happened at 47


Corporate DispatchPro big supermarket chains like Tesco, with anecdotal evidence pointing to pay hikes for truck drivers as high as 50% over the summer. That may have lured fuel-delivery drivers, who are historically paid more. Such dramatic wage increases will feed through into higher prices, which in turn will make it harder for economic policymakers to dismiss the pressures as “transitory”. Even before the fuel crunch, the Bank of England said it expected inflation to top 4% in the final quarter of the year, twice its target rate. The one thing Britain’s indemand truckers are guaranteed to deliver is higher prices.




Credit markets will withstand Evergrande shocks Is China Evergrande another Lehman Brothers moment? Not at all, according to the $40 trillion global corporate debt market. International credit investors have good reasons to be so nonchalant about the potential ripple effects of problems at the Chinese property behemoth with a $300 billion debt pile.

Granted, Evergrande’s slow-motion crash has had some impact. As the group’s 2025 dollar bonds have collapsed to trade at a mere 30% of face value, the riskier end of China’s debt market has suffered. The average yield on dollar bonds issued by junk-rated Chinese companies has doubled to around 16% since the start of the year, according to an ICE Bank of America index. And safe-haven U.S. bonds rallied on Monday when global stock markets wobbled. But those ripple effects look contained. In the United States, where some $19 billion of Evergrande bonds are issued, the average extra yield that investors demand to own junk-rated debt is steady at roughly 310 basis points, another ICE Bank of America index shows. That’s even lower than the levels seen in the heady days of September 2006. And the yield spread on bonds issued by U.S. and European investment-grade companies are below levels seen in late 2007, the year before the collapse of Lehman Brothers. This makes sense. Western government bond yields are still low and below market expectations of future inflation. Investors need to take risks if they don’t want to see price rises erode their returns. New Covid-19 variants or a Chinese property meltdown could hurt the global economic recovery. But companies have emerged from the pandemic in good health having raised cash, cut costs and skimped on investment in the past 18 months. European companies’ debt has fallen to 2.3 times trailing EBITDA and that multiple could 51

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sink as low as 2 times by year-end, its lowest since before the Lehman collapse in 2008, Citi analysts reckon. Meanwhile, Moody’s is forecasting a global corporate default rate of just 1.7% year-end, less than half the historic average Resilience could prove to be an Achilles heel. Persistent demand for corporate debt will keep borrowing costs low, which may tempt more companies to gear up to finance shareholder payouts. That, however, will be a problem for another year. 53



Biden has lost a key battle against the super-rich Joe Biden has lost an important battle against the so-called 1%. The U.S. president repeatedly pledged that the super-rich and corporations would pay their fair share in taxes under his leadership. They’ll almost certainly pay more – just not enough to live up to his original promise. One of Biden’s pre-election rallying cries was to erase the different tax treatment of investment and regular income. That would remove an advantage private equity firms enjoy over “carried interest” – the profit from their investing activities – and help fund a $3.5 trillion spending bonanza on education, childcare and healthcare. Political reality, notably the slim Senate majority of Biden’s Democrats, has softened the president’s edges. Under the latest proposal, the wealthiest 1% of Americans will see after-tax income fall 5% next year, according to the Tax Foundation, compared with more than 11% in Biden’s original plan. Where the president wanted to raise the 20% capital gains tax to 39.6%, his proposed ordinary income rate, the latest target is just 25%. That might make a stock-market selloff less likely, but it gives buyout barons a pass. They can still pay a lower rate on fund earnings. There’s also less pain for corporations, whose income tax rate was cut from 35% to 21% under Donald Trump. Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives now propose 26.5%, where Biden wanted 28%, though companies would also find it harder to shift profits abroad. The numbers may still change. Progressives effectively have the swing vote in the House; in the Senate, moderates do. Both chambers must approve the bill to make it law. Biden can still win a wider war. His plan would improve living standards for lower-income individuals, with means-based childcare


assistance, universal access to pre-school and more healthcare benefits for older Americans. In 32 states, a typical family would save more than $100 a week on childcare, according to the Center for American Progress. After-tax income for the lowest 20% of earners could go up by 14.5%, a Tax Foundation analysis showed. Context matters too. The last Democratic president, Barack Obama, struggled to obtain $600 billion in levy increases. The currently mooted plan adds more than $2 trillion. Biden should improve on his colleague’s track record. That’s probably a win in itself.


Corporate DispatchPro