Раздел: Економика

экономические новости

Energy Giants Say Iran Needs $100 Billion for Gas Upgrade

Iran sits on what are thought to be the world’s largest gas reserves, yet can barely supply its own domestic demand. Since the nuclear deal lifted sanctions, the country has sought foreign investment in exploration and infrastructure. But will the hawkish stance of U.S. President Donald Trump put them off? Henry Ridgwell reports from the CWC Iran Gas Conference in Frankfurt, Germany.

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Imagine a Day Without Immigrants in a Country Full of Immigrants

Immigrants in the United States have had a bad rap through a divisive presidential election. Now, with a new administration in the White House, there seems to be real consequences, ranging from travel bans to deportations. But immigrants are fighting back, and on Thursday in Washington, some businesses gladly suffered the loss of a day without their workforce. Arash Arabasadi explains.

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Trump to Visit Boeing Plant Where Workers Rejected Union

President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit a Boeing aircraft factory in South Carolina on Friday, just days after workers there rejected a bid to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Trump is scheduled to see the rollout of a new version of a wide-body jetliner, the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner. Boeing announced Thursday that Singapore Airlines had committed to buying 10 of the huge planes, which can seat more than 300 passengers.

Three thousand of the workers who build Dreamliners at the North Charleston facility were eligible to join the union, but three-quarters of them voted against the measure after a long and hard-fought campaign pitted union organizers against the company.

Each side accused the other of lies and distortions in a campaign fought on television, online and in the workplace.   

Joan Robinson-Berry, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina, wrote that Boeing workers “will continue to move forward as one team” and have “a bright future.”

Union leader Mike Evans expressed disappointment that workers will “continue to work under a system that suppresses wages, fosters inconsistency and rewards only a chosen few.

Union strategy seen as key

An expert on labor relations from Cornell University, Kate Bronfenbrenner, said her research showed “that union victory or loss depends most on the union’s strategy.”  She said most companies follow similar, usually very tough steps in their fight to avoid unionization. The machinists, Bronfenbrenner said, needed an “all-out campaign” that was “really organized right” in order to win.  

South Carolina has the lowest level of union representation in the nation, at 1.6 percent. State officials say businesses are more likely to bring jobs to an area where companies don’t have to cope with unions.

Boeing says it’s the largest aerospace company in the world, with 148,000 employees. Published reports said Trump might try to help Boeing sell planes overseas by supporting the U.S. Export-Import Bank, a government agency that guarantees loans and gives technical advice to U.S. exporters.  

The Ex-Im Bank has been under political attack by conservative Republicans in Congress, who say the bank gives out unfair government subsidies, mostly to large companies that do not need help.  

The bank’s supporters say the agency’s services are paid for by the firms that use them, and that the Ex-Im makes a profit that goes to the U.S. Treasury. They also argue that killing the Ex-Im Bank would leave the United States as the only major trading nation that does not offer such help to its companies.

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Egypt’s Agricultural Exports Ripe for World Markets After Currency Float

Egypt’s agricultural exporters are seeing a surge in demand and finding new foreign markets only months after the currency was floated, with many rushing to expand capacity to keep up.

Egypt’s pound has roughly halved in value since the central bank abandoned its peg of 8.8 to the dollar on November 3, making Egyptian fruit and vegetables look cheap and attractive to foreign buyers, exporters said.

“Demand has doubled, with every product gaining one or two markets,” said Mostafa al-Naggari, Chairman of Fresh Fruit Co, which recently signed deals to ship to China and is finalizing others with Australia, New Zealand and Korea.

Trade deficit a problem

The currency flotation helped Egypt to secure a $12 billion IMF loan to support a wide-ranging reform program aimed at restoring foreign inflows and reining in the budget deficit.

A series of tax increases and subsidy cuts, along with the currency depreciation, have driven inflation to record levels in a country where millions live a pay check away from hunger. But amid the pain of government austerity, local manufacturers and exporters are reporting a pick up in activity.

Egyptian politicians have blamed the import-dependent country’s ballooning trade deficit, which stood at $42.64 billion in 2016, for putting pressure on the pound. Along with a sharp reduction in imports, a rise in agricultural exports could help narrow that gap.

Turbulent year

Exports of Egyptian vegetables, fruits and legumes amounted to $2.2 billion last year and would likely rise by about 15 percent in 2017 as a result of the float, Abdel Hamid al-Demerdash, the head of Egypt’s Agriculture Export Council, said.

The main vegetable exports include onions and artichokes, and fruits include oranges and strawberries.

The growing interest follows a turbulent year for Egyptian produce, with a Hepatitis A scare in North America linked to Egyptian strawberries and a temporary ban of Egyptian fruits and vegetables in Russia, one of Cairo’s top buyers.

But traders say growth now comes down to how quickly they can expand to meet demand.

‘A golden opportunity’

Japan Food Solutions (JFS), a fruit and vegetable exporter, is working to double its planted area this year to meet an expected 20-30 percent increase in demand on the back of new orders from markets in Europe and North America, senior managing director Emad Said said.

“I see this as a golden opportunity for Egyptian produce to compete more aggressively … The clever ones will seize this opportunity to enter new markets,” he said.

PICO Modern Agriculture, another exporter, has seen its demand from Gulf Arab countries jump by about 50 percent in the last two months, chief executive Alaa Diab said.

“The flotation has been very tempting and very helpful. It opened the eyes of many importers to come look at Egypt where they can get much more competitive deals,” Diab said.

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Small US Company Bucks a Trend, Adds Manufacturing Jobs

A rising tide of automation, trade problems and lagging growth in productivity have slashed millions of jobs from the U.S. manufacturing sector. At the same time, a small factory in Massachusetts has been hiring, expanding and exporting. Riverdale Mills hopes to grow further by making unusual products and building a strong workforce. VOA’s Jim Randle reports.

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Brazil Hopes to Lure Back Billions in Foreign Assets With Amnesty

Brazil’s Lower House of Congress on Wednesday approved a bill that reopens a program providing an amnesty against criminal prosecution to Brazilians holding undeclared assets abroad if they pay tax and a fine.

In a 303 to 124 vote, lawmakers approved legislation that is expected to yield 13.2 billion reais ($4.32 billion) in extra revenues this year. The bill, which was changed by the lower house, will return to the Senate for final approval.

The extra cash would help ease the financial strains of many states struggling to pay wages and public services while also improving the fiscal position of the federal government, which has posted three straight years of hefty budget deficits.

A group of governors met in Brasilia earlier Wednesday to call for their allies in Congress to support the legislation, whose proceeds would be shared between the federal government and states and municipalities. 

To avoid any legal challenges over the constitutionality of the tax rate, lawmakers raised the fine to 20.25 percent from 17.50 percent, of the undeclared assets, while lowering the tax percentage to 15 percent from 17.5 percent.

“Most states and municipalities are under heavy financial stress and need this money now,” said Alexandre Baldy, the congressman in charge of reviewing the legislation. 

Lawmakers continued to debate a controversial provision in the bill that allows relatives of elected politicians to participate in the amnesty program. 

In the initial program, the government collected a total of 46.8 billion reais, which helped authorities meet their primary budget deficit goal for 2016.

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Immigrants to Show Their Presence in US by Being Absent 

Organizers in cities across the U.S. are telling immigrants to miss class, miss work and not shop Thursday as a way to show the country how important they are to America’s economy and way of life.

“A Day Without Immigrants” actions are planned in cities including Philadelphia, Washington, Boston and Austin, Texas.

The protest comes in response to President Donald Trump and his 1-month-old administration. The Republican president has pledged to increase deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally, build a wall along the Mexican border, and ban people from certain majority-Muslim countries from coming into the U.S. He also has blamed high unemployment on immigration.

Employers in solidarity

Employers and institutions in some cities were expressing solidarity Wednesday with immigrant workers. Washington restaurateur John Andrade said he would close his businesses Thursday, and David Suro, owner of Tequilas Restaurant in Philadelphia and himself a Mexican immigrant, said he also planned to participate.

The Davis Museum at Wellesley College in Massachusetts said it would remove or shroud all artwork created or given by immigrants to the museum through February 21.

In New Mexico, the state with the largest percentage of Hispanic residents in the nation, school officials worried that hundreds of students may stay home Thursday.

“We respectfully ask all parents to acknowledge that students need to be in class every day to benefit from the education they are guaranteed and to avoid falling behind in school and life,” principals with the Albuquerque Public Schools wrote in a letter to parents.

Students who take part in the protest will receive an unexcused absence, Albuquerque school officials said.

Organizers in Philadelphia said they expect hundreds of workers and families to participate.

What would US look like?

“Our goal is to highlight the need for Philadelphia to expand policies that stop criminalizing communities of color,’’ said Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, a nonprofit group that works with the Latino immigrant community. “What would happen if massive raids did happen? What would the city look like?”

Almiron said that while community groups have not seen an uptick in immigration raids in the city, residents are concerned about the possibility.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is among leaders in several cities nationwide who have vowed to maintain their “sanctuary city’’ status and decline to help federal law enforcement with deportation efforts.

Many people who make the choice to skip work Thursday will not be paid in their absence, but social media posts encouraging participation stressed that the cause is worth the sacrifice.

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Outraged Brazilian Farmers in No Mood for Carnival Samba

The peace and love that generally abound during Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival festivities is threatened this year by a spat pitting a well-known parade troupe against Brazil’s powerful farmers because of development in the Amazon rainforest.

Imperatriz Leopoldinense, one of the samba schools that march in the glitzy Carnival processions that kick off Feb. 24, plans to honor the Amazon and its native tribes with a parade featuring six giant floats and 2,800 dancers, musicians and other costumed celebrants.

Part of the show, “The Clamor that Comes from the Forest,” highlights the longstanding tension between development and conservation in Brazil, particularly with regard to the world’s largest rainforest and the industrial agriculture that at times helps destroy it.

Marching to song lyrics lamenting the “bleeding heart of Brazil” and the “riches that greed destroys,” participants will don vests with skulls and crossbones and pretend to spray pesticide. Others will wield toy chainsaws and bundles of felled timber.

To a farming sector that bristles at any suggestion it destroys the environment, the imagery seems anything but celebratory — especially at a time when agriculture, responsible for as much as a quarter of Brazil’s economy, is one of the few vibrant activities in a country hobbled by recession.

“It’s gross and unfair,” said Marcelo Eduardo Luders, president of Ibrafe, an association of Brazilian bean growers. “Millions of people will see this and could think twice about buying our exports.”

Such is the ire that Ronaldo Caiado, a conservative senator from the farm-belt state of Goias, proposed Congress study “the defamation of a sector that should be praised.”

Fabelia Oliveira, a television presenter for a program about Brazilian agriculture, suggested that if native tribes wanted to be left alone they should go without modern medicines.

“They’ll have to die of malaria and tetanus and during childbirth,” she said, outraging indigenous communities and native rights activists.

In an interview, Oliveira said she was being argumentative and meant that modern and ancient cultures must learn to live together. “Rural workers are closer to nature than the urban Carioca types who criticize them,” she said, using the local term for residents of Rio.

For Imperatriz, the controversy was a shock, particularly because last year it feted “sertaneja” music and the farm culture from which it sprang.

“This is not about offending farmers,” says Cahe Rodrigues, the designer responsible for the parade. “This is about the threats that native people and the environment face.”

Big business

It’s not the first time a Carnival parade has sparked controversy.

Beija Flor, another big samba school, was accused of supporting Brazil’s military dictatorship in 1975 with an ode to federal tax programs. In 2012, another school finished last in the parade competition because judges deemed its song, a tribute to a sponsoring yogurt manufacturer, as too commercial.

“These contrasts, these controversies, are part of Carnival,” says Haroldo Costa, a cultural historian in Rio. “They reflect society here.”

Agriculture is nothing if not prevalent in Brazil.

One of the globe’s top producers of food, Brazil’s growers have become the world’s leading exporters of soybeans, beef, coffee and sugar. The sector generated over $400 billion in 2016.

Some of its growth indeed came from deforested lands.

But the rate of deforestation, despite recent upticks, is less than a fifth of what it was in 2004, when forest the size of Belgium was cleared. Deforestation continues, but most new agricultural production in Brazil comes from technological gains.

Carnival itself, broadcast to millions of viewers in Brazil and abroad, is big business.

Rio’s municipal government expects more than a million visitors and says the week of parades, tourism and related activities should generate almost $1 billion.

Groups such as Imperatriz, one in a league of 12 top samba schools, in recent years have enjoyed corporate sponsorships.

But the recession this year means it, and most others, will rely mostly on about $2 million each from television rights, parade tickets, music sales and a city subsidy.

That pays for the glitter, plastic foam, feathers and elbow grease workers are now using to prepare the spectacle. At the giant Rio warehouse where they are assembling parade floats, welders last week finished a fanged monster with horn-like ribs that symbolizes “avarice.”

“I don’t mind the controversy,” said Cris Machado, a seamstress who oversees a team of 16 people sewing costumes. “You can’t solve problems unless you talk about them.”

Rodrigues, the designer, in December traveled to the Xingu, an Amazon region named after a river whose shores are home to several tribes, including the Kayapo, whose culture inspired the theme.

Raoni, a well-known Kayapo elder, even agreed to parade.

“I wanted to make sure I got their clothing, their culture, just right,” said Rodrigues, explaining that he did not want to make a caricature of the natives.

Instead, farmers say, Imperatriz made a caricature of them.

“Indians, farmers, it doesn’t matter who you are talking about,” said Luders, of the bean association. “There may be a few bad actors, but most of us try to do what’s right.”

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UN Agriculture Official Links Aid to Farmers, Drop in Poverty, Migration

Training young farmers to turn agriculture into a business is key to eradicating poverty and curbing economic migration, the new president of the U.N. agricultural development agency said Wednesday.

Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas, predominantly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and many rely on farming to survive, according to the United Nations.

Countries need to provide them with better equipment and infrastructure to carry out world leaders’ ambitious plan to end poverty and hunger by 2030, according to Gilbert Houngbo, head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“To unleash the business spirit in smallholder women and men [farmers] is critical,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Greater government investment needs to go hand in hand with educational schemes and private-sector partnerships aimed at broadening young people’s skills and prospects, he said.

He suggested, for example, that training schemes could help tomato growers become producers of tomato sauce.

Drawing on his experience

Although Houngbo has previously held senior roles at big international bodies, he said it was growing up in a small village in a rural area of Togo, one of the world’s poorest countries, that best prepared him for his new job.

“I know how it feels, not being able to increase the yield, as at the end of the season, when you have your crop, you cannot bring it to the market because you there is no rural road,” he said.

Houngbo said that helping young people from villages like his own fulfill their potential at home would make them less inclined to migrate to rich countries.

“I believe that a carefully thought out youth employment program in the rural activities is part of the solution when it comes to economic migration,” he said.

Houngbo, who was prime minister of Togo from 2008 to 2012, was appointed president of IFAD on Tuesday evening.

He beat seven other candidates to take the helm of the Rome-based agency, which provides investments supporting rural people in developing countries.

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Tourism Industry Feels Financial Fallout from Trump’s Ban

You may have heard this before: uncertainty is bad for business.

With President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban on hold for now — the result of an appeals court decision to uphold a lower court’s temporary restraining order — the approximately $7 billion U.S. travel and tourism industry has taken a breath, but is holding it.

Trump’s executive order was in effect for only one week, but that was long enough for there to be financial damage, particularly given the reality that once it travels through the court system, the travel ban may be back.

“Consumers don’t like uncertainty, and the travel industry doesn’t like uncertainty,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and founder of Atmosphere Research Group.

Global travelers beyond the scope of the seven nations directly impacted by Trump’s ban, immediately felt discouraged from visiting the United States, according to the travel data company ForwardKeys.

Net airline bookings to the U.S. dropped 6.5% overall from the same period in 2016. Regionally, there was a 37.5% drop across the Middle East, 14% in the Asia Pacific region, and 13.6% in Western Europe.

Immediate impact

President Trump says the aim of his executive order is to keep Americans safe.

But the consequences of barring refugees and foreign nationals from certain countries — without definitive proof of an imminent threat — has sparked widespread debate and concern among affected immigrants and the international community at large. The order bans travelers from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen.

In one week, the Global Business Travel Association (GPTA) noted an immediate loss of $185 million in business travel bookings, a number which Harteveldt says only skims the perimeter of a longer-term effect, due in part to continued confusion.

“Right now the United States has a sign on it that says, ‘You may not be welcome here,’ and that’s not very good for our national brand — the United States of America,” Harteveldt told VOA. “The bad image the U.S. has may have people saying, ‘You know, I love the United States, but it’s just not the right environment for us to go visit this year. We’ll wait.'”

According to data compiled by GPTA, U.S. business travel transaction levels in the week before and after the travel ban resulted in a net industry impact of -3.4%.

For every one percent impact on annual U.S. business travel spending, the country either gains or looses $5 billion in gross domestic product along with 71,000 jobs, according to GPTA’s calculations.

Pall over business’

In a January interview with VOA, Dan Ikenson, director of CATO Institute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, called the ban disruptive to U.S. and foreign professionals who engage in the services trade — and by extension, supply chains.

“Just as important as physical goods moving over borders is the expertise, the know how, the representation of companies to conduct business,” said Ikenson. “The threat of this restriction spreading is something that is going to put a pall over business and over investment.”

Companies that might have previously considered setting up affiliates and subsidiaries in the U.S., and vice-versa, Ikenson added, may suspend those plans for as long as uncertainty persists.

Replicating the US experience’

Harteveldt, who previously served as marketing director for Trump Shuttle, a Donald Trump-owned airline from 1989-1992, believes the president has no “ill will” towards the travel industry. However, he says the long-term unintended consequences of the president’s actions may be felt for many months.

“People start planning their summer holidays 90 days or more in advance,” Harteveldt said. “If we look less attractive — and when you couple that with factors that the dollar is strong right now — it makes the U.S. that much less attractive as a possible destination.”

Harteveldt notes the world is full of destinations — from Disney theme parks to beaches, hiking and fine dining — that are capable of replicating the U.S. experience. 

In New York’s Times Square, the quintessential live-entertainment-and-neon-bright American tourist experience may not be enough to persuade international travelers to return under persistently uncertain circumstances.

“The good thing about New York is the diversity,” said Erika Andrea López, a Colombian tourist. “If that’s impeded, they’ll lose their touch … you’ll feel that you’re coming to a place that discriminates against you.”

“Anything can happen,” added Isaac Quaye, a first-time visitor from Ghana to the United States. When asked if he would return if the ban were reinstated, he shrugged. “I don’t know … I can’t tell.”

Yuthicka Sirohi, from Delhi, India, says everyone has a right to protect their country, but believes a “100% ban” against specific countries goes too far.

While she might not hesitate to return one day, Sirohi says she might feel more comfortable visiting another cosmopolitan city like London to suit her “travel-a-holic” needs.

Still, she hopes it doesn’t get to that.

“I think freedom is in the air here,” she said.

VOA Latin America Division’s Vero Balderas contributed to this report.

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