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China makes massive infrastructure investment to help in COVID-19 recovery – Daily Commercial News

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The Chinese economy was showing signs of a slowdown even before the COVID-19 contagion spread around the country and internationally. The World Bank, in its October 2019 global economic growth forecast, projected that China’s GDP increase would moderate to 5.9 per cent this year from 6.1 per cent in 2019. A 5.9 per cent gain would be the lowest rate of increase in the last 29 years, since Q1 of 1992.

Expectations for the country’s 2020 GDP growth decreased dramatically in February as the negative impacts from the coronavirus became clearer. According to Bloomberg: “Economists have repeatedly marked down their growth forecasts on the slow resumption of business. The median forecast for year-on-year growth in the first quarter is 4.0 per cent, the weakest in 30 years,…according to a February survey”.

Major reasons for China’s economic weakness in the first quarter, tied to the coronavirus, included contraction of industrial production and the slowdown in retail sales, as well as a significant decrease in construction and infrastructure investment. The damage to construction activities came to a large extent from the strict quarantine measures introduced by the Chinese government that restricted the movement of migrant workers and limited the progress of construction projects.

In addition, the overall decrease in domestic consumption, as well as in industrial production, are likely to result in a future contraction in capital expenditures by many companies, leading to pressure on ongoing and future demand for construction.

Historically, the Chinese government has reacted to economic problems by providing stimulus through monetary policy easing as well as an increase in infrastructure investment. During the Asian financial crisis, every year from 1998 until 2002 the Chinese government issued RMB 100 billions of special treasury bonds in order to support investments in roads, railways, telecommunications facilities, power generation projects, etc.

During the 2008 global financial crisis, the government of China took a similar, but even more vigorous, approach and introduced an economic stimulus of RMB 4 trillion, with the biggest share of the funding (RMB 1.5 trillion) directed towards irrigation, airport, railway, road and other infrastructure developments.

History seems to be repeating itself today as, in the first two months of this year, local Chinese governments, have already issued projects-related special infrastructure bonds for RMB 950 billion. The 2020 annual limit for new infrastructure bonds amounts to RMB 3 trillion.

The Asia Times news portal reports that as of the beginning of March: “13 major cities and provinces, including Beijing, Shanghai and Fujian province, released investment plans and “major infrastructure” projects for 2020. Eight cities and provinces announced their investment budgets, which in total amount to 33.83 trillion yuan (US$4.8 trillion). Another eight provinces said they would invest up to 2.79 trillion yuan in total, although they have yet to announce their plans.

The strategic allocation of the new infrastructure investment this time will be noticeably different from the previous economic crises, as most of it will be channelled towards the high-tech industry. Out of 25 regions that are indicating new infrastructure projects, 21 are planning to develop 5G networks, according to the Xinhua news agency.

These new investments and development plans come on top of the 26 infrastructure projects approved last year for construction in 2020 and beyond, with the top 10 projects costing over RMB 40 billion each. The overall investment in the approved projects amounts to approximately RMB 982 billion.

China’s government has also identified the need for a more selective approach towards the new infrastructure investment, with higher return requirements due to weakening exports and dipping real estate investments. The need for higher returns on government-approved infrastructure investment also explains the recent switch towards high-tech projects that are likely to be more profitable than the traditional bricks and mortar investments.

The outbreak of COVID-19 also has the potential to increase pressure on investment in China’s international projects developed under the Belt and Road initiative. During these times of economic difficulty, the country is more likely to direct its resources towards improvement of its domestic economy, rather than investing in international projects.

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In years before outbreak, investment in public health shrunk – CityNews Vancouver

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In the decade before Michigan and its largest city became the latest hot spot for the deadly coronavirus, officials were steadily, and at times dramatically, cutting back on their first line of defence against pandemics and other public health emergencies.

Approaching bankruptcy, Detroit disbanded most of its public health department and handed its responsibilities to a private non-profit. When the department reopened in 2014 in the back of the municipal parking office, its per capita budget was a fraction of other big cities’, to serve a needier population.

In Ingham County, home to the capital city of Lansing, then-Public Health Director Renee Branch Canady sat down at budget time every year for seven straight years to figure out what more to cut.

“It was just chop, chop, chop,” Canady said. By the time she left in 2014, all the health educators, who teach people how to prevent disease, were gone.

What happened in Michigan also played out across the country and at the federal level after the 2008 recession, which caused serious budget problems for governments. But as the economy recovered, public health funding did not, a review of budget figures and interviews with health experts and officials shows.

A shortfall persisted despite several alarming outbreaks, from H1N1 to Ebola, and has left the U.S. more vulnerable now to COVID-19, experts say. In normal times, public health workers are in the community, immunizing children, checking on newborns and performing other tasks. In a health emergency, they’re tracing outbreaks, conducting testing and serving as “first responders” when people fall sick — efforts that are lagging in many states as the coronavirus spreads.

“Our funding decisions tied their hands,” said Brian Castrucci, who worked with health departments in Philadelphia, Texas and Georgia and is now president of the de Beaumont Foundation, a health advocacy organization.

The cuts came under both Democratic and Republican administrations. While there is no single number that reflects all federal, state and local spending, the budget for the federal Centers for Disease Control, the core agency for public health, fell by 10 per cent between fiscal year 2010 and 2019 after adjusting for inflation, according to an analysis by the Trust for America’s Health, a public health research and advocacy organization. The group found that federal funding to help state and local officials prepare for emergencies such as outbreak has also fallenshrunk — from about $1 billion after 9-11 to under $650 million last year.

Between 2008 and 2017, state and local health departments lost more than 55,000 jobs — one-fifth of their workforce, a major factor as cities struggle to respond to COVID-19.

“It definitely has made a difference,” said John Auerbach, Trust for America’s Health CEO and a former public health director in Massachusetts.

New York has seen the most COVID-19 cases in the U.S., but numbers are surging in places such as Detroit, where those testing positive nearly tripled in the week between March 28 and Saturday, when officials said the city was approaching 4,000 cases, with 129 deaths. A more robust health system could have done more earlier to track down and isolate people who were exposed, said the city’s former health director, Abdul El-Sayed.

State spending on public health in Michigan dropped 16% from an inflation-adjusted high point of $300 million in 2004, according to a 2018 study.

Some of the funding problems, Canady and other public health advocates believe, stem from a fundamental belief in smaller government among Republican governors, including former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who called for “shared sacrifice” after the state’s auto-dependent economy was battered by the recession.

In Kansas, then-Gov. Sam Brownback ran what he called a “red-state experiment” to cut taxes. State spending on its Public Health Division, outside of federal funds, dropped 28% between 2008 and 2016.

The cuts meant a “shifting of responsibility for services from the state level to the county level,” Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said in an interview. “And we saw that in public health.”

In Maine, then-Gov. Paul Le Page’s administration stopped replacing public health nurses who were dealing with families in the opioid crisis. The number of nurses fell from around 60 to the low 20s before the Legislature tried to reverse the action.

Although agencies often receive emergency funding when a crisis strikes, the infusion is temporary.

“Decisions are made politically to support something when it becomes an epidemic,” said Derrick Neal, a public health official in Abilene when Ebola surfaced in Texas. “And then as time passes, the funding shrinks.”

In Oklahoma, state funding for the Department of Health still hasn’t returned to its levels of 2014, when a combination of slumping oil prices, tax cuts and corporate breaks punched a giant hole in the state’s budget. When state revenues later improved, the money went to other priorities.

“It’s much easier to cut funding for public health than it is to start taking away benefits from people or access to care for people,” said former state Rep. Doug Cox, an emergency room doctor.

Castrucci said the problem with providing more money only at times of emergency is it doesn’t allow time to recruit and train new workers.

“We waited until the house was on fire before we started interviewing firefighters,” he said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

___

Associated Press reporters David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, Paul Weber in Austin, Texas, John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

Sara Burnett, The Associated Press

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In years before coronavirus outbreak, U.S. investment in public health fell – Toronto Star

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In the decade before Michigan and its largest city became the latest hot spot for the deadly coronavirus, officials were steadily, and at times dramatically, cutting back on their first line of defence against pandemics and other public health emergencies.

Approaching bankruptcy, Detroit disbanded most of its public health department and handed its responsibilities to a private non-profit. When the department reopened in 2014 in the back of the municipal parking office, its per capita budget was a fraction of other big cities’, to serve a needier population.

In Ingham County, home to the capital city of Lansing, then-Public Health Director Renee Branch Canady sat down at budget time every year for seven straight years to figure out what more to cut.

“It was just chop, chop, chop,” Canady said. By the time she left in 2014, all the health educators, who teach people how to prevent disease, were gone.

What happened in Michigan also played out across the country and at the federal level after the 2008 recession, which caused serious budget problems for governments. But as the economy recovered, public health funding did not, a review of budget figures and interviews with health experts and officials shows.

A shortfall persisted despite several alarming outbreaks, from H1N1 to Ebola, and has left the U.S. more vulnerable now to COVID-19, experts say. In normal times, public health workers are in the community, immunizing children, checking on newborns and performing other tasks. In a health emergency, they’re tracing outbreaks, conducting testing and serving as “first responders” when people fall sick — efforts that are lagging in many states as the coronavirus spreads.

“Our funding decisions tied their hands,” said Brian Castrucci, who worked with health departments in Philadelphia, Texas and Georgia and is now president of the de Beaumont Foundation, a health advocacy organization.

The cuts came under both Democratic and Republican administrations. While there is no single number that reflects all federal, state and local spending, the budget for the federal Centers for Disease Control, the core agency for public health, fell by 10 per cent between fiscal year 2010 and 2019 after adjusting for inflation, according to an analysis by the Trust for America’s Health, a public health research and advocacy organization. The group found that federal funding to help state and local officials prepare for emergencies such as the coronavirus outbreak has also fallen — from about $1 billion (U.S.) after 9/11 to under $650 million last year.

Between 2008 and 2017, state and local health departments lost more than 55,000 jobs — one-fifth of their workforce, a major factor as cities struggle to respond to COVID-19.

“It definitely has made a difference,” said John Auerbach, Trust for America’s Health CEO and a former public health director in Massachusetts.

New York has seen the most COVID-19 cases in the U.S., but numbers are surging in places such as Detroit, where those testing positive nearly tripled in the week between March 28 and Saturday, when officials said the city was approaching 4,000 cases, with 129 deaths. A more robust health system could have done more earlier to track down and isolate people who were exposed, said the city’s former health director, Abdul El-Sayed.

State spending on public health in Michigan dropped 16 per cent from an inflation-adjusted high point of $300 million in 2004, according to a 2018 study.

Some of the funding problems, Canady and other public health advocates believe, stem from a fundamental belief in smaller government among Republican governors, including former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who called for “shared sacrifice” after the state’s auto-dependent economy was battered by the recession.

In Kansas, then-Gov. Sam Brownback ran what he called a “red-state experiment” to cut taxes. State spending on its Public Health Division, outside of federal funds, dropped 28 per cent between 2008 and 2016.

The cuts meant a “shifting of responsibility for services from the state level to the county level,” Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said in an interview. “And we saw that in public health.”

In Maine, then-Gov. Paul Le Page’s administration stopped replacing public health nurses who were dealing with families in the opioid crisis. The number of nurses fell from around 60 to the low 20s before the Legislature tried to reverse the action.

Although agencies often receive emergency funding when a crisis strikes, the infusion is temporary.

“Decisions are made politically to support something when it becomes an epidemic,” said Derrick Neal, a public health official in Abilene when Ebola surfaced in Texas. “And then as time passes, the funding shrinks.”

In Oklahoma, state funding for the Department of Health still hasn’t returned to its levels of 2014, when a combination of slumping oil prices, tax cuts and corporate breaks punched a giant hole in the state’s budget. When state revenues later improved, the money went to other priorities.

“It’s much easier to cut funding for public health than it is to start taking away benefits from people or access to care for people,” said former state Rep. Doug Cox, an emergency room doctor.

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Castrucci said the problem with providing more money only at times of emergency is it doesn’t allow time to recruit and train new workers.

“We waited until the house was on fire before we started interviewing firefighters,” he said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Associated Press reporters David Eggert, Paul Weber, John Hanna and Sean Murphy contributed to this report.

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Investment

In years before outbreak, investment in public health shrunk – 680 News

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In the decade before Michigan and its largest city became the latest hot spot for the deadly coronavirus, officials were steadily, and at times dramatically, cutting back on their first line of defence against pandemics and other public health emergencies.

Approaching bankruptcy, Detroit disbanded most of its public health department and handed its responsibilities to a private non-profit. When the department reopened in 2014 in the back of the municipal parking office, its per capita budget was a fraction of other big cities’, to serve a needier population.

In Ingham County, home to the capital city of Lansing, then-Public Health Director Renee Branch Canady sat down at budget time every year for seven straight years to figure out what more to cut.

“It was just chop, chop, chop,” Canady said. By the time she left in 2014, all the health educators, who teach people how to prevent disease, were gone.

What happened in Michigan also played out across the country and at the federal level after the 2008 recession, which caused serious budget problems for governments. But as the economy recovered, public health funding did not, a review of budget figures and interviews with health experts and officials shows.

A shortfall persisted despite several alarming outbreaks, from H1N1 to Ebola, and has left the U.S. more vulnerable now to COVID-19, experts say. In normal times, public health workers are in the community, immunizing children, checking on newborns and performing other tasks. In a health emergency, they’re tracing outbreaks, conducting testing and serving as “first responders” when people fall sick — efforts that are lagging in many states as the coronavirus spreads.

“Our funding decisions tied their hands,” said Brian Castrucci, who worked with health departments in Philadelphia, Texas and Georgia and is now president of the de Beaumont Foundation, a health advocacy organization.

The cuts came under both Democratic and Republican administrations. While there is no single number that reflects all federal, state and local spending, the budget for the federal Centers for Disease Control, the core agency for public health, fell by 10 per cent between fiscal year 2010 and 2019 after adjusting for inflation, according to an analysis by the Trust for America’s Health, a public health research and advocacy organization. The group found that federal funding to help state and local officials prepare for emergencies such as outbreak has also fallenshrunk — from about $1 billion after 9-11 to under $650 million last year.

Between 2008 and 2017, state and local health departments lost more than 55,000 jobs — one-fifth of their workforce, a major factor as cities struggle to respond to COVID-19.

“It definitely has made a difference,” said John Auerbach, Trust for America’s Health CEO and a former public health director in Massachusetts.

New York has seen the most COVID-19 cases in the U.S., but numbers are surging in places such as Detroit, where those testing positive nearly tripled in the week between March 28 and Saturday, when officials said the city was approaching 4,000 cases, with 129 deaths. A more robust health system could have done more earlier to track down and isolate people who were exposed, said the city’s former health director, Abdul El-Sayed.

State spending on public health in Michigan dropped 16% from an inflation-adjusted high point of $300 million in 2004, according to a 2018 study.

Some of the funding problems, Canady and other public health advocates believe, stem from a fundamental belief in smaller government among Republican governors, including former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who called for “shared sacrifice” after the state’s auto-dependent economy was battered by the recession.

In Kansas, then-Gov. Sam Brownback ran what he called a “red-state experiment” to cut taxes. State spending on its Public Health Division, outside of federal funds, dropped 28% between 2008 and 2016.

The cuts meant a “shifting of responsibility for services from the state level to the county level,” Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said in an interview. “And we saw that in public health.”

In Maine, then-Gov. Paul Le Page’s administration stopped replacing public health nurses who were dealing with families in the opioid crisis. The number of nurses fell from around 60 to the low 20s before the Legislature tried to reverse the action.

Although agencies often receive emergency funding when a crisis strikes, the infusion is temporary.

“Decisions are made politically to support something when it becomes an epidemic,” said Derrick Neal, a public health official in Abilene when Ebola surfaced in Texas. “And then as time passes, the funding shrinks.”

In Oklahoma, state funding for the Department of Health still hasn’t returned to its levels of 2014, when a combination of slumping oil prices, tax cuts and corporate breaks punched a giant hole in the state’s budget. When state revenues later improved, the money went to other priorities.

“It’s much easier to cut funding for public health than it is to start taking away benefits from people or access to care for people,” said former state Rep. Doug Cox, an emergency room doctor.

Castrucci said the problem with providing more money only at times of emergency is it doesn’t allow time to recruit and train new workers.

“We waited until the house was on fire before we started interviewing firefighters,” he said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

___

Associated Press reporters David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, Paul Weber in Austin, Texas, John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

Sara Burnett, The Associated Press

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