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Economic Digest – October 2018

Check out this months economic news:

European retaliatory tariffs on US corn have helped increase Canadian grain shipments to Europe through the St. Lawrence Seaway, a rare bright spot in a time of tit-for-tat duties among the US and its trading partners. Grain shipments are up 16% this year on the Great Lakes Seaway which links growers in the Prairies and Ontario with overseas buyers through such ports as Hamilton and Thunder Bay.

In 2015, OECD countries spent an average of 5% of GDP. Between 2010 and 2015 total spending fell in more than two-thirds of countries surveyed as belts tightened after the financial crisis. The private sector is playing an increasingly important role: its share of education spending rose by 11% across all OECD countries in that period.

In Hong Kong, more than 340 tonnes of textile waste is dumped each day into the city’s overflowing landfills. But a new textile spinning mill, the first to open in this former textile-manufacturing powerhouse in half a century, aims to reuse that waste, harnessing pioneering recycling technology to try and make the fashion industry more sustainable. According to a 2016 report, clothing companies around the world doubled the amount of garments they made from 2000 to 2014. Over the same period, the number of garments bought each year, per person, jumped 60 percent. This has led to a stream of clothing, purchased and thrown away, left unsold, or tossed as textile plant waste, going into landfills.

The consumption of honey in the US has doubled in the US since the 1990s, and as demand has increased, prices have followed. But domestic production has not. In 2016 American bees produced 73,000 tonnes of honey, or 35% less than they did 20 years ago. This has given honey sellers an incentive to dilute it with cheaper things like corn, rice and beet syrup. Honey is now the third-favourite food target for adulteration, behind milk and olive oil. The US imports a lot of honey, 203,000 tonnes in 2017, half of which now comes from China. The Food and Drug Administration guidelines require that any additives be listed as ingredients but they are not legally enforceable.

China’s high-speed rail network has now linked up with Hong Kong connecting it with the mainland for the first time. For US$157 passengers will be able to make the 2,440km journey to Beijing in less than nine hours; it takes 24 hours by ordinary rail. Passengers will have to undergo special screening at a port area in the Hong Kong station which will legally be regarded as part of mainland China, to the concern of many Hong Kongers.

Some 6.3-million children around the world died last year according to UNICEF and WHO. Bad as this is, child mortality has fallen dramatically. In 1990, 14.3-million children lost their lives. Half the deaths last year were in sub-Saharan Africa and 30% in Asia. In high-income countries, one in 185 children died before their fifth birthday; in sub-Saharan Africa it was one in 13. Most of these deaths are preventable through vaccines, sanitation, and basic medicines. Teaching communities to make their own oral rehydration solution to treat diarrhoea has slashed deaths in countries like Bangladesh and Ethiopia.

Tech firms are known as “instant buyers” are starting to disrupt America’s property market. They replace human realtors with algorithms that crunch data on the house and location to estimate what a property should sell for. Then they buy it at a discount to the computer, spruce it up and offload it, making around the same markup as a conventional realtor. The potential market for this selling model is massive.

Miners in Western Australia have discovered two huge gold–encrusted rocks that are each estimated to be worth millions of dollars. The largest specimen weighing 210lb was found to contain more than 2,400 ounces of gold. The second rock contains an estimated 1,600 ounces of gold. The two rocks are worth an estimated C$15-million.

Several recent articles have pointed out that we are heading to a major chocolate crisis. Global chocolate market value keeps reaching new highs, potentially doubling by 2025 compared to its 2016 level. Consumption is mainly driven by perceived health benefits such as anti-aging, antioxidant effects, stress relieves, blood pressure regulation and others. Traditionally, more than half of all chocolate produced is eaten in Western Europe and North America. Switzerland is the country with the highest consumption, with more than 8kg per person annually. Cocoa, the

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