Demonstrators blocked roads after the Lebanese pound fell lower. As poverty and hunger spreads, pressure is mounting on politicians to form a new government.
Demonstrators blocked roadways nationwide for the fifth day in a row on Saturday and armed forces rushed to occupy parts of the capital Beirut as anger builds over the country’s economic downturn.
The Lebanese currency tumbled to a new low on Tuesday, enraging a population already suffering from the country’s financial meltdown.
With the crisis worsening, caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab threatened to stop performing his duties in a bid to pressure politicians to forge a new Cabinet.
What did Diab say?
In his nationally televised speech on Saturday, Diab said he was prepared to suspend his caretaker duties “if it helps to form a government.”
“The country is confronted with enormous challenges that a normal government cannot face without political consensus,” said Diab. “So how can a caretaker government face these challenges?”
Diab warned Saturday against inaction and appealed to politicians to put aside differences and quickly form a new government that can attract desperately needed foreign assistance.
“What are you waiting for, more collapse? More suffering? Chaos?” Diab said, chiding senior politicians without naming them for continuing to debate over the future shape and size of the government.
“What will having one minister more or less [in the Cabinet] do if the entire country collapses,” he asked.
“Lebanon is in grave danger and the Lebanese are paying the price.”
What is happening to Lebanon’s economy?
Lebanon’s two year-long financial crisis shows no signs of ending as joblessness spreads along with hunger.
The collapse of the Lebanese pound, to 11,000 to the US dollar on Tuesday, was the last straw for citizens already suffering from steeply rising prices on consumer goods such as diapers and cereals.
The financial crash has also resulted in delays in the arrival of fuel shipments, leading to more extended power cuts around the country, which in some areas now are stretching more than 12 hours a day.
The crisis has driven nearly half the population of the small country of six million into poverty.
“Doesn’t the scramble for milk constitute a sufficient incentive to transcend formalities and roughen out the edges in order to form a government?” Diab said, referring to a recent Beirut supermarket incident in which shoppers fought over powdered milk.
The now viral video seemingly underscores the desperate state of the economy.
“Social conditions are aggravating, financial conditions are putting a severe strain on the country, political conditions are increasingly complex,” Diab added in his speech.
What can a new government do?
The nation has been drifting since August when Diab’s cabinet resigned following the massive Beirut port explosion that devastated much of the city.
Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri was nominated in October but has failed to form a new Cabinet due to the political deadlock between him and President Michel Aoun.
Despite Lebanon’s need for foreign currency, international donors have said they will only help the country financially if major reforms are implemented to fight widespread corruption, which has brought the nation to the brink of bankruptcy.
A new Cabinet would be in a position to institute the necessary financial reforms.
mb/rs (AP, Reuters)
China think-tank warns of economic slowdown – Aljazeera.com
Advisers to Beijing will recommend a 2022 growth target that’s lower than the target that had been set for 2021.
Ongoing stress in China’s property sector is likely to slow down the country’s economic growth next year, a government think-tank has warned.
The world’s second-largest economy is expected to have expanded by about 8 percent this year, according to the annual blue book on the economy from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), a top government think-tank. It warned that the property downturn was likely to persist and weigh on the expenditures of local governments next year.
China’s economy is expected to grow about 5.3 percent in 2022, bringing the average annual growth rate forecast for 2020-2022 to 5.2 percent, CASS said on Monday.
Advisers to the government will recommend that authorities set a 2022 economic growth target lower than the target set for 2021 – or “above 6 percent” – Reuters reported, amid growing headwinds from a property downturn, weakening exports and strict COVID-19 curbs that have impeded consumption.
It urged the central government to proactively engineer a soft landing for the property sector, to avoid failed land auctions in big cities and to fend off risks of quickly falling property prices in smaller cities, the report said.
China’s move to wean property developers away from rampant borrowing has translated into loan losses for banks and pain in credit markets, as cash-strapped builders fall into distress, increasing risks across the economy.
Property behemoth China Evergrande is facing one of the country’s largest defaults, prompting the authorities to step in and oversee risk management at the company.
Canadian employers, facing labor shortage, accommodate the unvaccinated
Canada’s tight labor market is forcing many companies to offer regular COVID-19 testing over vaccine mandates, while others are reversing previously announced inoculation requirements even as Omicron variant cases rise.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government adopted one of the strictest inoculation policies in the world for civil servants and has already put more than 1,000 workers on unpaid leave, with thousands more at risk.
Airlines, police forces, school boards and even Canada’s Big Five banks https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canadas-major-banks-require-employees-entering-premises-be-vaccinated-2021-08-20 have also pledged strict mandatory vaccine policies. But following through has proven less straightforward, especially as employers grapple with staffing shortages and workers demand exemptions.
Job vacancies in Canada have doubled so far this year, official data shows, and vaccine mandates can make filling those jobs harder, potentially putting upward pressure on wages. That could fuel inflation https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canadas-annual-inflation-rate-hits-47-oct-highest-since-feb-2003-2021-11-17, already running at a near two-decade high.
“It’s already difficult to find staff, let alone putting in a vaccine mandate. You’d cut out potentially another 20%” of potential workers, said Dan Kelly, chief executive of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
There are pitfalls to employing the unvaccinated. Companies run a higher risk of COVID-19 outbreaks and many vaccinated employees are uncomfortable working with those who have not had the jab, said industry groups and marketing experts.
At Luda Foods, a Montreal-based soup and sauce maker, president Robert Eiser said he has 14 open jobs, no vaccine mandate and no plans to restrict new hires to the vaccinated.
“I don’t know that I want to reduce the (labor) pool, which is already quite low,” said Eiser. “We need to attract people to meet the demand. If we don’t, our competitors will.”
Data released on Friday underpinned Canada’s tight labor market, with a hefty 153,700 jobs https://www.reuters.com/markets/us/canada-posts-hefty-job-gains-outlook-clouded-by-omicron-variant-2021-12-03 added in November. It also showed a growing mismatch between available workers and unfilled jobs. And job postings are far above pre-pandemic levels. (Graphic: Canada job postings surge above pre-pandemic level Canada job postings surge above pre-pandemic level, https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/CANADA2/klvyknzklvg/chart.png)
The province of Quebec backtracked on a vaccine mandates for healthcare workers last month, saying they could not afford to lose thousands of unvaccinated staff. Ontario, which was also eyeing a mandate, said it would not go ahead.
Toronto-Dominion Bank and Bank of Montreal have both softened their vaccine policy to allow regular testing for workers who missed their Oct. 31 inoculation deadline.
In Canada, 86% of adults are fully inoculated, though that drops under 80% among 18-40 year olds. At least 15 cases of the new Omicron https://www.reuters.com/markets/rates-bonds/canada-has-reported-total-11-cases-omicron-variant-health-official-2021-12-03 variant in Canada have been reported in the past week.
John Cappelli, vice president of onsite managed services in Canada for global recruitment firm Adecco, said half of his clients are mandating vaccines with the other half allowing regular testing for the unvaccinated.
But he expects the Omicron variant will prompt more workplaces to get strict on vaccination, even as they grapple with the tightest job market he’s seen in his 25-year career.
“We are now starting to see our first workplace (COVID-19) cases in five months,” he said.
The number of Canadian job postings on search website Indeed mentioning vaccine requirements has quadrupled since August. (Graphic: Canada job postings and vaccine mandates, https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/CANADA3/byvrjqrlmve/chart.png)
In the hard-hit manufacturing sector, where 77% of firms say their top concern is attracting and retaining workers, vaccine mandates are more rare.
Dennis Darby, CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said most of Canada’s factories have operated safely throughout the pandemic. While CME encourages vaccination, “some companies are still using rapid testing if somebody doesn’t want to get vaccinated,” he added.
But companies risk a hit to their reputation if they are overt in efforts to tap into the unvaccinated as a labor pool, said Wojtek Dabrowski, managing partner at Provident Communications.
“If you go out and say, ‘We are intentionally seeking to hire unvaccinated people,’ many customers are equating that with you being anti-science and anti-safety,” said Dabrowski.
(Reporting by Julie Gordon and Steve Scherer in Ottawa, additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Nichola Saminather in Toronto; Editing by Alistair Bell)
LETTER: Sidney working towards a vibrant economy – Sooke News Mirror
In the spring of 2014, Sidney’s then-mayor Cross struck a mayor’s downtown revitalization task force and I was appointed vice-chair to Mark Dickinson’s chairman. Mr. Dickinson led a cross-functional team of dedicated citizens, representatives from the chamber of commerce, Sidney BIA, as well as town staff to renew the economic development strategy for Sidney. Going in, we knew there were several iterations of well-intentioned committees in the past and we mused would we be able to forge a new strategy.
Hours were spent in the Arbutus Room at town hall over several months on a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, prioritizing an action registry and producing a report to present to council on our findings. The council of the day accepted the report just prior to the civic election.
Mayor Cross retired and a new council reviewed and ratified the report which provided four pillars for success and a roadmap to achieve them. It included the recommendation to establish an economic development committee of citizens willing to ‘roll up their sleeves’ to operationalize the recommendations. If this model wasn’t successful after a year or so, it was recommended that a consultant be engaged to fine-tune the strategy and the tactics.
The EDC was formed and quite frankly was ineffective due to several strong personalities with differing agendas and goals. Members resigned, new members stepped in, but it became clear that ‘Plan B’ needed to be effected. The EDC is still an entity in the town but I am pleased to see that cooler heads have prevailed and a consulting firm with expertise in this area has been engaged.
I applaud this decision and sincerely hope the contract deliverables can leverage the town’s strengths and mitigate any perceived weaknesses in support of a vibrant business economy.
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