Philanthropists in Indonesia rally to support arts during crisis. Indonesia’s philanthropists are calling upon their peers to support the arts during Covid-19, pointing to the creative industry’s role in propping up regional economies across the country. However, Indonesian Arts Coalition board executive Linda Hoemar Abidin points out that there are a number of regulatory bottlenecks that prevent corporate and individual philanthropists from donating to the sector. One example is that only up to 5% of corporate income is eligible for tax deductions for charitable donations. CAPS’ Doing Good Index 2020 found that Indonesia has one of the lowest limits on eligible income, virtually cancelling out the incentivizing effect of tax deductions. The former finance minister suggested allowing wider tax breaks as part of the government’s super deduction tax program—issued last year—to encourage businesses and philanthropists to fund the creative industry. The super tax deduction initiative offers a major tax cut of up to 300% aimed at boosting investment, research and development, and the participation of businesses in improving Indonesia’s human resources.
Hong Kong’s richest man steps up donations amid downturn. Li Ka-shing’s charity is donating HK$170 million (US$22 million) to four local universities to further aid the city, which has been battered by political turmoil, Covid-19, and an economic downturn. The donation will be used to help establish biochemistry, biomedical, and sustainable technology research facilities, as well as artificial intelligence learning and teaching solutions. In a statement from the charity, Li said that he made the donation “to advance education excellence amidst uncertainties.” Li has already given away at least US$206 million in the past year to local universities, small businesses, and medical services in Hong Kong amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tencent co-founder Charles Chen’s Yidan Prize unveils 2020 award winners. The Yidan Prize Foundation, a global philanthropic education foundation set up by Charles Chen, announced the winners of its 2020 Yidan Prize. The prize recognizes individuals and teams who have contributed significantly to education research and education development. This year the Yidan Prize for Education Research will be awarded to Stanford University Professor Carl Weiman. The Yidan Prize for Education Development will be awarded to Lucy Lake and Angeline Murimirwa from the Campaign for Female Education. Charles Chen lauded the laureates in a statement, “The outstanding achievements and commitment of this year’s laureates demonstrate that in a post-pandemic world, education continues to be of vital importance to solving future problems and creating positive change in individuals, communities, and the environment.”
Walmart Foundation announces two new grants to help India’s smallholder farmers. The philanthropy arm of retail giant Walmart announced two new grants totaling US$4.5 million to help improve farmer livelihoods in India. Specifically, the grants will help two NGOs, Tanager and PRADAN, to scale their efforts in helping farmers. Tanager will receiver over US$2.6 million to extend its Farmer Market Readiness Program and help farmers in Andhra Pradesh. PRADAN will receive US$1.9 million to launch its Livelihood Enhancement through Market Access and Women Empowerment (LEAP) program in West Bengal, Odisha, and Jharkhand in eastern India. These two grants are part of a commitment Walmart made in September 2018 to invest US$25 million over five years for improving farmer livelihoods in India.
Citi steps up its commitment to youth employment, skills development, and innovation across Asia Pacific. Citi and the Citi Foundation will collectively invest US$35 million in philanthropic contributions and grants by 2023 to improve the employability of youth from low-income and underserved communities in Asia. The bank will also offer 6,000 jobs and 60,000 skills training opportunities for young people at Citi Asia over the next three years. This regional commitment is part of Citi’s expanded global “Pathways to Progress” initiative, which is designed to equip young people with the skills and confidence to improve their employment and entrepreneurship opportunities and make a positive impact in their communities.
Swire Group’s “TrustTomorrow” pledges HK$14 million (approximately US$2 million) for community funding. The TrustTomorrow initiative will fund relief support, benefitting over 100,000 people in Hong Kong through 85 organizations. The initiative aims to support vulnerable groups most affected by the pandemic through efforts focused on food, hygiene, family wellbeing, and social capital. The initiative will also focus on strengthening NGOs during the pandemic by offering in-depth auditing to evaluate where they stand in terms of their digital strategy and what gaps to fill to strengthen their services and operations. TrustTomorrow is larger than just pandemic relief efforts though: the long-term vision of the program is to bring lasting benefits and opportunities to “build a better tomorrow for Hong Kong”. This includes supporting areas such as education, marine conservation, and the arts.
Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek invests in sustainable water fund. A clean-water venture capital fund from clean technology investor Emerald Technology Ventures has attracted US$100 million in commitments. Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek is the cornerstone investor, joined by Microsoft, water technology firm SKion Water, water provider Ecolab, and others. The fund is also supported by Enterprise Singapore, a government agency. The fund will invest in early- to expansion-stage businesses that address water challenges around the world. This includes financing technologies that conserve water resources, support sustainable cities, improve resource efficiency, adapt to climate change, and reduce health risks. Emerald Technology Ventures is expanding in the Asia-Pacific region. It opened a Singapore office last year to house a water technology incubator to support local companies.
Singapore to help charities go digital, boost transparency. Singapore plans to roll out three initiatives later this year to help charities strengthen their digital capability, regulatory compliance, and transparency. First, the Charities GoDigital Kit will be launched to help charities build their digital capacity during the Covid-19 pandemic. Second, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth will revise and publish a new transparency framework that helps charities of different sizes define their policy and approach to transparency—ultimately helping them build trust with donors and stakeholders. Third, the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, Law Society Pro Bono Services, and Shared Services for Charities have been added to a list of partners who help charities in Singapore access IT solutions, recruit talent, and file annual reports and financial statements at low or no cost. Offering these shared services will help enable charities to be more transparent and productive by allowing them to outsource this work and focus on their activities and programs.
IN OTHER NEWS…
Amnesty suspends India operations after accounts are frozen. Financial Times reports on how Amnesty International is suspending its operations in India after the government has frozen its bank account. Amnesty has had to halt its work and lay off 140 Indian staff members. The Enforcement Directorate, the agency responsible for freezing Amnesty’s bank accounts, has yet to make a statement.
FCRA amendments hurt India’s development and democracy. In her op-ed for Bloomberg, Ingrid Srinath, founding director of the Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy at Ashoka University, discusses how amendments to India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) pose potential hazards to development and democracy in India. Srinath focuses on four of the proposed amendments: the ban on regranting FCRA funds to other FCRA registered organizations; the 20% cap on ‘overhead’ spending; the requirement to provide Aadhaar details of board members and senior functionaries; and the mandate to route all FCRA funds through the State Bank of India, New Delhi. She warns how these amendments could hinder collaboration—a cornerstone of India’s Covid-19 relief efforts—as well as talent recruitment, innovation, and impact measurement in the sector. These amendments will also increase the regulatory burden for social sector organizations, therefore disadvantaging smaller, rural, and grassroots nonprofits. Noshir Dadrawala at the Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy also explains the proposed changes in more detail in this article. CAPS’ Doing Good Index 2020 also found that growing oversight of nonprofits receiving foreign funding is having a dampening effect on the sector.
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