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Rethinking value in the economy – World Health Organization

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The road to a Health for All economy starts with valuing the right things to do; only then can the world focus on doing things with the right values and rethinking and building a whole-of-society approach to economic activity and development.  A key finding driving this rethink is the fact that women do more unpaid work than men, sometimes as much as 2.5 hours per day more.

This is the argument made by the WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All in their 3rd Brief, issued today. In 2020, the Council notes that global GDP increased by $2.2 trillion because of expenditure on armaments while only a fraction of that – just $50 billion – is needed to vaccinate the entire world, of which $23 billion is required to fund the ACT-Accelerator. No amount of tinkering with GDP as the measure of progress can address the fundamental schism between the goal of Health for All and what is presently valued.

Given this reality, the Council proposes the following values foundational for Health for All and the centrepieces of a new system of value and measurement:

  1. Valuing planetary health
  2. Valuing the diverse social foundations and activities that promote equity
  3. Valuing human health and wellbeing

The Council on the Economics of Health for All was established on 13 November 2020 by the WHO Director-General to rethink how value in health and wellbeing is measured, produced, and distributed across the economy. Especially relevant for today, the day their 3rd Brief is being launched, 8 March – International Women’s Day, is the fact that all 10 members of the Council are women, and among the world’s leading economists.

Measuring these Health for All values requires a whole-of-society approach, in which no single universal metric can encompass the different components of Health for All. While access to health services is vital, so too are recognition and resources for broader social determinants of health, such as good education, decent working conditions and clean environments including water and sanitary facilities, whose complex interaction can either help or hinder achieving the goal of Health for All. 

The Council starts with the primary goal – Health for All – to decide what we should value; then work backwards to reorient economic and financial policy levers towards positioning health as an investment and ensuring Health for All.

To shift the current paradigm towards Health for All, we need to invest strategically in the systems that determine health. We need to change the routine to include new tools and approaches to direct policy.  And we need to increase governance capabilities for the long term, that enable the public sector to influence and work across sectors and non-state actors – in ways which ensure positive impacts on human health and well-being for every person, while respecting planetary boundaries.

For more information on the Brief and on the work of the Council, please go to WHO Council on the Economics of Health For All

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China's Economy Contracts Sharply as Covid Zero Cuts Output – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — China’s economy contracted in April, with Covid outbreaks and lockdowns dragging the industrial and consumer sectors down to the weakest levels since early 2020 as millions of residents were confined to their homes and factories were forced to halt production. 

Industrial output fell 2.9% in April from a year ago, worse than the median estimate of a 0.5% increase in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Retail sales contracted 11.1% in the period, weaker than a projected 6.6% drop. The unemployment rate climbed to 6.1%, higher than the forecast of 6%.

China’s economy has taken an enormous toll from the government’s stringent efforts to keep the virus at bay. Beijing has insisted on sticking with its Covid Zero strategy to curb infections, even though the high transmissibility of omicron puts cities at greater risk of repeatedly locking down and reopening compared to earlier strains. 

“Covid outbreaks in April had a big impact on the economy, but the impact is short-term,” the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement. “With progress in Covid controls and policies to stabilize the economy taking effect, the economy is likely to recover gradually.”

China’s benchmark CSI 300 stock index was down 0.3% as of 10:04 am local time. The onshore yuan was little changed at 6.7917 per dollar. The yield on the 10-year government bonds rose 1 basis point to 2.83%.

Fixed-asset investment increased 6.8% in the first four months of the year, largely in line with projected growth of 7%, likely supported by the government’s push to expand infrastructure spending.

The economic shocks from the zero-tolerance policy have pushed China’s ambitious full-year growth target of around 5.5% further out of reach, and is weighing on the global growth outlook. 

Beijing has signaled that policy makers will step up support for the economy, with Premier Li Keqiang recently urging officials to ensure stability through fiscal and monetary policy.

The People’s Bank of China took steps on Sunday to ease a housing crunch by reducing mortgage rates for first-time homebuyers. It left the interest rate on one-year policy loans unchanged on Monday, as inflation pressure and worries about capital outflows reduce the scope for more easing.  

Monetary stimulus is proving less effective because of the stringent virus restrictions, with data on Friday showing businesses and consumers had little appetite to borrow in April. Credit growth weakened sharply last month, with new yuan loans sinking to the lowest level since December 2017.

(Updates with comment from statistics office)

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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Potential of Seaweed on Economy Being Explored in Upcoming Webinar – VOCM

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A webinar on the potential of seaweed as an economic driver is coming later this month.

The webinar, put together by The Laurentic Forum Consortium, will look at how coastal communities can use an abundance of seaweed to boost the economy, as seaweed is being used as fertilizer, diet supplements, bioplastics, animal feed, pharmaceutical products, and much more.

Webinar moderator and the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation, Keith Hutchings, says seaweed farming could provide opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

He says if utilized correctly, communities and regions can add one more industry to help sustain them.

The webinar is taking place May 19.

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Charting the Global Economy: Growth Prospects Continue to Dim – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Sign up for the New Economy Daily newsletter, follow us @economics and subscribe to our podcast.

Prospects for the world economy are growing bleaker as Russia’s war in Ukraine takes a toll on European businesses and consumers, China employs a heavy-handed approach toward Covid-19 and US financial conditions tighten, according to the Institute of International Finance.

Central banks around the world continue to boost interest rates to counter a surge in inflation. In the US, the closely watched consumer price index showed inflation remains well-elevated. The squeeze to household budgets is also being felt in the UK and France. 

Here are some of the charts that appeared on Bloomberg this week on the latest developments in the global economy:

World

The world economy will essentially flatline this year as Europe falls into recession, China slows sharply and US financial conditions tighten significantly, according to a new forecast from the IIF, which counts more than 450 financial-services firms as members. The group forecasts 2.2% global GDP growth this year, markedly lower than the International Monetary Fund estimate of 3.6% on a purchasing power parity basis.

The gasoline market is starting to run out of control — just like diesel before it. US buyers are already sucking in more supplies from Europe as the summer driving season — which increases demand — gets underway. Add to that a loss of so-called secondary feedstocks from Russia that are critical in the production of the road fuel.

US

Americans got little respite from inflation in April, as prices for a range of necessities and discretionary-spending categories continued to climb at some of the fastest-ever rates. While annual measures of consumer prices cooled slightly from March — signaling a peak that economists expected — the details painted a more troubling picture as monthly figures advanced more than forecast.

US homebuyers are increasingly turning to adjustable-rate mortgages as overall borrowing costs soar. ARMs — which carry variable interest rates that reset based on the market at predetermined times — accounted for 10.8% of total home-loan applications last week. That’s up from 3.1% of activity at the start of the year and is the largest share since 2008.

Europe

The French government pledged to increase social benefits and issue food vouchers to the poorest households as freshly re-elected President Emmanuel Macron seeks to avert panic over a cost-of-living crisis before legislative elections next month. 

The UK economy unexpectedly contracted in March as the cost of living squeeze forced consumers to cut back on spending, throwing doubt on the Bank of England’s ability to keep hiking interest rates and piling pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to respond.

For many of Sweden’s highly indebted consumers, the Riksbank’s sudden interest-rate increase at the end of April marks the start of a new squeeze that officials have long fretted about.  

Asia

China’s exports and imports struggled in April as worsening Covid outbreaks cut demand, undermined production and disrupted logistics in the world’s second-largest economy.

Japan’s household spending climbed in March for the first time in three months as virus restrictions were lifted across the nation, offering some support for private consumption at the end of a bruising quarter for the economy.

Emerging Markets

Malaysia’s central bank unexpectedly raised its benchmark interest rate in an effort to head off price pressures, while authorities in Argentina boosted borrowing costs for the fifth time this year.

Latin American central banks will likely extend their monetary tightening campaigns beyond what was originally expected after inflation surged past forecasts in April, with steep increases in food and fuel costs stinging policy makers.

South Africa is headed for a record year of power cuts if the rate of station breakdowns fails to improve, particularly at coal-fueled plants. Africa’s most industrialized nation was already on track to exceed the annual record for energy shed from controlled blackouts, a practice locally known as loadshedding that’s used to prevent the grid from a total collapse.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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