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Economics

Food security in a changing climate

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Kate Holt/AusAID, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Food is one of the most crucial essentials of life on earth and the absence or inadequacy of it renders life uncomfortable. Everybody needs to eat, not just anything but rather food with the essential nutrients to support their lives. Nature provides some form of food systems to support mankind. However, deliberate efforts are required to ensure that there is adequate food for all and sundry. Food security has been defined as a state where everyone has at all times physical, economic, and social access to enough food that is safe, nutritious and meets their dietary needs as well as their food preferences to stay active and healthy. This suggests that food insecurity is not simply the physical absence of food but further includes situations in which people live on non-nutritious and unsafe food, and eat food that is not their preference. This broad definition, therefore, lays more emphasis on the roles of government and the private sector towards achieving food security.

Most countries with good weather and soil conditions can produce most of their food varieties and most African countries can produce the bulk of food they consume. For instance, Ghana is said to produce about 51% of cereals, 60% of fish needed, 50% of meat, and less than 30% of the raw materials needed for agro-based industries. The remaining are imported to supplement local production especially rice and other manufactured food items. Over the years, the production of food seems to have declined as a result of the impact of climate change. This has, however, threatened food security and requires concerted effort to address the issues. Recently, excessive rainfall destroyed most crops in the northern part of the country. This was preceded by long droughts which affected crops production in the northern part of the country known as the food basket of the country. This has implications for food security. The increase in population put pressure on exacerbating the problem of agricultural land use. UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #2 aims at ending hunger by 2030 but amid climate variabilities, achieving this goal has become a challenge in the world over. This has even been made more pronounced with the emergence of Covid-19. Food prices are also on the increase since more people need to feed on fewer food commodities. For most people, the nutritional value of their food no longer matters, what is essential is having something to fill the stomach.

Climate change affects all manner of persons and the effects vary from place to place. Therefore, it is important to embrace better adaptation and climate-resilient agricultural practices if countries wish to pursue the sustainable development agenda. More innovative ways are required to grow crops, processing and manufacturing, storage, and making them accessible to consumers. The entire agricultural value chain requires innovative approaches to ensure food security. Human capacities need to be improved. Farmers should be conversant with the new ways of farming and the various technologies required to overcome climatic stresses. Knowledge of harvesting and post-harvesting techniques should be introduced to the farmers. The technology required to store food and make it accessible in times of droughts should be incorporated into the agricultural value chain. The provision of the physical infrastructure to support the production of food including crops, livestock, fish stock among others is crucial for food security. Irrigation and storage facilities are critical in this process.

Building resilient communities requires political institutions to put in more effort in providing the necessary assets to ensure food security. This could take the form of policy directions and provision of financial, social, physical, natural, human, and environmental assets for food security. The private sector can equally play similar roles and enhance the assets of communities to build resilience to climate change and enhance food security. Civil society should also engage communities to build their capacities in all areas that are necessary to combat the impacts of climate change and enhance food security. Collaboration and partnership among these institutions are crucial in enhancing food security in a changing climate.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Fatima Eshun (Ph.D.), University of Environment and Sustainable Development, Department of Geography and Earth Science, Somanya, Eastern Region, Ghana

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Business

CEO pay hike and the pandemic

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Chief executives of public corporations are compensated by way of salary, bonus, stock, stock options, and even through use of company jets. It’s well-known that CEO pay has always been high but it’s also been increasing at a disproportionately fast rate for many decades; in the 1990s this trend increased a lot. A significant portion of CEO pay however, is not actual salary. It’s more related to stock or stock options and it’s this non-salary component which has increased over time. 

According to a survey by Stanford University 74% of Americans did not agree with the fact that CEOs are paid so much more compared to the average worker. Only 16% thought CEOs were paid what they should be paid. CEO salaries have been skyrocketing over the years and this trend hasn’t stopped nor reversed during the pandemic. At a time when firms are laying off employees, this news is both shocking and disturbing. 

Companies want to hire above average CEOs on the assumption that their firms will reflect above average performances. A study by the Institute of Policy Studies in 2019, shows that 80% of S&P 500 firms paid their CEO a huge 100 times more than their average employee. And the average employee would have to work for a back-breaking 100 years in order to make what a typical CEO earns in just one year. 

Another study by the Economic Policy Institute found that in 2020 throughout the pandemic, CEOs of the top 350 firms were paid an incredible 351 times more compared to the average worker, which is naturally disconcerting for the common stakeholder. Additionally, CEO compensation has risen by a huge 19% in 2020 whilst the pay of a rank and file worker increased by only 4% and there were also massive layoffs and decline in sales. It’s been calculated that the median CEO-to-employee pay ratio during 2020 was 227:1 – significantly up on the previous year of 191:1.

Although apparently the salaries of some CEOs were reduced after the pandemic, which received admiration from some sections of the media, in reality these cuts were practically reversed by big bonuses. For example, thousands of workers were furloughed by Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. and 2,100 corporate positions were removed. In response, apparently the CEO and some other top executives cut their base salaries. But according to the company filings with the SEC, their total compensation was doubled. So the base salary cuts were mostly symbolic. 

The Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act was proposed in 2021, to penalise companies which overpay their CEO or top executives. Any company which pays their top executives more than 50 times that of a median worker, will have to pay 0.5 percentage points or more on their tax rates depending on the discrepancy of pay. As an example, Walmart would have had to pay up to $854.9 million more in taxes in 2020 if this law had been in effect. 

The expectations that higher pay will attract better talent results in the exorbitant pay packages for top executives although these expectations are not always borne out. CEO salaries do not necessarily link directly to their performance. They are paid more if the company’s stock prices rise but this does not always mean those companies are performing better. Stock prices might be rising due to other economic factors or just due to government support measures. 

Companies may feel pressured into constantly having to increase their CEO pay in order to compete with the market. Rewarding bosses who’ve steered their organisation through the tough times with inflation-busting salaries is a strategy to stop them leaving. But the trend of executive pay benchmarking is not healthy. There is a counter argument that there is no scarcity of talent to justify overpayments at the expense of long term company goals. 

429 large-cap US companies were sampled between 2006 and 2015 in a report by MSCI, which found that companies which paid lower than median total pay outperformed other corporations by as much as 39%. It was a study about companies where CEO compensation was linked with performance. On the contrary shareholders’ returns were found to be higher where CEOs’ pay was in lower percentages. 

When the subject of CEO salaries gets a lot of attention in the media and is constantly scrutinised it can be counterproductive. Instead of companies keeping a check on that component of CEO pay which is counterproductive because it is not performance based (base salary), the pay for performance approach may be avoided altogether. It is feared that in such situations executives are not rewarded for performance nor are they penalized for poor performance (no performance based bonuses). 

Although it’s generally believed that a big portion of executive pay includes company stock, it’s mostly mentioned in terms of its value or what its proportion is out of total pay. However, more meaningful analysis is needed to see what percentage of company stock is owned by the CEO. The higher the percentage of shares owned by the CEO creates a direct link between shareholders’ stake and that of the CEO. It’s also believed that stocks instead of stock options are a better way to link pay to performance. Similarly, just because an executive is paid via bonus does not automatically mean it is linked to performance. This payment can be in fact misleading unless it is actually linked with performance. 

There is a perspective that it doesn’t matter how much CEOs are paid, what really matters is how they’re paid and what they were paid in the past years. Transparency in executive pay will help in restoring confidence. Compensation committees should make sure that CEO pay is according to the organisation’s philosophy, long term goals, and risk appetite. The widening gap between CEO compensation and workers’ salary is not a healthy sign for the economy and it means the middle class is disappearing. The rising focus on income inequality has resulted in increased attention to CEO pay. In many instances shareholders get to vote on the board’s decision of pay and agree to it. However, it’s no surprise to see shareholders from Starbucks and AT&T starting to vote against the executive compensation as executive pay packages have begun to balloon. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

Kazakhstan turmoil reaches new heights as violent protests continue across the country

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Brokev03, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Protests in Kazakhstan that started due to increased fuel prices had much deeper underlying issues that came to the surface after a few days of protest. Due to the intensity, the government declared a state of emergency following the upheaval on Wednesday.

This was the worst protest in Kazakhstan since this oil-rich country received independence 30 years ago. The main reason for this was the sudden increase in the prices of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) which was the main fuel source used by the people. Soon the protests escalated and the demonstrators torched government buildings, looted businesses and vehicles, and also toppled statues while the officials used violent means to control them. To control the protests that started on 2nd January, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev dropped the fuel prices again but the protests continued. Mainly because what started as a fight for simple cause soon revealed greater discontent that people had with the country. Another main reason for the protest was the control the former President, Nursultan Nazarbayev who led the country for three decades, had on the government and its decisions. The underlying issues for the protest were definitely much deeper like the increasing social inequalities as the rich keep their wealth safe and the poor have to suffer.   

To help restore the peace, troops from countries like Russia were sent in while the country was left in lockdown from Wednesday with strict curfews and no internet. According to the Interior Ministry on Monday, almost 8,000 people have been detained throughout the country as protesting is still illegal there. Moreover, on Sunday evening a statement was posted by officials on Telegram social media app stating that 164 people had died in the recent unrest. However, this statement was soon retracted as it was due to a “technical error” and until now only 44 deaths have been confirmed. The security forces apparently had to kill the rioters to restore peace in the country as President Tokayev gave them the order to “fire without warning”.

Seeing these protests, the Ukrainians also took to the street to not only defend their independence but to also fight for the rights of Kazakhstan. The protest included drones that flew with the flags of both countries. One of the drone operators, Vitaly Shevchuk explained his stance “we condemn violence in any form, but we also oppose foreign military intervention in Kazakhstan under the guise of a peacekeeping operation, which is more like punitive action and risks becoming an occupation.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Business

2021 In Focus

A look back at some of our best moments from 2021. As we explored topics ranging from Remote working, HGV Driver Shortages, Climate Change, Cryptocurrency, the COVID pandemic, Rebranding, though to Development through Play and much much more. So grab a snack and relive 2021 In Focus!

Discover more at https://analystnews.com

Follow us @AnalystDaily on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Business

Giving to Charity in a Digital World – In Focus

Giving to charity is something that some do on a regular basis, others give on occasion and yet there are a few that are just reluctant for whichever reason. In this episode of ‘In Focus’ we dig into the ideas around giving to charity and how digitalisation in this industry is transforming the ways in which we donate, removing any barriers in donating. Join us as we speak to Sean Donnelly from RoundUps.org

Discover more at https://analystnews.com

Follow us @AnalystDaily on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

TFL funding package deadline extended as TFL workers face job cuts and pension caps

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The deadline to negotiate an additional support package for Transport for London (TFL) has been extended to Friday 17th December 2021. 

The new deadline has come as the UK Government, and Mayor of London have failed to come to an agreement on the amount of funding required to prevent further job cuts, and an increase in the retirement age of workers. 

Despite more than £4bn given to Transport for London as emergency funding to make up for a loss to fare revenues since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the Mayor of London’s office predicts the slashing of 600 posts, and the shutting down of the Bakerloo Line. 

However, the Minister for London, Paul Scully, dismissed the threats, claiming instead that there was sufficient funding to maintain services. A government source added that the Mayor should accept the “deal on the table” because demand for services was unlikely to return to “pre-pandemic levels”. 

As TFL points to freezing their recruitment for customer service jobs, a joint letter to the Government from business and union bosses asked for an “urgent” confirmation of the package “to deliver a truly sustainable transport network”. 

The Rail, Maritime and Transport trade union has been taking strike action against the cuts to jobs, and the impact on pensions for workers, who could see an increase in retirement age, and cuts to retirement income. 

Earlier this month, workers demonstrated against the cuts on Old Palace Yard in Westminster. The ‘Save the London Transport’ demonstration, which took place on 1st December, heard speeches from members from Unite the Union, as well as Labour politician and Member for Parliament for Slough, Tanmanjeet Singh.

 “I personally believe they have an ambition to privatise the rail network,” said John Murphy, Regional Officer from Unite London. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Business

Vishal Garg, CEO of Better.com, apologizes for firing employees over Zoom

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Vishal Garg, the CEO of Better.com mass fired about 900 employees over Zoom on 1st December 2021. The employees that were laid off were unaware that this would happen when logging into the Zoom meeting. 

A video shows Garg firing an employee on call by starting off with “if you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off,” and following it with “your employment here is terminated effective immediately.” After this video went viral and there was public outrage, Garg issued a public apology. The apology statement stated “I own the decision to do the layoffs, but in communicating it I blundered the execution. In doing so, I embarrassed you” and “I realize that the way I communicated this news made a difficult situation worse. I am deeply sorry and am committed to learning from this situation and doing more to be the leader that you expect me to be.” This Zoom call lasted about three minutes and laid off 9% of the employees just before Christmas. One fired employee said that “I was sitting here thinking, ‘what the hell?’” while keeping their identity hidden, they also added “I thought I was safe. I had perfect reviews and thought I was an integral part of the team. It’s a bummer because I know I worked really hard to help build up that company, and it looks like I just wasted my time.”

Interestingly, a day before the layoff, the company received $750 million cash from its bankers. This company was founded by Garg in 2014 with the goal of “re-engineering the mortgage process,” according to their website. Unfortunately, days after he laid off so many employees, he was seen on an anonymous professional network, commenting about his employees being unproductive. Allegedly he posted on Blind “you guys know that at least 250 of the people terminated were working an average of two hours a day while clocking in eight hours+ a day in the payroll system? They were stealing from you and stealing from our customers who pay the bills that pay our bills. Get educated.” This isn’t the first controversy that Garg was in as in 2020 an email was obtained by Forbes which said “you are TOO DAMN SLOW. You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS and…DUMB DOLPHINS get caught in nets and eaten by sharks. SO STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME.”

Needless to say, his apology does not seem that sincere considering all the past controversies that he has been in. Hopefully, the laid-off workers will get an appropriate apology and be able to find suitable work where they feel appreciated for their time and efforts. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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