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A man comparing US Dollars with Lebanese pounds, in Beirut, Lebanon.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Digital payment lifelines for cash-strapped Lebanon, digital solutions for overcoming COVID, fintech & the war in Ukraine

Digital trade offers Lebanon a lifeline

Lebanon’s economy has imploded following decades of government mismanagement. Its currency has lost more than 90% of its value against the US dollar since 2019, and the banking sector is in shambles. When foreign capital dried up, the government adopted strict capital controls preventing Lebanese from withdrawing dollar savings. This has led to mass demonstrations and even fake bank heists – desperate bids by some to get their hands on their own money. The International Monetary Fund has told Beirut to reform its zombie banking sector in order to unlock bailout funds – but to no avail. As a result, many have turned to digital payments. Digital wallets like Purpl and peer-to-peer money transfer apps allowing users to pay businesses directly have become a lifeline for the country’s 6.7 million people, many of whom rely on the 15-million-strong Lebanese diaspora to stay afloat. Dima Assad, a manager at Nada Debs, a Beirut-based interior design company, said her company had to switch to a payment gateway called PayTabs, based in the United Arab Emirates, when credit card payments in US dollars were blocked. What’s more, fintech offerings have been a game-changer for the 55% of people in Lebanon who don’t have access to bank accounts. Unbanked people used to line up at Western Union – and paid hefty fees – to send and receive money, but now they can use smartphones or laptops (78% have internet access) to access funds while incurring lower transaction fees. The economic situation in Lebanon remains dire, but digital trade offers a lifeline.

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Want to Become Energy-Independent? Transition to Renewables, Says John Kerry | GZERO World

How Russia is both hurting & helping climate action

Under the Biden administration, the US wants to become a global leader on climate change. But the energy crisis from the war in Ukraine has put climate lower on the list of global priorities.

Still, the main climate lesson learned from the invasion is that countries need to become energy-independent by embracing renewables, US climate envoy John Kerry tells Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

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Finland “Investing in Security and Stability” With NATO Push | Global Stage | GZERO Media

Finland “investing in security and stability” with NATO push

Kai Sauer, Finland’s Undersecretary of State for Foreign Security Policy, told GZERO Media that as Finland awaits NATO membership his nation is already contributing to the alliance.

“We are a security provider. We are investing in stability and security in our region,” Sauer said. “We are bringing a lot of capabilities to the alliance. So, it's in everybody's interest, also in Turkey's interest, that Finland and Sweden will become members.”

Sauer spoke to GZERO Media on the sidelines of the 77th UN General Assembly, where conversations about the war in Ukraine and the global crises it has sparked were front and center.

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Putin, Russia & the Allure of Autocracy | GZERO Media

Putin, Russia & the allure of autocracy

“Emperor” Putin has no clothes — and he doesn’t care Global attention is now on Ukrainians fighting for democracy.

But over the past 15 years, the global trend has actually gone in the opposite direction — toward more autocracy. For John Hopkins University professor Yascha Mounk, it's all about confidence — lack of it in democracy in the West and more trust in autocracy in places like China or Russia.

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War in Europe. Russia Invades Ukraine. | Quick Take | GZERO Media

War in Europe: Russia invades Ukraine

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, back in the office in New York. A Quick Take for you on where we are in this war against Ukraine.

Massive military intervention. We've all seen almost 200,000 Russian troops that had been arrayed all along Ukraine's borders, direct land, air, and cyber. This is bombs that are falling across all of Ukraine, including even the far west. Hard to imagine this war will last long, at least the early stages. The Ukrainian government will surely fall, likely flee, and end up in exile someplace outside of Ukraine's borders. President Putin has said that this will not be an occupation. Of course, President Putin has also said over the past weeks that there was no intention to invade. He lied then; he's lying now. There is no purpose of diplomacy, at least at this point between the United States, the Europeans, and Russia. Meanwhile, it's all about what can be done to help the Ukrainians defend themselves as best they can. And this is clearly going to be at best at the margins, because the Russians have overwhelming military capabilities.

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