Mark Wiseman is chair of the Alberta Investment Management Corporation.
The economic crisis wrought by COVID-19 has been devastating, and the effects will linger long after a vaccine. In the early days of the pandemic our government quite rightly threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at the problem, to protect Canadians physically and economically. The government and the Bank of Canada worked quickly and deployed every fiscal and monetary tool available.
Now, a little more than six months into the crisis, we have racked up hundreds of billions of dollars of debt and monetary policy is quickly reaching its limits. Paying this debt back, especially with the medium-term threat of inflation, will be crippling for a generation of Canadians. To avoid this eventuality, we must embark today on a long-term growth and recovery plan.
There is no doubt that government must continue to spend aggressively. This path is not one that we chose; the pandemic has thrust it upon us. But now that we are here, it is crucial that dollars are spent efficiently and in ways that will stimulate long-term growth. A sustainable economic recovery needs to see Canada’s long-term GDP growth rate rise to approximately 3 per cent (from a prepandemic 2 per cent) to make certain that we can pay off the billions in necessary expenditures.
To begin, Ottawa should ensure spending on near-term relief programs are highly effective and efficient. Every dollar the government spends needs to be repaid, so it should be extra vigilant with every penny spent. Ottawa needs to quickly revisit existing programs to eliminate unintended consequences and disincentives – ensuring that Canadians get safely back to work as soon as possible.
In regards to the longer term, the private sector will lead the economic recovery. The government’s growth plan ought to be one where it invests aggressively in both physical and human capital to catalyze the private sector and create jobs. Government, labour and business must work together to achieve Canada’s economic growth goals.
Ottawa’s investment in physical and human capital should therefore focus on six priorities:
1. The first is long-term infrastructure that catalyzes economic growth, such as investments in transit, transport, pipelines, ports and communications infrastructure. These are projects that will create jobs today and pay dividends for decades to come.
2. Getting our natural resources, including energy, to market efficiently and safely is imperative. We must invest today to get our products to where the demand is globally. Time is of the essence and our natural resources sectors are imperilled. Wherever possible, Ottawa needs to partner with Indigenous communities to achieve this.
3. We must build resiliency into vital components of our supply chain – COVID-19 taught us the importance of this. We cannot allow ourselves to be at risk again. Both government and the private sector must invest more in our supply chains, especially in critical areas such as agriculture and medical needs.
4. The government should support start-ups and innovative small- and medium-sized enterprises through tax incentives, specifically encouraging equity investment and ownership in a small number of key areas where we have demonstrated capabilities, including information technology and agribusiness
5. We need more people – a lot more. We need skilled and unskilled labour from all over the world. The government ought to double down on our immigration advantage, especially for getting talent that traditionally has gone to the United States. In the near term, we must increase our immigration target to 500,000 a year and provide guaranteed permanent residency to any foreigner who completes a postsecondary degree or diploma in Canada. Almost all our economic growth since the Second World War is attributable to population growth. Given current birth rates, accelerated growth requires accelerated immigration.
6. As it has done with health care transfers, Ottawa should work aggressively with provincial governments to create a national child-care/early childhood education program that will be in place within 24 months. This program is conceived as an economic initiative, not a social program. It is required in order to a) achieve higher work force participation by making it easier for caregivers, most often women, to work, b) make it easier for Canadians to have children if they choose to do so, and c) focus on the next generation, since it has been proven that early learning is one of the most important components of human success.
Finally, all the above growth initiatives can and should be done through a green lens, even though a green recovery in and of itself is not a recovery plan. Achieving this growth objective will not be easy. But the government can develop a clear and cogent plan and work with partners in business and labour to execute.
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Canadian economy caps strong third quarter before slowdown – BNN
Canada’s economy recorded what are likely its last strong months of growth in August and September, as the country braces for an end-of-year slowdown.
Gross domestic product expanded 1.2 per cent in August, Statistics Canada said Friday in Ottawa. The agency also released a preliminary estimate for September, which showed a 0.7 per cent expansion — a fifth straight month of historically elevated readings as the economy rebounded from a sharp contraction from the COVID-19 lockdowns.
With September figures in, the data suggest the economy grew 10 per cent in the third quarter, the agency said, implying about 46 per cent growth on an annualized basis — which would be an all-time high.
“The numbers are solid overall,” David Doyle, an economist at Macquarie Capital Markets, said by email.
But things will get much slower from here. This week the Bank of Canada projected annualized growth of only one per cent in the final three months of the year, and reiterated expectations for a drawn out recovery over the next several quarters.
Canada’s currency appreciated slightly on the report, rising 0.2 per cent to $1.3295 against the U.S. dollar at 9:07 a.m. Toronto time. The yield on government two year bonds was little changed at 0.25 per cent.
The numbers suggest economic activity in September was about 96.1 per cent of output levels in February.
Economists were expecting 0.9 per cent growth in August, according the the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey.
Warmer weather, lower virus counts and mass re-openings encouraged a surge in retail spending between July and September. In addition, pent-up demand for housing led to a boom in construction and real estate in the third quarter.
The September reading is still a “solid starting point” for the fourth quarter, Derek Holt, an economist at Bank of Nova Scotia, said by email. He estimates a fourth-quarter gain of 3.5 per cent annualized, compared with the Bank of Canada’s one per cent estimate.
Canada's economy grew 1.2% in August as pace of growth cools down – Radio Canada International – English Section
Statistics Canada says the pace of economic growth slowed in August as real gross domestic product grew 1.2 per cent in the month. (Matt York/THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP)
Canada’s economy grew by 1.2 per cent in August slightly higher than what economists were expecting but significantly slower than in previous months as the pace of economic recovery began losing steam.
In July, Canada’s economy had grown by 3.1 per cent, the national statistics agency said Friday.
Statistics Canada noted that August marked the fourth straight month of growth following the steepest drops on record back in March and April amid pandemic lockdowns.
The economy was expected to grow by further 0.7 per cent in September, according to Statistics Canada’s preliminary estimate.
Both goods-producing and services-producing industries were up as 15 of 20 industrial sectors posted increases and two were essentially unchanged in August, Statistics Canada said.
August saw healthy increases in the public sector, especially in education, professional services, manufacturing and construction, the data agency said.
Accommodation and food services, the hardest hit sectors by the pandemic, also continued their recovery, though at a much slower pace.
However, the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector decreased 1.7 per cent in August, Statistics Canada said.
RBC economist Claire Fan said the economy has retraced around 75 per cent of the losses earlier in spring, but still sits about five per cent below February’s pre-pandemic level.
The bigger concern is how much of that third quarter growth can be sustained beyond September, Fan said.
COVID cases have been on the rise, prompting local governments to re-introduce some containment measures in hotspots, she said.
“The less stringent and more targeted response this time around probably means activity held up much better than it did back in April,” Fan wrote in a research note to clients. “But the economic rebound was already slowing ahead of the virus resurgence, and there is still clearly a risk that broader containment measures could yet be needed.”
Fan said she expects growth in activity for the industrial sector and some services industries like retail and professional services to persist beyond September.
But hospitality industries, alongside the oil and gas sector, will once again face much bigger challenges as demand weakens, she warned.
Lifted by U.S., Mexico economy rebounds 12% in third quarter from coronavirus – The Journal Pioneer
By Dave Graham
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s economy grew 12.0% during the third quarter, largely as expected, making up for much of the record contraction over the previous three months at the height of the coronavirus lockdown, preliminary data showed on Friday.
The seasonally-adjusted jump in gross domestic product (GDP) published by national statistics agency INEGI was fractionally better than the 11.9% expansion predicted by a Reuters poll.
The quarter-on-quarter increase was easily the biggest since current records began at the start of the 1980s, and benefited from massive stimulus spending in the United States.
U.S. demand helped Mexico rack up large trade surpluses during the past four months, as exports picked up speed, especially in the automotive industry. By contrast, domestic demand has lagged, with many businesses still struggling.
Alfredo Coutino, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, said Mexico was still heavily reliant on the U.S. economy, and forecast the recovery would slow in the months ahead.
“The Mexican economy is benefiting from the upturn in the U.S. business cycle, mainly through the U.S. demand for Mexican exports and remittances sent by Mexican migrants working in the U.S.,” Coutino said in a research note.
Between April and June, at the peak of Mexico’s pandemic lockdown, the economy shrank 17.1% from the first quarter.
Mexico has not recovered as quickly as the U.S. economy, which shrank by an annualized rate of 31.4% in the second quarter then jumped by 33.1% in the July-September period.
Despite the economic chaos of the pandemic, remittances to Mexico have surged this year, and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has forecast they will reach a record $40 billion.
During a regular news conference, Lopez Obrador hailed the GDP figures as evidence the economy was bouncing back.
A breakdown of the data showed primary activities like farming, forestry and fishing advanced by 7.4% compared with the previous quarter. Secondary activities such as manufacturing increased by 22.0%, INEGI said. Meanwhile tertiary activities, which encompass consumer spending and services, climbed 8.6%.
Lopez Obrador was eager to point out that the primary sector, which he has pushed with schemes to boost farming and tree planting, is doing better now than it was a year ago.
Mexico’s economy is forecast to shrink almost 10% in 2020, its deepest annual contraction since the Great Depression.
However, primary activities, which make up only a small part of the economy, were up 2.7% in the first nine months of this year compared with the same period in 2019, INEGI said.
The severest months for the Mexican economy were April and May, when much of business activity ground to a halt, leading to the loss of roughly one million formal jobs. By Oct. 28, more than 400,000 jobs had been recovered, Lopez Obrador said.
Compared with the same period last year, Latin America’s no. 2 economy shrank by 8.6% in unadjusted terms in the third quarter, just less than the Reuters forecast of 8.7%.
Final third quarter data is due to be published on Nov. 26.
(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)
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