Pillay writes to Ban about Shavendra

Inner City Press asked UN High Commission on Human Rights Navi Pillay about the case, and if she thought it reflected well on the UN. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has written to UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon expressing her concerns over the appointment of Shavendra Silva as a senior adviser on peacekeeping operations.Inner City Press reported that Pillay spoke about Shavendra’s appointment when she was asked a question at a media stakeout outside a General Assembly session on Syria yesterday (Monday). Pillay responded, on camera and on the record, that “It’s a matter of concern… my office keeps a list of individuals suspected of committing human rights violations.” She added, “I have addressed a letter of concern to the Secretary General about this.” read more

Fed minutes Officials back reducing bond holdings this year

Fed minutes: Officials back reducing bond holdings this year WASHINGTON – Federal Reserve officials signalled in discussions early this month that they would likely start reducing the Fed’s huge portfolio of bond holdings later this year, a step that could cause borrowing rates to rise.At the same time, the Fed appears to be on track to resume raising its key short-term interest rate when it next meets in mid-June.The minutes of the Fed’s May 2-3 meeting, released Wednesday, show that officials not only discussed beginning a reduction of bond holdings this year but also expressed approval for a plan on how the bond sales should proceed.The Fed would set a cap on the size of maturing bonds to be sold each month and a schedule for gradually raising the cap. The goal would be to minimize the effect of the bond sales on loan rates paid by consumers and businesses. Typically, a sell-off of the Fed’s bonds would gradually ripple through the economy and force up many borrowing rates.The first signal from the Fed in April that it was considering a move to start reducing its $4.5 trillion portfolio this year had initially jolted investors.In laying out a possible approach to reducing its bond holdings, the Fed appeared Wednesday to be trying to further prepare financial markets for the impending change. The minutes of this month’s meeting indicated that the Fed may soon release updated details on how the bond reductions will be achieved.After it met early this month, the Fed left its key policy rate unchanged after having raised it at its December and March meetings. Most economists and investors have said they think the Fed will raise rates twice more this year, with the next one occurring after the next policy meeting ends June 14. Nothing in the material the Fed released Wednesday suggested otherwise.Economists suggested that the Fed’s decision on when to raise rates again will depend heavily on how the job market fares. Some noted that since the Fed met early this month, the government reported that unemployment in April fell to a decade low of 4.4 per cent, with a healthy 211,000 jobs added.“Our money is on the unemployment rate as being the key variable driving policy forward,” said Chris Rupkey, senior analyst at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi. Rupkey noted that the jobless rate is already below the 4.7 per cent level that the Fed considers as signalling full employment.The Fed minutes said, “Most participants judged that if economic information came in about in line with their expectations, it would soon be appropriate for the committee to take another step” to raise rates.The minutes did not spell out what officials meant by “soon.” But the minutes made clear that Fed officials believe that a sharp slowdown in economic growth early this year was likely “transitory” and would be followed by stronger growth in coming months.In discussing why the Fed thought it was appropriate to hold off on raising rates at its meeting early this month, the minutes said “members generally judged that it would be prudent to await additional evidence indicating that the recent slowdown in the pace of economic activity had been transitory before taking another step” to raise rates.For seven years, the Fed left its key short-term rate at a record low near zero in an effort to support the economy’s recovery from the 2007-2009 recession, the worst downturn since the 1930s.The Fed raised rates for the first time in December 2015 and has followed with two more modest increases, in December last year and then in March. The Fed indicated in March that it still expected to boost rates twice more this year.The discussion of the Fed’s staff plan for reducing its bond holdings provided the most concrete information so far on how the central bank might proceed.Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, estimated that about $30 billion in mortgage-backed securities and $33 billion in Treasurys will mature each month in 2018. He said the Fed might start with a cap of $20 billion in bonds that would be allowed to roll off its balance sheet, with amounts above that level continuing to be reinvested. Currently, all maturing securities are reinvested by the Fed.“There are still plenty of questions to answer on balance sheet normalization — not least exactly how big the Fed wants its balance sheet to be in the long term,” Ashworth said.The Fed’s $4.5 trillion balance sheet represents a five-fold increase from where it stood in the summer of 2008 before the financial crisis hit, sending the country into a deep recession. After the Fed had cut its short-term rate to near zero in December 2008, it turned to three rounds of bond purchases to try to exert downward pressure on long-term rates. by Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press Posted May 24, 2017 12:08 pm MDT Last Updated May 24, 2017 at 3:40 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email FILE – In this June 19, 2015, file photo, people walk past the Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board Building in Washington. On Wednesday, May 24, 2017, the Federal Reserve releases the minutes from its last interest-rate meeting. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) read more

International investment disputes hit record in 2012 – UN report

The report, “Recent Developments in Investor–State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)”, showed that 62 new cases were filed in 2012, of which 68 per cent of respondents were from developing or transition economies.“Recent developments have amplified a number of cross-cutting challenges that are facing the ISDS mechanism, which gives credence to calls for reform of the investment arbitration system,” said James Zhan, Director of UNCTAD’s Division on Investment and Enterprise, which published the report.Foreign investors challenged a broad range of government measures, UNCTAD reported, including revocations of licences, breaches of investment contracts, irregularities in public tenders, changes to domestic regulatory frameworks, withdrawal of previously granted subsidies, direct expropriations of investments and imposition of taxes.Nine decisions in 2012 awarded damages, including the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which ordered Ecuador to pay $1.77 billion to Occidental Petroleum Corp as compensation for taking over its assets in 2006. The monetary award was the highest in the history of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).In addition, for the first time in treaty-based ISDS proceedings, an arbitral tribunal affirmed its jurisdiction over a counterclaim lodged by a respondent State against the investor.By the end of 2012, the total number of known cases reached 518, and the total number of countries that have responded to one or more ISDS claims increased to 95, according to UNCTAD. The overall number of concluded cases reached 244, out of which approximately 42 per cent were decided in favour of the State and 31 per cent in favour of the investor. Approximately 27 per cent of the cases were settled.“The ISDS mechanism is already a source of considered reflection in numerous bilateral and regional IIA negotiations. However, a multilateral dialogue on ISDS could prove more effective in bringing about a harmonized approach to reform,” Mr. Zhan said. read more