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  • Recent Developments of Exploration and Detection of Shallow-Water Hydrothermal Systems

    Zhujun Zhang; Wei Fan; Weicheng Bao; Chen-Tung A Chen; Shuo Liu; Yong Cai (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    A hydrothermal vent system is one of the most unique marine environments on Earth. The cycling hydrothermal fluid hosts favorable conditions for unique life forms and novel mineralization mechanisms, which have attracted the interests of researchers in fields of biological, chemical and geological studies. Shallow-water hydrothermal vents located in coastal areas are suitable for hydrothermal studies due to their close relationship with human activities. This paper presents a summary of the developments in exploration and detection methods for shallow-water hydrothermal systems. Mapping and measuring approaches of vents, together with newly developed equipment, including sensors, measuring systems and water samplers, are included. These techniques provide scientists with improved accuracy, efficiency or even extended data types while studying shallow-water hydrothermal systems. Further development of these techniques may provide new potential for hydrothermal studies and relevant studies in fields of geology, origins of life and astrobiology.
  • Does the Environmental Kuznets Curve Exist? An International Study

    Nutnaree Maneejuk; Sutthipat Ratchakom; Paravee Maneejuk; Woraphon Yamaka (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    This study aims to examine the relationship between economic development and environmental degradation based on the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) hypothesis. The level of CO<sub>2</sub> emissions is used as the indicator of environmental damage to determine whether or not greater economic growth can lower environmental degradation under the EKC hypothesis. The investigation was performed on eight major international economic communities covering 44 countries across the world. The relationship between economic growth and environmental condition was estimated using the kink regression model, which identifies the turning point of the change in the relationship. The findings indicate that the EKC hypothesis is valid in only three out of the eight international economic communities, namely the European Union (EU), Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and Group of Seven (G7). In addition, interesting results were obtained from the inclusion of four other control variables into the estimation model for groups of countries to explain the impact on environmental quality. Financial development (FIN), the industrial sector (IND), and urbanization (URB) were found to lead to increasing CO<sub>2 </sub>emissions, while renewable energies (RNE) appeared to reduce the environmental degradation. In addition, when we further investigated the existence of the EKC hypothesis in an individual country, the results showed that the EKC hypothesis is valid in only 9 out of the 44 individual countries.
  • Does Economic Policy Uncertainty Affect CO<sub>2</sub> Emissions? Empirical Evidence from the United States

    Qing Wang; Kefeng Xiao; Zhou Lu (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    This paper aims to examine the effects of economic policy uncertainty (measured by the World Uncertainty Index—WUI) on the level of CO<sub>2</sub> emissions in the United States for the period from 1960 to 2016. For this purpose, we consider the unit root test with structural breaks and the autoregressive-distributed lag (ARDL) model. We find that the per capita income promotes CO<sub>2</sub> emissions in the long run. Similarly, the WUI measures are positively associated with CO<sub>2</sub> emissions in the long run. Energy prices negatively affect CO<sub>2</sub> emissions both in the short run and the long run. Possible implications of climate change are also discussed.
  • Creating a Comprehensive Method for the Evaluation of a Company

    Jakub Horak; Tomas Krulicky; Zuzana Rowland; Veronika Machova (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    For investment purposes, the evaluation of a company is not only a matter for a company itself, but also for shareholders and external persons. There are many methods for evaluating a company. This contribution therefore focuses on the creation of a comprehensive method for the evaluation of an industrial enterprise, one that can be used to predict potential future bankruptcies, using a dataset of financial statements of active companies and those in liquidation in the period 2015–2019. Artificial neural networks were used to process the data, specifically logistic regressions from the data processed in the Statistica and Mathematica software programmes. The results showed that the models created using the Mathematica software are not applicable in practice due to the parameters of the obtained results. In contrast, the artificial neural structures obtained using the neural network model in the Statistica software were prospective due to their performance, which is almost always above 0.8, and the logical economic interpretation of the relevant variables. All the generated and retained networks show excellent performance and few errors. However, one of the artificial structures, network no. 4 (MLP 16-16-2), produces better results than the others. Overall, accuracy is almost 81%. In the case of the classification of companies capable of surviving financial distress, accuracy is almost 90%, with that for the classification of companies at risk of going into bankruptcy at nearly 55%.
  • The Impact of a Multitasking-Based Virtual Reality Motion Video Game on the Cognitive and Physical Abilities of Older Adults

    Xiaoxuan Li; Kavous Salehzadeh Niksirat; Shanshan Chen; Dongdong Weng; Sayan Sarcar; Xiangshi Ren (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    This study demonstrates how playing a well-designed multitasking motion video game in a virtual reality (VR) environment can positively impact the cognitive and physical health of older players. We developed a video game that combines cognitive and physical training in a VR environment. The impact of playing the game was measured through a four-week longitudinal experiment. Twenty healthy older adults were randomly assigned to either an intervention group (i.e., game training) or a control group (i.e., no contact). Participants played three 45-min sessions per week completing cognitive tests for attention, working memory, reasoning and a test for physical balance before and after the intervention. Results showed that compared to the control group, the game group showed significant improvements in working memory and a potential for enhancing reasoning and balance ability. Furthermore, while the older adults enjoyed playing the video game, ability enhancements were associated with their intrinsic motivation to play. Overall, cognitive training with multitasking VR motion video games has positive impacts on the cognitive and physical health of older adults.
  • Socio-Educational Impact of Augmented Reality (AR) in Sustainable Learning Ecologies: A Semantic Modeling Approach

    José Gómez-Galán; Esteban Vázquez-Cano; Antonio Luque de la Rosa; Eloy López-Meneses (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    The current educational processes must be supported by sustainable learning ecologies, where the digitalization of training is enhanced. In this area, augmented reality (AR) plays an important role. It is a technology that for certain educational goals can facilitate the understanding of the course contents and increase the motivation and interest of the student. This research aims to measure the socio-educational impact that AR presents in the teaching processes of university students of social education. These are professionals in training dedicated, precisely, to social and educational actions. In order to reach the pursued objective, an exploratory study of qualitative and descriptive nature was approached from a methodological conception based on the action-research. The study was carried out during three academic courses and consisted of an experience of integration of AR in the classroom in order to determine which applications, and advantages or limitations of a socio-educational nature, were perceived by the participants in that process. The documents generated were analyzed mainly using semantic methods. The main results were that AR is positive overall for its use in learning processes and, specifically in its field, optimal for the development of professional skills within the framework of social education. As to benefits, it highlighted the strengthening of learning dynamism, motivation, and interaction among students; as to limitations, these included the fact that it is not an accessible technology, the need for previous training and that it can reduce sociability. It was also stressed that it can be a useful resource in many areas of social education (childhood and adolescence, gerontology, drug addiction, etc.). In general, therefore, it can be concluded that the use of AR in university training, in this area of knowledge, allows content to be more dynamic and real in a sustainable way, thus achieving a highly transferable and motivating path to develop content and competencies.
  • Projection of Greenhouse Gas Emissions for the Road Transport Sector Based on Multivariate Regression and the Double Exponential Smoothing Model

    Reham Alhindawi; Yousef Abu Nahleh; Arun Kumar; Nirajan Shiwakoti (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    The economic and health impacts resulting from the greenhouse effect is a major concern in many countries. The transportation sector is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide. Almost 15 percent of the global GHG and over 20 percent of energy-related CO<sub>2</sub> emissions are produced by the transportation sector. Quantifying GHG emissions from the road transport sector assists in assessing the existing vehicles’ energy consumptions and in proposing technological interventions for enhancing vehicle efficiency and reducing energy-supply greenhouse gas intensity. This paper aims to develop a model for the projection of GHG emissions from the road transport sector. We consider the Vehicle-Kilometre by Mode (VKM) to Number of Transportation Vehicles (NTV) ratio for the six different modes of transportation. These modes include motorcycles, passenger cars, tractors, single-unit trucks, buses and light trucks data from the North American Transportation Statistics (NATS) online database over a period of 22 years. We use multivariate regression and double exponential approaches to model the projection of GHG emissions. The results indicate that the VKM to NTV ratio for the different transportation modes has a significant effect on GHG emissions, with the coefficient of determination adjusted R<sup>2</sup> and R<sup>2</sup> values of 89.46% and 91.8%, respectively. This shows that VKM and NTV are the main factors influencing GHG emission growth. The developed model is used to examine various scenarios for introducing plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles in the future. If there will be a switch to battery electric vehicles, a 62.2 % reduction in CO<sub>2</sub> emissions would occur. The results of this paper will be useful in developing appropriate planning, policies, and strategies to reduce GHG emissions from the road transport sector.
  • YouTube Dominance in Sustainability of Gaining Knowledge via Social Media in University Setting—Case Study

    Miloslava Černá; Anna Borkovcová (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    The study deals with sustainability of social software applications in a university setting focusing primarily on the YouTube platform. The aim of this paper is to identify the potential of YouTube media in serving as a supportive educational tool. To meet the objective, researchers carried out an exploratory study based on mixed quantitative–qualitative methods. A mental knowledge model was designed as a starting point where crucial aspects of gaining knowledge were visualized. Sustainability of social media was analyzed in three defined sections encompassing three areas reflecting the needs of the educational process: social media as a tool of communication, repository of study materials and a tool for testing. The affective learning domain was highlighted in the study; one of the key explored categories was the category of satisfaction as a students’ motivation mover. Based on the findings, YouTube as an absolute winner was consequently analyzed in detail, focusing on three areas: satisfaction, kinds of activities on this platform and spent time. The discussion raises questions on pitfalls of social media utilization; this chapter also brings the latest experience from the time hit by coronavirus and related quarantine which showed incontestable benefits of social media in education and proved their irreplaceable role.
  • The Usage of Public Transport and Impact of Satisfaction in the European Union

    Audronė Minelgaitė; Renata Dagiliūtė; Genovaitė Liobikienė (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    The main objective of this paper was to analyse comprehensively the urban public transport usage, satisfaction levels and the satisfaction impact on usage of public transport in European Union (EU) countries. Results revealed that the usage of urban public transport in all EU countries is rather low and significantly depends on economic development level. The satisfaction levels measured as comfort and safety, ticket price, frequency and reliability and amenities at stops and stations significantly differed among EU countries as well. In a half of the EU countries, the satisfaction with ticket price and the time to the station had significant impacts on usage of urban public transport. Meanwhile, the satisfaction with reliability, public transport frequency and comfort and safety had significantly influenced urban public transport usage only in one-third of EU countries. In the majority of EU countries, women and older respondents more often tended to use urban public transport. Next to improvement of public transport service, a variety of policy measures should be applied, from awareness rising and image improvement to the review of pricing policies both of public transport and of parking fees.
  • Identifying and Assessing Sustainable Value Management Implementation Activities in Developing Countries: The Case of Egypt

    Ahmed Farouk Kineber; Idris Othman; Ayodeji Emmanuel Oke; Nicholas Chileshe; Mohanad Kamil Buniya (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    Value management (VM) has become a useful tool for achieving sustainability in many countries. This paper aims to assess VM implementation and its activities towards achieving sustainable building projects in Egypt. Data were obtained from the literature, followed by a qualitative approach through a semi-structured interview and a quantitative approach via a questionnaire survey. In Cairo and Giza, data were collected from a sample of 200 building professionals using a questionnaire, while exploration of the country’s VM activities practice was completed using exploratory factor analysis (EFA), including descriptive statistics such as “frequency analysis” and ”measures of central tendencies”. The results show that VM awareness was demonstrated by 64% of the sample, which means that they know about VM. On the other hand, most respondents, 85.3%, did not adopt VM and did not receive any VM training. The results also show, through EFA, that the correlations between these activities show five main components: an information phase, a function phase, a creativity phase, an evaluation phase, and a development/presentation phase. This study will help building professionals to eliminate unwanted costs and enhance project sustainability by adopting VM in building projects in developing countries. Finally, the results of this study will enhance building management through the implementation of VM elements, with a view to ensuring value for money and meeting sustainability goals.
  • Current Status, Barriers and Development Perspectives for Circular Bioeconomy in Polish South Baltic Area

    Dariusz Mikielewicz; Paweł Dąbrowski; Roksana Bochniak; Aleksandra Gołąbek (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    The following article presents the current legal situation in Poland as well as in the European Union. Data on biomass production in the Polish South Baltic area were analyzed, along with an indication of the key sectors for the development of bioeconomy. Presentation of the current state of biomass management was made and areas necessary for development were indicated to facilitate the sustainable management of biomass and waste generated during its processing. Differences between regions in the Polish South Baltic Area show how an individual approach in each of these areas is required. During the analysis, the most important barrier to the implementation of the circular economy was distinguished, which is the lack of an appropriate legal framework. This is to be changed by the Circular Economy Road Map, adopted in 2019.
  • Effect of Protocatechuic Acid on <i>Euglena gracilis</i> Growth and Accumulation of Metabolites

    Xiaomiao Tan; Jiangyu Zhu; Minato Wakisaka (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    The development of efficient, environmentally friendly, low-cost approaches used to boost the growth of microalgae is urgently required to meet the increasing demands for food supplements, cosmetics, and biofuels. In this study, the growth promotion effects of protocatechuic acid (PCA) in the freshwater microalga <i>Euglena gracilis</i> were confirmed for the first time. PCA is a simple phenolic compound derived from natural plants and has a range of biological functions. The highest biomass yield, 3.1-fold higher than that of the control, used at 1.3 g·L<sup>−1</sup>, was obtained at 800 mg·L<sup>−1</sup> of PCA. The yields of the metabolites chlorophyll a, carotenoids, and paramylon in the presence of PCA at 800 mg·L<sup>−1</sup> were 3.1, 3.3, and 1.7 times higher than those of the control group, respectively. The highest paramylon yield was achieved at a lower dosage of PCA (100 mg·L<sup>−1</sup>), which is considered to be feasible for economic paramylon production. The growth and biosynthesis of metabolites stimulated by phytochemicals such as PCA could be an efficient and cost-effective strategy to enhance the productivity of microalgae in large-scale cultivations.
  • Research on Optimization and Design of Sustainable Urban Underground Logistics Network Framework

    Hairui Wei; Anlin Li; Nana Jia (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    As a new mode of transportation, the underground logistics system (ULS) has become one of the solutions to the problems of environmental pollution and traffic congestion. Considering the environmental and economic factors in urban logistics, this paper conducts comprehensive design and optimization research on the network nodes and passages of urban underground logistics and proposes a relatively complete framework for a sustainable underground logistics network. A hybrid method is proposed, which includes the set cover model used to perform the first location of urban underground logistics nodes, the fuzzy clustering method applied to classify the located logistics nodes into the first-level and second-level nodes considering the congestion in different urban areas of the city and a mixed integer programming model proposed to optimize and design the underground logistics passage to find optimal passage parameters at every underground logistics node. Based on the above hybrid method, a sustainable underground logistics network framework including all-levels logistics nodes and passages is formed, with a subdistrict of Nanjing as a case study. The discussion of results shows that this underground logistics network framework proposal is very effective in reducing logistics time cost, exhaust emission and congestion cost. It provides support for decisions in the design and development of urban sustainable underground logistics networks.
  • Use of Incinerator Bottom Ash as a Recycled Aggregate in Contact with Nonwoven Geotextiles: Evaluation of Mechanical Damage Upon Installation

    Filipe Almeida; José Ricardo Carneiro; Maria de Lurdes Lopes (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    The recycling and reuse of materials is crucial to reducing the amount of generated waste and the exploitation of natural resources, contributing to achieving environmental sustainability. During the incineration process of municipal solid waste, a residue known as incinerator bottom ash is generated in considerable amounts, being important the development of solutions for its valorization. In this work, three nonwoven geotextiles were submitted to mechanical damage under repeated loading tests with incinerator bottom ash and, for comparison purposes, with three natural aggregates (sand 0/4, gravel 4/8 and <i>tout-venant</i>) and a standard aggregate (<i>corundum</i>). Damage assessment was carried out by monitoring the changes that occurred in the short-term tensile and puncture behaviors of the geotextiles. Results showed that the damage induced by incinerator bottom ash on the short-term mechanical behavior of the geotextiles tended to be lower than the damage induced by the natural aggregates or by the standard aggregate. Therefore, concerning the mechanical damage caused on geotextiles, there are good prospects for the use of incinerator bottom ash as a filling material in contact with those construction materials, thereby promoting its valorization.
  • Questionnaire on the Training Profile of a Learning Therapy Specialist: Creation and Validation of the Instrument

    Laura Martín Martínez; Esther Vela Llauradó (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    This article provides a description of the creation and validation process for a questionnaire designed to analyze the initial training received by students of degree programs in pre-primary and primary education, specializing in learning therapy. The instrument consists of 175 items in three sections: the first collects sociodemographic data; the second analyzes the initial training received; and the third and final section analyzes the perception of this initial training. The questionnaire was subjected to a double validation process: an evaluation by a panel of experts and a pilot group, these permitted the validation of the content and construct, as well as the corresponding reliability assessment. The results confirm the validity of the questionnaire with an excellent reliability index, allowing the effective evaluation of the training profile of learning therapy specialists.
  • Abandonment or Regeneration and Re-Use? Factors Affecting the Usage of Farm Premises in Different Social Spaces of the Rural

    Josef Navrátil; Tomáš Krejčí; Stanislav Martinát; Kamil Pícha; Petr Klusáček; Jaroslav Škrabal; Robert Osman (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    Nearly every village in Central and Eastern European countries with heavily collectivized agriculture has its collective farm premises that encompass substantial parts of the village area, were built in the sixties, and now are unable to be used in former ways. The aim of the paper is to identify indicators that are relevant for spatial disparities in the utilization of agricultural premises thirty years after the fall of the Iron Curtain. The location and its area of all pre-1989 rural farm premises within two NUTS 3 regions of the Czech Republic with its current uses were identified, and differences in present uses were tested against agri-natural and socio-economic characteristics (of the municipalities where rural farm premises are located) obtained from national databases. From a global point of view, socio-economic characteristics of municipalities were found to be exceedingly more important than agri-natural—thus, changing of uses is rather dependent on socio-economic context than on geographical preconditions of agriculture. Surprisingly, agricultural use or re-use can be primarily found in municipalities not suitable for intensive agriculture located in the fodder crops and potatoes areas of agricultural production with the highest shares of permanent grassland on agricultural land. On the other hand, areas with the best preconditions for agriculture tend to re-use former farm premises for non-agricultural production.
  • Development of Renewable Energy in China, USA, and Brazil: A Comparative Study on Renewable Energy Policies

    Gaafar Muhammed; Neyre Tekbiyik-Ersoy (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    Countries differ in terms of their socio-economic development, population growth, and energy consumption. Many countries still depend on conventional energy to supply enough energy source for their demand, while some have made considerable progress in making the transition to renewable/sustainable energy sources. Owing to the increasing demand and drawbacks of conventional energy sources, policies can play a major role in encouraging and increasing the uptake of renewable energy (RE) technologies. In this paper, a general overview on the RE activities in the three leading countries—China, Brazil, and the United States of America (USA)—is presented. Moreover, a comparative analysis on the implementations of the RE support policies is conducted. The linear regression analysis technique is applied to develop several models for the three countries in order to investigate the effect of different policies on RE. The main contributions of this study are establishing a link between RE support policies and RE development (in terms of the installed capacity) in the three countries under study, and providing models that can be used in estimating RE development using RE policy data. In addition to this, some models are developed to investigate the relationship between RE installed capacity and the patents. The linear regression analyses suggest that RE policies promote the development of RE installed capacity in the three countries in different proportions. For example, it is found that each additional wind policy will increase the RE wind capacity in China, Brazil, and the USA by 1.63, 0.689, and 1.576 GW, respectively. Moreover, the economic instruments turn out to be more effective in promoting the RE installed capacity in the USA and Brazil, while the policy support and regulatory instruments are the most influential policy categories in China. Furthermore, the linear regression analyses indicate the existence of a positive significant relation between the number of patents and the total RE installed capacity in the three countries.
  • Electromyography: A Simple and Accessible Tool to Assess Physical Performance and Health during Hypoxia Training. A Systematic Review

    Diego Fernández-Lázaro; Juan Mielgo-Ayuso; David P. Adams; Jerónimo J. González-Bernal; Ana Fernández Araque; Alicia Cano García; Cesar I. Fernández-Lázaro (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    Hypoxia causes reduced partial pressure of oxygen in arterial blood and induces adaptations in skeletal muscle that may affect individuals’ physical performance and muscular health. These muscular changes are detectable and quantifiable by electromyography (EMG), an instrument that assesses electrical activity during active contraction at rest. EMG is a relatively simple and accessible technique for all patients, one that can show the degree of the sensory and motor functions because it provides information about the status of the peripheral nerves and muscles. The main goal of this review is to evaluate the scientific evidence of EMG as an instrument for monitoring different responses of skeletal muscles subjected to external stimuli such as hypoxia and physical activity. A structured search was conducted following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines in Medline/PubMed, Scielo, Google Scholar, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library Plus. The search included articles published in the last 25 years until May 2020 and was restricted to English- and Spanish-language publications. As such, investigators identified nine articles that met the search criteria. The results determined that EMG was able to detect muscle fatigue from changes in the frequency spectrum. When a muscle was fatigued, high frequency components decreased and low frequency components increased. In other studies, EMG determined muscle activation increased during exercise by recruiting motor units and by increasing the intensity of muscle contractions. Finally, it was also possible to calculate the mean quadriceps quadratic activity used to obtain an image of muscle activation. In conclusion, EMG offers a suitable tool for monitoring the different skeletal muscle responses and has sufficient sensitivity to detect hypoxia-induced muscle changes produced by hypoxic stimuli. Moreover, EMG enhances an extension of physical examination and tests motor-system integrity.
  • A Bibliometric Analysis of COVID-19 across Science and Social Science Research Landscape

    Aleksander Aristovnik; Dejan Ravšelj; Lan Umek (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    The lack of knowledge about the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged extensive research in the academic sphere, reflected in the exponentially growing scientific literature. While the state of COVID-19 research reveals it is currently in an early stage of developing knowledge, a comprehensive and in-depth overview is still missing. Accordingly, the paper’s main aim is to provide an extensive bibliometric analysis of COVID-19 research across the science and social science research landscape, using innovative bibliometric approaches (e.g., Venn diagram, Biblioshiny descriptive statistics, VOSviewer co-occurrence network analysis, Jaccard distance cluster analysis, text mining based on binary logistic regression). The bibliometric analysis considers the Scopus database, including all relevant information on COVID-19 related publications (<i>n</i> = 16,866) available in the first half of 2020. The empirical results indicate the domination of health sciences in terms of number of relevant publications and total citations, while physical sciences and social sciences and humanities lag behind significantly. Nevertheless, there is an evidence of COVID-19 research collaboration within and between different subject area classifications with a gradual increase in importance of non-health scientific disciplines. The findings emphasize the great need for a comprehensive and in-depth approach that considers various scientific disciplines in COVID-19 research so as to benefit not only the scientific community but evidence-based policymaking as part of efforts to properly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A Predictive Effect of Exchange Rates on Value-Added Free Trade

    Myoung Shik Choi (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
    The study investigates a predictive exchange rate effect on value-added trade flows on global value chains. We theoretically review the role of exchange rates on international trade based on insular, open, and global value chained economies. This paper empirically confirms a retro forecasting rule of the exchange rate on exports and trade balance using the value-added data for the period from 1995 to 2015. The first result is that real effective exchange rates have predictive elasticity information for the value-added trade flows. The second is that exchange rates have two practical effects on trade flows. The value-added exchange rate hurts the value-added trade balance due to increased intermediate trades, but the exchange rate has a positive effect on the gross trade balance. We would expect that value-added exports with trade balance can be improved in all sample countries when the value-added exchange rate is increasing. The main contribution is further evidence on distinguishing the currency depreciation on the value-added trade from the depreciation on the gross trade to achieve higher growth.

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