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September 30th, 2022 by Vbiz

Nepali tea producers are increasingly worried about a proposal in India’s parliament that could make it much harder for them to sell tea to their giant southern neighbor and most important customer.

The proposal, contained in a June 2022 recommendation from India’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce, calls for much stricter standards on the certificates of origin required for all Nepali tea imported into India.

Nepali tea exporters say they already face exacting requirements for entry to the Indian market, even when their products have met certification standards maintained by Japan, the United States and the international Certification of Environmental Standards organization.

“There have been constant policy changes that we have to comply [with], which makes it difficult to export tea to India,” said Shanta Banskota Koirala, co-owner and managing director of the Kanchanjangha Tea Estate and Research Center.

“Usually there is also a lot of hassle on borders, things such as asking for more documents than what was initially required, and even if provided the required documents, the work doesn’t get done on time,” Koirala told VOA.

The stakes are high for Nepal, which sells about 90% of its high-grade orthodox tea – loose-leaf tea produced by traditional methods — and about 50% of its lower-grade crush, tear and curl tea – tea whose leaves have been crushed torn and curled into pellets — to India. The industry employs almost 200,000 people in Nepal and contributes more than $40 million a year to its economy.

The orthodox tea, grown at higher altitudes in the Himalayan nation, is especially prized around the world, with its taste and quality attributed to the region’s climatic conditions, soil, the type of bushes planted and even the quality of the air.

But critics in India accuse the Nepalese exporters of mixing their product with similar-tasting tea from the neighboring Indian region of Darjeeling, which sells in India for a much higher price. The recommendation from the parliamentary committee calls for much stricter measures to ensure that all tea sold from Nepal was indeed grown in Nepal.

For the Nepalese growers, the threat of new bureaucratic hurdles is compounded by indignation over the suggestion that their tea is of lower quality than the Darjeeling variety.

“The comments from the committee on the quality of the tea has hurt the traders and farmers in Nepal,” said Bishnu Prasad Bhattarai, executive director of the National Tea and Coffee Development Board Nepal.

“We have raised our concern with the counterpart Indian government officials. We are hopeful that the trade between the two countries will go on smoothly as the two countries share good relation with each other on many fronts including trade,” Bhattarai added.

Suresh Mittal, president of the Nepal Tea Producers Association, also rejected the parliamentary committee’s complaints, pointing out that the quality of all the tea sold into India is certified by India’s Food Safety and Standards Authority.

“Without this proof of origin, we cannot sell even a single leaf abroad. We are exporting tea that has been grown and processed here in Nepal,” Mittal insisted.

Mittal said discussions on the proposal are continuing between the two countries, and that, so far, the trade in tea is proceeding smoothly.

“However, sooner or later it can be a problem for the Nepalese tea industry and will have an adverse effect to over 70% of tea industry of Nepal. We have to start looking for alternate markets,” he said.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 29th, 2022 by Vbiz

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) cites top-ranked Switzerland, followed by the United States and Sweden, as the world’s most innovative economies. 

WIPO uses some 80 indicators to rank the innovative performance of 132 economies. These include measures on the political environment, education, infrastructure, business sophistication and knowledge creation of each economy.

The latest annual report shows some interesting moves in the rankings and the emergence of new powerhouses. Switzerland, once again, comes out on top. The United States moves up one position in the rankings to second place, followed by Sweden, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

A co-editor of the Global Index, Sacha Wunsch-Vincent, said 11th-ranked China is the only middle-income country to have made it this far. He said other emerging economies, such as Turkey and India, have put in strong performances, and countries in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa have made some significant upward moves.

“Several developing countries are performing above expectations relative to their level of development,” Wunsch-Vincent said. “So, these are, of course, countries which have GDP capita which are lower. Eight of [the] innovation over-performers, and that is good news, are from sub-Saharan Africa, with Kenya, Rwanda and Mozambique in the lead.”

The Global Index also focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on innovation. The report shows that research and development, as well as other investments that drive worldwide innovative activity, continued to boom in 2021. This despite the pandemic.

WIPO Director General Daren Tang said this result defied expectations. He noted that after the dot-com bust in 2001, the 2008 global financial crisis, the matrix for innovation dropped, but that was not the case for the last two years.

“In fact, the report shows that investments in global research and development in 2020, two years ago, grew at a rate of 3.3 percent,” he said. “Top corporate R&D spenders — in other words, the most innovative firms worldwide — increased their R&D spending by nearly 10 percent last year, in 2021, which is higher than pre-pandemic growth.”

On a more sobering note, Tang warned that conditions may take a turn for the worse as the pandemic recedes, as high inflation and geopolitical tensions pose new economic and social challenges. He said innovative approaches will have to be developed to help people worldwide navigate through tough times ahead.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 24th, 2022 by Vbiz

Markets sold off around the world on mounting signs the global economy is weakening just as central banks raise the pressure even more with additional hikes of interest rates. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed Friday at its lowest point of the year. The S&P 500 fell 1.7%, close to its 2022 low.  

Energy prices also closed sharply lower as traders worried about a possible recession. Treasury yields, which affect rates on mortgages and other kinds of loans, remained at multiyear highs. British government bond yields snapped higher after that country’s new government announced a sweeping plan of tax cuts. 

European stocks fell just as sharply or more after preliminary data there suggested business activity had its worst monthly contraction since the start of 2021. Adding to the pressure was a new plan announced in London to cut taxes, which sent U.K. yields soaring because it could ultimately force its central bank to raise rates even more sharply.

The Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world aggressively hiked interest rates this week in hopes of undercutting high inflation, with more big increases promised for the future. But such moves also put the brakes on their economies, threatening recessions as growth slows worldwide. Besides Friday’s discouraging data on European business activity, a separate report suggested U.S. activity is also still shrinking, though not quite as badly as in earlier months.  

“Financial markets are now fully absorbing the Fed’s harsh message that there will be no retreat from the inflation fight,” Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a research report. 

Crude oil prices tumbled to their lowest levels since early this year on worries that a weaker global economy will burn less fuel. Cryptocurrency prices also fell sharply because higher interest rates tend to hit hardest the investments that look the priciest or the most risky. 

Even gold fell in the worldwide rout, as bonds paying higher yields make investments that pay no interest look less attractive. 

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 505 points, or 1.7%, to 29,572 and the Nasdaq fell 1.9% as of 3:43 p.m. Eastern. Smaller company stocks did even worse. The Russell 2000 fell 3%. U.S. crude oil prices slid 5.7% and weighed heavily on energy stocks. 

More than 90% of stocks in the S&P 500 were in the red, with technology companies, retailers and banks among the biggest weights on the benchmark index. The major indexes are on pace for their fifth weekly loss in six weeks. 

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday lifted its benchmark rate, which affects many consumer and business loans, to a range of 3% to 3.25%. It was at virtually zero at the start of the year. The Fed also released a forecast suggesting its benchmark rate could be 4.4% by the year’s end, a full point higher than envisioned in June. 

Treasury yields have climbed to multiyear highs as interest rates rise. The yield on the 2-year Treasury, which tends to follow expectations for Federal Reserve action, rose to 4.19% from 4.12% late Thursday. It is trading at its highest level since 2007. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, slipped to 3.68% from 3.71%. 

The higher rates mean Goldman Sachs strategists say a majority of their clients now see a “hard landing” that pulls the economy sharply lower as inevitable. The question for them is on the timing, magnitude and length of a potential recession. 

In the U.S., the jobs market has remained remarkably solid, and many analysts think the economy grew in the summer quarter after shrinking in the first six months of the year. But the encouraging signs also suggest the Fed may have to raise rates even higher to get the cooling needed to bring down inflation. 

Some key areas of the economy are already weakening. Mortgage rates have reached 14-year highs, causing sales of existing homes to drop 20% in the past year. But other areas that do best when rates are low are also hurting. 

In Europe, meanwhile, the already fragile economy is dealing with the effects of war on its eastern front following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The European Central Bank is hiking its key interest rate to combat inflation even as the region’s economy is already expected to plunge into a recession. And in Asia, China’s economy is contending with still-strict measures meant to limit COVID infections that also hurt businesses. 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 23rd, 2022 by Vbiz

Standing in line to try to buy food, Rekha Begum is distraught. Like many others in Bangladesh, she is struggling to find affordable daily essentials like rice, lentils and onions.

“I went to two other places, but they told me they don’t have supplies. Then I came here and stood at the end of the queue,” said Begum, 60, as she waited for nearly two hours to buy what she needed from a truck selling food at subsidized prices in the capital, Dhaka.

Bangladesh’s economic miracle is under severe strain as fuel price hikes amplify public frustrations over rising costs for food and other necessities. Fierce opposition criticism and small street protests have erupted in recent weeks, adding to pressures on the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, which has sought help from the International Monetary Fund to safeguard the country’s finances.

Experts say Bangladesh’s predicament is nowhere nearly as severe as Sri Lanka’s, where months’ long unrest led its long-time president to flee the country and people are enduring outright shortages of food, fuel and medicines, spending days in queues for essentials. But it faces similar troubles: excessive spending on ambitious development projects, public anger over corruption and cronyism and a weakening trade balance.

Such trends are undermining Bangladesh’s impressive progress, fueled largely by its success as a garment manufacturing hub, toward becoming a more affluent, middle-income country.

The government raised fuel prices by more than 50% last month to counter soaring costs due to high oil prices, triggering protests over the rising cost of living. That led authorities to order the subsidized sales of rice and other staples by government-appointed dealers.

The latest phase of the program, which began Sept. 1, should help about 50 million people, said Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi.

“The government has taken a number of measures to reduce pressures on low-income earners. That is impacting the market and keeping prices of daily commodities competitive,” he said.

The policies are a stopgap for bigger global and domestic challenges.

The war in Ukraine has pushed higher prices of many commodities at a time when they already were surging as demand recovered with a waning of the coronavirus pandemic. In the meantime, countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Laos — among many — have seen their currencies weaken against the dollar, adding to the costs for dollar-denominated imports of oil and other goods.

To ease the strain on public finances and foreign reserves, the authorities put a moratorium on big, new projects, cut office hours to save energy and imposed limits on imports of luxury goods and non-essential items, such as sedans and SUVs.

“The Bangladesh economy is facing strong headwinds and turbulence,” said Ahmad Ahsan, an economist and director of the Dhaka-based Policy Research Institute, a think tank. “Suddenly we are back to the era of rolling power cuts, with the taka and the forex reserves under pressure,” he said.

Millions of low-income Bangladeshis, like Begum, whose family of five can barely afford to eat fish or meat even once a month, still struggle to put food on the table.

Bangladesh has made huge strides in the past two decades in growing its economy and fighting poverty. Investments in garment manufacturing have provided jobs for tens of millions of workers, mostly women. Exports of apparel and related products account for more than 80% of its exports.

But with fuel costs so high, authorities shut diesel-run power plants that produced at least 6% of total production, cutting daily power generation by 1,500 megawatts and disrupting manufacturing.

Imports in the last fiscal year, ending in June, 2022, rose to $84 billion, while exports have fluctuated, leaving a record current account deficit of $17 billion.

More challenges are ahead.

Deadlines are fast approaching for repaying foreign loans related to at least 20 mega infrastructure projects, including the $3.6 billion River Padma bridge built by China and a nuclear power plant mostly funded by Russia. Experts say Bangladesh needs to prepare for when repayment schedules ramp up between 2024 and 2026.

In July, in a move economists view as a precautionary measure, Bangladesh sought a $4.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, becoming the third country in South Asia to recently seek its help after Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Finance Minister A.H.M. Mustafa Kamal said that the government asked the IMF to begin formal negotiations on loans “for balance of payments and budgetary assistance.” The IMF said it was working with Bangladesh to draw up a plan.

Bangladesh’s foreign reserves have been falling, potentially undermining its ability to meet its loan obligations. By Wednesday they had dropped to $36.9 billion from $45.5 billion a year earlier, according to the central bank.

Usable foreign reserves would be about $30 billion, said Zahid Hussain, a former chief economist of the World Bank’s Dhaka office.

“I would not say this is a crisis situation. This is still enough to meet three months of imports, three and half months of imports. But it also means that … you do not have a lot of room for maneuvering on the reserve front,” he said.

Still, despite what some economists say is excessive spending on some costly projects, Bangladesh is better equipped to weather hard times than some other countries in the region.

Its farm sector — tea, rice and jute are major exports — is an effective “shock absorber,” and its economy, four to five times larger than Sri Lanka’s, is less vulnerable to outside calamities like a downturn in tourism.

The economy is forecast to grow at a 6.6% pace this fiscal year, according to the Asia Development Bank’s latest forecast, and the country’s total debt is still relatively small.

“I think in the current context, the most important difference between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh is the debt burden, particularly the external debt,” said Hussain.

Bangladesh’s external debt is under 20% of its gross domestic product, while Sri Lanka’s was around 126% in the first quarter of 2022.

“So, we have some space. I mean debt as a source of stress on the macroeconomy is not much of a much problem yet,” he said.

Waiting in a line to buy subsidized food, 48-year-old Mohammed Jamal said he was not feeling such leeway for his own family.

“It has become unbearable trying to maintain our standard of living,” Jamal said. “Prices are just out of reach for the common people,” he said. “It’s tough living this way.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 22nd, 2022 by Vbiz

As the United States heads into November’s midterm elections, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday announced another sharp increase in interest rates as it continues its struggle against stubbornly high inflation. The increase of three-quarters of a percentage point raised the benchmark federal funds rate target to between 3% and 3.25%, the highest it has been in nearly 15 years. 

 

In announcing the change, the Fed said that further increases in the target rate would be “appropriate.” On average, the members of the central bank’s Open Market Committee projected that the midpoint of the target range by year end would be about 4.25%. 

 

The Fed’s battle against inflation has been less effective than policymakers had hoped. Annualized inflation in August was 8.3%, only slightly lower than it had been in July, and more than four times the Fed’s target rate of 2%.  

 

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in a press conference Wednesday that the Fed was committed to reducing inflation, even though doing so would require an extended period of slow economic growth and would likely increase the unemployment rate. 

 

He characterized the Fed’s choice as being between two evils. 

 

“Higher interest rates, slower growth and a softening labor market are all painful for the public that we serve, but they’re not as painful as failing to restore price stability,” Powell said.

Political uncertainty

The fight against inflation is taking place amid political uncertainty in the U.S. As for the midterms, some experts say Republicans stand a strong chance of taking over one of the two chambers of Congress, which would break Democrats’ unified control of the legislative and executive branches of government and allow Republicans to block much of President Joe Biden’s agenda. 

 

The choice between rising prices and rising interest rates combined with higher unemployment may not be particularly appealing to voters, and neither alternative will likely benefit the incumbent president or his Democratic Party. 

 

Pointing out how Americans are suffering from persistently high inflation has been a major part of Republicans’ campaign strategy this year, and with good reason. In early September, according to a poll taken by the Gallup organization, 56% of Americans reported that their families were experiencing at least “moderate hardship” because of rising prices, with 12% characterizing the hardship as “severe.” 

 

In remarks on the Senate floor this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hammered home the GOP message, saying, “Month after month after month, Democrats’ policy failures are continuing to add inflation on top of inflation. The inflation rate plateauing above 8% does not mean that families are catching a break. It means exactly the opposite. It means that families are continuing to see prices go up, and up, and up all the time.”  

Biden’s response

Biden, meanwhile, has been touting price decreases when they occur and deflecting blame for the increases when possible. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February drove up gasoline prices — the most visible signal of inflation for many Americans — Biden publicly blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for consumers’ pain. 

 

This week, with gas prices falling, the president declared on Twitter, “Folks, gas prices are now back to levels they were at in early March. That means nearly all of the increases since the beginning of Russia’s war in Ukraine have been wiped out.” 

 

While some prices have fallen, however, others remain stubbornly high. Groceries, housing and electricity, in particular, are much more expensive now than they were a year ago.

Effect on voters

Mark Hamrick, Washington bureau chief for Bankrate.com, told VOA that gauging the political impact of the Fed’s decisions is tricky. 

 

“I’m not sure that voters are going to be spending a lot of time parsing the nuances of monetary policy with respect to their voting decisions, but clearly, the state of the economy is something that affects everyone,” he said. “The impacts of a variety of influences, including high and sustained inflation, the failure of wages to keep up with the rate of inflation, are things that voters and everyone else are very much mindful of.” 

 

He added, “I think that you have to say that to some degree, the current environment does not necessarily help incumbents, per se. But you have to handicap that in the context of, ‘What is the prism through which a voter is looking at the current situation?’ And that’s where it becomes much more murky.”  

Fed actions so far

The Federal Reserve is raising rates to reduce demand in the economy. High demand tends to drive inflation as buyers bid up the price of increasingly scarce goods. As interest rates go higher, though, money becomes more “expensive.” That means a dollar in a savings account earns a higher return than it did before the rate increase and makes account holders somewhat less likely to spend it.

While higher rates might eventually tame inflation, they carry a different kind of cost. When rates rise, it becomes more expensive to borrow money, meaning that businesses may be less willing to invest, and prospective homebuyers may face higher mortgage payments. Incurring credit card debt also becomes more costly, which may tame consumer purchases.

Higher rates are likely to slow economic growth and to increase unemployment. The current rate of unemployment is now low by historical standards, at 3.7%. Members of the Federal Open Market Committee, in Wednesday’s report, indicated that they expect that rate to be as high as 4.5% by the end of next year, which translates into well over 1 million people losing their jobs. 

 

The Fed’s rate increase on Wednesday marks the fifth time the central bank has raised rates in calendar year 2022. After starting the year with a target rate of between 0% and 0.25%, the Open Market Committee began with a modest quarter-percentage-point increase in March, followed by a half-percentage-point increase in May. With inflation continuing to rise, the rate hikes became sharper, with a three-quarter-percentage-point increase in June and then another three-quarter-percentage-point jump in July. 

 

Global phenomenon

While inflation is a major political issue among Americans, who tend to blame it on the current president’s administration, analysts note that the inflation the U.S. is experiencing is part of a global phenomenon. 

 

Annualized inflation in other parts of the world has been on the rise as well. In the European Union in August, it was above 9%, though the differences across countries could be dramatic. Poland, for example, has experienced 16.2% inflation in the year ending in August, while in France, the rate has been a more modest 5.9%. 

 

Prices are also rising in other parts of the world, though at different rates. In the Americas, Canada has seen rates rise 7%, compared with 8.7% in both Mexico and Brazil. In Asia, India has experienced a 7% increase, while China and Japan have seen only 2.5% and 3% increases, respectively.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 20th, 2022 by Vbiz

Australia and the European Union (EU) have resumed free trade talks in the Australian capital, Canberra. 

Negotiations over an trade agreement between Australia and the European Union began in 2017.  

Progress has not always been easy.  There was dismay over Australia’s shelving of a lucrative submarine deal with France in favor of the AUKUS alliance with the United States and Britain.  That anger has subsided.  There were, though, also concerns in Europe about Australia’s environmental targets under the previous conservative Canberra government, which was a strong supporter of the fossil fuel industry. 

However, the recently elected Labor government plans to cut emissions by 43% by 2030.  It is the first time environmental targets have been legislated in Australia and the new policy has kick-started trade discussions with Europe.  The EU sent a senior delegation to Canberra this week, and there are hopes a free trade agreement can be signed by the end of 2023.  

The European Union is eager to harness Australian green hydrogen and other critical minerals, such as lithium, used in renewable power. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the subsequent impact on energy supplies, have intensified the EU’s search for reliable suppliers of the minerals needed for energy and digital enterprises.

Bernd Lange, the chair of the European Parliament’s committee on International Trade, believes Australia can play a big part in industrial decarbonization. 

“We are going away from fossil fuels and Australia has a big volume of possible green hydrogen, of lithium, of copper and we want to get it in a sustainable way for the transformation of industry in Europe but also in Australia,” he said.

Australian negotiators want greater access for key farming exports, including beef, dairy, sugar and grain.  However, analysts say that agriculture is a sensitive issue, with some members of the European Union wanting to restrict imports to protect local producers.  

As a bloc, the EU is Australia’s second largest two-way trading partner of goods and services.  The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 countries.

Officials have said “Australia’s position in the world as a global top 20 trading nation is underpinned by our advocacy for an open global economy.”

The Canberra government has signed more than a dozen free trade pacts with various countries and groupings, including Japan, the United States and China, its biggest trading partner.  

Its first free trade agreement was signed with New Zealand in 1983.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 18th, 2022 by Vbiz

Americans have grown fond of “buy now, pay later” services, but the “pay later” part is becoming increasingly difficult for some borrowers.

Buy now, pay later loans allow users to pay for items such new sneakers, electronics, or luxury goods in installments. Companies such as Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna and PayPal have built popular financial products around these short-term loans, particularly for younger borrowers, who are fearful of never-ending credit card debt.

Now, as the industry racks up customers, delinquencies are climbing. Inflation is squeezing consumers, making it tougher to pay off debts. Some borrowers don’t budget properly, particularly if they are persuaded to take out multiple loans, while others may have been credit risks to begin with.

“You have an industry with a higher concentration of subprime borrowers in a market that hasn’t been effectively tested through [this type of economy], and you have a kind of a toxic brew of concerns,” said Michael Taiano, an analyst with Fitch Ratings, who co-wrote a report in July highlighting some of the concerns with the industry.

The most popular type of buy now, pay later loans allow for four payments over six weeks — one payment at the time of purchase and three others that borrowers often try to sync up with pay periods. Longer-term loans for bigger purchases are also available. Most of the short-term loans have no interest attached to them. Companies that do charge interest can clearly state upfront how much a borrower will pay in financial charges.

Given those features, consumer advocates and financial advisers initially had seen buy now, pay later plans as a potentially healthier form of consumer debt if used correctly. The biggest concern had been late fees, which could act as a hefty finance charge on a small purchase if a borrower is late on a payment. The fees can run as high as $34, plus interest. But now as delinquencies are rising, and companies are being more aggressive in marketing their products, advocates see a need for additional regulation.

The industry is growing rapidly, according to a report released Thursday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Americans took out roughly $24.2 billion in loans on buy now, pay later programs in 2021, up from only $2 billion in 2019. That industry-wide figure is only expected to jump even more. Klarna’s customers bought $41 billion worth of product on its service globally in the first six months of the year, up 21% from a year ago. At PayPal, revenue from its buy now, pay later services more than tripled in the second quarter to $4.9 billion.

Jasmine Francis, 29, a technology analyst based in Charlotte, North Carolina, said she first used a buy now, pay later service in 2018 to buy clothes from fast-fashion brand Forever21.

“I remember I just had a cartful,” she said. “At first, I thought, ‘Something’s gotta go back,’ and then I saw Afterpay at checkout – you don’t pay for it all right now, but you get it all right now. That was music to my ears.”

How healthfully customers are using buy now, pay later loans is unclear. Fitch found that delinquencies on these services rose sharply in the 12 months ended March 31, while credit card delinquencies remained steady.

“This upward trend on delinquencies is continuing,” said Rohit Chopra, director of the CFPB, in a call with reporters.

Credit reporting company TransUnion found that buy now, pay later borrowers are using the product just as much as credit cards, piling on debt on top of additional debt. A poll by Morning Consult released this week found 15% of buy now, pay later customers are using the service for routine purchases, such as groceries and gas, a type of behavior that sounds alarm bells among financial advisors. The CFPB report also found a small, but growing number of Americans using these products for routine purchases as well.

“If these buy now, pay later plans are not adequately budgeted for, they can have a cascading impact across a person’s entire financial life,” said Andre Jean-Pierre, a former Morgan Stanley wealth advisor who now runs his own financial planning firm focused on helping Black Americans adequately save and budget.

Another concern among advisers and consumer advocates, as well as Washington lawmakers and regulators, is the ease with which consumers can layer on these installment loans.

Speaking at a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday about new financial products, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio noted the benefits of plans that allow consumers to pay for things in installments. But he also criticized the way in which the industry promotes the plans.

“Ads encourage consumers to use these plans for multiple purchases, at multiple online stores — racking up debt they cannot afford to repay,” Brown said.

The short-term loans are potentially problematic because they’re not reported on a consumer’s credit profile with Transunion and Experian. Further the buy now, pay later industry’s customers skew young — meaning they have little credit history. Hypothetically, a borrower could take out several short-term loans across multiple buy now, pay later companies — a practice known as “loan stacking” — and they would never appear on a credit report. If a person puts too many items on buy now, pay later plans, budgeting could be difficult.

“It’s a blind spot for the industry,” Taiano of Fitch said.

In a statement, the buy now pay later industry trade group pushed back on the characterization that its products could saddle borrowers with too much debt.

“With zero to low-interest, flexible payment terms, and transparent terms and conditions, BNPL helps consumers manage their cash flow responsibly and live healthier financial lives,” said Penny Lee, CEO of the Financial Technology Association.

Meanwhile providers of buy now, pay later services see rising delinquencies as a natural consequence of growth, but also an indication that inflation is hitting Americans most likely to use these services the hardest.

“We have seen some stress (among those with the lowest credit scores), and those are starting to have a hard time,” said Max Levchin, founder and CEO of Affirm, one of the largest buy now, pay later companies.

“I would not call it a sort of preamble to a potential downturn, but it’s not the same kind of a smooth sailing it’s been,” he said, adding that Affirm is taking a more conservative approach towards lending.

Buy now, pay later took off in the U.S. after the Great Recession. The product, analysts said, largely has not been tested through a great period of financial distress, unlike mortgages or credit cards or auto loans.

Despite these concerns, the consensus is buy now, pay later companies are here to stay. Affirm, Klarna, Afterpay, which is owned by Block Inc., as well as PayPal and others are now widely embedded in Internet commerce.

Further, the industry’s growth is attracting more players. Technology titan Apple earlier this summer announced Apple Pay Later, where users can put purchases on a four-payment plan over six weeks.

“I generally plan purchases that I make using PayPal ‘Pay in 4’ so that my due dates for purchases land on my pay dates, as the due dates are every other week,” said Desiree Moore, 35, from Georgia.

Moore said she tries to use buy now pay later plans to cover purchases not in her usual monthly budget, so not to take money away from the needs of her children. She has been increasingly using the plans with inflation making items more expensive and is so far able to keep up with the payments.

Francis, the technical analyst, said it’s now common among her friends to pay for travel with the installment loans, to not completely drain their bank accounts in case of emergencies.

“If I come back home from vacation and have two flat tires, and I just spent all that money on plane tickets, that’s $400 you don’t have at the moment,” she said. “Most people don’t have savings. They just have enough for those flat tires.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 15th, 2022 by Vbiz

U.S President Joe Biden said early Thursday major railroads and workers’ unions had reached a tentative agreement on better pay and improved working conditions intended to avert a nationwide rail strike.

“It is a win for tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that America’s families and communities got deliveries of what have kept us going during these difficult years,” Biden said.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh tweeted that the deal came after 20 hours of negotiations between rail companies and labor unions.

Walsh said the agreement “balances the needs of workers, businesses, and our nation’s economy.”

“Our rail system is integral to our supply chain, and a disruption would have had catastrophic impacts on industries, travelers and families across the country,” Walsh said.

Unions were seeking pay raises and better working conditions, along with changes to attendance policies that workers said make it difficult to take time off for things such as doctor appointments.

Union members must approve the tentative agreement.

Biden called the deal “an important win for our economy and the American people.”

“These rail workers will get better pay, improved working conditions, and peace of mind around their health care costs: all hard-earned,” Biden said in a statement.  “The agreement is also a victory for railway companies who will be able to retain and recruit more workers for an industry that will continue to be part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.”

A potential strike raised fears of major disruptions to deliveries of critical goods throughout the country.

Some information for this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 14th, 2022 by Vbiz

Stocks tumbled to their worst day in more than two years Tuesday, knocking the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 1,250 points, following Wall Street’s humbling realization that inflation is not slowing as much as hoped. 

The S&P 500 sank 4.3%, its biggest drop since June 2020. The Dow fell 3.9% and the Nasdaq composite closed 5.2% lower. The sell-off ended a four-day winning streak for the major stock indexes and erased an early rally in European markets. 

Bond prices also fell sharply, sending their yields higher, after a report showed inflation decelerated only to 8.3% in August, instead of the 8.1% economists expected. 

The hotter-than-expected reading has traders bracing for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates even higher than expected to combat inflation, with all the risks for the economy that entails. Fears about higher rates sent prices dropping for everything from gold to cryptocurrencies to crude oil. 

“Right now, it’s not the journey that’s a worry so much as the destination,” said Brian Jacobsen, senior investment strategist at Allspring Global Investments. “If the Fed wants to hike and hold, the big question is at what level.” 

The S&P 500 fell 177.72 points to 3,932.69. The drop didn’t quite knock out its gains over the past four days. The index is now down 17.5% so far this year. 

The Dow lost 1,276.37 points to 31,104.97, and the Nasdaq dropped 632.84 points to 11,633.57. Big tech stocks swooned more than the rest of the market, as all 11 sectors that make up the S&P 500 sank. 

Most of Wall Street came into the day thinking the Fed would hike its key short-term rate by a hefty three-quarters of a percentage point at its meeting next week. But the hope was that inflation was in the midst of quickly falling back to more normal levels after peaking in June at 9.1%. 

The thinking was that such a slowdown would let the Fed downshift the size of its rate hikes through the end of this year and then potentially hold steady through early 2023. 

Tuesday’s report dashed some of those hopes. 

“This piece of data just hammered home that the Fed isn’t going to have the data to do anything differently than continue on their rate-raising path for longer,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager with Globalt Investments. “It just increases the chance of an actual recession.” 

Many of the data points within the inflation report were worse than economists expected, including some the Fed pays particular attention to, such as inflation outside of food and energy prices. 

Markets focused on a 0.6% rise in such prices during August from July, double what economists expected, said Gargi Chaudhuri, head of investment strategy at iShares. 

The inflation figures were so much worse than expected that traders now see a one-in-three chance for a rate hike of a full percentage point by the Fed next week. That would be quadruple the usual move, and no one in the futures market was predicting such a hike a day earlier. 

The Fed has already raised its benchmark interest rate four times this year, with the last two increases by three-quarters of a percentage point. The federal funds rate is currently in a range of 2.25% to 2.50%. 

“The Fed can’t let inflation persist. You have to do whatever is necessary to stop prices from going up,” said Russell Evans, managing principal at Avitas Wealth Management. “This indicates the Fed still has a lot of work to do to bring inflation down.” 

Higher rates hurt the economy by making it more expensive to buy a house, a car or anything else bought on credit. Mortgage rates have already hit their highest level since 2008, creating pain for the housing industry. The hope is that the Fed can pull off the tightrope walk of slowing the economy enough to snuff out high inflation, but not so much that it creates a painful recession. 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 13th, 2022 by Vbiz

U.S. consumer price increases eased in August compared to a year ago, the government said Tuesday, but the drop was modest and may not be noticed much by financially squeezed American households. 

The inflation rate was up at an annualized 8.3% rate in August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. The figure was down from the 8.5% mark recorded in July and the 9.1% inflation rate in June, which was the biggest increase in four decades. 

Even as U.S. motorists have gladly watched gasoline prices fall sharply in recent weeks — down 10.6% from their peak — costs for food and apartment rentals have continued to increase. 

Overall, as a result, the government said that consumer prices were up one-tenth of a percent in August, compared to July. 

Food prices were up 0.8 percent in the past month, while costs for housing, medical care, new cars and household furnishings all increased in August compared to July. 

Stock investors in the United States remain worried about inflation, with major indexes falling more than 2% at the opening of trading on Tuesday, an hour after the release of the inflation report. 

President Joe Biden adopted a more optimistic view, saying, “Overall, prices have been essentially flat in our country these last two months. That is welcome news for American families, with more work still to do. 

“Gas prices are down an average of $1.30 a gallon since the beginning of the summer,” he said. “This month, we saw some price increases slow from the month before at the grocery store. And real wages went up again for a second month in a row, giving hard-working families a little breathing room.” 

Bankrate.com senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick said in a statement, “The prices for necessities continue to fuel this fire, including shelter, food, and medical care. The substantial decline in gasoline prices is noteworthy but doesn’t address the overall problem with inflation.  

“The report notes that the food index has jumped 11.4% over the past year, marking the biggest 12-month increase since May 1979,” Hamrick said.  

The Federal Reserve, the country’s central bank, has already boosted its benchmark interest rate four times this year and signaled that it plans to impose another rate increase as policy makers meet again next week and could add more later in the year. 

The rate increases have rippled through the U.S. economy, boosting borrowing costs for businesses and consumers, with the Fed hoping the higher rates will dampen consumer demand and thus curb inflation.   

Fed chairman Jerome Powell said earlier this year, “Inflation is much too high and we understand the hardship it is causing. We’re moving expeditiously to bring it back down.” 

Even with high inflation, the U.S. economy, the world’s largest, continues to add hundreds of thousands of new jobs to company payrolls month after month, and the 3.7% national unemployment rate in August is near a 50-year low.  

The U.S. has recovered all the jobs lost as the coronavirus pandemic surged into the country in March 2020. 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 13th, 2022 by Vbiz

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, the Twitter whistleblower who is warning of security flaws, privacy threats and lax controls at the social platform, will take his case to Congress Tuesday. 

Senators who will hear Zatko’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee are alarmed by his Twitter allegations at a time of heightened concern over the safety of powerful tech platforms. 

It’s Zatko’s second Capitol Hill appearance, and in some ways a 21st-century echo of his first. In 1998, he testified before a Senate panel along with fellow members of a hacker collective who warned about the security dangers of the then-emerging internet age. 

Zatko, a respected cybersecurity expert, was Twitter’s head of security until he was fired early this year. He brought the stunning allegations to Congress and federal regulators, asserting that the influential social platform misled regulators about its cyber defenses and efforts to control millions of “spam” or fake accounts. 

Sen. Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who chairs the panel, has said that if Zatko’s claims are accurate, “they may show dangerous data privacy and security risks for Twitter users around the world.” 

Musk battle

Zatko’s accusations are also playing into billionaire tycoon Elon Musk’s battle with Twitter. The Tesla CEO is trying to get out of his $44 billion bid to buy the company; Twitter has sued to force him to complete the deal. The Delaware judge overseeing that case ruled last week that Musk can include new evidence related to Zatko’s allegations in the high-stakes trial set to start October 17. 

The allegation that Twitter engaged in deception in its handling of automated “spam bot” accounts is at the core of Musk’s attempt to back out of the Twitter deal. 

At the same time, many of Zatko’s claims are uncorroborated and appear to have little documentary support. In a statement, Twitter has called Zatko’s description of events “a false narrative.” 

Also Tuesday, Twitter’s shareholders are scheduled to vote on the company’s pending buyout by Musk. The vote is something of a formality given that the deal is on hold while the court case plays out. But if the measure passes as expected, it would pave the way for a Musk takeover should Twitter prevail in court. 

Zatko also filed complaints with the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Among his most serious accusations is that Twitter violated the terms of a 2011 FTC settlement by falsely claiming that it had put stronger measures in place to protect the security and privacy of its users. 

The SEC is questioning Twitter about how it counts fake accounts on its platform. Twitter uses counts of its presumably real users to attract advertisers, whose payments make up about 90% of its revenue. The “spam bots” have no value to advertisers because there’s no person behind them. 

San Francisco-based Twitter has an estimated 238 million daily active users worldwide. The company says it removes 1 million spam accounts daily. 

‘Egregious deficiencies’

Zatko’s 84-page complaint alleges that he found “extreme, egregious deficiencies” on the platform, including issues with “user privacy, digital and physical security, and platform integrity/content moderation.” 

It accuses CEO Parag Agrawal and other senior executives and board members of making “false and misleading statements to users and the FTC” about these issues. Twitter denies those claims and has said that Zatko was fired in January for “ineffective leadership and poor performance.” Zatko’s attorneys say the performance claim is false. 

Twitter also hinted that Zatko’s complaint might be designed to bolster Musk’s legal fight with the company. Twitter called Zatko’s complaint “a false narrative” that is “riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies, and lacks important context.” 

News of Zatko’s complaint surfaced August 23, almost two months before the Twitter-Musk trial is scheduled to begin. One of Zatko’s attorneys has said “he’s never met Elon Musk. Doesn’t know Elon Musk. They know people in common.” 

The company also says it has significantly tightened security since 2020. 

Among Zatko’s specific allegations: 

— The company had such poor cybersecurity that it easily could have been exposed to outside attacks or attempts to siphon off its internal data. 

—The company lacked effective leadership, with its top executives practicing “deliberate ignorance” of pressing problems. Zatko described former CEO Jack Dorsey as “extremely disengaged” during the last months of his tenure, to the point where he wouldn’t even speak during meetings on complex issues. Dorsey stepped down in November 2021. 

—That Twitter knowingly allowed the government of India to place its agents on the company payroll, where they had “direct unsupervised access” to highly sensitive data on users. It makes a parallel but less detailed accusation that Twitter took funding from unidentified Chinese entities who may have gained access enabling them to access the identities and sensitive data of Chinese users who secretly use Twitter, which is officially banned in China. 

Better known by his hacker handle “Mudge,” Zatko, 51, first gained prominence in the 1990s. He was the best-known member of the Boston-based collective L0pht, which pioneered ethical hacking, embarrassing companies including Microsoft for poor security. His work raised awareness in the computing world that forced such major companies to take security seriously. He co-founded the consultancy @Stake, which was later acquired by Symantec. 

Zatko later worked in senior positions at the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Google. He joined Twitter at Dorsey’s urging in late 2020, the same year the company suffered an embarrassing security breach involving hackers who broke into the Twitter accounts of world leaders, celebrities and tech moguls, including Musk, attempting to scam their followers out of bitcoin. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 11th, 2022 by Vbiz

In the northeastern village of Ban Ta Klang in Thailand, Siriporn Sapmak starts her day by doing a livestream of her two elephants on social media to raise money to survive.

The 23-year old, who has been taking care of elephants since she was in school, points her phone to the animals as she feeds them bananas and they walk around the back of her family home.

Siriporn says she can raise about 1,000 baht ($27.46) of donations from several hours of livestreaming on TikTok and YouTube but that is only enough to feed her two elephants for one day.

It is a new – and insecure – source of income for the family, which before the pandemic earned money by doing elephant shows in the Thai city of Pattaya. They top up their earnings by selling fruit.

Like thousands of other elephant owners around the country, the Sapmak family had to return to their home village as the pandemic decimated elephant camps and foreign tourism ground to a virtual halt. Only 400,000 foreign tourists arrived in Thailand last year compared with nearly 40 million in 2019.

Some days, Siriporn doesn’t receive any donations and her elephants are underfed.

“We are hoping for tourists to (return). If they come back, we might not be doing these livestreams anymore,” she said.

“If we get to go back to work, we get a (stable) income to buy grass for elephants to eat.”

Edwin Wiek, founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, estimates that at least a thousand elephants in Thailand would have no “proper income” until more tourists return.

Thailand has about 3,200 to 4,000 captive elephants, according to official agencies, and about 3,500 in the wild.

Wiek said the Livestock Development Department needs to find “some kind” of budget to support these elephants.

“Otherwise, it’s going to be difficult to keep them alive I think for most families,” he said.

“Like family”

The families in Ban Ta Klang, the epicenter of Thailand’s elephant business located in Surin province, have cared for elephants for generations and have a close connection to them.

Elephant shows and rides have long been popular with tourists, especially the Chinese, while animal rights groups’ criticism of how elephants are handled there has given rise to tourism in sanctuaries.

“We are bound together, like family members,” Siriporn’s mother Pensri Sapmak, 60, said.

“Without the elephants, we don’t know what our future will look like. We have today thanks to them.”

The government has sent 500,000 kilograms of grass across multiple provinces since 2020 to help feed the elephants, according to the Livestock Development Department, which oversees captive elephants.

Elephants, Thailand’s national animal, eat 150 kg to 200 kg each day, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Siriporn and her mother, however, said they have not yet received any government support.

“This is a big national issue,” said Livestock Development Department Director-General Sorawit Thanito.

He said the government plans to assist elephants and their caretakers and that “measures along with a budget will be proposed to cabinet,” without giving a time frame.

While the government is expecting 10 million foreign tourists this year, some say this may not be enough to lure elephant owners back to top tourist destinations, given the costs involved. Chinese tourists, the mainstay of elephant shows, have also yet to return amid COVID-19 lockdowns at home.

“Who has the money right now to arrange a truck… and how much security (do) they have that they are really going to have business again when they go back?,” said Wiek.

He expected more elephants to be born in captivity over the next year, exacerbating the pressures on their owners.

“Some days we make some money, some days none, meaning there’s going to be less food on the table”,” said Pensri.

“I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

($1 = 36.4200 baht)

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 10th, 2022 by Vbiz

Ethiopia once said it wanted to become the “China of Africa” — that is, a manufacturing hub — with the help of its industrial parks. But the global economic downturn and the country’s ongoing conflict have prompted companies to leave the parks and lay off thousands of workers.

The Ethiopian government hoped that one the country’s industrial parks — Hawassa, which was opened in 2016 with the potential to create 60,000 jobs — would help the country move from an agricultural to a manufacturing economy, and that the companies operating there would bring high-tech work.   

Kalkidan Asrat, a logistics manager Nasa Garment at the Hawassa Industrila Park, shared those dreams. 

Her birthplace, she said, is a small town and her family worked in agriculture for a living as subsistence farmers. When she completed her education, she joined the industrial park, where she said she was able to improve her prospects.

There are 10 other industrial parks like Hawassa spread across Ethiopia.  

The government has said it hoped to make Ethiopia a lower middle-income country by 2025, with manufacturing playing a big part. 

That is now looking less likely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, a lack of foreign currency in the country, and conflict and human rights abuses.    

“Two of the industrial parks have been directly impacted. They’ve been in the combat zone, effectively,” said emerging markets economist Patrick Heinisch. “The most severe hit to the industrial parks is from the loss of access to AGOA. One week after the announcement, the first company announced they would retreat from the Ethiopian market; they sold their factories in Ethiopia. This has been followed by other companies.” 

The African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, passed in the U.S. in 2000 to aid development in sub-Saharan Africa, gave Ethiopia duty-free access to the U.S. market for several products.

With Ethiopian wages much lower than those in China, a country synonymous with manufacturing, and AGOA making it cheaper to import goods to the U.S., many international manufacturing companies set up in Hawassa’s industrial sheds. 

On January 1, however, the U.S. withdrew Ethiopia’s access to AGOA due to “gross violations of human rights.”  

Rights groups have accused the Ethiopian government and its aligned military forces of large-scale human abuses, including ethnic cleansing, against Tigrayans during the country’s nearly two-year conflict.  

Tigrayan forces have also been accused of abuses. 

Thirty-five thousand people worked at Hawassa, but in June, one firm laid off 3,000 workers and others laid off hundreds.  

One factory owner in Hawassa, Raghavendra Pattar, said the country is struggling to adapt.

“We are forging towards a new market, but it will take more time to roll up the market again, so that’s why we are suffering a lot,” he said. “The country is suffering because of foreign currency availability in the country today. They also need support from other countries, big countries, like America.” 

The deputy general manager of the park, Belante Tebikew, said the withdrawal of AGOA was causing more problems than the pandemic or inflation.

“There are some, as I told you, reductions on orders, because they are being injured by the customs, duty-free privileges in the American markets, since most of the commodities are being exported to the U.S.,” he said. 

In another bad sign for the country’s economy, fighting between government and Tigrayan rebel forces broke out again in late August after a five-month cease-fire.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 8th, 2022 by Vbiz

High inflation and soaring interest rates are taking a financial toll on many Americans, especially low-income minorities, compelling a growing number to borrow money to make ends meet, according to debt monitoring organizations. At the same time, people of color are increasingly turning away from traditional lending institutions, opting instead to ask family and friends for a personal loan.

“I asked my sister to lend me money,” said Monica Welborn, an African American mother of two from Maryland. Welborn reluctantly made the request after being denied a bank loan for $4,000.

“They [the bank] said my credit score was too low to receive a [standard] loan,” she told VOA. “They offered to lend me half of what I wanted but at a very high interest rate.”

Welborn is among millions who face roadblocks to borrowing from traditional lending institutions. Minorities are especially likely to seek loans from other sources, usually people they know. A survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau earlier this year found that 17% of Black Americans and 15% of Hispanics had borrowed money from family and friends, compared to 7% of whites.

But informal loans can present challenges as well, including something as basic as nailing down the terms of repayment. A Florida-based financial technology firm is part of a growing industry dedicated to facilitating non-traditional lending, sometimes referred to as peer-to-peer.

“There’s got to be a better way from a software perspective we can make these loans a little less cumbersome, and a little less of a burden,” said Kaben Clauson, co-founder of Pigeon Loans. His company is hoping to capitalize on providing services for the tens of millions of Americans who rely on borrowing from friends and family.

Clauson, 34, launched the free online platform last year to make it easier for people to lend and borrow money outside the banking system. “You create a payment plan, and say I want to pay you back over the next 15 months and this is how much I’m going to pay you,” he said.

The service sends out text message reminders to borrowers to help ensure money is paid back on time and with minimal drama. The lender can also add an agreed upon interest rate, which Clauson maintains is typically much lower than those offered by banks.

Pigeon Loans said its service has increased 200% in the past two months, with 70% of its users either Black, Latino or Asian. “These are traditionally disadvantaged communities. So many of them are living paycheck to paycheck, but those communities have a legacy of helping one another,” Clauson told VOA.

Small business lending

Such lending isn’t limited to individuals for their own needs. Pigeon Loans has seen an uptick in the number of loans given to minority business owners. There are an estimated 8 million minority-owned businesses across the country, and most are sole proprietorships, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Clauson’s company recently helped an African American entrepreneur in the nation’s capital open a bakery with a $10,000 loan from a friend. “People in other communities that are more advantaged have a rich uncle or parents that can help them get them going,” he said. “That’s not the case for many in minority communities, particularly for entrepreneurs.”

Some observers see peer-to-peer lending as a crutch, not a solution. “Personal loans can help with startup opportunities for Black-owned businesses but it’s not a long-term solution,” said Rick Wade, senior vice president of strategic alliances at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We want small minority companies across America to have a solid relationship with traditional lending institutions to help grow their business and we’ve got a lot of work to do in that regard.”

Taking on debt

Clauson predicts a wave of lending and borrowing on his platform next year if the U.S. economy slows and people take on more debt. He argues that borrowing from family, a neighbor or a colleague at work makes sense, especially when times are tough. “They’re likely going to give you the most favorable interest rate and payment terms,” he said.

Traditional lending institutions go to great lengths to vet borrowers and make sure they can repay loans. Does bypassing such procedures lead to greater loan delinquency? Not according to Pigeon Loans.

The company says its platform has attracted more than 50,000 users who, according to Clauson, have a 97% on-time repayment rate. The loan default rate, in which the money is never repaid, is said to be less than 1%.

Clauson acknowledges the loan platform may not be for everyone and warns against lending money that would otherwise be used to pay for one’s own core expenses.

“If you happen to be lucky enough to have some discretionary cash you can lend, go for it. But make sure that you have your own financial house in order first,” he said.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 7th, 2022 by Vbiz

Australia has followed other countries with more increases in interest rates to mitigate inflationary pressures. Economists are predicting more pain for mortgage holders after Australia’s Reserve Bank (RBA) raised interest rates Tuesday for the fifth consecutive month to a seven-year high. 

Slower world economic growth is the backdrop to the most aggressive series of interest rate increases in Australia since 1994. China’s economy is slowing, and the U.S. central bank has raised interest rates to subdue soaring prices.

Cost of living pressures were a key concern of voters in May’s federal election and many household budgets remain stretched.

The Reserve Bank of Australia, or RBA, has increased its official rate by 0.5 percentage points to 2.35% to try to tame high inflation, the general increase in the prices of goods and services. In Australia, it is at a 21-year high of 6.1% and experts believe it could reach 7% by Christmas.

Interest rates dictate the cost of borrowing money. The official levels set by central banks, including the RBA, influence rates charged by banks and other financial institutions for home loans and other financing. They also help determine returns for savers, who should benefit from rising interest rates.

But Ivan Colhoun, the chief economist for markets at the National Australia Bank, says mortgage holders will be worse off.

“If we get another half-a-percent, say, before Christmas that will nearly be two-and-three-quarter-percent of an increase in rates in (a) seven- or eight-month period. If you are on a $500,000 mortgage that is about $15,000 extra in interest payments, which is over $1,000 a month. So, that is not a small amount of extra money that households with mortgages have to come up with,” he said.

Central banks manipulate interest rates to, for example, subdue spending by consumers to reduce demand for goods and services to try to curb runaway prices.

In Australia, there is evidence the economy is growing too quickly for the Reserve Bank.

Government figures released Wednesday have shown the Australian economy grew 0.9% in the June quarter and 3.6% in the past year. The growth was fueled mainly by household spending and exports, but does not fully reflect recent interest rate rises.

The RBA said it expects further rate increases later this year, possibly in October.

Unemployment in Australia — another key indicator of the health of an economy — is at its lowest since 1974 at 3.4%.

Exports are booming as demand for energy in Europe and Asia drives up prices for Australia’s coal and liquefied natural gas.

The impact of successive interest rate rises on the Australian economy will become apparent in the months ahead.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 4th, 2022 by Vbiz

Liz Truss, who is widely expected to become Britain’s new prime minister this week, has pledged to act within a week to tackle a cost-of-living crisis fueled by soaring energy bills linked to the war in Ukraine.

But Truss, speaking to the BBC Sunday, refused to provide any details on the actions she would take, suggesting it would be wrong to discuss specific policies until she takes the top post. She stressed, however, that she understands the magnitude of the problems facing Britain.

The government has been unable to address soaring inflation, labor strife and strains on the nation’s creaking health care system since early July, when Johnson announced his intention to resign and triggered a contest to choose his successor. The ruling Conservative Party will announce the winner Monday.

“I want to reassure people that I am absolutely determined to sort out this issue as well as, within a month, present a full plan for how we are going to reduce taxes, how we’re going to get the British economy going, and how we are going to find our way out of these difficult times,’’ said Truss, who has been foreign secretary for the past year.

Truss is facing Rishi Sunak, the government’s former Treasury chief, in the contest to become Conservative Party leader and so prime minister. Only dues-paying party members were allowed to vote in the election, putting the choice of Britain’s next leader in the hands of about 180,000 party activists.

During the campaign, Truss promised to increase defense spending, cut taxes and boost energy supplies, but she refused to provide specifics on how she would respond to the cost-of-living crisis.

With household energy bills set to increase by 80% next month, charities warn that as many as one in three households will face fuel poverty this winter, leaving millions fearful of how they will pay to heat their homes.

The Bank of England has forecast that inflation will reach a 42-year high of 13.3% in October, threatening to push Britain into a prolonged recession. Goldman Sachs has estimated that inflation could soar to 22% by next year unless something is done to mitigate high energy prices.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 4th, 2022 by Vbiz

The finance ministers of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations agreed Friday to move forward with an unprecedented plan to cap the price of oil that Russia sells on global markets in order to limit the funds that Moscow uses to pay for the war in Ukraine.

The price cap proposal comes as the European Union prepares to implement a complete embargo on Russian oil in December. The EU plan would also ban companies in the bloc from insuring or financing Russian oil shipments.

U.S. officials have expressed concern that a complete ban on Russian oil sales to the EU, along with the further disruption caused by the insurance and financing restrictions, could tip the global economy into recession.

The price cap, being pushed by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, would create an exception to the ban for oil that is sold at or below the cap.

Energy market experts pointed out that the statement released by the G-7 finance ministers Friday was short on details, however, and that the plan would be extremely difficult to enact. Many large oil consumers, including China and India, are unlikely to participate, and even in countries that promise to honor the cap, compliance would be extremely difficult to monitor.

 

Triggered by Ukraine war

The finance ministers made it clear Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine is the reason they are seeking to choke off Moscow’s supply of oil revenues.

“Russia’s war of aggression is causing global economic disruptions and is threatening the security of the global supply of energy and food,” they said in a statement. “The economic costs of the war and consequent price increases are felt disproportionately by vulnerable groups across all economies and particularly by those countries already facing food insecurities and fiscal challenges.”

They added, “The price cap is specifically designed to reduce Russian revenues and Russia’s ability to fund its war of aggression whilst limiting the impact of Russia’s war on global energy prices, particularly for low- and middle-income countries, by only permitting service providers to continue to do business related to Russian seaborne oil and petroleum products sold at or below the price cap.”

‘Critical step forward’

In a statement released Friday morning, Yellen praised the G-7 for taking a “critical step forward in achieving our dual goals of putting downward pressure on global energy prices while denying Putin revenue to fund his brutal war in Ukraine.”

“Today’s action will help deliver a major blow for Russian finances and will both hinder Russia’s ability to fight its unprovoked war in Ukraine and hasten the deterioration of the Russian economy,” she said. “We have already begun to see the impact of the price cap through Russia’s hurried attempts to negotiate bilateral oil trades at massive discounts.”

Yellen said that she looked forward to working with allies to finalize the proposal in the coming weeks, a tacit admission that the arrangement will require far more than just the assent of the G-7.

To be successful, the 27 EU members would have to unanimously approve the price cap plan. With some members, particularly Hungary, chafing at the restrictions already placed on dealing with Russia, that agreement may be difficult to attain.

 

Experts dubious

Energy market experts said that there are a number of other practical obstacles to a price cap.

In an email exchange with VOA, Edward C. Chow, a nonresident senior associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ energy security and climate change program, said that many of the key details of the plan were absent and would be difficult to come to agreement on in the time frame being considered.

“There are no specific action steps in the statement,” said Chow, who has worked for 45 years in the international oil and gas business, including 20 years with oil giant Chevron. “It is even missing what price level the cap will be set at or what mechanism will be used for setting the appropriate cap. Indeed, the statement mentioned further consultations with other countries, which have shown little interest [in participating]. This will only slow down the process of formulating a real policy.”

“The problem is that the Western governments have conflicting objectives,” Chow wrote. “They want to greatly reduce Russia’s oil income but without greatly reducing global supply, given the resulting impact on price and their own economies. Oil sanctions were never the silver bullet if the objective is to stop Russia’s all-out assault on Ukraine as soon as possible.”

 

Monitoring difficulty

“I am skeptical that they can make this work effectively,” James W. Coleman, a professor at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas, told VOA. “It would take a very high level of monitoring that I don’t think we have any reason to be confident would be successful.”

For example, it would be difficult to track the origin of all the oil purchased by individual countries, especially given the increasingly common ship-to-ship oil transfers in international waters.

Coleman pointed out that Venezuela, which is subject to heavy U.S. sanctions, was found in 2020 to be selling its oil to China by diverting it through Malaysia.

“China is now importing more oil from Malaysia than Malaysia produces,” he said.

He said it would also be difficult to ensure countries weren’t compensating Russia for discounted oil by other means, such as price reductions on goods that Russia imports.

“Obviously, nations have all sorts of interactions, and it’s not that hard to pay Russia back in those other interactions that are kind of ‘off the books,’ ” Coleman said.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 4th, 2022 by Vbiz

Fuel prices increased by about 30% across Indonesia Saturday after the government reduced some of the costly subsidies that have kept inflation in Southeast Asia’s largest economy among the world’s lowest.

Indonesians have been fretting for weeks about a looming increase in the price of subsidized Pertalite RON-90 gasoline sold by Pertamina, the state-owned oil and gas company. Long lines of motorbikes and cars snaked around gas stations as motorists waited for hours to fill up their tanks with cheaper gas before the increase took effect on Saturday.

The hike — the first in eight years — raised the price of gasoline from about 51 cents to 67 cents per liter and diesel fuel from 35 cents to 46 cents.

President Joko Widodo said the decision to increase the fuel prices was his last option as the country’s energy subsidy had tripled this year to 502 trillion rupiah ($34 billion) from its original budget, triggered by rising global prices of oil and gas.

“The government has tried its best as I really want fuel prices to remain affordable,” Widodo told a televised address announcing the fuel hike. “The government has to make decisions in difficult situations.”

He said that the flow of subsidies to the public was not well targeted — about 70% of subsidies were benefiting middle and upper classes — and the government decided instead to increase social assistance.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said authorities were monitoring the impact on inflation and economic growth of the rise in fuel price.

Inflation has been relatively modest with the shock being mostly absorbed through a budget bolstered by energy subsidies. Inflation hit 4.6% in August as Bank Indonesia, the central bank, has said it would reassess the inflation outlook in response to the government fuel price policy.

Indrawati said in a separate news conference that the government would provide 150,000 rupiah ($10) cash handouts to cushion the impact of the fuel price increase on 20.6 million poor families until the year-end. The total cost of the handouts will be 12.4 trillion rupiah, which will be reallocated from the budget for energy subsidies.

She said the government will also spend 9.6 trillion rupiah ($644 million) on salary assistance to about 16 million low paid workers and 2.17 trillion rupiah ($145 million) will go to subsidizing transport costs, particularly for motorcycle taxi drivers and fishermen.

“We hope this can reduce pressure of rising prices and help reduce poverty,” Indrawati said.

The government has subsidized fuel for decades in Indonesia, the vast archipelago nation of more than 270 million people.

Fuel prices are a politically sensitive issue that could trigger other price hikes and risk student protests. In 1998, an increase in prices sparked riots that helped topple longtime dictator Suharto.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 3rd, 2022 by Vbiz

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says consumers are not yet feeling the benefits of declining food prices. The FAO says world food commodity prices dipped for the fifth consecutive month in August.

Lower world food prices generally reflect better availability at the global level. However, FAO says, this time, lower wholesale prices have not led to better food access or lower prices for consumers.

FAO Director of the Markets and Trade Division Boubaker Ben-Belhassen said availability has improved, while access to food commodities has not. This, despite declining prices five months in a row.

“This is due to several factors including the persistent high cost of processing and transportation, logistics, and the exchange rate also of currencies of countries as against the U.S. dollar,” he said. “Also, the cost-of-living crisis has affected access. So, that is why we have not seen this decline in prices at the world level translating into lower prices for consumers or at the retail level.”

Ben-Belhassen cautioned that a drop in world prices does not necessarily result in market stability. He said that is subject to the uncertainties and volatility surrounding developments in the energy market and the price of fertilizer.

He said continued high energy and gas prices reduce profitability and increase production costs for farmers. He added that will pose a serious challenge for farmers in the coming year.

He noted the U.N.-brokered Black Sea grain initiative allowing Ukraine to export its grain and other foodstuffs has improved the availability of food on the world market. Prior to the July agreement, Russia had blockaded Ukraine’s three key ports triggering a global food crisis.

Ben-Belhassen said the better availability of food on the global level has not translated into greater access at the consumer level. He said the increased shipment of goods from Ukraine has not alleviated food scarcity in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries. He noted that is because most grain exports go to middle-income countries.

“So, it does not really go to those countries that are most affected or are most in need for better domestic supplies,” he said. “We hope the situation will improve with time. We hope that the shipment also will go to these countries.… We are still concerned about access, about the cost-of-living crisis.”

The FAO official says families in low- and middle-income countries tend to spend 50% to 60% of their monthly income on food. He warned the implication for food security could be very serious if consumer food prices do not drop significantly.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 2nd, 2022 by Vbiz

U.S. employers hired slightly more workers than expected in August, keeping the Federal Reserve on track to deliver a third 75 basis points interest rate hike this month, though the unemployment rate increased to 3.7%.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 315,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said in its closely watched employment report on Friday. Data for July was revised slightly down to show payrolls surging 526,000 instead of 528,000 as previously reported. That marked the 20th straight month of job growth.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing 300,000. Estimates ranged from as low as 75,000 to as high as 450,000. The unemployment rate increased to 3.7% from a a pre-pandemic low of 3.5% in July.

The employment report came a week after Fed Chair Jerome Powell warned Americans of a painful period of slow economic growth and possibly rising unemployment as the U.S. central bank aggressively tightens monetary policy to quell inflation.

Solid job growth last month was further evidence that the economy continues to expand even as gross domestic product contracted in the first half of the year and was another sign the Fed still needs to cool the labor market despite the front loading of rate hikes.

The Fed has twice raised its policy rate by three-quarters of a percentage point in June and July. Since March, it has lifted that rate from near zero to its current range of 2.25% to 2.50%. Financial markets are pricing a roughly 70% probability of a 75 basis points increase at the Fed’s Sept. 20-21 policy meeting, according to CME’s FedWatch Tool.

August consumer price data due mid-month will also be a major factor in determining the size of the next rate increase. Despite rising recession risks, the labor market continues to chart its own path. There were 11.2 million job openings on the last day of July, with two job openings for every unemployed person. First-time applications for unemployment benefits are running very low by historical standards.

Economists attributed the labor market resilience to businesses hoarding workers after experiencing difficulties in the past year as the COVID-19 pandemic forced some people out of the workforce in part because of prolonged illness caused by the disease.

With legal immigration slowing, they say fewer workers are likely to become a permanent reality for employers. There is also pent-up demand for workers in service industries like restaurants and airlines, which are among the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. The labor force participation rate, or the proportion of working-age Americans who have a job or are looking for one remains more than a full percentage point below its pre-pandemic level.

Average hourly earnings rose 0.3% in August after increasing 0.5% in July. That kept the annual increase in wages at 5.2% in August.

Strong wage gains are keeping the income side of the economic growth ledger expanding, though at a moderate pace, and a recession at bay for now.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 1st, 2022 by Vbiz

Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema has pledged to improve the country’s financial situation after it received a $1.3 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund. Zambia was the first African country to default on its debt in the COVID-19 era.

President Hakainde Hichilema, speaking Thursday at the launch of plans aimed at boosting the country’s socioeconomic development, said the IMF Executive Board had approved a financial assistance program for Zambia.  

“They approved our extended credit facility for this great country whose greatness lies ahead of us and for us to make our country greater we have to do what is necessary in all the spheres and in all the areas,” said Hichilema.

The $1.3 billion bailout is aimed at kickstarting the country’s economy and restructuring its debt. The plan allows Zambia to immediately access $185 million.  

The financial assistance approved on Wednesday will give Zambia room in the budget to increase social spending and strengthen governance. The framework of the bailout will require the country to improve its public financial management.

According to Zambian government debt data, the country accumulated $31.74 billion by the end of 2021, of which $17.27 billion was external debt.  

Nearly one-third of the debt — $5.78 billion – is owed to China.

In November 2020, Zambia was unable to make its payments on a $42.5 million Eurobond, becoming the first African country in the pandemic era to default on its debt.

In July of this year, the southern African nation canceled projects worth $2 billion to prevent its debt from growing further.  

The country plans to increase copper production to 3 million tons a year in the next 10 years and produce foodstuffs for export in an effort to reduce its debt.

Hichilema says his government will have to make tough choices for high economic growth.

“The macroeconomic objectives set out in the eight national development plans are to place our economy on a higher growth trajectory, no question about it,” said Hichilema. “That’s the agenda next to restrain fiscal deficits that we experienced in the last seven or so years to a point where we failed to live within our means and defaulted on our obligations.”

Hichilema said the country must depart from rampant corruption, overvaluing the government projects and failing to finish them on time.

He pledged to reduce domestic debt and inject money into the economy.

Zambia’s next step is to sign a legally non-binding memorandum of understanding with the G-20 bilateral creditors committee, which is intended to assist countries in resolving their debt. The authorities hope to complete discussion on the memorandum by the end of 2022. The G-20 refers to the Group of 20 large economies.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 30th, 2022 by Vbiz

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday for a visit focused on semiconductors, the critical chips used in everyday electronics that the island manufactures.

Ducey is on a mission to woo suppliers for the new $12 billion Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (TSMC) plant being built in the state. He is traveling with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce president and the head of the state’s economic development agency.

Ducey is to meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, business leaders and university representatives in the semiconductor industry, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

American states are competing to attract a multibillion-dollar wave of investment in chip factories as the U.S. government steps up spending on expanding the U.S. semiconductor industry with a recently passed law. Last week, the Indiana governor visited Taiwan for a similar purpose.

U.S. officials worry that the country relies too heavily on Taiwan and other Asian suppliers for processor chips used in smartphones, medical devices, cars and most other electronic devices.

Those worries have been aggravated by tensions with China over technology and security. The potential for disruption was highlighted by chips shortages due to the coronavirus pandemic that sent shockwaves through the auto and electronics industries.

Taiwan produces more than half the global supply of high-end processor chips.

Beijing, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as its territory, fired missiles into the sea near the island starting on Aug. 4 after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited, disrupting shipping and air traffic, and highlighting the possibility that chip exports might be interrupted.

A law approved by Congress on July 29 promises more than $52 billion in grants and other aid to develop the U.S. semiconductor industry and a 25% tax credit for investors in chip factories in the United States.

State governments are now promising tax breaks and grants to lure chip factories they hope will become centers for high-tech industry.

Intel Corp., the only major U.S. producer, announced plans in March 2021 to build two chip factories in Arizona at a cost of $20 billion. The company has had another facility in Arizona since 1980.

In January, Intel announced plans to invest $20 billion in a chip factory in Ohio.

TSMC., headquartered in Taiwan and which makes chips for Apple Inc. and other customers, announced plans last year to invest $3.5 billion in its second U.S. manufacturing site in North Phoenix, Arizona.

TSMC’s first U.S. semiconductor wafer fabrication facility is in Camas, Washington. It also operates design centers in San Jose, California, and Austin, Texas.

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics says it will break ground in 2024 for a $17 billion chip factory near Austin, Texas. The state says it is the biggest single investment to date in Texas.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 30th, 2022 by Vbiz

Sri Lanka’s president said Tuesday that his bankrupt country’s talks with the International Monetary Fund for a rescue package have successfully reached final stages as he presented an amended budget that seeks to tame inflation and hike taxes.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is also the finance minister, said in a speech in Parliament that his government will soon start negotiating debt restructuring with countries that provide loans to Sri Lanka.

Declaring that Sri Lanka is on the “correct course in the short term for recovery,” Wickremesinghe warned the country must prepare for at least 25 years of a national economic policy, staring with the 2023 budget.

An IMF team is visiting Sri Lanka and is expected to end the current round of talks on Wednesday.

Prior to the visit, the IMF said that because Sri Lanka’s public debt is unsustainable, the IMF’s executive board will need assurances by Sri Lanka’s creditors that debt sustainability will be restored before any bailout program begins.

Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt exceeds $51 billion — of which it must repay $28 billion by 2027.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis with acute monthslong shortages of essentials like fuel, medicine, and cooking gas due to a severe foreign currency dearth. Though cooking gas supplies were restored through World Bank support, shortages of fuel, critical medicines and some food items continue.

Wickremesingh delivered his first budget proposal after he was elected by Parliament in July to cover the remainder of the five-year term of ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Wickremesinghe said that the United Nations along with other international organizations has launched a program to ensure food security. Schools have reopened and universities have resumed classes after long closures, he said. However, long fuel lines have reappeared after a quota system seemed to have brought them under control over the past weeks.

“I thought things are improving,” salesperson Asanka Chandana said. “For several weeks in May and June, we faced severe hardships, but things were getting better over the last two weeks after the introduction of the quota system. Now it looks like the shortage is still there and we are back to the square one.”

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said lapses in distribution, delays in unloading, and payments for orders by fuel stations have created long lines. He said the issues will be sorted out within days.

Wickremesinghe also said that his administration’s fiscal program envisages government revenue increasing to around 15% of GDP by 2025 from 8.2% at the of end 2021. He also aims to reduce public sector debt from around 110% of GDP in 2021 to less than 100% in the medium term.

He also vowed to control inflation to a mid-single digit level, and proposed a value added tax increase to 15% from the current 12%. Other taxes approved in May will soon come into operation, he said.

The new budget comes amid a relative calm following months of public protests that led to the ouster of Wickremesinghe’s predecessor and his family members from power. Protesters accused the once-powerful Rajapaksa family of being responsible for the economic crisis through corruption and mismanagement.

Rajapaksa fled the country in July and resigned after protesters stormed his official residence. He is now in Thailand. Party leaders say he is expected to return from exile early in September and have asked Wickremesinghe to provide him with security and facilities to which a former president is legally entitled.

Since becoming president, Wickremesinghe has cracked down on protesters and dismantled their main camp outside the president’s office. The use of a harsh anti-terror law to detain a protest leader has led to the United States and European Union raising human rights concerns.

On Tuesday, police fired tear gas on students demonstrating against the detention of a student leader also under anti-terror laws.

“I don’t see a significant change except there is a new person in the office of the president,” political analyst Jayadeva Uyangoda said, as criticism mounted that Wickremesinghe was an extension of the Rajapaksas’ administration.

“No opposition party seems to be willing to join Mr. Wickremesinghe’s proposed all-party government for two reasons: they think Mr. Wickremesinghe lacks legitimacy and they are not happy with the dominance of the Rajapaksa party,” Uyangoda said.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 27th, 2022 by Vbiz

African heads of state, representatives of international organizations and private business leaders gathered in Tunisia on Saturday for the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, a triennial event launched by Japan to promote growth and security in Africa.

Economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, a food crisis worsened by Russia’s war in Ukraine, and climate change are among the challenges facing many African countries expected to define the two-day conference.

Tensions among African countries also weighed on the meeting: On Friday, Morocco announced a boycott of the event and recalled its ambassador to Tunisia to protest the inclusion of a representative of the Polisario Front movement fighting for independence for Western Sahara.

The conference comes as Russia and China have sought to increase their economic and other influence in Africa.

While 30 African heads of state and government attended the event in Tunis, Tunisia’s capital, many key talks are being held remotely, including those involving Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the summit.

The Japanese government created and hosted the first TICAD summit in 1993. The conferences now are co-organized with the United Nations, the African Union and the World Bank. The summits have generated 26 development projects in 20 African countries.

This year, discussion around an increase of Japanese investments in Africa is anticipated, with particular focus on supporting start-ups and food security initiatives. Japan has said it plans to provide assistance for the production of rice, alongside a promised $130 million in food aid.

The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, an academic institution of the U.S. Defense Department, compared the conference’s format to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, “where government, business, and civil society leaders participate on an equal basis.”

However, this weekend’s summit has sparked controversy in Tunis, which faces its own acute economic crisis, including a recent spike in food and gasoline shortages.

Critics have spoken about the organizers’ alleged “white-washing” of the city, which has seen cleaner streets and infrastructure improvements in preparation for the conference summit. One local commentator said the North African capital looked like it had applied makeup to impress participants.

Meanwhile, the journalists’ union in Tunisia issued a statement Friday condemning restrictions on reporting and information around the summit.

Morocco’s complaint stemmed from Tunisia inviting the Polisario Front leader to attend. Morocco annexed Western Sahara from Spain in 1975, and the Polisario Front fought to make it an independent state until a 1991 cease-fire. It’s a highly sensitive issue in Morocco, which seeks international recognition for its authority over Western Sahara.

“The welcome given by the Tunisian head of state to the leader of the separatist militia is a serious and unprecedented act, which deeply hurts the feelings of the Moroccan people,” Morocco’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Morocco announced its withdrawal from the conference and the recall of its ambassador for consultations. But the ministry said the decision does not “call into question the commitment of the Kingdom of Morocco to the interests of Africa.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 27th, 2022 by Vbiz

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell delivered a stark warning Friday about the Fed’s determination to fight inflation with more sharp interest rate hikes: It will likely cause pain for Americans in the form of a weaker economy and job losses.

The message landed with a thud on Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 1,000 points for the day.

“These are the unfortunate costs of reducing inflation,” Powell said in a high-profile speech at the Fed’s annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole. “But a failure to restore price stability would mean far greater pain.”

Investors had been hoping for a signal from Powell that the Fed might moderate its rate increases later this year if inflation were to show further signs of easing. But the Fed chair indicated that that time may not be near, and stocks tumbled in response.

Runaway price increases have soured most Americans on the economy, even as the unemployment rate has fallen to a half-century low of 3.5%. It has also created political risks for President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats in this fall’s elections, with Republicans denouncing Biden’s $1.9 trillion financial support package, approved last year, as having fueled inflation.

Dow, Nasdaq sag

The Dow Jones average finished down 3% Friday, its worst day in three months. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite shed nearly 4%. Shorter-term Treasury yields climbed as traders built up bets for the Fed to stay aggressive with rates.

Some on Wall Street expect the economy to fall into recession later this year or early next year, after which they expect the Fed to reverse itself and reduce rates.

A number of Fed officials, though, have pushed back against that notion. Powell’s remarks suggested that the Fed is aiming to raise its benchmark rate — to about 3.75% to 4% by next year — yet not so high as to tank the economy, in hopes of slowing growth long enough to conquer high inflation.

“The idea they are trying to hammer into the market’s head is that their approach makes a rapid pivot to [rate cuts] unlikely,” said Eric Winograd, an economist at asset manager AllianceBernstein. “They are going to stay tight even when it hurts.”

After raising its key short-term rate by a steep three-quarters of a point at each of its past two meetings — part of the Fed’s fastest series of hikes since the early 1980s — Powell said the Fed might ease up on that pace “at some point,” suggesting that any such slowing isn’t near.

Powell said the size of the Fed’s rate increase at its next meeting in late September — whether one-half or three-quarters of a percentage point — will depend on inflation and jobs data. An increase of either size, though, would exceed the Fed’s traditional quarter-point hike, a reflection of how severe inflation has become.

The Fed chair said that while lower inflation readings that have been reported for July have been “welcome,” he added that “a single month’s improvement falls far short of what [Fed policymakers] will need to see before we are confident that inflation is moving down.”

Drop in inflation

On Friday, an inflation gauge that is closely monitored by the Fed showed that prices actually declined 0.1% from June to July. Though prices did jump 6.3% in July from 12 months earlier, that was down from a 6.8% year-over-year jump in June, which had been the highest since 1982. The drop largely reflected lower gas prices.

In his speech Friday, Powell noted that the history of high inflation in the 1970s, when the central bank sought to counter high prices with only intermittent rate hikes, shows that the Fed must stay focused.

“The historical record cautions strongly against prematurely” lowering interest rates, he said. “We must keep at it until the job is done.”

What particularly worries Powell and other Fed officials is the prospect that inflation would become entrenched, leading consumers and businesses to change their behavior in ways that would perpetuate higher prices. If, for example, workers began demanding higher pay to match higher inflation, many employers would then pass on those higher labor costs to consumers in the form of higher prices.

Many analysts speculate that Fed officials want to see roughly six months or so of lower monthly inflation readings, similar to July’s, before stopping their rate hikes.

Powell’s speech was the marquee event of the Fed’s annual economic symposium at Jackson Hole, the first time the conference of central bankers is being held in person since 2019, after it went virtual for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rapid hikes

Since March, the Fed has implemented its fastest pace of rate increases in decades to try to curb inflation, which has punished households with soaring costs for food, gas, rent and other necessities. The central bank has lifted its benchmark rate by 2 full percentage points in just four meetings, to a range of 2.25% to 2.5%.

Those hikes have led to higher costs for mortgages, car loans and other consumer and business borrowing. Home sales have been plunging since the Fed first signaled it would raise borrowing costs.

At last year’s Jackson Hole symposium, Powell listed five reasons he thought inflation would be “transitory.” Yet it has persisted, and many economists have noted that those remarks haven’t aged well.

Powell indirectly acknowledged that history at the outset of his remarks Friday, when he said that “at past Jackson Hole conferences, I have discussed broad topics such as the ever-changing structure of the economy and the challenges of conducting monetary policy.”

“Today,” he said, “my remarks will be shorter, my focus narrower and my message more direct.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 26th, 2022 by Vbiz

California set itself on a path Thursday to end the era of gas-powered cars, with air regulators adopting the world’s most stringent rules for transitioning to zero-emission vehicles.

The move by the California Air Resources Board to have all new cars, pickup trucks and SUVs be electric or hydrogen by 2035 is likely to reshape the U.S. auto market, which gets 10% of its sales from the nation’s most populous state.

But such a radical transformation in what people drive will also require at least 15 times more vehicle chargers statewide, a more robust energy grid and vehicles that people of all income levels can afford.

“It’s going to be very hard getting to 100%,” said Daniel Sperling, a board member and founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California-Davis. “You can’t just wave your wand, you can’t just adopt a regulation — people actually have to buy them and use them.”

Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom told state regulators two years ago to adopt a ban on gas-powered cars by 2035, one piece of California’s aggressive suite of policies designed to reduce pollution and fight climate change. If the policy works as designed, California would cut emissions from vehicles in half by 2040.

More to come

Other states are expected to follow, further accelerating the production of zero-emissions vehicles.

Washington state and Massachusetts already have said they will follow California’s lead and many more are likely to — New York and Pennsylvania are among 17 states that have adopted some or all of California’s tailpipe emission standards that are stricter than federal rules. The European Parliament in June backed a plan to effectively prohibit the sale of gas and diesel cars in the 27-nation European Union by 2035, and Canada has mandated the sale of zero-emission cars by the same year.

California’s policy doesn’t ban cars that run on gas — after 2035 people can keep their existing cars or buy used ones, and 20% of sales can be plug-in hybrids that run on batteries and gas. Though hydrogen is a fuel option under the new regulations, cars that run on fuel cells have made up less than 1% of car sales in recent years.

The switch from gas will drastically reduce emissions and air pollutants. Transportation is the single largest source of emissions in the state, accounting for about 40% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The air board is working on different regulations for motorcycles and larger trucks.

California envisions powering most of the economy with electricity, not fossil fuels, by 2045. A plan released by the air board earlier this year predicts electricity demand will shoot up by 68%. Today, the state has about 80,000 public chargers. The California Energy Commission predicted that needs to jump to 1.2 million by 2030.

The commission says car charging will account for about 4% of energy by 2030 when use is highest, typically during hot summer evenings. That’s when California sometimes struggles to provide enough energy because the amount of solar power diminishes as the sun goes down. In August 2020, hundreds of thousands of people briefly lost power because of high demand that outstripped supply.

That hasn’t happened since, and to ensure it doesn’t going forward, Newsom, a Democrat, is pushing to keep open the state’s last-remaining nuclear plant beyond its planned closure in 2025. Also, the state may turn to diesel generators or natural gas plants as a backup when the electrical grid is strained.

More than 1 million people drive electric cars in California today. Their charging habits vary, but most people charge their cars in the evening or overnight, said Ram Rajagopal, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University who has studied car charging habits and energy grid needs.

If people’s charging habits stay the same, once 30% to 40% of cars are electric, the state would need to add more energy capacity overnight to meet demand, he said. The regulations adopted Thursday require 35% of vehicle sales to be electric by 2026, up from 16% now.

But if more people charged their cars during the day, that problem would be avoided, he said. Changing to daytime charging is “the biggest bang for the buck you’re going to get,” he said.

Both the state and federal government are spending billions to build more chargers along public roadways, at apartment complexes and elsewhere to give people more charging options.

The oil industry believes California is going too far. It’s the seventh-largest oil-producing state and shouldn’t wrap its entire transportation strategy around a vehicle market powered by electricity, said Tanya DeRivi, vice president for climate policy with the Western States Petroleum Association, an industry group.

“Californians should be able to choose a vehicle technology, including electric vehicles, that best fits their needs based on availability, affordability and personal necessity,” she said.

Some difficulties seen

Many car companies, like Kia, Ford and General Motors, are already on the path to making more electric cars available for sale, but some have warned that factors outside their control like supply chain and materials issues make Californians’ goals challenging.

“Automakers could have significant difficulties meeting this target, given elements outside of the control of the industry,” Kia Corp.’s Laurie Holmes told the air board before its vote.

As the requirements ramp up over time, automakers could be fined up to $20,000 per vehicle sold that falls short of the goal, though they’ll have time to comply if they miss the target in a given year.

The new rules approved by the air board say that the vehicles need to be able to travel 150 miles (241 kilometers) on one charge. Federal and state rebates are also available to people who buy electric cars, and the new rules have incentives for car companies to sell electric cars at a discount to low-income buyers.

But some representatives of business groups and rural areas said they fear electric cars will be too expensive or inconvenient.

“These regulations are a big step backwards for working families and small businesses,” said Gema Gonzalez Macias of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

Air board members said they are committed to keeping a close eye on equity provisions in the rules to make sure all California residents have access.

“We will not set Californians up to fail, we will not set up the other states who want to follow this regulation to fail,” said Tania Pacheco-Warner, a member of the board and co-director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at California State University-Fresno.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 25th, 2022 by Vbiz

In 1999, fewer than 1 million people graduated from college in China. This year, a record-breaking 10.7 million new college graduates joined the Chinese job market.

And many of them face a tough time finding jobs, according to official data.

Youth unemployment in China reached 19.9% in July, according to the latest data released by the country’s National Bureau of Statistics. That’s the highest rate since Beijing started publishing the index in January 2018, when the rate was as low as 9.6%.

July’s high unemployment rate for youth aged 16-24 — up from a previous record high of 19.3% in June — is largely due to an economic slump that China has been experiencing over the past few years, multiple China analysts told VOA Mandarin. That economic downturn has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and Beijing’s strict containment restrictions, including the “Zero COVID” policy, which reduced exports and consumer spending.

“They’re reaping what they’re sowing at the moment, and what they’ve sown for the last two years has not been great for the job market,” said Zak Dychtwald, CEO of the Young China Group, a consulting firm that does market research on youth in China.

The market may be even more discouraging to recent graduates and other jobseekers than the official figures suggest, said Dorothy Solinger, a professor emerita at the University of California, Irvine, who studies unemployment in China.

China’s “unemployment statistics are notoriously wrong,” Solinger told VOA Mandarin. “I’m surprised they’re announcing that it’s this high now, but it makes me think it may be even higher.”

Due to lengthy, pandemic-driven lockdowns in Shanghai and Beijing between March and May, the World Bank projected that China’s economic growth will slow to 4.3% in 2022, which is 0.8% lower than its original December estimate.

The pandemic “has made production and operation difficult, which has reduced the ability to attract jobs,” said Liu Pengyu, the spokesperson of China’s Washington, D.C. embassy, in an email.

“As the economy recovers and policies to stabilize employment, especially policies and measures to help young people find jobs, are strengthened, the employment situation on the whole will gradually improve and remain stable,” he added.

The pandemic isn’t the only culprit, Dychtwald told VOA Mandarin, since the issue of overall unemployment has been on Beijing’s radar for decades.

“For years, one of China’s biggest issues has been creating enough jobs for its educated class of young people,” Dychtwald said in an interview. “It’s just always been hard — and especially these last five or 10 years — to have the job market keep pace with the education rates.”

Even though unemployment is a perennial issue in China, that doesn’t mean the current unemployment rates don’t matter. Far from it, experts told VOA Mandarin, especially with the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party approaching in the fall, where President Xi Jinping is expected to secure a third term despite economic fallout from the pandemic, banking scandals and business practices that have caused a backlash and led some homeowners to stop paying their mortgages in protest.

The Chinese public will probably demand that Xi does more to address the unemployment crisis, especially ahead of the upcoming congress, according to Li Qiang, founder of the New York-based NGO China Labor Watch.

“This data may give him a wake-up call. This road is very difficult and will also affect the country’s political stability,” Qiang told VOA Mandarin.

Or as Dychtwald said, “If the government doesn’t address [unemployment], then it’s a potential powder keg, politically.”

Beijing has long maintained policies and programs to stimulate the economy and job growth, and much Chinese Communist Party rhetoric and art celebrates labor and workers, according to experts VOA interviewed. As one 2021 article in the state outlet Xinhua put it, “Only hard work brings happiness.”

In January, Xi wrote in the CCP’s journal Qiushi that no matter how much China  develops, the country must “steer clear of the idleness-breeding trap of welfarism.”

Manfred Elfstrom is an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, whose research focuses on China, social movements, labor, and authoritarianism. To him, Xi’s article suggests the high youth unemployment rate China faces is of great concern to the CCP.

“If you are critical of people being ‘idle’ and relying on the government, then you also presumably feel pressure to deliver on job opportunities,” he told VOA Mandarin.

But it’s not just the CCP feeling the pressure. One of the most important factors impacting China’s younger generations is “the pressure to get ahead,” Dychtwald said, referring to “immense” social and familial expectations to excel in school, snare a well-paying job, marry and own property. “Pressure is the defining word.”

The CCP presents itself as a protector of the country and its people, so it’s more or less expected that the government will create an environment where people can find jobs, experts including Dychtwald said. With the realization that Beijing may not be meeting its end of the bargain comes dissatisfaction and disillusionment, particularly among the country’s youth.

China’s entrenched culture of overwork — which Dychtwald says is common in other countries like Singapore and South Korea — alongside fewer job prospects and relatively lower wages gave way to China’s “lying flat” movement in 2021.

The movement urges young people “to opt out of the struggle for workplace success, and to reject the promise of consumer fulfilment,” according to a 2021 Brookings Institution report.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 24th, 2022 by Vbiz

President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced his long-awaited plan to deliver on his campaign promise to provide $10,000 in debt cancellation for millions of Americans — and up to $10,000 more for those with the greatest financial need.

Borrowers who earn less than $125,000 a year, or families earning less than $250,000, would be eligible for the $10,000 loan forgiveness, Biden announced in a tweet. For recipients of Pell Grants, which are reserved for undergraduates with the most significant financial need, the federal government would cancel up to an additional $10,000 in federal loan debt.

Biden is also extending a pause on federal student loan payments for what he called the “final time” through the end of 2022. He was set to deliver remarks Wednesday afternoon at the White House to unveil his proposal to the public.

If his plan survives legal challenges that are almost certain to come, it could offer a windfall to a swath of the nation in the run-up to this fall’s midterm elections. More than 43 million people have federal student debt, with an average balance of $37,667, according to federal data. Nearly a third of borrowers owe less than $10,000, and about half owe less than $20,000. The White House estimates that Biden’s announcement would erase the federal student debt of about 20 million people.

Proponents say cancellation will narrow the racial wealth gap — Black students are more likely to borrow federal student loans and at higher amounts than others. Four years after earning bachelor’s degrees, Black borrowers owe an average of nearly $25,000 more than their white peers, according to a Brookings Institution study.

Still, the action is unlikely to thrill any of the factions that have been jostling for influence as Biden weighs how much to cancel and for whom.

Biden has faced pressure from liberals to provide broader relief to hard-hit borrowers, and from moderates and Republicans questioning the fairness of any widespread forgiveness. The delay in Biden’s decision has only heightened the anticipation for what his own aides acknowledge represents a political no-win situation. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Biden’s intended announcement ahead of time.

The continuation of the coronavirus pandemic-era payment freeze comes just days before millions of Americans were set to find out when their next student loan bills will be due. This is the closest the administration has come to hitting the end of the payment freeze extension, with the current pause set to end Aug. 31.

Details of the plan have been kept closely guarded as Biden weighed his options. The administration said Wednesday the Education Department will release information in the coming weeks for eligible borrowers to sign up for debt relief. Cancellation for some would be automatic, if the department has access to to their income information, but others would need to fill out a form.

Current students would only be eligible for relief if their loans were originated before July 1, 2022. Biden is also set to propose capping the amount that borrowers pay monthly on undergraduate loans at 5% of their earnings.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden was initially skeptical of student loan debt cancellation as he faced off against more progressive candidates for the Democratic nomination. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., had proposed cancellations of $50,000 or more.

As he tried to shore up support among younger voters and prepare for a general election battle against President Donald Trump, Biden unveiled his initial proposal for debt cancellation of $10,000 per borrower, with no mention of an income cap.

Biden narrowed his campaign promise in recent months by embracing the income limit as soaring inflation took a political toll and as he aimed to head off political attacks that the cancellation would benefit those with higher take-home pay. But Democrats, from members of congressional leadership to those facing tough reelection bids this November, have pushed the administration to go as broad as possible on debt relief, seeing it in part as a galvanizing issue, particularly for Black and young voters this fall.

Democrats are betting that Biden, who has seen his public approval tumble over the past year, can help motivate younger voters to the polls with the announcement.

Although Biden’s plan is changed from he initially proposed during the campaign, “he’ll get a lot of credit for following through on something that he was committed to,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who worked with Biden during the 2020 election.

A survey of 18- to 29-year-olds conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics in March found that 59% of those polled favored debt cancellation of some sort — whether for all borrowers or those most in need — although student loans did not rank high among issues that most concerned people in that age group.

Some advocates say Biden’s plan still falls short.

“If the rumors are true, we’ve got a problem,” Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP, which has aggressively lobbied Biden to take bolder action, said Tuesday.

“President Biden’s decision on student debt cannot become the latest example of a policy that has left Black people — especially Black women — behind,” he said. “This is not how you treat Black voters who turned out in record numbers and provided 90% of their vote to once again save democracy in 2020.”

John Della Volpe, who worked as a consultant on Biden’s campaign and is the director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, said the particulars of Biden’s announcement were less important than the decision itself.

“It’s about trust in politics, in government, in our system. It’s also about trust in the individual, which in this case is President Biden,” Della Volpe said.

Republicans, meanwhile, see a political upside if Biden pursues a large-scale cancellation of student debt ahead of the November midterms, anticipating backlash for Democrats — particularly in states where there are large numbers of working-class voters without college degrees. Critics of broad student debt forgiveness also believe it will open the White House to lawsuits, on the grounds that Congress has never given the president the explicit authority to cancel debt on his own.

The Republican National Committee on Tuesday blasted Biden’s expected announcement as a “handout to the rich,” claiming it would unfairly burden lower-income taxpayers and those who have already paid off their student loans with covering the costs of higher education for the wealthy.

Biden’s long deliberations have led to grumbling among federal loan servicers, who had been instructed to hold back billing statements while Biden weighed a decision.

Industry groups had complained that the delayed decision left them with just days to notify borrowers, retrain customer service workers and update websites and digital payment systems, said Scott Buchanan, executive director of the Student Loan Servicing Alliance.

It increases the risk that some borrowers will inadvertently be told they need to make payments, he said.

“At this late stage I think that’s the risk we’re running,” he said. “You can’t just turn on a dime with 35 million borrowers who all have different loan types and statuses.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 22nd, 2022 by Vbiz

Blueberry bison tamales, harvest salad with mixed greens, creamy carrot and wild rice soup, roasted turkey with squash. This contemporary Native American meal, crafted from the traditional foods of tribes across the United States and prepared with “Ketapanen” – a Menominee expression of love – cost caterer Jessica Pamonicutt $976 to feed a group of 50 people last November.

Today it costs her nearly double.

Pamonicutt is the executive chef of Chicago-based Native American catering business Ketapanen Kitchen. She is a citizen of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin but was raised in the Windy City, home to one of the largest urban Native populations in the country, according to the American Indian Center of Chicago.

Her business aims to offer health-conscious meals featuring Indigenous ingredients to the Chicago Native community and educate people about Indigenous contributions to everyday American fare.

One day, she aims to purchase all ingredients from Native suppliers and provide her community with affordable access to healthy Indigenous foods, “but this whole inflation thing has slowed that down,” she said.

U.S. inflation surged to a new four-decade high in June, squeezing household budgets with painfully high prices for gas, food and rent.

Traditional Indigenous foods — like wild rice, bison, fresh vegetables and fruit in the Midwest — are often unavailable or too expensive for Native families in urban areas like Chicago, and the recent inflation spike has propelled these foods even further out of reach.

Risk of disease compounds the problem: healthy eating is key to battling diabetes, which afflicts Native Americans at the highest rate of any ethnic group in the United States.

“There are many benefits to eating traditional Native foods,” said Jessica Thurin, a dietician at Native American Community Clinic in Minneapolis. “The body knows exactly how to process and use that food. These foods are natural to the Earth.”

But many people the clinic serves are low-income and do not have the luxury of choosing where their food comes from. Food deserts – areas with limited access to a variety of healthy and affordable foods – are more likely to exist in places with higher rates of poverty and concentrations of minority populations.

“In these situations, there are limited healthy food options, not to mention limited traditional food options,” Thurin said.

Aside from health benefits, traditional foods hold important cultural and emotional value.

“It’s just comfort,” said Danielle Lucas, a 39-year-old descendant of the Sicangu Lakota people from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.

Lucas’ mother, Evelyn Red Lodge, said she hasn’t prepared traditional dishes of the Great Plains, like wojapi berry sauce or stew, since May because the prices of key ingredients – berries and meat – have soared.

Pamonicutt, too, is feeling the pinch. Between last winter and this spring, the price of bison jumped from $13.99 to $23.99 per pound.

Shipping costs are so high that the chef said it’s often cheaper to drive hundreds of miles to buy ingredients, even with spiking gas prices. She’s even had to create her own suppliers: the 45-year-old’s parents are now growing crops for her business on their Wisconsin property near the Illinois border.

Gina Roxas, program coordinator at Trickster Cultural Center in Schaumburg, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, has also agreed to grow Native foods to help the chef minimize costs.

When a bag of wild rice costs $20, “you end up going to a fast food place instead to feed your family,” Roxas said.

More than 70% of Native Americans reside in urban areas – the result of decades of federal policies pushing families to leave reservations and assimilate into American society.

Dorene Wiese, executive director of the Chicago-based American Indian Association of Illinois, said members of her community have to prioritize making rent payments over splurging on healthy, traditional foods.

Even though specialty chefs like Pamonicutt aim to feed their own communities, the cost of her premium catering service is out of the price range for many urban Natives. Her meals end up feeding majority non-Native audiences at museums or cultural events that can foot the bill, said Wiese, a citizen of the Minnesota White Earth Band of Ojibwe Indians.

“There really is a shortage of Native foods in the area,” she said, But the problem isn’t unique to Chicago.

Dana Thompson, co-owner of The Sioux Chef company and executive director of a Minneapolis Indigenous food nonprofit, is another Native businesswoman striving to expand her urban community’s access to traditional local foods like lake fish, wild rice and wild greens amid the food price surge.

Thompson, of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and Mdewakanton Dakota people, said inflation is “really impacting the food systems we have here,” which include dozens of Indigenous, local and organic food producers.

At Owamni, an award-winning Indigenous restaurant under The Sioux Chef umbrella, ingredients like Labrador Tea – which grows wild in northern Minnesota – have been especially difficult to get this year, Thompson said.

When an ingredient is not consistently available or affordable, she changes the menu.

“Being fluid and resilient is what we’re used to,” Thompson said. “That’s like the history of indigeneity in North America.”

Inflation is similarly impeding the American Indian Center of Chicago’s efforts to improve food security. Executive Director Melodi Serna, of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, said the current prices of food boxes they distribute – with traditional Midwestern foods like fish, bison, venison, dairy products and produce – are “astronomical.”

“Where I could have been able to provide maybe 100 boxes, now we’re only able to provide 50,” Serna said.

For 57-year-old Emmie King, a Chicago resident and citizen of the Navajo Nation, getting the fresh ingredients she grew up with in New Mexico is much more difficult in the city, especially with inflation biting into her budget.

She finds ways to “stretch” the food she buys so it lasts longer, purchasing meat in bulk and freezing small portions to add to stews later on. “I get what I need, rather than what I want,” she said.

But King was able to enjoy a taste of home at an Aug. 3 luncheon at the American Indian Center of Chicago, where twenty elders gathered to enjoy turkey tamales with cranberry-infused masa, Spanish rice with quinoa, elote pasta salad with chickpea noodles and glasses of cold lemonade.

The mastermind behind the meal was Pamonicutt herself, sharing her spin on Southwestern and Northern Indigeneous food traditions. Through volunteering at senior lunches and developing a food education program, the chef is continuing to increase access to healthy Indigenous foods in her community.

“I want kids to learn where these foods come from,” the chef said. “That whole act of caring for your food … thanking it, understanding that it was grown to help us survive.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 21st, 2022 by Vbiz

The International Monetary Fund is facing pressure to reevaluate how it imposes fees on loans it disperses to needy countries like war-torn Ukraine — which is one of the fund’s biggest borrowers.

The move comes as more countries will need to turn to the IMF, as food prices and inflation internationally continue to rise.

Surcharges are added fees on loans imposed on countries that are heavily indebted to the IMF.

Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in Aspen last month that finance ministers of several countries realize they have to pay a price for Russia’s war in Ukraine, especially with food prices going up.

“They’re going to have to go to the IMF, they’re going to need to find assistance,” Adeyemo said.

However, the IMF fee system could change through U.S legislation. An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, otherwise known as the defense spending bill, would suspend IMF surcharges while their effectiveness and burden on indebted countries is studied.

That was passed by the U.S. House in July. The Senate is expected to vote on its defense bill in September. A representative of the Senate Armed Services Committee said an amendment may be offered in the next few weeks or even on the Senate floor.

As the largest IMF shareholder and member of the Fund’s executive board, the U.S. can push for policy decisions and unilaterally veto some board decisions.

Citing worsening financial crises in Sri Lanka and Pakistan as examples, some accuse China of engaging in debt trap diplomacy — or having countries fall so deeply in debt that they are beholden to it on international issues.

Advocates and civil rights organizations lodge the same complaint against the Fund, who claim the organization undercuts its core lender-of-last-resort role with countries in vulnerable positions to pay back debt.

With an ever-worsening risk of a global debt crisis and rising interest rates, the issue has become more pressing for countries looking to reduce their deficits.

However, some economists and representatives of the fund say the surcharges amount to responsible lending behavior, as they provide an incentive for members with large outstanding balances to repay their loans promptly. This applies especially to countries that may otherwise not be able to obtain financing from private lenders.

Maurice Obstfeld, a Berkeley economics professor and former IMF research department director said as a lender of last resort, the Fund’s ability to lend is important — as low and middle income countries face rising interest rates.

“The Fund’s staff is small and, in a crisis, its efforts are better deployed serving member countries’ needs,” he said in an email to The Associated Press. “Surcharges could be relaxed temporarily in the face of intense pressures on borrowing countries, but at the expense of the Fund’s ability to serve its membership in the longer term.”

Illinois Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García, who offered the defense spending amendment, told The Associated Press, “it is unfair for the IMF to require countries like Ukraine that are already deep in debt to pay surcharge fees. These surcharges increase poverty and hold back our global economic recovery.”

Ukraine’s projected real GDP is expected to decline by 35%, due in large part to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to IMF data.

The country, engaged in a war with no projected end, has an outstanding balance of 7.5 billion SDRs — an IMF accounting unit valued at around $9.8 billion according to Ukrainian central bankers. The latest figures estimate that Ukraine will owe the IMF $360 million in surcharges between 2021 and 2023.

Economists Joseph Stiglitz at Columbia University and Kevin P. Gallagher at Boston University wrote earlier this year that “forcing excessive repayments lowers the productive potential of the borrowing country, but also harms creditors” and requires borrowers “to pay more at exactly the moment when they are most squeezed from market access in any other form.”

Serhiy Nikolaychuk, Deputy Chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine, said Ukraine is continuing to pay its debts “despite Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine.”

“Our country will pay its debt and surcharges under previous programs and fulfill its obligations to the IMF,” Nikolaychuk said. “It will be difficult, but we will pay.”

For years, lawmakers, economists and civil rights organizations have called on the IMF, which has for decades loaned billions to low-income countries, to end its surcharge policy.

In January, 18 left-leaning lawmakers wrote to the Treasury calling for the surcharge policy to be eliminated. And in April, a group of 150 civil society groups and individuals signed an open letter to the IMF, asking for the same, calling surcharges “regressive.”

A spokesperson for the fund says the surcharges are designed to discourage large and prolonged use of IMF resources.

“They only apply to countries with particularly large outstanding loans,” Mayada Ghazala said in an emailed statement, adding that poorest countries are exempt from the surcharges.

The fund’s executive board met in December 2021 and discussed the role of surcharges — it ultimately decided not to make a change to the fees, but said they would review them again in the future.

The IMF was created in 1944 at the United Nations Bretton Woods Conference — one of its missions is lending to maintain the financial stability of countries. Among its 190 countries, it lends around $1 trillion, according to the organization’s website.

An April review of the fund’s financial health for fiscal year 2022 and 2023 states that lending income excluding surcharges “remain strong and are expected to exceed expenses in FY 2023–2024.”

Andrés Arauz, a senior research fellow at the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research says the IMF’s financial position shows “the surcharges are not necessary for sound finances.”

“There is no excuse for the IMF to be punishing countries under debt stress with surcharges,” he said. “There is also no logic to it, the amount of money that the IMF raises from surcharges is trivial relative to its income and capacity.”

Garcia said, “I’m proud the House passed my amendment to support a pause and review of surcharges at the IMF, and I will keep up the fight until the president signs it into law.”

Separately, the U.S. has sent roughly $7.3 billion in aid to Ukraine since the war began in late February, including a new $775 million defense aid package announced Friday.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 19th, 2022 by Vbiz

Ghana has raised its benchmark interest rate to a record-high 22% as the country struggles to check soaring prices caused in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ghana is also trying to boost its currency, the cedi, which saw the second-worst drop in value globally after Sri Lanka’s rupee. The high cost of living sparked street protests in July and talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bail out.

The cost of food and services has more than doubled in Ghana as inflation hit 31.7% annually in July, its highest since late 2003. Consumers and businesspeople say they are being pushed out of business as the local currency continues to lose its value against the U.S. dollar.

Naa Koshie, a 45-year-old mother of five who runs a cold store business in the capital, Accra, told VOA she is losing money as prices of goods keep soaring.

The people had a lot of hopes in this government, she said, but it’s embarrassing how things keep getting worse daily.

Addressing the Methodist Church of Ghana on Thursday, President Nana Akufo-Addo said his government is not sleeping on the job.

“The ravages of the pandemic, worsened by the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have led to spiraling freight charges, rising fuel costs, high food prices, steep inflationary spikes and widespread business failures. I am fully aware that these are very difficult times for us in Ghana, just as they are for most people in the world. However, the Akufo-Addo government has not thrown its hands up in despair at this pernicious development.”

The president says he is optimistic the economy will bounce back and will bring relief to Ghanaians.

“We are determined to bring relief to the Ghanaian people. Other steps will be taken, in particular, to deal with the unacceptable depreciation of the cedi. Reining in inflation, by bringing down food prices, is a major preoccupation of the government, and this season’s emerging, successful harvest will assist us achieve this objective, together with other policies.”

Courage Kingsley Martey, the senior economist with Databank Research, told VOA the measures taken by the central bank at its emergency meeting Wednesday to address the free fall of the cedi are appropriate.

“The central bank’s target is to bring inflation down and what we all want as citizens is to have low and stable inflation,” Martey said. “In doing so, there are going to be short-term consequences or tradeoffs. This means individuals who would love to have access to cheaper funds or capital may not be able to do that, but that would have to be the cost we have to bear in the short term.”

Godfred Bokpin, a professor of finance at the University of Ghana, urged Akufo-Addo to reduce the size of his government as a further cut on spending.

“Time is not on our side. The government needs to reduce the size of government drastically and also as a signal and be able to have greater control over expenditure from that side,” Bokpin said.

Time is running out for the government as Ghanaians continue to wait with bated breath, hoping for a major economic turnaround ahead of a hike in utility prices taking effect on September 1.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 19th, 2022 by Vbiz

With transportation costs tripling in the past year, Mozambican wholesalers are sending bananas to market by bicycle instead of truck, aiming to reduce spending on fuel. From Manica province in western Mozambique André Baptista has the story, narrated by Carol Guensburg.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 16th, 2022 by Vbiz

Nigerian authorities say the country’s inflation rate jumped to nearly 20% in July, compared to last year, the highest in nearly two decades. Consumers in Africa’s biggest economy are struggling to keep up with rising prices for basic foods. 

Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Monday the country’s inflation rate in July was 19.64% – the highest rate since September 2005.

A NBS report found the highest increases were for necessities like food, fuel, transportation and clothing.  

Food prices have risen steadily in Nigeria for years, due to the effects of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread insecurity.  

But in February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, commodity prices soared, affecting the ability of millions of citizens to meet their basic needs.  

Abuja resident James Orshio earns the equivalent of about $50 a month from his sales job but said his salary can no longer cushion economic pressures.  

“There’s a lot of challenges now due to the increment [increases] of prices; I cannot even talk of going to the market now to buy something to feed myself because the prices are not encouraging at all,” he said. “A loaf of bread that used to be 300 naira is now 1,000 naira. Even some of the bakers in Abuja are not working because of the high price.”

In a bid to address inflation, Nigeria’s Central Bank (CBN) has been tightening monetary policy by increasing interest rates from 11% in January to 14% in July.

Akintunde Ogunsola, founder of Abuja-based financial consulting firm Karma Professional Service, explained the reason for the CBN’s policy. 

“What is happening is that we have too much money in circulation chasing a few goods, and that’s what causes inflation,” he said. “There is scarcity in supply and that’s why CBN is using the open market operation to reduce the money in circulation by increasing [the] interest rate so that people will be saving money back into the bank, like mopping up money from the economy.”

Nigeria’s import-dependent economy has been further hit by currency devaluation. The naira has lost more than 30% of its value in seven months.

But Ogunsola said inflation nowadays is a global problem.

“It’s not only in Nigeria alone that we’re experiencing this,” he said. “The United States’ inflation is also going up. Even our neighbors, Ghana, their inflation rate is already over 30%.”   

In March, the World Bank estimated that about 4 out of 10 Nigerians live below the national poverty line.

Experts predict the inflation rate will increase further in coming months and may put many more Nigerians on the brink of poverty.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 16th, 2022 by Vbiz

The European Union is planning a five-fold increase in financial support to an African military mission in Mozambique, an internal EU document shows, as Islamist attacks threaten gas projects meant to reduce the EU’s reliance on Russian energy.

The energy squeeze due to the Ukraine war has added impetus to Europe’s scramble for gas off Mozambique’s northern coast, where Western oil firms are planning to build a massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal.

The move also comes as the West seeks to counter Russian and Chinese influence in the southern African nation, three years after Russian private military firm Wagner withdrew most of its forces following a string of defeats by Islamist militants.

Mozambique has been grappling with militants linked to the Islamic State in its northernmost gas-rich province of Cabo Delgado since 2017, near LNG projects worth billions of dollars.

A southern African military mission and a separate intervention by troops from Rwanda have between them managed to contain the militants’ spread since being deployed last year.

But “the situation remains very volatile and smaller-scale violent attacks have continued in various districts,” the EU document dated Aug. 10 said.

The paper prepared by the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s de facto foreign ministry, recommends 15 million euros ($15.3 million) of EU funding to 2024 for the mission of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC), a bloc of 16 African nations of which half a dozen sent troops to Mozambique.

The mission is expected to be extended for six or twelve months at a SADC summit in Kinshasa starting on Wednesday, according to the document, which adds that EU support for the Rwandan mission would also be proposed in the coming months.

An EU spokesperson confirmed additional financial support to the SADC mission had been proposed, but declined to comment further as the matter was still being discussed by EU governments.

The proposal needs the backing of the 27 EU governments, whose military experts are scheduled to hold a regular meeting on Aug. 25.

A SADC official also confirmed a request for EU support, but added SADC countries would continue to provide key financial support to the mission.

French oil giant Total TTEF.PA is leading an international consortium to extract gas off north Mozambique’s shores and liquefy it at an LNG plant under construction, from where it would be exported to Europe and Asia.

Gas projects threatened

Mozambique has the third largest proven gas reserves in Africa, after Nigeria and Algeria. The EU fears that without support for the military interventions, Mozambique may again lose control of its restive north.

The Islamists have recently stepped up attacks.

The EU has already pledged to provide the country’s army with an additional 45 million euros ($45 million) of financial support, and has so far made available to the SADC mission 2.9 million euros of funding.

The fresh EU support would be limited to “equipment not designed to deliver lethal force,” including radars, mine detectors, boats and medical supplies, the EU document said, in spite of SADC’s needs for lethal material.

Despite delays caused by militant activity, Total still plans to begin production in 2024 from gas reserves estimated in trillions of cubic feet (tcf), more than the amount of gas the EU imports annually from Russia.

Italian oil firm ENI ENI.MI expects to begin shipments from a nearby offshore gas field this year, using a floating LNG terminal which can process only limited amounts of gas.

Other major oil firms, including U.S. giant ExxonMobil XOM.N are also operating in the region.

The funding is also meant to discourage local authorities from seeking help again from Russia, or from China.

The EU is also supporting the training of Mozambique military forces through its own defense mission in the country.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 14th, 2022 by Vbiz

State oil giant Saudi Aramco reported a soaring 90% rise in second-quarter profit on Sunday, beating analyst expectations and propelled by higher oil prices, volumes sold and refining margins.

The company expects “oil demand to continue to grow for the rest of the decade, despite downward economic pressures on short-term global forecasts,” Aramco chief executive Amin Nasser said in the earnings report.

Aramco’s net profit rose to $48.39 billion for the quarter to June 30 from $25.43 billion a year earlier.

Analysts had expected a net profit of $46.2 billion, according to the mean estimate from 15 analysts.

It declared a dividend of $18.8 billion in the second quarter, in line with its own target, which will be paid in the third quarter.

Aramco shares have risen over 25% this year as oil and natural gas prices have scaled multi-year highs after Western sanctions against major exporter Russia squeezed an already under-supplied global market.

Aramco joins other oil majors that have reported strong results in recent weeks.

On July 29, Exxon Mobil Corp posted its biggest quarterly profit ever, a net income of $17.9 billion, an almost four-fold increase over the year earlier period.

Margins for making fuels like gasoline and diesel surged worldwide, boosting the profits of oil giants, including European majors Shell and TotalEnergies, both of which reported results on July 27.

Aramco said its average total hydrocarbon production was 13.6 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in the second quarter.

“But while there is a very real and present need to safeguard the security of energy supplies, climate goals remain critical, which is why Aramco is working to increase production from multiple energy sources – including oil and gas, as well as renewables, and blue hydrogen.” said Nasser.

Capital expenditure increased by 25% to $9.4 billion in the second quarter compared to the same period in 2021. Aramco said it continued to invest in growth, expanding its chemicals business and developing prospects in low-carbon businesses.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

August 14th, 2022 by Vbiz

Salespeople, food servers, postal workers — “Help Wanted” ads are proliferating across the United States, as companies struggle to deal with a worker shortage caused by the pandemic, a rash of early retirements and restrictive immigration laws.

More than 10 million openings went unfilled in June, according to government data, while fewer than 6 million people were seeking work, even as employers desperately try to boost hiring amid a frenzy of consumer spending.

“We have a lot of jobs, but not enough workers to fill them,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents American companies, said in a statement.

Many of those who stopped working as COVID-19 first ravaged the U.S. economy in early 2020 have never returned.

“There would be 3.4 million more workers today if labor force participation” — the percentage of the working-age population currently employed or actively seeking work — was at the pre-pandemic rate, the Chamber calculated. It has slipped from 63.4% to 62.1%.

And where have all these people gone? Many simply took early retirement.

“Part of that is just the US population continues to age,” Nick Bunker, a labor-market specialist with jobs website Indeed, told AFP.

Too few immigrants

The huge cohort of baby boomers had already begun leaving the labor market, but there has been an “acceleration in retirements” since the pandemic struck, Diane Swonk, chief economist at KPMG, told AFP.

Millions of people opted for early retirement, concerned for their health and with sufficient assets — thanks to a then-buoyant stock market and high real-estate prices — to leave the workplace.

In the short term, Bunker said, “We’re unlikely to get back to exactly the pre-pandemic level of labor-force participation because of the aging of the population.”

Adding to this, said Swonk, “We haven’t had immigration at the pace to replace the baby boomers.”

Restrictions imposed under President Donald Trump, plus the impact of COVID, steeply reduced the number of foreigners entering the country.

“It has rebounded a little bit, but still not at the levels we were seeing several years ago,” Bunker said.

The Chamber of Commerce also underscored the impact of generous government assistance during the pandemic, which “bolstered people’s economic stability — allowing them to continue sitting out of the labor force.”

Long COVID

Large numbers of women quit their jobs in 2020, in part because extended school closings required many to stay home to care for children.

Those who wanted to place children in day care were often frustrated, as labor shortages hit the day care sector as well.

Swonk noted that not only COVID infections but also the debilitating effects of long COVID have had a serious impact.

It’s “really one of the most underestimated and misunderstood issues” keeping workers sidelined, she said.

To lure workers back, many employers have boosted pay and benefits.

And if Americans’ buying frenzy slows, analysts say, companies will need fewer workers.

The labor shortage is expected to ease a bit as the Federal Reserve continues aggressively raising interest rates in its effort to combat inflation.

In the meantime, wage earners have profited. Over the past year, millions have changed jobs, often lured elsewhere by higher wages and better working conditions.

This “Great Resignation” has resulted in higher hourly wages. The private sector average is now $32.27, up 5.2% in a year, adding to inflationary pressures.

The US labor market showed new signs of vitality in July.

The 22 million jobs lost due to COVID-19 have returned, and the unemployment rate is a historically low 3.5%.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси