Розділ: Бізнес

January 27th, 2023 by Vbiz

Nigerian authorities have hailed the launch of a deepwater seaport in Lagos they say will create 300,000 jobs and reduce shipping bottlenecks. While the new port is expected to reduce losses due to congestion, shipping industry experts say Nigeria’s poor roads and rail connections to ports also must be improved.

The launch by President Mohammadu Buhari during his two-day visit this week to Lagos signaled his government’s effort to grow Nigeria’s economy through infrastructural development.

The 1.5-billion-dollar, Chinese-built Lekki Deep Sea Port sits on 90 hectares of land in the Lagos Free Trade Zone — the biggest port by size in West Africa.

Authorities say ships docking at the port could be up to four times the size of vessels at the state’s Tin Can and Apapa ports. They expect it will ease delays and congestion at ports and increase earnings by up to $360 billion in coming years.

Efioita Ephraim is a manager at Ports and Terminal Nigeria, Ltd.

“The current ports we have in the country are located along rivers, tributaries and that’s why there are limitations. It’s a welcome development to have an infrastructure like this in our country. With this, larger vessels will be able to berth at our ports and we shall be in competition with neighboring countries such as Cotonou [Benin],” said Ephraim.

Most of Nigeria’s seaports were built many decades ago and are either closed or operating below capacity.

Nigeria loses an estimated $1 billion a year to delays and bottlenecks at ports. To address the problem, the Nigerian Ports Authority launched an automated process for clearing cargo at ports.

Abiodun Gbadamosi is the former general manager of Nigeria’s western ports. He said the new deep sea port at Lagos will add to Nigeria’s economic progress and create jobs.

The country’s bureau of statistics says Nigeria’s unemployment rate is 33 percent.

“What Nigeria needs now are jobs, jobs and more jobs, and that’s going to go a very long way. It’s going to improve the commerce around that area. It’s highly commendable and it’s going to actually propel the state. Then Nigeria can now push forward the idea of being hub for the region,” he said.

Ephraim said authorities must improve road and rail accessibility to the area.

“If the items are to be conveyed out of the port and into the port by road, then I would expect the multimodal mode of transportation be encouraged to and from the Lekki deep sea port, rail water and road transportation.”

China is one of Nigeria’s biggest lenders and has been funding rail, road and power projects.

The first commercial vessel is expected to arrive in the port this Sunday.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 26th, 2023 by Vbiz

The U.S. economy cooled only slightly at the end of last year, advancing at an annualized 2.9% rate, the Department of Commerce reported Thursday, even as forecasters are suggesting a recession is possible later in 2023.

The growth in the October-to-December quarter dropped from a 3.2% advance in the third quarter, following a half year when the world’s biggest economy shrank.

For all of 2022, the economy grew by a solid, if unspectacular 2.1%, down from a robust 5.7% growth rate in 2021 when the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic was in full force.

Last year saw contrasting themes, including the fastest growth in consumer prices in four decades, pinching the wallets of Americans at all income levels.

Yet the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years was recorded, with hundreds of thousands of new jobs being added to payrolls every month. Separately, borrowing costs for businesses and consumer loans and home mortgages rose sharply as the country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, increased its benchmark interest rate seven times, an effort aimed at slowing economic growth and curbing inflation.

By the end of the year and into January, there were signs the economy was slowing, with some forecasters predicting a recession — meaning two straight quarters of economic decline in the coming months.

With higher interest rates, home buying and retail sales have dropped, while manufacturing output fell in November and December. The hiring of temporary workers is weakening, and major companies, especially in technology and media, are laying off thousands of workers. 

While the inflation rate in consumer prices has dropped, it remains high by historical standards — now at a 6.5% annualized rate, well above the 2% rate sought by Federal Reserve policymakers. It is likely to stay high through much of 2023.

The Fed is also planning more interest rate increases, albeit not likely as big as the ones it imposed in 2022. It is another factor that could curtail U.S. economic growth.

The White House and the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives are facing contentious negotiations over increasing the limit on the national debt, now at $31.4 trillion. The U.S. could reach the spending limit by early June.

If an agreement is not reached, the ensuing turmoil would roil world financial markets and the U.S. government’s credit rating could be cut, as occurred in 2011, the last time Congress and the White House quarreled significantly over increasing the debt limit. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 25th, 2023 by Vbiz

The head of the International Monetary Fund is praising Zambia’s efforts to reform its economy and urging its creditors to restructure the country’s debts. Zambia was the first African country to default on its sovereign debt in the COVID era. Economists say prompt debt restructuring is needed to restart Zambia’s stagnant economy.

Speaking at the University of Zambia Tuesday, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva applauded Lusaka’s efforts to reform its economy, saying it had done its part and urging its creditors to do theirs.

She said the IMF had reached an understanding in principle with China to restructure almost $6 billion Zambia owes Beijing, one of its main creditors.

The IMF chief acknowledged global disruptions that shook Zambia’s economy.

“Over the last years, we have experienced two unthinkable events:  First COVID, that brought the world economy to a standstill for a prolonged period of time.  Second, the invasion by Russia of Ukraine,” said Georgieva.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year disrupted food, energy, and other markets as western governments hit Moscow with sanctions and Russia’s navy stopped Ukraine’s grain exports. 

Zambia defaulted on its debt in November 2020, the first African country to do so after the COVID pandemic.

But Lusaka’s debt problem predates the pandemic.

The government under former President Edgar Lungu from 2015 more than doubled Zambia’s debt as a percentage of GDP, according to World Bank-collected data.

An IMF study released this month says corruption flourished under Lungu’s government, which his former ruling party rejects.

Current President Hakainde Hichilema, who was elected in 2021, pledged to tackle corruption and secured $1.3 billion in IMF support for Zambia’s debt with reforms that cut wasteful spending.   

Civil Society Debt Alliance economist Boyd Muleya said creditors’ delay in negotiating Zambia’s debt is slowing its economic recovery.

“So, the challenge that Zambia faces today mostly is the protracted nature of the debt restructuring process that we have seen and the challenge that further augments this conversation is the fact that there are no timelines that are set and so it creates a lot of uncertainties in terms of economic planning going forward,” said Muleya.

IMF director Georgieva met late Monday with President Hichilema and vowed to help resolve the impasse with creditors.

The Economics Association of Zambia’s Trevor Simumba said reaching a final deal on Zambia’s debt would also help the IMF reverse negative views in Africa on its strict policies.

“As you are aware the economy is stagnant, it’s not growing at a pace that’s required to grow in order to deal with the structural problems.  Simply by the textbook theories of the IMF in terms of the usual – we need to rein in inflation, we need to make sure that the exchange rate is stable, doesn’t depreciate, these things in reality don’t work,” he said.

Zambia says its foreign debt hit $17 billion last June as prices for copper, one of its key exports, crashed.

Zambia is Africa’s second largest producer of the valuable metal after the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 23rd, 2023 by Vbiz

Swedish music streaming giant Spotify said Monday it was cutting six percent of its roughly 10,000 employees, the latest cost-cutting announcement among technology companies.

“In hindsight, I was too ambitious in investing ahead of our revenue growth. And for this reason, today, we are reducing our employee base by about six percent across the company,” Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek said on Spotify’s official blog.

“I take full accountability for the moves that got us here today,” Ek added.

The Swedish company, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has invested heavily since its launch to fuel growth with expansions into new markets and, in later years, exclusive content such as podcasts.

Spotify has never posted a full-year net profit despite its success in the online music market. 

In recent months, tech giants such as Google parent company Alphabet, Facebook-owner Meta, Amazon and Microsoft have announced tens of thousands of job cuts as the sector faces economic headwinds.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 22nd, 2023 by Vbiz

Rubber tapper Raimundo Mendes de Barros prepares to leave his home, surrounded by rainforest, for an errand in the Brazilian Amazon city of Xapuri. He slides his long, scarred, 77-year-old feet into a pair of sneakers made by Veja, a French brand.

At first sight, the expensive, white-detailed urban tennis shoes seem at odds with the muddy tropical forest. But the distant worlds have converged to produce soles made from native Amazonian rubber.

Veja works with a local cooperative called Cooperacre, which has reenergized the production of a sustainable forest product and improved the lives of hundreds of rubber tapper families. It’s a project that, though modest in scale, provides a real-life example of living sustainably from the forest.

“Veja and Cooperacre are doing an essential job for us who live in the forest. They are making young people come back. They have rekindled the hope of working with rubber,” Rogério Barros, Raimundo’s 24-year-old son, told The Associated Press as he demonstrated how to tap a rubber tree in the family’s grove in the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve. Extractive reserves in Brazil are government-owned lands set aside for people to make a living while they keep the forest standing.

Rubber was once central to the economy of the Amazon. The first boom came at the turn of the 20th century. Thousands of people migrated inland from Brazil’s impoverished Northeast to work in the forest, often in slave-like conditions.

That boom ended abruptly in the 1910s when rubber plantations started to produce on a large scale in Asia. But during World War II, Japan cut the supply, prompting the United States to finance a restart of rubber production in the Amazon.

After the war, Amazon latex commerce again fell into decline, even as thousands of families continued to work in poor conditions for rubber bosses. In the 1970s, these relatively wealthy individuals began selling land to cattle ranchers from the south, even though, in most cases, they didn’t actually own it, but rather just held concessions because they were well-connected with government officers.

These land sales caused the large scale expulsion of rubber tappers from the forest. That loss of livelihood and deforestation to make way for cattle raising is what prompted the famous environmentalist Chico Mendes — together with a cousin of Barros — to found and lead a movement of rubber tappers. Mendes would be murdered for his work in 1988.

After Mendes’ assassination, the federal government began to create extractive reserves so that the forest could not be sold to make way for cattle. The Chico Mendes reserve is one of these. But the story did not end with the creation of the reserves. Government attempts to promote the latex, including a state-owned condom factory in Xapuri, failed to create a reliable income.

What sets the Veja operation apart is that rubber tappers are now getting paid far above the commodity price for their rubber. In 2022, the Barros family received US$ 4.20 per kilo (2.2 pounds) of rubber tapped from their grove. Before, they made one tenth that amount.

This price that shoe company Veja pays the tappers includes bonuses for sustainable harvests plus recognition of the value of preserving the forest, explains Sebastião Pereira, in charge of Veja’s Amazonian rubber supply chain. The rubber workers also receive federal and state benefits per kilo.

Veja also pays bonuses to tappers who employ best practices and local cooperatives that buy directly from them. The criteria range from zero deforestation to the proper management of rubber trees. Top producers also receive a pair of shoes as a prize.

Veja’s rubber is produced by some 1,200 families from 22 local cooperatives spread across five Amazonian states: Acre, home to the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve, Amazonas, Rondonia, Mato Grosso, and Pará.

All the rubber goes to the Cooperacre plant in Sena Madureira, in Acre state, where raw product is cut, washed, shredded into smaller pieces, heated, weighed, packed and finally shipped to factories that Veja contracts with in industrialized Rio Grande Sul state, thousands of miles to the south, as well as to Ceara state, in Brazil’s Northeast.

From there the sneakers are distributed to many parts of the world. Over the last 20 years, Veja has sold more than 8 million pairs in several countries and maintains stores in Paris, New York and Berlin. The amount of Amazon rubber it purchases has soared: from 5,000 kilos (11,023 pounds) in 2005 to 709,500 kilos (1.56 million pounds) in 2021, according to company figures.

However, it has not been a game changer for the forest in the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve, where almost 3,000 families live. The illegal advance of cattle, an old problem, has picked up. Deforestation there has tripled in the past four years, amid the policies of former President Jair Bolsonaro, who was defeated in his reelection bid and left office at the end of last year.

Cattle long ago replaced rubber as Acre’s main economic activity. Nearly half of the state’s rural workforce is employed in cattle ranching, where only 4% live from forest products, mainly Brazil nuts.

According to an economic study by Minas Gerais Federal University, 57% of Acre’s economic output comes from cattle. Rubber makes up less than 1%.

Surrounded by cattle pasture and paved highway — the entry point for deforestation — Chico Mendes has the third highest rate of deforestation of any protected reserve in Brazil.

The growing pressure of cattle on the reserve, which has already lost 9% of its original forest cover, even led Veja to set up its own satellite monitoring system.

“Our platform shows a specific region where deforestation is rampant. So we may go there and talk. But we are aware that our role is to offer an alternative and raise awareness,” Pereira told the AP in a phone interview. “We are careful not to cross the line, as the public authority should be the one doing the law enforcement.”

According to Roberta Graf, who leads Acre’s branch of the association of federal environmental officials, the Veja experience is essential as it shows a path for living inside extractive reserves sustainably. But to achieve that, she argues, requires a joint effort that includes government at different levels, nonprofits and grassroots organizations.

“The forest communities still hold rubber tapping dear. They enjoy making a living off the latex,” she told the AP in an interview in her home in Rio Branco, Acre’s capital. “There are many forest products: copaiba, andiroba (vegetable oils), Brazil nuts, wild cacao, and seeds. The ideal should be to work with all of them according to what each reserve can offer.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 20th, 2023 by Vbiz

Sri Lanka has moved closer to securing a crucial $2.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund after India extended financing assurances that Colombo needs from its major foreign creditors to get the bailout package. 

The IMF loan is critical for the tiny island country to begin a slow recovery process from its worst economic crisis in decades. 

Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar announced that the ministry would facilitate the IMF loan Friday in Colombo, where he met President Ranil Wickremesinghe and other senior Sri Lankan ministers.    

“India decided not to wait on others, but to do what we believe is right. We extended financing assurances to the IMF to clear the way for Sri Lanka to move forward,” Jaishankar said in a statement. “Our expectation is that this will not only strengthen Sri Lanka’s position but ensure that all bilateral creditors are dealt with equally.”  

India is the first of Sri Lanka’s major creditors to agree to restructuring the country’s debt. Colombo needs the same assurances from China, its largest lender, to clear the way for the disbursement of the loan, which the IMF had agreed to grant in August but which remains contingent on the support of its lenders.   

Sri Lankan officials expressed optimism that they will also get Beijing’s backing soon.  

“We can say that discussions with China are at the final stage and we expect their assurances in the next few days,” Sri Lanka’s deputy treasury secretary, Priyantha Ratnayake, told reporters. “Once China also gives assurances soon, then Sri Lanka will work to get [IMF] approval as soon as possible.”  

Sri Lanka went virtually bankrupt last year as it grappled with severe foreign exchange shortages to pay either for essential imports or its foreign creditors. Since then, it has grappled with runaway inflation of food and fuel prices. It also suspended repayment of $7 billion in foreign debt due last year.  

The Indian foreign minister also expressed New Delhi’s commitment to increase investment flows to hasten Sri Lanka’s economic recovery.

“India will encourage greater investments in the Sri Lankan economy, especially in core areas like energy, tourism, and infrastructure,” Jaishankar said.   

India has extended assistance of about $4 billion since Sri Lanka’s economy sank. “For us, it was an issue of the neighborhood first and not leaving a partner to fend for themselves,” he said. 

The two countries are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding for a renewable power project for three islands in Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lanka, which will have to implement stringent reforms to get the IMF loan, has raised taxes and tightened government spending. It has also announced deep cuts in its defense expenditure, saying it will slash its army by one third.  

Political stability has returned to the country after it was rocked by widespread citizen protests that led to the resignation of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was widely blamed for the crisis.  

The severe fuel and food shortages have also eased and tourists are returning to the county, helping the recovery of its tourist-dependent economy. But the dramatic rise in the cost of living continues to pose a challenge to millions in the country. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 20th, 2023 by Vbiz

Alphabet Inc., the parent company of tech giant Google, announced Friday it is laying off 12,000 workers across the entire company — cuts reflecting six percent of the company’s total workforce.

In an email to employees Friday, Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said the company saw dramatic growth over the past two years and hired new employees “for a different economic reality than the one we face today.” He said he takes full responsibility for the decisions that led to where the company is today.

In his email, Pichai said the layoffs come following “a rigorous review across product areas and functions” to ensure the company’s employees and their roles are aligned with Google’s top priorities. “The roles we’re eliminating reflect the outcome of that review,” he said.

In the email, Pichai said U.S. employees to be laid off already have been notified, while it is going to take longer for employees in other countries because of different laws and regulations.

Google’s decision comes the same week other big tech companies, Meta Platforms Inc. – the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Twitter Inc., Microsoft and Amazon, announced they were laying off thousands of employees.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters. 

 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 19th, 2023 by Vbiz

The U.S. has begun taking “extraordinary measures” to avoid spending that would breach the country’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told lawmakers Thursday, touching off a Washington debate on how to avoid a default on the government’s financial obligations and calamity for the global economy.

 

The Treasury chief said she has started to suspend investments in the Civil Service retirement fund for government workers and a retiree health plan for postal workers that weren’t immediately needed to pay beneficiaries but warned those measures were only a stopgap until June 5.  

 

Yellen told key congressional leaders they need to increase the government’s debt ceiling, which has been done 78 times since 1960 — or, less likely — do away with any spending limit, which is the practice in most countries throughout the world.

 

The U.S. government routinely fails to balance its annual budget, often spending $1 trillion or more than it collects in taxes, and then reaches its debt ceiling set by Congress and agreed to by sitting presidents.

The U.S. has never defaulted on its worldwide financial commitments, such as to China, Japan and other countries that have bought its debt, or on obligations to some taxpayers, such as pension and health care payments to older Americans.

 

 

But the political debate in the U.S. over increasing the debt limit to make payments on spending already approved by Congress and a succession of presidents has often intertwined with heated discussions over future spending, leading to a standoff as spending approaches the debt ceiling.  

 

Once such stalemate occurred in 2011, when Democratic President Barack Obama eventually reached agreement with Republican congressional opponents to increase the debt ceiling while also curbing spending for much of the past decade.

 

Now, the newly empowered but narrow Republican majority in the House of Representatives is similarly calling for future spending cuts to keep 2024 discretionary federal spending for government agencies at 2022 levels.  

 

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters this week, “I don’t see why you would continue the past behavior.”

 

But the White House is balking and instead demanding a “clean vote” on increasing the federal debt ceiling that is not linked to new spending totals. President Joe Biden said he will not curb pension and health care assistance for older Americans.

 

“Americans have every right to expect that Congress will come together as they have dozens and dozens and dozens of times before in a bipartisan fashion to make sure we keep the American economy on this stable path,” White House spokeswoman Olivia Dalton told reporters aboard Air Force One as they accompanied Biden to California to view storm damage in the state.  

 

No negotiations have been held with congressional leaders.

 

If the government defaults — essentially running out of money to pay its debts — payments to U.S. bond holders, foreign governments and individual Americans alike, would be delayed until a new debt ceiling is reached. So could paychecks to government workers and monthly payments to pensioners and health care providers.

 

In addition, the credit rating of the U.S. could be cut, and stock markets destabilized, as occurred in 2011.

 

Yellen warned that Congress needs to act to avoid such financial turmoil.     

 

“The period of time that extraordinary measures may last is subject to considerable uncertainty, including the challenges of forecasting the payments and receipts of the U.S. Government months into the future,” she told congressional leaders. “I respectfully urge Congress to act promptly to protect the full faith and credit of the United States.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 19th, 2023 by Vbiz

Software giant Microsoft on Wednesday became the latest major company in the tech sector to announce significant job cuts when it reported it would lay off 10,000 employees, or about 5% of its workforce.

Microsoft’s job cuts come just as e-commerce leader Amazon begins a fresh round of 18,000 layoffs, extending a wave of other major cuts at Twitter, Salesforce and dozens of smaller technology firms in recent weeks.

The phenomenon of job losses in the tech sector has global reach but has been keenly felt in Silicon Valley and other West Coast tech hubs in the United States. The website layoffs.fyi, which tracks job cuts in the tech industry, has identified well over 100 tech firms announcing layoffs since January 1 across North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. In all, the website has counted more than 1,200 firms making layoffs since the beginning of 2022.

Changing environment

In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella appeared to suggest that retrenchment in the tech sector was a result of reduced consumer demand.

“During the pandemic, there was rapid acceleration,” Nadella said. “I think we’re going to go through a phase today where there is some amount of normalization in demand.”

He said the company would seek to drive growth by increasing its own productivity. The interview took place before Microsoft officially announced the layoffs.

One major focus of the layoffs, according to multiple media reports, was the division of the company that makes augmented reality systems, including the company’s HoloLens goggles and the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, which until recently were being developed in cooperation with the U.S. Army.

Later in the day in an email to employees, Nadella wrote, “These are the kinds of hard choices we have made throughout our 47-year history to remain a consequential company in this industry that is unforgiving to anyone who doesn’t adapt to platform shifts.”

However, he signaled the company would continue hiring in areas such as artificial intelligence that management believes are strategically important.

Also on Wednesday, Doug Herrington, head of Amazon’s global retail business, said his company was restructuring to meet consumers’ demands but would continue to invest in areas where it saw the potential for growth, including its grocery delivery business.

Stronger, perhaps

Wayne Hochwarter, who teaches business administration at Florida State University, described the layoffs at Microsoft and Amazon as examples of businesses making adjustments to their workforces in the face of a changing business climate.

“I think they overestimated the trends in personal purchasing patterns, and they thought, ‘OK, we’re going to make sure we’re not shorthanded,’” he told VOA. “And then when things softened a little bit, they realized they had hired too many people.”

He also warned against reading too much into the latest layoffs.

“I don’t think the tech sector is going to heck in a handbasket,” he said. “They may have reevaluated where things are going to go, but I don’t see this as a catalyst for sending us into economic deterioration, or anything that’s going to put a crimp on the economy.”

Looking to the future, Hochwarter said, the workforce changes are “probably going to make them stronger companies.”

Weathering the storm

Margaret O’Mara, author of the book The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America, told VOA that the current run of layoffs in the U.S. was just the latest chapter in a long cycle of booms and busts in the tech sector.

In some important respects, she said, it’s a story about more than just a misreading of trends in consumer preferences.

“It’s similar to other downturns, and there have been many — for every boom there was a bust — in that their macro[economic] conditions have shifted,” she said. “Tech is an industry that’s very much fueled by investment capital and the stock market.”

O’Mara said that over the last 10 years, with low interest rates and large amounts of cash flowing through the economy, conditions have been “extraordinary” for the growth of U.S. tech companies. As those conditions change, so does the amount of money investors want to put into tech firms.

However, O’Mara, a professor of American history at the University of Washington, said it was important not to look at conditions today as similar to the catastrophic dot-com bust of 2000.

“Tech is many orders of magnitude larger than it ever has been before,” she said. “We are talking about platform companies that are unlike the dot-coms, which were very young and very frothy, and it was easy for their value to collapse. They weren’t providing the essential services … fundamental to the rest of the economy.”

By contrast, she said, companies like Microsoft and Amazon have deep connections to the broader U.S. economy and should be able to withstand the current economic headwinds.

Difficult for H-1B visa holders

A disproportionate share of workers in the U.S. technology sector are non-citizens who hold H-1B visas, which allow companies to sponsor them. Layoffs are particularly difficult for visa holders — the overwhelming majority of whom are from India — because once their employment is terminated, they have just 60 days to find a new sponsor. Otherwise, they are required to leave the country.

Hochwarter said he thought companies would pull back on hiring H-1B visa workers, at least for the time being.

“My sense is that because that takes a great deal of effort and energy on the part of the employing organization, they’re probably going to start cutting down on those because they’re just not quite as needed,” he said.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh, speaking at Davos, bemoaned the state of U.S. immigration law, saying it denies the U.S. the workers it needs to drive economic growth.

“We need immigration reform in America. America has always been a country that has depended on immigration. The threat to the American economy long term is not inflation, it’s immigration,” he said. “It’s not having enough workers.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 18th, 2023 by Vbiz

In his meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday at the White House, President Joe Biden appeared to have made no progress to get the Netherlands to support U.S. restrictions on exporting chip-making technology to China, a key part of Washington’s strategy in its rivalry against Beijing. White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara has this report.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 17th, 2023 by Vbiz

The World Economic Forum is back with its first winter meetup since 2020 in the Swiss Alpine town of Davos, where leaders are seeking to bridge political divisions in a polarized world, buttress a hobbling economy and address concerns about a climate change — among many other things.

Sessions will take up issues as diverse as the future of fertilizers, the role of sports in society, the state of the COVID-19 pandemic and much more. Nearly 600 CEOs and more than 50 heads of state or government are expected, but it’s never clear how much concrete action emerges from the elite event.

Here’s what to watch as the four-day talkfest and related deal-making get underway in earnest Tuesday:

Who’s Coming?

Back in the snows for the first time since the pandemic and just eight months after a springtime 2022 session, the event will host notables like European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, and the new presidents of South Korea, Colombia and the Philippines.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He addresses the gathering Tuesday, a day before his first meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in Zurich. Yellen will skip Davos.

Who else is missing? U.S. President Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, of course: Envoys from his country has been shunned because of his war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska was on her way to Davos and will speak Tuesday, while her husband, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, will give a remote address Wednesday and other officials from Ukraine are appearing on panels.

Outside the main convention center, a themed venue known as Ukraine House is hosting a concert, photo exhibits, seminars, cocktail events and other meetings this week to drum up support for Ukraine’s efforts to drive out Russian forces.

Economic Focus

The slowdown in the global economy will be a major theme at Davos, with officials ranging from International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde speaking in sessions.

Inflation soared as the world reopened from the pandemic and Russia invaded Ukraine, driving up food and energy prices, and though it has started to slow in major economies like the U.S. and those in Europe, inflation is still painfully high.

Georgieva said in an IMF blog post Monday that divides between nations — the theme at Davos this year is “Cooperation in a Fragmented World” — are putting the global economy at risk by leaving “everyone poorer and less secure.”

Georgieva urged strengthening trade, helping vulnerable countries deal with debt and ramping up climate action.

Prioritizing Climate

A major climate theme emerging from the forum’s panel sessions is the energy transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore will be talking about decarbonization, efforts to build clean energy infrastructure and ensure an equitable transition.

It follows a strong year for the energy transition: Many countries passed incentives for renewable energy in 2022.

One hot topic on the agenda — harnessing nuclear fusion — focuses on science that offers immense potential but is many decades away from a commercial rollout that could feed the world’s skyrocketing thirst for energy.

Sessions on issues like adaptation to climate change and panels on deforestation, biodiversity and the future of environmental protection will give a greener hue to the gathering.

Critical Voices

The elite gathering is regularly skewered by critics who argue that attendees are too out-of-touch or profit- or power-minded to address the needs of common people and the planet.

Throughout the week, critics and activists will be waiting outside the Davos conference center to try to hold decision-makers and business leaders to account.

It started Sunday, when dozens of climate activists — some with clown makeup — braved snowfall to wave banners and chant slogans at the end of the Davos Promenade, a thoroughfare now lined with storefront logos of corporate titans like Accenture, Microsoft, Salesforce, Meta, as well as country “houses” that promote national interests.

Greenpeace International also blasted use of corporate jets that ferry in bigwigs, saying such carbon-spewing transportation smacks of hypocrisy for an event touting its push for a greener world. It said over 1,000 private-jet flights arrived and departed airports serving Davos in May.

Forum President Borge Brende acknowledged Sunday that some government leaders and CEOs fly in that way.

“I think what is more important than that is to make sure we have agreements on how we, overall, move and push the envelope when it comes to the green agenda,” he said.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 16th, 2023 by Vbiz

As the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) gets underway this week at the Swiss ski resort of Davos; the charity Oxfam says extreme wealth and extreme poverty have increased simultaneously for the first time in 25 years – and is calling for fairer taxation in response to the soaring inequality. 

Hundreds of billionaires, dozens of government ministers and central bank governors are due to attend the WEF, widely seen as a get together for the global super rich. In its report, “Survival of the Richest,” published Monday, Oxfam says the world’s billionaires are becoming richer.

“Davos is back in January. The festival of wealth is back. And we’re bringing alarming new findings which show that the one percent, the richest one percent in the world have grabbed nearly two-thirds of all new wealth created since 2020,” Oxfam America’s director of economic justice, Nabil Ahmed, told VOA. 

The charity says that gain in wealth equates to $42 trillion, nearly twice as much as the bottom 99% of the world’s population earns. 

Pandemic profits 

Oxfam says the source of that wealth is partly government money: emergency liquidity pumped into the global economy as the coronavirus pandemic forced countries into lockdown in 2020. 

“That was essential. But at the same time the ultra-wealthy were able to really ride this asset boom that resulted, the stock market boom that resulted. And without the guardrails of progressive taxation in the economy, the ultra-wealthy were really able to line their pockets,” Ahmed said.

Inflation 

Oxfam calculates that at least 1.7 billion workers now live in countries where inflation is outpacing wages, meaning people are becoming poorer. The wealth of billionaires, however, has surged as inflation drives up food and energy prices. 

“The current cost-of-living crisis, with spiraling food and energy prices, is also creating dramatic gains for many at the top. Food and energy corporations are seeing record profits and making record pay-outs to their rich shareholders and billionaire owners. Corporate price profiteering is driving at least 50% of inflation in Australia, the U.S. and Europe, in what is as much a ‘cost-of-profit’ crisis as a cost-of-living one,” the Oxfam report says.

“We were able to show how 95 food and energy corporations have actually been able to double their profits in 2022,” the charity’s Ahmed told VOA.

Fair taxes 

Oxfam is calling for windfall taxes imposed on energy companies to be extended to food companies making big profits. It also wants a tax of up to 5% on the world’s multimillionaires and billionaires.  

“The spectacular rise of wealth and income at the very top has coincided with a collapse in taxes on the richest 1%. While there are differences between countries, the general trend towards lower taxes for the rich has been remarkably similar across all regions of the world,” the report says.

“Extreme inequality is not inevitable,” Ahmed told VOA. “This isn’t about nurses, teachers, the middle class. This is really about those at the very top, ensuring that they’re paying far fairer taxes.”

Solutions 

The president of the WEF maintained that the annual Davos summit does benefit the whole world. 

“So much is at stake, we really need to find solutions on the wars and conflicts. We also have to secure that we don’t go into a recession, and we have 10 years of low growth, as we had in the 1970s. That is at stake, and we need all the stakeholders to be part of working towards a safer and more inclusive growing global economy,” World Economic Forum President Borge Brende told The Associated Press.

Some of the information in this report came from The Associated Press.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 16th, 2023 by Vbiz

As the annual World Economic Forum gets underway this week in Davos, Switzerland, Oxfam says extreme wealth and extreme poverty have increased simultaneously for the first time in 25 years. The charity is calling for fairer taxation amid soaring global inequality, as Henry Ridgwell reports. Videographer: Henry Ridgwell

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 16th, 2023 by Vbiz

Big oil firms came under pressure at the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) from activists who accused them of hijacking the climate debate, while a Greta Thunberg-sponsored “cease and desist” campaign gained support on social media.

Major energy firms including BP BP.L, Chevron CVX.N and Saudi Aramco 2222.SE are among the 1,500 business leaders gathering for the annual meeting in the Swiss resort of Davos, where global threats including climate change are on the agenda.

“We are demanding concrete and real climate action,” said Nicolas Siegrist, the 26-year-old organiser of the protest who also heads the Young Socialists party in Switzerland.

The annual meeting of global business and political leaders opens in Davos on Monday.

“They will be in the same room with state leaders and they will push for their interests,” Siegrist said of the involvement of energy companies during a demonstration attended by several hundred people on Sunday.

The oil and gas industry has said that it needs to be part of the energy transition as fossil fuels will continue to play a major role in the world’s energy mix as countries shift to low carbon economies.

On Monday, a social media campaign added to the pressure on oil and gas companies, by promoting a “cease and desist” notice sponsored by climate activists Thunberg, Vanessa Nakate and Luisa Neubauer, through the non-profit website Avaaz.

It demands energy company CEOs “immediately stop opening any new oil, gas, or coal extraction sites, and stop blocking the clean energy transition we all so urgently need,” and threatens legal action and more protests if they fail to comply.

The campaign, which had been signed by more than 660,000 people, had almost 200,000 shares on Monday morning.

Sumant Sinha, who heads one of India’s largest renewable energy firms, said it would be good to include big oil companies in the transition debate as they have a vital role to play.

“If oil people are part of these conversations to the extent that they are also committing to change then by all means. It is better to get them inside the tent than to have them outside the tent,” Sinha, chairman and CEO of ReNew Power, told Reuters, saying that inclusion should not lead to “sabotage.”

Rising interest rates have made it harder for renewable energy developments to attract financing, giving traditional players with deep pockets a competitive advantage.

As delegates began to arrive in Davos, Debt for Climate activists protested at a private airport in eastern Switzerland, which they said would be used by some WEF attendees, and issued a statement calling for foreign debts of poorer countries to be cancelled in order to accelerate the global energy transition.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 16th, 2023 by Vbiz

The outlook for the year ahead and beyond is not very promising. The International Labor Organization warns that the current global economic slowdown will force millions of workers to accept lower quality, poorly paid jobs.  

In its “World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2023” report, the ILO predicts global unemployment will rise by 3 million for a total of 208 million this year with similar projections for 2024. 

ILO director of work quality, Manuela Tomei, said both the quantity and quality of jobs will deteriorate, and that working conditions are expected to worsen while wages go down. 

“Workers in low- and middle-income countries are expected to be hardest hit,” Tomei explained. “And with the pandemic and the economic slowdown across the globe, the prospects of seeing a reduction in informality and poverty have and will deteriorate further.”  

The report warns the cost-of-living crisis will push more people into poverty, widening the gap between rich and poor. It also notes that about 2 billion people, mainly in developing countries, work in the informal economy.  

According to the report, the slowing global economy is likely to reverse the progress which has been made since 2004 in moving people out of the informal sector.  

In addition to the millions of reported unemployed, the ILO says 473 million people last year stopped actively searching for work. It explains they either were discouraged about prospects of finding a job or had other obligations such as care responsibilities. 

For the first time since the 1970s, Tomei said stagflation conditions— that is high inflation and low growth combined — are threatening productivity and labor market recovery. 

She added that, “The Ukrainian war, geopolitical tensions, disruption in supply chains, high inflation, the tightening of monetary policies, and great uncertainty overall are all contributing to depressing the prospects for labor markets.”   

The ILO reports young people aged 15 to 24 are facing severe difficulties in finding employment, and that they are three times more likely to be out of a job than adults. It adds young women are faring much worse than young men, and that only 47.4 percent of women participated in the global labor force last year compared with 72.3 percent for men. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 12th, 2023 by Vbiz

The increase in U.S. consumer prices eased again in December, dropping for the sixth straight month after reaching a four-decade high in mid-2022, the government reported Thursday.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said its consumer price index rose at an annualized 6.5% pace last month, down from the 7.1% figure in November and off sharply from the peak of 9.1% last June. December prices edged down a tenth of a percentage point from November.

While U.S. shoppers might notice some relief when they pay for their groceries and other purchases, inflation is still well above the normal 2% figure that policy makers at the Federal Reserve, the country’s central bank, strive for.

Some U.S. economists are still predicting a recession in the U.S. economy, the world’s largest, later this year, but job growth has remained strong, with 223,000 new jobs added in December.

On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that applications for unemployment benefits fell last week to their lowest level in 15 weeks, to a total of 205,000. Jobless claims are generally viewed as an indicator of layoffs. Some high-profile companies, like the Goldman Sachs investment banking company and Cable News Network, have laid off workers, but plenty of other companies are still looking to hire more employees.

The U.S. unemployment rate is at 3.5%, a 53-year low.

Inflation, however, remains the main point of concern for Federal Reserve policy makers.

The central bank raised its benchmark interest rate seven times last year in an effort to slow job growth and increase the cost of borrowing for businesses and consumers alike, on the presumption that the higher loan costs would bring down inflation.

The strategy appears to be working, but only slowly.

The Fed has indicated it plans to raise rates another two or three times in the coming months before halting further increases but leaving the benchmark rate at a high level.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect figure for the total number of jobs added in December 2022.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 10th, 2023 by Vbiz

The World Bank slashed its 2023 growth forecasts on Tuesday to levels teetering on the brink of recession for many countries as the impact of central bank rate hikes intensifies, Russia’s war in Ukraine continues, and the world’s major economic engines sputter.

The development lender said it now expected global GDP growth of 1.7% in 2023 — the slowest pace outside the 2009 and 2020 recessions in nearly three decades. In its previous Global Economic Prospects report, in June 2022, the bank had forecast 2023 global growth at 3.0%

The bank said major slowdowns in advanced economies, including sharp cuts to its forecast to 0.5% for both the United States and the euro zone, could foreshadow a new global recession less than three years after the last one.

“Given fragile economic conditions, any new adverse development — such as higher-than-expected inflation, abrupt rises in interest rates to contain it, a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic or escalating geopolitical tensions — could push the global economy into recession,” the bank said in a statement accompanying the report.

The bleak outlook will be especially hard on emerging market and developing economies, the World Bank said, as they struggle with heavy debt burdens, weak currencies and income growth, and slowing business investment that is now forecast at a 3.5% annual growth rate over the next two years — less than half the pace of the past two decades.

“Weakness in growth and business investment will compound the already devastating reversals in education, health, poverty and infrastructure and the increasing demands from climate change,” World Bank President David Malpass said in a statement.

China’s growth in 2022 slumped to 2.7%, its second slowest pace since the mid-1970s after 2020, as zero-COVID restrictions, property market turmoil and drought hit consumption, production and investment, the World Bank report said. It predicted a rebound to 4.3% for 2023, but that is 0.9 percentage-point below the June forecast due to the severity of COVID disruptions and weakening external demand.

The World Bank noted that some inflationary pressures started to abate as 2022 drew to a close, with lower energy and commodity prices, but warned that risks of new supply disruptions were high, and elevated core inflation may persist. This could cause central banks to respond by raising policy rates by more than currently expected, worsening the global slowdown, it added.

The bank called for increased support from the international community to help low-income countries deal with food and energy shocks, people displaced by conflicts, and a growing risk of debt crises. It said new concessional financing and grants are needed along with the leveraging of private capital and domestic resources to help boost investment in climate adaptation, human capital and health, the report said.

The report comes as the World Bank’s board this week is expected to consider a new “evolution road map” for the institution to vastly expand its lending capacity to address climate change and other global crises. The plan will guide negotiations with shareholders, led by the United States, for the biggest revamp in the bank’s business model since its creation at the end of World War II.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 7th, 2023 by Vbiz

Ant Group’s founder Jack Ma will give up control of the Chinese fintech giant in an overhaul that seeks to draw a line under a regulatory crackdown that was triggered soon after its mammoth stock market debut was scuppered two years ago.

Ant’s $37 billion IPO, which would have been the world’s largest, was cancelled at the last minute in November 2020, leading to a forced restructuring of the financial technology firm and speculation the Chinese billionaire would have to cede control.

While some analysts have said a relinquishing of control could clear the way for the company to revive its IPO, the changes announced by the group on Saturday, however, are likely to result in a further delay due to listing regulations.

China’s domestic A-share market requires companies to wait three years after a change in control to list. The wait is two years on Shanghai’s Nasdaq-style STAR market, and one year in Hong Kong.

A former English teacher, Ma previously possessed more than 50% of voting rights at Ant but the changes will mean that his share falls to 6.2%, according to Reuters calculations.

Ma only owns a 10% stake in Ant, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (9988.HK), but has exercised control over the company through related entities, according to Ant’s IPO prospectus filed with the exchanges in 2020.

Hangzhou Yunbo, an investment vehicle for Ma, had control over two other entities that own a combined 50.5% stake of Ant, the prospectus showed.

Ma’s ceding of control comes as Ant is nearing the completion of its two-year regulatory-driven restructuring, with Chinese authorities poised to impose a fine of more than $1 billion on the firm, Reuters reported in November.

The expected penalty is part of Beijing’s sweeping and unprecedented crackdown on the country’s technology titans over the past two years that has sliced hundreds of billions of dollars off their values and shrunk revenues and profits.

But Chinese authorities have in recent months softened their tone on the tech crackdown amid efforts to bolster a $17-trillion economy that has been badly hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the Chinese economy in a very febrile state, the government is looking to signal its commitment to growth, and the tech, private sectors are key to that as we know,” said Duncan Clark, chairman of investment advisory firm BDA China.

“At least Ant investors can (now) have some timetable for an exit after a long period of uncertainty,” said Clark, who is also an author of a book on Alibaba and Ma.

REGULATORY SCRUTINY

Ant operates China’s ubiquitous mobile payment app Alipay, the world’s largest, which has more than 1 billion users.

Ant, whose businesses also span consumer lending and insurance products distribution, said Ma and nine of its other major shareholders had agreed to no longer act in concert when exercising voting rights, and would only vote independently.

It added that the shareholders’ economic interests in Ant will not change as a result of the adjustments.

Ant also said it would add a fifth independent director to its board so that independent directors will comprise a majority of the company’s board. It currently has eight board directors.

“As a result, there will no longer be a situation where a direct or indirect shareholder will have sole or joint control over Ant Group,” it said in its statement.

Reuters reported in April 2021 that Ant was exploring options for Ma, one of China’s most successful and influential businessmen, to divest his stake in Ant and give up control.

The Wall Street Journal reported in July last year, citing unnamed sources, that Ma could cede control by transferring some of his voting power to Ant officials including Chief Executive Officer Eric Jing.

Ant’s market listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai was derailed days after Ma publicly criticized regulators in a speech in October 2020. Since then, his sprawling empire has been under regulatory scrutiny and going through a restructuring.

Once outspoken, Ma has largely remained out of public view since the regulatory crackdown that has reined in the country’s technology giants and did away with a laissez-faire approach that drove breakneck growth.

“Jack Ma’s departure from Ant Financial, a company he founded, shows the determination of the Chinese leadership to reduce the influence of large private investors,” said Andrew Collier, managing director of Orient Capital Research.

“This trend will continue the erosion of the most productive parts of the Chinese economy.”

As Chinese regulators frown on monopolies and unfair competition, Ant and Alibaba have been untangling their operations from each other and independently seeking new business, Reuters reported last year.

Ant said on Saturday that its management would no longer serve in the Alibaba Partnership, a body that can nominate the majority of the e-commerce giant’s board, affirming a change that started mid-last year.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 2nd, 2023 by Vbiz

For much of the global economy, 2023 is going to be a tough year as the main engines of global growth – the United States, Europe and China – all experienced weakening activity, the head of the International Monetary Fund said Sunday.

The new year is going to be “tougher than the year we leave behind,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on the CBS Sunday morning news program “Face the Nation.”

“Why? Because the three big economies – the U.S., EU and China – are all slowing down simultaneously,” she said.

In October, the IMF cut its outlook for global economic growth in 2023, reflecting the continuing drag from the war in Ukraine as well as inflation pressures and the high interest rates engineered by central banks like the U.S. Federal Reserve aimed at bringing those price pressures to heel.

Since then, China has scrapped its zero-COVID policy and embarked on a chaotic reopening of its economy, though consumers there remain wary as coronavirus cases surge. In his first public comments since the change in policy, President Xi Jinping on Saturday called in a New Year’s address for more effort and unity as China enters a “new phase.”

“For the first time in 40 years, China’s growth in 2022 is likely to be at or below global growth,” Georgieva said.

Moreover, a “bushfire” of expected COVID infections there in the months ahead are likely to further hit its economy this year and drag on both regional and global growth, said Georgieva, who traveled to China on IMF business last month.

“I was in China last week, in a bubble in a city where there is zero COVID,” she said. “But that is not going to last once people start traveling.”

“For the next couple of months, it would be tough for China, and the impact on Chinese growth would be negative, the impact on the region will be negative, the impact on global growth will be negative,” she said.

In October’s forecast, the IMF pegged Chinese gross domestic product growth last year at 3.2% — on par with the fund’s global outlook for 2022. At that time, it also saw annual growth in China accelerating in 2023 to 4.4% while global activity slowed further.

Her comments, however, suggest another cut to both the China and global growth outlooks may be in the offing later this month when the IMF typically unveils updated forecasts during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

US economy ‘most resilient’

Meanwhile, Georgieva said, the U.S. economy is standing apart and may avoid the outright contraction that is likely to afflict as much as a third of the world’s economies.

The “U.S. is most resilient,” she said, and it “may avoid recession. We see the labor market remaining quite strong.”

But that fact on its own presents a risk because it may hamper the progress the Fed needs to make in bringing U.S. inflation back to its targeted level from the highest levels in four decades touched last year. Inflation showed signs of having passed its peak as 2022 ended, but by the Fed’s preferred measure, it remains nearly three times its 2% target.

“This is … a mixed blessing because if the labor market is very strong, the Fed may have to keep interest rates tighter for longer to bring inflation down,” Georgieva said.

Last year, in the most aggressive policy tightening since the early 1980s, the Fed lifted its benchmark policy rate from near zero in March to the current range of 4.25% to 4.50%, and Fed officials last month projected it will breach the 5% mark in 2023, a level not seen since 2007.

Indeed, the U.S. job market will be a central focus for Fed officials who would like to see demand for labor slacken to help undercut price pressures. The first week of the new year brings a raft of key data on the employment front, including Friday’s monthly nonfarm payrolls report, which is expected to show the U.S. economy minted another 200,000 jobs in December and the jobless rate remained at 3.7% – near the lowest since the 1960s.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

January 1st, 2023 by Vbiz

Croatia on Sunday switched to the euro and entered Europe’s passport-free zone — two major milestones for the country after joining the EU nearly a decade ago.

At midnight local time (2300 GMT Saturday) the Balkan nation bid farewell to its kuna currency and became the 20th member of the eurozone.

It is the 27th nation in the passport-free Schengen zone, the world’s largest, which enables more than 400 million people to move freely around its members.

Experts say the adoption of the euro will help shield Croatia’s economy at a time when inflation is soaring worldwide after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent food and fuel prices through the roof.

But feelings among Croatians are mixed. While they welcome the end of border controls, some worry about the euro switch, with right-wing opposition groups saying it only benefits large countries such as Germany and France.

Many Croatians fear that the introduction of the euro will lead to a hike in prices, in particular that businesses will round up price points when they convert.

‘Elite club’

For tourist agency employee Marko Pavic, “Croatia joins an elite club.”

“The euro was already a value measure — psychologically it’s nothing new — while entry into Schengen is fantastic news for tourism,” he told AFP.

Use of the euro is already widespread in Croatia.

Croatians have long valued their most precious assets such as cars and apartments in euros, displaying a lack of confidence in the local currency.

About 80% of bank deposits are denominated in euros, and Zagreb’s main trading partners are in the eurozone.

Officials have defended the decision to join the eurozone and Schengen, with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic saying Wednesday that they were “two strategic goals of a deeper EU integration.”

Croatia, a former Yugoslav republic of 3.9 million people that fought a war of independence in the 1990s, joined the European Union in 2013.

“The euro certainly brings (economic) stability and safety,” Ana Sabic of the Croatian National Bank (HNB) told AFP.

Experts say the adoption of the euro will lower borrowing conditions amid economic hardship.

Croatia’s inflation rate reached 13.5% in November compared to 10% in the eurozone.

Analysts stress that eastern EU members with currencies outside of the eurozone, such as Poland or Hungary, have been even more vulnerable to surging inflation.

Borders gone

As some Croatians lamented the demise of the national currency, HNB governor Boris Vujcic said while it was a sentimental moment for him, it was the “only reasonable politics.”

The kuna was adopted in 1994, during the independence war. 

Kuna means marten, a weasellike carnivore whose fur was used as currency in the Middle Ages.

Early Sunday, Vujcic will symbolically withdraw euros from a cash machine in downtown Zagreb.

Interior and foreign ministers will attend brief ceremonies at border crossings with Croatia’s EU peers Slovenia and Hungary respectively while the bloc’s chief Ursula von der Leyen is to visit the country later Sunday.

Local papers hailed the two events on Saturday, with the best-selling Vecernji List daily labelling them the “crown of (Zagreb’s) EU membership.”

Croatia’s entry into the Schengen borderless area will also provide a boost to the Adriatic nation’s key tourism industry, which accounts for 20% of its GDP.

Previously long queues at the 73 land border crossings with Slovenia and Hungary will become history.

Border checks will end on March 26 at airports because of technical issues.

Croatia will still apply strict border checks on its eastern border with non-EU neighbors Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 30th, 2022 by Vbiz

Iran appointed a new head of its central bank Thursday after the currency crashed to its lowest level ever against the dollar amid mass protests and ongoing Western sanctions.

Mohammad Reza Farzin, 57, a senior banker and former deputy finance minister, was tapped to replace Ali Salehabadi, who resigned after 15 months at the post, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The rial was trading at about 430,000 to the dollar Thursday, down from 370,000 earlier this month. Already battered by years of Western sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program, the rial was trading at 315,000 when anti-government protests erupted in mid-September.

The protests were ignited by the death of a woman who was detained by the country’s morality police. The demonstrations rapidly escalated into calls for an end to more than four decades of clerical rule. Security forces have launched a heavy crackdown, using live ammunition and birdshot, as well as beating and detaining protesters, according to rights groups.

At least 508 protesters have been killed and more than 18,600 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that has closely monitored the unrest. Iranian authorities have not provided an official death toll.

Iran’s currency was trading at 32,000 rials to the dollar at the time of the 2015 nuclear accord that lifted international sanctions in exchange for tight controls on Iran’s nuclear program. That deal unraveled after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from it in 2018.

The Biden administration had been trying to restore the agreement until the protests broke out, but those talks hit a deadlock several months ago.

In a separate development on Thursday, Iran summoned the Italian ambassador over Rome’s criticism of its response to the protests.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani had summoned Iran’s envoy the day before to express concern over the crackdown, which he said had nothing to do with protecting Iran’s security.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 26th, 2022 by Vbiz

Holiday sales rose this as American spending remained resilient during the critical shopping season despite surging prices on everything from food to rent, according to one measure.

Holiday sales rose 7.6%, a slower pace than the 8.5% increase from a year earlier when shoppers began spending the money they had saved during the early part of the COVID pandemic, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks all kinds of payments including cash and debit cards.

Mastercard SpendingPulse had expected a 7.1% increase. The data released Monday excludes the automotive industry and is not adjusted for inflation, which has eased somewhat but remains painfully high.

U.S. sales between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24, a period that is critical for retailers, were fueled by spending at restaurants and on clothing.

By category, clothing rose 4.4%, while jewelry and electronics dipped roughly 5%. Online sales jumped 10.6% from a year ago and in-person spending rose 6.8%. Department stores registered a modest 1% increase over 2021.

“This holiday retail season looked different than years past,” Steve Sadove, the former CEO and chairman at Saks and a senior advisor for Mastercard, said in a prepared statement. “Retailers discounted heavily, but consumers diversified their holiday spending to accommodate rising prices and an appetite for experiences and festive gatherings post-pandemic.”

Some of the increase reflected the impact of higher prices across the board.

Consumer spending accounts for nearly 70% of U.S. economic activity, and Americans have remained resilient ever since inflation first spiked almost 18 months ago. Cracks have begun to show, however, as higher prices for basic necessities take up an increasingly large share of everyone’s take-home pay.

Inflation has retreated from the four-decade high it reached this summer, but it’s still sapping the spending power of consumers. Prices rose 7.1% in November from a year ago, down from a peak of 9.1% in June.

Overall spending has slowed from the pandemic-infused splurges and shifted increasingly toward necessities like food, while spending on electronics, furniture, new clothes and other non-necessities has faded. Many shoppers been trading down to private label goods, which are typically less expensive than national brands. They’ve been going to cheaper stores like dollar chains and big box stores like Walmart.

Consumers also waited for deals. Stores expected more procrastinators to hit stores in the last few days before Christmas compared with a year ago when people began shopping earlier due to a global disruption of the supply chain that created thousands of product shortages.

“Consumers are trying to spread out their budget, and they are evaluating and shopping at different stores,” said Katie Thompson, the lead of consultancy Kearney’s Consumer Institute.

In November, shoppers cut back sharply on retail spending compared with the previous month. Retail sales fell 0.6% from October to November after a sharp 1.3% rise the previous month, the government said in mid-December. Sales fell at furniture, electronics, and home and garden stores.

A broader picture of how Americans spent their money arrives next month when the National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, comes out with its combined two-month results based on November-December sales figures from the Commerce Department.

The trade group expects holiday sales growth will slow to a range of 6% to 8%, compared with the blistering 13.5% growth of a year ago.

Analysts will also be dissecting fourth-quarter financial results from major retailers in February.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 25th, 2022 by Vbiz

The end of 2022 saw major layoffs at Twitter, Amazon, Salesforce and Snap. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, had its first layoffs ever, cutting about 13% of its staff. Deana Mitchell looks at what the tech job losses mean for the future.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 24th, 2022 by Vbiz

As Belkis Fajardo, 69, walks through the dense streets of downtown Havana with a small bag of lettuce and onions in hand, she wonders how she’ll feed her family over the holidays.

Scarcity and economic turmoil are nothing new to Cuba, but Fajardo is among many Cubans to note that this year is different thanks to soaring inflation and deepening shortages.

“We’ll see what we can scrap together to cook for the end of the year,” Fajardo said. “Everything is really expensive … so you buy things little by little as you can. And if you can’t, you don’t eat.”

Basic goods such as chicken, beef, eggs, milk, flour and toilet paper are difficult and often impossible to find in state stores.

When they do appear, they often come at hefty prices, either from informal shops, resellers or in expensive stores only accessible to those with foreign currency.

It’s far out of the range of the average Cuban state salary, approximately 5,000 pesos a month, or $29 USD on the island’s more widely used informal exchange rate. Nearby, a pound of pork leg was selling for 450 pesos (around $2.60).

“Not everyone can buy things, not everyone has a family who sends remittances (money from abroad),” Fajardo said. “With the money my daughter earns and my pension, we’re trying to buy what we can, but it’s extremely hard.”

In October, the Cuban government reported that inflation had risen 40% over the past year and had a significant impact on the purchasing power for many on the island.

While Fajardo managed to buy vegetables, rice and beans, she still has no meat for Christmas or New Year’s.

The shortages are among a number of factors stoking a broader discontent on the island, which has given rise to protests in recent years as well as an emerging migratory flight from Cuba. On Friday, U.S. authorities reported stopping Cubans 34,675 times along the Mexico border in November, up 21% from 28,848 times in October.

The dissatisfaction was made even more evident during Cuba’s local elections last month, when 31.5% of eligible voters didn’t cast a ballot — a far cry from the nearly 100% turnout during Fidel Castro’s lifetime.

Despite being the highest voting abstention rate the country had seen since the Cuban revolution, the government still hailed it as “a victory.” However, in an address to Cuban lawmakers last week, President Miguel Díaz-Canel acknowledged the government’s shortcomings in handling the country’s complex mix of crises, particularly food shortages.

“I feel an enormous dissatisfaction that I haven’t been able to accomplish, through leadership of the country, the results that the Cuban people need to attain long-desired and expected prosperity,” he said.

The admission provoked a standing ovation in the congressional assembly, made up solely of politicians from Díaz-Canel’s communist party.

But Ricardo Torres, a Cuban and economics fellow at American University in Washington, said he saw the words as “meaningless” without a real plan to address discontent.

“People want answers from their government,” he said. “Not words — answers.”

For years, the Caribbean nation has pushed much of the blame for its economic turmoil on the United States’ six-decade trade embargo on Cuba, which has strangled much of the island’s economy. However, many observers, including Torres, stress that the government’s mismanagement of the economy and reluctance to embrace the private sector are also to blame.

On Friday, a long line of Cubans waited outside an empty state-run butchery, waiting for a coveted item: a leg of pork to feed their families on New Year’s Eve.

About a dozen people The Associated Press asked for an interview said they were scared to speak, including one who said, “it could have consequences for us.”

Estrella, 67, has shown up to the state butcher every morning for more than two weeks, waiting her turn to buy pork to share with her children, grandchildren and siblings. So far, she’s come up dry.

Although pork is available to buy from private butchers, it’s often far more expensive than at state-run facilities, which subsidize prices.

So she waits, hopeful that she’ll be able to cook Cuba’s traditional holiday dish.

“If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to buy it today,” she said. “If we’re not, we’ll come back tomorrow.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 24th, 2022 by Vbiz

The global economy was gripped by an economic crisis in 2022, as the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic was exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – which sent energy prices soaring. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 23rd, 2022 by Vbiz

The United Nations says high food prices in 2022 led to a crisis of affordability that has pushed millions more people into hunger. VOA U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer talks to experts about the situation and what to expect in 2023.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 23rd, 2022 by Vbiz

During the past decade, China funded the construction of massive infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka meant to boost the island nation’s economy. However, after the economic collapse of the tiny Indian Ocean country earlier this year, there were questions whether these projects had contributed to the worst crisis it has ever faced.

A port city that dominates Colombo’s seafront was built on a 269-hectare patch of land reclaimed from the sea. It was to become a thriving business and financial hub, but it is virtually deserted. An international airport commissioned nearly a decade ago at Mattala city is called the “emptiest airport in the world.” Both the Chinese-funded projects are seen as “white elephants” that have added to Sri Lanka’s debt.

“The airport is not functioning. The Colombo port city was supposed to attract international investors, but there is not a single investor right now,” said Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, a Sri Lankan security and geopolitics analyst. “There is a question over the revenue model of all these projects because they are not financially viable. They were built with unsustainable large amounts of borrowings with high interest rates.”

The focus zeroed in on the Chinese projects when Sri Lanka ran out of foreign exchange to import food, fuel and medicines earlier this year. The catastrophic economic downturn has pushed many in the nation of 22 million people into poverty. In what was once a middle-income country, living standards have plummeted as inflation rages. The World Food Program estimates that nearly 6 million people need food assistance.

The country’s crisis is blamed on economic mismanagement by the previous government led by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and the COVID-19 pandemic that led to a loss of vital tourism earnings in the scenic Indian Ocean country.

Analysts say the billions of dollars spent on Chinese-funded projects deepened Sri Lanka’s woes. Estimates are that the share of Chinese loans in Sri Lanka’s $40 billion debt range from 10% to 20%.

“China is known for working out arrangements that often turn out much costlier than just looking at the paper would tell you,” said Harsh Pant, vice president for studies and foreign policy at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. “The inability of the Sri Lankan political class to understand the long-term consequences of the kind of short-term gains that they were making from China has allowed this to happen.”

Sri Lanka was one of the countries to sign onto China’s Belt and Road initiative under which Beijing extends loans to developing countries to build roads, airports, seaports and other infrastructure.

Sri Lanka’s debt to China could make it harder to push back against Beijing, according to analysts. In August, Sri Lankan authorities initially refused permission to a Chinese navy ship, Yuan Wang 5, to dock at the Chinese-built Hambantota port following objections by India and the United States, but later allowed it to come.

China has called the ship a scientific and research vessel, but security analysts said India was concerned because it was a surveillance ship packed with space and satellite-tracking electronics that can monitor rocket and missile launches.

The incident reinforced worries that the Chinese projects are linked to its strategic ambitions in the Indian Ocean. The Hambantota port was leased to China for 99 years in 2017 when Sri Lanka was unable to pay back the money borrowed to build it. That raised fears in India and Western countries that the port could be used by China’s navy to project power in the Indian Ocean, a vital seaway for global commerce.

“From my findings I found that these projects are more than a civil operation in Sri Lanka. There could be a military operation that they would introduce in the future such as from Hambantota,” according to Abeyagoonasekera.

China strongly rejects such concerns. At a foreign ministry briefing last month, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that “China has never attached any political strings to its aid to Sri Lanka or sought any political interests from its investment and financing in that country.” Saying that Beijing empathizes with Sri Lanka’s difficulties, he said that “China has also been offering assistance to the economic and social development in Sri Lanka within its capacity.”

Sri Lanka is now hoping to hold early talks with China to restructure its debt, which is crucial to secure a $2.9 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Colombo reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF in September for getting the loan, but it is contingent on assurances from its creditors, including China, India and Japan, that the debts will be restructured.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 23rd, 2022 by Vbiz

Across the globe, people are on the move as a hectic Christmas and New Year’s holiday travel season is in full swing. December and January are among the busiest months for global aviation, with passenger traffic this year expected to be the highest since travel restrictions were imposed because of the pandemic.

“This is the first time visiting my relatives for the holidays in three years,” Lyla Singh of Aldie, Virginia, told VOA. She arrived at Dulles International Airport outside Washington nearly four hours before her flight to New Delhi. “With so many people traveling and fewer airline staff means you really have to be patient.”

Like other countries, air travel to and from India has picked up since COVID-19 restrictions eased.

“I was going to avoid the crowds and travel overseas in March but wanted to see my family when they all gather,” Singh said.

In other parts of Asia, tens of millions of people are traveling by air, road and rail. China is expecting a surge in domestic travel after the country relaxed its zero-COVID pandemic control measures earlier in December.

The government eliminated many requirements, including frequent virus testing, and relaxed quarantine rules. The moves came as China prepares for Lunar New Year festivities in January, the country’s busiest travel season.

 

Economic boost

Analysts believe a surge in vacationing will help China’s ailing economy. Chinese state media quoted Chen Linan, a spokesperson for China-based online travel site Ctrip, as saying, “The increase in travel New Year’s Day and during the Spring Festival could be the biggest turning point in China’s tourism sector in three years.”

In Europe, travel experts foresee the busiest Christmas travel season in years after a protracted period of disruptions because of COVID-19 lockdowns.

“There’s a strong demand for Christmas travel, with ticket revenue up 18%,” Johan Lundgren, CEO of British airline easyJet, told Reuters. The airline also expects more passengers will take to the skies in the first part of 2023.

London’s Heathrow Airport lifted its 100,000 daily passenger limit to avoid major disruptions at the end of October and said it would not cap passenger numbers for the Christmas peak travel time.

Industry observers still warn travelers to prepare for potential labor disputes by transportation workers and staff shortages at European airports and rail stations that could cause cancellations. Two of Air France’s cabin crew unions that failed to reach a contract agreement last October filed to take strike action at any time from Thursday to January 2. The French air carrier issued a statement pledging to maintain a full schedule, adding it hoped to avoid cancelations or delays.

US holiday travel

More than 112 million Americans will travel during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, according to AAA, a travel services company. Of those, more than 7 million will fly.

“I’m glad to be flying out to Atlanta before the bad weather arrives,” said Washington resident Todd Brunson, who booked his flight several days before the Christmas holiday. “I find the closer you get to Christmas, chances increase you won’t get to your destination on time.”

According to AAA, 2022 is shaping up to be the third-busiest year for holiday travel in the United States since it began tracking numbers in 2000.

The trepidations that holiday travel could get worse grew as weather forecasters predicted disruptions stemming from a fierce winter storm sweeping across the country, affecting 180 million people in 40 states. The storm brought treacherous road conditions and caused thousands of flights to be canceled.

“There’s snow in Kansas City waiting for us, so we are little bit nervous about getting there, but I think we are going to beat it, so we’ll be OK,” Lindsay Bittfield, who was flying from New York City, told WABC-TV.

Chicago, a major airline hub, is bracing for high winds, subzero temperatures and possibly 30 centimeters of snow before Christmas.

“We prepared well in advance for whatever weather conditions come, whether it’s snow, rain or wind,” said Karen Pride, director of media relations for the Chicago Department of Aviation. “We have 350 pieces of snow removal equipment that’s ready to clear snow on runways and around the airport.”

In anticipation of the storm, airlines rerouted flights and issued weather waivers that allow passengers to reschedule their flights without incurring fees.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” Brunson said. “I just hope the joy of the season won’t be spoiled by any travel headaches.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 22nd, 2022 by Vbiz

The Central Bank of Nigeria has raised the maximum weekly limit for cash withdrawals after a public uproar over the caps it announced two weeks ago. The new limit is five times higher than the initial cap for individuals and ten times more for companies. The bank announced the limits to rein in excess cash and promote cashless payments, but critics say it could stifle millions of small businesses. 

The revised Central Bank withdrawal limits were announced in a circular released by the bank Wednesday.

The limit for individual withdrawals was raised from $225 to $1,125, while the limit for corporate entities was raised from $1,100 to $11,000.

Under the directive, any withdrawal above the set limits must be approved in advance in writing by the financial institution from where the withdrawal is to be made.

The CBN also lowered its processing fee for withdrawals above set limits.

But many people like Salisu Umar Garu, a former chairman of the Abuja Zone 4 traders association, say even the new limits will be difficult for businesses yet to be fully integrated into the online banking system.

“The minimum amount, it cannot buy anything for anybody,” he said. “Maybe the CBN should have come to ask us for advice, like if I do this how will it affect the country and the economy.” 

The new cash withdrawal limits take effect January 9. 

The central bank unveiled newly designed 200-, 500- and 1,000-naira bills in late November in a bid to combat counterfeiting, hoarding, corruption and other crimes.  

 

Authorities also said the action will promote more online-based transactions.

Citizens also have until the end of this month to exchange old bills for the new tender.

Isaac Botti, a finance analyst at the Centre for Social Action, said the policy, if properly implemented, will help stabilize Nigeria’s economy and prevent vote-buying during the February elections. 

“Issues around corruption, insecurity, election manipulation and vote-buying, will all be addressed,” he said. “It is important that we recognize that when policies are developed to put the economy in the right direction, it could be painstaking but it needs consistency.”

This week, the Nigerian House of Representatives summoned CBN governor Godwin Emefiele after initially asking the CBN to suspend the cash withdrawal limits.

Botti was skeptical of the lawmakers’ claims to be protecting small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs. He thinks the lawmakers want the limits withdrawn so they can access large amounts of money they’ve stashed away. 

“I’m beginning to wonder why some persons, including the lawmakers, are saying it will affect SMEs,” he said. They’re crying for themselves. This sudden love and protection for SMEs is borne out of their own selfish interests”. 

The CBN says it’s working with money agents in rural areas to help pull in old notes before their expiration date.

But citizens say the changeover time for the newly unveiled bank notes is too short and that unless authorities extend the deadline, up to 40% of Nigerian citizens without access to banks could lose their savings.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 19th, 2022 by Vbiz

Elon Musk had an eventful year, capping 2022 with a $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, a takeover that almost didn’t happen. The controversial CEO has brought changes and disruptions, layoffs and resignations that put Twitter’s fate into question. VOA’s Tina Trinh has more.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 18th, 2022 by Vbiz

Every time a part of his old grey Mercedes breaks, 62-year-old Beirut cab driver Abed Omayraat faces a tough choice: go into debt to import an expensive car part, or raise fares for customers whose wallets are already drained by a severe economic crisis.

It’s a dilemma he says has become more acute in recent months as Lebanon’s government moved to increase tariffs on imported goods about ten-fold in a country that ships in more than 80% of what it consumes – including spare parts he needs.

“My tires are finished now, you can see they’re worn out. When it rains, I’m worried the car will slide,” Omayraat said. Changing them is necessary, “but I can’t afford it.”

Lebanon’s economic meltdown, now in its fourth year, has seen the currency lose more than 95% of its value and left eight in 10 Lebanese poor, according to the United Nations.

With foreign currency coffers dwindling, the state has already lifted subsidies on fuel and most medication.

Hiking the rate at which the customs fee is calculated, officials say, will boost state revenues and is a step towards unifying various exchange rates.

They are among pre-conditions set by the International Monetary Fund in April for Lebanon to get a $3 billion bailout, but the lender of last resort says reforms have been too slow.

The tariff jump came into effect on Dec 1. Import taxes began being calculated at an exchange rate of 15,000 Lebanese pounds per dollar instead of the old 1,507, meaning traders suddenly had to pay much more to bring in products like home appliances, telephones or car parts.

That is set to pile even more financial pressure on people struggling to make ends meet.

Omayraat says many passengers already ask for discounts to the standard 40,000 L.L. ride fee.

“Do you tell a person that you want a 100,000 pound fare? I’m basically telling them: don’t ride with me. Neither can he (afford it), nor can I take him. He’s not able to eat and I won’t be able to eat,” Omayraat said.

Rabih Fares, an architect from northern Lebanon who began importing used cars when business slowed down, said the new rate was forcing car dealerships to boost prices or go out of business. 

“You need to work four to five years just to be able to afford the customs rate on a car now,” said Fares, who estimated fees to import one used car could average 94 million Lebanese pounds – or about 156 times the minimum monthly wage.

The finance ministry said revenues gathered in the 15 days since the decision came into effect showed a “huge difference” but said figures would be ready by the end of the month.

Parliament agreed on the rate in September but it was not rolled out until December – a delay that caretaker Economy Minister Amin Salam said allowed traders to load up on imports before the tariff hike, while increasing selling prices.

“When you announced it three months ago, it’s as if you are going and telling those who don’t want to work right in the market: go find a way to benefit. And this is what happened,” he said. 

It has left him sceptical that Lebanon will implement the reforms necessary to score a final IMF bailout in the coming months.

“As we are now, I in my personal opinion do not see it happening soon – which worries me because, as I said, each day of delay is costing the country millions and millions and costs the people pain and misery,” Salam told Reuters.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 18th, 2022 by Vbiz

“I feel anxious about inflation every time I go to the grocery store,” Caroline Fitzsousa, a bar manager in Baltimore, Maryland, told VOA. “And at work, my customers aren’t happy either. The rising cost of food and liquor caused us to raise prices. People are frustrated having to pay more for the same items they’ve always ordered.”

That frustration was felt across the United States in 2022, as global supply chain disruptions, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, stimulative U.S. fiscal policies and other factors contributed to the highest inflation levels – and the biggest price increases for many goods and services – America has seen in four decades.

Inflation peaked in June when the consumer price index, a measure of the average change in the cost of goods and services compared to the year before, rose 9.1%. For October, the index was 7.7% higher, which economists saw as an improvement but still stubbornly high. 

The U.S. Federal Reserve aims for 2% annual inflation and has been aggressively raising interest rates in hopes of bringing it under control.

For consumers and businesses alike, the impact of rising prices and falling purchasing power has been plain to see.

“There are some nights that seem as busy as before the pandemic,” Fitzsousa said, commenting on her bar’s ability to attract customers, “but there are also plenty of patches of time when the bar is dead because people can’t afford to eat and drink out as much.”

She added, “You hear people complaining about places being overpriced, but there’s nothing we can do. If we’re going to recover from the pandemic’s losses and keep our doors open, this is what we have to charge. Things just cost more this year.”

Year of worry

A November survey conducted by U.S. News & World Report and The Harris Poll reported that 86% of U.S. adults were either very or somewhat concerned about the economy and inflation.

And, with the holiday shopping season under way, 41% of American consumers plan to spend less this year than they did in 2021, according to a CNBC All-America Economic Survey.

“In most current polls, you’ll see Americans rank higher prices and the economy as the country’s biggest problem,” said Robert Collins, professor of urban studies and public policy at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. “It ranks ahead of crime, border security, the environment, abortion, and everything else. The economy is top of mind.”

Despite it being a priority, Collins said this isn’t a challenge that can be solved quickly. Inflation takes time to go down, he warns, and relief will be slow and incremental.

For many Americans, such as Steve Ryan, an investor and professional poker player living in Las Vegas, Nevada, however, the need for relief is urgent. 

“I’m honestly worried about my ability to continue to afford living here,” he told VOA. “The stock market stagnated and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to rebound any time soon, but I have to sell my shares at rock bottom prices because I need to cobble together money just to afford my rent.”

And that rent, unfortunately, is rising. Ryan had to leave his apartment of more than a decade because the price nearly doubled after renovations were made. 

“I found a new place,” he said, “but it definitely costs more. And I’m paying for it while making less than I used to. At some point, I may just have to leave.”

Complicated economy

“It’s important to remember that the economy is very complex and very cyclical,” said Collins of Dillard University. “One of the things that caused the inflation we’re seeing now is the low unemployment rate most workers see as a good thing.”

In November, the economy added 263,000 jobs, keeping the national unemployment rate at 3.7%, which is near a half-century low.  

Robust job creation is usually associated with an expanding, vibrant economy. But finding workers to fill those jobs has been a challenge for many employers over the last two years.

“I love that workers are gaining more power,” said Fitzsousa in Baltimore, “but we’re having a tough time attracting the staff we need to run our business because there are less people to choose from and more jobs competing for them. As a small business our profit margins are so thin. It’s hard to keep pace with the higher wages corporate restaurant groups can pay to bring in workers.”

As employers offer higher wages to attract workers, the increased labor costs usually are passed down to consumers in the form of higher prices.

“Unfortunately, the increased wages workers are receiving aren’t keeping up with the inflation it’s helping to fuel,” explained Patrick Button, associate professor of economics at Tulane University in New Orleans.

That’s been the case for Lisa Martin, a teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio, whose dream of home ownership has been put on hold.

“Rent is so expensive and I know buying a house is a smart move,” she told VOA. “It’s a goal of mine, but my income isn’t high enough to allow me to save for a mortgage. I’m hopeful this year prices might come down a little.” 

Looking ahead

As the Federal Reserve keeps boosting interest rates, the heads of some large U.S. banks warn a recession could loom in 2023. 

“Those things might very well derail the economy and cause this mild to hard recession that people are worried about,” JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, told CNBC earlier this week.

It’s a worry for millions in this country, especially Americans nearing retirement.

“I feel the economy has affected those of us preparing for retirement in a big way,” 62-year-old Lisa Ash of Mandeville, Louisiana, told VOA. “Our lifelong savings – whether in the stock market or in our savings accounts – have taken a big hit and I don’t see that correcting itself in the next three years.”

She added, “I’m no longer thinking about buying another home or about traveling. I’m working.”

For all the gloom, some financial experts have a simple message: hang in there.

“Throughout history the economy expands and the economy contracts; business peaks and business troughs,” said Marigny deMauriac, a certified financial planner in New Orleans. “It’s called a cycle because it’s happened before and it will happen again. There might be some pain next year in the case of a recession, but the sooner there is pain, the sooner there will be relief.”

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 16th, 2022 by Vbiz

Stocks tumbled on Wall Street and across European markets Thursday as investors grew increasingly concerned that the Federal Reserve and other central banks are willing to risk a recession to bring inflation under control.

The S&P 500 fell 2.5%, with more than 90% of stocks in the benchmark index closing in the red. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.2%, and the Nasdaq composite lost 3.2%. The broad slide erased all the weekly gains for the major indexes.

European stocks fell sharply, with Germany’s DAX dropping 3.3%.

The wave of selling came as central banks in Europe raised interest rates a day after the U.S. Federal Reserve hiked its key rate again, emphasizing that interest rates will need to go higher than previously expected in order to tame inflation.

“It’s this coordinated central bank tightening — stocks tend to not do well in that environment,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at All Star Charts.

In the U.S., the market’s losses were widespread, though technology stocks were the biggest weight on the S&P 500. The benchmark index fell 99.57 points to 3,895.75.

The Dow slid 764.13 points to 33,202.22, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 360.36 points to 10,810.53.

Small company stocks also fell. The Russell 2000 index slid 45.85 points, or 2.5%, to close at 1,774.61.

The Fed raised its short-term interest rate by half a percentage point on Wednesday, its seventh increase this year. Central banks in Europe followed along Thursday, with the European Central Bank, Bank of England and Swiss National Bank each raising their main lending rate by a half-point Thursday.

Although the Fed is slowing the pace of its rate increases, the central bank signaled it expects rates to be higher over the coming few years than it had previously anticipated. That disappointed investors, who hoped recent signs that inflation is easing somewhat would persuade the Fed to take some pressure off the brakes it’s applying to the U.S. economy.

The federal funds rate stands at a range of 4.25% to 4.5%, the highest level in 15 years. Fed policymakers forecast that the central bank’s rate will reach a range of 5% to 5.25% by the end of 2023.

Their forecast doesn’t call for a rate cut before 2024.

The yield on the two-year Treasury, which closely tracks expectations for Fed moves, rose to 4.24% from 4.21% late Wednesday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, slipped to 3.45% from 3.48%.

The three-month Treasury yield slipped to 4.31% but remains above that of the 10-year Treasury. That’s known as an inversion and considered a strong warning that the economy could be headed for a recession.

“The [stock] market’s reaction is now factoring in a recession and rejecting the possibility of the ‘soft/softish’ landing” that Fed Chair Jerome Powell raised in a speech last month, said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist for LPL Financial.

The prospect of more Fed rate hikes have heightened Wall Street’s worries about how company earnings could fare in a recession, Delwiche said.

“[Inflation] has peaked. It will peak. It did peak — whatever. That’s not the story,” he said. “The story now is how does the economy hold up? How do earnings hold up?”

The central bank has been fighting to lower inflation at the same time that pockets of the economy, including employment and consumer spending, remain strong. That has made it more difficult to rein in high prices on everything from food to clothing.

On Thursday, the government reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week, a sign that the labor market remains strong. Meanwhile, another report showed that retail sales fell in November. That pullback followed a sharp rise in spending in October.

Like the Fed, central bank officials in Europe said inflation is not yet corralled and that more rate hikes are coming.

“We are in for a long game,” European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said at a news conference.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 15th, 2022 by Vbiz

Botswana’s government says rural communities have earned $5 million since last year from the proceeds of elephant hunting. Conservationists object to the practice, but local officials say the hunts are necessary to reduce human-wildlife conflict. The annual activity attracts hunters from overseas who pay huge sums to shoot elephants.

Acting Minister of Environment and Tourism, Sethabelo Modukanele, said communities are benefiting following the lifting of a five-year hunting ban.

“Hunting was reinstated in 2019 following a five-year moratorium after extensive stakeholder consultation. This allowed communities to generate considerable revenues amounting to 50 million pula over two years [from 2021 to 2022] for their development projects,” said Modukanele.

Most of the revenue is from international hunters who pay up to $50,000 to shoot a single elephant.

Botswana Wildlife Producers Association chief executive, Isaac Theophilus, says more could be done to ensure communities benefit from wildlife resources.

“Communities can make more from hunting. The problem right now is that communities only depend on selling their hunting quotas, subleasing some of the areas allocated to them. In order to gain more from hunting, communities have to explore other avenues of trying to raise funds, like investing the P50 million that they have accrued into income generating activities,” said Theophilus.

Botswana’s growing elephant population, at more than 130,000, has created conflict with humans, as the animals often trample crops, injure or kill people.

But animal biologist Keith Lindsay said elephant hunting could hurt the species’ breeding patterns.

“The biggest male elephants are the ones that contribute most of the population in terms of survival and mating success. Their genes are actively selected and chosen by female elephants; they prefer mating with the biggest males. By taking away those big males, you are damaging the population’s genetic structure and survival chances in the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister Modukanele said the government has distributed nearly 400 wild animals to small-scale farmers to ensure locals have a stake in agro-tourism.

“Government made a deliberate decision to support start-up ventures for Batswana who showed interest and met the requisite criterion for keeping of game in plowing fields. Those who qualified were assisted with animals of various species, such as impala, gemsbok, eland and zebra. To date, 277 have applied and 251 approved and 67 provided with seed stock, totaling 377 animals,” said Modukanele.

At a recent meeting of parties to CITES, the 1963 treaty to protect endangered species, some African countries tried to present a proposal seeking to ban trophy hunting in Botswana and other southern African elephant ranges.  The attempt was unsuccessful, and elephant hunting will continue in Botswana for the foreseeable future.   

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 15th, 2022 by Vbiz

President Joe Biden enumerated billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. investments in Africa in remarks to African leaders and the continent’s business community at a three-day summit. VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell reports from the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

December 14th, 2022 by Vbiz

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by half a percentage point on Wednesday and projected at least an additional 75 basis points of increases in borrowing costs by the end of 2023 as well as a rise in unemployment and a near stalling of economic growth. 

The U.S. central bank’s projection of the target federal funds rate rising to 5.1% in 2023 is slightly higher than investors expected heading into this week’s two-day policy meeting and appeared biased if anything to move higher. 

Only two of 19 Fed officials saw the benchmark overnight interest rate staying below 5% next year, a signal they still feel the need to lean into their battle against inflation that has been running at 40-year highs. 

“The (Federal Open Market) Committee is highly attentive to inflation risks … Ongoing increases in the target range will be appropriate in order to attain a stance of monetary policy that is sufficiently restrictive to return inflation to 2% over time,” the Fed said in a statement nearly identical to the one it issued at its November meeting. 

The new statement, approved unanimously, was released after a meeting at which officials scaled back from the three-quarters-of-a-percentage-point rate increases that were delivered at the last four gatherings. The Fed’s policy rate, which began the year at the near-zero level, is now in a target range of 4.25% to 4.50%, the highest since late 2007. 

Fed Chair Jerome Powell is scheduled to hold a news conference at 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT) to provide further details on the policy meeting, which was the last of 2022. 

The new rate outlook, a rough estimate of where officials feel they can pause their current rate-hike cycle, was issued along with economic projections showing an extended battle with inflation still to come, and with near recessionary conditions developing over the year. 

Inflation, based on the Fed’s preferred measure, is seen remaining above the central bank’s 2% target at least until the end of 2025, and will still be above 3% by the end of next year. 

The median projected unemployment rate is seen rising to 4.6% over the next year from the current 3.7%, an increase that exceeds the level historically associated with a recession. 

Gross domestic product is seen growing by just 0.5% next year, the same as estimated for 2022, before rising to 1.6% in 2024 and 1.8% in 2025, a level considered to be the economy’s long-run potential. 

 

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