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MLA Mark Smith: kickstarting the province’s economy – Pipestone Flyer

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With children back to school life is starting to gain a sense of normalcy again. Despite the year looking very different than most, kids are happy to have rejoined their peers and parents are readjusting to once again maybe having a moment of time to themselves. Our government has been working hard to protect children and their families while also ensuring that we maintain education standards and keep kids on track. Children have been provided with personal PPE and schools are taking incredible measures to sanitize and disinfect routinely throughout the day. We are also working towards safely and successfully reopening our economy and getting Albertans back to work during this difficult time.

One of the key ways that we are going to kickstart our province is by diversifying our economy and investing in core infrastructure like building roads and schools, this will not only directly benefit our communities, but create thousands of jobs for people across the province. As a government we are also focusing our efforts on creating and attracting international investment opportunities by making Alberta a more competitive tax environment. We will achieve this by accelerating the Job Creation Tax Cut to 8 per cent, this tax cut went into effect July 1, 2020, a year and a half sooner than promised. On top of this, the Alberta government is adding $1.5 billion in committed dollars towards the Keystone XL pipeline, this will make the government’s total contributions to infrastructure in 2020-21 close to $10 billion. We can anticipate infrastructure funding going toward facilities such as NAIT, Red Deer College, University of Lethbridge, Olds College and several more, ensuring Alberta’s post-education students that we believe investment in their education is always paramount. Infrastructure spending will also occur at the local level across the Drayton Valley-Devon constituency receiving significant funding for local projects including several water projects an aquatics center, ice hockey arena and road improvements.

Albertans can also look forward to more than $1 million going towards trail enhancement and infrastructure at some of Alberta’s recreational facilities and parks, providing jobs throughout the design and construction phases. As Albertans have stayed closer to home this summer, many have been able to get out and enjoy our local outdoor spaces, reaffirming the importance of maintaining our backcountry.

Our government has also been changing internally to meet the ongoing needs of Albertans during this pandemic through the creation of a new government portfolio called Jobs, the Economy and Innovation. Led by Minister Doug Schweitzer, this new Ministry will be responsible for the implementation of Alberta’s Recovery Plan, and its specific strategies and growth data. There will be a direct focus on small business priorities and creating economic growth within communities. Together, as a province, we will make it through these challenging times, one adjustment at a time.

-MLA Mark Smith

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Agriculture, manufacturing help soften blow to P.E.I.'s economy – CBC.ca

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The impact of COVID-19 on P.E.I.’s economy isn’t projected to be as bad as first expected, says the province’s director of economics and statistics.

Nigel Burns told a standing committee the GDP is expected to take a 3.9-per-cent hit this year, which is better than the five-per-cent-drop in previous projections.

He said up until July, the tourism industry was hit the hardest. But other industries, such as manufacturing and agriculture, haven’t been hit as hard, resulting in less of an impact on the Island’s overall economy.

Statistics Canada’s farm cash receipts report showed sales of $203.6 million for the first half of the year, the best first half since 2009. Crop sales drove most of the increase, with livestock sales up only marginally over 2019.

Burns said it’s “still not a great situation” for the overall economy.

Nigel Burns, P.E.I.’s director of economics and statistics, said while the economy is better than expected, it’s ‘still not a great situation.’ (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

“Everyone is predicting a contraction, but things are starting to tighten up and be less of an impact for the year,” he said.

“Since we don’t have such a big contraction, we won’t have as strong a rebound in the following year, but that’s OK, we have less destruction in the first place to heal in the second year.” 

Burns told the committee much still depends on how the COVID-19 situation progresses on P.E.I. and with its trading partners around the world.

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ADRIAN WHITE: Underground economy is thriving – Cape Breton Post

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There is no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the way businesses function in Cape Breton. The pandemic has forced many entrepreneurs to reshape operating strategies for financial survival.  

Think of the new safety protocols for restaurants to protect staff and customers from virus transmission. Think sporting events playing out before near-empty stadiums and instead focused heavily on revenues generated from media broadcast of the event.  

There are just too many changes to business practices to list here in this column including the growth of digitization in our economy but I wanted to single out a few examples to illustrate some telling impacts. 

One major impact comes from folks not feeling safe to travel outside the province or eat out in restaurants due to the pandemic. Instead, they are using some of those cash savings to fund home improvement projects right here in the Cape Breton economy. That is a good thing for our community and our workers and it supports the “Shop Local-Buy Local” mantra being promoted by the local business community. 

Demand in the home improvement sector has soared and is so strong that it has led to a shortage of building materials, a rapid rise in material costs and a shortage of skilled labour to take on those home improvement projects.  

Many new contractors have entered the home improvement business in 2020 and many anxious homeowners are in hot pursuit of their services. Sometimes these contractors show up when expected to do a job and sometimes not. This has been a long-standing problem with small contractors in Cape Breton.  

Some contractors present an official written quote including HST for the project leaving a paper trail to follow while other contractors are quite prepared to take cash from the customer thereby avoiding HST. Cash leaves little trail for CRA to follow when it comes to reporting taxable income. 

This practice leads me to shed some light on the underground economy and its impact on our well-being as a province. Statistics Canada defines the underground economy as “consisting of market-based activities, whether legal or illegal, that escape measurement because of their hidden, illegal or informal nature.”  

I use the construction industry as an easy-to-understand example but you can imagine other opportunities for tax avoidance including buying illegal cigarettes, street sold cannabis, cash tips, paying cash for services, Airbnb cash rentals, or offshore bank accounts not being reported to CRA. 

In Nova Scotia, according to Statistics Canada, the underground economy was estimated to be $1.28 billion in 2018. That is near 3 per cent of provincial GDP. This is revenue that escapes government taxation. Nova Scotia’s underground economy as a share of GDP is higher than the national average which is troubling. Taxes on $1.28 billion would go a long way to offset the forecasted 2020 Nova Scotia budget deficit of $853 million due to the pandemic. 

Some of the underground economy is driven by the fact Nova Scotia has the second-highest personal income tax rates in the country. It remains one of three remaining provinces in the country that still practices “bracket creep” on your personal income tax deduction by not adjusting it to CPI on your annual income tax return.  

The higher the taxes the more incentive it provides for individuals and companies to embrace tax avoidance. Alberta has one of the lowest personal income tax rates in Canada and no provincial sales tax. It abandoned “bracket creep” on its residents decades ago. It also has one of the lowest underground economy as a share of GDP rates in the country running at 1.8 percent of provincial GDP.  

British Columbia has the highest ratio at 3.7 percent of GDP. In Canada, the underground economy was valued at a whopping $61 billion in 2018 amounting to 2.7 per cent of national GDP.  

I can only imagine with the increased demand for home improvement projects in Canada due to the pandemic that underground economic activity will likely increase 50 per cent rising close to $90 billion for 2020. 

In Nova Scotia, residential construction accounts for over 25 percent of the estimated underground economy GDP.  The next six largest contributors to the underground economy amount to about 50 per cent of Nova Scotia’s underground economy. They are retail trade, accommodation/food services, finance/insurance/real estate, manufacturing, professional/technical services and health care/social assistance.   

If we want to grow the Nova Scotia economy and thereby increase tax revenues to pay for the services we all expect, we are going to have to rethink the tax burden on individuals and businesses to bring balance and fairness to the tax environment. It is one of the reasons we struggle to recruit doctors to Cape Breton. Above-average taxes in Nova Scotia hinder economic expansion. High taxes will continue to drive the underground economy and tax avoidance until we address them. 

Adrian White is CEO of NNF Inc, Business Consultants. He resides Sydney & Baddeck and can be contacted at awhite889@gmail.com.

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Why the Best G.D.P. Report Ever Won’t Mean the Economy Has Healed – The New York Times

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The United States almost certainly just experienced its fastest three months of economic growth on record. That doesn’t mean the economy is strong.

The Commerce Department on Thursday will release its preliminary estimate of economic growth for the third quarter. Economists surveyed by FactSet expect it to show that gross domestic product — the broadest measure of goods and services produced in the United States — grew about 7 percent from the second quarter, or 30 percent on an annualized basis (more about that in a bit).

If those forecasts are even close to correct, it would represent the fastest growth since reliable records began after World War II. Until now, the best quarter was a 3.9 percent gain (16.7 percent annualized) in 1950.

This G.D.P. report will be particularly closely watched, arriving as the last major piece of economic data before Election Day next Tuesday.

But it doesn’t make sense to think about Thursday’s report in isolation. The third quarter’s record-setting growth is effectively an echo of the second quarter’s equally unprecedented contraction, when business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders led gross domestic product to fall by 9 percent. Strong growth was inevitable as the economy began to reopen.

While the economy has revived considerably since last spring, it is far short of its level before the pandemic. And progress is slowing.

“Employment has come back to some extent, but the unemployment rate is still high, wage and salary income is still low,” said Ben Herzon, executive director of IHS Markit, a forecasting firm. “Demand is still being depressed by the pandemic.”

In superlative-laden Facebook ads purchased days before the report, President Trump and his supporters have already begun to promote it as evidence of a strong rebound. The truth is more complicated. Here is how economists are thinking about the report, and why the numbers could be misleading.

If G.D.P. fell by 9 percent in the second quarter, and rose by about 7 percent in the third quarter, it might sound as if the economy is almost back to where it started.

It isn’t. The big drop in output in the second quarter means that third-quarter growth is being measured against a smaller base. A simple illustration of the same phenomenon: If you have $100 and lose half, you have $50. If you then manage to increase your money by half, that will bring your holdings to $75, not all the way back to $100.

To really evaluate the recovery, it makes sense to focus less on quarter-to-quarter changes and instead look at how the economy compares to the fourth quarter of last year, before the pandemic began. If economists’ forecasts are correct, G.D.P. will be 3 to 4 percent lower in the third quarter than at the end of last year. By comparison, G.D.P. shrank 4 percent over the entire year and a half of the Great Recession a decade ago.

In other words: Even after the record-setting rebound in the third quarter, the economy is still in a hole as large as the worst point of many past recessions.

Here is where things get really confusing: Third-quarter growth will look historically strong, even though all three months that made up the quarter were relatively weak.

That seeming paradox is the result of how the government reports G.D.P. statistics.

Quarterly G.D.P. figures represent the average amount of economic output over a three-month period. In normal times, output changes only gradually — growing or shrinking only 2 or 3 percent per year — so the change from the first month of a quarter to the last is small.

Last spring, however, changes that would ordinarily take years played out in a matter of weeks. Monthly estimates from IHS Markit show that G.D.P. fell more than 5 percent in March and more than 10 percent in April, before rising roughly 5 percent in May and 6 percent in June.

Quarterly averages obscure those big swings, however. G.D.P. fell 1.3 percent in the first quarter (when two relatively normal months were followed by the big drop in March) and 9 percent in the second (when output plunged in the first month of the quarter then rose in the next two).

The big rebound in May and June meant that the third quarter effectively had a head start. In fact, even if there had been zero growth in July, August or September, and the economy had stayed exactly the same size as at the end of the second quarter, that would still represent 5.4 percent quarterly growth — the strongest gain on record.

Recovering Lost Ground

Monthly and quarterly U.S. gross domestic product in 2020




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Change in

AVERAGE from

previous

quarter

Very little forecasted

month-to-month

change within Q3

QUARTERLY

AVERAGE

–9.0%

+7.5%

THIRD

Quarter

(forecast)

First

Quarter

SECOND

Quarter

$15

trillion

$10

$5

Jan.

Feb.

Mar.

April

May

June

July

Aug.

Sept.

Very little forecasted

month-to-month

change within Q3

Change in AVERAGE from

previous quarter

–9.0%

+7.5%

QUARTERLY AVERAGE

First Quarter

SECOND Quarter

THIRD Quarter

(forecast)

$15 trillion

$10

$5

Jan.

Feb.

March

April

May

June

July

Aug.

Sept.


Note: Monthly G.D.P. estimates are shown as seasonally adjusted annual rates, adjusted for inflation.

Source: IHS Markit

By Ella Koeze

Of course, the economy did experience some growth during the third quarter. IHS Markit estimates that G.D.P. grew about 1.5 percent in July and less than 1 percent in August and September. But those are much weaker gains than the quarterly G.D.P. figures might seem to suggest.

“Statistics that we’re used to using for small and slow movements are basically broken when it comes to looking at large and rapid movements,” said Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist who occasionally contributes to The New York Times. “Typically a recession plays out over many quarters. This one played out over many weeks. So looking at the data through the lens of quarterly data misses all the action.”

Gross domestic product in the United States is usually reported at an annual rate, meaning how much output would grow or shrink if that rate of change were sustained for a full year. That convention makes it easier to compare data collected over different time periods. But during periods of rapid change, annual rates can be confusing.

In the second quarter, for example, G.D.P. fell at an annual rate of 31.4 percent. That makes it sound as if the economy shrank by nearly one-third, when in fact it shrank by a bit less than a tenth.

To avoid confusion, in the coverage of Thursday’s report, The Times plans to emphasize simple, nonannual percentage changes from both the second quarter and the fourth quarter of last year, before the pandemic began. (We gave a more detailed explanation of this decision before the second-quarter report in July.)

When the pandemic first hit last spring, many economists and policymakers hoped that by shutting down nonessential businesses and encouraging people to stay home, the United States could quickly bring the virus under control, then reopen with minimal lasting economic damage. That would allow for a “V-shaped” recession and recovery — a steep drop, followed by an equally steep rebound.

Relative to that expectation, the U.S. response has been a failure. The economy bounced back in May and June, but only partway. Most forecasters don’t expect G.D.P. to return to its pre-pandemic level until late next year at the earliest.

Compared with forecasts from April and May, however, the economic rebound has beaten expectations. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, for example, released a forecast in late April showing a steeper second-quarter decline and a weaker third-quarter rebound than ended up happening. The office also expected the unemployment rate to stay above 10 percent through the end of this year; instead, the rate fell below that benchmark in August, and fell further to 7.9 percent in September.

The bad news is that progress has slowed sharply since that spring rebound. Many economists have recently revised downward their forecasts for the end of the year, in part because Congress did not provide more stimulus money before the election.

“The recovery has been faster than expected, but it is bending off pretty sharply,” Mr. Herzon said. “We got a sharp recovery, but there appears to have been a limit to that recovery.”

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