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India now second worst-hit country by virus amid economic pain – CTV News

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NEW DELHI —
India’s increasing coronavirus caseload made the Asian giant the pandemic’s second-worst-hit country behind the United States on Monday as its efforts to head off economic disaster gain urgency.

The 90,802 cases added in the past 24 hours pushed India’s total past Brazil with 4.2 million cases. India is now only behind the United States, where more than 6.2 million people have been infected, according to Johns Hopkins University.

India’s Health Ministry on Monday also reported 1,016 deaths for a total of 71,642, the third-highest national toll.

The world’s second-most populous country with 1.4 billion people, India has been recording the world’s largest daily increases in coronavirus cases for almost a month. Despite over 2 million new cases in the past month and the virus spreading through the country’s smaller towns and villages, the Indian government has continued relaxing restrictions to try and resuscitate the economy.

On Monday, the Delhi Metro — a rapid transit system that serves India’s sprawling capital New Delhi and adjoining areas — resumed operations after five months.

Only asymptomatic people were allowed to board the chugging trains, with masks, social distancing and temperature checks mandatory.

“We are on our way. It’s been 169 days since we’ve seen you!,” the official Twitter account of Delhi Metro tweeted.

The capital’s metro train network is India’s largest rapid transport system. Before closing down in March, the packed trains carried an average of 2.6 million passengers daily.

The reopening comes after India’s economy shrank faster than any other major nation’s, nearly 24 per cent in the last quarter.

India’s economic pain dates to the demonetization of the nation’s currency in 2016 and a hasty rollout of a goods and services tax the next year. But the harsh virus lockdown that started on March 24 further exacerbated the country’s economic woes.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered 1.4 billion Indians to stay indoors, the whole economy shut down within four hours. Millions lost their jobs instantly and tens and thousands of migrant workers, out of money and fearing starvation, poured out of cities and headed back to villages. The unprecedented migration not only hollowed out India’s economy but also spread the virus to the far reaches of the country.

Now, as the cases surge, most of the country, except in high-risk areas, has already opened up and authorities say that they have little choice.

“While lives are important, livelihoods are equally important,” said Rajesh Bhusan, the top official of India’s federal health ministry at a news briefing last week.

Almost 60% of India’s active cases are coming from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. But infections are also returning to areas that had managed to slow the spread of the virus, offsetting marginal gains.

Initially hit hard by the virus, New Delhi had seemed to turn the tide through its aggressive screening for patients. But after reopening steadily, the state has reported a recent surge in cases and fatalities. The reopening of the metro is expected to further worsen the situation, experts fear.

The recent surge in cases also highlights the risks of India’s strategy on relying too heavily on rapid tests that screen for antigens or viral proteins. These tests are cheap, yield results in minutes and have allowed India to test over a million patients daily.

But they are also less precise and likely to miss infected people, said Dr. Gagandeep Kang, an infectious diseases expert of Christian Medical College at Vellore in southern India.

India also says its recovery rate is 77.3 per cent and the case fatality rate has declined to around 1.72 per cent.

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AP-NORC poll: Dim view of economy stable as election nears – 570 News

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WASHINGTON — Most Americans view the nation’s economic situation as bleak, but a rising percentage also see signs of stability six weeks before Election Day — if not reasons for optimism.

According to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 60% of Americans describe the national economy as poor and 40% deem it good. That’s a rebound in confidence from low points in April and May, when just 29% called the economy good as the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the country.

About 4 in 10 Americans — 43% — say they expect the economy to improve in the next year, about the same as in July. But just 28% said they expect things to get even worse, a slight improvement from the 35% who said so in July and a significant improvement from May, when 40% expected things to continue getting worse. This month, 27% expect no change in economic conditions in the next year.

That relative hopefulness may say more about the nation’s politics than the underlying health of the world’s largest economy.

President Donald Trump is seeking reelection against Democrat Joe Biden with stock market gains as a rallying cry. The unemployment rate has improved, but remains high at 8.4%, and lawmakers have failed to agree on additional aid for Americans suffering financially due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the continued toll from the virus — including the loss of schooling and revenue shortfalls for state and local governments — threatens the prospect for a wider recovery.

The poll found that 67% of Republicans call the economy good, compared with 16% of Democrats. Republicans are significantly more likely to expect the economy to get better than worse in the next year, 64% to 14%. Among Democrats, 39% expect things to get worse and 28% expect them to get better, while 32% expect no change.

“It’s kind of just in a neutral gear,” said Gary Cameron, 65, a retiree and Trump supporter from Midwest City, Oklahoma. “I do expect after the pandemic is over, it will probably go back to where it was, maybe better.”

But Cameron believes that the world’s largest economy would be hurt by a Biden presidency, saying he does not believe the country suffers from systemic racism and that addressing the demands of civil rights protesters would come at the expense of institutions that drive growth.

“The people the Democratic Party have gotten into bed with do not love America,” Cameron said. “I think it would do damage to the country.”

The poll finds that half of Americans approve of how Trump is handling the economy, which remains his strongest issue. By comparison, 43% approve of how he’s handling his job overall. Eighty-nine per cent of Republicans and 15% of Democrats approve of Trump’s handling of the economy.

About two-thirds of Americans — 65% — say their own personal finances are good. That number has remained largely steady since before the pandemic began. Seventy-eight per cent of Republicans and 58% of Democrats say their personal finances are good. Americans are also more likely to expect their personal finances to get better than worse, 38% to 13%, with 48% expecting no change.

Bob Blanchard, 73, of Augusta, Georgia, lives in a community hurt by the coronavirus and the loss of business locally from a spectator-free Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. A consulting engineer, Blanchard said local businesses are suffering and he can no longer make money by renting out his house to the crowds who came for the fabled golf tournament.

“My wife and I don’t go out to eat,” Blanchard said. “We avoid retail shopping like the plague. No pun intended.”

Blanchard, who intends to vote for Biden, says the blame for this rests with Trump.

“He just was completely irresponsible and incompetent,” he said. “He knew it was bad, but he didn’t do anything.”

The poll shows 22% of Americans who say they or someone in their household lost a job as a result of the pandemic say the job has returned. Thirty-five per cent expect the job to come back, but 44% expect it won’t.

Overall, 27% of Americans say their household lost a job, 36% that someone was scheduled for fewer hours, 26% took unpaid time off and 27% had wages or salaries reduced. All told, 53% experienced at least one form of household income loss during the pandemic. Income losses have been especially concentrated among Black and Hispanic Americans and those without college degrees.

Ryan Wilson, 37, said that half of the workers at the seafood warehouse where he’s a supervisor were furloughed when the pandemic started — and not all have returned to their jobs. A resident of Altamonte Springs, Florida, he said his concern is that the economic troubles are worsening drug addiction and domestic violence.

“People are really suffering,” he said. “They’re facing levels of depression, anxiety and distress — and not just financially. They turn to something to escape the daily pressures of life and that’s ravaging across American right now.”

___

The AP-NORC poll of 1,108 adults was conducted Sept. 11-14 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.

___

Online:

AP-NORC Center: http://www.apnorc.org/

Josh Boak And Emily Swanson, The Associated Press

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German economy to shrink by 5.2% this year, grow by 5.1% next year – Ifo – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Ifo institute on Tuesday said Europe’s largest economy would likely shrink by 5.2% this year, raising its previous estimate for a 6.7% drop, in the latest sign the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could be smaller than initially feared.

“The decline in the second quarter and the recovery are currently developing more favourably than we had expected,” Ifo chief economist Timo Wollmershaeuser said.

For 2021, Ifo cut its economic forecast for Germany to 5.1% growth from its previous estimate of 6.4%. It expects the economy to expand by 1.7% in 2022.

The number of people out of work is seen rising to 2.7 million this year from 2.3 million in 2019, before edging down to 2.6 million in 2021 and then to 2.5 million in 2022.

That would translate into a jump in the unemployment rate to 5.9% this year from 5.0% last year. The rate would then drop to 5.7% percent in 2021 and 5.5% in 2022, Ifo said.

The Ifo institute cautioned that there was an unusually high degree of uncertainty attached to the forecasts. It pointed to the rising number of coronavirus infections, the risk of a disorderly Brexit and unresolved trade disputes.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Michelle Adair)

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Coronavirus economy: The 'banker ladies' saving friends from debt – BBC News

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Minority communities in the US and elsewhere have sometimes turned to traditional money saving methods outside the formal banking system. The economic shock from the coronavirus pandemic could spur renewed interest in those savings clubs.

When Hilda Robles recalls her first years in America, tears come to her eyes.

“I cried and even wanted to leave at one point because I felt alone,” she says. “I would ask people for help and they couldn’t help me because they didn’t understand Spanish and I didn’t understand English.”

When she came to San Antonio, Texas some 20 years ago, even daily duties like getting to work or going to the doctor were feats of bilingual diplomacy and logistical planning – she had no car, no English and almost no one to turn to for help.

Opening a bank account seemed impossible. “When I stepped into a bank for the first time, I was told I couldn’t open a bank account because I had no social security number,” she says.

“Someone told me about a bank where I could open an account with no social security number, but the language barrier stopped me from going.”

So Ms Robles, 49, went a different route – she started a tanda, an informal savings club popular in Latin America, with contributions from her extended relatives.

Members of the club each contribute a fixed sum to a pool of money on a regular, periodic schedule, with the lump sum going to one member each round until everyone gets paid.

This means that members get back what they put in over the course of the scheme, but by getting it in the form of a lump sum, the money can be put to use for purchases, investments or debt payments they otherwise could not afford. Members who get their “hand” early are effectively receiving an interest-free loan, while those who receive theirs later in the cycle are essentially withdrawing a lump of “saved” cash.

With the $5,000 lump sum she received for her turn of her tanda, Ms Robles bought her first car. Her relatives and friends in the savings club were able to put down payments on houses, pay for university tuition – and now, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, survive when their families have been out of work or sick.

Since that first savings club 14 years ago, Ms Robles has run them continuously with only a few months break to organise the next one.

“It gives me a lot of joy to see people reach their goals because of the tandas without having to drown in debt from loans,” she says. “It’s proof that among us Hispanics, we can get ahead here.”

Hispanic-Americans are not alone in their use of this ancient savings mechanism that has parallels all over the globe, known generally as a rotating savings and credit association, or roscas.

In Mexico, they are popularly called tandas, but they are also known as huis, susus or ballot committees in various parts of the world. Immigrant communities continue their practice in the US.

As economic hardship accompanies the public health crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, for some families, traditional methods of saving outside the banking system have become a lifeline, especially for hard-hit immigrant communities with little access to mainstream sources of capital.

Financial access and security in America has become an increasingly pressing subject of discussion in 2020. Even before the pandemic, the US was behind other rich countries when it comes to accessing money and credit.

Some seven percent of Americans over the age of 15 did not have any kind of bank accounts in the US in 2017, compared to less than one percent of Canadians, and less than four percent of Britons, according to the World Bank.

A quarter of American adults – more than 80 million people – were “unbanked” or “underbanked”, meaning either that they had no accounts entirely, or that they are forced to use alternative services besides traditional banks in order to get enough financial access to meet goals or obligations.

Households most likely to fall into the two categories were black or Hispanic, lack university qualifications and to be poor. To access loans, they must sometimes turn to non-bank lending options like payday lenders or loan sharks.

These shadow banking options can be risky, charge high interests and bring dire consequences for borrowers who struggle to pay – but a rosca can provide a safer, more trustworthy alternative.

“These systems are actually useful when we have bank systems that have a finite possibility,” says Caroline Hossein, a professor of business and social studies at York University who studies roscas in communities in Canada.

“Banks only have a certain amount of money, and if you only have a certain amount of money, you’re only going to dish it out to those that are less risky.

“So it makes perfect sense that people would engage in these kinds of mutual aid or money pooling systems.”

Often, they are run by women, whom Dr Hossein calls the “banker ladies” of the community.

“The banker lady, who might be the one organising it – you can be in touch with her anytime of day, it may be someone who lives in your neighbourhood so [there’s] the ease of getting there.

“The paperwork is not as treacherous as it would be as a formal bank, so there’s a kind of kinship that exists because it’s people who voluntarily like and know each other.”

Though they tend to be “more of a life line for people who have difficulty accessing banking, particularly on the lending side,” such savings schemes are also used by more established members of communities who may have inherited knowledge about them from immigrant parents.

Beyond access to a pool of money, “a primary benefit is building ‘bonds of mutual trust’ within a network of trustworthy people,” says Lee Martin of the University of California, Davis. Roscas are primarily beneficial for people without access to mainstream forms of credit, he says.

But because they are used by marginalised communities, studying their overall prevalence and use has been difficult, says Dr Hossein, who participates in a rosca – known as a su-su in her Afro-Carribean community – as part of her research.

“A lot of these roscas, particularly in places like Canada, the US or Europe, tend to be underground,” she says, because many worry that the endeavour is seen as an unrespectable or even an illicit form of financing, only for those who are short of options. Clearly, unlike a savings account, they do not generate interest.

Yet economists believe they are probably quite common in the West. One survey of Korean-American garment business owners in Los Angeles from 2004 found that 77% of households had participated in a version of the lending scheme.

Self-lending within communities can have unexpected benefits. A rosca-like system among Chinese immigrants in Spain, for example, helped expatriate businessmen weather the Euro crisis of the late 2000s and 2010s.

The Chinese business community was “largely insulated from the vagaries of the country’s tottering retail banking system” – precisely because the system that shut them out meant they turned to each other, reported the Financial Times in 2014.

In the 2020 Covid-19 crisis, families who participated in the tanda Ms Robles is running were able to pay their bills when some fell ill and could not work.

For most, it was their only source of cash, Ms Robles says – only one of the families has received a cheque from the government for coronavirus relief because they lack the papers to get onto the dole.

Like any investment scheme, however, roscas are not risk-free. A participant could fail to pay their hand, or take their share and run.

Ms Robles says there have been rare times that she misplaced a contribution and had to make up the difference out of her own pocket, which can be costly.

As they operate on trust, usually within a deeply connected community, the social consequences of misdeeds dissuades wrong-doing.

But since they are run by privately, there is little legal recourse for cheating. And unlike putting money in a bank savings account, there is no interest paid.

Could roscas catch on and become more mainstream? The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia asked just such a question in 2006, but was sceptical given the depth of trust it would require.

An attempt by Yahoo Finance to popularise a tanda app in 2018 was unsuccessful. The scheme shut down after only a few months due to, it would seem, lack of participation.

There are two big hurdles, as Dr Hossein sees it – the stigma attached to a non-traditional financial tool used by ethnic minority communities, and the barrier in trust that must be surmounted to put one’s faith in other people to handle money.

But with the Covid-19 pandemic, a younger generation of North Americans with an interest in sharing resources and the technology to do so efficiently – from crowdfunding to forms of “caremongering” – roscas are bound to be a savings method that continue and evolve and expand.

For Mayra Martinez, 30, a university administration professional in Dallas, Texas, being in tandas has helped her learn about trust and foster a sense of obligation to save, which can otherwise be hard for young people like herself she says.

“It’s not like your commitment to yourself, where you can easily say ‘hmm, I’m not going to do that this month because I just don’t want to,” she says.

It is an added layer of security in an economic world that has been particularly unpredictable for young professionals, which Ms Martinez says she has seen first-hand – her sister and brother-in-law each recently tested positive for Covid-19 and could not work.

“She just happened to get her tanda this week,” says Ms Martinez. Because of that, Ms Martinez says, her sister was able to tell her husband: “It’s ok”.

The tanda Ms Martinez is involved in now consists of family members from all generations and is run by her mother.

Would she ever take over and start one for her own cohort of siblings and cousins once the older generations retire from such schemes?

“I wouldn’t mind running one,” she says, adding with a laugh, “but it depends on which cousins.”

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