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Economy in focus, Argentina's pandemic strategy shifts for second wave – The Journal Pioneer

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By Agustin Geist

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez was clear when COVID-19 first hit the country early last year: saving lives at all costs trumped any economic concerns.

Now facing a second wave of infections, the South American nation has adjusted its strategy to prioritize protecting its fragile economy. It is hoping greater experience dealing with the coronavirus, a nascent vaccine program, and short, regional lockdowns can help keep the virus in check.

The second wave comes at a delicate time for the center-left Peronist government. It is heading for mid-term elections in October to defend its majority in Congress, its popularity bruised by a strict, lengthy lockdown last year and the hard economic hit.

The grains producer is also in talks with the International Monetary Fund to revamp some $45 billion in loans it cannot pay back and needs to fire up economic growth to bring in much needed hard currency. And creditors are looking for signs of recovery after a sovereign debt restructuring last year.

The Fernandez administration wants to avoid imposing a blanket lockdown, instead using data on caseloads to establish short-term localized restrictions, reinforce sanitary measures, and maintain controls over borders, a government source said.

The government also wants to accelerate a vaccine roll-out delayed by shortage of supply, aiming to have all medical workers and those at high risk vaccinated before the fast-approaching southern winter.

Argentina’s economy contracted around 10% last year, the third straight year of recession, and Economy Minister Martin Guzman has said it “could not withstand” another total shutdown. Poverty levels rose to 42% in the second half of last year.

The country has recorded around 2.4 million coronavirus cases and over 56,000 deaths, and a second wave is building with recent daily cases at 80% of the peak and rising, a Reuters tally of official data shows. On Tuesday, infections reached a daily record.

“The second wave and incidence of cases could be even worse when the variants take hold,” said Tomás Orduna, an infectious disease specialist who advises the government, referring to the P1 ‘Brazilian’ variant and others racing through the region.

‘WARNING LIGHTS’

Argentine infectious diseases expert Martin Hojman said the southern hemisphere winter and reopening of activities would keep driving the second wave.

He said the rate of vaccinations – which has seen some 4.3 million doses administered so far in a country with a population of around 45 million – was not fast enough.

Leda Guzzi, a Buenos Aires-based infectious disease expert, said there had been a very substantial jump in cases over the last month, and pointed to the ‘R number’, which measures transmission rates, soaring in some areas.

“When this index is greater than 1.2 it means that cases are accelerating in a worrying way and that the warning lights should come on… This is happening in various jurisdictions and various departments,” she said.

Despite that, schools and restaurants in most places are open, and many Argentines say they do not want another strict lockdown.

“I think there must be a middle ground where the economy does not collapse and stores do not close and so many people are left on the street and without work,” said Ambar Rujal, a 19-year-old student in Buenos Aires.

Jorge Giacobbe, a Buenos Aires-based political analyst, said the government would not want to risk upsetting voters so close to October’s legislative elections.

“There are going to be restrictions, but the government knows that it cannot make harsh restrictions again. People will not allow it after having suffered such a strict quarantine in 2020,” he said.

(Reporting by Agustin Geist; Additional reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Rosalba O’Brien)

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Province Invests in Wellington County Businesses to Boost Local Economy – Government of Ontario News

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Province Invests in Wellington County Businesses to Boost Local Economy  Government of Ontario News



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Powell meets a changed economy: Fewer workers, higher prices – 95.7 News

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Restaurant and hotel owners struggling to fill jobs. Supply-chain delays forcing up prices for small businesses. Unemployed Americans unable to find work even with job openings at a record high.

Those and other disruptions to the U.S. economy — consequences of the viral pandemic that erupted 18 months ago — appear likely to endure, a group of business owners and nonprofit executives told Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Friday.

The business challenges, described during a “Fed Listens” virtual roundtable, underscore the ways that the COVID-19 outbreak and its delta variant are continuing to transform the U.S. economy. Some participants in the event said their business plans were still evolving. Others complained of sluggish sales and fluctuating fortunes after the pandemic eased this summer and then intensified in the past two months.

“We are really living in unique times,” Powell said at the end of the discussion. “I’ve never seen these kinds of supply-chain issues, never seen an economy that combines drastic labor shortages with lots of unemployed people. … So, it’s a very fast changing economy. It’s going to be quite different from the one (before).”

The Fed chair asked Cheetie Kumar, a restaurant owner in Raleigh, North Carolina, why she has had such trouble finding workers. Powell’s question goes to the heart of the Fed’s mandate of maximizing employment, because many people who were working before the pandemic lost jobs and are no longer looking for one. When — or whether — these people resume their job hunts will help determine when the Fed can conclude that the economy has achieved maximum employment.

Kumar told Powell that many of her former employees have decided to permanently leave the restaurant industry.

“I think a lot of people wanted to make life changes, and we lost a lot of people to different industries,” she said. “I think half of our folks decided to go back to school.”

Kumar said her restaurant now pays a minimum of $18 an hour, and she added that higher wages are likely a long-term change for the restaurant industry.

“We cannot get by and pay people $13 an hour and expect them to stay with us for years and years,” Kumar said. “It’s just not going to happen.”

Loren Nalewanski, a vice president at Marriott Select Brands, said his company is losing housekeepers to other jobs that have recently raised pay. Even the recent cutoff of a $300-a-week federal unemployment supplement, he said, hasn’t led to an increase in job applicants.

“People have left the industry and unfortunately they’re finding other things to do,” Nalewanski said. “Other industries that didn’t pay as much perhaps … are (now) paying a lot more.”

Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press

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Dialogue NB Seeks To Rebuild An Inclusive Economy Through Conversation – Huddle – Huddle Today

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MONCTON – Dialogue NB CEO Nadine Duguay-Lemay says the business community has an integral place in a conversation about building a more equal and just New Brunswick.

That very conversation will take place on September 27 in Moncton with Dialogue Day 2021.

“When we talk about anti-racism, notions of equality, diversity, acceptance and inclusion and all those notions we celebrate, it’s not something we can do on our own,” said Duguay-Lemay.

“The business community actively needs to participate, if anything, because those topics concern them. That’s why you see so many business support the event.”

The volunteer-led non-profit organization plans to host an inclusive conversation on Monday at Moncton’s Crowne Plaza and virtually, online.

Dedicated to building social cohesion in New Brunswick, the sold-out event will feature discussions about racial justice in the workplace, rethinking the economy as it recovers from the pandemic and how to be a better ally to Indigenous people.

The event, which has sold out of in-person seats, will feature Jeremy Dutcher, a Wolastoq singer, songwriter, composer, musicologist and activist from Tobique First Nation, as its keynote speaker.

The mandate of the discussions is to ensure everyone feels heard, valued and that they belong, making diversity an asset – something Duguay-Lemay considers imperative to a functional economy.

“What I’ve found is that people don’t like to go into uncomfortable discussions. Some people want to embrace social cohesion but don’t know where to start, or are afraid of saying the wrong thing. This is our expertise – we’re good at the art of dialogue and multiple viewpoints at one table,” she said.

“We need a lot of different voices and perspectives at the table to rethink the system for the wellbeing of all. These discussions shouldn’t be happening in isolation.”

Duguay-Lemay said New Brunswick faces many economic challenges, noting a diverse workforce will help recover from those challenges.

She stressed that the business community needs to work toward a goal of truth and reconciliation, and in a call with Huddle, rebutted the metaphor of everyone being on the same boat during the pandemic.

“I’d argue we’re all facing the same storm, but not in the same boat. Some people are in yachts and some are in little boats about to capsize,” she said.

Other voices are emerging – female and Indigenous, for example – looking to address poverty and wage inequality and unfairness, employment access, systemic racism and environmental degradation, noted Duguay-Lemay, adding that the province’s 4,418 non-profits need more recognition as an economic partner.

“Inclusion is embedded in our DNA as Canadians. We’re already a country and province that abides by those laws, so it’s important to look at inclusion,” she said.

The conversations will also focus on racial justice in the workplace, how the pandemic hurt Indigenous and black Canadian employment, versus non-minorities, access to employment – and the social barriers that exist for racialized workers.

“I invite all organizations, employers, public and non-profits to look at their practices in place and ask if they walk the talk for truth and reconciliation. We’re all treaty people – how do we uphold this?” said Duguay-Lemay.

“We want to at least demonstrate to Indigenous people in New Brunswick that we hear their plight and are serious about truth and reconciliation.”

Greater social cohesion is the best step forward, Duguay-Lemay noted, adding that real dialogue can build an economy that works for everyone.

She said matters of racial justice in the workplace – and specific matters, such as owners objecting to the declaration of September 30 as a statutory holiday, contending that they can’t afford it – will be among the economic issues for which solutions will be sought.

The conversation will also focus on how the province’s recovery from the pandemic has exposed inequalities in the economy.

Duguay-Lemay stressed the need to learn from the way the pandemic exposed inequalities, and rethink a system that works for everyone.

“We need to think differently and it really shouldn’t be based on the interests of the privileged,” said Duguay-Lemay.

“As employers are looking to attract and retain talent, we hear about skill shortages all the time. This becomes a matter of attracting talent, whether from newcomers or tapping into Indigenous communities, how can we make our workplaces more equitable and inclusive?

The event will feature an “eclectic” round table of specialists, artists, activists and experts from numerous sectors, and identities in New Brunswick, with opportunities for networking, inspiration for change with concrete examples and skills to help become a social leader.

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