COVID-19 cases dropped about 5 percent this week, while testing rose 12 percent as backlogs in reported tests—always a little slower to recover than reported cases—rolled in following disruptive mid-February storms. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped almost 16 percent week over week, making this the seventh straight week of sharp declines in hospitalizations. States and territories reported 12,927 deaths this week, including a substantial backlog from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The decline in cases has been a point of confusion in the past week, as daily reports briefly jogged up after a large drop following the long Presidents’ Day weekend and disruptive winter storms in mid-February. A look at percentage change in reported cases since November 1 helps illustrate the dips and rises in reported cases seen around Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and—more recently—the winter storms in mid-February. (On November 8, California did not report data in time to be included in our daily compilation.) Cases may plateau or rise at any point, and a close watch of the numbers is essential as vaccinations roll out alongside the spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants. But we would urge data watchers to be wary of conflating reporting artifacts with real changes in the state of the pandemic.
Although it seems unlikely, based on current figures, that a new surge is showing up in the case numbers, it is quite possible that case declines are beginning to slow. With reported tests up 12 percent this week—likely also because of a storm-related dip and rise—it’s impossible to be certain whether the case decline is slowing because of an increase in testing, or because disease prevalence itself is declining, albeit more slowly. We can look to other metrics, however, to help us interpret the past two weeks of case numbers.
One way to confirm that a change in reported cases—especially one preceded by a disruptive event like a holiday or a major storm—reflects reality is to look at new hospital admissions. This metric, which is available in the federal hospitalization data set, has tracked very closely with cases since the hospitalization data set stabilized last fall, but has not shown the same vulnerability to reporting disruptions produced by holidays or severe weather. Charting federal case data against new-admissions data shows that the decline in new admissions continues, though slightly more slowly than the decline in cases.
This signal helps confirm that the brief rise in daily reported cases in the past week was very unlikely to signal a new surge in cases—though, again, cases may not be dropping as quickly as they were in late January and early February. It’s nevertheless important to note that cases remain extremely high, and have only this week dipped below the peak of the summer’s case surge. (Though we’re almost certainly detecting a larger percentage of cases now than we were in the summer, as our testing capacity in the U.S. has increased.) The sustained decline in cases and hospitalizations is very encouraging, but with multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 gaining footholds in U.S. cities, it remains vitally important to further reduce the virus’s spread via masking, social distancing, and avoiding indoor gatherings.
Although it may seem that the decline in hospitalizations is slowing down in recent weeks, the percentage decrease remains robust.
Reported COVID-19 deaths, too, continue to decline. The particularly sharp drop in the week beginning February 11, which included Presidents’ Day and the beginning of the winter storms that affected data reporting in many states, was balanced by a smaller drop in the week of February 18. This week, deaths dropped by an encouraging 11 percent.
It’s important to note that many states have recently added large numbers of COVID-19 deaths from previous months to their totals. In Virginia, cases and hospitalizations have been dropping for weeks, but after reporting fewer than 100 deaths a day for the entirety of the pandemic up to this week, the Commonwealth is now reporting hundreds of deaths every day—most of which occurred in December and January.
The addition of these backlogged deaths—like the 4,000 deaths from previous months recently reported by Ohio—obscures the reality of rapidly declining recent deaths. It also underlines the fact that deaths at the peak of the winter surge were actually much higher than the already-devastating numbers reported in December and January.
For the week ending February 25, COVID-19 deaths in long-term-care facilities have continued to decline as a share of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. (As we did in last week’s analysis, we have excluded from this chart all data for four states—Indiana, Missouri, New York, and Ohio—that recently added large numbers of undated deaths from previous months to their totals. The addition of these historical death figures to recent weeks made it impossible to follow recent trends at the national level without this exclusion.)
It’s our final week of compiling and interpreting data here at the COVID Tracking Project, and we’ve spent much of the past few weeks explaining how to use data from the federal government in place of our patchwork data set. We’ve packaged up everything we’ve learned about federal case numbers, death numbers, hospitalization data, and testing data, as well as long-term-care-facility data. For more casual data users, we’ve also written a short primer on how to find easy-to-use charts and metrics from the CDC. It’s even possible to replicate three-quarters of our daily four-up top-line chart using data from the CDC, although the data are one day behind the state-reported data we compile.
In this version, new hospital admissions are included instead of tests—test data are available from the federal government, but are not in a date-of-report arrangement that matches the other top-line metrics. (We’ll be publishing a separate post showing how to produce this visual within the next few days.)
Long-term-care data wrap-up: Tonight marks our final compilation of data at the Long-Term-Care COVID Tracker, and we’ve just published a look at the subset of long-term-care-facility data available in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Nursing Home data set. This federal data set includes only nursing homes and accounts for about 27 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. to date. The long-term-care data set we stitched together from state reports, by contrast, includes assisted-living facilities where states report them, and accounts for at least 35 percent of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths.
Race and ethnicity data wrap-up: For 11 months, we have shown that the COVID-19 race and ethnicity data published by U.S. states are patchy and incomplete—and that they nevertheless have indicated major inequities in the pandemic’s effects. Both of these things are true of the demographic data available from the CDC: Many data are missing, and what data are reported show ongoing disparities. Our introduction to the federal data will be posted later this week, and we’ll be publishing deeper analyses in the coming weeks.
As we wind down our compilation efforts, the United States is at a crucial moment in the pandemic: Decisive action now is our best chance at preventing a fourth surge in cases and outpacing the variants, which may be more transmissible than the original virus according to preliminary (preprint) data. Over the weekend, the FDA issued a third Emergency Use Authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine, this time for Janssen/Johnson & Johnson’s adenovirus vector vaccine, which showed impressive safety and efficacy results in its global clinical trials. The Biden administration announced Tuesday that the U.S. should have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for every adult by the end of May—a dramatic acceleration from previous timelines.
Today’s weekly update is our 39th and last. We began writing them back in June 2020 as a way of offering a deeper interpretation of data points that was less jittery than those in the daily tweets. As we puzzled through the data and watched for indications of changing trends, we’ve tried to help people understand what has happened to us as the pandemic has ebbed and surged.
Although our data compilation will come to an end on Sunday, March 7, our work at the COVID Tracking Project will continue in other forms for another few months, as our teams complete their long-term analyses and wrap up documentation and archiving efforts. We’ll continue to post our work on the CTP site and link to it on Twitter until we finally close up shop in late spring.
Throughout the year that we’ve compiled this data, we’ve tried to explain not only what we think the data mean, but how we came to our conclusions—and how we tested and challenged our own analyses. We hope that one result of our doing this work in public is that our readers feel better prepared to do the same for themselves and their communities.
The federal government is now publishing more and better COVID-19 data than ever before. Some gaps remain, but far fewer than at any previous moment in the pandemic. To those of you who have relied on our work this year, thank you for your trust. We’ve tried very hard to deserve it, and we believe that we’re leaving you in good hands.
Mandy Brown, Artis Curiskis, Alice Goldfarb, Erin Kissane, Alexis C. Madrigal, Kara Oehler, Jessica Malaty Rivera, and Peter Walker contributed to this report.
The COVID Tracking Project is a volunteer organization launched from The Atlantic and dedicated to collecting and publishing the data required to understand the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.
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The coronavirus pandemic has a lot of dark sides. Around the world, people get ill and die, schools close, the healthcare system is overloaded, employees lose their jobs, companies face bankruptcy, stock markets collapse and countries have to spend billions on bailouts and medical aid. And for everyone, whether directly hurt or not, Covid-19 is a huge stressor shaking up our psyche, triggering our fears and uncertainties.
No matter how serious and sad all of this is, there are upsides as well. Therefore, along the Monty Python song “Always look on the bright side of life” let’s not forget those and make the best of what the crisis gives us. As the good old SWOT analysis tells us, there are not only threats, but also opportunities. With opportunities I don’t mean that the crisis provides extra business for companies like Zoom and Go to Webinar that enable virtual meetings, or for Amazon, which is planning to hire another 100,000 employees. The latter is probably more a threat than an opportunity for most, especially for the mom & pop stores that go through difficult times already.
With opportunities I mean general opportunities that are available for most people affected by the crisis. The current crisis offers at least seven of them:
Opportunity 1: More time
In today’s overheated economy time is often seen as the most valuable and sparse thing we have. Covid-19 shows why: because we have stacked our week with social gatherings and entertainment such as going to the theater, birthdays, cinema, restaurant, bar, sportclub, gym, music, festivals, concerts and what is more. Suddenly, all of that is cancelled or forbidden, giving us significant amounts of extra time. And still, live goes on. This shows us how easy it is to clear our calendars. Obviously this doesn’t apply to the health-care sector and other crucial sectors, but beyond those it applies to a large majority of sectors.
The opportunity is that we can spend this time on other things—or even better, on nothing and enjoy the free time. Looking at the crowded parks, waste collection points, garden centres and DIY stores in the last week, many people seem to have a hard time with the latter. Instead of enjoying the extra free time, they fill it immediately with other activities. To seize this first opportunity though, re-arranging how you spend your time and reserving time for nothingness is key. Not just during the crisis, but also after it. The advices in my previous article on the Covid-19 crisis could help in realizing this.
This offers a great opportunity to rethink our habits and routines and make changes. Now that you haven’t been able to go to the restaurant twice a week, commute 2 hours per day, hang out with your friends or go to a party every weekend, you can reflect on whether you really want to continue doing so after the crisis. The virus forces you to make changes to your daily life that you might actually want to keep also after the crisis.
Opportunity 3: Speed and innovation
Many organizations suffer from slow procedures, complex bureaucracies and rigid hierarchies making organizational life less than pleasant. The coronavirus has forced many of them to break through these rigid systems and act instantly. Suddenly procedures can be skipped or accelerated, rules can be side-tracked and decisions can be made more autonomously without formal approval. And suddenly employees are allowed to work from home without direct supervision.
Covid-19 shows that, as soon as there is a strong enough stimulus, things can change. This leads to remarkable innovations. Not being allowed to open their doors, restaurants, for example, are shifting to delivery mode. And schools suddenly do much of the teaching and even some of the testing online. This brings the opportunity to create innovations now that can be maintained after the crisis. And it also can help to keep the current speed and innovation mode afterwards.
Opportunity 4: Better meetings
As referred to in an earlier article, people spend up to 23 hours per week in meetings, half of which are considered a failure or waste of time. The current crisis has forced us to rethink how we deal with meetings. Because in many countries it is not allowed anymore to meet with a group of persons, many meetings are cancelled. And when they still take place they are mostly virtual and shorter.
As such, it provides an excellent opportunity for resolving one of the most disliked parts of organizational life. The technology for this is already present and mature for a couple of years, but the coronavirus triggers a sudden need for it. The real opportunity here is to make systematic changes so that meetings will be more effective, also after the crisis.
Opportunity 5: Reconnect and help
Challenging times offer a great opportunity for social bonding and other ways of connecting to and helping people. Of course, not being able to visit friends or family has increased isolation and feelings of loneliness in some cases. But the feeling of “we’re in this together” has also triggered interesting ways of connecting. Some of those have gone viral—such as Italians singing together from their windows and balconies—but there are many small, local initiatives too to connect and help people who need it.
In the individualized societies many of us live in, this provides opportunities to reconnect and create more social coherence. Not only during the crisis, but also afterwards. This opportunity comes with a big caveat though. Parallel to these nice initiatives we also witness how far people go to protect themselves and their families. People hoard food, medicine, toilet paper and guns without thinking a second of others. However, while it triggers self-serving egocentric behavior too, the Covid-19 crisis does provide us the opportunity to reconnect and show our social side.
Opportunity 6: Cleaner environment
The virus caused a shutdown or dramatical decrease of industrial activities. Factories are closed or operate far below their capacity, road traffic has reduced radically and air traffic collapsed, and the lack of tourism has emptied the streets in overcrowded cities like Venice, Amsterdam and New York. While this may be bad news for most people and especially those working in the affected industries, this is also good news for our planet. Covid-19 causes a significant reduction in green house gasses and other air, water and land polluting outputs. In Venice this has allegedly led to dolphins return after just a couple of weeks (although some argued this to be a hoax).
Whether the particular example is a hoax or not is not so relevant. The fact is that the shutdown and lockdown of large parts of our economy is good for nature—at least on the short term. The opportunity this provides, is to keep parts of this in place also after the crisis to make long-term improvements. Along the line of the previous opportunities, the current crisis provides us an opportunity to reconsider our lives and reorganize it in a way that has less impact on our planet.
Opportunity 7: Modesty and acceptance
The final opportunity that the Covid-19 crisis offers, is a chance to create awareness for the moderate role we play on this planet and accept that things cannot always go as we want them to go. The Covid-19 pandemic is a global crisis chat is unprecedented in modern peace time. We had other pandemics like SARS, but their impact was less substantial. And we had the 1973 oil crisis, but that was a man-made crisis. The coronavirus is not man-made and yet disrupts lives across the planet.
As such, the virus shows us that, no matter how well-planned and organized we are and no matter how much we live in the Anthropocene—the era characterized by significant human impact—we are not in control. One simple virus is disrupting everything. This offers a great opportunity. In almost every aspect of life we want to be in control. Whether it is health, airline safety or our calendars, we live in the illusion that full control is possible. The virus can help us create awareness that this is not the case. It provides an opportunity to take a more modest role and accept that many things are simply beyond our control.
Once again, the Covid-19 crisis has a large dark side. But as these seven opportunities show, it has positive sides as well. Since all seven opportunities require a quite fundamental change in how we approach the world, seizing them can take substantial time. In that sense, and if we keep on looking at the brighter sides of life, the longer the crisis lasts, the larger the opportunities are and the bigger the chances are of actually making changes to our deeply rooted habits and convictions. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.
I help companies do strategy through training, mentoring and consulting. My drive is to bring you and your organization to the next level with strategy approaches that work. I wrote “Strategy Consulting,” “Nor More Bananas,” and “The Strategy Handbook.” Reach out to me via jeroenkraaijenbrink.com, LinkedIn or firstname.lastname@example.org
Pat Flynn 282K subscribers 26 million Americans are without a job right now, and that’s just in the U.S. alone. It’s a terrible situation, one that I’m all too familiar with myself having gotten laid off during the recession in 2008. These are tough times, but there are opportunities within them, too. I was able to build a business back in 2008 as a result of getting laid off, and I imagine that those who focus on the future, and the ability to create something new now, are the ones who are going to come out of this dire situation best.
Every time you’re infected by bacteria or a virus, your immune system works to create treatments to defeat it. Molecularly unique to each person, these tiny cells, or antibodies, either destroy these invaders or mark them for other killer cells to track down.
Carl Hansen, 46, is geeking out as he describes the process over Zoom. “We can make 100 trillion different antibodies,” he exclaims. “The immune system is spectacular beyond description.”
If that sounds more like a college professor than the CEO of a $13 billion (market cap) biotech company, there’s a reason: Hansen was one—until 2019, when he left to focus on Vancouver-based AbCellera Biologics, cofounded with fellow researchers from the University of British Columbia in 2012. “Universities are very good at testing new ideas and looking for which road might be effective,” he says.
The team’s academic bent has played out in an even more important way. Nearly all biotech startups develop a handful of treatment targets, then spend the next 8 to 12 years developing those drugs, hoping to bring at least one of them to market. It’s not a sure thing—fewer than 10% of new drugs make it all the way. But when they do, they tend to be blockbusters: Seven of the ten top-selling drugs in 2018 were antibody treatments, including AbbVie’s $19 billion (net revenue) immunosuppressive drug Humira and Merck’s cancer drug Keytruda, which generated $11.1 billion in 2019.
AbCellera takes a vastly different approach. Instead of trying to build a vertically integrated drug company, it is focused solely on the discovery process. That’s the portion of drug development that is earliest and most essential: It’s there that the most promising treatment prospects are selected, subjected to early laboratory tests and then moved through the pipeline.
But AbCellera, which raised $105 million from investors including Peter Thiel, the University of Minnesota and OrbiMed in May—at a valuation of $4.8 billion, according to PitchBook, just six months before going public—is not interested in seeing it through from beginning to end. Instead it offers what might be described as “drug discovery as a service.” It works with 90 outside businesses, including pharma giants Pfizer, Gilead and Novartis. Those companies ask the biotech to find antibodies that meet certain criteria. AbCellera then uses its proprietary technology to find prospects.
In its highest-profile success to date, AbCellera examined thousands of antibodies derived from the blood of people who had recovered from Covid-19 in order to identify the antibodies that did the best job fighting the virus. It then turned over the most promising antibodies to drug company Eli Lilly. Clinical trials of one of those antibodies, bamlanivimab, began in May—just 90 days after the partnership started. Tests found patients with mild or moderate cases had good results, and in November, the antibody received emergency-use authorization from the FDA.
The federal government has contracted to purchase 950,000 doses of the drug for $1.2 billion. Eli Lilly issued guidance in mid-December expecting up to $2 billion in revenue from Covid-19 therapeutics in 2021, the bulk of which will come from bamlanivimab; AbCellera, which booked $25 million through the end of September 2020, will earn estimated royalties of $270 million on those sales, according to Credit Suisse.
AbCellera is also looking to speed up the time it takes to develop its antibody therapies. The shorter time frame saves millions in development costs while enabling revenues to come in sooner than expected. “From a financial perspective, every year that you save is a huge opportunity cost for investors,” says Gal Munda, an analyst at Berenberg Capital Markets.
Hansen is now worth $3 billion, thanks to the company’s white-hot December IPO. Asked about his meteoric rise into the three-comma club, Hansen is low-key: “It feels just a little bit surreal.” He’s more articulate about the biotech’s success: “If this example of Covid shows one thing, to me, it’s the proof point of the business model and the technology.”Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website. Send me a secure tip.
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This holiday season will be a lonely one for many people as social distancing due to COVID-19 continues, and it is important to understand how isolation affects our health. A new study shows a sort of signature in the brains of lonely people that make them distinct in fundamental ways, based on variations in the volume of different brain regions as well as based on how those regions communicate with one another across brain networks.
A team of researchers examined the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data, genetics and psychological self-assessments of approximately 40,000 middle-aged and older adults who volunteered to have their information included in the UK Biobank: an open-access database available to health scientists around the world. They then compared the MRI data of participants who reported often feeling lonely with those who did not.
The researchers found several differences in the brains of lonely people. These brain manifestations were centered on what is called the default network: a set of brain regions involved in inner thoughts such as reminiscing, future planning, imagining and thinking about others.
Researchers found the default networks of lonely people were more strongly wired together and surprisingly, their grey matter volume in regions of the default network was greater. Loneliness also correlated with differences in the fornix: a bundle of nerve fibers that carries signals from the hippocampus to the default network. In lonely people, the structure of this fibre tract was better preserved.
We use the default network when remembering the past, envisioning the future or thinking about a hypothetical present. The fact the structure and function of this network is positively associated with loneliness may be because lonely people are more likely to use imagination, memories of the past or hopes for the future to overcome their social isolation.
“In the absence of desired social experiences, lonely individuals may be biased towards internally-directed thoughts such as reminiscing or imagining social experiences. We know these cognitive abilities are mediated by the default network brain regions,” says Nathan Spreng from The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) of McGill University, and the study’s lead author. “So this heightened focus on self-reflection, and possibly imagined social experiences, would naturally engage the memory-based functions of the default network.”
Loneliness is increasingly being recognized as a major health problem, and previous studies have shown older people who experience loneliness have a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Understanding how loneliness manifests itself in the brain could be key to preventing neurological disease and developing better treatments.
“We are just beginning to understand the impact of loneliness on the brain. Expanding our knowledge in this area will help us to better appreciate the urgency of reducing loneliness in today’s society,” says Danilo Bzdok, a researcher at The Neuro and the Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute, and the study’s senior author.
This study was published in the journal Nature Communications on Dec. 15, 2020. It was partially funded by a grant to Spreng and Bzdok from the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
R. Nathan Spreng, Emile Dimas, Laetitia Mwilambwe-Tshilobo, Alain Dagher, Philipp Koellinger, Gideon Nave, Anthony Ong, Julius M. Kernbach, Thomas V. Wiecki, Tian Ge, Yue Li, Avram J. Holmes, B. T. Thomas Yeo, Gary R. Turner, Robin I. M. Dunbar, Danilo Bzdok. The default network of the human brain is associated with perceived social isolation. Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-20039-w
McGill University. “Scientists show what loneliness looks like in the brain: Neural ‘signature’ may reflect how we respond to feelings of social isolation.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201215082059.htm>.
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Media headlines out did each other in broadcasting China’s 6.8% contraction in GDP in the first quarter this year. It was indeed breaking news in that it was the first ever contraction since China started reporting quarterly GDP data in 1992. However, beyond the headlines, there is surprisingly little that is newsworthy. It is not telling us anything we didn’t know already.
A deep contraction was widely expected because of the massive quarantine and lockdown implemented to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, which practically shut down the economy. For example, Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, ended its lockdown only on April 18 after 76 days. Not surprisingly markets largely shrugged off the news. The S&P 500 rose 1.6% on April 17, after Nasdaq flipped into positive territory for the year the day before. Wall Street was not alone, Asian and European stocks also finished the week higher.
The slew of Beijing’s counter-cyclical policies to help the economy recover from COVID-19 has also been well and fully anticipated. Export rebate rates were raised on over 1,000 products to help exporters facing slumping demands. New infrastructure projects, many are planned and budgeted but now moved forward, have started in 25 provinces which will help prop up demand for industrial production and employment.
The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, has been adding liquidity to the financial system by cutting interest rates and reserve requirement ratio, as well as directing more lending to small and medium size businesses through loan guarantees. According to its data, bank loans grew by 11.5% year-on-year in March, the fastest growth rate since August 2018.
This is an impressive feat. China’s central bank is succeeding in raising bank credit growth in the midst of a massive economic contraction, something that is extremely difficult to do. None of these will bring about a V-shaped rebound, but they will pave the way for a recovery that will gather strength through the course of the second half of the year even if the global economy is still in recession.
The real news in China’s GDP contraction, which had come and gone hardly being noticed, is a policy document released without fanfare on March 30 outlining a set of wide-ranging structural reforms to be implemented in the aftermath of COVID-19. Ostensibly these structural reforms are needed, above and beyond the cyclical measures described, to revitalize an economy ravaged by COVID-19.
Upon closer scrutiny, however, it becomes clear that these are some of the deepest structural reforms that had been proposed and debated for the last two decades, and were strenuously resisted and successfully blocked or deferred by local governments. It appears that Beijing is taking advantage of COVID-19 and the unprecedented GDP contraction to ram through tough reforms that would otherwise be harder to do. What are these reforms?
These are deep and sweeping structural reforms regarding land use, the labor market, interest and exchange rates and the financial markets. They are what really matters if the Chinese economy is to become more market driven and efficient. On land use, current restrictions on how rural land can be sold and used for commercial purposes will be lifted, and the system of rural land acquisition and sales will be made market driven. Behind these innocuous sounding policy-speak is the intention of slaying of one of communism’s sacred cows, the public ownership of land. Sweeping indeed.
The removal of the household registration system, the hukou, is the centerpiece for reforming the labor market. This will be implemented nation-wide with the exceptions of a few mega-cities like Beijing and Shanghai. For the tens of millions of migrant workers, they will be able to become fully-fledged urban residents in towns and cities where they are gainfully employed.
They will be able to live with their families and have full access to urban health care, education and social welfare services. Apart from lifting a highly discriminatory barrier that divides the Chinese population into two unequal tiers, at one stroke this reform will also increase urban consumption demand massively, especially in housing, while further enhancing the growth and dynamism of China’s burgeoning service sector.
The integration of benchmark lending and deposit rates with market rates will be the central plank of price reform in banking and finance, which will align them to become more market driven. The RMB exchange rate will be made more flexible. Civil servant salaries will be made comparable with the private sector. The institutional infrastructure for listing, trading and delisting in the stock markets will be streamlined with stronger regulatory oversight, and the development of the bond market will be fast-tracked to offer an expanded range of products in size and varieties. And, finally, the opening up of the financial sector to full foreign participation will be accelerated.
Successfully implementing anyone of these structural reforms would be an achievement. Getting all of them done would be a game changer. This is clearly what Beijing intends to do by seizing the opportunity created by COVID-19 and the unprecedented GDP contraction. For those who welcome engagement with China, be prepared for a more dynamic and innovative Chinese economy. For those who fear the rise of China, get ready to face a more determined China that marches to its own tune.
Finally, the GDP contraction may well be the catalyst that Beijing needs to dispense with the GDP growth target altogether. In the past decades, it has led provincial governments to boost production regardless of real demand in order to meet such targets, burdening China’s economic structure with wasteful over-capacity as a result. Allowing GDP growth to fluctuate with the rhythm of the business cycle would be an even greater achievement. That would be truly newsworthy.
I am the Chief Economics Commentator at Forbes Asia, and a Visiting Scholar at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. I was the Global Chief Economist and Chair of the Academic Advisory Council at Mastercard from 2009 to 2018. I was the HSBC Visiting Professor of International Business at the University of British Columbia, Canada from 2010 to 2014; Adjunct Professor at the School of Management, Fudan University, Shanghai, China from 2006 to 2011, and Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago, Singapore from 2003 to 2004. I am a Canadian who has spent 25 years working in Europe, sub-Sahara Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, and Asia-Pacific before returning to Canada in 2011. I studied at Trent University, and pursued post-graduate studies at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University in Canada, where I received my Ph.D. I live on Salt Spring Island, off the west coast of Canada, with my wife and cat; where I garden enthusiastically.
China released it’s latest GDP data overnight into Friday, showing the first contraction of the economy since it began publishing the data in 1992. CNBC’s Eunice Yoon reports. China reported Friday that its first quarter GDP contracted by 6.8% in 2020 from a year ago as the world’s second largest economy took a huge hit from the coronavirus outbreak, data from the National Bureau of Statistics of China showed. The contraction in the first quarter is the first decline since at least 1992, when official quarterly GDP records started, according to Reuters. China’s government figures are frequently doubted by analysts. Analysts polled by Reuters had predicted China’s GDP would shrink by 6.5% in the January to March quarter, compared to a year ago. The forecasts from 57 analysts polled ranged from a 28.9% contraction to a 4% expansion. China’s economy grew 6% in the last quarter of 2019. Here are some of the key figures released Friday, on a year-over-year basis: Industrial production dropped 8.4% in the first quarter, and marked a 1.1% decline in March. Fixed-asset investment fell 16.1% in the first quarter. Retail sales fell 19% in the first quarter. Sales of consumer goods fell 15.8% in March, while online sales of physical goods rose 5.9%. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO: https://cnb.cx/2JdMwO7 » Subscribe to CNBC TV: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBCtelevision » Subscribe to CNBC: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBC » Subscribe to CNBC Classic: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBCclassic Turn to CNBC TV for the latest stock market news and analysis. From market futures to live price updates CNBC is the leader in business news worldwide. Connect with CNBC News Online Get the latest news: http://www.cnbc.com/ Follow CNBC on LinkedIn: https://cnb.cx/LinkedInCNBC Follow CNBC News on Facebook: https://cnb.cx/LikeCNBC Follow CNBC News on Twitter: https://cnb.cx/FollowCNBC Follow CNBC News on Instagram: https://cnb.cx/InstagramCNBC