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Quebec mulling additional support measures for economy: Pierre Fitzgibbon – Montreal Gazette

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The economy minister was in Montreal to introduce projects to brighten up downtown and lure office workers back.

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Quebec will consider unlocking fresh sums to support economic expansion and ensure businesses in downtown cores can survive the pandemic, Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said.

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Finance minister Eric Girard “is going to do an economic update in November, and we’re working now to see what other programs across all ministries we could tap to continue the relaunch of the economy,” Fitzgibbon said Friday in an interview in Montreal on the sidelines of a business event.

“Perhaps there are other sums out there that we can obtain. The government is quite open to this because all in all, public finances are in a good situation.”

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Quebec on Friday reported a $359-million deficit for the three-month period ended June 30. That’s a 92-per-cent improvement over the $4.74-billion shortfall reported in the same quarter a year ago — right at the start of the pandemic.

Real gross domestic product in Quebec expanded at an annualized rate of 3.4 per cent in the second quarter, topping its pre-pandemic level with the help of strong domestic demand, the provincial statistics institute said Thursday. Investment in machinery and equipment, household consumption and residential construction all posted gains.

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By contrast, GDP for Canada as a whole contracted 1.1 per cent on an annualized basis.

Despite the broad economic rebound, some sectors — such as commercial real estate — are struggling.

Office vacancies in downtown Montreal rose to 13.2 per cent in the third quarter, real-estate firm CBRE said Thursday. That’s the highest level since the fourth quarter of 2004.

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Fitzgibbon was in town Friday at a Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal event to introduce eight creative projects selected to brighten up downtown Montreal and lure office workers back.

Provincial financing for the initiative totals $3.1 million, part of a $23.5-million aid package for Montreal’s central business district that was announced in March. All told, Quebec set aside $75 million to help rekindle economic activity in downtown cores across Quebec.

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“The Montreal economy accounts for 57 per cent of Quebec’s GDP, and we cannot let it down,” Fitzgibbon said. “If more money is required, we will do it. At this time, I don’t think we’ll have an issue with money. There are other programs for innovation or creativity that we can put to work. We can take money elsewhere to achieve the same thing.”

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COVID-19 has deprived downtown Montreal of much of its office worker population in the past 18 months. Plans to bring back employees this autumn have recently been put on hold as a fourth wave sweeps across Quebec.

In fact, teleworking’s enduring popularity probably means downtown cores will never be as busy as they were before the pandemic, according to Fitzgibbon.

“We have to admit that many companies are going to favour teleworking, even after health restrictions have been lifted, for reasons such as family-work balance,” the minister said. “That will be a reality.”

And with several downtown-based employers having opened satellite offices in suburbs such as Brossard or Laval during the pandemic, “perhaps we will never have the same density that we had before,” he said.

ftomesco@postmedia.com

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Economy

Top economists call for radical redirection of the economy to put Health for All at the centre in the run-up to G20 – World Health Organization

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The COVID-19 Pandemic has brought into focus the stark reality of the large and growing inequities across the globe in access to health care and health products: for every 100 people in high-income countries, 133 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered,
while in low-income countries, only 4 doses per 100 people have been administered.

Yet, to date, the world continues to follow the same economic paradigm that doesn’t change the underlying finance structure and applies outdated thinking on economic development, which stands in the way of Health For All. As the G20 Summit approaches
in Rome from 29-31 October, where, first, health and finance ministers, and then heads of state and government, come together, there is a window of opportunity for a radical redirection from health for the economy to the economy for health for all.
The critical challenge is both to increase the magnitude of the finance available for health and to govern it in a more directed and effective manner. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) Council on the Economics of Health For All (WHO Council on the Economics of Health For All) calls now, more than ever, for clear, ambitious goals to mobilize and focus investments towards health, considering financing for health as a long-term investment and not
a short-term cost. The Council’s new brief on Financing Health for All prioritizes two key dimensions: more finance and better finance and lays out the way forward through three pathways to action:

  1. Creating fiscal space by easing artificial constraints imposed by outdated economic assumptions and reversing the harmful effects of reforms that lead to big health cuts, allowing spending and investments towards Health For All to
    increase significantly;
  2. Directing investments to ensure Health for All becomes the central purpose of economic activities, and increase public leadership and dynamic state capabilities to create a conducive regulatory, tax, industrial policy and investment
    environment; and
  3. Governing public and private finance by regulating the functioning and financing of private health markets through measures that crowd in and direct private finance towards improving health outcomes globally and equitably.

The Council believes that a new paradigm must be pursued that avoids macroeconomic policies and assumptions that move us away from Health For All. This means designing policies to reach health for all now and in the long-term and realigning finance from
all sectors and sources through conditionalities that fuel symbiotic gains in the public interest. Not only more financing of the health sector, but better-quality finance is crucial to deliver Health For All, which must be equitable and ensure a
sustainable impact on peoples’ lives.

The challenge is to change mindsets within countries that impose internal constraints on spending and to transform externally-imposed conditionalities that hinder spending on what matters for health and promote Health For All. Changing the rules of the
game is a fundamental priority of any strategy to deliver Health For All, and policymakers have the ability to rethink finance now.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that the financing of health systems needs to change radically to protect and promote the health of all people,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “The latest report
by the Council on the Economics of Health For All makes a clear and compelling argument for the need for sustained financing to be directed to achieving health for all people, and for investments to be understood as long-term gains for national and
global development.”

“While health systems are under-resourced, more finance is not the only solution. The work of the Council stresses the need to reform and redirect finance in radical ways so that the objective is Health For All is designed into the financial structures,
the conditionalities and the partnerships between business and the state,” said Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Chair of the Council.

By way of background, the WHO Council on the Economics of Health For All was established in November 2020 by WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The Council’s core mission is to rethink how value in health and wellbeing
is measured, produced, and distributed across the economy. It will recommend a new way to shape the economy with the objective of building healthy societies that are just, inclusive, equitable, and sustainable. Made up of ten of the world’s
most eminent economists and health experts, the Council works on four areas on how to rethink measurement of economic development, financing, capacity, and innovation with the aim of achieving Health for All. Briefs in each of these areas, and a comprehensive
final report to be produced in 2023, will be used to build momentum amongst finance ministers, heads of state/government, as well as other decision makers such as other financial authorities and international development authorities, towards changing
the structure of economic activity in favor of Health For All.

The members of the Council are Professor Mariana Mazzucato (Chair), Professor Senait Fisseha, Professor Jayati Ghosh, Vanessa Huang, Professor Stephanie Kelton, Professor Ilona Kickbusch, Zelia Maria Profeta da Luz, Kate Raworth, Dr Vera Songwe and Dame
Marilyn Waring (see bottom of page: WHO Council on the Economics of Health For All).

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Economy

Swiss National Bank Warns of Risks With Green Economy Push – Bloomberg

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Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.

Actively pushing for a green transformation of the economy could undermine the effectiveness of the Swiss National Bank’s monetary policy, Governing Board Member Andrea Maechler said. 

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Business

UBS logs surprise 9% rise in Q3 net profit

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UBS posted a 9% rise in third-quarter net profit on Tuesday, as continued trading helped the world’s largest wealth manager to its best quarterly profit since 2015.

Its third-quarter net profit of $2.279 billion far outpaced a median estimate of $1.596 billion from a poll of 23 analysts compiled by Switzerland’s largest bank.

“Our business momentum, our focus on fueling growth, on disciplined execution and on delivering our full ecosystem to clients – all of this led to another strong quarter across all of our business divisions and regions,” Chief Executive Ralph Hamers said in a statement.

In each of the last four quarters, UBS saw double-digit percent gains in net profit as buoyant markets helped it generate higher earnings off of managing money for the rich.

From July through September, favourable market conditions, and higher lending and trading amongst its wealthy clientele, unexpectedly helped raise earnings over the bumper levels reported in the third quarter of last year.

 

(Reporting by Oliver Hirt and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Michael Shields and Edwina Gibbs)

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