IMF Warns Of ‘Gloomy Outlook’ For Global Economy, Slashing Growth Estimates

The International Monetary Fund warned on Tuesday of a slowdown in global economic growth as the world economy continues to take a hit from “increasingly gloomy developments in 2022,” including high inflation, a slowdown in China caused by Covid lockdowns and ongoing fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The IMF slashed its global growth projections, now expecting global GDP to grow 3.2% this year and 2.9% in 2023, down from previous estimates in April of 3.6% GDP growth for both years.

The group cited a slowdown in the world’s three largest economies—the United States, China and the euro area—as a reason for the revised estimates, warning that the risks to the outlook remain “overwhelmingly tilted to the downside.”

Several “shocks” have hit the global economy as it tries to recover from the pandemic, including higher-than-expected inflation worldwide––especially in the United States and Europe, a worse-than-anticipated slowdown in China caused by Covid lockdowns and “further negative spillovers” from the war in Ukraine.

The IMF also said that high inflation remains a “major problem” as prices have continued to rise in 2022, led by soaring food and fuel costs, arguing that “taming inflation should be the first priority for policymakers” worldwide.

The group now expects global inflation to hit 6.6% in advanced economies and 9.5% in developing economies this year, though prices are expected to return to near pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024.

The IMF also slashed its growth estimates for the U.S. economy, now forecasting GDP to rise 2.3% this year and 1% in 2023, down from previous estimates of 3.7% and 2.3%, respectively, amid the impact of tighter monetary policy and reduced household purchasing power.

“The outlook has darkened significantly since April,” IMF chief economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas said in a statement. “The world may soon be teetering on the edge of a global recession, only two years after the last one.”

“The slowdown in China has global consequences,” the IMF said. “Lockdowns added to global supply chain disruptions and the decline in domestic spending are reducing demand for goods and services from China’s trade partners.” The group now sees China’s economy growing 3.3% in 2022—its lowest pace in four decades and down over 1% from previous estimates.

The World Bank similarly slashed its forecasts for the global economy last month, predicting GDP growth in 2022 of just 2.9%, down from an earlier estimate of 4.1%.

I am a senior reporter at Forbes covering markets and business news. Previously, I worked on the wealth team at Forbes covering billionaires and their wealth.

Source: IMF Warns Of ‘Gloomy Outlook’ For Global Economy, Slashing Growth Estimates

Critics by Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas

The global economy, still reeling from the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is facing an increasingly gloomy and uncertain outlook. Many of the downside risks flagged in our April World Economic Outlook have begun to materialize. Higher-than-expected inflation, especially in the United States and major European economies, is triggering a tightening of global financial conditions.

China’s slowdown has been worse than anticipated amid COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns, and there have been further negative spillovers from the war in Ukraine. As a result, global output contracted in the second quarter of this year. Under our baseline forecast, growth slows from last year’s 6.1 percent to 3.2 percent this year and 2.9 percent next year, downgrades of 0.4 and 0.7 percentage points from April.

This reflects stalling growth in the world’s three largest economies—the United States, China and the euro area—with important consequences for the global outlook. In the United States, reduced household purchasing power and tighter monetary policy will drive growth down to 2.3 percent this year and 1 percent next year.

In China, further lockdowns, and the deepening real estate crisis pushed growth down to 3.3 percent this year—the slowest in more than four decades, excluding the pandemic. And in the euro area, growth is revised down to 2.6 percent this year and 1.2 percent in 2023, reflecting spillovers from the war in Ukraine and tighter monetary policy.

Despite slowing activity, global inflation has been revised up, in part due to rising food and energy prices. Inflation this year is anticipated to reach 6.6 percent in advanced economies and 9.5 percent in emerging market and developing economies—upward revisions of 0.9 and 0.8 percentage points respectively—and is projected to remain elevated longer. Inflation has also broadened in many economies, reflecting the impact of cost pressures from disrupted supply chains and historically tight labor markets.

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How China Disciplines Its Tech Barons

Chinese internet giants have become compliant parts of the regime they promised to disrupt. For Tencent’s Pony Ma and other tycoons the future is fraught. In April 2022, a resurgence of Covid spread seemingly unchecked through the financial centre of Shanghai. The government imposed a strict lockdown, confining millions to their homes, triggering mass-testing on a scale unseen since the initial outbreak and outraging affluent urban residents who were increasingly sceptical about China’s Covid-zero policy.

In an attempt to control public opinion, the government told social media sites including WeChat – the super-app used by two-thirds of China’s population – to wipe and scrape posts deemed negative or critical of the policy. But the censorship backfired. There was an unprecedented public outcry, which became a virtual protest. A video documenting the dire fallout of lockdown began circulating online.

The six-minute clip known as Voices of April – a montage of audio recordings encompassing the cries of babies separated from parents during quarantine, residents demanding food and the pleas of a son seeking medical help for his critically ill father – resonated with the tens of millions in Shanghai and more across the country. The video was quickly marked as banned content and taken down from social media platforms in China. On the Twitter-equivalent Weibo, even the word “April” was temporarily restricted from search results.

Many deemed the video a neutral yet essential documentation of the human toll of Shanghai’s lockdown. A backlash ensued, as defiant users repeatedly shared the video in ways that could dodge web censors. Some posted the video upside down, others superimposed words or images or embedded other footage. WeChat censors tried to wipe posts sharing the video, but it was like a multi-headed hydra: no sooner did one get blocked, than another would pop up.

This seminal moment embodied the dynamics between the Chinese government and the country’s giant tech companies. On the frontline was Tencent, the entertainment and tech conglomerate that owns WeChat. For the better part of three decades, Beijing tolerated and even celebrated entrepreneurship. As the country leapfrogged into the digital age, China produced one company worth $1bn every 3.8 days in 2018, just a year after Tencent overtook Facebook to become the fifth largest company in the world.

The amount of money Chinese-focused venture and private equity funds raised grew nearly fourfold to $120bn. That bounty helped China transform from industrial backwater into one of the most dynamic and coveted markets on the planet. In addition to generating revenue, companies such as Tencent complied with government orders when it came to monitoring its citizens. For an authoritarian regime ruling over a population scattered across an area almost as large as the US, an app that dominates every facet of life proves enormously useful.

Some say WeChat should be called WeCheck, such is its capacity for mass surveillance. The early days of Chinese tech also saw the construction of the Great Firewall of China. One in five people on the planet using the internet access it through a filter that obscures Facebook, Twitter, Snap, Instagram, the New York Times and YouTube. In a sense, it’s a parallel universe, where nearly a billion people live and thrive – much to westerners’ surprise – on China’s equivalent of such mainstays. There’s Meituan for Deliveroo, Didi Chuxing for Uber, WeChat for WhatsApp and Facebook.

The services are often even better in terms of convenience and design. The Swiss army knife of a super-app, WeChat is the most deft at merging the functions of various western platforms, allowing people to chat, shop or order a takeaway. Domestically WeChat is known as Weixin, and the company has made a point of emphasising that it operates as two apps within and outside the mainland. China’s deficit of privacy controls means its companies and government have an edge when it comes to collecting the data that empowers the algorithms that screen, monitor, name-shame and, sometimes, imprison its citizens.

The dynamics between Chinese tech companies and the authorities are like no other. Before the pandemic I sat down once with an official and talked about the vicissitudes that startups and entrepreneurs endure. “No matter what kind of hotshot you are, we will always have a way of showing you who’s boss,” the person said, making an offhand remark about Tencent’s owner, Pony Ma. “Don’t think because you control a billion users and moved to Singapore or some overseas country that we can’t do anything about you.”

The official told me that when regulators felt Tencent needed to be taught a lesson, they would step up censorship efforts, block or shut down web services till the company got the message. The tactics were not always conspicuous. Given WeChat’s overseas ambitions at the time, they would sometimes disrupt its service for global users, delaying messages or transactions for just half a minute. “That small hold-up is more than enough to drive users crazy and make people ditch the app altogether,” the person said. “That’s how you show them some colour.”

The Wall no longer resides just within China. When Chinese people travel outside the country, the Wall follows them via their telecom providers. A person using a China Mobile sim card is barred from roaming on Google. Authoritarian nations in Africa, south-east Asia and Russia see the appeal of the model. They too want to create their own intranet. As the internet splits in two, aligning itself between the American and Chinese models, Tencent’s story offers a window into an alternative vision of what the global online sphere could become.

Tencent’s products are so convenient and intuitive; yet in the back of everyone’s minds is the knowledge that their every move, location and utterance is documented and potentially scrutinised. Nowhere is this contradiction more apparent than at Tencent’s headquarters, in the heart of southern Shenzhen’s hi-tech district.

Tencent’s office building took five years and more than half a billion dollars to construct. Ma handpicked NBBJ, the architect responsible for Amazon, Google and Samsung’s headquarters. But the billionaire wanted it to be more than a statement of financial largesse. With its twin gleaming towers of glass and steel, he turned the building into one of the world’s biggest laboratories for new internet services and connected devices. It features holographic tour guides, conference rooms that adjust temperatures based on attendance, and alerts for the best parking spots before commuters arrive.

What struck me was that within the halls of a building that serves as a towering paean to futurism and commerce, the Communist party’s influence is omnipresent. In its open-plan reading room, alongside books about the cosmos and the ancient Greek and Roman empires, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book – tabulating his speeches and thoughts about how to govern – features on the most prominent shelves. QR codes in the gym bring up links to stories documenting battle victories during the Long March.

Even these demonstrations of loyalty are not enough. Common sense would suggest that the Communist party would be supportive of companies such as Tencent and encourage their expansion overseas. But Xi has chosen to make sure the aspirations of a rising class of immensely wealthy entrepreneurs are tamed before they turn political. It was only a matter of time before he went after these national champions.

A crackdown that started with the financial technology industry in 2020, has quickly expanded to engulf every sector from online education to gaming, and ride-hailing to food delivery. With footprints in all of these sectors via its investments in some 800 companies, Tencent has felt the pinch.

Despite Pony Ma’s reputation for being the most low-key and cautious of Chinese tech moguls, Tencent has not been spared. China halted its app rollouts for about a month in late 2021, has curtailed gaming time for those under 18, ordered an overhaul of its financial units, fined it for investment deal disclosure violations and suspended new game approvals this year.

The change in approach to the tech sector is underpinned by shifts in Xi’s priorities. It mirrors crackdowns in other sectors, including property. As China’s economy slows and Xi tries to increase the nation’s birthrate, the policies underscore the Communist party’s growing resolve to respond to mounting public dissatisfaction with hoarded wealth and narrowing avenues for advancement.

A phrase that has emerged in tandem with the crackdowns is “common prosperity”, which refers to China’s goal of becoming a modernised socialist society. The implications for China’s tech industry are far-reaching, and could shape the playbook for the next few decades.

There’s a Chinese saying “Li yu tiao long men” – “a carp leaping over the dragon’s gate”. Legend has it that if the carp manages to swim upstream and vault an arch atop a waterfall on the Yellow river, it transforms into an Oriental dragon, a snake-like creature symbolising imperial power. The story of China’s internet tycoons, like Pony Ma, for the past two decades is that of a generation of carp becoming dragons. The twist, though, is that these idealistic geeks, who ventured out to change the world, are now shackled and have become part of a system they wanted to change. Once self-made dragons have achieved the level of success they have in China, the more important question seems to be: when and how do they bow out unscathed?

Source: ‘We show hotshots who’s boss’: how China disciplines its tech barons | Internet | The Guardian

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For World Population Day, a Look at The Countries With The Biggest Projected Gains  and Losses By 2100

A United Nations projection estimates that 19 of the 20 countries estimated to faced the biggest population decline are in the Eastern hemisphere.

Key Takeaways

  • Cuba is the only country from the Western hemisphere in the top 20 countries expected to have a population decline over the next few decades. Indicators that support these claims include very low immigration rate (0.1 percent of total population) and fertility rate (1.7 children per woman), which is among the lowest in Latin America.
  • Three countries are expected to see their populations decline by more than 20 percent between 2020 and 2050: Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia.
  • Visual Capitalist also points out that Japan is an outlier from Asia. Japan’s birth rates have fallen since 1970 and its population began shrinking a decade ago. Last year there were 811,604 babies born in Japan and 1.44 million deaths.

Visualizing Population Decline by Country

Since the mid-1900s, the global population has followed a steep upwards trajectory.

While much of this growth has been concentrated in China and India, researchers expect the next wave of growth to occur in Africa. As of 2019, for example, the average woman in Niger is having over six children in her lifetime.

At the opposite end of this spectrum are a number of countries that appear to be shrinking from a population perspective. To shed some light on this somewhat surprising trend, we’ve visualized the top 20 countries by population decline.

The Top 20

The following table ranks countries by their rate of population decline, based on projected rate of change between 2020 and 2050 and using data from the United Nations.

Many of these countries are located in or near Eastern Europe, for reasons we’ll discuss below.

The first issue is birth rates, which according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), have fallen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Across the region, the average number of children per woman fell from 2.1 in 1988 to 1.2 by 1998.

Birth rates have recovered slightly since then, but are not enough to offset deaths and emigration, which refers to citizens leaving their country to live elsewhere.

Eastern Europe saw several waves of emigration following the European Union’s (EU) border expansions in 2004 and 2007. The PIIE reports that by 2016, 6.3 million Eastern Europeans resided in other EU states.

The Outliers

There are two geographical outliers in this dataset which sit on either side of Europe.

Japan

The first is Japan, where birth rates have fallen continuously since 1970. It wasn’t until 2010, however, that the country’s overall population began to shrink.

By the numbers, the situation appears dire. In 2021, 811,604 babies were born in Japan, while 1.44 million people died. As a result of its low birth rates, the island nation also has the world’s highest average age at 49 years old.

The Japanese government has introduced various social programs to make having kids more appealing, but these don’t appear to be getting to the root of the problem. For deeper insight into Japan’s low birthrates, it’s worth reading this article by The Atlantic.

Cuba

The second country is Cuba, and it’s the only one not located within the Eastern Hemisphere. Cuba’s fertility rate of 1.7 children per woman is the lowest in the Latin American region. It can be compared to countries like Mexico (2.2), Paraguay (2.5), and Guatemala (3.0).

Cuba’s immigration is also incredibly low compared to its neighboring countries. According to the International Organization for Migration, immigrants account for just 0.1% of its total population.

Four of the 10 most populous countries in the world will no longer be among the top 10 in 2100 – and all four will be supplanted by rapidly growing nations in Africa, according to recently released population projections from the United Nations.

Brazil, Bangladesh, Russia and Mexico are among the world’s 10 most populous countries today. By 2100, they are projected to be overtaken by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Egypt – none of which are currently in the top 10.

This changing of the guard is expected to occur because of sluggish population growth over the next eight decades in Mexico (+10% by 2100) and population losses in Brazil (-15%), Bangladesh (-8%) and Russia (-14%). Each of the four African countries, by contrast, is expected to more than double in population, with increases of 304% in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 156% in Ethiopia, 378% in Tanzania and 120% in Egypt.

Source: https://www.visualcapitalist.com

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Bitcoin BTC 0.0%, ethereum and other major cryptocurrencies have bounced back from a huge market meltdown this month (that some think could reveal the future tech giants). The bitcoin price has rebounded 20% since crashing to a low of under $18,000 per bitcoin last week—despite a dire China warning—with ethereum and other top ten cryptocurrencies BNB BNB +0.3%, XRP XRP -0.9%, solana, cardano and dogecoin also making gains.

Now, reports have emerged Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs is looking to raise $2 billion to snap up the assets of embattled crypto lender Celsius which has been hard hit by the latest bitcoin and crypto crash. Goldman Sachs is soliciting crypto funds and traditional financial institutions as part of the deal that could see it buy Celsius’ crypto assets at a discount, it was first reported by Coindesk, with Blockworks adding the deal could happen even if the lender does not declare bankruptcy, citing anonymous sources.

Goldman didn’t want to buy into the top of the market,” one source told Blockworks. “This is more their style.” Celsius, which had $12 billion in assets under management as of May of this year, has been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy after suspending user withdrawals from the platform earlier this month, citing “extreme market conditions” and exacerbating a crypto price crash that sent bitcoin spiraling under $20,000.

Celsius has hired restructuring advisors Alvarez & Marsal, it was earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal, adding to previous reports Citigroup C +3.3% has been tapped to advise on possible solutions. Goldman Sachs’ reported bid for Celsius’ crypto assets is likely to return some degree of confidence to the market after traders were left rattled by the pace of the bitcoin, ethereum and cryptocurrency sell-off.

“Even so, it may not be the best time to buy, as it may take considerable time before the crypto market digests the recent turmoil and enters a new phase of sustained demand from broad segments of investors, not just stressed asset hunters,” Alex Kuptsikevich, FxPro senior market analyst, said via email. The Celsius meltdown, coming hot on the heels of the collapse of the terraUSD stablecoin its support coin luna, has sparked fresh calls for better crypto market and crypto company regulation.

“I suspect after the recent events with Celsius that the U.S. will provide more clarity soon, on regulation towards custodial providers and lenders, to bring more stability to the crypto space,” Marcus Sotiriou, an analyst at the U.K.-based digital asset broker GlobalBlock, wrote in an emailed note.

I am a journalist with significant experience covering technology, finance, economics, and business around the world.

Source: Crypto Now Braced For A $2 Billion Goldman Sachs Bombshell As The Price Of Bitcoin, Ethereum, BNB, XRP, Solana, Cardano And Dogecoin Swing

Critics:

Nearly three weeks after Celsius Network suspended fund withdrawals and other operations from its platform, questions about its future are mounting.  The maneuvers behind the scenes are also increasing. The crypto firm has hired Alavarez & Marsal, a restructuring advisory firm. Celsius has tapped restructuring attorneys from law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

But the most interesting news is that Goldman Sachs  (GS) – Get Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (The) Report is trying to raise $2 billion from investors to buy distressed Celsius assets, according to Fortune and Coindesk.  Clearly the goal is to allow investors to buy Celsius’s assets at a low price in the event of the firm’s bankruptcy.

According to Fortune, which cites anonymous sources familiar with the matter, Goldman Sachs has solicited crypto firms and web 3 firms, the new iteration of the internet, as well as traditional financial institutions and companies specializing in restructuring. Goldman Sachs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On June 12, Celsius announced that it would suspend indefinitely various transactions, including withdrawals of funds “due to extreme market conditions.” Today we are announcing that Celsius is pausing all withdrawals, Swap, and transfers between accounts,” the company said at the time. “We are taking this action today to put Celsius in a better position to honor, over time, its withdrawal obligations.”

Celsius is a cryptocurrency lending platform. The company allows anyone to borrow cryptocurrency and earn interest for lenders. “Earn high. Borrow low. Change the world,” the firm says on its website. One of its catch phrases is “Borrow like a Billionaire.” Celsius, through its CEL token, promises “financial rewards” as much as 30% extra returns weekly. But some options are not available to U.S. based users.

When it raised $400 million last October from investors led by WestCap and Canadian Caisse de dépôt du Québec (CDPQ), Celsius Network saw its valuation soar to $3 billion. The company wants to be an intermediary between traditional finance and the sphere of cryptocurrencies.

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Plastic Recycling Doesn’t Work and Will Never Work

Americans support recycling. We do too. But although some materials can be effectively recycled and safely made from recycled content, plastics cannot. Plastic recycling does not work and will never work. The United States in 2021 had a dismal recycling rate of about 5 percent for post-consumer plastic waste, down from a high of 9.5 percent in 2014, when the U.S. exported millions of tons of plastic waste to China and counted it as recycled—even though much of it wasn’t.

Recycling in general can be an effective way to reclaim natural material resources. The U.S.’s high recycling rate of paper, 68 percent, proves this point. The problem with recycling plastic lies not with the concept or process but with the material itself. The first problem is that there are thousands of different plastics, each with its own composition and characteristics. They all include different chemical additives and colorants that cannot be recycled together, making it impossible to sort the trillions of pieces of plastics into separate types for processing.

For example, polyethylene terephthalate (PET#1) bottles cannot be recycled with PET#1 clamshells, which are a different PET#1 material, and green PET#1 bottles cannot be recycled with clear PET#1 bottles (which is why South Korea has outlawed colored PET#1 bottles.) High-density polyethylene (HDPE#2), polyvinyl chloride (PVC#3), low-density polyethylene (LDPE#4), polypropylene (PP#5), and polystyrene (PS#6) all must be separated for recycling.

Just one fast-food meal can involve many different types of single-use plastic, including PET#1, HDPE#2, LDPE#4, PP#5, and PS#6 cups, lids, clamshells, trays, bags, and cutlery, which cannot be recycled together. This is one of several reasons why plastic fast-food service items cannot be legitimately claimed as recyclable in the U.S.

Another problem is that the reprocessing of plastic waste—when possible at all—is wasteful. Plastic is flammable, and the risk of fires at plastic-recycling facilities affects neighboring communities—many of which are located in low-income communities or communities of color. Unlike metal and glass, plastics are not inert. Plastic products can include toxic additives and absorb chemicals, and are generally collected in curbside bins filled with possibly dangerous materials such as plastic pesticide containers.

According to a report published by the Canadian government, toxicity risks in recycled plastic prohibit “the vast majority of plastic products and packaging produced” from being recycled into food-grade packaging. Yet another problem is that plastic recycling is simply not economical. Recycled plastic costs more than new plastic because collecting, sorting, transporting, and reprocessing plastic waste is exorbitantly expensive. The petrochemical industry is rapidly expanding, which will further lower the cost of new plastic.

Despite this stark failure, the plastics industry has waged a decades-long campaign to perpetuate the myth that the material is recyclable. This campaign is reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s efforts to convince smokers that filtered cigarettes are healthier than unfiltered cigarettes. Conventional mechanical recycling, in which plastic waste is ground up and melted, has been around for many decades. Now the plastics industry is touting the benefits of so-called chemical recycling— in which plastic waste is broken down using high heat or more chemicals and turned into a low-quality fossil fuel.

In 2018, Dow Chemical claimed that the Renewlogy chemical-recycling plant in Salt Lake City was able to reprocess mixed plastic waste from Boise, Idaho, households through the “Hefty EnergyBag” program and turn it into diesel fuel. As Reuters exposed in a 2021 investigation, however,  all the different types of plastic waste contaminated the pyrolysis process. Today, Boise burns its mixed plastic waste in cement kilns, resulting in climate-warming carbon emissions. This well-documented Renewlogy failure has not stopped the plastics industry from continuing to claim that chemical recycling works for “mixed plastics.”

Chemical recycling is not viable. It has failed and will continue to fail for the same down-to-earth, real-world reasons that the conventional mechanical recycling of plastics has consistently failed. Worse yet, its toxic emissions could cause new harm to our environment, climate, and health. We’re not making a case for despair. Just the opposite. We need the facts so that individuals and policy makers can take concrete action. Proven solutions to the U.S.’s plastic-waste and pollution problems exist and can be quickly replicated across the country.

These solutions include enacting bans on single-use plastic bags and unrecyclable single-use plastic food-service products, ensuring widespread access to water-refilling stations, installing dishwashing equipment in schools to allow students to eat food on real dishes rather than single-use plastics, and switching Meals on Wheels and other meal-delivery programs from disposables to reusable dishware. If the plastics industry is following the tobacco industry’s playbook, it may never admit to the failure of plastics recycling. Although we may not be able to stop them from trying to fool us, we can pass effective laws to make real progress.

Single-use-plastic bans reduce waste, save taxpayer money spent on disposal and cleanup, and reduce plastic pollution in the environment. Consumers can put pressure on companies to stop filling store shelves with single-use plastics by not buying them and instead choosing reusables and products in better packaging. And we should all keep recycling our paper, boxes, cans, and glass, because that actually works.

Source: Plastic Recycling Doesn’t Work and Will Never Work – Vigour Times

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