Economic Digest – June 2018
Migrants from low-and-middle-income countries sent home US$466-billion in 2017 an increase of 8.5% on the year earlier. That followed two consecutive years of decline. The rebound has been driven partly by faster global growth and partly by better employment prospects for migrants in oil- exporting economies. Remittances are now worth more than three times the value of official development assistance, which came to $159bn last year. India remains the top recipient in dollar terms; inflows totalled $69bn. Kyrgyzstan comes top where remittances were 35% of output in 2017.
Blood products made up a remarkable 1.6% of American exports in 2016. Since 2005, blood-plasma collections have nearly quadrupled. To critics, this is evidence of a rapacious industry, coercing the poor to auction bits of themselves to make ends meet. In fact, plasma, 90% of which is water, is quickly replenished. There are 700 blood collection centres in the United States. The World Health Organisation lists immunoglobulins and coagulation factors, both plasma-derived products, as essential medicines. Yet poor countries are often desperate for them and rich countries rely on American imports.
The Canadian Federal Government has made more than C$1-billion in profits from its passport program since significantly increasing the cost of the Canadian passport 5 years ago. Canadian adults pay anywhere from $120 to $160 for an adult passport, despite the fact that it only cost the government $69.23 to produce the 36-page travel document in the 2016-17 fiscal year. The price increase appears to have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual surpluses for the passport program from 2013 to 2017, totalling more than $1 billion over 4 years. Critics say that the government should be lowering the passport fee. Canadians ordering passports from outside the country face the biggest fees today – $190 for a 5-year passport or $260 for the ten- year document. American adults pay US$145 for a new 10-year passport, while British citizens pay the equivalent of about $115.
Every minute more than 100 people die. Most of these deaths bring not just grief to some but also profit to others. America’s
2.7 million odd deaths a year underpin an industry with US$16 billion in 2017, encompassing over 19 thousand funeral homes and over 120 thousand employees. In France the sector is worth an estimated $3.1 billion dollars and in Britain, the industry is estimated to be worth 2.8 billion dollars and employs over 20,000 people.
Between 1993 and 2013 America’s crime rate fell from around 52 crimes per 1,000 people to 23. At the same time, because of America’s penchant for handing out long sentences, the number of people over 55 in state prisons rose from 26,300 to 131,500 and their share of the total more than tripled. It is estimated that by 2030 more than 400,000 prisoners are expected to be aged 55 and older—one third of the total prison population and a 4,400% increase since 1980. Incarcerating an older prisoner can cost up to five times as much as jailing a younger one because of medical costs. Within three years, 43% of all released offenders have committed another crime. The rate for those between 50 and 64 is just 7% and just 4% for those older than 65. Last year, more than 70% of prisoners above the age of 50 in New York went directly to a homeless shelter.
According to the World Bank’s latest report on how adults in more than 140 countries access accounts, make payments, save, borrow and manage risk, there are just six countries in the world where more women than me have bank accounts. More than 500-million adults, or 69% of the adults, up from 51% in 2011, have a bank account at a brick and mortar or a mobile money provider. But women continue to lag behind men: 65% of them have an account compared to 77% of men.The countries where woman have more accounts than men are: Argentina, Georgia, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia and the Philippines. In India for example, 83% of men and 77% of women have a bank account. The gender gap in India has declined to six percentage points from 20 in 2014.
An 18th Century Chinese vase, left for decades in a shoebox in France has sold for US$19.25-million. It is the highest price ever reached for a single item at Sotheby’s in Paris, 20 times its estimated guide price. The vase formed part of a family inheritance and was recently discovered in an attic. The vase bears a mark of the Qianlong Emperor who ruled China from 1736 to 1795. The auction lasted 20 minutes with multiple bidders battling for the vase.
The United States and Japan declined to sign an agreement between other G7 countries recently to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the world’s oceans and cut down on the usage of single-use plastics such as straws, bottles and cups. Canada will invest C$100-million to rid oceans of global plastic pollution. Less than 10 per cent of all plastics are recycled worldwide. It is said that there are more then 150-million tonnes of plastic waste in the oceans and, at this rate, plastic could outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050. The US decision to refrain from signing did not come as a surprise, given its refusal to join the Paris climate agreement.
In a landmark move, Airbnb in Denmark will automatically report homeowners’ income to tax authorities making it easier to spot tax evasion by homeowners renting out rooms and properties via the site. The move comes as several countries try to rein in Airbnb tax evaders. Airbnb is also blamed for pushing up house prices in major cities and taking away business from hotels and B&B outlets.
Recruitment agencies in the UK are warning that they cannot secure the number of workers needed by British farmers to pick their fruit and vegetables. Over half the recruitment companies could not find the labour even in the “quiet” first months of the year. The Farmers Union shows that there was a 12.5% shortfall of seasonal workers required to work on horticultural farms, resulting in some valuable produce being left to rot in the fields.
The shipping industry will this year scrap the largest number of oil tankers in over half a decade, driven by weak earnings, firm prices for scrap steel and the need to prepare fleets for strict new environmental regulations. The surge in scrapping underscores how the sector is grappling with one of its first-ever crises, hit hard after rates for transporting oil plunged to multi-year levels in the wake of excess tanker supply and tepid demand as OPEC production cuts kick in.
China is becoming a market where people pay for music. Over the past five years, digital-music revenues for the recording industry nearly quadrupled to US$195-million, most of which comes from music streaming. The sum is still a tiny fraction of the global total of $7.8-billion, but streaming has clearly taken off in China. However, not everyone is paying: of the 600-million Chinese who listen to music online, only 20-million have a paid subscription, which costs about $1.50 a month, the rest tune in for nothing.
Wild bears are causing thousands of Euros’ worth of damage as they raid beehives across Finland and Estonia. Animal damage to stocks and crops was so severe in 2017 that it has taken until the end of May to process all applications for compensation. While the greatest damage was due to wolf attacks on livestock, bears in Estonia also destroyed over 300 beehives.
Tourism spending on culture products increased by C$49.7-million from 2015 to $1.7-billion in 2016. Culture products represented 1.9% of total tourism spending in Canada. Of their expenditures on culture products, tourists spent the most on performing arts, which includes attending concerts and plays, followed by films and videos, crafts and books. Spending by tourists on sports products in Canada totalled $916-million, almost equally split between organised sport, and governance, funding and professional support.
Hailstones the size of pigeon eggs devastated Bordeaux vineyards earlier this year, prompting the French government to promise support for winegrowers, some of whom have lost their entire crops. Bordeaux is France’s largest wine-growing area, with about 300,000 acres of vineyards producing more than 700-million bottles of claret a year, ranging from cheap table wines to some of the worlds most acclaimed and expensive vintages. French wines and spirits exports amounted to more than US$15-billion last year.
Diesel-powered cars appeal to European drivers for their fuel efficiency and power. Car makers like them because they emit less carbon dioxide than similar gasoline engines do. Starting in the 1990s European governments sought to increase diesel’s market share by providing generous tax incentives. By 2011, fully 55% of cars in Europe ran on diesel. Recently, governments have shifted gear. The advent of electric cars has knocked diesel off its perch as the fuel with the smallest carbon footprint. Consumers have fled in response. From 2015 to 2017, diesel’s market share on the continent fell from 51% to 44%.
An EU judge has ruled that Poland’s logging of the ancient Bialowieza Forest breaks the European Union nature protection laws in the latest twist that has strained the relationship between Warsaw and Brussels. Poland had argued that the felling of parts of Europe’s last remaining primeval forest, where 800 European bison, wolves and lynx roam across shaded clearings was a necessary part of forest management. Some oak trees have grown for 450 years and reach 150 feet, towering over swamps dammed by beavers.
The diet Greece, Spain and Italy are famous for, rich in fruit, vegetables, fish and olive oil is supposedly the healthiest in the world, but now obesity is rocketing. The WHO says that children in Sweden are more likely to eat fish, olive oil and tomatoes than those in southern Europe. In Cyprus, 43% of boys and girls aged nine are either overweight or obese. Greece, Spain and Italy also have rates over 40%.
Two major smart luggage firms have closed recently, both blaming changes to airline policies regarding how lithium batteries can be taken on board planes. The new rules meant that luggage batteries had to be removed. The smart suitcases feature weight sensors, a built-in phone charger and location awareness, but all require battery power.
The world’s deepest plastic bag has been found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, highlighting the spread of ocean pollution. Scientists made the discovery at 36,000 feet in the world’s deepest ocean trench, one of 3,000 pieces of man-made debris dating back 30 years.
Scientists have cracked the DNA of Britain’s favourite flower which means that theoretically, roses will be grown that last longer and smell sweeter.