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Malaysia's economy suffers smaller contraction, central bank provides rosier 2021 outlook – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Joseph Sipalan and Rozanna Latiff

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s central bank provided a rosier growth outlook for 2021 after the economy suffered a smaller contraction in the third quarter, but said it would continue to help households and businesses withstand the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gross domestic product fell 2.7% in July-September, smaller than the 3.2% decline forecast in a Reuters poll and showing a marked improvement on the 17.1% slump in the second quarter.

The trade-reliant economy recovered from its first contraction since the 2009 financial crisis after the government began gradually easing curbs to contain the virus in May.

The central bank said 125 basis points worth of rate cuts this year would support 2021 growth, but that it would continue to make “policy support and assistance” available.

“Going into 2021, growth is expected to recover, benefiting from the improvement in global demand and a turnaround in public and private sector expenditure amid various policy support,” said Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) Governor Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus at a virtual news conference.

“Future monetary policy considerations will continue to be guided by evolving conditions.”

Private consumption eased 2.6% in the third quarter from a year earlier after a 5.6% decline in the previous three months, the central bank said, while manufacturing grew 3.3% after a 18.3% drop in the second quarter. Gross exports jumped 4.4% in the July-September period after a 15.1% fall.

The BNM also revised its 2021 projections, raising the midpoint growth forecast to 7% from an earlier average of 6.75%.

Barclays said it expected the central bank to leave rates unchanged throughout 2021, with a low risk of a 25 basis point cut.

While some economists worried that the reimposition of coronavirus restrictions in October would dampen the recovery in Malaysia in the last three months of the year, the central bank said the risks to global growth from COVID-19 had eased.

“The risk to growth from these resurgences is not expected to be as severe as the magnitude of contractions observed in the second quarter,” Nor Shamsiah added.

Analysts at Capital Economics said Malaysia’s outlook was dependent on how well the government managed to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Total infections tripled to over 43,000 cases since a fresh outbreak in September.

“If Malaysia is able contain the second wave, as others in the region have been successful in doing, the economic impact should be relatively small,” Alex Holmes, Asia economist at Capital Economics said.

($1 = 4.1320 ringgit)

(Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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Consortium of Indigenous chiefs seeking a way to participate in cannabis economy – North Delta Reporter

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Indigenous communities have been left out of the Canadian cannabis economy, and a group of Indigenous chiefs are out to change that for the good of their communities.

Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y First Nation says a consortium they’re calling “All Nations Chiefs” has worked for months to negotiate an agreement for on-reserve cannabis distribution directly with the province – but to no avail.

“It’s been two years since the rollout where they did not consult adequately with First Nations,” said Gladstone. “We are trying to find a way to participate in this new economy.”

To get there, they’ve organized an online forum with All Nations Chiefs from the communities of Shxwha:y, Cheam, Soowahlie and Sq’ewlets for the morning of Dec. 2. Organizers have invited Premier John Horgan, stakeholders, and the public to join them in the virtual dialogue on the cannabis question.

Gladstone described the recalcitrance from provincial counterparts as “another pathway out of poverty blocked” for First Nations communities across Canada, noting that only four per cent of Canadian cannabis licences are Indigenous-affiliated.

“That four per cent should be disturbing to everyone,” he said.

The group has also launched a petition that had almost 1,500 signatures by Nov. 27.

“We are asking Honourable Premier Horgan to take real action towards reconciliation and honour his government’s platform commitment to the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights (UNDRIP) by allowing First Nations to participate in B.C.’s cannabis industry,” according to the petition preamble.

Since legalization, local First Nations leaders have been trying to control their own their destinies by finding a way to participate in the emerging economy “on a nation-to-nation basis,” the chief said.

Shxwha:y officials decided to go the route of applying for a Section 119 licence agreement under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Agreement Act, Chief Gladstone explained.

A Section 119 licence is required to legally distribute cannabis from retail stores on reserve land, and involve the province entering into agreements with individual First Nations, which supersede the Act. Only one community has signed such an agreement to date, the Williams Lake Indian Band. The Shxwha:y application used the Williams Lake vision as their model.

Some of the on-reserve cannabis stores in the area without provincial licensing have been operating in what government officials would describe as a grey area legally, while leaders are trying to negotiate a better way, with formal applications pending.

They started on-reserve stores under the inherent laws of their nation rather than under provincial licensing, some by enacting cannabis laws through land codes.

Those models differ from the route chosen by the owners of the first fully licensed cannabis store on reserve, which is The Kure on the Skwah reserve.

“The ultimate goal is to codify and harmonize the laws and regulations among all three levels of government,” Gladstone underlined.

But months later they are stymied, with no timeline, feedback or any response from the provincial government on their application. So they’re stepping up the pressure.

“We are reaching out. If they don’t answer, it’s a direct way of saying they are not interested in working toward a government-to-government relationship. There’s just no other way to interpret this.”

The online forum next Wednesday will focus on solutions to bring inclusivity and diversity to the nascent cannabis sector with First Nations involvement.

They feel they’ve put in the work to give the province a workable model.

“Now all we ask is recognition for our inherent right to trade and barter,” Gladstone said.

Chief Gladstone tells a story of how cannabis has changed everything in his village and beyond.

In total more than 100 people are working in the on-reserve stores around the Chilliwack area.

“These workers are not on CERB or social assistance,” Gladstone said.

As of a couple of years ago there were only four people working in Shxwha:y village. Now there are 13 jobs being held down currently at the store, and another 30 at the cultivation facility, where All Nations Cannabis Corp. is a Health Canada licensed cultivator and licensed producer applicant.

“It’s changed the standard of living for many in our village, going from abject poverty to a tier closer to the middle class,” Gladstone said. “So this is a success story.

“What we’re saying to the province is: ‘Don’t destroy this miracle of economic revival.’

“We’re just asking for co-operation.”

READ MORE: Cannabis stores rolling through the pandemic

READ MORE: Chilliwack has unique approach to cannabis retail

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Monday's fall economic statement will try to bridge current and future needs – iPolitics.ca

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The Liberal government is ready to table a fall economic statement that attempts to balance the current needs of the COVID-19 response with plans for Canada’s post-pandemic economy and social-safety net. 

On Monday, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will present her first fiscal and economic update since replacing Bill Morneau after the latter’s resignation in August. 

The statement will provide detailed fiscal projections for the years ahead, something the Liberals haven’t done since the pandemic began in the spring.

The Liberals will also present new measures to fight COVID-19, and lay the groundwork for longer-term and higher-cost priorities, such as national affordable child care, pharmacare, and fighting climate change — measures that interest labour, but concern business groups.

“I expect the government to be clear … that they remain committed to the priorities identified in the throne speech, and ensure that those things are going to be delivered on,” Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, told iPolitics.

The throne speech included a long list of promises to green the economy and strengthen the country’s social safety net — efforts Yussuff says are vital, if Canada is to emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. 

The fiscal update coincides with a second wave of COVID cases, which have prompted new public-health restrictions that have shuttered businesses and rattled the confidence of consumers entering the holiday season. 

Levels of consumer confidence for November are now at their lowest since May, according to the Conference Board of Canada’s index.

Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said COVID will still be around for the foreseeable future, so Canada must have a plan to manage, rather than merely react to, the pandemic. 

“Unfortunately, up until now, the focus of governments has been: ‘Shut down and write a cheque,’ ” he told iPolitics.

Beatty said governments need to craft a more coherent strategy that better uses data and science to bring down infection rates, and allows Canadians to safely resume their lives soon as possible, while also ensuring resources get to the most vulnerable communities and economic sectors.

He said it’s wrong to think of a vaccine as a “silver bullet,” because it might not entirely eliminate the threat of COVID, and its distribution will take considerable time. The fiscal update should focus on current concerns, he said. 

READ MORE: Ford asks Trudeau for details of vaccine types, quantities, and timing

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there are “very good chances” most Canadians will be vaccinated by September 2021.

He added that the fiscal update will include more support for Canadians during the pandemic, as well as plans to rebuild a “strong, resilient economy for everyone.”

Kevin Page said he expects the Liberals to punt some of their longer-term priorities to the next budget, while still presenting a comprehensive document.

“I think it will be more than a typical update; something probably looking like a mini-budget,” said Page, a former parliamentary budget officer and head of the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy.

The update should focus first on getting Canadians through the current crisis, said Elliot Hughes, a former policy adviser of Morneau’s.

“There’s going to be lots of time to sketch out those bigger things down the road,” he said. “What people want to know now is that the government’s got their backs.”

Hughes, now a senior advisor at Summa Strategies, cautioned that the government needs to keep its messaging “clean and straightforward,” but should be ready to answer questions about what to expect in the near future, as well in the recovery phase.

“It’s a tricky balance, but it’s one that you need to strike,” he said. 

READ MORE: Female, racialized and young Canadians less likely to benefit from jobs increase

The statement will also update the deficit, which is expected to be Canada’s largest since the Second World War. It’s also expected to be without a fiscal anchor to manage debt levels, though Freeland has previously said there’s no “blank cheque” for spending.

A report released by RBC on Friday forecasts the annual deficit to approach $370 billion, higher than the $343 billion projected in July. The report says spending announcements will add at least $90 billion to the 2021-22 deficit, and extensions to the wage subsidy and recovery benefit could add even more. 

Yussuff, who hopes the fall update will include money for infrastructure, child care and employment insurance, said now is not the time for fiscal restraint: Spending will both prevent an economic disaster and support women and people of colour, who’ve been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, he said.

“They’re going to need to be supported if we’re going to get to a full recovery.”

Beatty, who has supported Ottawa’s emergency spending thus far, said there should be a short-term child-care program to get mothers back into the workforce. But such spending must be targeted, and this is not the time for costly programs such as universal pharmacare, he said.

“Don’t get into programs that we can’t afford: permanent recurring programs that are simply going to build in a structural deficit.”

At what exact point Canada’s debt becomes a serious concern is being fiercely debated, Page said, but bond agencies might lower their credit ratings if Ottawa doesn’t re-introduce a fiscal anchor in the near future and the debt significantly increases.

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India Enters Recession as Virus Pummels No. 3 Asian Economy – Yahoo Canada Finance

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The Canadian Press

Iran scientist linked to military nuclear program killed

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An Iranian scientist named by the West as the leader of the Islamic Republic’s disbanded military nuclear program was killed Friday in an ambush on the outskirts of Tehran, authorities said.Iran’s foreign minister alleged the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh bore “serious indications” of an Israeli role, but did not elaborate. Israel, long suspected of killing several Iranian nuclear scientists a decade ago, declined to immediately comment. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once told the public to “remember that name” when talking about Fakhrizadeh.The killing risks further raising tensions across the Mideast, nearly a year after Iran and the U.S. stood on the brink of war when an American drone strike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad. It comes just as President-elect Joe Biden stands poised to be inaugurated in January and will likely complicate his efforts to return America to a pact aimed at ensuring Iran does not have enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.That deal, which saw Iran limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions, has entirely unraveled after President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord in 2018.Trump himself retweeted a posting from Israeli journalist Yossi Melman, an expert on the Israeli Mossad intelligence service, about the killing. Melman’s tweet called the killing a “major psychological and professional blow for Iran.”Details about the slaying remained slim in the hours after the attack, which happened in Absard, a village just east of the capital that is a retreat for the Iranian elite. Iranian state television said an old truck with explosives hidden under a load of wood blew up near a sedan carrying Fakhrizadeh.As Fakhrizadeh’s sedan stopped, at least five gunmen emerged and raked the car with rapid fire, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency said.Fakhrizadeh died at a hospital after doctors and paramedics couldn’t revive him. Others wounded included Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards. Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes in the windshield and blood pooled on the road.While no one claimed responsibility for the attack, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pointed the finger at Israel, calling the killing an act of “state terror.”“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice — with serious indications of Israeli role — shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.Hossein Dehghan, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader and a presidential candidate in Iran’s 2021 election, also blamed Israel — and issued a warning.”In the last days of their gambling ally’s political life, the Zionists seek to intensify and increase pressure on Iran to wage a full-blown war,” Dehghan wrote, appearing to refer to Trump’s last days in office. “We will descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions!”Hours after the attack, the Pentagon announced it already had brought the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier back into the Middle East, an unusual move as the carrier already spent months in the region. It cited the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq as the reason for the decision, saying “it was prudent to have additional defensive capabilities in the region to meet any contingency.”The attack comes just days before the 10-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari that Tehran also blamed on Israel. That and other targeted killings happened at the time that the so-called Stuxnet virus, believed to be an Israeli and American creation, destroyed Iranian centrifuges.The area around Absard, which has a view of Mount Damavand, the country’s highest peak, is filled with vacation villas. Roads on Friday, part of the Iranian weekend, were emptier than normal due to a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, offering his attackers a chance to strike with fewer people around.Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called AMAD program that Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon. Tehran long has maintained its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes.The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran “carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device” in a “structured program” through the end of 2003. That was the AMAD program, which included work on the carefully timed high explosives needed to detonate an implosion-style nuclear bomb.Iran also “conducted computer modeling of a nuclear explosive device” before 2005 and between 2005 and 2009, the IAEA has said. The agency said, however, that those calculations were “incomplete and fragmented.”IAEA inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites as part of the now-unraveling nuclear deal with world powers. Experts believe Iran has enough low-enriched uranium to make at least two nuclear weapons if it chose to pursue the bomb. Meanwhile, an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility exploded in July in what Tehran now calls a sabotage attack.Fakhrizadeh, born in 1958, had been sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council and the U.S. for his work on AMAD. Iran always described him as a university physics professor. A member of the Revolutionary Guard, Fakhrizadeh had been seen in pictures in meetings attended by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a sign of his power.In recent years, U.S. sanctions lists name him as heading Iran’s Organization for Defensive Innovation and Research. The State Department described that organization last year as working on “dual-use research and development activities, of which aspects are potentially useful for nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons delivery systems.”Iran’s mission to the U.N., meanwhile, described Fakhrizadeh’s recent work as “development of the first indigenous COVID-19 test kit” and overseeing Tehran’s efforts at making a possible coronavirus vaccine.In 2018, Netanyahu gave a presentation in which he unveiled what he described as material stolen by Israel from an Iranian nuclear archive.“A key part of the plan was to form new organizations to continue the work,” Netanyahu alleged. “This is how Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of Project AMAD, put it. Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh.”___Associated Press writers Amir Vahdat and Mohammad Nasiri in Tehran, Iran, and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press

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