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A record number of African rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa this year, driven by the use of their horns in Chinese medicine and a spreading belief in Southeast Asia, unfounded in science, that they may cure cancer. The street value of rhinoceros horns has soared to about $65 000 a kilogramme, making it more expensive than gold.

South Africa, home to more than 20 000 rhinos, or about 90% of all the rhinos in Africa, lost 455 rhinos to poachers, as of Tuesday, to eclipse the 448 killed in all of 2011, the environment ministry said in a statement. Around 15 animals a year were lost a decade ago, showing the impact of rising demand from Asia.

The number of rhinoceroses dying unnatural deaths in South Africa, either through illegal poaching or legal hunts, has now reached a level likely to lead to population decline, according to a study by Richard Emslie, an expert in the field. Poaching increased dramatically from about 2007 as a growing affluent class in China, Vietnam and Thailand began spending more on rhino horn for traditional medicine, where it was once used for ailments such as devil possession.

About half of poaching takes place in Kruger National Park, the country’s flagship park covering an area about the size of Israel, where soldiers and surveillance aircraft have been deployed in recent months to slow the carnage. The park has been the focal point of an arms race as gangs of poachers sponsored by international crime syndicates have used high-powered weaponry, night vision goggles and helicopters to hunt the animals, investigators said. Source: Polity.org.za

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East Asian economies have recorded marked improvements in their ability to enable trade, while traditional frontrunners Singapore and Hong Kong retain a clear lead at the top of the global rankings, according to the Global Enabling Trade Report 2012, released today by the World Economic Forum.

The report, which is published every two years, also confirms strong showings for Europe’s major economies, with Finland and the United Kingdom both advancing six places to 6th and 11th, respectively, and Germany and France remaining stable at 13th and 20. Other large economies fare less well: the US continues its decline to 23rd, as does China (56th) and India (100th). Among emerging economies, Turkey (62nd) and Mexico (65th) remain stable while Chile (14th), Saudi Arabia (27th) and South Africa (63rd) climb in the ranking. ASEAN members Thailand (57th), Indonesia (58th) and the Philippines (72nd) also improve. Perhaps the proponents of OSBPs and a BMA in South Africa have not read this or have deeper insight into the matter.

As well as ranking nations’ trade openness, the report finds that traditional notions of trade are increasingly outdated as global value chains require new measurements, policies and cooperation. The report also finds that security, quality and trade can be mutually reinforcing through supply chain integrity efforts, but a knowledge gap in identifying buyers remains an important barrier. The biennial report, covering 132 economies worldwide, measures the abilities of economies to enable trade and highlights areas where improvements are most needed. A widely used reference, it helps countries integrate global value chains and companies with their investment decisions.

At the core of the report is the Enabling Trade Index, which measures institutions, policies and services facilitating the free flow of goods over borders and to destination. It breaks the enablers into four issue areas: market access, border administration, transport and communications infrastructure, and business environment. The Index uses a combination of data from publicly available sources, as well as the results of the Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive annual survey conducted by the World Economic Forum with its network of partner research institutes and business organizations in the countries included in the report. The 2012 results demonstrate that the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement has facilitated trade since its entry into force in 2010. This year, the report also directly captures the most important obstacles to exporting and importing in each country, and notes the strong links between import and export success. Source: AllAfrica.com / WEF