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Croatia holds election amid sharp economic downturn, rising coronavirus infections – The Guardian

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By Igor Ilic

ZAGREB (Reuters) – Croatia held an election on Sunday at a time of rising coronavirus infections and a sharp economic downturn from the pandemic, with the outcome likely to lead to political negotiations to form a new government.

The ruling centre-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) has had a slight advantage in most opinion polls over its main rival, the Social Democrats (SDP), but neither party is seen being able to govern on its own.

“At these challenging times both for public health and the economy Croatia deserves to be led by experienced and responsible people,” Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenkovic told supporters this week, hinting at his two top opponents’ lack of vision and experience.

They are SDP leader Davor Bernardic and popular singer Miroslav Skoro, whose nationalist and eurosceptic Domovinski Pokret (Homeland Movement) has fared third in the opinion polls with just above 10% support, compared with close to 30% for the two top parties.

Polling stations opened at 0500 GMT and will close at 1700 GMT when the exit polls will be released. The first preliminary official results are expected around two hours later.

“My choice is Skoro as I believe his party wants stability and to stop the young people from moving to seek jobs abroad,” said Ilija Grlic, a voter from the Zagreb area.

The new government will have an uphill task to keep a grip on the coronavirus while trying to restore the economy, expected to shrink some 10% this year. Tourism revenues are forecast to slump 70%.

“I think that the SDP could be a relative winner, but that the HDZ could be the one to eventually form a (coalition) cabinet,” said Kristijan, a teacher, before casting a ballot.

Some analysts believe that the two biggest parties may be forced to join forces, as the alternative of trying to form a stable government with junior partners, such as Skoro’s Homeland or the conservative Most (Bridge) party, may prove difficult.

Both Plenkovic and Bernardic have firmly rejected the idea of a “grand coalition”.

Croatia has reported a relatively small number of coronavirus infections — 3,000 COVID-19 cases and around 100 deaths recorded so far — but infections have accelerated in the past two weeks, with the daily number of new cases currently peaking at around 80.

(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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City Council approves ideas meant to stimulate the local economy – EverythingGP

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Photo by Curtis Galbraith

By Curtis Galbraith

City Hall

Aug 12, 2020 5:30 AM

City Council has decided how it wants to allocate some of the money in an economic recovery fund set up in response to the pandemic.

The biggest share, $450,000, will go into the Beautification & Patio Grant for businesses across the city. The grants would cover half the cost, up to $15,000, of adding a patio or improving signage, facades, or landscaping.

Mayor Bill Given says the city wants to stimulate the economy by having owners re-invest in their businesses.

“This new program is essentially modelled after our very successful Downtown Incentive Program. (It) led to the redevelopment of a lot of the facades on downtown businesses was also a matching grant program and for every $1 the city invested in that program; we saw about $4 in actual economic activity happen. So, we saw this as a really great opportunity for those property owners who are interested and willing to partner with the city in upgrading their businesses and improving the general appearance of the community and that is something that puts tradespeople to work immediately.”

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UK crashes into deepest recession of any major economy – CNN

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This crash in GDP in the April-June period is the worst since quarterly records began in 1955 and follows a 2.2% contraction in the first quarter. Industries most exposed to government lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic — services, production and construction — saw record drops.
Boris Johnson's dream of a 'Global Britain' is turning into a nightmare
“Today’s figures confirm that hard times are here,” UK finance minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement. “Hundreds of thousands of people have already lost their jobs, and sadly in the coming months many more will. But while there are difficult choices to be made ahead, we will get through this, and I can assure people that nobody will be left without hope or opportunity.”
Compared with the end of 2019, UK economic output fell by a cumulative 22.1% in the first six months of 2020, a worse outcome than Germany, France and Italy, and double the 10.6% fall recorded in the United States, the Office for National Statistics said.
“The larger contraction primarily reflects how lockdown measures have been in place for a larger part of this period in the UK,” the ONS added.
Britain imposed a strict lockdown two weeks later than Italy, 10 days after Spain and a week after France, despite swelling coronavirus cases. That meant it took longer to get the spread of the virus under control, which prolonged the need for restrictions that kept many businesses closed.
For example, Italy allowed restaurants, cafes and hairdressers to reopen in the middle of May, whereas the United Kingdom waited until July 4 to do the same.
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An easing of some lockdown restrictions in June, including the reopening of nonessential shops, delivered an immediate boost to the economy, with GDP increasing 8.7% on the previous month, according to the ONS.
The UK economy is heavily reliant on services and household spending, both of which posted record declines in the second quarter, as consumers who were holed up at home spent less money and saved more. In addition, millions of workers were furloughed and many have now been laid off.
The UK economy has shed 730,000 jobs since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses in March, with the young, the old and the self-employed bearing the brunt of the unemployment crisis.
Kallum Pickering, a senior economist at Berenberg, said the GDP figures do not bode well for the rest of the year.
“Typically, recession data are subject to heavy revisions,” he said in a research note. “Nevertheless, taken at face value, the bigger-than-expected contraction suggests some downside risk to our call of a 9.5% contraction in full year 2020.”

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U.K. economy officially in recession after 20.4 per cent Q2 slump – CTV News

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LONDON —
The U.K. economy has officially fallen into a recession after official figures showed it contracting by a record 20.4 per cent in the second quarter as a result of lockdown measures put in place to counter the coronavirus pandemic.

The slump recorded by the Office for National Statistics follows a 2.2 per cent quarterly contraction in the first three months of the year. As such, the U.K. economy is in a recession — commonly defined as two quarters of negative growth.

Unlike other countries, Britain’s statistics agency provides monthly figures to accompany the quarterly numbers and these show some hope that the economy is healing in the wake of the easing of some lockdown restrictions. In June, when shops selling non-essential goods were allowed to reopen, the British economy grew by a monthly rate of 8.7 per cent.

“The economy began to bounce back in June with shops reopening, factories beginning to ramp up production and house-building continuing to recover,” said statistician Jonathan Athow.

Despite this, he said the economy remains a sixth below its level in February, before the virus started to impact.

The British government hopes that the further easing of the economy over recent months, such as the reopening of the hospitality sector in July, will allow the economy to claw back further ground.

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