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2021 Tokyo summer games: Lessons from most expensive Olympics ever

10592116x Tokyo’s 2021 Olympics are already the most expensive summer games ever and that’s before the games have even taken place. Before the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were delayed by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were already the most expensive summer games. Experts estimate that they will cost more than $26 billion. The Japanese… Don’t miss another story Become a BusinessDay Subscriber today. For insights, facts, figures, and access to opportunities.Options starting from N1000 Monthly Subscribe Now Already a subsriber? Login Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now. Subscribe

Higher commodity prices and vaccines to buoy EMFX vs. U.S. yields

JOHANNESBURG — Emerging market currencies will find support from higher commodity prices and domestic vaccination rollouts this year, despite turbulence in U.S. Treasury yields that could diminish their appeal, a Reuters poll found. Just last week Treasury yields in the United States rose again as traders and investors inferred the Federal Reserve’s tone in last […]

Covid paralyses Asia as western economies prepare for blast-off

Throughout 2020, Asia’s success in controlling Covid-19 made it the champion of the world economy. While Europe and the US were mired in deep recessions, much of Asia escaped with a shallower downturn or even kept growing.But as western economies gear up for a vaccine-induced rebound which is set to take their output back to its pre-pandemic scale by the end of this year, parts of Asia are still paralysed by coronavirus. As a result, although the region’s output is already above its pre-pandemic level, slower growth is expected in the coming months.As it launched its new regional outlook last week, the Asian Development Bank said that the region’s economies were diverging and that more Covid-19 waves were a big risk.“New outbreaks continue, in part due to new variants, and many Asian economies face challenges in procuring and administering vaccines,” said Yasuyuki Sawada, the ADB’s chief economist. The ADB projected growth of 5.6 per cent across developing Asian economies in 2021, led by growth of 8.1 per cent in China and 11 per cent in India. But the continued threat of coronavirus means risks to that outlook are skewed to the downside.“Six months ago, or eight months ago, I would have said Asia is going to be ahead of the game because Asia can control Covid,” said Steve Cochrane, chief Apac economist at Moody’s Analytics in Singapore.But the picture has changed, with India suffering a severe wave of the virus, and cases still high in countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. Thailand is unable to reopen its crucial tourist industry.More subtly, countries such as Japan are only controlling the virus with restrictions that keep parts of the economy in hibernation. “Some countries need vaccines to control Covid,” said Cochrane. “Others need it so they can open up to international travel and tourism.”The promise of more than 6 per cent growth in the US this year, as a result of President Joe Biden’s fiscal stimulus, would normally have Asian exporters licking their lips.The outlook, however, is more subdued than record US growth would usually imply: Americans already bought plenty of goods during the pandemic, while higher US interest rates would mean tighter financial conditions in Asia.“Adding stimulus at this stage, from the goods perspective, is a real test of whether wants are insatiable,” said Freya Beamish, chief Asia economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. As the economy opens up, US consumers will probably pay for the services they were denied during lockdown — such as meals out and haircuts — rather than replacing their television again. There will still be some spillover from the US stimulus, said Beamish, noting that service providers needed equipment, too. “We suspect that people will find new goods to buy and that Asia will benefit from that.” But she added: “We suspect that China will benefit proportionately less from the services recovery than from the manufacturing recovery.”Whether the extra US demand for goods turns out to be large or small, it is clearly positive. By contrast, higher US interest rates and a stronger dollar would threaten many emerging Asian economies with a repeat of the 2013 “taper tantrum”.Increased financial integration and foreign currency borrowing mean that the pain of rising US interest rates is quickly felt on the other side of the Pacific. “A stronger dollar is no longer an unalloyed blessing for Asia,” said Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asia economics at HSBC in Hong Kong. “It helps exports but tightens financial conditions.”However, inflation is subdued across most of emerging Asia, and the ADB said the risk of a US-induced shock to financial conditions “remains manageable at present”. It said economies such as Sri Lanka and Laos would be vulnerable if such a shock occurred.Some Asian economies are well-placed for the next few years, especially Taiwan and South Korea, which are exposed to the semiconductor cycle. “Judging from semiconductor shortages, it doesn’t look like the electronics cycle will break down in the next two or three quarters. That tides them over this rough patch,” said Neumann.But other Asian economies will find themselves in the less familiar position of relying on domestic demand to grow. One of the biggest question marks is China itself, where first quarter numbers suggest the economy has lost a little momentum.“Chinese domestic demand still has a way to go,” said Cochrane. “Our forecast right now is for 8 per cent growth in China in 2021, but it depends a lot on policymakers and how quickly they pull back on stimulus and introduce frictions in areas like construction.”

Technology

MTN revenues jump 18% with contribution from Nigeria, Ghana

MTN and its peer Vodacom Group which together control over 70% of the South African mobile market in terms of subscribers Africa’s largest Mobile operator MTN Group on Wednesday posted a near 18% jump in first-quarter revenue, led by a double-digit growth in commercial operations across South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana. MTN and its peer Vodacom Group which together control over 70% of the South African mobile market in terms of subscribers, hugely benefited last year from demand boost for data and digital financial services as people shifted to online modes of functioning due to the coronavirus pandemic. The company’s revenue from fintech operations, which account for 10% of total revenue, expanded by 31% on the back of an 87% increase in online financial transactions. MTN said in the first quarter of 2021 data consumption grew by a third led by “sustained demand for work-from-home service, digital entertainment as well as online education offerings”. The company’s revenue for the quarter ended March 31 was up 17.8% at 42.3 billion rand ($2.93 billion). MTN’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), which measure its operating profit, were up 21.3%. EBITDA margin widened to 44.2% from 42.7% from a year earlier. The company’s shares have risen by over 200% since the market crashed in mid-March last year. Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now. Subscribe

'They found his cellphone': Families tell of desperate searches after Mexico metro collapse

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Samuel Del Aguila's son was on his way home from his job at the airport in Mexico City on Monday...

Colombia's bloody protests could be a warning to the region

Thousands of people are still taking to the streets to protest against police brutality and the economic cost of the pandemic amid Colombia's extreme inequality. And with both issues common across South America -- and exacerbated by the pandemic -- many international observers are watching Colombia's cycle of protest closely for signs of deeper regional effects.An economic cautionary taleDuque was the first president in the region to launch a tax overhaul to help his country's pandemic-ravaged economy get back in shape. But rigid opposition from Colombia's workers' unions and social movements is a cautionary tale for any other president who plans to follow a similar route.While both the European Union and the United States have pursued enormous investment plans to rebuild their economies post-pandemic, many countries like Colombia, where the economy is dependent on exports and already burdened by a ballooning foreign debt, do not have the capacity to undertake a similar expansion plan.Such countries need to increase revenues through taxes in order to be able to spend -- and even to maintain vital social programs like cash support for the unemployed and credit lines to businesses struggling with the pandemic. Before he withdrew his tax reform plan, Duque stressed it was of pivotal importance for the state to increase its fiscal revenues. "The reform is not a whim, it's a necessity to keep the social programs going," he said. But critics argued the tax hikes -- like a proposed VAT increase on everyday goods -- would disproportionally impact middle and working classes and escalate inequality even more. Their concerns took root in an economy already decimated by Covid-19, where frustration has been mounting as record increases in cases and deaths prompt authorities to impose new lockdowns, stifling the country's vast informal labor market. More than 3.6 million Colombians fell back into poverty during the pandemic according to recent figures released by the country's statistics authority, while the number of families that cannot afford to eat three times a day tripled in the same period of time.But the now-withdrawn tax hike will leave a big hole in the state finances, and Duque's government will have to look for alternatives to try and pass reforms to repair the very inequality that currently fuels much discontent.Human rights concernsColombia's ongoing protests have also prompted fear and outrage at law enforcement's handling of demonstrators -- a concern echoed by rights organizations and foreign observers."We're here because it may seem a paradox, but in the middle of a pandemic our government is literally attacking our lives," Joana Ivanazca Salgado, a 43-year-old artist who took part in Bogota's protests last week, told CNN.Ivanazca was referring to the spiraling death toll that the protests have left behind: according to Colombia's ombudsman on Monday, at least 19 people -- including a policeman -- have been killed since the start of the protests and at least 89 people have disappeared.Videos of anti-riot policemen using teargas and batons against protesters have gone viral on social media, spreading beyond big cities and across the country. Far from curbing the protests, alleged police brutality has become a focal point for the demonstrators, who, after putting the fiscal reform plan to rest, are now calling for a thorough inquiry into the deaths.Human rights NGOs say the real death toll could be much higher and have called for the president to restrain police from using any excessive use of force.But the Colombian government has so far defended the actions of the police and blamed the violence on groups of rioters and organized crime. In particular, the military has been deployed to the city of Cali, which has seen the worst of the violence so far and where a team of the UN Human Rights Committee said they encountered police fire, although they did not believe they were directly targeted. The Cali police department says they are investigating claims of excessive force.Multilateral organizations, foreign ambassadors and even Colombian pop star Shakira have issued statements of concern over law enforcement's response -- on Tuesday, the US State Department publicly urged "the utmost restraint by public forces to prevent additional loss of life."In the early hours of Wednesday, Bogota's mayor, Claudia Lopez, made a tearful plea to all sides to abandon violence: "I beg Bogota and Colombia to stop. It's been eight days of frankly, by miracle, that we don't have a death [in Bogota] so far," said Lopez.At least 30 civilians and 16 policemen were injured late Tuesday, she said, in an ugly escalation of violence on both sides. According to Lopez, rioters set fire to one police station, where 15 policemen managed to escape.Major General Oscar Antonio Gomez Heredia, the chief of police in Bogota, said during the same briefing that a total of 25 police stations had been attacked.The political falloutBy late Tuesday, Duque called for a "national dialogue initiative" and while he said police forces are guaranteeing the right to protest, he pledged a thorough investigation into any possible abuse.Should Duque cede to public pressure and open up an independent inquiry into police practices, it could give momentum to protest movements demanding police accountability across the region. Police brutality is a hot button issue in several Latin American countries: Colombia's own National Police, which answers to the Defense Ministry, have previously come under fire for its response to protests in 2019 and 2020. In Chile in 2019, carabineros were accused of deliberately shooting rubber bullets at the eyes of protesters resulting in hundreds of injuries. And in Peru, at least two men died in a recent wave of protests in November of last year.Looming over all these political calculations for the Colombian government are next year's presidential elections: While Duque himself is barred from running, the conservative coalition that brought him the presidency is keen to project strength and control, capable of dealing with both the pandemic and the wave of protests. After withdrawing the fiscal reform plan, further concessions to demonstrators could weaken that image.But Ivan Briscoe, Colombia analyst at the International Crisis Group, believes it would be misguided not to learn from protesters' outrage. "The government must look beyond other parties and other political forces with which it has been negotiating its tax reform and take into account the demands of the Colombians in the streets," said Briscoe.For now, Duque is resisting calls from his own party to impose a state of emergency to curb the protests -- but at the same time, he is standing by the police accused of escalating the violence. All of which has contributed to the image of a president disconnected from many of his citizens.
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Analysis: Iron ore is saving Australia's trade with China. How long can it last?

Now, one commodity is almost single-handedly keeping the trade relationship afloat: iron ore.Australia is the world's largest producer of iron ore, mining more than 910 million metric tonnes in the 2019-2020 financial year, according to the Australian government, almost twice as much as its nearest competitor Brazil.Iron ore is a vital component in the production of steel, and with China embarking on a $500 billion infrastructure spending spree to help the economy recover from the pandemic, Beijing's need for it has never been greater.Diplomatic relations between Australia and China fell into a deep chill one year ago, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic which threatened to challenge Beijing's narrative of the viral outbreak.The Chinese government said Morrison's request was "political manipulation," and since then Australian exports to China have faced growing barriers to entry. Overall Chinese investment in Australia plunged 62% in 2020.But experts said that unlike wine and coal, it would be tough for China to find new sources of iron ore any time soon. That means Australia's largest source of trade revenue may be secure."Australia is the largest iron ore producer in the world and on the other hand China is the largest steel producer in the world," said Heiwai Tan, professor of economics at Hong Kong University Business School. "It isn't that easy for them to get into a new round of trade wars over this particular product."The mining boomFor more than two decades, China and Australia have helped rapidly grow each others' economies through a soaring trade in raw resources, especially iron ore and coal.In 2000, at the beginning of China's economic boom, Australian exports to the country were just over 6 billion Australian dollars ($3.6 billion). Fifteen years later, China is Australia's largest trading partner by far in terms of exports and total value of trade -- overtaking Japan, the US, South Korea and New Zealand -- with exports of almost 92 billion Australian dollars ($74 billion).Some economists claim the mining boom in Australia helped the country avoid recession during the global financial crisis in 2008.The trade has remained strong over the years, despite rising political tensions between Beijing and Canberra — including new legislation designed to limit foreign interference, introduced by Australia in 2017.By 2019, almost two-thirds of China's iron ore came from Australia, more than it imported from Brazil, South Africa and India combined, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity.At the same time, iron ore made up almost a quarter of Australia's entire exports in 2019, 81.7% of which went to China.The lack of diversity in Australia's exports leaves it vulnerable to any major impact on its main sources of revenue, experts said. And while there could be other markets for the country's iron ore, they might take time to develop."China's making up around four-fifths of Australian iron ore exports, so what that tells me is we don't have too many other destinations that we do business with in a big way," said Sean Langcake, principal economist at BIS Oxford Economics in Sydney.But economists said while Australia may eventually locate new buyers for its iron ore, it would be much more difficult for China to find new sources of iron ore to power its economy.Alternate sourcesExperts said Australia's iron ore has two main advantages for Chinese buyers: it is high quality and reliable.Australia produces a higher amount of hematite iron ore than any other country, which contains a larger quantity of usable iron than itabirite or magnetite. According to lobbying group the Minerals Council of Australia, hematite usually contains more than 50% iron compared to as low as 16% in magnetite.Economist Langcake said it was easier and cheaper to process ore with a higher iron content, making it more attractive to steel producers.In a report released in February 2021, the Minerals Council estimated that Australia has more than three times as much magnetite resources as its nearest competitors Brazil and India. China is believed to have none."With China still experiencing significant growth and new frontiers expanding in South and East Asia, Australia's standing as a low-cost, reliable supplier of quality iron ore puts it in a strong position to continue as a provider of choice for global steel makers," Minerals Council chief executive officer Tania Constable said in a statement.At the same time, experts said Australia was a regular and reliable supplier of iron ore to China, partly due to its stable political system and economic environment.A report from the United States Geological Survey in 2017 found that while Brazil and India's iron ore production has risen and fallen over time, Australia's has reliably grown every year from 2000 to 2015.While Brazil seems like it would be a natural alternate source for China's iron ore, its production has been damaged over the past decade due to a series of disasters which have disrupted major mines.In 2015, mining company Samarco had to pay $6.2 billion to the Brazilian government after a dam collapsed at one of its sites, burying a village and killing 19 people. Four years later, another dam burst at an iron ore mine in southeast Brazil, killing 270 people when it flooded the workers' cafeteria and dozens of homes under a wave of toxic sludge.Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital in Australia, said Brazil's poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021 has also set back production, while Australia had mostly brought the disease under control."It is virtually impossible for China to replace Australian iron ore in the short term," Oliver said. "They'd still have a short fall ... It took a long time for Australia to build up so it will take a long time for other countries to do [the same]."'Economic losses and political gain'Even the valuable trade hasn't been able stop calls from both countries to diversify their iron ore business.In March, an Australian parliamentary committee released a report calling on the government to prioritize finding "opportunities for Australia to diversify its export markets.""India, Vietnam and Indonesia, in particular, present valuable opportunities for Australian businesses. As such, ensuring access to these markets should continue to be a priority for the Australian Government," the report said.Over the past year, Chinese state-run media has been pushing for Australia to be cut out of the iron ore trade. In April, the state-run tabloid Global Times reported that Chinese companies were exploring opportunities to export iron ore from Africa.It quoted an expert who said that Australia's move to help the United States "contain China" had "seriously lowered Chinese companies' favorable assessment of Australia."Both Langcake and Oliver said it was likely both China and Australia would look to diversify their trade relationships slowly over the coming decades, given the growing political divide between the two countries.But with the iron ore trade likely to continue as a major driver for economic growth in both China and Australia, the two countries might be stuck with each other for the foreseeable future.Tan, from Hong Kong University, said diplomatic ties between the two countries could only deteriorate so much when they were still linked by iron ore."It's really a calculation between economic losses and political gain ... I think there would be some overall constraints on how far they can go," he said. "I remain optimistic."

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Analysis: Iron ore is saving Australia's trade with China. How long can it last?

Now, one commodity is almost single-handedly keeping the trade relationship afloat: iron ore.Australia is the world's largest producer of iron ore, mining more than 910 million metric tonnes in the 2019-2020 financial year, according to the Australian government, almost twice as much as its nearest competitor Brazil.Iron ore is a vital component in the production of steel, and with China embarking on a $500 billion infrastructure spending spree to help the economy recover from the pandemic, Beijing's need for it has never been greater.Diplomatic relations between Australia and China fell into a deep chill one year ago, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic which threatened to challenge Beijing's narrative of the viral outbreak.The Chinese government said Morrison's request was "political manipulation," and since then Australian exports to China have faced growing barriers to entry. Overall Chinese investment in Australia plunged 62% in 2020.But experts said that unlike wine and coal, it would be tough for China to find new sources of iron ore any time soon. That means Australia's largest source of trade revenue may be secure."Australia is the largest iron ore producer in the world and on the other hand China is the largest steel producer in the world," said Heiwai Tan, professor of economics at Hong Kong University Business School. "It isn't that easy for them to get into a new round of trade wars over this particular product."The mining boomFor more than two decades, China and Australia have helped rapidly grow each others' economies through a soaring trade in raw resources, especially iron ore and coal.In 2000, at the beginning of China's economic boom, Australian exports to the country were just over 6 billion Australian dollars ($3.6 billion). Fifteen years later, China is Australia's largest trading partner by far in terms of exports and total value of trade -- overtaking Japan, the US, South Korea and New Zealand -- with exports of almost 92 billion Australian dollars ($74 billion).Some economists claim the mining boom in Australia helped the country avoid recession during the global financial crisis in 2008.The trade has remained strong over the years, despite rising political tensions between Beijing and Canberra — including new legislation designed to limit foreign interference, introduced by Australia in 2017.By 2019, almost two-thirds of China's iron ore came from Australia, more than it imported from Brazil, South Africa and India combined, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity.At the same time, iron ore made up almost a quarter of Australia's entire exports in 2019, 81.7% of which went to China.The lack of diversity in Australia's exports leaves it vulnerable to any major impact on its main sources of revenue, experts said. And while there could be other markets for the country's iron ore, they might take time to develop."China's making up around four-fifths of Australian iron ore exports, so what that tells me is we don't have too many other destinations that we do business with in a big way," said Sean Langcake, principal economist at BIS Oxford Economics in Sydney.But economists said while Australia may eventually locate new buyers for its iron ore, it would be much more difficult for China to find new sources of iron ore to power its economy.Alternate sourcesExperts said Australia's iron ore has two main advantages for Chinese buyers: it is high quality and reliable.Australia produces a higher amount of hematite iron ore than any other country, which contains a larger quantity of usable iron than itabirite or magnetite. According to lobbying group the Minerals Council of Australia, hematite usually contains more than 50% iron compared to as low as 16% in magnetite.Economist Langcake said it was easier and cheaper to process ore with a higher iron content, making it more attractive to steel producers.In a report released in February 2021, the Minerals Council estimated that Australia has more than three times as much magnetite resources as its nearest competitors Brazil and India. China is believed to have none."With China still experiencing significant growth and new frontiers expanding in South and East Asia, Australia's standing as a low-cost, reliable supplier of quality iron ore puts it in a strong position to continue as a provider of choice for global steel makers," Minerals Council chief executive officer Tania Constable said in a statement.At the same time, experts said Australia was a regular and reliable supplier of iron ore to China, partly due to its stable political system and economic environment.A report from the United States Geological Survey in 2017 found that while Brazil and India's iron ore production has risen and fallen over time, Australia's has reliably grown every year from 2000 to 2015.While Brazil seems like it would be a natural alternate source for China's iron ore, its production has been damaged over the past decade due to a series of disasters which have disrupted major mines.In 2015, mining company Samarco had to pay $6.2 billion to the Brazilian government after a dam collapsed at one of its sites, burying a village and killing 19 people. Four years later, another dam burst at an iron ore mine in southeast Brazil, killing 270 people when it flooded the workers' cafeteria and dozens of homes under a wave of toxic sludge.Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital in Australia, said Brazil's poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021 has also set back production, while Australia had mostly brought the disease under control."It is virtually impossible for China to replace Australian iron ore in the short term," Oliver said. "They'd still have a short fall ... It took a long time for Australia to build up so it will take a long time for other countries to do [the same]."'Economic losses and political gain'Even the valuable trade hasn't been able stop calls from both countries to diversify their iron ore business.In March, an Australian parliamentary committee released a report calling on the government to prioritize finding "opportunities for Australia to diversify its export markets.""India, Vietnam and Indonesia, in particular, present valuable opportunities for Australian businesses. As such, ensuring access to these markets should continue to be a priority for the Australian Government," the report said.Over the past year, Chinese state-run media has been pushing for Australia to be cut out of the iron ore trade. In April, the state-run tabloid Global Times reported that Chinese companies were exploring opportunities to export iron ore from Africa.It quoted an expert who said that Australia's move to help the United States "contain China" had "seriously lowered Chinese companies' favorable assessment of Australia."Both Langcake and Oliver said it was likely both China and Australia would look to diversify their trade relationships slowly over the coming decades, given the growing political divide between the two countries.But with the iron ore trade likely to continue as a major driver for economic growth in both China and Australia, the two countries might be stuck with each other for the foreseeable future.Tan, from Hong Kong University, said diplomatic ties between the two countries could only deteriorate so much when they were still linked by iron ore."It's really a calculation between economic losses and political gain ... I think there would be some overall constraints on how far they can go," he said. "I remain optimistic."

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