By Keith Zhai, Gabriel Crossley and Yew Lun Tian
(Reuters) – China’s parliament is poised to enact its first civil code, a wide-ranging legislative package that includes strengthening protection of property rights in a Communist Party-ruled country whose embrace of private ownership has long been awkward.
The civil code, in the works since 2014, will become law at a time when China needs its often-embattled private sector to step up investment to help revive a virus-battered economy, and will be a centrepiece of the annual parliamentary session that begins on Friday after a more-than two month delay.
However, the civil code is largely an amalgamation of existing laws, meaning its impact may be limited, some analysts said. And enforcement is uncertain, as courts are not independent and ultimately answer to the party, although legal reforms in recent years have aimed to give judges more independence and rein in local officials’ influence over courts.
The civil code, which among other provisions protects personal information and makes it easier to divorce or sue for sexual harassment, is expected to spell out the clearest boundary yet between government and markets since the 1949 founding of the People’s Republic of China.
It is a cornerstone of President Xi Jinping’s push to reform the country’s legal system by 2020, even as China has tightened controls on civil society and expanded party control under his leadership.
The legislation – on paper at least – reduces the scope for bureaucratic meddling and abuse that have often bedevilled private firms and property owners in a country where business owners were not allowed to join the Communist Party until 2001 and are still treated with suspicion by some party officials.
“It gives more complete protection to the rights of the individual,” said Wang Jiangyu, a law professor at the City University of Hong Kong.
“The bigger context is, is this a country that adheres to the rule of law? Is the government really executing the law?”
Implementation of the code, which incorporates existing laws including those covering property, contracts and torts, reflects long-running concerns among business owners over protection of personal and property rights.
“All private firms have their ‘original sin,'” Xu Bin, a steel trader in Henan province, told Reuters in March, referring to the sometimes dubious actions taken by entrepreneurs in the early days of China’s reform and opening.
Some worry those “sins” can still be used against them.
A 2017 survey on the climate for private sector firms by Unirule Institute of Economics, a now-defunct liberal Beijing-based think tank, found companies rated “legal fairness” 4 out of 10.
“Without legal protection, private businessmen don’t feel safe. Our survey showed that they think there is a 22.5% chance of danger to themselves and a 26.8% chance that their assets are at risk,” Sheng Hong, an independent scholar who was previously Unirule’s executive director, told Reuters.
However, the civil code will not protect entrepreneurs in criminal cases.
“Since the Civil Code only covers civil disputes, it does not help protect property rights against seizure of assets by the state, a most important concern among entrepreneurs,” said Xin Sun, a lecturer in Chinese and East Asian business at King’s College London.
Private sector investment in China has slowed sharply, to the worry of officials, from more than 20% growth when Xi assumed power to single digits in recent years. It fell 13% during the coronavirus-battered first four month of this year, compared with a 7 percent decline for state companies.
In an April meeting chaired by Xi, the Communist Party’s decision-making Politburo said the government will support the private economy and development of small- and medium-sized firms, which remain excluded from several industries and have long had difficulty securing bank credit.
“The civil code could restore confidence of private business owners and to help prop up economic growth,” said Hu Xingdou, a retired economics professor with Beijing Institute of Technology.
Sun, of King’s College, isn’t so sure, saying the civil code brings little added protection for rights and property, and is more symbol than substance.
“China does have a comprehensive system of high-quality written laws but a lot of concerns arise from their enforcement rather than the laws themselves,” he said.
(Reporting by Keith Zhai, Gabriel Crossley, and Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Tony Munroe and Michael Perry)
Canada's farmland is a wise investment — during and after the coronavirus – The Conversation – Canada
COVID-19 has put the world’s economies on pace for the most dramatic contraction since the Great Depression. With the world’s major economies on track for the largest quarterly decline in history, Canadian farmland is an increasingly stable and resilient investment.
Canada is one of the largest agricultural producers and exporters in the world. According to Statistics Canada, the country is the fifth-largest agricultural exporter.
Agriculture is one of Canada’s largest industries, directly employing nearly 300,000 people, and it accounts for roughly five per cent of the country’s gross domestic product. As the world’s population grows, Canadian agriculture and related industries will grow in size and importance.
It’s also been predicted that 90 per cent of existing arable land will be used to produce as much as 70 per cent more food to accommodate this growth. This will invariably raise the value of global farmland.
Simple economics suggest that if demand increases while holding supply constant, prices will rise. That means increased demand for food and constraints on arable land will lead to appreciating farmland values.
According to Statistics Canada, the average price of farmland per acre in 1988 was $464. At the same time, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, American farmland was the equivalent of C$885 per acre. In 2018, the average of farmland per acre in Canada exceeded $3,000, and in the U.S., it exceeded $4,000. Based on this historical data and the future outlook, investment in farmland is promising.
A looming Saskatchewan boom
My experience as a senior manager of an agriculture company for the better part of a decade gave me perspective of the unique value of Saskatchewan agriculture. Farmland appreciation in the Canadian Prairies, where agriculture is a core economic driver, has shown greater increases than other areas of the country.
According to the Saskatchewan government, the province “is home to more than 40 per cent of Canada’s cultivated farmland, some of the most productive land in the world.”
Saskatchewan farmland ownership has been more restricted than other provinces, resulting in a historically lower price per acre. Given the high soil quality and relaxation of purchase provisions over the past decade, the price per acre in Saskatchewan is on the rise. That means forthcoming investments are likely to provide fruitful returns and capital appreciation.
Based on Farm Credit Canada’s 2018 and 2019 reports, the three-year average increase in Saskatchewan farmland values was 6.2 per cent compared to 4.9 per cent in British Columbia, 3.3 per cent in Alberta and 4.2 per cent in Manitoba.
Some of the largest Saskatchewan farmland owners, including Andjelic Land Inc., Avenue Living Agricultural Land Trust and the Heide family have benefited from farmland appreciations via their strategic investments.
Comparing farmland to the appreciation of Canada’s primary stock exchange, the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), over an 11-year period from 2009 to 2019 shows the consistency and stability of farmland over stocks.
Despite two economic downturns, farmland showed positive appreciation year-over-year compared to the more volatile TSX.
Even though the TSX showed more than 30 per cent appreciation in 2009, three of the those years produced depreciations exceeding 10 per cent. Conversely, farmland consistently appreciated, ranging from five per cent to more than 20 per cent, throughout the same 11-year period.
Given the expected global population growth, food demand and current arable land constraints, farmland investments will likely continue to yield lucrative returns.
Farmland in Canada and the U.S. has historically appreciated as population and global food demand has increased. Farmland has also served as a value-add to portfolios and has proven to be more predictable with respect to its appreciation than equity markets.
Further opportunity for investment in farmland remains, with substantial value to be extracted. Specifically, regions of Canada like Saskatchewan have been historically undervalued and as a result, are appreciating.
As such, there is a compelling opportunity for profit. Due to long-term projections, now more than ever it is strategic to incorporate farmland into investment equations. To quote Mark Twain:
“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.”
Natixis Opens Corporate, Investment Bank Office in Saudi Arabia
Natixis SA opened a corporate and investment banking office in Saudi Arabia as the French lender seeks to expand in the Arab world’s largest economy.
The bank appointed Reema Al-Asmari as chief executive officer of its operations in the kingdom, according to a statement. Al-Asmari joined Natixis in August 2019 and was previously head for treasury services for JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Saudi Arabia. She will report to Simon Eedle, Natixis’ head in the Middle East.
International banks have been expanding in Saudi Arabia as the country embarks on a plan to diversify its economy beyond oil and attract more foreign investment. Citigroup Inc. re-opened in the kingdom in 2017 after leaving in 2004, while JPMorgan, HSBC Holdings Plc., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are among banks that have been hiring and getting licenses for new activities.
Saudi Arabia has become a more important source of deal flow for global banks. Saudi Aramco raised nearly $30 billion in the biggest-ever initial public offering last year, while the opening of the kingdom’s stock market to foreign investors has attracted global investors.
More recently, the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund has been on an overseas acquisition spree. The sovereign wealth fund built has stakes in Boeing Co., Citigroup Inc. and Facebook Inc. since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Source: – Yahoo Canada Finance
Source: Natixis Opens Corporate
Investment plan could create up to 150,000 jobs, say unions – BBC News
Up to 150,000 jobs could be created if the Scottish government invested £13bn in new infrastructure projects, a new study has claimed.
The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) research said the posts could be created in areas such as offshore wind and renewables manufacturing.
A further 50,000 jobs could be created in retrofitting buildings to higher standards, the report claims.
The STUC’S Roz Foyer said the need for investment was becoming urgent.
The body’s general secretary designate added: “This research we are publishing is drawn from a wider report on the potential for creating green infrastructure jobs which will be published later in the year.
“But given the crisis we face there is no time to be lost.
“The analysis shows that almost 150,000 good quality jobs could be created at the same time as making a real impact on emissions and strengthening Scotland’s renewables supply chain.”
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