EBRD heralds new ‘tigers’

first_imgIt will be interesting to see how quickly it will dawn on the Eastern Europeans that the EU needs them almost as much as they need the EU. “The absorption capacity of the Central and Eastern European countries, in particular, seems to be gathering pace.”In other words, the economic health of western Europe depends on nurturing the growth of demand – especially for machinery – in the east.When they first kicked over their Communist legacy in 1989, the CEECs were the flavour of the month.They were spoken of asthe new ‘tiger’ economies, where low wages combined with a skilled workforce could achieve double-digit growth rates and suck in all the capital goods that western Europe could possibly manufacture.The EBRD was created to ride this wave.It was born as an intellectual folly, straight out of the pages of a work of political philosophy by a trusted aide to former French President François Mitterrand – the now notorious Jacques Attali.Opening for business in April 1991 and allocated 10 billion ecu of capital by its shareholders – including the CEECs, the CIS, the US and the EU – the bank soon ran into serious problems. To be fair to Attali, much of this turnaround reflects changes on the ground rather than the vastly superior quality of the new regime.In 1995, growth in the CEECs strengthened while the pace of decline slowed in the CIS.The enormous strides in market-oriented reform and the attraction of big-ticket inward investment – especially by the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland – played a major part in this process.The pursuit of predictable monetary and exchange rate policies, leading to convertibility in the most advanced states, has all but killed off investors’ fears.Major investments are announced every week. In December, Ameritech and Deutsche Telekom paid 670 million ecu to increase their stake in Hungarian telecoms operator Matav Rt to 67%, while 20 of the world’s biggest investment banks are vying to manage the sale of Polish copper giant, KGHM Polska Miedz SA.This sea-change is not lost on EU finance ministers. Those who, in previous years, often sent their officials to EBRD annual meetings instead of attending themselves are, this time, heading straight to Sofia from their meeting in Verona. Ever since the Berlin Wall came down seven years ago, member states have – in public at least – gone along with Germany’s view that nothing is more important than tying these countries to the bosom of a stable and workable Union.The moral debt owed to the Eastern Europeans is due to culminate in full EU membership for at least a handful of them within the next decade.But, in reality, the priorities have been very different. While unemployment, along with the single currency plan, have long been at the front of EU decision-makers’ minds, words about their desire to help the Eastern Europeans have not been matched by deeds.When Eastern European finance ministers are invited to meetings of their EU counterparts, they are, as often as not, left to discuss micro-economic reform with officials while ministers board their planes home.But times are changing.EU finance ministers heading for Sofia on 15-16 April to attend the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) may find that a boot is starting to take shape on the collective foot of their Central and Eastern European (CEEC) counterparts.On the same day in February when he revealed EU growth would slow to less than 2% this year, Economics Commissioner Yves-Thibault de Silguy made a highly-revealing comment.“In exports, the Community has been able, until now, to maintain its position on the world market,” he said. A former managing director of the International Monetary Fund and long-time governor of the Banque de France, de Larosière brought some much-needed banking know-how to the operation.Administrative spending has been brought under tight control, with only marginal increases over the past two years despite a huge increase in the volume of operations. In 1995, the bank boasted a net profit of 7.5 million ecu after provisions, up from 1 million ecu in 1994.By the end of 1995, it had approved more than 370 projects for a total of 7.8 billion ecu, with more than 300 for 5.9 billion ecu committed.The EBRD has also started to achieve one of its fundamental aims – withdrawing from investments with a profit and handing over the management of projects to a willing and eager private sector.In December, it sold its 26-million-ecu holding in Czech confectioner Cokoladovny to its partners Danone and Nestlé, once the company restructuring was complete.The strong growth in operations means, however, that the bank will exhaust its resources within two years. This has prompted de Larosière to ask shareholders for another 10 billion ecu for his capital base – a request they will accept in Sofia. For Attali, it was always meant to be more than just a bank. He saw it as a sort of community of European values, the central focus of the European economic and political space.But the truth is that it was meant to be a new bank, albeit of a new type: a development bank intended to act as a catalyst for private-sector investment. For example, a favourite EBRD target would be a credit facility for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), agribusiness or an equity participation in a firm’s capital spending programme.Its ambitious president wanted the best staff and salaries to match, he wanted a figure-head headquarters in London and had to pay dearly for that, and he loved to travel to spread the word, which was not cheap.While the bank was spending lavishly on travel budgets, staff salaries and – most famously – on replacing the foyer of its headquarters with marble, at a cost of 60 million ecu, progress on the job it was created to do was very slow.Because it was mandated to take a hard-headed business approach to its lending activities, the EBRD found it difficult to identify high-quality investment opportunities.Eventually, the credibility gap became too wide. In 1993, Attali was forced to resign and was replaced by Jacques de Larosière for a four-year term which runs until the middle of next year.last_img read more

Dancing for charity

first_imgNABEELAH MOHEDEENGroenvlei High School will host its third 12-hour dance-a-thon on Friday and Saturday May 6 and 7, to raise funds for the school’s outreach programme, The Sunflower Fund (“Matrics host dance-a-thon”, Athlone News, September 16, 2015). This project is aimed at creating awareness about leukaemia and funds will also be allocated to potential bone marrow donors who cannot afford the costs involved.This year’s neon-themed 12-hour dance-a-thon, organised by the staff and pupils, will host various DJs who have volunteered their services. The purpose of this event is to raise funds for the outreach project chosen by the matriculants. The dance-a-thon is open to all current and ex-pupils, pupils at neighbouring school as well any other under-21s who would like to take part. Security will be strict to ensure the safety all party-goers. The event will take place in the school hall from Friday May 6 at 6pm until 6am on Saturday May 7. Tickets are currently being sold at school at R40 each and will also be available at the door on the night. Contact the school at 021 703 2227 for ticket sales.last_img read more

SA broadband users jump 50%

first_img“The missing ingredients now are the next generation of customer access equipment for those who are connected, and affordable availability of access for those who are not.” “A mobile broadband connection is a key enabler of the ‘connected life’,” said Cisco South Africa senior manager Reshaad Sha. “Cisco Internet Business Solutions group defines ‘connected life’ services as those services that can be consumed anytime, anywhere, on any device and by anyone.” The Internet Access in South Africa 2010 study, conducted by World Wide Worx and Cisco, shows that most of the growth in fixed line broadband comes from small and medium sized businesses upgrading to ADSL. ‘The connected life’ A new study on internet access finds that the number of South African accessing the internet via broadband connection has grown by more than 50% in the past year – a direct consequence of the growing need for round-the-clock connectivity. If all current cable projects come to fruition by 2011, the total capacity of undersea cables connecting Africa to the rest of the world will have increase 150-fold over 2008. At the end of 2009, the capacity was 1 690 Gigabits-per-second (Gbps). At the end of 2010 it will be 5 410 Gbps, and a year later 14 770 Gbps. According to the study, many workers in South Africa today can perform their jobs in or out of the office – “the connected life” – which allows workers to be productive, responsive and creative in or out of their traditional office spaces. SAinfo reporterWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material The availability of both fibre access and new licences has also sparked an 18% increase in the number of internet access and service providers in South Africa. From a data perspective, consumers are using the internet to create blogs and personal websites with text, pictures and video, while the convergence of formally disparate services – voice, video and data – has provided a variety of new experiences, such as the integration of broadcast TV, video on demand (VoD) and telephony services. “Wireless broadband is neither cheaper nor better quality, but it is more convenient and flexible, and it changes the way we think about where and how we use the internet,” World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck said in a statement last week. “The varied range of services and the demand consumers have started placing on Internet based application services has fuelled the uptake that we see today. Internet access speeds do need to scale in order to meet the demands of applications and services, specifically those that are video enabled,” said Sha. “The combination of new undersea cables and terrestrial fibre-optic networks means we are seeing the emergence of the next generation of connectivity technology, both in fixed line and wireless services,” said Goldstuck. 23 March 2010 While the study also reports on the current and expected impact of the new undersea cables, which have been making most of the headlines in Internet news recently, it also explores, for the first time, the impact of the roll-out of terrestrial fibre-optic networks across South Africa. Remote or mobile workers can instantly access business-essential applications, colleagues, and partners worldwide regardless of their location, the study says, adding that this ability to collaborate and share information in real-time will undoubtedly help to increase business productivity and profitability across the region. Whereas undersea cables connect the country to the world, terrestrial fibre extends that connectivity into the major cities and towns, where businesses and consumers are connected in turn. Terrestrial fibre-optic networks The study also delves into the impact internet access in having on South Africa, from increased access to government information services to new trends in entertainment and education. This in turn has extended internet access to more than half-a-milion South Africans working in small offices who did not previously have access. It also reveals that wireless broadband subscriptions have grown by 88% in the past year against 21% for fixed-line ADSL subscriptions, mainly a result of large companies giving 3G cards to employees who need to be connected while out of the office. “The network build outs that we are seeing in South Africa are positive steps towards the delivery of feature rich Internet services that most developed countries are already enjoying.” Convergence of serviceslast_img read more

Top 10 Digital Lifestyle Products of 2008

first_imgRelated Posts Tags:#2008 in Review#Digital Lifestyle#web#Year in Review Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… Editor’s Note: This list was contributed by Steve O’Hear, editor of last100, a former RWW network blog.There was lots of activity in the digital lifestyle space in 2008, with new devices, services, and platforms being launched and some of our favorites from last year getting significant updates. One notable trend throughout the year was the way these products and services began to converge; not in the sense that they were becoming all-in-one devices, although some of that was happening, but rather by hardware, services, and content playing together nicely, often through open standards and platforms, with the Internet acting as a conduit. On that note, here are our picks of the 10 best digital lifestyle products of 2008.This is the eighth in our series of top products of 2008:Top 10 Semantic Web Products of 2008Top 10 International Products of 2008Top 10 Consumer Web Apps of 2008Top 10 RSS and Syndication Products of 2008Top 10 Mobile Web Products of 2008Top 10 Enterprise Web Products of 2008Top 10 Real World Web Apps of 20081. The App Store The real upgrade to the iPhone this year wasn’t the iPhone 3G but the accompanying App Store. Launched just five months ago, the store now offers over 10,000 third-party apps, and Apple has seen over 300 million downloads. Part of that success can be attributed to the way in which the iPhone as a platform has galvanized developers; a second major factor is the simplicity of the App Store itself. As a result, lots of our other favorite digital lifestyle-related products and services wound up on the iPhone and iPod Touch, such as Pandora and Last.fm (digital music), Joost (Internet TV), Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter (social web), as well as location-based services, games, remotes (VLC Player and Sonos), and much, much more.See also: The real surprise of the App Store isn’t number of downloads or revenue2. Netflix When Netflix starting talking up plans to deliver its online streaming service, Watch Instantly, to “Internet-connected high-definition DVD players, Internet-connected game consoles, and dedicated Internet set-top boxes,” we were a little skeptical, especially of the time frame. However, the company really delivered in 2008: Netflix streaming is now available on TiVo, the XBox 360, Internet-connected DVD players from LG and Samsung, along with the Roku Netflix Player set-top box.3. AndroidOur initial review of the first Google phone, T-Mobile’s G1, was mixed, but the Android OS had us pretty excited. “Without a doubt, the Android operating system is spectacular,” last100’s Daniel Langendorf wrote at the time. “It’s fast, with little or no lag time. It’s responsive, fun to use, and full of promise.” A few months on and we’re still impressed. In particular, Android’s mobile web browser is the best post-iPhone one yet. And likewise, the Android Market does a great job of copying the iPhone’s App Store. Of course, the best thing about Android is that it’s open source; as a result, we’ll see it powering numerous new smartphones next year, along with other hardware, such as set-top boxes, MIDs, and GPS devices.4. Nokia E71 In our extensive review, we described Nokia’s E71 as our favorite smartphone yet. So, admittedly, this one is a very personal choice. The E71 is roughly the same size as the iPhone but has a completely different form-factor, omitting touch for a more traditional user interface and with enough room to pack in a compact but very usable QWERTY keyboard. Other pluses are the device’s overall responsiveness, bundled applications, and a number of welcome improvements to the S60 line’s user interface, along with decent web browsing and media playback, superb call quality, and extremely good battery life.5. Hulu Although online video site Hulu was available in private beta in 2007, it didn’t launch publicly until March of this year. Our initial verdict was mixed, but since then the Fox and NBC joint venture has become the third biggest video destination in the U.S., according to Nielsen. Perhaps a testament to that success, a number of device makers have released set-top boxes marketed on their ability to put Hulu content on the TV, such as ZeeVee’s recently announced PC-to-TV solution, the ZvBox, and the Neuros LINK. Now, if only Hulu would release an iPhone app or, like Netflix, form official partnerships with consumer electronics companies.6. BBC iPlayer Hulu could certainly learn a thing or two from the iPlayer, the BBC’s TV catch-up service (UK only). Since its controversial Windows launch, when the public broadcaster was accused of getting too close to Microsoft, the iPlayer has added streaming for the Mac and Linux, a version for the iPhone and iPod Touch, numerous other portable media players, and support for the latest phones running Windows Mobile. There’s also an iPlayer application for select Nokia phones and a browser-based version optimized for the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii.7. PlayStation 3 Sony’s PlayStation 3 wasn’t launched in 2008, but it certainly came of age this year. The company has always pitched the PS3 as a device that goes far beyond gaming. Instead, like Microsoft’s XBox 360, it’s designed to be a trojan horse in the living room, delivering a range of non-gaming content and services through the television. On that front, Sony made significant progress in 2008 by winning the next-generation format war with Blu-ray, adding DVR functionality in the UK with PlayTV, launching a video download store in the U.S., adding support for DivX video, and, finally, rolling out its own virtual world called Home.8. Songbird After being in development for two years, the open-source desktop music player Songbird reached its 1.0 release this month. What sets Songbird apart from the likes of iTunes is the array of available plug-ins that extend the app’s functionality. For example, mashTape, one of six default add-ons, let’s you delve into artist info, discography, links, and news and scroll through Flickr photos and YouTube videos. Other add-on services that ship with the player out of the box are Last.fm, Concerts, and SHOUTcast radio. With these installed, you can sync your tracks to Last.fm’s online service, check out upcoming concerts in the area, and stream music over the Internet using the player. As of publication, there are over 70 plug-ins available for Songbird.See also: ReadWriteWeb’s full Songbird review.9. Wii Fit Nintendo has long contended that “everyone’s a gamer,” and now the console giant wants everyone to get fit. Announced last year but released in 2008, the Wii Fit aims to improve the health of family members through the kind of active play first seen in Wii Sports. The “game” comes with a balance board that assists with aerobic, toning, and balancing activities. A neat feature is that household members can review each other’s progress on a new Wii channel.10. The Netbook This isn’t an individual product but a whole new product category that has really taken off in 2008. Initially targeted to the education market and those wanting a third machine, netbooks are resonating with a much broader market — and not just because of their lower price point compared to more traditional, higher spec’ed sub-notebooks. Despite years of industry propaganda, consumers are wising up to the fact that they don’t have to step on the processor upgrade treadmill. Instead, in an age when more and more of our applications and data reside in the cloud (on remote servers, rather than local computers), a machine with Internet connectivity and powerful enough to run a modern web browser (a netbook, in other words) is often all we need. A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai…center_img Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting steve ohear last100 editor 1 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more