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Companies warn of an economic crisis as China battles coronavirus – The Economist

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RARELY HAVE plans in China fallen apart so swiftly and so publicly. On January 12th the leaders of Hubei declared that the province’s GDP would grow by 7.5% this year. They made no mention of a new virus fast spreading through its towns and cities. But less than two weeks later it could not be ignored. They placed the province under quarantine, hemming in over 50m people and rendering this year’s flashy growth target almost certainly unreachable.

The lurch from confidence to anxiety has echoed throughout China. In the months before the coronavirus outbreak, the stockmarket had rallied and businesses had been upbeat, not least because China and America had struck a trade deal. But optimism has crumbled as officials have begun to fight the epidemic.

The Chinese stockmarket has fallen by 10% since January 20th. Factories and offices were supposed to reopen in recent days after the new-year holiday. Most provinces have ordered them to stay shut until at least February 10th. Farmers have warned that their chickens might starve because roadblocks have snarled their feed supplies. Few people dare venture out, hitting restaurants and hotels especially hard. In an interview that attracted much attention before being censored, the founder of Xibei, a restaurant chain, said that if the lockdown persisted for a few months, vast numbers could lose their jobs. “Wouldn’t that be an economic crisis?” he asked.

Analysts have rushed to lower their economic forecasts. The consensus had been that GDP would expand about by 6% year-on-year in the first quarter. Now several expect a 4% pace, the slowest since China began publishing quarterly figures in 1992.

Usually, the further into the future you peer, the greater the uncertainty. But as past epidemics have shown, China’s officials can be fairly confident that growth will rebound to its pre-virus trajectory next year. It is the next couple of months that are the black hole. Three unknowns cloud the outlook: how long it takes to contain the virus; when the government relaxes its heavy-handed restrictions on daily life; and how long after that people resume the whirl of activity that normally makes the Chinese economy so vibrant.

This near-term uncertainty presents a challenge for economic policy. Even if growth plummets, a big stimulus package might be dangerous medicine. Given the lag in spending, the boost from projects announced today could kick in just as the economy gathers steam of its own, leading to overheating. Instead, measures to help people and firms through the rough patch are more sensible. These can be pared back when the recovery eventually arrives. Getting them right, though, is not easy.

Officials are combining temporary cash support with market interventions and forbearance. On February 3rd the central bank injected 1.2trn yuan ($172bn) into the financial system by purchasing treasury bonds from banks that promise to buy them back within 14 days. Banks will probably suffer from rising loan defaults in the coming weeks; this gives them more cash to work with in the near term. The central bank can extend the support if needed.

Officials are also meddling in the stockmarket (or, as they would say, managing it). Regulators have told brokers to bar clients from short selling, so as to limit downward pressure, according to Reuters. State media have also played cheerleader, saying that big state-owned insurance companies were primed to scoop up undervalued stocks. Share prices still dropped by 8% on February 3rd. But that was largely a catch-up with the Hong Kong market, which had been open the previous week. Trading has since stabilised, suggesting that the tactics are working.

Finally, officials have been orchestrating forbearance on various fronts. Shanghai was due to raise companies’ social-security contributions on April 1st. That has been delayed by three months, saving firms an estimated 10bn yuan. In Beijing officials have encouraged landlords to cut their commercial tenants’ rents, in exchange for subsidies. And regulators have called on banks nationwide to roll over loans to companies that would otherwise lack the cash buffers to survive.

Even as the death toll mounts, some officials are already thinking about the economic distortions that have arisen in the course of the battle against the epidemic. Hospitals face shortages of masks, gowns and gloves. At the government’s urging, producers have increased output. But as Liu Shangxi, an adviser to the finance ministry, has noted, they will suffer from severe overcapacity after the crisis passes. The government should thus be ready, he argues, to compensate them.

Such proposals are a far cry from the bold plans that Hubei’s leaders laid out only a few weeks ago. Yet the priority these days is not to gee up growth but to ensure that society remains stable as the quarantines drag on. China’s grim new reality is that everything, even economic policy, revolves around beating the virus.

This article appeared in the Finance and economics section of the print edition under the headline “Companies warn of an economic crisis as China battles coronavirus”

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Chile’s Economy Stagnates in Second Quarter as Demand Withers – BNN Bloomberg

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(Bloomberg) — Chile’s economy is teetering on the brink of recession after unexpectedly flatlining in the second quarter amid soaring inflation and heightened political uncertainty over a new constitution.

Gross domestic product was unchanged in the April-June period from the previous three months, worse than all forecasts in a Bloomberg survey of analysts that had a 0.3% median estimate. It shrank in the first quarter. From a year prior, the economy expanded 5.4%, the central bank reported on Thursday.

Chile’s economy is running out of steam after last year’s boom as President Gabriel Boric’s administration weans the population off of stimulus and inflation hits the highest in almost three decades. Consumers are also getting pinched as the central bank extends aggressive interest rate hikes, while businesses are holding back on investments ahead of next month’s referendum on a new constitution.

Read more: Chile Inflation Tops 13% as Weak Peso Adds to Price Pressure 

What Bloomberg Economics Says

“Chile GDP data for the second quarter showed a second straight drop in domestic demand — confirming the economy has reversed trend after the sharp rebound from the pandemic.”

–Felipe Hernandez, Latin America economist

Click here for full report

Falling Demand

Domestic demand fell 0.9% during the second quarter compared to the first three months of the year as retail dropped by 1.2% and manufacturing declined 0.3%. On the other hand, mining increased 3.1%, according to the central bank. The nation’s current account deficit widened to $6.6 billion.

“All in all, the economic performance during the first half of the year was poor,” Andres Abadia, chief Latin America economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a report. “Looking ahead, conditions remain challenging. We expect GDP to fall by about 0.2% in both Q3 and Q4.”

Annual inflation has rocketed to a 28-year high on rising raw material costs and a recent currency plunge, prompting the central bank to extend a hiking cycle that’s added 925 basis points to borrowing costs in just over a year.

Boric has responded with limited aid including a new round of payouts to help the poorest face the surging cost of living without hurting public finances. It’s a turnaround from last year, when billions of dollars from early pension withdrawals and cash transfers were plowed into the economy.

On Sept. 4, voters will head to the polls for a referendum on a new charter that was written in response to social unrest in 2019-2020. Polls show the proposal will likely be rejected, though Boric has said he will back a new constitutional rewrite, a move that could prolong political uncertainty.

Read more: Latin America’s Market Darling Now More Risky Than Chaotic Peru

(Updates with Bloomberg Economics quote in fourth paragraph)

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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Tourism shaping Osoyoos's economy in big way – Times Chronicle

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By Madeline Baker, Times Chronicle

A report commissioned by Destination Osoyoos has taken a closer look at how tourism shapes Osoyoos’s economy and what improvements, changes and concerns should be considered going forward.

The study behind this report, which was released earlier this year by B.C.’s Larose Research and Strategy, took place in 2020, which was a year full of personal and professional upheaval for communities around the world, but still a busy enough year in the tourism sector to be reflective of larger ongoing trends.

In fact, Osoyoos saw approximately 300,000 visitors in 2020, which Destination Osoyoos’s Executive Director Kelley Glazer believes is likely to be higher than 2019. The majority of these visitors stayed in Osoyoos for over a week, filling hotels, resorts, B&Bs and private vacation rentals as well as campgrounds and RV parks.

Not only is that double the length of most stays in an average B.C. community, but over 25 per cent of those visitors had been to Osoyoos more than 10 times previously. With so many return visitors, it’s hardly surprising that 71 per cent of them would be likely to recommend the town to friends or colleagues as a holiday destination and only about three per cent would not.

All that positive word of mouth may explain why Osoyoos also stands out as a travel destination for people from Canada’s prairie and eastern provinces. B.C. communities typically see twice as many visitors from Alberta as from the rest of Canada combined but Osoyoos saw only 12 per cent from Alberta and 27 per cent from other parts of Canada.

Economic impact

When it comes to the economic impact of all these visitors, Osoyoos is also in a unique position among most other communities in B.C. Due in part to the number of overnight rather than same-day visitors, in part to the length of their stays, and in part to the draw of the Okanagan Valley’s wine industry, the average expenditure per visitor here is much higher.

However, a popular misconception of Osoyoos as a “playground for the rich” is not reflected in the data gathered by Larose. In fact, the report shows a diversity of household income that can be considered representative of the same diversity across B.C. and Canada, despite the large amounts of money spent during holidays here. 

A total of $174 million was spent in Osoyoos in 2020, and almost entirely by tourists because of the mass switch by many professional sectors to working from home and a resulting lack of business travellers. Combined with tax revenue, that makes the entire impact $264 million for a single year.

Unsurprisingly, about one third of employment in Osoyoos was directly tied to the tourism sector, which also contributes to the economic profile of the town across all seasons. Larose polled a collection of residents for the report to learn their feelings about many aspects of living in a tourist town, including its employment prospects, with rather mixed results.

While Osoyoos residents generally recognized the economic opportunities created by tourism, there was also a strong belief that growth opportunities in the tourism sector are more limited than in others, and that tourism is inherently an unstable industry.

They had bigger worries than employment, though: some replies to the poll connected the lack of available, affordable rental properties in Osoyoos with its focus on tourism, while others felt that the crowds contributed to pollution and traffic congestion in the community to a concerning degree.

Pluses and minuses

The report closes with recommendations to maximize Osoyoos’s biggest draws for tourist traffic and mitigate its weaker points. By a large margin, visitors recommended the authentic Indigenous cultural experiences that can be found here as the best reason to make the trip, and the report identified this as Osoyoos’s most unique drawing point. 

Glazer confirmed that she has seen the popularity of local Indigenous cultural centres among out-of-towners firsthand. “I had some relatives come from Europe, and besides coming here to see myself, the one thing they made time for was going to the cultural centre. It was much the same as it would be if we went to Europe and wanted to see the culture.”

She added that the Okanagan Indian Band’s “business development approach to tourism” has made them an excellent marketing partner for Destination Osoyoos. “They haven’t really needed a whole lot of assistance, but we do market all of their products and include them as part of our community offerings.”

Food and beverage services and nightlife activities were pinpointed as unsatisfying areas for visitors, as was the lack of parking and abundance of motor boats near beaches. “Improving the quality and availability of food and beverage is a big challenge,” said Glazer. “I don’t care where you travel in this world right now, dining out is probably not the best experience.”

Glazer does see a way forward with the issue of motor boat usage in the wrong areas, which she believes will require a stronger partnership with local law enforcement. “Presence is key. We have two RCMP officers who are actually qualified to run our RCMP boat, and that’s just not enough people to deal with that,” she said. 

As for the report’s recommendation that Osoyoos “[enhance] resident awareness of, and involvement in tourism-related planning discussions,” Glazer had to admit that she was at a loss for new strategies.

“Invitations [to planning sessions] are sent out constantly, over and over again. We’ve phoned people and asked them to come, and then we get the usual turnout,” she said. “So I’m not quite sure what we will do there.”

The report will now be used “to ensure that the [tourism] sector maximizes benefits to visitors, tourism businesses, and residents, while improving local quality of life, respecting local culture and heritage, and preserving the region’s unique and sensitive ecosystems,” as said in its closing words.

It may also be shared with other resort municipalities that share similar strengths and concerns with Osoyoos.

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Economy

What you need to know about the global economy this week – World Economic Forum

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License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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