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Economies vs. coronavirus

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As the coronavirus pandemic advances worldwide coming to the fore is the ability of economies to hold out against an increasingly likely global recession.

Throughout the past year, a number of economists predicted a deterioration in international and country situation in 2020. However, at that moment, the researchers cited “classical” macroeconomic reasons for such a recession – the trade war, the slowdown in leading economies, the growing “bubbles” in stock markets, factors of cyclic nature. As for more radical forecasts, even their authors categorized them as “shocking” or “unbelievable.” No one could contemplate a global epidemic, capable of literally “putting on quarantine” billions of people.

“The fight against the pandemic came as a shock of a scope, if not the Great Depression of the 1930s, then at least the Great Recession of 2008–2009,” – says Oleg Shibanov, professor at the Russian Economic School, in Vedomosti. In the face of the coronavirus, there emerged a watershed between countries that have demonstrated the ability to quickly and effectively respond to the epidemic – “this is South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong”, along with one-party China, which mobilized a well-trained military and civilian state apparatus to fight against coronavirus, “and those Western countries that turned out to be unprepared, ” – says Pierre Lelouch, former French Secretary of State for European Affairs, in an interview with Le Figaro.

From the structural point of view, the closure of dozens of businesses and even the entire sectors of the economy in most countries of the world, combined with the fall of stock markets “during February and March” has caused a drop in demand in most countries of the world. Quarantine inevitably limits consumer access to the service sector, which is fraught with disaster for small and medium-sized businesses, which, for example, in South Korea, make up more than half of national economy. Also, it is completely unclear as to how the transportation industry, tourism industry, public catering can recover after the crisis. In addition, a major problem to be tackled with is the absence, for understandable reasons, of reliable epidemiological models that would allow governments to predict with high precision the development of a pandemic and its economic consequences.

For example, experts have information on the economic indicators of US metropolitan areas during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918-19. They show that the more drastic measures the authorities used to combat the epidemic, the higher their economic performance was after it ended. However, The Economist says, the age-related characteristics of coronavirus mortality are very different from the Spanish flu. Unlike then, when it was about an industrial economy, today it’s mainly about the economy of services. Therefore, the outcome may be different.

Economists have traditionally used the concept of “growth model” to describe the key characteristics of the economic systems of individual countries. They also use this model to predict the policies of the authorities in the context of economic crises. However, at present most leading economies or economic associations are characterized by a mixed model which requires the adoption of measures that contradict each other. And therein lies a huge problem.

Thus, the EU faced the pandemic in a situation where the chances for meeting the criteria for EU membership in case of an unfavorable turn of events in the global economic environment were very limited for most countries in the eurozone. The slowdown in European economies during the 2000s – 2010s led to an increase in budget deficits in many countries. The current crisis hit Europe, first of all, countries that are already burdened with high debt. For example, Italy’s public debt could reach 160 percent of GDP by the end of this year – which “could provoke panic in the state bond market.” As a result, one of the first “victims” of coronavirus was the EU Stability Pact.

The current crisis is different for Europe compared to the previous ones also because the pandemic is “unpredictable” and because “Europeanism” was weakened by other crises of the last decade. ”. The situation in the eurozone is“ much worse than in 2009 ”, because forecasters underestimate the “implosion of economic processes.” “The recession promises to be longer and deeper”. According to the ECB, the EU may require a package of fiscal measures of up to 1.5 trillion euro until the end of the year. Like during the euro crisis, Europe has split. Paris, Rome and Madrid, supported by a growing number of other countries, are demanding common “corona bonds” to share the burden of fighting the epidemic and its economic consequences. This is because countries that rely on consumption for growth combat the negative consequences of the epidemic, first of all, by supporting incomes at the highest possible level.

On the other hand, where export is the main driver of the economy, it is first necessary to support the sustainability of the current balance sheets of enterprises and keep jobs. That’s why Germany, which, they predict, will see a 10 percent economic decline in the first quarter, and Austria and the Netherlands, for the evening of April 8, strongly oppose the “uncontrolled printing of money.” Finally, it is not clear what long-term effect for the common market will come from the restoration of border controls and entry bans. “No less than the existence of the EU could be put at stake”,experts say.

The US growth model is highly questionable as well. While it leans on a fairly large service sector, significant exports, the main driver of the economy is consumer spending. According to critics, the American economy cannot survive a long period of national quarantine without catastrophic consequences. A total halt in economic activity will destroy the social fabric of society and bring the existing growth model down to its knees. However, a “reset” of the economy, which the Trump administration continues to dream about, “will turn the pandemic into a plague.”

Unlike the 2008 crisis, all the emergency measures taken by the FRS in recent weeks have not stabilized the markets. The more than two-trillion aid package, formally approved by the Congress, leaves the most burning question unanswered: who should be the recipients of this support, businesses or citizens? Usually, Washington chooses businesses. But in this case, the authorities face a dramatic upsurge in unemployment, which has not been observed for the past 60 years. Meanwhile, it is the employment factor that can become key in determining the winner in the upcoming presidential election. For the incumbent administration, Henry Kissinger points out, “public trust in American ability to manage the situation at home” is at stake.

A dual situation is observed in China. On the one hand, Beijing, according to official figures, has managed to at least put the epidemic under control. In economic terms, China is “in a strong position”, possessing the world’s largest reserves, significant liquid assets, and industrial capacities that can not only quickly compensate for the losses of recent months but give a new powerful impetus to Beijing’s greater economic presence throughout the world. At the same time, China is confronted with “the weakened and over-credited United States and Europe, which are threatened by a widespread financial crisis that will follow the collapse of their economies”.

On the other hand, the Chinese economy is heavily dependent on exports to other countries, which have declined sharply in recent months, and on imports, which suffer as well following closures of production facilities and ports around the world. In addition, China has reported an incessant slowdown over the past few years. The high debt of businesses and problems in the banking sector have worsened amid the “corona crisis”. In terms of global markets, China poses a threat to the US debt market if circumstances force Beijing to sell off dollar reserves. Finally, the slowdown, not to mention the decline of the Chinese economy, will play a major role in lowering commodity prices, since China holds the world’s second position in annual imports.

Lower-priced commodities can destabilize the economies of dozens of developing countries that depend on their exports. On March 30, UNCTAD published a report stating that “for developing countries, the consequences of the pandemic … proved worse than what they had to go through in 2008.” Devaluation hit particularly hard on Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and South Africa. According to UNCTAD experts, the shortage of funds for developing countries to fulfill their financial obligations in 2020 and 2021 will amount to up to 2 trillion. dollars. “This could lead to a debt crisis in which many direct and indirect lenders in industrially developed countries will be dragged into.” Finally, in many developing countries, most people have no savings and governments do not have enough funds to support those who have lost their jobs. Even a relatively short nationwide quarantine can send the economies of such countries into decline. According to media reports, by April 6, “at least 85 states had turned to the IMF for assistance.”

According to pessimists, there is a good reason to believe that the longer the quarantine lasts, the greater structural damage it will cause to any economy. The professional skills of workers, as well as their social networks, will also be affected. According to optimists, “America and Europe will put the economic crisis out with money, while incomes lost due to the epidemic will be reimbursed from the budgets and all problems will be sent into the infinitely distant future.” And the economic models that demonstrated growth before the Covid-19 crisis will return to it within 2-3 years.

Finally, governments in many countries will surely resort to measures aimed at restoring or expanding national production in strategically important sectors, including the food and medical industries. Domestic market support policy is gaining popularity again. “This is in line with the strategy of Donald Trump in the USA, the strategy of Boris Johnson in the UK and Shinzo Abe in Japan. The goal is not so much as to limit international trade, but to create a sound domestic market, which will make it possible to reduce its dependence on conflicts and the blows of world trade ”.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, the authorities in most countries will have to spend “much more than they think.” The consequences of the pandemic in the form of rising government debt and spikes in inflation will not take long to present themsevles. Markets may find themselves “replaced by governments”; and people in most countries of the world “will want to restore national prerogatives, especially regarding … the health sector.”

Any strategy adopted by the authorities in the current conditions will entail significant social and economic damage. Therefore, a search for the best model for adapting the economy to the comprehensive challenge of the pandemic will most likely be conducted by trial and error. The errors, unfortunately, will cost human lives. In the end, countries that succeed in picking a more effective model will gain a tangible advantage in economic competition in the “post-virus” world.

From our partner International Affairs

Economy

2022: Small Medium Business & Economic Development Errors

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Calling Michelangelo: would Michelangelo erect a skyscraper or can an architect liberate David from a rock of marble? When visibly damaged are the global economies, already drowning their citizenry, how can their economic development departments in hands of those who never ever created a single SME or ran a business, expect anything else from them other than lingering economic agonies?

The day pandemic ends; immediately, on the next day, the panic on the center stage would be the struggling economies across the world.  On the small medium business economic fronts, despite, already accepted globally, as the largest tax contributor to any nation. Visible worldwide, already abandoned and ignored without any specific solutions, there is something strategically wrong with upskilling exporters and reskilling manufacturers or the building growth of small medium business economies. The SME sectors in most nations are in serious trouble but are their economic development rightly balanced?   

Matching Mindsets: Across the world, hard working citizens across the world pursue their goals and some end up with a job seeker mindset and some job creator mindset; both are good. Here is a globally proven fact; job seekers help build enterprises but job creators are the ones who create that enterprise in the first place. Study in your neighborhoods anywhere across the world and discover the difference.

Visible on LinkedIn: Today, on the SME economic development fronts of the world, clearly visible on their LinkedIn profiles, the related Ministries, mandated government departments, trade-groups, chambers, trade associations and export promotion agencies are primarily led by job seeker mindsets and academic or bureaucratic mentality. Check all this on LinkedIn profiles of economic development teams anywhere across the world.

Will jumbo-pilots do heart transplant, after all, economic performance depends on matching right competency; Needed today, post pandemic economic recovery demands skilled warriors with mastery of national mobilization to decipher SME creation and scalability of diversified SME verticals on digital platforms of upskilling for global age exportability. This fact has hindered any serious progress on such fronts during the last decade. The absence of any significant progress on digitization, national mobilization of entrepreneurialism and upskilling of exportability are clear proofs of a tragically one-sided mindset.

Is it a cruise holiday, or what? Today, the estimated numbers of all frontline economic development team members across 200 nations are roughly enough to fill the world-largest-cruise-ship Symphony that holds 6200 guests. If 99.9% of them are job-seeker mindsets, how can the global economic development fraternity sleep tonight? As many billion people already rely on their performances, some two billion in a critical economic crisis, plus one billion starving and fighting deep poverty. If this is what is holding grassroots prosperity for the last decade, when will be the best time to push the red panic button? 

The Big Fallacy of “Access to Finance” Notion: The goals of banking and every major institution on over-fanaticized notions of intricate banking, taxation are of little or no value as SME of the world are not primarily looking for “Access to Capital” they are rather seeking answers and dialogue with entrepreneurial job creator mindsets. SME management and economic development is not about fancy PDF studies of recycled data and extra rubber stamps to convince that lip service is working. No, it is not working right across the world.

SME are also not looking for government loans. They do not require expensive programs offered on Tax relief, as they make no profit, they do not require free financial audits, as they already know what their financial problems are and they also do that require mechanical surveys created by bureaucracies asking the wrong questions. This is the state of SME recovery and economic development outputs and lingering of sufferings.

SME development teams across the world now require mandatory direct SME ownership experiences

The New Hypothesis 2022: The new hypothesis challenges any program on the small medium business development fronts unless in the right hands and right mindsets they are only damaging the national economy. Upon satisfactory research and study, create right equilibrium and bring job seeker and job creator mindsets to collaborate for desired results. As a start 50-50, balances are good targets, however, anything less than 10% active participation of the job creator mindset at any frontline mandated SME Ministry, department, agency or trade groups automatically raises red flags and is deemed ineffective and irrelevant. 

The accidental economists: The hypothesis, further challenges, around the world, economic institutes of sorts, already, focused on past, present and future of local and global economy. Although brilliant in their own rights and great job seekers, they too lack the entrepreneurial job creator mindsets and have no experience of creating enterprises at large. Brilliantly tabulating data creating colorful illustrative charts, but seriously void of specific solutions, justifiably as their profession rejects speculations, however, such bodies never ready to bring such disruptive issues in fear of creating conflicts amongst their own job seeker fraternities. The March of Displaced cometh, the cries of the replaced by automation get louder, the anger of talented misplaced by wrong mindsets becomes visible. Act accordingly

The trail of silence: Academia will neither, as they know well their own myopic job seeker mindset. In a world where facial recognition used to select desired groups, pronouns to right gatherings, social media to isolate voting, but on economic survival fronts where, either print currency or buy riot gears or both, a new norm; unforgiveable is the treatment of small medium business economies and mishmash support of growth. Last century, laborious and procedural skills were precious, this century surrounded by extreme automation; mindsets are now very precious.  

Global-age of national mobilization: Start with a constructive open-minded collaborative narrative, demonstrate open courage to allow entrepreneurial points of views heard and critically analyze ideas on mobilization of small mid size business economies. Applying the same new hypotheses across all high potential contributors to SME growth, like national trade groups, associations and chambers as their frontline economic developers must also balance with the job creator mindset otherwise they too become irrelevant. Such ideas are not just criticism rather survival strategies. Across the world, this is a new revolution to arm SME with the right skills to become masters of trade and exports, something abandoned by their economic policies. To further discuss or debate at Cabinet Level explore how Expothon is making footprints on new SME thinking and tabling new deployment strategies. Expothon is also planning a global series of virtual events to uplift SME economies in dozens of selected nations.

Two wheels of the same cart: Silence on such matters is not a good sign. Address candidly; allow both mindsets to debate on how and why as the future becomes workless and how and why small medium business sectors can become the driving engine of new economic progress. Job seekers and job creators are two wheels of the same cart; right assembly will take us far on this economic growth passage. Face the new global age with new confidence. Let the nation witness leadership on mobilization of entrepreneurialism and see a tide of SME growth rise. The rest is easy.

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Economy

Rebalancing Act: China’s 2022 Outlook

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Authors: Ibrahim Chowdhury, Ekaterine T. Vashakmadze and Li Yusha

After a strong rebound last year, the world economy is entering a challenging 2022. The advanced economies have recovered rapidly thanks to big stimulus packages and rapid progress with vaccination, but many developing countries continue to struggle.

The spread of new variants amid large inequalities in vaccination rates, elevated food and commodity prices, volatile asset markets, the prospect of policy tightening in the United States and other advanced economies, and continued geopolitical tensions provide a challenging backdrop for developing countries, as the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects report published today highlights.

The global context will also weigh on China’s outlook in 2022, by dampening export performance, a key growth driver last year. Following a strong 8 percent cyclical rebound in 2021, the World Bank expects growth in China to slow to 5.1 percent in 2022, closer to its potential — the sustainable growth rate of output at full capacity.

Indeed, growth in the second half of 2021 was below this level, and so our forecast assumes a modest amount of policy loosening. Although we expect momentum to pick up, our outlook is subject to domestic in addition to global downside risks. Renewed domestic COVID-19 outbreaks, including the new Omicron variant and other highly transmittable variants, could require more broad-based and longer-lasting restrictions, leading to larger disruptions in economic activity. A severe and prolonged downturn in the real estate sector could have significant economy-wide reverberations.

In the face of these headwinds, China’s policymakers should nonetheless keep a steady hand. Our latest China Economic Update argues that the old playbook of boosting domestic demand through investment-led stimulus will merely exacerbate risks in the real estate sector and reap increasingly lower returns as China’s stock of public infrastructure approaches its saturation point.

Instead, to achieve sustained growth, China needs to stick to the challenging path of rebalancing its economy along three dimensions: first, the shift from external demand to domestic demand and from investment and industry-led growth to greater reliance on consumption and services; second, a greater role for markets and the private sector in driving innovation and the allocation of capital and talent; and third, the transition from a high to a low-carbon economy.

None of these rebalancing acts are easy. However, as the China Economic Update points out, structural reforms could help reduce the trade-offs involved in transitioning to a new path of high-quality growth.

First, fiscal reforms could aim to create a more progressive tax system while boosting social safety nets and spending on health and education. This would help lower precautionary household savings and thereby support the rebalancing toward domestic consumption, while also reducing income inequality among households.

Second, following tightening anti-monopoly provisions aimed at digital platforms, and a range of restrictions imposed on online consumer services, the authorities could consider shifting their attention to remaining barriers to market competition more broadly to spur innovation and productivity growth.

A further opening-up of the protected services sector, for example, could improve access to high-quality services and support the rebalancing toward high-value service jobs (a special focus of the World Bank report). Eliminating remaining restrictions on labor mobility by abolishing the hukou, China’s system of household registration, for all urban areas would equally support the growth of vibrant service economies in China’s largest cities.

Third, the wider use of carbon pricing, for example, through an expansion of the scope and tightening of the emissions trading system rules, as well power sector reforms to encourage the penetration and nationwide trade and dispatch of renewables, would not only generate environmental benefits but also contribute to China’s economic transformation to a more sustainable and innovation-based growth model.

In addition, a more robust corporate and bank resolution framework would contribute to mitigating moral hazards, thereby reducing the trade-offs between monetary policy easing and financial risk management. Addressing distortions in the access to credit — reflected in persistent spreads between private and State borrowers — could support the shift to more innovation-driven, private sector-led growth.

Productivity growth in China during the past four decades of reform and opening-up has been private-sector led. The scope for future productivity gains through the diffusion of modern technologies and practices among smaller private companies remains large. Realizing these gains will require a level playing field with State-owned enterprises.

While the latter have played an instrumental role during the pandemic to stabilize employment, deliver key services and, in some cases, close local government budget gaps, their ability to drive the next phase of growth is questionable given lower profits and productivity growth rates in the past.

In 2022, the authorities will face a significantly more challenging policy environment. They will need to remain vigilant and ready to recalibrate financial and monetary policies to ensure the difficulties in the real estate sector don’t spill over into broader economic distress. Recent policy loosening suggests the policymakers are well aware of these risks.

However, in aiming to keep growth on a steady path close to potential, they will need to be similarly alert to the risk of accumulating ever greater levels of corporate and local government debt. The transition to high-quality growth will require economic rebalancing toward consumption, services, and green investments. If the past is any guide to the future, the reliance on markets and private sector initiative is China’s best bet to achieve the required structural change swiftly and at minimum cost.

First published on China Daily, via World Bank

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The US Economic Uncertainty: Bitcoin Faces a Test of Resilience?

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Is inflation harmful? Is inflation here to stay? And are people really at a loss? These and countless other questions along the same lines dominated the first half of 2021. Many looked for alternative investments in the national bourse, while others adopted unorthodox streams. Yes, I’m talking about bitcoin. The crypto giant hit records after records since the pandemic made us question the fundamentals of our conventional economic policies. And while inflation was never far behind in registering its own mark in history, the volatility in the crypto stream was hard to deny: swiping billions of dollars in mere days in April 2021. The surge came again, however. And it will keep on coming; I have no doubt. But whether it is the end of the pandemic or the early hues of a new shade, the tumultuous relationship between traditional economic metrics and the championed cryptocurrency is about to get more interesting.

The job market is at the most confusing crossroads in recent times. The hiring rate in the US has slowed down in the past two months, with employers adding only 199,000 jobs in December. The numbers reveal that this is the second month of depressing job additions compared to an average of more than 500,000 jobs added each month throughout 2021. More concerning is that economists had predicted an estimated 400,000 jobs additions last month. Nonetheless, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the unemployment rate has ticked down to 3.9% – the first time since the pre-pandemic level of 3.5% reported in February 2020. Analytically speaking, US employment has returned to pre-pandemic levels, yet businesses are still looking for more employees. The leverage, therefore, lies with the labor: reportedly (on average) every two employees have three positions available.

The ‘Great Resignation,’ a coinage for the new phenomenon, underscores this unique leverage of job selection. Sectors with low-wage positions like retail and hospitality face a labor shortage as people are better-positioned to bargain for higher wages. Thus, while wages are rising, quitting rates are record high simultaneously. According to recent job reports, an estimated 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in November alone. Given that this data got collected before the surge of the Omicron variant, the picture is about to worsen.

While wages are rising, employment is no longer in the dumps. People are quitting but not to invest stimulus cheques. Instead, they are resigning to negotiate better-paying jobs: forcing the businesses to hike prices and fueling inflation. Thus, despite high earnings, the budget for consumption [represented by the Consumer Price Index (CPI)] is rising at a rate of 6.8% (reported in November 2021). Naturally, bitcoin investment is not likely to bloom at levels rivaling the last two years. However, a downfall is imminent if inflation persists.

The US Federal Reserve sweats caution about searing gains in prices and soaring wage figures. And it appears that the fed is weighing its options to wind up its asset purchase program and hike interest rates. In March 2020, the fed started buying $40 billion worth of Mortgage-backed securities and $80 billion worth of government bonds (T-bills). However, a 19% increase in average house prices and a four-decade-high level of inflation is more than they bargained. Thus, the fed officials have been rooting for an expedited normalization of the monetary policy: further bolstered by the job reports indicating falling unemployment and rising wages. In recent months, the fed purview has dramatically shifted from its dovish sentiments: expecting no rate hike till 2023 to taper talks alongside three rate hikes in 2022.

Bitcoin now faces a volatile passage in the forthcoming months. While the disappointing job data and Omicron concerns could nudge the ball in its favor, the chances are that a depressive phase is yet to ensue. According to crypto-analysts, the bitcoin is technically oversold i.e. mostly devoid of impulsive investors and dominated by long-term holders. Since November, the bitcoin has dropped from the record high of $69,000 by almost 40%: moving in the $40,000-$41,000 range. Analysts believe that since bitcoin acts as a proxy for liquidity, any liquidity shortage could push the market into a mass sellout. Mr. Alex Krüger, the founder of Aike Capital, a New York-based asset management firm, stated: “Crypto assets are at the furthest end of the risk curve.” He further added: “[Therefore] since they had benefited from the Fed’s “extraordinarily lax monetary policy,” it should suffice to say that they would [also] suffer as an “unexpectedly tighter” policy shifts money into safer asset classes.” In simpler terms, a loose monetary policy and a deluge of stimulus payments cushioned the meteoric rise in bitcoin valuation as a hedge against inflation. That mechanism would also plummet the market with a sudden hawkish shift.

The situation is dire for most industries. Job participation levels are still low as workers are on the sidelines either because of the Omicron concern or lack of child support. In case of a rate hike, businesses would be forced to push against the wages to accommodate affordability in consumer prices. For bitcoin, the investment would stay dormant. However, any inflationary surprises could bring about an early tightening of the policy: spelling doom for the crypto market. The market now expects the job data to worsen while inflation to rise at 7.1% through December in the US inflation data (to be reported on Wednesday). Any higher than the forecasted figure alongside uncertainty imbued by the new variant could spark a downward spiral in bitcoin – probably pushing the asset below the $25000 mark.

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